There’s never been more alarmist chatter about the state of cinema, and yet it also feels like there’s never been more cinema to be excited about on the horizon. The likes of “Uncut Gems,” “Little Women,” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” wrapped up the last 10 years with a bang — the final months of 2019 were enough to rival the vaunted offerings of 1999 — and the films of 2020 seem poised to keep the good times rolling into the next decade. We’ve already seen 25 great movies that are slated to hit theaters in the next 12 months, and those titles are going to be joined by new efforts from the likes of major artists like David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Kirsten Johnson, Chloé Zhao, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (and that’s not counting the scores of filmmakers whose forthcoming work has yet to secure American distribution or a firm release date).
From low-budget indies to massive summer blockbusters, and from “In the Heights” to “West Side Story,” here are the 25 movies we’re most excited to see in the year to come. In the video above, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, David Ehrlich, and Kate Erbland discuss some of the highlights. All those and more are explored below.
“After Yang” (A24, TBD)
Kyle Flubacker, Superlative
Elusive video-essayist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada wowed Sundance audiences with 2017’s gently crushing “Columbus,” which went on to become a small word-of-mouth sensation later that year even though the Sundance Institute had to help distribute the drama itself. The film industry finally sat up and paid attention by the time “Columbus” wrapped up its lengthy theatrical run, and Kogonada was ready to seize his moment.
Adapted from Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” produced by indie mainstays A24 and Cinereach, and boasting an incredible cast that includes Colin Farrell, Golshifteh Farahani, “Queen & Slim” breakout Jodie Turner-Smith, and “Columbus” knockout Haley Lu Richardson, “After Yang” is a slice of contemplative science-fiction set in a future where a father and daughter attempt to save the life of a robot family member after it stops functioning. The “A.I.” vibes are strong with this one, but Kogonada has a rare knack for putting his own spin on familiar masterpieces. The shoot wrapped last summer, and a complex post-production process might keep this one under wraps until the fall; whenever it surfaces, it’s safe to assume that Kogonada’s latest won’t be flying under the radar. —DE
“Annette” (Amazon, TBD)
Leos Carax made a triumphant return to filmmaking with his beguiling masterpiece “Holy Motors in 2012. And then…nothing. Well, if Carax delivers one original cinematic achievement each decade, the world is all the better for it, so why not get it over with? It’s promising that his first English-language effort is already in post-production, with Amazon Studios onboard, and a lot of ingredients that suggest this ever-innovative storyteller has delivered another boundary-pushing achievement: A musical co-starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, the movie finds Driver playing a standup comedian and Cotillard as his soprano-singing wife; the couple have a two-year-old daughter with “a unique gift” that has yet to be explained in any official materials. British pop fixtures Sparks wrote the music, and “Annette” sounds like it will have a lot of songs (see above).
But plot summaries are usually not the best way to anticipate a Carax movie. If so, “Holy Motors” might sound kind of dull: a guy rides around in a limo and wears some disguises. And…scene! But no, “Holy Motors” was a gorgeous, haunting, and unclassifiable meditation on identity, loss, and the catharsis of the creative process that lead to euphoric renewal. Plus, it had several masterful musical interludes (that accordion scene, dear god) that outshone many of the more traditional musicals released since then. If “Annette” — which reportedly features all music, all the time — is even half as ambitious, it’s automatically one of the great artistic achievements of the year. Carax almost always surfaces in the Cannes lineup, so if he makes the deadline, this could be one of the more promising entries on the Croisette this year. —EK
“Blonde” (Netflix, TBD)
Nicole Dove / © 2019 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Andrew Dominik’s long-gestating Marilyn Monroe biopic (well, kinda) would be anticipated no matter what year finally saw its release. Dominik has been working on his adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name for nearly a decade, cycling through stars (Naomi Watts was attached for years, then the role went to Jessica Chastain) and planned start dates (2011 turned into 2013, and then … well, nothing) with startling regularity. In 2016, Netflix’s still-fledgling Original film division picked up the film, and while that didn’t necessarily propel the feature into instant production, the pick-up appears to have set the film on its rightful path: featuring rising star Ana de Armas as Oates’ lightly fictionalized version of the ultimate Hollywood starlet and with an eye-popping supporting cast that includes Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Garret Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy, Lucy DeVito, Michael Masini, Spencer Garrett, Chris Lemmon, Rebecca Wisocky, Ned Bellamy, and Dan Butler.
While Monroe’s tragic life has been the subject of plenty of big and small screen adaptations, the marriage of an artful auteur like Dominik (pause to think wistfully about “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) and an introspective novel like Oates’ is worthy of getting very, very excited indeed. Oates’ novel was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, lauded for its delicate handling of Monroe’s inner life. Never salacious, always eye-opening, Oates’ book (which she has always hastened to remind people should not be viewed as a biography) explores Monroe’s personal world and her (presumed) emotional reactions to it with grace and style. Those hungry for gossip and straight-up conspiracy theories won’t necessarily be disappointed, but fans of Old Hollywood and Monroe herself will likely walk away far more satisfied. —KE
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix, TBD)
Before he’d even won his Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman,” Spike Lee had signed to make his next film for Netflix — pretty extraordinary given his success with Focus Features during that awards cycle. But like David Fincher, he’d already had experience in the episodic realm with the streamer, having created (and personally directed every episode of) his “She’s Gotta Have It” series adaptation. It’s hard to imagine “Da 5 Bloods” won’t be as awards-friendly a film as “BlacKkKlansman,” especially with this compelling premise: four African-American Vietnam War vets return to Vietnam to search for the remains of their killed-in-action squad leader — with the promise of finding buried treasure, too. Being on Netflix means that by default it will receive more eyeballs than his last war movie, “Miracle at St. Anna,” distributed by Disney to disappointing returns in 2008. It stars Chadwick Boseman, Norm Lewis, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. — with parts also for “BlacKkKlansman” and “Richard Jewell” actor Paul Walter Hauser and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” breakout Jonathan Majors. Terence Blanchard is back composing the score as always. —CB
“Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix, TBD)
Documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson” was a revelation at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival for the way it turned a collage of older projects into a fresh statement on the creative process. Now Johnson is back with a Netflix-produced followup that suggests an even more ambitious personal achievement. With “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” the filmmaker has assembled a ruminative look at her dementia-stricken father as she turns to cinema in an unusual effort to keep him alive. The project reportedly using various filmic strategies to venture inside Johnson’s father’s mind as well as the nature of their bond and how it has been impacted by looming fears of mortality. Considering how “Cameraperson” excelled at using quasi-experimental processes to tell a universally-accessible story, “Dick Johnson Is Dead” suggests yet another exciting attempt to do just that. —EK
“Dune” (Warner Bros, December 18)
Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth and Jon Spaights adapt a Frank Herbert sci-fi epic that has already defeated David Lynch. The “Twin Peaks” godhead was never really groomed to helm a big-budget studio blockbuster… and Villeneuve may not be either, which only makes this movie that much more exciting. What he did on “Blade Runner 2049″ with cohorts Roger Deakins and Dennis Gassner (replaced here by Greig Fraser and Patrice Vermette) was so extraordinary — and expensive — that it swung away from reaching a wide audience, just like its predecessor. Obviously Warner Bros. has no intention of letting that happen here. That’s why the cast goes on for miles, from Timothée Chalamet in the Kyle MachLachlan role — looking after spice-mining on planet Arrakis with his father, “Star Wars” regular Oscar Isaac — to “Mission: Impossible” stalwart Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, not to mention Marvel stars Zendaya, Josh Brolin and Dave Bautista and DC’s Jason Momoa, plus international flavors Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling. VFX masters DNEG will deliver the giant sandworms. —AT
“Eternals” (Disney, November 6)
Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) kicks off in 2020 with “Black Widow” in the spring and “Eternals” in the fall. Chloé Zhao directs the latter, which features a solid ensemble cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington, all making their MCU debuts. It’s also the first MCU project for Zhao, who — given her previous work — might represent its most fascinating element: Her previous features “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and, “The Rider” are both stark, minimalist dramas that received numerous accolades and minted her as a critical darling. Zhao’s laissez-faire naturalism isn’t exactly suited for the MCU, but like Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler before her, talent is talent, and she’s certainly an intriguing choice for a project that’s a far cry from the subject matter and style of her previous two films. In a story spanning over 7000 years, the Eternals, a race of superhumans, protect humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants. The film will feature the MCU’s first deaf superhero named Makkari, who will be played by Ridloff. —TO
“The French Dispatch” (Fox Searchlight, TBD)
Maybe the most successful director-distributor pairing currently ongoing continues with Wes Anderson and Fox Searchlight, following the $64 million worldwide box-office for “Isle of Dogs” and the $174 million haul and four Academy Awards for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This new effort, shot largely in Angoulême, France, is a celebration of journalism centered on an English-language American newspaper that reports the latest from France. Imagine all the potential for fussy details Anderson can obsess over: typefaces, layouts, margins, arcane printing devices, color-coordinated reporters’ notebooks. Frances McDormand, seen for the first time onscreen since winning Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” leads a cast that also includes Anderson mainstays Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. Plus Anderson newcomers in Jeffrey Wright and Timothée Chalamet, who’s playing a character named Zeffirelli. —CB
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix, TBD)
This is not a drill: Charlie Kaufman is writing and directing another movie. In fact, Charlie Kaufman has already written and directed another movie. It’s done, or at least close to it — composer Jay Wadley recorded his score for the film in December, so it’s safe to assume that post-production is moving along. Adapted from Iain Reid’s 2016 psychological horror novel of the same name, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” tells the story of a college student played by Jesse Plemons who brings his new girlfriend (“Wild Rose” mega-talent Jessie Buckley) home to meet his parents on their remote farm. It does not go well. The film, Kaufman’s first since the haunting stop-motion “Anomalisa,” might seem like a swerve for the famously clever and self-reflexive screenwriter responsible for the likes of “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” but the case could be made that all of Kaufman’s work flirts with horror of one kind or another, and a push towards the heart of darkness could be the perfect thing to clarify his genius. Look for it to debut at a major festival later this year. —DE
“Happiest Season” (Tristar, November 20)
Maria Laura Antonelli/AGF/Shutterstock
A longtime cult favorite of queer audiences and fans of HBO’s “Deadwood,” Clea Duvall made an extremely confident transition from actor to director with her inspired 2016 comedy “The Intervention.” A smart take on “The Big Chill,” the naturalistic delight followed a group of longtime friends who use an annual trip as a setting to convince one long-bickering couple to get divorced. An actors’ director, Duvall steered her top-notch cast to create a genuinely funny and moving comedy — the kind of under-appreciated yarn that is all too rare these days. From its simple premise, Duvall’s follow-up looks to do the same, although this time with bigger names and the queer story front and center. Starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, “Happiest Season” follows a young woman whose plan to propose to her girlfriend is thwarted when she realizes she has yet to come out to her conservative family. Finally, a mainstream lesbian comedy we can all be excited about. —JD
“In the Heights” (Warner Bros, June 26)
With all the (much-deserved) hullabaloo over “Hamilton,” audiences can be forgiven for forgetting about Lin Manual Miranda’s first musical, “In the Heights.” But they would be remiss to ignore this singular composer’s earlier work, which chronicles the shifting fortunes of a Dominican man and his community of neighbors in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. With joyous, hummable melodies, a love story that reaches Shakespearian heights, and eye-popping group dance numbers, “In the Heights” is in many ways a much more traditional musical than “Hamilton.” The film adaptation arrives at a time when musical theater is experiencing genuine popularity, the likes of which the oft-maligned genre hasn’t seen in decades, which is due in no small part to Miranda’s contributions to the canon.
The movie, which recently released a buzz-generating first trailer, is produced by Warner Bros. and helmed by Jon M. Chu, of “Crazy Rich Asians” fame. Most exciting of all is that Latinx moviegoers have yet to experience the watershed blockbuster moment that “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Black Panther” delivered for Asian and Black audiences, respectively. With Chu’s direction guiding Miranda’s sweeping score and heart-melting story, “In the Heights” is set to change the game. —JD
“King of Staten Island” (Universal Studios, June 19)
Whether creating a studio comedy mega-hit around a twentysomething Seth Rogen or producing shows for relative unknowns like Lena Dunham and Pete Holmes, Judd Apatow has dedicated the better part of his career to the development of young talent. And now — gird your loins and hide your moms — it’s Pete Davidson’s turn. Yes, “SNL” personality, tabloid fixture, and “Good Time” obsessive Pete Davidson is about to become a movie star, and he’s going to do it by effectively playing himself. Based on Davidson’s formative years growing up on the fringes of New York City (and losing his firefighter dad on 9/11), “King of Staten Island” is likely to be another of Apatow’s sensitive and shaggy (read: long) human comedies, erring closer to the spirit of James L. Brooks than the Farrelly brothers. Marisa Tomei plays Davidson’s mom (natch), Bill Burr is her boyfriend, and everyone from Pamela Adlon to Steve Buscemi and “American Vandal” breakout Jimmy Tatro will figure in there somewhere. —DE
“Last Night in Soho” (Focus Features, September 25)
Edgar Wright’s latest has been veiled in secrecy for months, but no bother. After all, when have Wright’s films ever benefited from leaking loglines? Who hears “zombie comedy” and foresees what “Shaun of the Dead” would become? In any case, what we do know is more than enough to get very excited. Featuring a darling cast of rising stars like Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy alongside bona fide legends like Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp, the film is reported to be a “psychological horror film” with some sort of time travel twist. Wright has wrangled a thrilling new co-writer in “1917” scribe Krysty Wilson-Cairns, a history buff who we can only hope brings those obsessions to the film. For a certain class of contemporary cinephile, a new Wright joint is always going to be an event, and while details remain slim on “Soho,” movie obsessive Wright has already let slip a few inspirations, naming other British horror films like “Don’t Look Now” and “Repulsion” as guide posts. But, like, fun, right? —KE
“The Last Thing He Wanted” (Netflix, TBD)
Dee Rees’ Netflix adaptation of author Joan Didion’s 1996 political thriller “The Last Thing He Wanted” stars Anne Hathaway as a journalist who stops her coverage of the 1984 U.S. Presidential election to care for her dying father. And in an unusual turn of events, she inherits his position as an arms dealer for the U.S. Government in Central America. Rees directs from a script she co-wrote with Marco Villalobos. Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, and Edi Gathegi round out the main cast. The film is slated to premiere at Sundance later this month, and will be released by Netflix later this year. Rees’ first film since “Mudbound” is another starry thriller from a filmmaker who excels at juggling difficult material with actors playing against type, so there is reason to believe she has pulled off something special here. —TO
“Mank” (Netflix, TBD)
Patrick Lewis/Starpix For Netflix/Shutterstock
David Fincher’s association with Netflix is nothing new. Over the past seven years, he’s executive-produced “House of Cards,” “Mindhunter,” and “Love, Death & Robots” — all but kickstarting Netflix’s original content revolution with “Cards.” But it still feels meaningful that he’d bring his first feature film in six years, “Mank,” to the streamer. How much of a passion project is “Mank” for Fincher? It’s based on a script from his late father, journalist Jack Fincher, who died in 2003, and he’s actually been trying to get it made since right after the release of “The Game” 23 years ago. Why did all the studios pass? In part because he’s always insisted that this film, the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who co-wrote “Citizen Kane” with Orson Welles (though many, including Pauline Kael and Mankiewicz’s grandson, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, claim it was mostly if not entirely written by “Mank,” as he was known), should be shot in the style of Kane: meaning, black and white.
If the first black-and-white Fincher film isn’t enough of a lure for you, consider this stunning cast: Gary Oldman as Mank himself, Amanda Seyfried as “Kane” inspiration William Randolph Hearst’s lover Marion Davies (rumored to be the namesake of “Rosebud”), and “The Souvenir” breakout Tom Burke as Orson Welles. That Netflix would take on such a dream project after 20-plu years of it languishing in development hell builds on the narrative that the company established this year with “The Irishman”: It’s the home for auteurs with distinctive visions when the studios are unwilling to be. —CB
“The Many Saints of Newark” (Warner Bros, September 25)
Tony Soprano is definitely dead, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his story is over: “The Sopranos” creator David Chase has written and produced a prequel film about the suburban mafia boss’ formative years in New Jersey, and he’s hired Michael Gandolfini to revive the role that made his late father immortal (Alan Taylor, who was behind the camera for some of the series’ finest episodes, returns to the director’s chair). Alessandro Nivola is Christopher Moltisanti’s father, Vera Farmiga inhabits Livia Soprano, and Ray Liotta shows up just to make sure that everyone knows they’re in the presence of gangster movie greatness. Either you can’t wait to meet “The Many Saints of Newark,” or you’re dead inside. Deader than Tony Soprano, who is very, completely, incredibly dead. —DE
“Memoria” (Neon, TBD)
Thai auteur Weerasethakul has been a Cannes regular ever since “Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall His Past Lives” won the Palme d’Or in 2010, but “Memoria” marks the first time he’s worked outside his own country. That itself is an exciting shift, given that Weerasethakul has been the foremost cinematic chronicler of his country’s mythological and historical identity. This time, he ventures to Colombia, to explore the experiences of a nomadic woman (Swinton) suffering from exploding head syndrome, which causes her to hear loud noises that don’t exist. The filmmaker has described the movie as another dreamlike descent into a lyrical world just a few degrees removed from the real one, while still immersed in real places and people. Weerasethakul’s movies are usually an acquired taste, but those willing to open themselves up to his singular vision are rewarded with truly unexpected ways of experiencing the modern world. Acquired during post-production by NEON as the U.S. distributed reaped the box office rewards of “Parasite,” the movie could be the latest to find support from the latest company to figure out how to push non-English cinema into the mainstream. With Swinton at its center, “Memoria” could be Weerasethakul’s ticket to a larger audience. —EK
“Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” (Focus Features, March 13)
In the wake of both “It Felt Like Love” and “Beach Rats,” Eliza Hittman has announced herself as a master of intimate, aching portraits of young adulthood and all its awful desire. The New York filmmaker’s third film promises more of that, with a dramatic twist on her thematic obsessions and a brand new pair of rising stars in the form of Talia Ryder and Sidney Flanigan. Cast as teenage cousins, the film follows the duo as they travel from Pennsylvania to New York in the hopes of obtaining an abortion not available in their hometown, a timely story that Hittman will inevitably approach with her characteristic care and honesty. Look for the film to pop at Sundance before Focus Features shares it with the rest of the country in March.—KE
“Nomadland” (Fox Searchlight, TBD)
Chloé Zhao is one busy filmmaker. She’s still filming Marvel’s “The Eternals” for a November 6 release and is expected also to have this quiet indie from Fox Searchlight out sometime this year (though no release date has been set). Like Zhao’s previous films “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and “The Rider,” “Nomadland” is set in the American West. It’s about a woman in her 60s (Frances McDormand) who loses everything in the economic collapse of 2008 and sets out on a Western road trip. It’s based on a 2017 book of the same name by Jessica Bruder that followed real-life nomads who drive campers around the country looking for work after having lost their jobs in the Great Recession. Expert gorgeous landscapes and a stunning use of natural lighting as in Zhao’s previous films, and also (other than McDormand and David Straitharn) the director’s trademark use of non-actors in roles loosely based on their own lives. —CB
“On the Rocks” (Apple, TBD)
Sofia Coppola reunites with Bill Murray for what sounds like a return to the kind of generational dramedy they first made together in 2003’s “Lost in Translation.” “On the Rocks” follows “a young mother (Rashida Jones) who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father (Murray) on an adventure through New York.” Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, and Jenny Slate round out the main cast. Little else is known about Coppola’s seventh feature, which marks the first collaboration between A24 and Apple’s recently launched OTT platform, Apple TV+, but we expect it to bow in the fall. While Coppola’s “The Beguiled” weathered some controversy, the movie did bag her a directing trophy at Cannes; fingers cross that her reunion with Murray provides a reminder of why she remains a beloved auteur after all these years. —TO
“Tenet” (Warner Bros, July 17)
Christopher Nolan is back with another summer blockbuster (arriving on the mid-July weekend that he’s minted as his own), and it’s about time. For one thing, it will have been three long years since Nolan’s radical “Dunkirk” last reaffirmed his singular ability to make beloved $150 million art films that always turn a profit. For another thing, well, what else does Nolan make movies about? The “Interstellar” auteur has effectively become cinema’s very own Dr. Manhattan, as each of his cold and colossal hits tinkers with the concept of time like a watchmaker rearranging the guts of a Rolex. And so far, one of the only things we know about the mega-budget “Tenet” is that it’s definitely going to continue that trend.
Judging by the enigmatic trailer released last year, the film stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki as sexy agents of some kind who can speed up or slow down the world around them (the trailer is also replete with enough mirror imagery to suggest the palindromic title is telling us more than meets the eye). Needless to say, you can expect lots of mind-bending action, a booming score, and a story that turns itself inside out to deliver the kind of singular vision that Hollywood no longer allows anyone else to make. —DE
“Wendy” (Fox Searchlight, February 28)
Benh Zeitlin’s long-gestating follow-up to his 2012 fantasy-drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is yet another paean to youthful innocence and escapism, this time by way of reimagining “Peter Pan.” As with “Beasts,” the protagonist is also a young girl — the title character, who is based on Wendy Darling from J. M. Barrie’s original creation. Zeitlin has previously described “Wendy” as a “friendship-love-story-adventure” that follows Wendy and “a joyous, reckless, pleasure-mongering young boy, as they swirl in and out of youth and as the ecosystem around them spirals toward destruction.” Judging by that description, it sounds like we’re in for another eco-fairy tale that might also inspire conversations about climate change and the environment. Production on the film was shrouded in secrecy, with casting calls for child actors and Instagram photos of what were purported to be set locations in the Caribbean, leading to speculation on what kind of glorious frenzy Zeitlin might have been cooking up all since his debut rocketed him into the stratosphere back in 2012. Later this month, the industry will venture up to Park City to see if the Sundance kid has managed to recapture the same magic. —TO
“West Side Story” (20th Century Fox, December 18)
Steven Spielberg is finally making a musical. He started to consider directing an update of the Broadway and film classic “West Side Story” back in 2014, and finally pushed an “Indiana Jones” sequel out of the way to shoot his “Lincoln” collaborator Tony Kushner’s script, which hews closer to the original Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim stage musical than the movie. He filmed on location in New York and New Jersey with an authentic cast — a far cry from the 1961 movie’s Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, who could barely sing and were overdubbed. In this 50s romantic overhaul of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, “Baby Driver” star Ansel Elgort plays Tony, a Jets gang member, who falls for Puerto Rican Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler), whose brother is a Shark. And yes, Rita Moreno is back! One concern: Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “In the Heights,” a June release, could steal this New York musical’s thunder. But one can never underestimate Spielberg. —AT
“Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros, June 5)
Don’t question the process — why we’re suddenly in 1984, how Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is still apparently alive, why neon was ever a viable trend — and instead, revel in DC’s lone “gang’s all back together!” feature that has actual promise and excitement to it. “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins is back, as is the Wonder Woman in question (Gal Gadot), now joined by a devilish pair of foes: Kristen Wiig as Cheetah (she literally has “cheetah-like powers”) and “The Mandelorian” star Pedro Pascal as the infomercial-famous Maxwell Lord (sans Baby Yoda, and don’t ask again). Early trailers have plunged right back into the setting at hand, a candy-colored mid-’80s world in which Diana has continued to hide her identity while still very much kicking butt, even if she’s heartbroken about the seeming loss of Steve and her inability to ever really return to her home island of Themyscira. The film promises to deliver what any big-budget sequel should aim for: more of what audiences love, jazzed up with a fresh story (and, presumably, better villains than the first film), and enough narrative propulsion to ensure it deserved a second go-round in the first place. —KE
“Zola” (A24, TBD)
Has there ever been a more iconic opening line than, “Okay listen up. This story long. So I met this white bitch at Hooters…”?
Maybe, but not in recent memory, and after Jeremy O. Harris and Janicza Bravo got their fabulous hands on Aziah “Zola” King’s epic story, it’s possible that nothing will compare again. Based on a viral Twitter thread about a wild trip King took to Tampa with a fellow exotic dancer and her boyfriend, the story involves a Nigerian pimp, a potential murder, and a suicide attempt from a four-story window. King’s account soon began trending as #TheStory, garnering fans like Solange Knowles, Missy Elliot, and Ava DuVernay. As DuVernay tweeted, #TheStory featured all the requisite elements of a compelling narrative: “Drama, humor, action, suspense, character development.”
Producers Christine Vachon, Kara Baker, David Hinojosa, Gia Walsh, and Dave Franco agreed, so They enlisted “Lemon” writer/director Bravo to direct and co-write the screenplay with playwright Harris, whose “Slave Play” is currently making waves on Broadway. King shares story credit with Rolling Stone’s David Kushner, whose 2015 article clarified some of the embellishments in the original tale. The film stars Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, and Colan Domingo, among others. It also features an original score by Oscar nominee Mica Levi, whose participation is an endorsement in itself. With such pedigree behind and in front of the camera, as well as the 21st century IP equivalent of a Jane Austen novel, “Zola” is sure to sizzle. —JD