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Top ten films set for release in early 2021

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick. - Credit: Paramount Pictures

You may have to watch them via streaming, rather than in your local cinema, but the first half of 2021 offers some intriguing new films. Richard Luck selects 10 to get you through to summer.

Despite the best efforts of cinemas everywhere and my local movie house – Campus West, Welwyn Garden City – in particular, 2020 will be remembered as the year when the big screen took a backseat. And though we’d like to believe we can see the usherette’s light at the end of the tunnel, a return to normal movie-going any time soon appears improbable.

Still, with streaming in the ascendency, there will be plenty to catch over the coming months.

Of course, if 2020’s taught us nothing else, it’s that predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Whether these films will be released as planned is anyone’s guess? Still, we can dream, can’t we? Furthermore, while the following bag is both mixed and far from full – plenty of release dates are yet to be confirmed – all the selections have something to recommend them, not least the movie in which Nic Cage plays himself.

News of the World

When he’s not making action movies with Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass has cultivated an interesting working relationship with Tom Hanks. This western represents the pair’s second offering, an adaptation of the Paulette Jiles novel about a grizzled Civil War veteran entrusted with taking a native American-raised child (German tweenager Helena Zengel) back to her biological family.

So begins an epic, continent-spanning quest which, while it sounds a little like the horribly turgid Cold Mountain, will hopefully prove as compelling as Hanks and Greengrass’ Captain Phillips.

Speaking of the director, he’s next scheduled to adapt 1984. Call us perverse, but wouldn’t a certain Mr Hanks make for interesting casting as grand inquisitor O’Brien? Think Michael Palin in Brazil only even nicer/nastier.

The King’s Man

The original Kingsman was a lot of fun; the sequel not so much. With this period prequel, however, Matthew Vaughn appears to have the series back on track.

Since the cast features 007 alumni such as Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Arterton, The King’s Man has more than a whiff of Bond about it.

Meanwhile, the storyline – a villainous cabal seeks to end civilisation by inciting globe-levelling conflict – isn’t too dissimilar to inspired period caper movies like Basil Dearden’s The Assassination Bureau (1969). And with Charles Dance cast as Lord Kitchener, Tom Hollander playing George V, Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, and Rhys Ifans donning the robes of Rasputin, this promises plenty of fun as well as no end of action.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Since the success of the West End musical’s been somewhat stymied by Covid-19, one hopes Jonathan Butterell’s adaptation performs sufficiently well at the box office to revive interest in the stage smash. Newcomer Max Harwood plays the proud son of Sheffield who’s never happier than when life’s a drag.

That said, much of the pre-release talk has centred on Richard E Grant’s typically restrained performance as one Loco Channelle. Which is a little unfair, what with the likes of Sharon Horgan and Sarah Lancashire also being on board. Still, were the man who was Withnail to receive some long overdue awards for yet again sticking two fingers up at subtlety, it’d go someway towards suggesting better times are around the corner for all.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent 

And here it is – the film in which Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage! Now, as you may have noticed, the actor born Nicolas Kim Coppola has been in a lot of movies of late. You might also be aware that, with a few notable exceptions, they’ve all been appalling.

It’s hard not to admire the Oscar-winner for choosing to see off his creditors – his spending over the years has been inconsistent to say the least – through hard work and a willingness to say ‘yes’ to almost anything. And since his fictitious alterego is in a similar financial situation to his own, our man clearly possesses two qualities that are rarely found in your modern-day movie star; namely a modicum of self-awareness and a decent sense of humour.

The Many Saints of Newark

With Better Call Saul having done much to rehabilitate the prequel, this tale of the young Tony Soprano has become something to relish rather than resist. It helps that the hood’s younger self is played by Michael Gandolfini, son of the much-missed James, and that the film is scripted by David Chase and shot by Alan Taylor, series creator and veteran director respectively.

It’s also interesting to note that the focus of the movie is less on the teenage Tony than the family of his lieutenant Christopher Moltisanti, the English translation of whose surname provides the picture with its title. And hats off to Ray Liotta, the first actor offered the role of Tony Soprano, for showing up here to simultaneously say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to the saga.

No Time to Die

Undated handout photo issued by Danjaq, LLC/MGM of Daniel Craig playing James Bond in the new Bond film No Time To Die. – Credit: PA

After Christopher Nolan’s Tenet proved that one film can’t resurrect an entire industry, it wasn’t surprising when No Time to Die had its release date changed for a second time.

Not surprising but really disappointing, since not only does 007 coming to the rescue of British film have a wonderfully romantic ring to it but the studio’s reluctance has added further weight to the rumours that Bond #25 – whisper it – isn’t much cop.

One very much hopes that isn’t the case, if only because Daniel Craig deserves to depart the series with a bang. Remember all the fuss about whether the world was ready for a blonde Bond? You now can but wonder how the saga will survive without him.

Last Night in Soho

The world’s always a better place with a new Edgar Wright movie in it. And an Edgar Wright movie starring Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Anya Taylor- Joy, Rita Tushingham and Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie has a whole lot of things in its favour.

If you’re expecting something along similar lines to Shaun of the Dead, be warned; Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) have been up front about the fact that Last Night in Soho is a serious horror movie; one that’s inspired by such classics as Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. If Last Night…’s even half as good as either of those movies, it’ll really be something to savour.

A Quiet Place Part II

L-r, Marcus (Noah Jupe), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) brave the unknown in “A Quiet Place Part II.” – Credit: Archant

Why this sequel to the 2018 horror smash isn’t entitled A Quieter Place, we’ll never know. Then again, with a third movie already being scripted, the husband-and wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt will have an opportunity to put things right the next go around.

In the meantime, Part II sees the long-suffering Abbott family exploring the wider world, one in which they have more to fear than those creatures who hunt by sound rather than sight. Which is a cool plot device as plot devices go even if, as John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight, it leaves you with no choice other than to conclude that the Abbotts have been holding in their farts ever since this whole awful business began.

Black Widow

Though nothing good can be said about Covid-19, it’s been something of a relief not having to stomach a new superhero movie every other week.

Indeed, I’m now really rather looking forward to this Black Widow prequel, what with the Marvel character’s backstory being pretty rich and leading ladies Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh having both been on a tear of late. In the case of the former, this led to Oscar nominations for both Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. Pugh, meanwhile, received a nod from the Academy for her performance in Little Women.

The pair’s latest offering is unlikely to receive similar accolades although a sizeable box-office take could mean that this Black Widow will be spinning yarns for some time to come.

Top Gun: Maverick

Yes, Tom Cruise has reacquired the need for speed at an age when most of will settle for Sanatogen. Another long delayed release, all of 35 years have elapsed since Tony Scott’s film took flight.

Quite what to expect from Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up is anyone’s guess, although the presence of Cruise’s Pete Mitchell and Val Kilmer’s ‘Iceman’ – not to mention Miles Teller playing Goose’s son – should ensure that the rather shabby rabble-rousing of the original will be watered down with a decent amount of daftness.

After the better part of a year spent a long way away from the big screen, as far as this writer’s concerned, it’s a case of the sillier and the more spectacular the better. May the mindless entertainment reign – at least until our appetite for stronger subject matter returns.

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