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Daniel Craig reprises his role as James Bond next year in No Time to Die.Nicola Dove/MGM

So much of 2019 was spent debating the question of what, exactly, is cinema? Which means that we’re walking into 2020 with a complete and satisfactory answer, right? No matter the answer, the year ahead promises more of the same conundrum – Hollywood mega-franchises battling it out with the few studios (or streaming services) still interested in making films for those who don’t quite care what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is all about. But the big-budget franchise sphere doesn’t inherently have to disappoint, not with the right attitude and approach. Here, then, is a quick look at five of 2020′s potentially biggest mainstream films. (And for those interested, yes, Marvel is still planning world domination: Black Widow is out May 1 and The Eternals arrives Nov. 6.)

No Time to Die

Daniel Craig has been complaining about slipping himself into James Bond’s tuxedo for almost as long as he’s been 007, but his fifth and final (?) outing as the killer MI6 operative looks like a sharp-enough send-off. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) has a distinctive visual approach, the cast includes returning favourites (Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, Léa Seydoux) and intriguing fresh faces (Ana de Armas, Rami Malek), and there’s one motorcycle stunt singled out in the trailer that looks appropriately stupid/stupendous. And just think – as soon as the film is over, we can get back to debating more important matters in the world, such as: Who will be the next actor to complain about being locked into the James Bond franchise? (April 8)

Fast & Furious 9

It might seem odd to trumpet the ninth instalment of a franchise (10th, if you count 2019′s Hobbs & Shaw spin-off, which I most certainly do) as being anything close to revolutionary for a major studio. But, Fast & Furious also kind of is. What other brand can sustain so many of these films, with such a diverse cast and still keep things absolutely, unexpectedly bananas? I am 100-per-cent confident that this F&F film will be ridiculous, but also ridiculously well-done, given it marks the return of Justin Lin, the series’s best director and a filmmaker who knows how to balance tongue-in-cheek spectacle with emotional sincerity – a complicated formula that has kept the F&F reputation humming as long as it has. (May 22)

Tenet

Little is known about Christopher Nolan’s latest project, except for a trailer that was released in December hinting at spies and time travel. Tenet might be an elevated sci-fi tale a la Nolan’s Inception, or it might be something completely different (although I’m not exactly expecting a light rom-com). Co-stars Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Nolan mainstay Michael Caine might know more. Or maybe not. Either way, I’ll be watching. (July 17)

The Many Saints of Newark

Oh, marone! Twenty-one years after it premiered on HBO and changed the television landscape forever, The Sopranos is finally getting a big-screen spin-off. In this prequel, set in the 1960s and 70s, series creator David Chase and regular Sopranos director Alan Taylor look at an earlier period of New Jersey crime. The film will reportedly feature zero actors from the original series – an opening voice-over featuring Tony Sirico was apparently filmed then scrapped – but a whole lot of familiar faces: Alessandro Nivola, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta and, as a young Tony Soprano, Michael Gandolfini, son of the late series star James. Get your gabagool ready for what promises to either be the best or worst decision Chase made since cutting to black in the back of Holsten’s. (Sept. 25)

Dune

With a new Dune, Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve has graduated from making a sequel to one of the most beloved cult classics of all time with Blade Runner 2049 to remaking one of the most polarizing curiosities of all time. Expect Dune 2.0 to be slightly more coherent than David Lynch’s 1984 attempt at distilling Frank Herbert’s novel, but weird all the same. This is, after all, an adaptation of a fantasy epic that takes place on a desert planet populated by giant sandworms. However Villeneuve’s version turns out, we can all marvel at how he assembled an overloaded cast including Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Charlotte Rampling, Zendaya and Javier Bardem. (Dec. 18)

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