Directed by Ben Affleck — Screenplay by Alex Convery.
Ben Affleck’s AIR is a biographical drama about the origin of the highly successful original AIR Jordan basketball shoe, which was designed with Michael Jordan in mind when he had yet to actually play an NBA game. It follows Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon), a basketball talent scout for Nike, as he tries to convince first Nike and then Michael Jordan and his parents, including his mother Deloris (played by Viola Davis), to choose Nike, which was, at that time, not the massive company that it is today, as his brand of choice. There are, however, quite a few obstacles that Sonny must overcome. Jordan allegedly prefers Adidas, Nike likely cannot afford to compete with Adidas for his signature, Nike is considering axing their basketball division, and Sonny doesn’t have the best relationship with Jordan’s agent (played by Chris Messina).
Directed by James Gunn — Screenplay by James Gunn.
“What a bunch of a-holes,” were the last words spoken in the very first trailer for James Gunn’s original Guardians of the Galaxy film back in 2014. Here was a trailer that introduced Marvel Studios’ biggest swing at that point in time — a team-up film built around a talking raccoon, a Chewbacca-esque tree, a wrestler in body paint, Avatar’s leading lady having swapped out her blue alien for a green one, and a minor supporting actor from Parks and Recreation, who was thrust into a stardom that he still enjoys. Back then it seemed like a huge risk to back C or D-list Marvel characters, but a lot can happen in nine years. Now, Rocket, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and Star-Lord are some of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they had their own Star Wars-inspired Holiday Special just last Christmas, and the films’ director, James Gunn, is about to end his time with Marvel after having been both fired from (due to social media ‘receipts’ detailing offensive jokes) and re-hired for this very film in the late 2010s. Gunn didn’t just revive Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” and make your mom and dad know who Groot is, Gunn also established himself as one of Marvel’s actual auteur filmmakers, which is a reputation that has landed him a huge job over at Warner Bros. as the shepherd of the soon-to-be rebuilt DC Comics cinematic universe. But first, he had to finish his Marvel Studios trilogy. And, so, how did it turn out? Well, let’s just say, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films go out on a high note, as they are now arguably the very best Marvel Studios trilogy.
Directed by Jon S. Baird — Screenplay by Noah Pink.
Jon S. Baird’s Tetris is a biographical thriller about the struggle to acquire the licensing rights to the hugely popular video game Tetris back in the 1980s. The film follows Henk Rogers (played by Taron Egerton), a game developer, who, while advertising another game at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is introduced to a video game known as Tetris, which instantly hooks him. This love-at-first-play-session sets in motion an attempt by Henk to secure the rights to the video game for the purpose of reselling them to Nintendo. However, that is much easier said than done, since it was invented by a Soviet programmer and since he will have to travel to Soviet-era Russia to have any chance of securing the rights, thus putting his life at risk, while another far more wealthy potential buyer is willing to do whatever it takes to get the rights before him.
Directed by Alexis Jacknow — Screenplay by Alexis Jacknow.
Alexis Jacknow’s Clock follows Ella (played by Dianna Agron), a woman constantly questioned for not wanting children of her own, as she decides to check herself into a clinical trial for cognitive therapy that could kickstart her biological clock. However, after having undergone behavioral therapy, Ella starts having these terrifying visions that interrupt her daily life and shake her to her core.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher — Screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers.
A romantic action-comedy from the director of Rocketman, with a screenplay from the writers of Deadpool and Spider-Man: No Way Home, and starring Captain America himself and the Oscar-nominated star of Blonde and Knives Out (who, notably, proved her action chops with a memorable appearance in the James Bond flick No Time to Die) sure sounds like a winning combination. Apple TV+’s Ghosted is a film with so much marketable talent that it has several major cameos that almost feel crammed in there. However, even though this is a project that has attracted a lot of talent, Ghosted is a largely ineffective romantic action comedy where neither the romantic, action, nor comedic elements work all that well.
Directed by Chris McKay (TheLEGO Batman Movie) — Screenplay by Ryan Ridley — Story by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead).
In Chris McKay’s Renfield, we follow R. M. Renfield (played by Nicholas Hoult) who, a long, long time ago, became the most trusted servant of Count Dracula (played by Nicolas Cage) and thus was granted immortality and the ability to be super powerful if he eats bugs. However, in the present day, Renfield has grown tired of serving his abusive master. In an attempt to find a way to deal with these feelings of exhaustion and depression, Renfield has sought out a self-help group for people in co-dependent relationships. And because he still needs to feed his master, Renfield has decided that he should only feed Dracula the abusive partners that the people in his self-help group complain about. Meanwhile, Renfield is also trying to build a life for himself without considering his master’s needs. When Renfield inadvertently comes into the crosshairs of a significant crime family, Dracula is made aware of his servant’s betrayal and decides to come out of hiding.
Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night) — Screenplay/Story by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio, and Chris McKay.
It was only a matter of time before Hollywood was going to give Dungeons and Dragons another try as a major motion picture given the massive success of Stranger Things, which, I feel, has helped to popularize the tabletop role-playing game yet again. That’s right, I do remember watching the woeful 2000s Courtney Solomon film Dungeons and Dragons a couple of times way back when (it’s crazy to think that The Fellowship of the Ring was released only a single year later). The 2000s D&D film is as bad as its reputation would have you believe, but it does have Jeremy Irons and Marlon Wayans, so I guess that’s something. The difference between the film from 2000 and this year’s Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein is night and day. Honor Among Thieves genuinely is a great time at the movies.
Directed by Michael B. Jordan — Screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin.
It would be fair to say that Michael B. Jordan is, to a certain extent, following in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone. Not only has he taken over as the lead of the Rocky franchise, which is now spearheaded by Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis “Donnie” Creed, but his films have followed similar patterns as Stallone’s Rocky films. With Creed III, the extent to which Jordan is following in his footsteps has reached a new level with Jordan taking on directing duties just as Stallone eventually did for one of his most beloved franchises, which he appeared to exit at the end of Creed II (I thought it was a sweet ending to his story, though it sounds like he isn’t happy about the series moving on without him). Ryan Coogler’s Creed was a beautiful and moving knockout blow, Steven Caple, Jr.’s Creed II was solid but formulaic (and felt too much like a sequel to Rocky IV), and, now, Michael B. Jordan’s Creed III is similarly formulaic but it is also a strong and satisfying response to some of the reservations that I had about Creed II.
Directed by Christopher Landon — Screenplay by Christopher Landon.
Christopher Landon is a rather interesting up-and-coming horror filmmaker. Reportedly scheduled to remake Frank Marshall’s Arachnophobia, Landon has made a career off taking well-trod genre fare and giving it a modern feel and often with a comedic slant. Among other things, he co-wrote D. J. Caruso’s Disturbia (a thriller that is so close to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window in the concept that it led to a lawsuit) and several Paranormal Activity films, before he became a household name for horror film fans by writing and directing his Happy Death Day films (slasher comedies that runs with the time-loop concept from Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day) and Freaky, 2020s horror comedy reinterpretation of the classic body swap story Freaky Friday. His latest film, We Have A Ghost, is similarly placed squarely in the horror-comedy genre-blend and it, too, wears its inspirations on its sleeves. Most of Landon’s previous films as a director have been decent-to-good, and although We Have A Ghost doesn’t reach its full potential, it’s still a pretty decent but derivative little family film.
Directed by Peyton Reed — Screenplay by Jeff Loveness.
Trilogies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe aren’t really trilogies. You can’t watch the Iron Man or Captain America trilogies without knowing what happens in the Avengers films. Or, of course, you can, but it would be a strange exercise as those trilogy films eventually reference other films, are reliant on those other films’ setup, or are direct continuations of a film that isn’t technically in that very trilogy. This has also been true of the Ant-Man trilogy. If you just watch Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp (both directed by Peyton Reed), you’ll definitely have some questions about why Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is under house arrest and about what the hell happened in the 2018 sequel’s mid-credits scene, in which most of the cast suddenly disappeared (thus stranding Scott Lang in the so-called Quantum Realm). Similarly, those who have decided to live under a rock (or simply ignore every other Marvel movie — including two of the biggest films of all time) would probably be really confused as to what happened between the 2018 sequel and this 2023 sequel. I suspect very few people would find themselves in that situation, but I mention all of this because the interconnected nature of the incredible achievement that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) can be both very exciting and confusing depending on who you ask.