I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Aside from the election result, Trashfire 2020™ was a shitty year. And a weird and disorienting year thanks to COVID-19 and having to shelter-in-place, quarantine, and social distance from one another blah, blah, blah coronavirus f*cked us hard. Movies certainly took it in the teeth this year, and especially the theatrical industrial complex, which feels like it’s on its last legs. But regardless of what happens next for theaters, people are going to continue making and releasing movies. We might just be facing a different delivery system and an all-streaming world; who knows. And we certainly can’t contemplate that troublesome thought this very second.
To the immediate point, many films originally, scheduled for 2020, or expected to likely premiere at a film festival didn’t happen. Tens and potentially hundreds of movies were delayed into 2021 which means, it’s potentially going to be a killer, crowded year. And if theaters and the box office are up and running next summer—a big if, but let’s try and be optimistic—it could be a potential bloodbath of competition.
However, some already see this writing on the wall and, some films are already vacating 2021 because the line-up is too overstuffed. Universal sent “Jurassic World: Dominio” into 2022 (they have a “Fast & Furious” to get them through next summer), for example, and who knows who else might be sent packing to 2022 to clear up space and marketing dollars.
Here’s what we do know from making these lists for what feels like a decade or so now: everything is unpredictable, and already in-flux and 2021 is going to be even more unforeseeable. Will all of these films land next year? Maybe not. And if COVID keeps up, you don’t take your vaccines when they arrive, and shit continues to get f*cked up, it’s almost a guarantee they won’t. So, in the spirit of looking forward to 2021 and god, something, and hopefully salvaging the film year with a box office that starts next summer, wear a mask, will ya? Take a vaccine when it arrives, will ya? Stop the bullshit, be safe, be neighborly and let’s all hope we’re around next year so we can maybe, just maybe be entertained, thrilled, scared, excited, cry as we used to in a way that nourished and enriched the soul. Be good, be better, ok, let’s get to the godforsakenly overlong annual list of the most anticipated films of 2021. – RP
Director: Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland,” “Venom”)
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas
Synopsis: A prequel to the much-beloved action-adventure video games, demonstrating how a young Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter who travels across the world to uncover various historical mysteries, made his name.
What You Need To Know: Honestly, we’re not really sure how much we care about “Uncharted,” but the film seemingly deserves to be on this list for tenacity alone. “Uncharted” has been in the works for years, with dozens of directors and stars attached, all of them eventually dropping out of the project at one point or another. “Uncharted” felt like unwanted goods, but somehow, Ruben Fleischer was left standing or left standing holding the ball, depending on how you look at it. Mark Wahlberg, who was once attached as the lead in David O. Russell’s early version, is now the older character Sully. Given I don’t play the game, that’s meaningless,, but hey, maybe they’ll make a good video game adaptation finally.
Release Date: July 16, 2021, via Sony Pictures. – Rodrigo Perez
99. “Three Thousand Years Of Longing”
Director: George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba
Synopsis: An epic fantasy romance that Miller himself has described as the “anti-Mad-Max.”
What You Need To Know: So yes, George Miller is eventually making yet another ‘Mad Max’ film, but coming before that is the long-gestating “Three Thousand Years Of Longing,” which is a last-minute addition to this feature because word just came out that it’s already 20 days into shooting from a massive 62-day schedule. Budgeted at $60 million, Miller’s been trying to get this made for two years now and it looks like his patience has paid off. The sets are apparently insanely huge and Miller has coaxed Oscar-winning ‘Fury Road’ cinematographer John Seale out of retirement for the film.
Release Date: TBD, but MGM has domestic rights, the film will apparently be finished by September and this fledging studio would love to have an awards contender on its hands. This feels like it’s it. – RP
98. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”
Director: Andy Serkis (“Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle”)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott, Naomie Harris.
Synopsis: The plot is unknown, but it’s the sequel to 2018’s “Venom” and features the villain Carnage.
What You Need To Know: Directed by Ruben Fleischer, 2018’s “Venom” is really lousy and a tonal mess. But the film was a hit in China, and everyone seemed to like Tom Hardy as the super antihero character from the Spider-Man movies. So, Fleischer is out, and actor/motion capture expert Andy Serkis is in. Woody Harrelson’s playing the big bad guy of Carnage, and who knows what they’re doing with this one, but hopefully, they just lean into the comedic, absurdist aspects and leave the traditional heroics behind.
Release Date: June 25, 2021, via Sony Pictures. – RP
97. “The Beatles: Get Back”
Director: Peter Jackson (“The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy)
Synopsis: Documentary about the music group The Beatles featuring in-studio footage that was shot in early 1969 for the 1970 feature film “Let It Be.”
What You Need To Know: Maybe “The Hobbit” movies took something out of Peter Jackson because he hasn’t directed a narrative feature since ‘Battle Of The Five Armies‘ in 2014. Jackson, instead, has seemingly switched to making documentaries for now. One of the things you need to know about music documentaries is that in the 1960s and ‘70s, many a rock musician made their documentary that was kind of unreleasable, and a better filmmaker eventually made an excellent documentary from it (see some of Bob Dylan’s movies and the way Martin Scorsese transformed them into something better). The Beatles did the same thing, and while “Let It Be,” was released, it’s relatively unflattering and unengaging, a portrait of The Beatles bickering and dissolving as a band on screen. The film was soon taken out of circulation, and it’s been hard to see since aside from bootlegs, but Jackson is likely going to pull a Scorsese: use the classic footage, give it context, and create chicken soup from chicken shit.
Release Date: August 27, 2021, via Disney. – RP
Director: Doug Liman (“Swingers,” “Edge of Tomorrow”)
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ben Stiller, Lucy Boynton, Stephen Merchant, Ben Kingsley
Synopsis: A couple attempts a high-risk, high-stakes jewelry heist at a department store.
What You Need To Know: Doug Liman has been one of the most chaotic and yet, mostly-reliable directors in Hollywood for years. Behind the scenes drama on “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Chaos Walking” made studios want to think twice about working with him, but his crackerjack popcorn thrillers win out in the end. Working from a script by “Peaky Blinders” screenwriter Steven Knight and directing an ensemble of glamorous movie stars in an old-school blockbuster package feels like a sure-fire recipe for thrills, action, laughs, and much-needed escapism if it all goes right. Currently in post-production now from a hyper quick shoot, HBO Max bought the distribution rights.
Release Date: TBD. – Nicholas Laskin
95 “Army Of The Dead”
Director: Zack Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” “Man of Steel”)
Cast: Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Garret Dillahunt, Raul Castillo, Omari Hardwick
Synopsis: Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.
What You Need To Know: Most of the news surrounding Zack Snyder these days relates to the ongoing #ReleaseTheSnyderCut controversy, and yet there’s no doubting that the guy knows how to shoot action with a visceral kick. Snyder’s best film remains his turbo-charged remake of George Romero’s seminal “Dawn of the Dead,” so it makes sense that the director is returning to the world of zombies for “Army of the Dead.” Snyder has assembled a sturdy cast (comic Chris D’elia was recently cut out of the film after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him) for what sounds like a kind of undead/heist-flick hybrid. Hopefully, dumb, gory zombie fun is the order of the day here.
Release Date: Summer 2021 feels like a safe bet, via Netflix. – NL
94. “The Woman in the Window”
Director: Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Darkest Hour”)
Cast: Amy Adams, Julianna Moore, Gary Oldman, Bryan Tyree Henry
Synopsis: An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors, only to witness a disturbing act of violence.
What You Need To Know: There are few scam sagas as wild as that of Daniel Mallory, aka A. J. Finn, the once-anonymous author of the megahit thrill novel “The Woman in the Window.” In a New Yorker exposé, Ian Parker accused Mallory of crafting false brain tumors, familial suicides, and English doctorate degrees to further his career. All controversy aside, it’s hard for any movie nerd to stay away from a Joe Wright-directed, Amy Adams-starring thriller with all the delicious deception. There’s a spectacular cast too, but one major problem: it’s been delayed a lot, and word of mouth is already poor. So, 20th Century Studios sold it off to Netflix and they’re still figuring out what the release plan will be.
Release Date: TBD. –Lena Wilson
93. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”
Director: Tom Gormican (“That Awkward Moment”)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Neil Patrick Harris
Synopsis: A cash-strapped Nicolas Cage reluctantly agrees to make a paid appearance at a billionaire super fan’s birthday party, but is really an informant for the CIA since the billionaire fan is a drug kingpin and gets cast in a Tarantino movie.
What You Need To Know: So, Charlie Kaufman didn’t write it, but it does sound “Being John Malkovich,” uber-meta and off the charts nuts. Nicolas Cage, making fun of his takes-gigs-for-cash, B-movie career? Well, clearly, he has a sense of humor, and even if it’s a trainwreck, the premise is too delicious to pass up.
Release Date: March 19, 2021, via Lionsgate, which probably means a PVOD release unless, by some miracle, theaters are a viable option by then. – RP
Director: Justin Lin (“Fast Five,” “Fast & Furious 6”)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, John Cena, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren.
Synopsis: Cypher enlists the help of Jakob, Dom’s younger brother to take revenge on Dom and his team.
What You Need To Know: While Vin Diesel seemed a bit too eager to release “F9,” the ninth super-sized installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, in 2020, this sequel was one of the many hotly-anticipated tentpoles primed for a summer release that was pushed back to 2021 due to COVID-related concerns. The “F&F” fans are a loyal bunch, though. You can bet that they’ll be waiting for bated breath for this new installment, which looks to be the biggest, loudest, craziest “Fast” movie yet, to the point where the ongoing running joke about sending Dom and his crew to space has turned out to be more or less affirmed by the cast.
Release Date: May 28, 2021, via Universal Pictures. – NL
91. “West Side Story”
Director: Steven Spielberg (“Jurassic Park,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”)
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno
Synopsis: An adaptation of the 1957 musical that explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
What You Need To Know: Spielberg and Tony Kushner doing “West Side Story” is a big deal. The original film is problematic, and the writer/director pair are acutely aware. They have reportedly gone out of their way to make the movie authentic: take newcomer Rachel Zegler cast in the second lead role. The film’s problem right now is that the Internet canceled Ansel Elgort last year amid some fairly ugly allegations of sexual misconduct and gaslighting; grim, vile stuff if it’s true and could quickly derail the film’s promotion (Elgort has virtually vanished from social media and the public eye ever since which isn’t much of a good look). Lately, Spielberg hasn’t been one for relatively experimental spins on traditional material. Still, he’s always wanted to make a musical, and if you put all the controversies aside, he’s certainly got the visual dazzling one.
Release Date: December 10, 2021, via 20th Century Studios, and it would be higher on the list, but the Elgort allegations are still disturbing and deeply troubling. – RP