THE BEST OF UPCOMING FILM, TV, AND THEATRE PERFORMANCES FOR SUMMER, FALL, AND WINTER

BY AMANDA McCOY

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER DECEMBER 20
In a galaxy far, far away, one of show biz’s most epic sagas will finally come to an end this holiday season with Star Wars’ ninth and final episode, The Rise of Skywalker. Director/ co-writer/co-producer J.J. Abrams is back, along with a large returning cast as well as some new faces (such as Keri Russell, joining the franchise as the character Zorii). Big surprises have already been revealed; Abrams confirmed at the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago that the “greatest evil” will be making a grand return with Ian McDiarmid’s infamous character, Emperor Palpatine. Carrie Fisher as the beloved Princess Leia will also make an appearance, as the creators were able to gather unused footage from previous films to continue the princess’s story. The plotline takes place after some time has passed since the conclusion of The Last Jedi, and is about “this new generation, what they’ve inherited, the light and the dark…and are they ready?” Abrams teased to the lightsaber bearing crowd in Chicago.

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FROZEN II (NOVEMBER 22)
Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf return in the second installment of Disney’s icy animated hit, this time departing their home kingdom of Arendelle on a faraway journey into the forest. While the cause of its depicted conflict is still a mystery, the trailer promises fans a darker follow up to the 2013 original, along with awe inspiring animation. Kristen Bell once again leads the cast as the voice of Anna, along with Idina Menzel as Elsa and Josh Gad as fan favorite, Olaf. A few new voices join the ranks, too, including Evan Rachel Wood (West world) and Sterling K. Brown (The Good Place).

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MIDWAY (NOVEMBER 8)
History books describe the Battle of Midway as a turning point (perhaps the turning point) for our nation in World War II. Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this four day engagement moved the Allies into the offensive, as the United States, thanks in large part to advances in code breaking, became privy to Japan’s attack plan of sinking aircraft carriers that survived the ambush in Hawaii. With an all-star cast that includes Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson (playing the Navy Cross winning Admiral Chester Nimitz), and Dennis Quaid, this drama is set to be released on Veteran’s Day weekend, and is directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence).

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SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (NOVEMBER 8)
Almost 20 years after Sonic made his video game debut, the mischievous bright blue hedgehog is transitioning to the big screen. Sonic the Hedgehog boasts a star studded cast, including Jim Carrey as the infamous Dr. Ivo Robotnik, James Marsden as Tom Wachowski (the rural cop who becomes the main character’s lovable sidekick), and Parks and Recreation star Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic. The fi lm nabbed Dead pool director Tim Miller as an executive producer, along with awarded short writer Jeff Fowler making his cinematic directorial debut. In the script, Sonic tries to navigate the complexities of life on Earth with his newfound best friend, Tom. In time, they join forces to prevent the evil Dr. Robotnik from capturing Sonic and using his powers for world domination.

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BOND 25
Daniel Craig is back as Britain’s greatest secret agent for a fifth and final time in the 25th installment of the franchise, under the working title, Bond 25. Produced by Eon Productions for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, this time, James has left active service, but his retirement proves to be short lived when friend and CIA operative Felix Leiter (played by Jeffrey Wright, reprising a role from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) shows up asking for help, leading Bond on the trail of a new tech savvy villain (rumored to be played by Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek). The director’s chair will be filled by Emmy winning Cary Joji Fukunaga, who gained international acclaim with the first season of HBO’s True Detective and the 2011 box office hit, Jane Eyre. He’s the first American director in 007 franchise history, and the fi lm is slated to hit theatres in early April of next year.

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MULAN
The story of Disney’s heroic maiden, who disguises herself as a man so she can take her aging father’s place in the army, comes to life on the live action screen in March. Mulan will be played by Liu Yifei, a Chinese born actress with martial arts experience on her acting resume, including a role in The Forbidden Kingdom opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li (the latter also joins the new film’s cast as The Emperor). While the fi lm is set to share a roughly similar story structure to the 1988 animated original, its plot will introduce new characters, like Chen Honghui (Mulan’s love interest, played by Yoson An) and the primary villain, a powerful witch known as Xian Lang, played by Li Gong. Director is Whale Rider’s Niki Caro.

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WONDER WOMAN 1984
Fans of the ass kicking princess of the Amazons, rejoice! Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman in a follow up fi lm to the 2017 box office smash. But, as its principals have pointed out, 1984 is not a sequel. “It’s a completely different story that we’re telling,” producer Charles Roven explained in an interview with Vulture. “It’s a completely different timeframe, and you’ll get a sense of what Diana had been doing in the intervening years.” The fi lm, set to hit theatres on June 5, and zooms ahead of the first film’s World War I setting to the Cold War of the 1980s, complete with decade inspired fashion like Nike Cortez sneakers. And, even though his character died at the end of the first flick, fans of Steve Trevor will be delighted to learn that Chris Pine will be reprising his role as the heart throbbing Air Force colonel.

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KINGSMAN PREQUEL
After its massive acquisition of Fox, Disney confirms it will move ahead with Matthew Vaughn’s spi fi prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017). With an entirely new cast, the fi lm goes back in time to unearth origins of the Kingsman organization in the years leading up to World War I. Starring Ralph Fiennes (of Harry Potter fame), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), and Hollywood up and comer Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats), the production is described as more period piece than thriller. Filming is underway and the release date is scheduled for next Valentine’s Day. Once it has wrapped, production on Kingsman 3 is slated to begin immediately.

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BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
“Bad boys, bad boys what you gonna do? Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are coming back for you.” Although rumors of a Bad Boys three quel have been in the works for more than a decade, turnover in directors has kept the film in pre-production phase for years, until now. With directors Adil Arbi and Bilall Fallah now at the helm, filming began earlier this year in Miami, with a release date set for January. Smith and Lawrence will reprise their roles as old school cops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, this time teaming up with an elite unit to combat a vicious drug cartel leader (played by Jacob Scipio).

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SIR PAUL McCARTNEY
His 76th birthday hasn’t slowed this rock legend down for a second. Sir Paul’s “Freshen Up Tour,” which began in Canada in September of last year, rounds out its run this summer with a grand finale on July 13 at Dodger Stadium. The 18 time Grammy Award winning artist and member of the most popular and influential group in the history of popular music is still able to sell out stadium sized shows across the globe, drawing a multi-generational audience from Boomers to Gen Zs. The tour the musician’s first road outing since the 2018 release of his album, Egypt Station had a brief stop in the U.S. after dates in Canada, and played the Austin City Limits Music Festival prior to gigs in Tokyo, Paris, London, and his hometown of Liverpool. The American swing begins late May in New Orleans.

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ARIANA GRANDE
There may still be time to nab tickets to this international pop star’s two day stint at Madison Square Garden On June 18 and 19 ($1,864 will get you front and center). Grande’s “Sweetner World Tour” will continue all summer and into the fall, with stops across the U.S. before making its way to Europe at metro hubs like London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Vienna. Grande began her career in 2008 in the Broadway musical, 13, and this year became the youngest artist ever to headline Coachella. The Florida born singer is certainly showcasing that youthful energy playing as many as six shows a week.

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ROBYN
After an eight year hiatus, this Sweden born pop star who arrived on the scene with the 1995 debut and U.S. certified platinum album, Robyn Is Here) fed hungry fans with a new disc, Honey, a cathartic pop exploration into pain, purpose, and renewal. The singer songwriter had been mostly silent since 2010, and following the death of her close friend and longtime collaborator Christian Falk in 2014, had explained in interviews that a depression had set in. With the release of Honey and a subsequent tour, Robyn has shown to fans that she has reemerged stronger than ever. The new album features the singles “Missing U” and “Honey” (which was featured in the final season of the HBO series Girls). Road shows will traverse Europe through mid-July, after which she makes her first U.S. stop in Philadelphia. She’ll be performing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on July 19.

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MANIAC NETFLIX
This script follows Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill), a depressed New Yorker from a wealthy family who is still battling the aftermath of a mental breakdown, and Annie Landbergh (Emma Stone), a grieving addict, as their paths cross in a controversial clinical trial for medication that promises to expel any traces of depression, darkness, and mental health issues from patients. Co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga, at the helm of the next James Bond film, sits in the director’s chair.

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GAME OF THRONES SPIN OFF HBO
With the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s wildly popular medieval fantasy drama now in its final season, fans of the epic can rest easy knowing that HBO has officially granted a pilot for a prequel series (rumor has it there were five potential spin offs being shopped around). Starring Naomi Watts, the new tale will take place thousands of years before the current storyline and examines origins of the White Walkers, the rising of the House of Lannister, and the world’s descent into its darkest hour.

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE SEASON 3, HULU
The third season of this hit dystopian adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel and seemingly of more political relevance every day premieres on June 5, picking up after June (Elisabeth Moss) decides to stay in Gilead at the controversial culmination of season two. Interestingly, the show’s late premiere excludes it from eligibility for the 2019 Emmy Awards (the show scored 20 nominations in 2018), but according to Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior VP of originals, “Maintaining the quality of The Handmaid’s’ Tale, which is impeccable, takes time, and we wanted to give the show enough time in season three to maintain the incredibly high standards that were already set.”

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THE OUTSIDER HBO
Promising to be a chilling adaptation of the best selling Stephen King novel of the same name, this supernatural drama has the backings of some heavy hitters in Tinseltown, including Jason Bateman (set to direct and potentially costar), a co-writing credit for Richard Price (co-creator of HBO’s The Night Of) and the Emmy winning star of Netflix’s Bloodline, Ben Mendelsohn (seen here), set to play the lead. The plot: a cop and investigator team up on a case involving the murder of a little boy, when an evil and supernatural force begins to interfere. No premiere date had been set at time of print.

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RUSSIAN DOLL NETFLIX
A twisty and delicious drama edy series from the collaborative minds of three of Hollywood’s biggest female heavy hitters Orange is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne (seen here), Leslye Headland (writer and director of the 2012 hit fi lm, Bachelorette) and Saturday Night Live favorite Amy Poehler this original production describes the plight of a software engineer named Nadia (Lyonne) as she attends and ultimately dies at a party in NYC, only to reawaken the next day to attend the party… and die again. The series, which first aired on February 1st, nabbed an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Co-stars include Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Charlie Barnett, and Elizabeth Ashley.

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THE POLITICIAN NETFLIX
The creator of Nip/Tuck, Glee, and American Horror Story, screenwriter/director/producer Ryan Murphy, is making his Netflix debut with this musical comedy about a wealthy student from Santa Barbara on a mission to become the President of the United States. Each season will revolve around a different political race his character is engaged in. Ben Platt plays the leading role, backed up by Hollywood heavyweights like Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dylan McDermott.

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STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3, NETFLIX
This Fourth of July, things are going to get a little weird (or dare we say, strange) with the premiere of season three of the 1980s nostalgia hit series. Paranormal darkness will once again loom over this small town in Indiana as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and the gang attempt to ward off evil and other things that go bump in the night. Cindy Holland, the vice president of original content for Netflix, promised fans they can expect more special effects and a higher production value this time around. “[Creators] The Duffer Brothers and [producer] Shawn Levy they understand the stakes are high,” Holland said in a radiotimes.com interview. “They want to deliver something bigger and better. It will be worth the wait.”

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CATHERINE THE GREAT HBO
Via a partnership between HBO and British pay television channel Sky Atlantic, this four part melodrama will follow the end of the historic reign of Catherine II, the longest reigning female monarch in Russian history. Helen Mirren, who won an Academy award for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, will portray the legendary royal, and explained in an observer.com interview that, “She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word “Great” attached to her name.”

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
After breaking its own Shubert Theatre box office record for the fourth time, this stage adaptation of the best selling 1960 novel is one of the highest grossest American plays in Broadway history. Harper Lee’s story is set in a 1934 Alabama town that’s rife with racial injustice. The venerable attorney Atticus Finch, one of literature’s most celebrated characters, is played by Jeff Daniels. The 2018 launched show, created by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin and directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific), has already received nine Tony nominations, including for Best Actor and Best Director.

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THE FERRYMAN
After a celebrated run in London, where it procured a fistful of awards, this haunting thriller from screenwriter Jez Butterworth (creator of the Sky and Amazon Prime Video historical fantasy series, Britannia) has been making a splash on 45th Street since its opening in October of last year at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The year is 1981, the location North Ireland, and the circumstances anything but peaceful. The Carney farmhouse is preparing for its annual harvest when an unexpected visitor crashes the party. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), the show has already nabbed nine Tony nominations.

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AIN’T TOO PROUD THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS
Eight times a week, the Imperial Theatre on 45th street comes to life with the harmonies of soulful classics like “My Girl” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” This musical, which opened March 21, tells the inspiring tale of how five guys from the streets of Detroit became international sensations and earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) directs a show that recently celebrated 12 Tony nominations.

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THE CHER SHOW
After a wildly successful opening at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, this sequin shrouded sensation made its debut at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre in December. The show follows the singing icon through six decades of her career, from meeting Salvatore “Sonny” Bono in a coffee shop in 1962 to securing her own place as a music legend. The role is so large, in fact, that it takes three performers to pull off, from babe to lady to star. Along with a sing along canon of tunes, Cher’s iconic fashion moments are also a significant component (her longtime costumer, Bob Mackie, is the costume designer). The Cher Show’s Original Cast Album, for those with lesser pockets, was released for download in April and on CD in May.

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