After a tighter and much leaner version of DH’s annual film preview guide last year met with such great success, it’s back again for 2020.
Organised in alphabetical order over around six to seven volumes, each volume explores many of the films set to screen at the big multiplexes, the boutique art house theaters, and some on premium V.O.D. over the next year.
The aim, as always, is to hopefully offer some insight into what’s coming up and help you organise a watchlist. As with guide’s past, feedback is very much appreciated and feel free to leave thanks, offer suggestions or discuss your own picks.
The guide will be rolled out over the coming days with the aim of being complete either just before or just after New Year’s Day:
“A Quiet Place Part II”
Following some stellar reviews and a $340 million gross from a $20 million budget, the starved for hits Paramount Pictures were positively desperate for actor-turned-filmmaker John Krasinski to get to work on a follow-up. The “Jack Ryan” star initially had little interest until he came up with an idea which sounds like it effectively picks up right from the end of the first film. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe return as the Abbott family who must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. They soon realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path. Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou join the cast this time out.
Celebrated Korean visual artist and video essayist Kogonada had an utterly stunning debut with 2017’s John Cho-led quietly contemplative drama “Columbus”. Here he moves from a more straightforward contemporary drama to a science fiction tale based on Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang”. Set in a world where robotic children are purchased as live-in babysitters, a father and daughter attempt to save the life of their robotic family member, Yang (Justin Min), who has become unresponsive. Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Haley Lu Richardson and Clifton Collins Jr. co-star in the film and A24 is handling the release which will probably aim for a late in the year opening.
“All Day and A Night”
Joe Robert Cole made a name for himself with his work writing both “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and co-writing “Black Panther”. Netflix was suitably impressed and so gave him the funds to craft this drama about a young criminal (Ashton Sanders) who arrives in prison as he looks back on the days preceding his arrest and the circumstances of his childhood to find clues to his way forward in life. Jeffrey Wright, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Regina Taylor co-star in the film which the streaming service has yet to set a release date for.
Following massive critical success with his gay Yorkshire farmhands tale “God’s Own Country,” rising filmmaker Francis Lee returns with a new LGBT love story, this time about a lesbian romance on the rugged Southern coastline of 1800s England. Saoirse Ronan stars as an acclaimed but unrecognised fossil hunter who these days is trying to support herself and her ailing mother. A wealthy visitor entrusts her with the care of his wife (Winslet) and while they initially clash, an intense bond begins to develop between the two despite the distance between their social class and personalities. Fiona Shaw, Alec Secareanu and Gemma Jones also star.
“An American Pickle”
A go-to cinematographer on many of the biggest comedies of the past decade, Brandon Trost makes his directorial debut on this Netflix original film spin on the “Rip Van Winkle” tale. The story follows Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling labourer who immigrates to America in 1918 with dreams of building a better life. One day he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for a century. He emerges in present-day Brooklyn and is horrified to learn his only surviving relative is Ben, his great grandson who is a mild-mannered computer coder. Seth Rogen takes on the dual roles of both Herschel and Ben in the feature which also stars “Succession” breakout Sarah Snook and Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone.
“An Unquiet Life”
British TV alums Hugh Bonneville and Keeley Hawes will star as famed eccentric children’s author Road Dahl and glamorous actress Patricia Neal in this 1960s set family dramedy which hails from award-winning scribes John Hay and Dave Logan. Based on Stephen Michael Shearer’s book of the same name, the story deals with a period in 1962 when Neal and Dahl retreat to the English countryside to bring up their young family, but soon find their relationship put to the test by tragic events. Filming only began last month in Surrey with a late 2020 release likely.
After delivering one of the best, and certainly one of the most bonkers films of the past decade with “Holy Motors,” the follow-up effort from Leos Carax would already be very much anticipated as is. That he’s doing a musical and that he’s got actor of the moment Adam Driver on board as well is like the best kind of Christmas gift. Marion Cotillard also stars in the film in which the idyllic and glamorous life of a provocative stand-up comedian and a world-famous soprano gets turned upside down following their daughter’s birth – a daughter with a unique gift. Carax’s English language film debut, Amazon is expected to pop this out at a festival first.
QC Entertainment, who produced “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman,” returns with this reality-bending horror thriller which stars musician Janelle Monae who has made a name for herself as a strong actress in her own right. Here she plays Veronica, a kidnapped woman desperately trying to flee her captors which leads her on a perilous journey causing her to question everything about her past, present, and future. Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons and Gabourey Sidibe co-star in the film which Lionsgate is pushing out with a wide release in late April.
“Black Mass” director Scott Cooper tries his hand at a horror-thriller in which a small-town Oregon teacher and her local sheriff brother (Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons) become entwined with a young student harbouring a dangerous secret. Guillermo del Toro produces the film which has released multiple trailers so far that all offer a genuinely creepy looking and darkly themed tale. Prestige label Fox Searchlight found it good enough to handle distribution.
“Army of the Dead”
Divisive filmmaker Zack Snyder returns with his first directorial effort since he left the big-budget “Justice League” partway through production due to a family tragedy. This $90 million project, dubbed a zombie heist film, was originally conceived as a direct sequel to Snyder’s first film, the well-regarded 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake, but it was only after Netflix took over the project that Snyder came onboard. Whilst not a sequel, it’s expected to be in the same vein with Snyder loving the fact he won’t be creatively limited like he would at a studio. Dave Bautista plays the head of a group of mercenaries who venture into a post-zombie outbreak quarantined Las Vegas to retrieve a highly valuable item for a client.
If any planned Disney feature was to make the switch from a theatrical to a Disney+ launch in coming months, it would be this Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s novel about a boy who, with his trusted servant and bodyguard Butler (Nonso Anozie), seek the existence of fairies to rob them, rescue his criminal father and restore the family fortune. Judi Dench and Josh Gad have supporting roles in the film which was originally scheduled for this past Summer, but a very lacklustre teaser trailer and Disney’s overcrowded 2019 slate pushed it into 2020. The studio’s slate this year is rather anaemic though, and with a costly $125 million budget it’s going to be a bit of a risk for the studio.
Jessica Chastain gets her own assassin movie with this piece which is said to be much more of a character drama akin to “The American” than an action feature like “Atomic Blonde””. Chastain both stars in and produces the film which went through controversy when writer/director Matthew Newton had to exit as the director as multiple allegations of assault and domestic violence from his past came back up and Chastain, a vocal advocate of the MeToo movement, was accused of hypocrisy. Newton’s script is still being used, but Chastain’s “The Help” director Tate Taylor came onboard to replace him in the director’s chair. Subsequently, an impressive supporting cast including Colin Farrell, Common, John Malkovich, Geena Davis and Joan Chen signed on.
“Bad Boys for Life”
After spending many years of coming close to happening and then backing off, it’s hard to believe but a third “Bad Boys” movie is on the way in about a month’s time. After delivering one of his good early films with the first entry, and one of the most shocking displays of hubristic cinematic cock slapping put to film with the second, filmmaker Michael Bay is sitting out this one – taking on a producing role while Belgian duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah take the helm from a script partly done by Joe Carnahan. In the new one, the ageing Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) is now an inspector while Mike Lowery (Will Smith) heads up a special group run by millennial cops. They reunite once again when a fierce Romanian mob boss, whose brother they defeated years earlier, seeks revenge on them on the eve of their retirement from the force. The film aims to be the first big blockbuster of 2020 and it should easily achieve that honor with little competition in the period.
Former publicist turned celebrated filmmaker Justin Simien follows up “Dear White People” with the cheeky horror satire about a young woman from Compton in L.A. who wants to be a VJ in the late 80s/early 90s but doesn’t have the right look. She makes a Faustian bargain with the new network head and ends up with a weave in her head that may or may not have a mind of its own. Simien says he wants to do a ‘weird horror-satire love letter’ to black women who ‘suffer quiet little deaths just to be seen in our culture’. Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Michelle Hurd and more star in the film which has its debut at this year’s Sundance.
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”
A bunch of the key team behind “Bridesmaids” reunites for this Summer release comedy starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo as two best friends who leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation in Florida. They soon find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a villain’s evil plot to kill everyone in town. Jamie Dornan, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Damon Wayans Jr. and Michael Hitchcock co-star in the Mexico-shot film helmed by shorts director Josh Greenbaum. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay produce.
Never one to shy away from controversy, filmmaker Paul Verhoeven follows up his award-winning “Elle” with this film reuniting much of the same production team and starring Virginie Efira as 17th-century nun Sister Benedetta Carlini. Carlini was hailed as a visionary and then later accused of fabricated miracles, homosexuality and other charges, and imprisoned for nearly four decades. Based on historian Judith C Brown’s novel “Immodest Acts” and adapted by Gerard Soeteman (“Black Book”), the blend of religion and erotica should rile some people up even in this day and age. Shot in the back half of 2018, the film still hasn’t seen a release as yet due to Verhoeven’s health and perfectionist tendencies.
“Eden” director Mia Hansen-Love’s new film enlists “Phantom Thread” breakout Vicky Krieps, who replaced the briefly attached Greta Gerwig, along with Mia Wasikowska on this Swedish-shot film about an American couple who are both artists and who head to the a remote Swedish island to take part in an Ingmar Bergman celebration event. The pair hope to be inspired to finish writing their new movie, but over the course of the summer their relationship starts to fissure as the line between their lives and the fiction they are writing starts to blur. Sounds rather “Clouds of Sils Maria”-esque, but it enlisted quality producer Charles Gillibert (“Mustang,” “Personal Shopper”). The film also underwent a near year-long gap in the midst of filming in order to accommodate its ‘film within a film’ element.
“Bill & Ted Face the Music”
Nearly three decades since we last saw them, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves finally return to their career-making roles of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan, the time-travelling would-be rockers from San Dimas, who are now middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfil their destiny of saving the universe. Original scribes Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon return to pen the new version which will hopefully retain the surprising sweetness and positivity of the feelgood first two films. Stuck in development for so many years, this is finally on the way at a time when there’s much debate about how nostalgia and fan service is hurting cinema. Even so, there’s a really obvious and infectious joy coming from those working on the film that hopefully promises something on the level of the previous films.
Filmmaker Miguel Sapochnik has found his work under much scrutiny in 2019, helming the two major battle episodes of the final season of “Game of Thrones ” and dealing with so many fan complaints about both episodes and the choices made. That said, the helmer’s skill is obvious which makes this first post-Thrones project for him an intriguing one. Set on a post-apocalyptic earth, Tom Hanks plays an ailing inventor who is the last man on Earth. He builds an android to keep him and his dog company and goes on a journey across the country. Robert Zemeckis produces the tale which Caleb Landry Jones, Laura Harrier and Skeet Ulrich co-star in and has already set an October 2nd release by Universal Pictures.
“Birds of Prey”
Despite the money it made, there’s little question that “Suicide Squad” was a dud. Aside from some inspired casting choices and great trailers, there’s wasn’t much to the messy DC Comics adaptation. In contrast, this standalone spin-off focusing on a bunch of ‘bad girls’ led by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn holds more promise. The hiring of rising filmmaker Cathy Yan, the unapologetic R-rating and inclusiveness, a great cast having irreverent fun, a solid message of self-empowerment and actualisation, Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina as the scenery-chewing baddies, it’s all good. Hopefully, as with “Joker,” Warners realises the strength of its DC brand films – especially moderate budgeted ones like this – depends on doing what Marvel can’t which is to really push the envelope and take the humor, characters and story into places comic book films so rarely go.
“The Birthday Cake”
Musician Jim Giannopoulos has assembled an impressive cast for his directorial debut in which Shiloh Fernandez plays a young man who accepts his family’s traditional task of bringing a cake to his uncle, mob boss Angelo (Val Kilmer), to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his father’s death. However, his life is changed forever as he witnesses a murder that will lead down a path to learning the truth behind his dad’s demise. Ewan McGregor, Ashley Benson, Lorraine Bracco, Vincent Pastore and David Mazouz co-star in the film which was shot in New York this past Fall.
Set to premiere at Sundance after making its way through that festival’s filmmaker program, “Wild Canaries” helmer Lawrence Michael Levine penned and directs this thriller starring Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Gadon as an expecting couple confronted with an out-of-town guest Abigail (Plaza), a filmmaker suffering from writer’s block who seeks solace. They all soon find themselves at the center of a twisted love triangle. Shot around the Adirondack Mountains in New York, the film will rely on fest reviews in order to break out beyond its confines.
“The Black Hand”
Celebrated filmmaker Roger Michell helms this adaptation of Bille August’s 2014 Danish film “Silent Heart,” with the film premiering in Toronto this past Fall to good (but not great) reviews. The story involves a dying mother (Susan Sarandon) who assembles three generations of her family to spend a final weekend together before she chooses to end her life. As time runs out, the daughters (Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska) find it more and more difficult to handle and soon old conflicts arise. Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Lindsay Duncan co-star in the project which hasn’t set a U.S. release date as yet.
While promoted as a big test for Marvel Studios, their first post Infinity Saga film is more of a victory lap, finally giving Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow the film she is LONG overdue to have received – but making it a semi-prequel in order to accommodate the events of ‘Endgame’. The hiring of excellent Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland and a stellar cast including David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle and Rachel Weisz is inspired and hopefully means there is a bit less bombast and more serious work than other MCU films of late. A recent trailer started out well with an intriguing espionage tone before throwing that all away from ludicrous physics-defying action like out of a “Just Cause” game. Hopefully Shortland and Marvel, who frankly have nothing to lose at this point, can give us something that takes some risks.
Noel Coward’s theatrical stage staple gets a new film adaptation with this British-U.S. co-production from famed theater director Edward Hall – suggesting it will be a very ‘stagey’ version as opposed to being a true film adaptation. Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft penned the script for this take on the story of socialite and novelist Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens), who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) to his house to conduct a seance as research for his new book. His scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira (Leslie Mann), who makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’ marriage to his second wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher), who cannot see or hear the ghost. Despite the cast, I don’t see David Lean’s 1945 version being challenged here.
“The Assassination of Jesse James” and “Chopper” filmmaker Andrew Dominik has been struggling to get this unconventional Marilyn Monroe biopic made for many years, dubbed a fictionalized chronicle of Monroe’s inner life that’s more akin to “Repulsion” than “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name, the film finally made serious progress this year when he snagged “Knives Out” and “Blade Runner 2049” star Ana de Armas for the lead role in February and began shooting in August. He’s also snagged a great supporting cast including Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Xavier Samuel and Julianne Nicholson.
Marvel and DC have had their time in the sun, now Valiant Comics is having a go at a big screen graphic novel adaptation with the Vin Diesel-led “Bloodshot”. What was to be the first of a planned Valiant universe has now been pulled back to a standalone feature helmed by David S. F. Wilson making his directing debut. Penned by Jeff Wadlow (“Kick Ass 2”) and Eric Heisserer (“Arrival”), the story has Diesel as a marine resurrected as a nanotechnology-fueled superhuman biotech killing machine with no memory of his former life. When the memories return, he sets out on revenge – only to discover more to the conspiracy than first thought. Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell and Guy Pearce co-star.
“Bob’s Burgers: The Movie”
The second film adaptation of a FOX animated series after 2007’s “The Simpsons Movie,” this takes Loren Bouchard’s comedy – currently in its tenth season – to the big screen with a musical comedy feature involving the Belcher family. The usual cast like H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Miriam, John Roberts, Larry Murphy and Kristen Schaal are all there but there’s no plot details to speak of other than one of the subplots involving Louise and her night light Kuchi Kopi inside her fantasy world. The film also aims to appeal to those who have never seen the show.
Malik Vitthal (“Imperial Dreams”) helms this horror tale in which a group of Los Angeles Police Department officers who are haunted by a malevolent spirit tied to the murder of a black youth at the hands of two white cops, all of which are caught on a body cam video that was destroyed in a cover-up. Dubbed a fusion of “Get Out” and “End of Watch,” the film boasts a script by newcomer Richmond Riedel along with veterans John Ridley (“12 Years A Slave”) and Nicholas McCarthy (“The Prodigy”). There’s also an intriguing cast including Mary J. Blige in the lead along with Nat Wolff, Theo Rossi, Anika Noni Rose and David Zayas.
“Born to Be Murdered”
Celebrated “Call Me By Your Name” filmmaker Luca Guadagnino and much of that film’s key production team reassemble for this Greece-set manhunt thriller which Guadagnino is only producing this time out – leaving the helming up to his protege Cito Filomarino (“Antonia”) who makes his English language debut. “Blackkklansman” and “Tenet” star John David Washington along with actress Alicia Vikander star as a vacationing couple who fall into a trap with tragic consequences that was set up by a violent and dangerous conspiracy. Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”) and Vicky Krieps (“The Phantom Thread”) play the other key roles in the film which boasts a score from Oscar-winner “The Revenant” composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Marking his first writing/directing theatrical release since 2011’s “The Grey,” assuming a streamer doesn’t get to it first, this new sci-fi action thriller from filmmaker Joe Carnahan sees Frank Grillo starring as Roy Pulver, a retired special forces soldier finds himself trapped in a sinister government program – which results in a never-ending time loop leading to his death. Think “Happy Death Day” but with way more macho posturing. The film also stars the strong supporting cast of Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh, Annabelle Wallis, Will Sasso, Ken Jeong and NFL player Rob Gronkowski. Shot early-mid 2018, things have been surprisingly quiet ever since – maybe the Gibson factor?
“Breaking News In Yuba County”
Outside of “The Help,” Tate Taylor hasn’t had much success as a director. That could change with this dark comedy vehicle for the great Allison Janney that seems like a festival film on the surface that could easily crossover to populist and awards glory if it’s good. Janney plays Sue Bottoms, a put upon housewife who buries the body of her husband when he dies of a heart attack in the wake of being caught cheating. As she struggles to keep it secret, she also is finally able to come into her own. A superb supporting cast including Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Barkin, Juliette Lewis, Matthew Modine, Dominic Burgess, Jimmi Simpson, Chris Lowell and more.
ALSO COMING IN 2020
The children’s fantasy adaptation “A Boy Called Christmas,” and two similar teen romance dramas – Elle Fanning and Justice Smith-led “All the Bright Places” and Jessica Rothe in “All My Life”. Then there’s the Bruce Willis-led space-faring action title “Anti-Life,” Mayim Balik’s directorial debut “As Sick as They Made Us,” and the Jennifer Jason Leigh-led sleepless society sci-fi tale “Awake”.
There’s also the pushed direct-to-HBO Hugh Jackman dark comedy “Bad Education,” the Tiffany Haddish-led hidden cam comedy “Bad Trip,” young Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov’s award-winning post-WW2 Leningrad coming of age tale “Beanpole,” and the Oscar Isaac produced dark comedy “Big Gold Brick”.
There’s also the latest adaptation of “Black Beauty” with Kate Winslet providing the horse’s voice, and Mike Cahill’s latest trippy low-budget sci-fi tale “Bliss,” Alicia Vikander co-starring in writer-director-star Justin Chon’s Asian familial-centric drama “Blue Bayou,” the horror sequel “Brahms: The Boy 2,” and the long-delayed Garrett Hedlund-led spiritual drama “Burden”.
NOTABLE FILMS OF 2020 GUIDE
“A Quiet Place Part II,” “After Yang,” “All Day and A Night,” “Ammonite,” “An American Pickle,” “An Unquiet Life,” “Annette,” “Antebellum,” “Antlers,” “Army of the Dead,” “Artemis Fowl,” “Ava,” “Bad Boys for Life,” “Bad Hair,” “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” “Benedetta,” “Bergman Island,” “Bill and Ted Face the Music,” “BIOS,” “Birds of Prey,” “The Birthday Cake,” “Black Bear,” “The Black Hand,” “Black Widow,” “Blithe Spirit,” “Blonde,” “Bloodshot,” “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie,” “Body Cam,” “Born to Be Murdered,” “Boss Level,” “Breaking News In Yuba County”
“Call of the Wild,” “Candyman,” “The Card Counter,” “Chaos Walking,” “Cherry,” “Come Away,” “Coming to America,” “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” “The Craft,” “Da 5 Bloods,” “Death on the Nile,” “Deep Water,” “The Devil All the Time,” “Dhaka,” “Dolittle,” “Don’t Worry Darling,” “Doorman,” “Downhill,” “Dreamland,” “Druk,” “Dune,” “The Education of Fredrick Fitzell,” “Emma,” “Enola Holmes,” “Enter the Fat Dragon,” “Eternals,” “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” “Fast And Furious 9,” “The Father,” “Fatherhood,” “Fear Street,” “Falling,” “False Positive,” “Fantasy Island,” “First Cow,” “Fonzo,” “The Forgiven,” “Free Guy,” “The French Dispatch,” “The Furnace”
“The Gentlemen,” “The Georgetown Project,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “The Glorias,” “Godzilla vs Kong,” “Good Morning, Midnight,” “Green Knight,” “Greyhound,” “The Grudge,” “Gunpowder Milkshake,” “Good Joe Bell,” “Halloween,” “Happiest Season,” “Harry Haft,” “Hillbilly Elegy,” “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” “Honest Thief,” “The Humans,” “The Hunt,” “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” “In The Heights,” “Irresistible,” “Infinite,” “The Invisible Man,” “Ironbark,” “The Jesus Rolls,” “Jesus Is My Homeboy,” “Jiu Jitsu,” “Jolt,” “Jungle Cruise,” “Jungleland,” “Kajillionaire,” “King of Staten Island,” “King Richard,” “The King’s Man”