Middleburg Film Festival 2021: Belfast, Cyrano, Red Rocket, C’mon C’mon and Much More

Posted on October 13, 2021 at 2:02 pm

In just seven years Virginia’s Middleburg Film Festival, set in the fabulous Salamander Hotel, has become a great way to see the films we’ll be talking about all awards season and to talk to the people who created them. Sheila Johnson has made MFF one of the post prestigious and coveted places to premiere a film. Following a “hybrid” year with online access in 2020, the festival is back in person in gorgeous, gracious, Virginia hunt country, always spectacular in the fall.

I’ll be speaking in the “Talk Back to the Critics” panel again this year, with my friends Travis Hobson, Susan Wloszczyna, and Tim Gordon. And some of the films I’m most looking forward to are “Cyrano,” starring Peter Dinklage and two ready-for-stardom up-and-coming young actors, Hayley Bennett and Kelvin Harrion, Jr., Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical “Belfast,” “Red Rocket” from “Florida Project’s” Sean Baker, and “C’mon, C’mon” with Joaquin Phoenix. Stay tuned for more!

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Summer Movies 2021! Back in the Theater and at Home!!!!

Posted on June 1, 2021 at 7:13 pm

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his newfound best friend experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. But their fun is threatened by a secret: they are sea monsters from another world. “Luca” is directed by Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”). © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Happy June! Lots of great stuff coming our way this summer and I think you will agree with me that IT’S ABOUT TIME! And best of all, as I say every year, some movie no one is paying attention to now will bring us unexpected joy.

Sequels and remakes

F9 — I used to joke about how the “Fast and Furious” movie titles were getting shorter every time and some day it would just be “F” and what do you know, here we are.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife — The saga continues with Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who wrote and directed the original, taking over for his dad. A new cast of character find their connection to the original crew, who reprise their roles.

Black Widow — Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character gets the movie the fans have waited for.

Space Jam: A New Legacy: Basketball and cartoon characters return. This looks better than the original!

Suicide Squad 2 — This one seems to look better than the original, too, I hope?

Action and Adventure and Thrills

Jungle Cruise: Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt star in this Disneyland ride-inspired adventure that looks like a cross between “Jumanji” and the original “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Free Guy: Feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this Ryan Reynolds action fantasy about a video game character. (Reynolds is also appearing this summer in an action-comedy sequel, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

The Green Knight — One of the most enduring legends of Western culture is brought to life starring Dev Patel.

Reminiscence — Hugh Jackman stars in a movie about a service that makes it possible for you to relive your memories. What could go wrong?

The Tomorrow War — Time travelers from the future arrive to gather today’s people to help them fight a war with an alien.

The Misfits — Pierce Brosnan plays a thief recruited by a group of young crooks to pull off a heist.

Old — M. Knight Shamalyn is back to scare us with the story of a beach that accelerates aging.


In the Heights — Before “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music for this Tony Award-winning musical about the residents of a Latin-American community.

Respect — Aretha Franklin told Jennifer Hudson that someday she would play the Queen of Soul in a biopic, and here it is.

Summer of Soul — Dazzling recovered footage from the “Black Woodstock,”featuring B.B. King, Stevie Wonder and more, brought to us from Questlove.

The Beatles: Get Back — “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson is behind this documentary made from more than 50 hours of extra footage from “Let it Be”

For the Family

Wish Dragon — A teenager who longs to be reunited with his best friend meets a dragon that grants wishes.

Luca — Pixar’s latest is set in sunny Italy, the story of boys who become sea creatures when they are wet. Or are they sea creatures who become boys when they are dry?

Peter Rabbit 2 — I didn’t think much of the first one. Another sequel I hope is better.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania — Episode four in the series about the lovable monsters has humans turning into monsters and monsters turning into — horrors! — humans!

Festival Favorite:

CODA — It stands for children of deaf adults, and this story of a hearing daughter of deaf parents won big at Sundance.

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Movies in 2021 — At Home or in the Theater, Something to Look Forward To

Posted on January 1, 2021 at 8:00 am

Happy new year! I wish all of you a year of health, happiness, and maybe some un-socially distant activities like going to the theater and giving some hugs.

2021 looks like a good year for movies, even at home. Right now, the Warner Brothers movies originally scheduled for theaters are going to be released streaming on HBOMax with no additional charge for subscribers. That may change, if everyone gets vaccinated and COVID-19 numbers go down fast enough, but right now, the films we can expect to see at home include:

The Little Things: Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, and Rami Malek star in this mystery about a search for a serial killer.

Judas and the Black Messiah: Those of you who saw “The Trial of the Chicago 7” or the documentary “Nationtime” got a glimpse of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, killed by police at age 21. This is his story, with a powerful cast including Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen, and Jesse Plemons.

The Many Saints of Newark: This prequel to “The Sopranos” has Michael Gandolfini as Tony, the role played by his late father in the HBO series.

Godzilla v. Kong: You know the monsters. Now watch them fight. The human characters are played by Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Eiza González.

In the Heights: Before “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda won his first Tony for this lively musical about life in Washington Heights.

Dune: The first try at filming this classic sci-fi novel was an expensive failure. This time Denis Villenueve directs, starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Plus: Sequels to “Space Jam” and “The Matrix,” a “Mortal Combat” movie, and a live action “Tom and Jerry.”

Also coming this year:

Series, sequels, remakes, and prequels!

We will see a prequel to “Kingsmen” called “The King’s Man,” with Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Daniel Brühl and Djimon Hounsou, another James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” with Rami Malek as the villain, and Eddie Murphy returns as Prince Akeem (and a bunch of other characters” in “Coming 2 America.” The ultra-scary “A Quiet Place” gets a sequel (An Even Quieter Place?) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) will finally come out, co-starring Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz. Dom’s “I don’t have friends; I have family” crew is back in “F9” and the original cast returns for a new “Ghostbusters” movie. Mav still feels the need for speed in “Top Gun: Maverick.” And Hercule Poirot still feels the need to solve murders, again played by Kenneth Branagh in “Death on the Nile.”

Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” is coming out in 2021, and Chloé Zhao, director of this year’s small-scale awards favorite “Nomadland,” has also directed a superhero movie, “The Eternals,” with Angelina Jolie. Richard Madden, Salma Hayek and Kumail Nanjiani.

We’re also getting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a medieval story called “The Last Duel.”

As always, I end the list of upcoming films by looking forward to what we cannot anticipate now. Every year, there is some performer or filmmaker who surprises us and becomes an instant favorite. That’s what I look forward to most.

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Movies to Look Forward to in 2020

Posted on January 1, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Happy New Year! Some movies to look forward to in 2020:

Remakes, sequels and updates

Bad Boys for Life: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as wisecracking buddy cops.

Dolittle: The man who talks to the animals is back, this time played by Robert Downey, Jr. Not the musical version with Rex Harrison or the updated version with Eddie Murphy, it is set in Victorian times, and it features an all-star voice cast for the CGI animals.

Downhill: An American remake of the acclaimed Swedish film “Force Majure,” about a man who shocks his family by impulsively running to save himself, leaving them behind, in an avalanche. Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus play the couple who take their family on a ski vacation that goes very wrong. The screenplay is by “The Descendants” writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Call of the Wild: Another version of the Jack London classic, this time starring Harrison Ford.

Mulan: The live-action version of the Disney classic about the brave young woman who becomes a soldier in ancient China. The director is “Whale Rider’s” Niki Caro.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway: James Corden returns to voice the classic Beatrix Potter character, with Rose Byrne and Domnhall Gleason returning as his human companions.

No Time to Die: Bond (Daniel Craig) is back. Expect cool gadgets, exotic locations, and saving the day just in time. There’s a rumor there might be a new 007 as well.

Legally Blonde 3: Reese Witherspoon is back. No word on Bruiser.

Trolls World Tour: The animated characters with the pouffy hair return, with the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Jamie Dornan, Sam Rockwell, Rachel Bloom, and Chance the Rapper.

The Personal History of David Copperfield: One of my favorite books, adapted and directed by “Veep’s” Armando Iannucci with an all-star and racially diverse cast including Dev Patel in the title role as well as Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, and Peter Capaldi.

Dune: Another try at the massive fantasy novel with a very impressive cast: Timothée Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Zendaya

Ghostbusters — Afterlife: The grandchildren of the character played by Harold Ramis in the original film discover where grandad stored the ghosts and demons and have to learn about busting themselves.

Fast and Furious 9: What more do you need to know?

Top Gun — Maverick: What more do you need to know?

Godzilla vs. Kong: Come on. What more do you need to know?

Bill and Ted Face the Music: The Wyld Stallyns are back and the Keanussance continues with this return to one of Keanu’s most beloved characters. This time they are visited by someone from the future.

Coming 2 America: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, and the rest are back for an update on the story of the African prince who married a girl from Queens.

The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos prequel, starring the son of James Gandolini as a younger version of Tony Soprano.

Comic Book Characters

Birds of Prey: Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn, this time joined by Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Black Canary), Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Huntress). The villain: Ewan McGregor as the Black Mask.

Black Widow: Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets her own movie and it looks great, with her sister played by 2019’s breakthrough star Florence Pugh.

Wonder Woman 1984: Chris Pine is back! Kristen Wiig is the villain! And Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman in Washington DC near the end of the Cold War.

Morbius: Jared Leto plays the vampire Marvel villain.

Eternals: Will this be the new Avengers? A bunch of powerful beings played by an all-star cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, and Brian Tyree Henry.

For the Whole Family

Onward: Pixar’s latest stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as brothers who live in a fairy tale world. When they have the chance to use magic to bring back their late father for one day, what could go wrong?

Scoob: Ever wonder how Scooby-Doo and Shaggy first met? You’ll find out in this animated story with voices from Will Forte and Zac Efron.

The SpongeBob Movie — Sponge on the Run: Denizens of Bikini Bottom Spongebob and Squidward embark on a rescue mission to recover Gary, who has been taken by Poseidon.

Artemis Fowl: The popular fantasy novel about a young criminal mastermind is brought to the screen by director Kenneth Branagh.

Soul: Pete Docter who had us all sobbing at “Inside Out,” is back with this story of a jazz musician (Jamie Foxx), who finds himself in a place where new souls are provided for babies. Bring a handkerchief, maybe two.

Jungle Cruise: The movies based on Disney World attractions have not been very good with the notable exception of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But this one, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, looks promising.

Raya and the Last Dragon: Disney’s next animated feature has Awkwafina — as the dragon.

And Especially Intriguing

The Lovebirds: Director Michael Showalter and his “Big Sick” star Kumail Nanjiani are back, this time with what looks like a romantic comedy/mystery about an estranged couple who have to solve a crime to clear themselves.

In the Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pre-Hamilton Broadway musical hit is brought to the screen by Jon M. Chu, who directed “Crazy Rich Asians,” but, even more significantly my favorite in the series “Step Up 3.”

BIOS: Tom Hanks plays an ailing inventor in a post-apocalyptic world.

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