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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Richard Roeper

10 movies that show promise in 2023 — and aren’t sequels

Margot Robbie plays the pretty-in-pink doll in “Barbie.” (Warner Bros.)

Check the list of the Top 10 box office hits of 2022 and you’ll find nine were sequels or spinoffs, led by “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and one was a restart: “The Batman.”

This is the way of the mainstream movie world. In the year ahead, we’re getting “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Creed III,” “John Wick: Chapter 4,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One,” “The Marvels,” “The Exorcist,” “Dune Part Two,” “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” “Wonka,” “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” etc., etc.

We look forward with keen anticipation to some of these follow-ups; here’s looking at you, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “Creed III” and “John Wick: Chapter 4.” Others? Well, you never know, maybe Aquaman will rise from the waters with a triumphant new chapter, and the new take on “The Exorcist” will at least come close to matching the terrifying brilliance of the original! One can always hope.

In the meantime, here’s our list of 10 ORIGINAL movies we can’t wait to see in 2023. (As always, release dates are subject to change.)

‘You People’ (Jan. 27)

Eddie Murphy (left) stars with Jonah Hill in “You People.” (Netflix)

“Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris directed and co-wrote the script with Jonah Hill, who co-stars with Eddie Murphy in this comedic take on finding romance amidst cultural and generational gaps. Lauren London plays Hill’s love interest in what ooks to be a modern and edgy update on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

‘Knock at the Cabin’ (Feb. 3)

Dave Bautista (from left), Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird star in “Knock at the Cabin.” (Universal Pictures)

Listen to this setup: “While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods” — OK, we’re going to stop right there. How many times have I warned you all about vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods! NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS when you vacation at a remote cabin in the woods! Be that as it may, this looks like a promising take on a familiar trope, with M. Night Shyamalan directing and an interesting cast including Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint. Expect more “Twilight Zone” than slasher/splatter film.

‘Cocaine Bear’ (Feb. 24)

The title character of “Cocaine Bear” menaces Sari (Keri Russell). (Universal Pictures)

Elizabeth Banks directs this black comedy thriller, which has already won the Internet and features one of the most fantastically insane posters in recent history. Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and the late Ray Liotta star in the story of an American black bear that goes on a rampage in a small Georgia town after ingesting a duffel bag full of cocaine, and yes, this is actually based on a true story,

‘Renfield’ (April 14)

We know the story of Count Dracula, but what about Renfield? You know, Renfield! Dracula’s lackey? Chris McKay directs this horror comedy, with Nicolas Cage as Dracula (imagine the accent!) and Nicholas Hoult as Renfield.

‘Oppenheimer’ (July 21)

In “Oppenheimer,” Cillian Murphy (with Emily Blunt) plays the bombmaker J. Robert Oppenheimer. (Universal Pictures)

They’ve already been running ads on TV for writer-director Christopher Nolan’s surefire Oscar contender, starring the brilliant Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, aka “the father of the atomic bomb.” The star-studded supporting cast includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Josh Hartnett, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman and Casey Affleck.

‘Barbie’ (July 21)

Speaking of advance publicity, I can’t remember when we’ve seen as many leaked production photos from a movie as we’ve seen with this Barbie movie, which I would tend to brush off as a ridiculous idea if not for the fact the director is Greta Gerwig, the screenplay was written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, and the film stars Margot Robbie as the title character, Ryan Gosling as the always smooth Ken — and Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel. Sounds like this was made for meta.

‘True Love’ (Oct. 6)

On the other end of the advance-notice spectrum, we don’t know a whole lot about this sci-fi project from Gareth Edwards, director of “Monsters,” the 2014 version of “Godzilla” and “Rogue One.” John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Allison Janney and Ken Watanabe headline the cast, and shooting took place in Thailand.

That’s about it. That’s about all we know. And that’s kind of refreshing in this day and age.

‘Wish” (Nov. 22)

Asha (voice of Ariana DeBose) and the goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk) look to the skies in “Wish.” (DISNEY)

When you wish upon a star …

Yes, but what about that star? This epic animated musical from Disney is said to ask the question, “How did the wishing star, upon which so many characters wished, come to be?”

HEAVY. But most likely light and breezy and inspirational and filled with positive messages as well.

‘Ferrari’ (TBD)

In “Ferrari,” Adam Driver plays the namesake of the carmaker. (Lorenzo Sisti)

The legendary Michael Mann (“Thief,” “Heat,” “Collateral”) makes about three movies per decade — but they’re some of the most memorable and visually striking films of our times. This time around, Mann takes us into the world of one Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) circa the late 1950s. Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley and Gabriel Leone co-star. It will be an upset of “Ferrari” DOESN’T feature some of the most thrilling racecar sequences ever filmed.

‘Maestro’ (TBD)

Bradley Cooper plays conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro.” (Netflix)

Another biopic about one of the most seminal figures of the 20th century — in this case the great Leonard Bernstein. Following up on his triumphant directorial debut of “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper is behind the camera, co-wrote the screenplay and, as we’ve seen in the advance publicity stills, is almost unrecognizable in the lead role, playing the legendary conductor and composer who won seven Emmys, two Tonys and 16 Grammys, among other honors. A dashing and charismatic figure, Bernstein was also a vocal activist for civil rights and other causes, and he led a complicated personal life. In Cooper’s hands, this could make for a bold, vibrant, rich and compelling Oscar contender.

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