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If 2022 seemed like a question mark for the state of Hollywood, then 2023 looks like a question mark plus an exclamation point, maybe a few # and @ symbols, too, to denote an unprintable vulgarity. With the entire film industry in a tailspin, it is difficult to make any sweeping predictions or name sure-fire cinematic bets. But I’m still going to play the optimist and recommend the following five films as ones to see, hopefully in theatres (I’m old-school that way).

And while the next 12 months offer loads of superheroes (Ant-Man, Groot, Aquaman, the Flash) and long-in-the-tooth brands (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part 1, Fast X, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny), the following picks are guaranteed to be franchise-free.

I Like Movies

Open this photo in gallery:Isaiah Lehtinen (Lawrence) in I LIKE MOVIES by Chandler Levack. Photo courtesy of VHS Forever Inc. / Mongrel

Isaiah Lehtinen in I Like Movies.Courtesy of VHS Forever Inc. / Mongrel

After winning over audiences at film festivals across Canada this fall, Chandler Levack’s hilarious, heartbreaking feature directorial debut is set to win over general audiences – or basically anyone who retains a memory of browsing a Blockbuster Video – this spring. Following a narcissistic teenage video clerk (Isaiah Lehtinen) and his jaded mid-30s boss (Romina D’Ugo) in 2002-era Burlington, Ont., Levack’s microbudget masterpiece is one of the funniest, sharpest and most perfectly cast films I saw all of last year. Bonus: It contains great running gags about both Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and the teenage horn-fest Wild Things. (In theatres March 10.)

The 10 Best Canadian Films of 2022, a stress-test year for homegrown cinema

Cocaine Bear

Open this photo in gallery:Keri Russell as Sari in Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Keri Russell in Cocaine Bear.Pat Redmond/Universal Pictures

Some movies just sell themselves. What more do you need to know about a film called Cocaine Bear? Perhaps that it is based on a real incident, in which a 500-pound black bear ingested a drug delivery that was lost by traffickers. Perhaps you should also know that the film comes with an intensely curious pedigree – director Elizabeth Banks isn’t the first name you or I might attach to a black comedy about a raging bear, but I am definitely down to see how she handles it. And finally, perhaps you should know that the movie boasts a killer cast, which includes the stars of FX’s The Americans (Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Margo Martindale) plus the last on-screen performance of Ray Liotta, circling back to his coke-crazy-eyes glory days in Goodfellas. Grin and bear it, people. (In theatres Feb. 24.)


Open this photo in gallery:BLACKBERRY (2023). The story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world's first smartphone. Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

BlackBerry, directed by Matt Johnson, will hit theatres this spring.Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

If readers of The Globe had a penny for every time that I’ve sung the praises of Canadian filmmaker Matt Johnson (The Dirties, Operation Avalanche, Nirvanna the Band the Show), then they might have just enough to buy what remains of Research In Motion, the Waterloo, Ont., company that revolutionized the mobile-phone market before getting left in the dust by Apple. Which is exactly the rise-and-fall story that Johnson chronicles in his new film, easily the (or at least, my) most anticipated Canadian film in ages. Starring Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as onetime RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, with Canadian actor Jay Baruchel as Balsillie’s business partner Mike Lazaridis, plus Johnson himself as one of the company’s original engineers, BlackBerry promises to be a wild, headline-grabbing ride. (In theatres this spring, exact date TBD.)

Asteroid City

By this point in Wes Anderson’s career, you are either with the director or violently against him. After spending much of 2021 and some of 2022 watching and then rewatching The French Dispatch, count me firmly on Team Keep Wes Anderson Alive. Not much is known about the filmmaker’s 11th feature, Asteroid City, except that it takes place in the 1950s at something called the “Junior Stargazer Convention,” and features enough Anderson regulars (Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum) and new players (Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Scarlett Johansson) to populate an entire Oscars telecast. (In theatres June 16.)


Open this photo in gallery:Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023). Credit: Universal Pictures

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer.Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

Christopher Nolan has destroyed our dreams, gone to the furthest reaches of space, and inverted time. So for the filmmaker’s next act, Nolan is going nuclear, retelling the story of the man who invented the atomic bomb. Commanding a huge cast – Cillian Murphy plays title subject J. Robert Oppenheimer, with Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr. and Florence Pugh along for the ride – and a budget that I’m not even going to inquire about, Nolan is set to go as big and loud (get ready for the “bwahhhhhhs”) as ever. I’m also not a little nervous to find out how he depicted an atomic explosion without, in his words, “the use of computer graphics.” Someone check the United States’ nuclear stockpile. (In theatres July 21.)

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