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Marvel's much-delayed Scarlett Johansson vehicle Black Widow is scheduled to be released in 2021.

null/The Associated Press

Alright, let’s try this again. Last year at around this time, I previewed the 10 most exciting theatrical releases to watch out for in 2020. Then, well, you know. Of my selections, four titles (Benedetta, After Yang, The Souvenir Part II, Zola) have yet to come out, and another (Promising Young Woman) barely squeaked in during the last days of December and is currently playing in only a handful of Canadian cinemas.

But I’m still going to play the optimist. With a vaccine being (slowly) deployed and many industry prognosticators placing bets on a strong return to moviegoing by midsummer, audiences should feel a teeny bit hopeful. Here, then, are 21 movies for 2021, for all tastes and viewing preferences. (All dates are, of course, subject to change.)

The Biggest Blockbusters

No Time to Die

The latest James Bond adventure was a canary in the coronavirus coal mine this past March, as it was the first blockbuster to abandon its theatrical release date once it became clear COVID-19 was going to seriously disrupt the moviegoing landscape. Here’s hoping we’ll all get to see Daniel Craig murder thugs while looking magnificent this spring, instead. (In theatres April 2)

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Godzilla vs. Kong

It is unclear how HBO Max-less Canadians might be able to watch these two beasts slug it out come May, when the monster mash debuts both in theatres and on the aforementioned U.S.-only streaming service. Perhaps our cinemas will be open by then. Or maybe the title will be available here on demand, à la Wonder Woman 1984. I cannot think of a film more ill-suited to the home-entertainment experience than this giant-sized sequel though, so here’s hoping that someone in public health decides to stop arbitrarily punishing theatre owners. (In theatres May 21)

F9

It’s got tons of cross iconography, the resurrection of a thought-to-be-dead hero, flying vehicles bearing gifts, and is, at its heart, all about the power of family. Yet the ninth instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise was somehow not released during Christmas and is instead making its way to theatres this May. Godspeed, Vin Diesel. (In theatres May 28)

Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Eternals

Martin Scorsese got his wish, monkey paw-style: 2020 was the first year since 2009 without a new Marvel movie. Which means that 2021, barring many known and unknown obstacles, will witness a flood of MCU productions. First up is the long-delayed Scarlett Johansson vehicle Black Widow (May 7). Then there’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9), starring Canada’s own Simu Liu. And the run is capped off by The Eternals (Nov. 5), which is the most compelling of the bunch given that it’s directed by Chloe Zhao, who was responsible for Nomadland, the best film of 2020 that no one has seen yet. (More on that title below). If you’re craving even more MCU-ish movies, there are also the Spider-Man spin-offs Morbius (March 19) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (June 25). Sorry, Marty.

Dune

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve might not be too happy with Warner Bros.’ plan to release his epic fantasy thriller simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max this fall, but at least he’s not stuck on the film’s distant planet of Arrakis, where sandworms threaten to eat you whole and Jason Momoa might bear hug you to death. Oh, and Timothée Chalamet is here, too, looking as sad as usual, albeit in tricked-out space robes. (In theatres Oct. 1)

Oscar Bait

The Father, Minari and Nomadland

Three 2021 movies that are technically considered 2020 releases – given that they played for quick Oscar-qualifying theatrical runs in December – are also three of the best films you’re likely to see this year or the next, or the year after that, too. Focusing on a South Korean family’s misadventures in the rural United States, Minari features a tremendous ensemble of performers led by Steven Yeun. Nomadland, Chloe Zhao’s post-recession-era look at American labour, is anchored by a fantastic Frances McDormand. And The Father, Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own stage play about a man consumed by Alzheimer’s, provides Anthony Hopkins the role of a lifetime. (Nomadland opens in theatres Feb. 19; Minari and The Father are set for early 2021 theatrical releases)

In the Heights and West Side Story

Broadway might take a while longer to recover than Hollywood, but for those missing the Great White Way, these two musical adaptations might do the trick. Both pushed from their 2020 release dates, John M. Chu’s In the Heights and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story offer two opposing visions for what a modern movie musical might look like. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s precursor to Hamilton is all bright, pop-driven, diversity-first progressive peppiness. Spielberg’s reboot of the Sharks vs. Jets saga, meanwhile, appears to be defiantly old-school. (In the Heights opens in theatres June 18; West Side Story opens in theatres Dec. 10)

The French Dispatch

If Wes Anderson’s latest somehow doesn’t make it to the big screen – rumours abound that the film might head straight to Hulu – then I will be sadder than Bill Murray looks in every single Wes Anderson film. But if the stars align – and god, this movie focusing on the exploits of a newspaper in a fictional French city has so many stars, from Frances McDormand to Tilda Swinton to Saoirse Ronan – then The French Dispatch will quirkily waltz its way into your local cinema as soon as it’s feasibly possible. (Theatrical release TBD)

Next Goal Wins

In between voicing deadpan droids on The Mandalorian and rehabilitating Nazis in Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi found time to make this sports comedy based on the true story of the American Samoa national soccer team’s attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Michael Fassbender stars as the underdog team’s Dutch-American coach Thomas Rongen, while Armie Hammer pops up for what I can only assume will be an epic handsome-leading-man battle for the ages. (Theatrical release TBD)

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Soggy Bottom

Any new Paul Thomas Anderson movie is an event. As was the case during Phantom Thread’s production, plot details for this new PTA joint are fuzzy, with some industry watchers pegging this as a behind-the-scenes look at the production of 1976′s A Star Is Born – which would be especially interesting considering this movie stars Bradley Cooper – and others noting it’s more of a comedy about a child actor. Either way, interest is high. (Theatrical release TBD)

Stillwater

Director Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) is back to the investigative-thriller genre with this Matt Damon vehicle. Focusing on a father (Damon) working to clear the name of his estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin) who stands accused of murder, Stillwater promises to be a clear-eyed and mature look at the intricacies of family and justice. (Theatrical release TBD)

The Power of the Dog

Not counting her two-season Top of the Lake series, it has been 11 long years since we last got a Jane Campion film, which makes this adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel an event all its own. Focusing on a feud between one man and his brother’s new wife, The Power of the Dog boasts a tremendous cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Thomasin McKenzie) plus the fact that it arrives though Netflix, meaning we’re guaranteed to see it sometime over the next 12 months. (Netflix release TBD)

Adults Only (But Not Like That)

Nobody

Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk might not seem like the most natural successor to Keanu Reeves, but these are strange times indeed. From the producers of the John Wick franchise, the new action thriller Nobody positions Odenkirk as an extremely Wickian figure: a normal suburban dude who, after a violent incident, reverts back to his life as a super-assassin. Will Nobody’s body count exceed the Wick series? Will Odenkirk get to let loose his magnificent Mr. Show-famous yelling whilst shooting a bad guy through the throat? The year is suddenly full of promise. (In theatres Feb. 26)

The Many Saints of Newark

The list of TV shows that were turned into successful feature films is short. But The Sopranos was no ordinary series, and hopes are high (at least in this gabagool-scarfing household) that writer David Chase’s prequel to his HBO masterpiece lives up to the expectations set two decades ago when a bathrobe-clad James Gandolfini first sauntered down the driveway of his New Jersey mansion. Set during the sixties and seventies, the Alan Taylor-directed The Many Saints of Newark chronicles the criminal exploits of Tony Sopranos’s father, Johnny Boy (Jon Bernthal), with the young Tony played by Gandolfini’s own son, Michael. (In theatres March 12)

The Man from Toronto

The Globe and Mail’s list of 2021 movies could not be complete without mentioning this Canadian-but-not-really action comedy. Most definitely not a remake of the 1933 British romantic comedy of the same name, this new Man from Toronto instead follows an everyday shmuck (Kevin Hart) mistaken for the world’s deadliest assassin (Woody Harrelson), the titular killer Canadian. Curiously, the movie doesn’t seem to take place in Toronto – although its New York sets were constructed in and around the Greater Toronto Area this past fall, thanks to COVID-19 making Manhattan itself a no-go. If this movie doesn’t open TIFF this fall, then I don’t even know what the point was. (In theatres Sept. 17)

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Rebel Ridge

Director Jeremy Saulnier’s most recent film, 2018′s Hold the Dark, was an interesting if baffling effort at blending traditional serial-killer thrills with something mystical. But one slip shouldn’t erase Saulnier’s otherwise stellar track record, which includes such all-timers as Green Room, Blue Ruin and Murder Party. There’s not much detail available on Saulnier’s latest production except a vague log-line (“A high-velocity thriller that explores systemic American injustices through bone-breaking action sequences, suspense and dark humor”) and an intriguing cast (John Boyega, Don Johnson, James Badge Dale, Erin Doherty). But that’s enough for now. (Netflix release TBD)

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