It’s been a rough year for the movie industry. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has underperformed in the United States—shockingly, it turns out the prospect of sitting in a dark room and breathing the same air with a bunch of strangers for more than two hours during a global pandemic wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Tenet’s tepid box-office return, along with other blockbuster releases bowing out of 2020, has seen major theater chains Regal and AMC deal with closures and depleted resources. What the theatrical experience will look like—or whether it will exist at all—when (or if) a COVID-19 vaccine is developed remains unclear, but it sure feels like the movie industry as we know it is hanging on by a thread. None other than Disney has acknowledged that its biggest business priority moving forward is streaming.
This dispiriting turn of events has also meant that we’ve missed out on movie memories as films have pushed back their original release dates. Instead, as things stand, the last pre-Tenet blockbuster to grace theaters was … Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot. (I would know: It’s also the last film I’ve seen in a theater for God knows how long.) All due respect to Vin—please release more singles, king!—but I think most people would rather have had the chance to check out Fast 9.
With that in mind, let’s reflect on all the things we would have seen at the movies this year in a non-pandemic timeline. (A disclaimer: Since the most we’ve seen from any of these films is a trailer, I will have to take some blogging liberties.)
Timothée Chalamet Confronting a Giant Butthole in Dune
This Christmas, everyone should’ve been extremely confused about Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s star-studded adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel of the same name. Dune is the kind of sprawling, heavy, high-minded science-fiction epic that would appease die-hards and leave the majority of moviegoers absolutely baffled by all the spice talk—and that’s before we address the elephant in the room. (The elephant, in this scenario, are the giant sandworms native to the desert planet Arrakis.)
For some reason, Warner Bros. signed off on a creature design that, if I say any more, will probably get me in trouble with HR. So I’ll leave it at this: Timothée Chalamet, as our moody protagonist Paul Atreides, looks nervous about being confronted by a giant sandworm, but maybe he should just threaten the thing with wet wipes.
Florence Pugh’s Thicc Russian Accent in Black Widow
Some folks are excited to watch Black Widow to get their Marvel Cinematic Universe fix; I’m just trying to freebase Florence Pugh with a Russian accent. In the stand-alone Marvel movie, Pugh plays Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff’s “sis” from what I can only assume is the MCU’s PG-13 version of the Red Sparrow spy academy.
It’s possible that, with Scarlett Johansson’s character already killed off in Avengers: Endgame, Pugh will take over the Black Widow mantle in “Phase 4” of the MCU. (Why pluck one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars for a one-off supporting role?) I’d much rather see Pugh tackle more Midsommars and Lady Macbeths in her future, but as long as she sounds like she’s imitating Alison Brie’s Russian accent on GLOW the entire time, I have no choice but to grab a big helping of pelmeni and stan.
The Kids Dumb Enough to Summon Candyman in Candyman
In the opening moments of the trailer for Nia DaCosta’s spiritual sequel to Candyman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II explains the Candyman myth to his girlfriend thusly: “The urban legend is, if you say his name five times while looking in the mirror, he appears in the reflection and kills you.” “Who would do that?!” she responds … as the trailer cuts to a group of kids doing what kids do in horror movies:
This is some of the best (and funniest) trailer editing of the year, and I suspect that, as contemporary horror sequels/remakes usually go, this Candyman will rack up a higher body count than the original film. But as much as I’ve missed having more Candyman in our lives, Jordan Peele, who cowrote the screenplay and is a producer on the film, has supported pushing the release back to discourage going to theaters during a pandemic. (Note to Christopher Nolan: This is how you should treat your fans.) In the meantime, try your hardest not to stand in front of a mirror and say “Candyman” five times. I don’t care if you’re trying to go viral on TikTok, nothing good will come of it.
Everyone at MI6 Telling Daniel Craig He’s Washed in No Time to Die
Daniel Craig wrapping up his time as James Bond has an air of “an athlete counting down the days till he is a free agent and no longer has to play for a team he openly despises.” The actor infamously said he’d rather slash his wrists than reprise his role as 007 before he officially returned for No Time to Die. (In his defense, Craig has suffered serious injuries during Bond productions and is now 52 years old; on the other hand, nobody forced him to take that $25 million check!)
The trailers for No Time to Die have leaned into Craig’s secret agent being part of the (heh) old guard of MI6—a new 00, played by Lashana Lynch, appears to spend much of the movie reiterating to Bond that he’s supremely washed and behind the times. I do hope that Craig gets an appropriate swan song for his time with the James Bond franchise—Casino Royale and Skyfall were all-timers, and as much as he’s complained off-screen, the actor’s always been game when the cameras are rolling. But I get the impression that nobody—especially Craig—would complain if this iteration of James Bond had, in fact, some time to finally die.
Chris Rock [Checks Notes] Producing and Starring in a Saw Sequel
If you thought Chris Rock leading a new season of Fargo was the furthest the comedian could expand his range, well, that’s because we still haven’t seen Spiral. Rock is—and you’re reading this right—rebooting the Saw franchise because he wanted to try his hand with the horror genre, and the results look undeniably interesting. The trailer for Spiral is less “straightforward Saw sequel” and more “film students doing an homage to Se7en.”
Rock has Samuel L. Jackson along for the ride, and he appears to be channeling the same chaotic energy he brought to Snakes on a Plane in asking Jigsaw (or whoever’s responsible for some Jigsaw-like killings) if he is a motherfucker who wants to play games. (The Oscars are missing out on greatness next year!) I wouldn’t cut off a limb with a rusty hacksaw to watch this movie, but I’m nevertheless intrigued. Chris Rock creating a Saw movie will either be a stroke of genius or proof that the simulation we’re living in is glitching uncontrollably.
Discovering What an A24 Blockbuster Looks Like in The Green Knight
A24 hasn’t announced a new release date for David Lowery’s The Green Knight after it was delayed from its original drop in late May. While some folks are clamoring for a VOD release, I think a streaming-only release for the film would be a shame. I know it’s hard to wait, but how can we deny ourselves Dev Patel as Sir Gawain Who Fucks on the biggest possible screen?
I rest my case.
Tom Cruise Possibly Breaking the Sound Barrier IRL in Top Gun: Maverick
If there’s one thing we know about Tom Cruise, it’s that he loves to risk his life for our entertainment. This dude has learned how to fly a helicopter, executed a HALO jump countless times for the One Perfect Shot, broke his ankle during filming and still finished a take, and is now planning to film a movie in literal space with NASA’s assistance. And nobody at Paramount Pictures could stop Cruise from getting into the cockpit of an actual fighter jet in Top Gun: Maverick. (This is actually true, to an extent: Cruise flew a P-51, but the Navy didn’t let him pilot an F/A-18 Super Hornet.)
Just imagine the shame that Tom Cruise feels about the original Top Gun. He played homoerotic volleyball in jeans, sure, but he didn’t actually get in a fighter jet and nearly start a war with the Soviet Union. He was merely playing pretend. That’s no longer his MO: If he’s got the need for speed these days, he’s really doing the damn thing. Eventually, we will have to give Cruise an honorary—though hopefully not posthumous—Oscar for doing the Absolute Most on the big screen.
Matt Damon With a Mullet in The Last Duel
If The Last Duel can live up to the behind-the-scenes photos of its cast sporting mullets, bleach-blond hair, and Princess Leia’s buns, then we have another Ridley Scott masterpiece on our hands.
Experiencing Deep Water, a.k.a. the Reason That Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas Are Dating
Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas have been posing for paparazzi with such frequency that I can barely remember a time when these stars weren’t associated with one another and causing Ana de Armas fan accounts to openly revolt against their relationship. Alas, there’s a reason these two crossed paths: They play an on-screen couple in the psychological thriller Deep Water, which was filmed in late 2019. (The film has now been pushed back to an August 2021 release.)
We don’t even have a Deep Water trailer yet, so there’s only the synopsis to go off of: “A married couple who have fallen out of love with each other begin playing deadly mind games against one another that begins seeing those around them dying.” Sounds … romantic. But since Deep Water apparently did to Affleck and De Armas what Mr. and Mrs. Smith did for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt—unless the former’s entire relationship is elaborate sponcon for the movie—and marks Adrian Lyne’s return to filmmaking after a nearly two-decade absence, there’s something to be excited about outside of the inevitable Daily Mail headlines. Also, despite being blocked by the actual Ana de Armas, the Ana de Armas Updates game remains strong.
*Golden Globe nominee and movie star Ana de Armas stuns on the cover of Vogue Mexico https://t.co/uih1lHCikQ— Ana de Armas Updates (@ArmasUpdates) September 30, 2020
Dominic Toretto Confronting His Secret Evil Twin Brother John Cena, Charlize Theron Piloting a Magnet Plane, Han Coming Back From the Dead, and the Famiglia Going to Outer Space (?!?!?!?!) in Fast 9
I can just feel it: Fast 9 will change the world. But is the world ready for Fast 9?
I have watched this trailer no less than 100 times—I’m doing great, why do you ask?—and am convinced there are more layers to Fast 9 than an onion in a Shrek-created metaphor. Not only does Dom have to face the biggest threat to his Fast Family in the form of his own family—John Cena, his secret and never-before-mentioned brother—but the film will also try to explain how Han (Sung Kang) survived a point-blank car explosion in Tokyo Drift. (Real Fast heads will also notice Jason Tobin’s brief appearance in the trailer. Tobin starred opposite Kang in Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, which is officially-unofficially Fast and Furious canon.)
I haven’t even addressed the very real prospect of Dominic Toretto going into outer space, presumably in a muscle car retrofitted with rocket engines, for reasons not entirely clear. (I’m calling it now: Charlize Theron’s cyber terrorist Cipher has built a secret military base on the moon.) This is Avengers: Endgame for people with taste. I would also just like to remind Universal that I would probably pay upward of $70 to watch Fast 9 from the comfort of my couch right now.
Literally Everything About Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Here’s the thing about Venom: It’s a ridiculous, unforgettable movie that felt like it never lived up to its full chaotic potential. That’s because the MVP of Venom, sweaty star Tom Hardy, had to rage against the machine (director Ruben Fleischer and everyone else associated with Venom) to get his freak on. This is a film in which Hardy had to improvise jumping into a lobster tank—his decision is responsible for hands-down one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen.
But Hardy going against the grain won’t be necessary with Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I can feel it in my bones, and perhaps, through the alien parasite that’s been chilling inside my body since October 2018. After all, Woody Harrelson is returning after appearing in a Venom mid-credits sequence for which he apparently stole a clown’s wig to play Cletus Kasady, who, in the sequel, now looks like what an algorithm would spit out if you asked it to generate an image of a particularly chaotic Trump voter. (I’m calling it now: Cletus Kasady doesn’t wear a mask.)
I don't even know what to do with this pictures of the Venom 2 set pic.twitter.com/kK6MqU5NxB— Possessed Marcelo Pico (@MarceloJPico) February 24, 2020
There is no other film I want to experience more in a crowded theater than Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which, obviously, adds a bit of wistfulness to our uncertain moviegoing future. But if that means holding out until late 2021 or early 2022 to view this masterpiece of cinema in a raucous and virus-free environment, I’ll gladly wait—and rewatch Venom a somewhat disconcerting number of times to hold me over.