Music and memories power the movie releases designed to keep us flocking back to cinemas in 2024. I hope it works.
I’m talking about films and figures we’ve loved before now getting rebooted and remade, sometimes with added musical layers, or just a fresher-faced cast. There’s not much new under the sun, after all.
Mean Girls, for example, is Tina Fey’s own expansion of the big comic hit she wrote in 2004 starring Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfried. Fey’s bringing it back, 20 years on, as a musical, which has, in the meantime, been a hit on Broadway. So the year starts with a movie adaptation of a musical adaptation of a movie adaptation of what was originally a book (Queen Bees and Wannabes), in which Fey herself will return alongside a new cast including Reneé Rapp.
Similarly, The Color Purple returns to the big screen, adapted from a Broadway musical version of Alice Walker’s 1982 book, which then became Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film (which was famously nominated for 11 Oscars but won none) and starred Oprah Winfrey. Oprah and Spielberg return as producers on this one, with stars including Taraji P Henson and rapper HER.
Tim Burton returns with Beetlejuice 2, filling one of the great gaps between sequels with a 35-year career of huge distinction. For this one, Winona Ryder is back, as is Catherine O’Hara and, of course, Michael Keaton. They’re joined by Jenna Ortega, star of Burton’s series Wednesday, and you’ll also find Monica Bellucci, who is now Burton’s real-life wife, presumably after he asked her three times…
Talking of magic spells, there’s a film version of the musical stage show Wicked, with Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, and I understand that the sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, will star Joaquin Phoenix reprising his Oscar-winning role, but this time alongside Lady Gaga as his girlfriend, Harley Quinn – and that it, too, will be a musical.
But we’re not really excited by all that Hollywood stuff are we? Classier offerings lie in the long-awaited Luca Guadagnino film Challengers, which was pulled from its Venice opening night slot last summer when the actors’ strike was in full picket line. This is a romantic drama set in the world of professional tennis, and its teaser trailer suggests a story line that has Zendaya playing sexual mixed doubles with Josh O’Connor and West Side Story star Mike Faist.
Other revered auteurs with works to watch include Jacques Audiard, whose Emilia Perez is billed as a studio musical set in the world of a feared Mexican cartel boss who undergoes a sex reassignment to escape the law. Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana are co-starring, alongside Argentinian trans actor Karla Sofía Gascón. Singer songwriter Camille, known for her breathy vocals for the band Nouvelle Vague, is involved with the music.
Another Palme d’Or winner, Bong Joon-ho, whose film Parasite also won the Oscar for Best Picture, follows up with an English-language sci-fi called Mickey 17, starring Robert Pattinson as an “expendable” human clone sent to colonise an ice planet. Toni Collette, Naomi Ackie, Steven Yeun and Mark Ruffalo are on board, too.
Ruffalo will be part of the awards conversation that will doubtless occupy the first three months of the year, from the revamped and reinstated Golden Globes on January 7, through the Baftas on February 18 and up to the Oscars on March 10. Ruffalo is heavily tipped in the supporting actor category for his role in Poor Things, the Venice Golden Lion winner which I expect to receive plenty of other nominations, not least for lead actress Emma Stone.
Expect lots of nods, too, for Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott as lovers in All of Us Strangers; for Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction; warm love for Alexander Payne’s film The Holdovers; and for George Clooney’s 1930s Olympic rowing movie The Boys in the Boat. Look out for Mads Mikkelsen in brutal period Danish western The Promised Land and expect austere admiration for Jonathan Glazer’s Auschwitz drama The Zone of Interest. I expect these to be the films you’ll be hearing a lot about, alongside Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, and 2023 summer hits Oppenheimer and Barbie.
Breakout star names of the season will include: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers), Charles Melton (May December), Teyana Taylor (A Thousand and One), Greta Lee (Past Lives) and of course Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest).
And, tantalisingly, let’s flag up that there are two music legends getting the always-risky big-screen biopic treatment next year: Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse.
British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir has the task of embodying Marley’s politics, charisma and spirituality in the film One Love (James Norton is record boss Chris Blackwell, Lashana Lynch is Rita Marley). After he’s shot in an assassination attempt when a gang attacked his Kingston home, Marley is now building up to returning to Jamaica for the One Love peace concert. It’s directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, following on from his success with Williams sisters biopic King Richard (the one that Will Smith ruined with a slap).
And the job of reviving the spirit of the beehive – and unique voice – of Amy, well that falls to Marisa Abela making her leading role debut in Back to Black, which details the Camden singer’s addictive love for druggie Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O’Connell), while Eddie Marsan plays her protective but despairing dad, Mitch. Sam Taylor Johnson directs from a script by Control screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh, using Amy’s lyrics and hits to tell a story of pop stardom, obsession and long nights out in noughties London.