By Noah Gittell
Welcome to the space between 2022 and 2023, that strange, liminal moment when Hollywood spends two months awarding the films of last year, while hyping us up for the films to come. Allow me to do my part in the latter. The superhero wave is cresting, and for the first time in some time, there are numerous high-profile movies that seem original and exciting. Here are the ones that excite me.
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance”
Steven Soderbergh returns to direct the final entry in Channing Tatum’s trilogy of films about the life, love, and work of an exotic male dancer. The first was a sturdy character piece with lots of cheeky choreography; the second was a joyful meditation on gender in the modern world. The newest film moves the action to London, adds Salma Hayek, and promises more romance and dance. It’s a rare movie franchise designed specifically for adults.
“Asteroid City/The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”
At this point, you’re either in or out on Wes Anderson, the writer-director of “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, and 2021’s “The French Dispatch”. I’m in, so I’m extra pumped for “Asteroid City”, which is set at a fictional stargazing conference in the American desert. In addition to Anderson’s repertory company, the cast features Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, and Scarlett Johansson.
Also coming this year is Anderson’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Ralph Fiennes. It’s Anderson’s second adaptation of a Roald Dahl story. The first, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, is one of Anderson’s best.
Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 smash “Elvis,” soon to be showered with Oscar nominations, did a lot of things well, but it hardly did justice to its leading lady. Priscilla was only featured in a few scenes, and the fact that she was a mere 14 years of age when she began dating the King went unscrutinized. Who better than Sofia Coppola, patron saint of lonely, young women, to tell her story? The filmmaker behind “The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette” will surely bring her unique ethereal style to a biopic of a woman at whom few have bothered to look closely.
“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One”
Tom Cruise is 60. That’s not old for life, but it’s old for throwing yourself out of a plane, fighting Henry Cavill in a bathroom, and, as he will do in his newest film, riding a motorcycle off a cliff. Increasingly, the attraction of the “Mission: Impossible” films is to watch Cruise court death, and you know what? I’m here for it. There are worse ways to go than doing what you love.
Roll your eyes if you must. When the project was first announced, I did the same. The more you hear, however, about this film based on the iconic doll, the more intrigued you get. Directed by Greta Gerwig. Co-written by Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach. Starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken. An incredible trailer that riffs on “2001: A Space Odyssey”. These credits suggest a film that will be a far cry from Hollywood’s typical attempt to cash in on well-known intellectual property. Or at least, it will be a more innovative version.
Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to make “Megalopolis”, his passion project about a man building a utopian city, for decades. At the age of 83, he decided to stop waiting and mostly fund it himself (a wine empire can pay for a lot of things). The film’s wild cast includes Aubrey Plaza, Adam Driver, Dustin Hoffman, and Forrest Whittaker. Not much more is known about the film, but, whether it’s great or terrible, it will be a fascinating capstone to the career of one of our greatest film directors.
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
We’ve been waiting a long time for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the Martin Scorsese-directed western (his first) about the mysterious deaths of numerous members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s, and the role of the newly formed FBI in uncovering the truth. Based on the bestselling book by David Grann, the film stars Jesse Plemons as the G-man in charge, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone in key supporting roles. Expected to premiere this spring at the Cannes Film Festival, it will likely be in theaters this fall. I’m not sure if I can wait that long.