2021 continues to be a rollercoaster for movie lovers everywhere, with a once promising Spring 2021 going much the same way as 2020 with delays, release date shifts, and growing apprehension. Still, even if the first few months of 2021 will look much like the last 12, there are reasons to smile. For starters, a new Walt Disney Animation Studios project, Raya and the Last Dragon, is about to premiere on Disney+; Eddie Murphy is finally reprising the role of Prince Akeem in Coming 2 America; and there is the chance to at last watch something called… the Snyder Cut?
Here’s what’s coming.
Netflix kicks March off with Amy Poehler’s second feature film as director. Turning her camera lens to the anarchic battlefield of high school life, Poehler adapts Jennifer Mathieu’s novel of the same name about a young woman named Vivian (Hadley Robinson), who is fed up with the toxic masculinity and sexism at her school. So taking a page from her mother’s (Poehler) former hellraiser youth, Vivian starts an anonymous pamphlet-magazine with a punk rock aesthetic. She periodically distributes her musings around the school, mocking the double standards and perhaps calling out potential predators in their midst.
Clearly this is going to turn some heads.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Get ready for a “Disney princess movie” unlike any other. Raya and the Last Dragon is the latest effort from the fabled Walt Disney Animation Studios, and the first ever animated epic produced almost exclusively from home. The film follows Raya (Star Wars’ Kelly Marie Tran), the first Southeast Asian Disney Princess. But rest assured she’s also a unique heroine within the Disney canon. Lost without her family or home, this martial arts-trained daughter of a ninja chieftain travels through a fantasy wasteland until she meets Sisu (The Farewell’s Awkwafina), a chatty water dragon of legend.
Together they seek to save the desolated and polarized land of Kumandra. They also offer an old-fashioned adventure movie for all ages that lacks a single musical number–yet retains a familiar and welcome amount of heart.
Coming 2 America
It’s been more than 30 years since Coming to America, the amusing and very ‘80s Eddie Murphy comedy about an African prince out to find his princess in Queens, New York. In Coming 2 America, Murphy’s Akeem Joffer returns to Queens while still a prince, albeit finally with the crown in sight. With his father (James Earl Jones) on his deathbed, Akeem is commanded to seek out his long lost son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), who lives in New York City with no idea he’s descended from royalty.
Hence Akeem and trusted advisor Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to their old stomping grounds to meet and retrieve Lavelle. But, really, it’s just an excuse to have Akeem back in modern NYC and to let Murphy and Hall run wild. Watch out for Wesley Snipes who appears as General Izzi, a warlord that seeks to take over Akeem’s beautiful land of Zamunda.
It’s actually happening: Doug Liman’s Chaos Walking is coming to theaters. Whether you want to go will be another matter though. The movie, which stars Spider-Man’s Tom Holland and Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, originally finished production in 2017 with the aim to release in March 2019. But after poor test previews, the film was delayed until 2020 to make room for reshoots… and all of that was before COVID happened.
Now the film is finally walking its chaos to a theatrical release in the U.S., UK, and other markets. The film stars Ridley as the last girl in the world, literally. And she’s just been awakened to a bizarre dystopia where only boys like Holland’s Todd are left, and all their internal thoughts are verbalized by a visible force field around their heads. It’s going to be a long journey to salvation.
The film is based on a YA novel and feels like a young adult adventure from the early 2010s. But the cast, which also includes Mads Mikkelsen, is winsome, and Liman has helmed good movies in the past with troubled productions, including The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith…
March 5 (Available in the UK Now)
As a film that by early UK reports is a whole lot of fun, Pixie is a throwback to gangster comedies of yore with a few welcome twists: The hero of the film is Pixie Hardy (Thorughbreds’ Olivia Cooke), a young criminal mastermind who attempts the ultimate heist as revenge for her mother’s death, and who then gets an armada of gun-wielding priests and nuns chasing her for the effort.
Now forced to rely on two outsiders (Ben Hardy and Daryl McCormack) in her small English village, Pixie is going to shoot her way to freedom, assuming the lethal, opera-loving Father Hector McGrath (Alec Baldwin) doesn’t put a bullet in her head first. Yeah, this could be a wild, fun ride.
March 5 (U.S. Only)
It’s often been remarked upon by many critics, including our own, that the time loop setup made famous by Groundhog Day has yet to produce a bad movie. Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Source Code, The Endless, and last year’s Palm Springs (to name but a few) have all been at least pretty good. So director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Smokin’ Aces) appears ready to push that observation to its breaking point with an action movie that positions itself as loopy fun.
Premiering on Hulu, Boss Level follows Frank Grillo as Roy Pulver, a mercenary in a time loop that begins with an assassination attempt on his life every morning and ends with a citywide explosion. In between he fights bad guys and tries to figure out how to break the loop and save his son. It’s a well-worn formula at this point, and judging by the trailer, Carnahan is leaning into the absurdity of it, along with relying on a talented cast which includes the underrated Grillo, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, and the ever controversial Mel Gibson. Will it work, or just be one day too many with this concept?
Finally coming to streaming via Apple TV+, the Russo Brothers’ first post-Avengers movie seeks to be a Jesse James fantasy for our modern age. In the film, the Russos’ handpicked Spidey, Tom Holland, stars as Cherry, an Iraq War veteran with an addiction to opioids and a penchant for robbing banks. Highly stylized and the rare type of film we see these days—something original—hopefully Cherry is as sweet as its title.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
It actually exists. Now. When thousands upon thousands of fans were peacefully flooding comic book convention centers, and not so peacefully taking to social media to let their frustrations be heard regarding “#TheSnyderCut,” no actual finished version of Justice League from director Zack Snyder existed; instead there was just a four-hour rough cut that was in black and white, and which existed without special effects, music, or most of that post-production sheen. But fan demand has willed this abandoned version of Justice League to emerge from the ether and take glorious form on HBO Max.
So this month, the version of Justice League that Snyder intended to make will at last drop at a gargantuan four-hour length. Will it really be the stuff fanboy dreams are made of? Or will it be a longer, more brooding variation on the film that disappointed millions more than three years ago? Whether you’re a disciple or skeptic of “the Snyder Cut” phenomenon, we suspect you’re curious about finally laying eyes on this sucker.
Godzilla vs. Kong
March 31 (March 26 in the UK)
If you’re a little fatigued on superheroes, might we suggest a giant monster smackdown? Just over a week after Batman and Superman have their rematch, Adam Wingard’s hotly anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong will also premiere on HBO Max, as well as in U.S. and UK cinemas. And in the Legendary Pictures event, the two most iconic giant monsters in movie history will have their first heavyweight bout since Toho’s more modest 1962 effort. Gone are the men in suits; in their place is the dazzling CGI that Legendary’s MonsterVerse has already deployed via Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Kong: Skull Island (2016).
In the new film, Rebecca Hall plays a researcher who feels compelled to get the godlike King Kong off Skull Island for reasons that are not entirely clear. With similarly murky logic, Godzilla is provoked by this decision, and the traditionally benevolent kaiju is soon attacking Kong without warning. Clearly the big guys have beef. The film also stars Alexander Skarsgard, Eiza González, and a returning Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler. But come on, we’re here to “let them fight.”