AT THE MOVIES
A Magnificent Seven
BY NOAH GITTELL
In 2020, the big movies are going to be really big. You won’t need any help getting excited about comic-book sequels “Wonder Woman 1984” or “Black Widow”; the new Disney live-action remake of “Mulan”; the 25th James Bond title “No Time to Die”; the gearhead action-fantasy “Furious 9”; the long-awaited, high-flying sequel “Top Gun: Maverick”; or even “Tenet,” the latest mystery box from writer/director Christopher Nolan.
Instead, allow me to highlight seven upcoming films that could slip under your radar, if you’re not careful.
“The Assistant” (January 31)
Last month’s “Bombshell” was the first film to tackle the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, and while critics and audiences largely shrugged at it, “The Assistant” is already getting more acclaim. Based on a hit play, it’s the story of a young woman who works for an abusive Hollywood producer, who is never seen onscreen but who casts a long shadow. Early reviews indicate it captures the nuances of workplace harassment with unsparing detail.
“The Invisible Man” (February 28)
Originally slated to be part of Universal’s Dark Universe, an interconnected series of films featuring the Mummy, Frankenstein, and Wolfman, “The Invisible Man” now seems like a personal and idiosyncratic version of personal horror. Starring Elisabeth Moss as a woman who suspects her violent husband’s suicide was a hoax, the film promises to take the emotional realities of abuse and spin them to the farthest reaches of our imagination.
“First Cow” (March 6)
The films of Kelly Reichardt, which include “Certain Women” and “Wendy and Lucy,” are so powerful they change the rhythms of your body. With slow-developing plots, small stakes, and keen eye for the small moments that reveal a character’s humanity, it’s no surprise Reichard is one of our most underappreciated filmmakers. “First Cow,” which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival, tells the story of two unlikely partners who make their way through Oregon in the 1820s, with the region’s first dairy cow in tow. Sounds like another minor masterpiece.
“Candyman” (June 12)
Produced and written by new master of horror Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” “Us”) this sequel to the 1992 horror classic about an urban legend in gentrifying Chicago seems to arrive right on time. The horror genre has been a terrific vehicle for exploring issues of race in contemporary society, with Peele at the helm for two of them. Hiring director Nia DeCosta, who blended genre and social comment in her underseen 2019 debut “Little Woods,” seems like a smart move.
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (July 31)
The logline for this one doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm: two Midwestern friends travel to a Florida beach town, where they become embroiled in a mystery. The real draw is the creative team behind it. The film stars and is written by Kristen Wiig and longtime collaborator Annie Mumalo, who co-wrote “Bridesmaids,” the best comedy of the 2010s.
“Deep Water” (November 13)
I’ll be honest: I don’t know much about this one, except the fact that it is director Adrian Lyne’s first movie in 18 years, after an incredible run of erotic thrillers that included “9½ Weeks,” “Fatal Attraction,” and “Unfaithful.” Oh, it’s also based on a 1957 Patricia Highsmith novel, and it stars Ben Affleck, presumably in smarmy “Gone Girl” mode, and Ana de Armas,” most recently seen winning over American hearts and minds in “Knives Out.” Is that enough for you?
“King Richard” (November 25)
Okay, you probably won’t miss this one, as 2020 is the year of the Will Smith comeback. January gave him a much-needed box-office smash with “Bad Boys for Life”, while December brings “King Richard”, a stab at high drama and topicality. The film centers on the life of Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena. The script was the object of a furious bidding war in Hollywood, and the studio in charge has positioned it for both a big holiday box-office haul and a potential Oscar campaign. All hail the king.