Matt writes: On January 7th, the movie world lost one of its brightest lights, filmmaker Michael Apted (1941-2021), who died at age 79. Renowned for his groundbreaking “Up” series of documentaries, which followed the lives of British children every seven years as they became adults, Apted also helmed various sublime narrative features, including 1980’s Loretta Lynn biopic, “Coal Miner's Daughter,” that earned Sissy Spacek a Best Actress Oscar. You can read Matt Zoller Seitz’s obituary here and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies essay on the “Up” series here, as well as watch Apted’s 2019 interview about “63 Up” as part of the BUILD series in the video embedded below.
In & Of Itself (2021). Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Derek DelGaudio. Starring Derek DelGaudio. Synopsis: Storyteller and Conceptual Magician Derek DelGaudio attempts to understand the illusory nature of identity and answer the deceptively simple question ‘Who am I?’ Debuts on Hulu on January 22nd, 2021.
I Care a Lot (2021). Written and directed by J Blakeson. Starring Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest. Synopsis: A crooked legal guardian who drains the savings of her elderly wards meets her match when a woman she tries to swindle turns out to be more than she first appears. Debuts on Netflix on February 19th, 2021.
Dear Comrades! (2021). Directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy. Written by Andrey Konchalovskiy and Elena Kiseleva. Starring Yuliya Vysotskaya, Vladislav Komarov, Andrey Gusev. Synopsis: When the communist government raises food prices in 1962, the rebellious workers from the small industrial town of Novocherkassk go on strike. The massacre which then ensues is seen through the eyes of a devout party activist. US release date is TBA.
Breaking News in Yuba County (2021). Directed by Tate Taylor. Written by Amanda Idoko. Starring Mila Kunis, Allison Janney, Juliette Lewis. Synopsis: After her husband goes missing, Sue Buttons, an under-appreciated suburban wife, gets a taste of being a local celebrity as she embarks on a city-wide search in Yuba County to find him. Debuts in the US on February 12th, 2021.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021). Directed by Lee Daniels. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks (based on the novel by Johann Hari). Starring Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund. Synopsis: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. Debuts on Hulu on February 26th, 2021.
True Mothers (2021). Directed by Naomi Kawase. Written by Naomi Kawase and Izumi Takahashi (based on the novel by Mizuki Tsujimura). Starring Hiromi Nagasaku, Arata Iura, Aju Makita. Synopsis: A woman with an adopted child is contacted unexpectedly by the child’s birth mother. US release date is TBA.
Cherry (2021). Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Written by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg (based on the novel by Nico Walker). Starring Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor. Synopsis: An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt. Debuts on Apple TV+ on February 26th, 2021.
Bliss (2021). Written and directed by Mike Cahill. Starring Salma Hayek, Madeline Zima, Owen Wilson. Synopsis: A mind-bending love story following Greg who, after recently being divorced and then fired, meets the mysterious Isabel, a woman living on the streets and convinced that the polluted, broken world around them is a computer simulation. Debuts on Prime Video on February 5th, 2021.
Clapboard Jungle (2021). Directed by Justin McConnell. Synopsis: Following five years in the life and career of an independent filmmaker, supported by dozens of interviews, posing one question: how does an indie filmmaker survive in the current film business? US release date is TBA.
The World to Come (2021). Directed by Mona Fastvold. Written by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard. Starring Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott. Synopsis: Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically. Debuts in the US on February 12th, 2021.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021). Directed by Ian Samuels. Written by Lev Grossman. Starring Kathryn Newton, Josh Hamilton, Kyle Allen. Synopsis: Two teens who live the same day repeatedly, enabling them to create the titular map. Debuts in the US on February 12th, 2021.
Horizon Line (2021). Directed by Mikael Marcimain. Written by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken. Starring Allison Williams, Alexander Dreymon, Keith David. Synopsis: A couple flying on a small plane to attend a tropical island wedding must fight for their lives after their pilot suffers a heart attack. Now available in the US.
Willy’s Wonderland (2021). Directed by Kevin Lewis. Written by G.O. Parsons. Starring Nicolas Cage, Beth Grant, Terayle Hill. Synopsis: A quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Wally’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics. Fists fly, kicks land, titans clash — and only one side will make it out alive. US release date is TBA.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021). Directed by Michael Fimognari. Written by Katie Lovejoy (based on the novel by Jenny Han). Starring Noah Centineo, Lana Condor, Janel Parrish. Synopsis: Continuing the romantic life of the teenage girl and facing her good and hard times with her friends and family. Debuts on Netflix on February 12th, 2021.
Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021). Directed by Josh Greenbaum. Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Starring Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan. Synopsis: A pair of best friends find themselves in over their heads. Debuts in the US on February 12th, 2021.
Music (2021). Directed by Sia. Written by Sia and Dallas Clayton. Starring Maddie Ziegler, Leslie Odom Jr., Juliette Lewis. Synopsis: Zu is newly sober when she receives news that she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister named Music, a young girl on the autism spectrum. US release date is TBA.
Falling (2021). Written and directed by Viggo Mortensen. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason. Synopsis: John Peterson lives with his partner Eric and their adopted daughter in Southern California. When he is visited by his aging father Willis from Los Angeles who is searching for a place to retire, their two very different worlds collide. Debuts in the US on February 5th, 2021.
Malcolm & Marie (2021). Written and directed by Sam Levinson. Starring Zendaya, John David Washington. Synopsis: A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics’ responses. Debuts in the US on February 5th, 2021.
Sam Pollard on “MLK/FBI“
Matt writes: Director Sam Pollard recently spoke with our contributor Donald Liebenson about his enormously timely documentary, “MLK/FBI,” which was praised by our critic Odie Henderson. Read the full conversation here.
Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid“
Matt writes: In honor of the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, “The Kid,” our contributor Audrey Fox wrote about the film’s enduring legacy, which can even be evidenced in the popular “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian.” Read the full essay here.
How to Go Out on a Date in Queens (2006). Directed by Michelle Danner. Written by Richard Vetere. Starring Jason Alexander, Ruth Barrie, Carlos M. Castillón. Synopsis: A self-proclaimed dating expert tries to get his best friend, who lost his wife two years earlier, back into the dating scene, with disastrous results.
Uncle Bob (2010). Directed by Robert Oppel. Synopsis: Robert Oppel’s documentary about the life and murder of his uncle & namesake, Robert Opel; the man who streaked the Academy Awards in 1974.
The Casserole Club (2011). Directed by Steve Balderson. Written by Frankie Krainz. Starring Susan Traylor, Kevin Scott Richardson, Daniela Sea. Synopsis: A group of mod 1960’s era suburban housewives, close-knit and neighborly, are all bent on one-upping each other, trying to prove that each is “the hostess with the mostess.”