james debate
james debate

Sunday 21 March 2021

Hello and welcome back to 2021's final post from the Hot List. This week we will be looking at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2021 from April onwards, after the cutoff point for this year's awards season.

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This is going to be an interesting year for film, to say the least. Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt recognise many of the entries on this year's most anticipated list as repeats from last year. One of the early impacts of global pandemic was the delay of many of the year's biggest cinema releases until 2021. As a result, this promises to be a uniquely overstuffed year for cinema, with not only the big 2021-scheduled films, but also many of those originally scheduled for 2020. Logically that should make this one of the finest years for cinema in recent memory, and the list this blog has come up with certainly speaks to that promise.

Equally noteworthy is the present streaming revolution that we are all witnessing. The closure of cinemas worldwide has forced studios to seek alternative methods of selling their products, and that has resulted in some truly landmark occurrences of new movies releasing simultaneously on streaming platforms (often for a premium fee). Is this just a temporary arrangement, or a sign of the future? In this writer's opinion, it's about time the industry modernised its approach for content delivery and one hopes that the success of these releases will encourage more of the same going forward. 

So without further delay, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. In the Heights

in the heights hamilton musical lin manuel miranda jon chu best films movies 2021When it comes to films that will make a lot of money, In the Heights has got to rank up there as a sure thing. This is an adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda's first Broadway stage musical, written some ten years before Hamilton.

This project has had something of a turbulent production history. Originally cancelled in the early 2010s, only be resurrected following the success of Hamilton by none other than Harvey Weinstein. Then all that happened, and this projected ended up over at Warner Bros.

In the Heights will be directed by Jon Chu, a man best known for the rather forgettable Step Up franchise of dance films, but who more recently has found his break in the world of serious filmmaking with the critically acclaimed Crazy Rich Asians. The former will stand him in good stead for directing a musical, while the latter showed him to have some genuine talent as a filmmaker. I think this is in good hands.

Release Date: 18 June, 2021

14. Last Night in Soho

last night in soho baby driver shaun of the dead hot fuzz edgar wright best movies films 2021Director Edgar Wright is a man whose reputation often appears to exceed that of his actual films. Wright has long been in the public's eye, having first made his name with Shaun of the Dead, going on to direct the likes of Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Then Ant-Man happened, with Wright famously writing the script and being fired before completion. This ignominy proved to be little more than a minor setback, with 2017's Baby Driver marking something of a comeback, earning universal plaudits and commercial success.

So there's a great deal of attention on his next project, Last Night in Soho. Billed as more of a straight-laced psychological horror than one might expect from Wright, this tells the story of a young fashion designer who mysteriously wakes up in 1960s London face to fact with her childhood idol, only to find that sinister goings are afoot. This stars Anya Taylor-Joy, most recently seen making waves with the hit miniseries The Queen's Gambit, alongside Matt Smith and Diana Rigg

Initially billed for release last spring, a pandemic-induced delay will see Last Night in Soho finally release this April.

Release Date: 23 April, 2021

13. Tick Tick... Boom!

tick tick boom rent jonathan larson lin manuel mirands best films movies 2021Back to Lin Manuel Miranda, then. Tick Tick... Boom! is an adaptation of the successful Jonathan Larson musical, and it represents Lin Manuel Miranda's directorial film debut. An exciting milestone for one of the entertainment industry's darlings makes this an event you won't want to miss.

If that is not tantalising enough, the screenplay has been penned by none other than Steven Levenson, the Tony award winning writer behind Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen (more on that later). The cast includes Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens

Still to be determined when this will hit cinemas/streaming, but filming wrapped last November so expect a release towards the end of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2021

12. West Side Story

west side story steven spielberg ansel elgort best films movies 2021If you're like me, your first thought here was probably "do we really need another adaptation of West Side Story?" And you would be right, but this is Steven Spielberg, and Spielberg doesn't make a film unless he has something worthwhile to say.

Spielberg is not the only legend on this project, with the screenplay penned by the Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America and co-writer on Munich.

The presence of such luminaries makes a great opportunity for star Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our StarsBaby Driver) who has been threatening to break into Hollywood's A-list for some time. This could be the one that puts him into the stratosphere.

West Side Story will release this December, the thick of the awards season.

Release Date: 10 December, 2021

11. The Matrix 4

matrix 4 keanu reeves best films movies 2021 wachowski Call me crazy, but I'm looking forward to this one. We live in a world right now where no successful franchise is allowed to lie dormant. Star Trek, Star Wars, the Twilight Zone, the X-Files, Godzilla, King Kong, Sex and the City, Frasier, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (soon), Jurassic Park, Bill and Ted, Ace Ventura (apparently!), Planet of the Apes and Jumanji all represent old franchises that have made a sudden comeback in recent years, and I'm sure I'm even forgetting a few more. In a world oversaturated with media, people gravitate towards a familiar name. Franchises make money.

So it's tempting to dismiss The Matrix 4 as simply a cash grab and, certainly, the sequels proved to be very divisive films. But the Matrix is still a landmark franchise with an iconic setting full of potential. An extended break followed by a return with fresh eyes and minds could be what the franchise needs to outlive its original trilogy. The Wachowskis return as directors, with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss tipped to reprise their original roles... which is interesting considering how the original trilogy ended.

Beyond this, little is currently known. The film is set to release this December.

Release Date: 22 December, 2021

10. Next Goal Wins

next goal wins taika waititi best films movies 2021 michael fassbender elisabeth mossTaika Waititi is having something of a moment, the New Zealand filmmaker and actor has come a long way from indie comedy hits like Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows to running the Thor franchise for Disney and, of course, his Oscar winning success with Jojo Rabbit.

His next film, Next Goal Wins, is based on the true story of Dutch football coach Thomas Rongen and his efforts to take the American-Samoa national team, then considered the worst in the world, to the 2014 World Cup.

Michael Fassbender stars as Rongen, and he will be joined by Elisabeth MossArmie Hammer, and long-time Waititi collaborator Rhys Darby.

Release date is still TBA.

Release Date: TBA 2021

9. Licorice Pizza (formerly Soggy Bottom)

soggy bottom paul thomas anderson master boogie nights magnolia bradley cooper best films movies 2021Soggy Bottom is the latest darkly comedic dramedy from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master).

The unknown Cooper Hoffman stars, alongside Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie and Alana Haim (of the rock band Haim fame) in this retro coming of age tale set in 1970s California.

Otherwise not a whole lot further is known. Filming is now said to be complete, having been initially set for a 2020 release before the pandemic hit. PTA's fims tend to do pretty well with the critics, and this one releases in the awards friendly month of September. Could be a dark horse for next year's Oscars.

Release Date: 10 September, 2021

8. Dear Evan Hansen

dear evan hansen ben platt broadway musical best films movies 2021 We're going all in on musicals this year, but don't worry this is the last one. Dear Evan Hansen is the adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, which won six Tony Awards. 

Penned by Steven Levenson, writer of the stage musical, with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who, aside from composing the stage musical, will also be familiar as the Oscar winning lyricists behind La La Land and The Greatest Showman.

Ben Platt reprises his Broadway role as the titular Evan Hansen, and is joined in the cast by Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, and Kaitlyn Dever.

Dear Evan Hansen will hit cinemas in September.

Release Date: 24 September, 2021

7. Dune

dune denis villeneuve best films movies 2021 timothee chalamet oscar isaac josh brolinDune, an epic sci-fi adventure franchise beloved by many, but with a troubled history when it comes to adaptations. The 1965 novel was notably made into a film in the 1980s, and a miniseries in the early 2000s, both of which met with a mixed reaction, owing to the complexity and ambition of the source material.

In 2020 a new adaptation is coming courtesy of Denis Villeneuve, an Oscar winning filmmaking with a burgeoning reputation following his work on ArrivalBlade Runner 2049, and Sicario. Villeneuve also co-writes the script along with Eric Roth (MunichForrest GumpA Star is Born). Dune will star man of the moment Timothée ChalametRebecca FergusonOscar IsaacJosh Brolin, and Javier Bardem.

Release date is set for October, notably making its premiere on the new HBO Max streaming servie, quite the statement for such a blockbuster project.

Release Date: 1 October, 2021

6. Nightmare Alley

nightmare alley guillermo del toro best films movies 2021 bradley cooper cate blanchettNightmare Alley is the next picture from Guillermo del Toro, his first since winning the Oscar for Shape of Water. While that film may be far and away del Toro's greatest success, he has a long history of the bizarre and macabre from Pan's Labyrinth to Crimson Peak. While my expectation is that this will be more of the same, it is interesting to note how different the source material is from his usual fare.

The original novel follows a con-man and female psychiatrist who trick people into giving them money, but includes none of the supernatural elements that we might associate with a del Toro film. One can only hope that he maintains his characteristic directorial flair, even as he moves into more traditional genres.

The cast includes a lineup of strong performers, including Bradley CooperCate BlanchettToni Collette, and Willem Dafoe. Release date is TBA.

Release Date: 3 December, 2021

5. Wendell and Wild

wendell and wild henry selick jordan peele michael keegan key best films movies 2021 nightmare before christmas coraline
Pardon the sentiment, but it's about goddamn time. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline are such beloved films, and yet for some inexplicable reason no studio ever seems to want to give their director Henry Selick work.

Well, Netflix finally seem to have seen the vast opportunity in embracing that fanbase and will produce his next feature film Wendell and Wild. Selick will be supported by Hollwood man of the moment Jordan Peele and Peele's long-time collaborator Keegan-Michael Key who will write and star in the film.

Release date is still very much up in the air, but I for one am very excited to see more of this man's unique vision come to the screen, and let's hope it leads to a long and fruitful relationship with Netflix.

Release Date: TBA 2021

4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

ghostbusters 3 three ivan jason reitman bill murray dan aykroyd paul rudd finn wolfhard carrie coon ernie hudson best films movies 2021 It is finally happening. We are finally getting a real sequel to the classic Ghostbusters films of the 1980s. We can now officially pretend that awful Paul Feig reboot never happened, because we have a real sequel and it looks good. It's just a shame they couldn't make it happen before the death of Harold Ramis.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife will be directed by the son of original filmmaker Ivan Reitman, and acclaimed filmmaker in his own right, Jason Reitman (Juno, The Frontrunner, Up in the Air).

The film follows a new cast of characters, starring Paul Rudd, McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame), and Carrie Coon as a family who stumble across their deceased Grandfather's (presumably Ramis' Egon) old ghost catching materials, and presumably hell literally breaks loose.

Ghostbusters releases this November, and I am very, very excited about it.

Release Date: 11 November, 2021

3. The House of Gucci

house of gucci ridley scott lady gaga adam driver al pacino jared leto jeremy irons best film movie 2021This is an exciting one. The House of Gucci is the latest film of director Ridley Scott, about the murder of Maurizio Gucci and aftermath. Scott is joined by an all-star cast including Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Jack Huston.

This is one of those projects that has been kicking around for many years. First mooted for Scott some fifteen years ago. Subsequently the project bounced around a number of studios, with various casts and directors attached, before finally landing back with Universal and Scott in 2019. Now Scott finally has the opportunity to work on this long-gestating project, and it looks like it will be one of the big releases of this year.

The House of Gucci releases this November.

Release Date: 24 November, 2021

2. Don't Look Up

dont look up adam mckay leonardo dicaprio jennifer lawrence cate blanchett meryl streep timothee chalamet best films movies 2021 The latest biting political satire from writer/director Adam McKay, who has solidly proven his credentials in the genre following The Big Short and Vice, having won an Oscar for the former. 

Don't Look Up tells the story of two love level astronomers going on a media tour to try and warn the public of an incoming comet (I presume they mean meteor) that will destroy the planet.

True to form, this McKay film will feature a huge cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Matthew Perry, Ariana Grande, Chris Evans and Himesh Patel among others.

Release date is TBA, but Netflix have confirmed that it is due out sometime in 2021.

Release Date: TBA 2021

1. The French Dispatch

best films movies 2021 french dispatch wes anderson timothee chalamet benicio del toro adrien brody adrien brody frances mcdormand tilda swinton bill murray And finally we have the new film of Wes Anderson. French Dispatch is a love letter to journalism, set in the outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional French town in the mid 20th Century.

The cast features a typically well-stocked lineup of big names, including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Saoirse Ronan, and of course all the usual Wes Anderson collaborators such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and many others.

Love him or hate him, a new film by Anderson is always worth seeing, for the style of filmmaking if nothing else. Anderson will be joined once again by long-time cinematographer and collaborator Robert Yeoman.

Release date is TBA.

Release Date: TBA 2021

So there you have it folks: The 2021 Hot List. Be kind, be positive. I have the feeling that this year will be the start of great things.

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