Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama The Fabelmans is an early treat, and Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is a formidable three-hour saga charting the wild excesses of golden age Hollywood.
Later in the year, Marvel will attempt to rediscover its swagger with several new releases — cinema’s favourite archaeologist returns to the screens in Indiana Jones, Tom Cruise staggers back into action in a new Mission: Impossible adventure, and the second instalment of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune will be unleashed just before Christmas.
Lots to look forward to then, and here’s our pick of 2023’s possible highlights.
No prisoners are taken by Damien Chazelle in this long and extravagant epic set in 1920s Hollywood. It opens with an orgy that will give you pause for thought, before we meet the two main protagonists — Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), an aspiring actress, and Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a Mexican immigrant who dreams of being a producer. Both will get even more than they wanted, but Brad Pitt steals the show playing a silent star who falls foul of the transition to sound. Excessive, but interesting.
Steven Spielberg gives fascinating insights into his artistic formation in this compelling drama closely based on his childhood. In 1950s California, shy teenager Sammy Fabelman is torn between his quiet and logical father (Paul Dano) and volatile, artistic mother (Michelle Williams), especially when they decide to separate. But he deals with his anxiety by pouring all his energy into his new passion — making home movies. Seth Rogen co-stars as a family friend who causes trouble, and David Lynch makes a priceless cameo as legendary director John Ford.
Éanna Hardwicke gives a powerful performance in Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney’s moody drama set in small town Ireland. Cian (Hardwicke) is captain of the local football team, and GAA is everything to him till a fight on a night out leaves him with crippling concussion. Cian now faces a bleak and possibly football-free future, but then he meets Grace (Danielle Gilligan), a clever young woman who sees through his macho bluffing. Lorcan Cranitch, Gary Lydon and Leslie Conroy co-star.
Due out in February
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Would Ant-Man be bearable without Paul Rudd? Probably not, and the actor brings his trademark easy charm and wit to the character of Scott Lang, a petty thief who became an inadvertent superhero after stealing a suit that makes you shrink. In this third adventure, Scott and his significant other Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) travel deep into the Quantum Realm to confront a character called Kang the Conqueror, who may be a troublemaker.
Out February 17
Everyone has been impressed by the quality of these Rocky spin-offs, which starred Michael B Jordan as the son of Rocky Balboa’s old enemy Apollo Creed. But this third outing is something of a departure in that Jordan is directing it, and Rocky himself will apparently not appear. Everything is going swimmingly for Donnie Creed until an old acquaintance gets out of prison and challenges him to a fight. Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors co-star.
Next Goal Wins
Taika Waititi’s Nazi-era comedy Jojo Rabbit might not have been for everybody, but the writer/director is on safer ground with Next Goal Wins, which is based on the true story of an American coach’s attempts to revive the fortunes of the Samoan national football team. Michael Fassbender makes a welcome return after a career hiatus to play Thomas Rongen, a larger-than-life character who definitely has his work cut out.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3
How do you feel about the Guardians of the Galaxy? Marvel don’t really care, because the super team’s first two standalone films made a combined $1.5bn — ergo this sequel. In this adventure, the group has retreated to the safe haven of Knowhere when its continued existence is threatened by a brutal attack. Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana star in what could be one of the bigger hits of the summer.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The 2018 adventure Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was one of the finest superhero movies yet made, combining wit and nuance with ground-breaking animation. So this sequel has a lot to live up to. In it, New York teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and his associate Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) encounter more Spider-Men from different dimensions as they deal with a new threat.
Due out in June
The latest Pixar animation has a strong look of Soul about it, and if it’s anything like as good as that 2020 Oscar-winner, it should be worth watching. Peter Sohn, who directed the much maligned Good Dinosaur, is at the helm for this story based in a city where fire, water, earth and air people all live more or less happily together. And when a fiery young woman and a go-with-the-flow water guy meet, they discover they have a surprising amount in common.
Fans of Wes Andersen know only too well what to expect of him — whimsy, and plenty of it. A period drama set in 1955, Asteroid City’s plot revolves around a ‘Junior Stargazer’ convention that draws space lovers and assorted eccentrics to a small desert town. Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Carell, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Margot Robbie (again) — I have to say the cast of this thing is staggering.
Out June 16
It is slightly unsettling that this is the first Indy adventure not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, but James Mangold is no slouch, and Harrison Ford returns to fill the boots that only he can fill. And at least there are Nazis, former ones that is, who have inveigled their way into the NASA moon project, but may have more nefarious goals. Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Jones’ goddaughter, and Mads Mikkelsen is the principal villain. Could be a laugh.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One
This, we are solemnly promised, will be the second last M:I movie ever, as Ethan Hunt and his motley crew set out to foil another fiendish attempt to destabilise the western world. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Rebecca Ferguson reprise their roles, Vanessa Kirby and Hayley Atwell assume new ones, and you should know by now exactly what to expect.
A busy year for Margot Robbie, who follows up her barnstorming performance in Babylon with a starring role in Greta Gerwig’s romcom based on the love life of creepy children’s dolls Ken and Barbie. Ryan Gosling is well cast as Barbie’s beau, and one can expect a fond but comprehensive takedown of Barbie-world’s antediluvian sexual politics.
Cillian Murphy lands his biggest movie role in quite some time in Christopher Nolan’s epic biopic. He plays Robert Oppenheimer, who managed the Los Alamos Laboratory during America’s World War Two Manhattan Project, and played a huge part in the creation of the first atomic bomb, a role he would later come to regret. Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh and Robert Downey co-star.
When will the superhero craze finally end? No time soon, it seems, and here comes another big-budget sequel, this time to the relatively well received 2019 adventure Captain Marvel. In that film, Brie Larson played Vers, an alien who falls to Earth and realises she’s been here before. Here she teams up with a group of similarly gifted heroes to figure out a mysterious connection.
Irish director and writer Ian Hunt-Duffy and Darach McGarrigle have joined forces to create what sounds like an intriguing high-concept horror. When the foolish participants in an experimental drug trial discover that the whole thing has gone horribly wrong, those lucky enough to survive must fight off sleep, and each other, if they’re to survive. With Millie Brady, Pollyanna McIntosh.
Due out in the autumn
Beau is Afraid
With his films Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster has established himself as the most exciting new voice in American horror. This stars Joaquin Phoenix as a highly successful entrepreneur who’s haunted by his complex relationship with his mother, and makes a fraught return to the family home following her death. Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane and James Gandolfini’s son Michael co-star in a film guaranteed to give you the creeps.
Out in the autumn
Dune: Part Two
After several failed attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s sprawling space epic, Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film Dune was a spectacular visual treat that managed to make sense of the book’s tortuous plot and draw us into its intergalactic story. Everything is set up very nicely for this sequel, with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) about to realise the extent of his messianic powers, and lead a rebellion against the desert planet of Arrakis’s occupiers.
Out in early November
A kind of prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it will tell the story of how young Willie Wonka managed to establish his famous establishment. Timothée Chalamet will play Wonka, which is pretty good casting, I think.
Due out on December 13
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star is Born was a marvellous remake of a classic film, and in Maestro he follows it up with something even more ambitious. Maestro will star Cooper himself as Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest conductors and musicians of the 20th century, and certainly the most culturally influential. Bernstein was gay, but lived in a time where he felt obliged to conceal his orientation by marrying a woman. Carey Mulligan and Jeremy Strong co-star.
Out in late 2023