Matt writes: One of the essential cinematic works of 2021 is unquestionably Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins‘ towering ten-part series, “The Underground Railroad,” which debuted in its entirety on Prime Video on May 14th. Don’t miss Robert Daniels’ insightful interview with Jenkins (which you can read here), as well as Brian Tallerico’s four-star review, which is excerpted below…
“A truly momentous achievement that will be analyzed and discussed for years to come, Barry Jenkins’ ‘The Underground Railroad’ is much more than a history lesson. It avoids the traps of period dramas in unexpected ways, alternating lyrical passages of magical realism with brutal reminders of the wounds inflicted by the history of slavery. It is harrowing, beautiful, moving, terrifying, and somehow both deeply genuine and poetic at the same time. That’s one of Jenkins’ most remarkable gifts, an ability to find the grace and the poetry in the realistic, blending the two in his art. After ‘Moonlight’ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ he has taken on his most challenging production yet and delivered a major event in the history of television, something that won’t be an easy watch for Amazon Prime subscribers this summer but demands to be admired and studied.”
Petite Maman (2021). Written and directed by Céline Sciamma. Starring Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse. Synopsis: Nelly has just lost her grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods. One day she meets a girl her same age building a treehouse. US release date is TBA.
Dear Evan Hansen (2021). Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Written by Steven Levenson. Starring Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever. Synopsis: The Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical about Evan Hansen, a high school senior with Social Anxiety disorder and his journey of self-discovery and acceptance following the suicide of a fellow classmate. Debuts in the US on September 24th, 2021.
Gully (2021). Directed by Nabil Elderkin. Written by Marcus J. Guillory. Starring Amber Heard, John Corbett, Kelvin Harrison Jr.. Synopsis: Three teens living in LA, all victims of extreme childhoods, wreak a hedonistic riot across the city over the course of 48 hours, unbound by societal norms. They take us on a rip-roaring ride of drugs and murder across Los Angeles. Debuts in the US on June 4th, 2021.
The Ice Road (2021). Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh. Starring Liam Neeson, Holt McCallany, Laurence Fishburne. Synopsis: After a remote diamond mine collapses in the far northern regions of Canada, an ice driver leads an impossible rescue mission over a frozen ocean to save the lives of trapped miners despite thawing waters and a threat they never see coming. Debuts on Netflix on June 25th, 2021.
Censor (2021). Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond. Written by Prano Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher. Starring Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns. Synopsis: After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality. Debuts in the US on June 11th, 2021.
Grace and Grit (2021). Written and directed by Sebastian Siegel (based on the book by Ken Wilber). Starring Frances Fisher, Mena Suvari, Nick Stahl. Synopsis: Treya and Ken Wilber’s story of courage, transcendence, and eternal love. Debuts in the US on June 4th, 2021.
Good on Paper (2021). Directed by Kimmy Gatewood. Written by Iliza Shlesinger. Starring Iliza Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen, Rebecca Rittenhouse. Synopsis: After years of putting her career first, a stand-up comic meets a guy who seems perfect: smart, nice, successful and possibly too good to be true. Debuts on Netflix on June 23rd, 2021.
Sweat (2021). Written and directed by Magnus von Horn. Starring Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna. Synopsis: Three days in the life of fitness motivator Sylwia Zajac, a social media celebrity surrounded by loyal employees and admirers, who is really looking for true intimacy. US release date is TBA.
Sublet (2021). Directed by Eytan Fox. Written by Eytan Fox and Itay Segal. Starring John Benjamin Hickey, Niv Nissim, Lihi Kornowski. Synopsis: A New York Times travel writer comes to Tel Aviv after suffering a tragedy. The energy of the city and his relationship with a younger man brings him back to life. Debuts in the US on June 11th, 2021.
The Sparks Brothers (2021). Directed by Edgar Wright. Synopsis: A musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with Ron and Russell Mael celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks. Debuts in the US on June 18th, 2021.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021). Directed by Patrick Hughes. Written by Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy and Phillip Murphy. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Frank Grillo, Samuel L. Jackson. Synopsis: The bodyguard Michael Bryce continues his friendship with assassin Darius Kincaid as they try to save Darius’s wife Soni. Debuts in the US on June 16th, 2021.
The Forever Purge (2021). Directed by Everardo Gout. Written by James DeMonaco. Starring Ana de la Reguera, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman. Synopsis: All the rules are broken as a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end. Debuts in the US on July 2nd, 2021.
P!NK: All I Know So Far (2021). Directed by Michael Gracey. Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at P!NK as she balances family and life on the road, leading up to her first Wembley Stadium performance on 2019’s “Beautiful Trauma” world tour. Debuts on Prime Video on May 21st, 2021.
The Protégé (2021). Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Richard Wenk. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Maggie Q, Michael Keaton. Synopsis: Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody and trained in the family business, Anna is the world’s most skilled contract killer. But when Moody – the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival – is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. Debuts in the US on August 20th, 2021.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021). Directed by Robert Schwentke. Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos. Starring Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Samara Weaving. Synopsis: A G.I. Joe spin-off centered around the character of Snake Eyes. Debuts in the US on July 23rd, 2021.
The Nowhere Inn (2021). Directed by Bill Benz. Written by St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein. Starring St. Vincent, Carrie Brownstein, Ezra Buzzington. Synopsis: St. Vincent sets out to make a documentary about her music, but when she hires a close friend to direct, notions of reality, identity, and authenticity grow increasingly distorted and bizarre. Debuts in the US on September 17th, 2021.
Fear Street (2021). Directed by Leigh Janiak. Written by Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei, Zak Olkewicz and Kate Trefry (based on the book by R.L. Stine). Starring Gillian Jacobs, Fred Hechinger, Olivia Welch. Synopsis: A murder mystery shakes up the town of Shadyside, Ohio, in this new trilogy of horror films. Debuts on Netflix on July 2nd, 2021.
Respect (2021). Directed by Liesl Tommy. Written by Tracey Scott Wilson. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Audra McDonald. Synopsis: The life story of legendary R&B singer, Aretha Franklin. Debuts in the US on August 13th, 2021.
Charles Grodin (1935-2021)
Matt writes: On May 18th, the uproariously funny actor Charles Grodin—beloved for his roles in films such as “Midnight Run,” “Beethoven,” “Real Life” and “The Great Muppet Caper“—passed away at age 86. Read Dan Callahan’s obit here as well as Roger Ebert’s enthusiastic review of Grodin’s performance in Elaine May’s 1972 masterwork, “The Heartbreak Kid,” which is sampled above.
Norman Lloyd (1914-2021)
Matt writes: Perhaps no career in show business history encompassed a century of artistry quite like that of Norman Lloyd. His death at age 106 on May 11th brought to a close a career that included memorable collaborations with such legendary figures as Welles, Hitchcock, Chaplin, Scorsese, Renoir and Kubrick, to name a few. Be sure to read Peter Sobczynski’s obit as well as my 2015 essay exploring his numerous career highlights (which Lloyd talks about at length in his discussion with Elliott Gould embedded above).
The Emperor Jones (1933). Directed by Dudley Murphy. Written by DuBose Heyward (based on the play by Eugene O’Neill). Starring Paul Robeson, Dudley Digges, Frank H. Wilson. Synopsis: Unscrupulously ambitious Brutus Jones escapes from jail after killing a guard and through bluff and bravado finds himself the emperor of a Caribbean island.
Doomed to Die (1940). Directed by William Nigh. Written by Michael Jacoby (based on the characters created by Hugh Wiley). Starring Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers. Synopsis: Mr. Wong and a girl reporter investigate a shipping magnate’s murder.
Mickey (1948). Directed by Ralph Murphy. Written by Muriel Roy Bolton and Agnes Christine Johnston (based on the novel by Peggy Goodin). Starring Lois Butler, Bill Goodwin, Irene Hervey. Synopsis: Young girl is constantly getting into trouble and embarrassing her father, who finally puts his foot down.