Despite COVID challenges, filmmakers are going full steam ahead to create the escapist fare we crave. Some films are debuting in open theaters and on streaming services simultaneously, while others are long range plans. Roll ‘em!

By Laura D.C. Kolnoski

MINAMATA FEBRUARY 5 (RATED R)
Unrecognizable Academy Award winner Johnny Depp disappears into the character of Life Magazine war photographer W. Eugene Smith, who, in 1971, returned to Japan to document the devastating effects of mercury poisoning. Predictions are that Depp, who also produced the film, will rebound spectacularly from personal problems that made headlines in recent years. The largely Asian cast is joined by Bill Nighy (Love Actually) as editor Robert Hayes.

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK MARCH 12 (UNRATED)
New Jersey is the backdrop for this tale of the formative years of gangster Tony Soprano, memorably played by the late James Gandolfini in the HBO television series (1999 – 2007). Anticipation is high to see Gan-dolfini’s son Michael portray his dad’s memorable, if deeply flawed, character. David Chase, who wrote the original based on the real life DeCavalcante crime family, co-wrote the film with Lawrence Konner. Other cast members include Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga, and Leslie Odom Jr.

THE DIG JANUARY 29 (RATED PG-13)
In 1938 pre-World War II England, an archeologist (Ralph Fiennes) undertakes an historically important excavation on the country property of Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan). While uncovering two medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries, an undisturbed ship buried with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts (now held by the British Museum) is unearthed. British actress Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) also stars. Based on actual events.

MM Bubbles Spread

2021 FORECAST: Here’s the latest INDUSTRY intel on exciting upcoming films that have experienced repeated release and/or production delays

DUNE JULY 2021 (UNRATED)
The feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel stars Timothée Chalamet as the heroic son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of a valuable asset on a journey through a treacherous planet. Zendaya portrays Chani. Other marquee names creating excitement include Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, and Dave Bautista. The first trailer for the film was accompanied by Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

SPACE JAM JULY 2021 (UNRATED)
Fans of the 1996 original starring Michael Jordan are breathlessly awaiting this sequel. This time, hoops superstar LeBron James teams up with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang. NBA stars Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), Anthony Davis (L.A. Lakers), and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors) also appear. The score’s composer is Hans Zimmer. Expect cameos from Warner Bros. characters including the Joker, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort.

ANNOUNCED IN DECEMBER 2020 AND COMING IN 2022…
Captain America Chris Evans will voice Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear in a new Pixar animated prequel. The origin story Lightyear will tell the tale of the young human test pilot who became a Space Ranger and inspired the toy.

Comedic actors John Mulaney and Andy Samberg will star in a live action/CGI film reboot of the 1989 series Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers for Disney+. Seth Rogen has a cameo in the film. Samberg’s Lonely Island collaborator Akiva Schaffer will direct.

Indiana Jones, complete with hat and whip, rides again with Harrison Ford (now 78) reprising the iconic role for the fifth and final movie, from Lucasfilm. Ford first starred in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Said Producer Frank Marshall, “There will only be one Indiana Jones, and that’s Harrison Ford.”