With this being the final Indie Film column of the year – coming out in print on New Year’s Eve and everything – it seems expected that we’d do one of those best-of 2020 lists.

Except – go to hell, 2020. 

Indeed, thanks to all the pandemic shut-down productions, pushed release dates and general feeling that nothing from this godforsaken garbage year of garbage counts as “real life,” putting the label “best” onto anything emanating from 2020 just feels like a slap in the kisser. 

So let’s have some fun, and some hope, and look forward to 2021 in movies. Because of this COVID-infested trash-heap of a year, all release dates are what you might call “speculative,” but they’re the best guess at this point. And while the blanket term “release date” has come to mean “when you watch the latest superhero mega-release from your couch while execs at Marvel grind their teeth,” here’s to hope. In that, I really, genuinely hope we all get to see each other at the movie theater again in 2021. 


“One Night In Miami” (Jan. 15, Amazon Prime): Actress Regina King’s theatrical feature directorial debut is a great-looking period piece about the titular 1964 night when newly crowned boxing champion Cassius Clay (soon to be Muhammad Ali), singer Sam Cooke, football and movie hero Jim Brown and Malcom X all meet up to have a talk about the Civil Rights Movement in a Miami motel. A great cast and timely topic join the great reviews to put this at the top of my list. 

“Respect” (Jan. 15): Sticking with the time period and subject of fascinating and influential Black celebrities, this biopic about the late, greater-than-great Aretha Franklin stars Jennifer Hudson, as she portrays the young Franklin’s artistic and personal emergence as the Queen of Soul. Hudson’s got pipes, of course, but does she have Aretha pipes? 

“The Little Things” (Jan. 29, theaters and HBOMax): Denzel Washington is a small-town cop returning to the big-city P.D. where he started in order to help detective Rami Malek catch a serial killer. How many serial killers are there in the country, anyway? That aside, as long as it’s Denzel doing the pursuing, I’m in for a look. 


“Nobody” (Feb. 19): Watching Bob Odenkirk (comic genius and co-creator of “Mr. Show”) become an esteemed dramatic actor is one thing. But this movie sees the “Better Call Saul” star going all John Wick after some unwise baddies intrude on the placid suburban dad life he’s built – after retiring from bad-ass assassin life. I will follow Odenkirk anywhere. Even, it seems, into late-middle-aged action hero. 

“Nomadland” (Feb. 19): Just give the great Frances McDormand next year’s Oscar already, as her performance as a woman forced by economic recession into living out of her van is garnering nothing but critical love. Filmed on the road alongside nonprofessional actors actually living the hardscrabble nomad life, this one’s going to resonate as a snapshot of 2020. Which, for so many, was garbage. 


“Coming 2 America” (March 5, Amazon Prime): I was old-guy shocked a while ago when my teenaged niece professed ignorance of just who exactly Eddie Murphy was. (Like, she knew Donkey, but that’s about it.) For those of us who grew up with the certainty that Eddie was the funniest human on the planet, this 33-years-later sequel (my God, I am old) reunites Murphy and Arsenio Hall as Prince Akeem and loyal retainer Semmi, as they – you guessed it – come back to America in search of the male heir Akeem didn’t know he had. 

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (March 5): Some (like me) might ask, why? Indeed, I’m asking why we need a fourth “Ghostbusters” movie, especially one seemed designed to placate the whining man-boys who got all misogynist about four women taking up the remake roles. Regardless, I’ll see the thing, as I’m not made of stone, plus there’s the fact that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver are all on board in some capacity (directed by Jason “son of original director Ivan” Reitman,” for added nostalgia). I’m a sucker – and it’s been a long year. 

“The Many Saints of Newark” (March 12): Speaking of questionably necessary things, this “The Sopranos” prequel follows the young Tony Soprano and his Mafia family through his inevitably troubled and violent adolescence. It is written by series creator David Chase, so here’s to not tarnishing a TV legacy!

“Morbius” (March 19): Our Disney/Marvel overlords are taking a risk basing their 2021 cinematic tentpoles on largely unknown comics characters, I’ll give ’em that. This time, it’s Jared Leto (already a crappy Joker for DC) strapping on some fangs and theatrical face paint as the titular vampire antihero. Is Morbius the next Iron Man? Um, we’ll see, I guess. 

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (March 19): Nicholas Cage plays himself (an even more over-the-top version of himself) in this action-comedy weirdness about Cage accepting a gig to appear at a birthday party, only to have to rely on his innate Nicholas Cage-ness to escape an unexpectedly perilous situation. Is there only so much Cage the human mind can take? I’m in to risk it. 


“F9” (April 2): Vroom! Vin Diesel! Cars! Stuff blowing up, probably! Fun fact: This increasingly loopy auto-action series has been around so long that the car-gang in the first film was stealing combination TV-VCRs. 

“No Time To Die” (April 2): Bond, James Bond. You get it. Daniel Craig hangs up the tux after this 25th Bond flick. 

“Bob’s Burgers: The Movie” (April 9): “Bob’s Burgers” has taken up “The Simpsons’” mantle of the best, funniest, most insightful animated American family for the past decade now. I will fight you about this. 

“A Quiet Place Part II” (April 23): Jon Krasinski directs this sequel to his smash hit monster movie about monsters attracted to smashing noises. Everyone’s back from the first (including Krasinski, so look for some flashbacks), as the beleaguered central family does everything very, very quietly once more. 

“Last Night in Soho” (April 23): This 1960s-set psychological thriller promises a serious departure from never-missed-yet “Shaun of the Dead,” “Baby Driver” writer-director Edgar Wright. I will be first in line. Assuming we are forming lines by this point. 


“Black Widow” (May 7): The one new Marvel movie featuring a main character someone knows, this adventure about the birth of Scarlett Johansson’s Russian super-spy will either thrill packed theaters, or you alone, as you break your living room lamps trying out some karate moves. 

“Godzilla Vs. Kong” (May 21): American Godzillas are not the best Godzillas, but this sequel to the passable “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” throws King Kong into the scrum. Because, why not? Being directed by indie horror stalwart Adam Wingard (“You’re Next,” “The Guest”) is intriguing. Plus, monsters smash!

“Spiral” (May 21): Taking the “Saw” franchise in a seriously new direction is producer-star Chris Rock, as he and Samuel L. Jackson run afoul of the fiendish (and seriously messed-up) Jigsaw killer in this ninth “Saw” outing. I’ll admit it. I’m intrigued. 


“In the Heights” (June 18): Ever heard of a little show called “Hamilton”? Well, before that, composer, actor and all-around mensch Lin-Manuel Miranda won all the Tonys for this play about the people of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. 

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (June 25): OK, so people may have heard of Venom, the Marvel-owned anti-Spider-man, here once more played by Tom Hardy in a lot of sticky-looking GCI. But this “dark and gritty” take on the dark side of the MCU is unlikely to hang out with the Avengers any time soon. This time, Venom goes up against Carnage, an even crazier and ickier spider-themed menace. 


“Top Gun: Maverick” (July 2): Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit in this 35-years-later sequel, in which the creepily not-aging Cruise has to train a new hotshot crop of fighter pilots, led by Miles Teller, who might be a little ticked off at Maverick, since he’s the kid of Cruise’s late wingman, Goose.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9): Marvel goes for martial arts gold with a character perhaps even less-known than Morbius. Created as Marvel’s own Bruce Lee-style 1970s action hero, this one stars Asian-Canadian actor Simu Liu as the greatest martial artist in the world, aiming to take down a mystical terrorist organization. An interesting all-Asian cast (including Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng, and screen legends Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh) adds to the film’s underdog cred. And my desire to see it. 


“The Suicide Squad” (Aug. 6): DC Comics is way, way behind at the movies, but importing the MCU’s James Gunn (“The Guardians of the Galaxy”) to helm this sequel about DC’s most disreputable, disposable ne’er-do-well super villain team is at least a smart decision. Great cast and filled with D-list DC characters only a real nerd can appreciate. (I’m in.)

“Candyman” (Aug. 27): Horror master Jordan Peele is producing this Nia DaCosta-directed remake of the still-effective 1992 supernatural slasher. Updating the setting (and, one expects, the iffy racial elements) of the original, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who grew up in the hook-handed killer’s old housing project tempts fate by saying his name five times in various mirrors. The news that the great Tony Todd would – in some manner – be back as Candyman made me giddy. I am a nerd, as mentioned. 


“Dune” (Oct. 1): Can “Blade Runner 2049” director Denis Villeneuve work his re-imagining magic on another adaptation of Frank Herbert’s nigh-unfilmable sci-fi epic? Well, he (alongside a stacked cast that includes Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling and Timothée Chalamet) can’t conceivably do worse than David Lynch did back in 1984. Duller, maybe, but not worse. 

“Halloween Kills” (Oct. 15): David Gordon Green returns with this sequel to his not-bad 2018 entry in the venerable horror franchise. Jamie Lee Curtis is back again, which lends credibility, alongside newcomer Anthony Michael Hall playing grownup Tommy, the kid Jamie Lee’s Laurie Strode protected way back in the 1978 original. He may be a little messed up about that. 


“Eternals” (Nov. 5): Here’s Marvel’s biggest gamble yet, since making a super-team out of this group of shadowy immortal aliens means educating the non-nerds out there (even I have to look them up) from the ground up. Still, this is the film Kumail Nanjiani got ridiculously jacked for, so we owe it to him to see it. 


“West Side Story” (Dec. 10): Steven Spielberg directs another version of this classic Broadway “Romeo and Juliet” musical. I’d say that’s a gutsy move, but what is Spielberg going to do if it tanks? Go broke? 

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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