Matt writes: For our 400th edition of The Ebert Club newsletter, we are providing you with a direct pathway to our complete coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Our exclusive reviews of the numerous enticing titles that premiered virtually this year are penned by Brian Tallerico, Nick Allen, Robert Daniels, Kristy Puchko, Carlos Aguilar and Odie Henderson. You can find the full list here.
Old (2021). Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (based on the graphic novel by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters). Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Rufus Sewell, Embeth Davidtz. Synopsis: A family on a tropical holiday discover that the secluded beach where they are staying is somehow causing them to age rapidly – reducing their entire lives into a single day. Debuts in the US on July 23rd, 2021.
Jumbo (2021). Written and directed by Zoé Wittock. Starring Noémie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon. Synopsis: Jeanne, a shy young woman, works in an amusement park. Fascinated with carousels, she still lives at home with her mother. That’s when Jeanne meets Jumbo, the park’s new flagship attraction. US release date is TBA.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021). Directed by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs and John Ripa. Written by Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen. Starring Alan Tudyk, Kelly Marie Tran, Gemma Chan. Synopsis: In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon. Debuts on Disney+ on March 5th, 2021.
Nobody (2021). Directed by Ilya Naishuller. Written by Derek Kolstad. Starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd. Synopsis: A bystander who intervenes to help a woman being harassed by a group of men becomes the target of a vengeful drug lord. Debuts in the US on April 2nd, 2021.
F9: The Fast Saga (2021). Directed by Justin Lin. Written by Daniel Casey (based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson). Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Martyn Ford. Synopsis: Cypher enlists the help of Jakob, Dom’s younger brother to take revenge on Dom and his team. Debuts in the US on May 28th, 2021.
Allen v. Farrow (2021). Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. Synopsis: A look behind the years of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving, his 7-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow. Debuts on HBO on February 21st, 2021.
The Affair (2021). Directed by Julius Sevcík. Written by Andrew Shaw (based on the book by Simon Mawer). Starring Hanna Alström, Claes Bang, Alexandra Borbély. Synopsis: A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation. US release date is TBA.
A Glitch in the Matrix (2021). Written and directed by Rodney Ascher. Synopsis: The question “are we living in a simulation?” is tackled with testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in his for the answer. Now available in the US.
Test Pattern (2021). Written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford. Starring Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean. Synopsis: An interracial couple’s relationship is put to the test after a Black woman is sexually assaulted and her white boyfriend drives her from hospital to hospital in search of a rape kit. Now available in the US.
Pelé (2021). Directed by Ben Nicholas and David Tryhorn. Synopsis: Looks back at the extraordinary 12-year period in which Pelé, the only man to win three World Cup titles, went from young superstar in 1958 to national hero in 1970; a radical yet turbulent era in Brazil’s history. Debuts on Netflix on February 23rd, 2021.
Dead Pigs (2021). Written and directed by Cathy Yan. Starring Zazie Beetz, Mason Lee, Meng Li. Synopsis: A bumbling pig farmer, a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an expat architect and a disenchanted rich girl converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly-modernizing Shanghai. Now available on MUBI.
Happily (2021). Written and directed by BenDavid Grabinski. Starring Natalie Morales, Natalie Zea, Joel McHale. Synopsis: Tom and Janet have been happily married for years. But a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, a lot of questions, and a tense couples’ trip with friends who may not actually be friends at all. Debuts in the US on March 19th, 2021.
Cube (2021). Directed by Yasuhiko Shimizu. Written by Kôji Tokuo (based on the script by Vincenzo Natali). Starring Masaki Suda, Takumi Saitoh, Masaki Okada. Synopsis: A remake of the 1997 film about six complete strangers with widely varying personalities who are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps. US release date is TBA.
Pixie (2021). Directed by Barnaby Thompson. Written by Preston Thompson. Starring Olivia Cooke, Fra Fee, Rory Fleck Byrne. Synopsis: To avenge her mother’s death, Pixie masterminds a heist but must flee across Ireland from gangsters, take on the patriarchy, and choose her own destiny. Debuts in the US on March 5th, 2021.
Yes Day (2021). Directed by Miguel Arteta. Written by Justin Malen and Amy Krouse Rosenthal (based on the book by Tom Lichtenheld and Amy Krouse Rosenthal). Starring Jenna Ortega, Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramírez. Synopsis: Allison and Carlos decide to give their three kids a “yes day”, where for 24 hours the kids make the rules. Now available on Netflix.
Boss Level (2021). Directed by Joe Carnahan. Written by Joe Carnahan, Chris Borey and Eddie Borey. Starring Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts. Synopsis: A retired special forces officer is trapped in a never ending time loop on the day of his death. Debuts in the US on March 5th, 2021.
Coming 2 America (2021). Directed by Craig Brewer. Written by Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Kenya Barris (based on characters created by Eddie Murphy). Starring Eddie Murphy, Shari Headley, James Earl Jones. Synopsis: The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son. Debuts on Prime Video on March 5th, 2021.
Nomadland (2021). Written and directed by Chloé Zhao (based on the book by Jessica Bruder). Starring Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May. Synopsis: After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Debuts in the US on February 19th, 2021.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Matt writes: One of the first great films to be released in 2021 is Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which recounts the rise and betrayal of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. Thanks to the Academy’s extended eligibility period this year, the film could easily be up for multiple well-deserved Oscar nominations, including one for its star, Daniel Kaluuya. You can read Robert Daniels’ interview with Kaluuya and Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. here.
Christopher Plummer (1929-2021)
Matt writes: On February 5th, we lost one of the greatest actors ever to grace the stage and screen, Christopher Plummer, whose credits include “The Sound of Music,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” “The Insider,” “The Last Station,” “All the Money in the World” and “Beginners” (for which he finally won an Oscar). And I cannot imagine a better career-capping role for him than the brilliantly sly patriarch in “Knives Out” (see above) who is bound and determined to “close the book with a flourish.” Read Dan Callahan’s tribute here.
Outrage (1950). Directed by Ida Lupino. Written by Ida Lupino, Malvin Wald and Collier Young. Starring Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, Robert Clarke. Synopsis: A young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work.
Hard, Fast and Beautiful! (1951). Directed by Ida Lupino. Written by Martha Wilkerson (based on the novel by John R. Tunis). Starring Claire Trevor, Sally Forrest, Carleton G. Young. Synopsis: Tennis prodigy Florence Farley is torn between romance and her mother’s ambitions.
The Bigamist (1953). Directed by Ida Lupino. Written by Collier Young. Starring Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmund Gwenn. Synopsis: A man secretly married to two women feels the pressure of his deceit.