‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3’
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan
The pop-culture behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing its momentum in 2023, with five releases planned throughout the year, including a new outing for Ant Man and the Wasp, as well as another ensemble effort with “Captain Marvel” sequel “The Marvels.” Top of our list, though, is the return of the lovable rogues known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, led by Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Last time out, the Guardians managed to purchase Knowhere, with the intention of turning into their headquarters and a safe haven for alien refugees. Details are sketchy, but the plot will reportedly involved the team having to embark on a risky mission to save one of their members. And probably the universe too. James Gunn directs (as he has the two previous “Guardians” movies). There are rumors that Rocket — the racoon bounty hunter — will have a love interest introduced: Lylla the otter.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Ezra Miller, Ron Livingston, Michael Keaton, Kiersey Clemons
Marvel’s superhero rivals DC, meanwhile, are pinning their hopes on a couple of major new releases including Jason Momoa reprising his titular role in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” and this movie about the swiftest superhero alive. Given the controversies currently swirling around lead actor Ezra Miller, DC will be hoping the old cliché about no publicity being bad publicity holds true and that the film isn’t DOA at the box office. Argentinian director Andy Muschietti, who helmed the “It” film series, has been tasked with running the show. Inspired by the comic book storyline “Flashpoint,” the movie sees Barry Allen/The Flash travel through time in an attempt to prevent his mother’s murder. Time travel, as you’d think the allegedly “highly intelligent” Allen would know, turns out to be a tricky affair, with a lot of unforeseen consequences. One of the good ones being that we get to see multiple versions of Batman, with both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton reprising their versions of the Caped Crusader.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu
Yes, a movie about the iconic Mattel doll — which has, over the years, become a symbol of society’s unrealistic ideals for women’s bodies — sounds like a terrible idea. But. This particular movie that sounds like a terrible idea is co-written by Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), who also directs. And it stars two of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Robbie and Gosling, as Barbie and Ken. Expect plenty of ironic humor, then. Suddenly, it starts to sound as though — despite the horribly cynical marketing scheme that undoubtedly got the film funded — this could be a lot of fun.
‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic
Voice cast: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black
It’s taken Nintendo a while to get over the disastrous 1993 film “Super Mario Bros.” Thirty years on, the Japanese video game giant has finally handed another license to Hollywood, this time for an animated adventure comedy with a stellar voice cast, based on its iconic games about two Italian brothers who are plumbers. Horvath and Jelenic’s pedigree as creators of the often-brilliant “Teen Titans Go!” bodes well for the movie. Apparently, not even the actors were privy to the full plot, so the story remains unknown, but it’s reasonable to expect it will involve Mario and Luigi having to rescue Princess Peach from some kind of labyrinth. May be worth seeing just to judge Chris Pratt’s accent for yourself.
‘John Wick: Chapter 4’
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne
The first three instalments in the “John Wick” film series have all excelled at giving audiences adrenaline-rush fight scenes with minimal (by today’s standards) special effects, so we’re excited to see what new surprises Stahelski has in store in number four. Reeves returns as the less-than-talkative legendary assassin desperately trying to retire and be left in peace. But the shadowy organization that oversees the contract killers our anti-hero was once the best of won’t let him. Now, Wick believes he has found a way to defeat the High Table once and for all. But the path to his escape has many obstacles, including a well-connected new enemy, and old friends now turned foes.
‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’
Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Voice cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae
Anticipation is sky-high for this sequel to 2018’s animated hit “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Its predecessor was a superb, thrilling, funny journey into alternate universes that introduced us to a host of different incarnations of Spider-Man, including, of course, Brooklyn teen Miles Morales. In this follow-up, Morales and his love interest Gwen Stacy (the Spider-Woman of her universe) team up to take on a new foe who threatens the lives of all Spider-People. They are helped by the Spider-Force team, who include a British punk version of Spider-Man, and a pregnant version of Spider-Woman.
‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Antonio Banderas
Okay, so Steven Spielberg isn’t directing it, and George Lucas didn’t write it, but it’s still Indiana Jones (and the pair are both executive producers). The film is set in 1969 and finds an ageing Dr. Jones searching for the titular object alongside his goddaughter Helena (Waller-Bridge). Jones is also wary of the former Nazis working with the US government to take on the Soviet Union in the space race, particularly the sinister Jurgen Voller (Mikkelsen).
‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One’
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson
The COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with its schedule, but the seventh instalment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is finally with us. Cruise is now 60, but continues to pull off many of his own stunts including the spectacular motorcycle-dismount-into-parachute-jump seen in the trailer. Esai Morales is the as-yet-unnamed main villain of the piece. Details have been kept under wraps, but it’s a fair bet Cruise’s special agent Ethan Hunt and his IMF team will still have members of The Syndicate/The Apostles to deal with, despite defeating their leader, and we know that Vanessa Kirby is returning as arms dealer Alanna Mitsopolis.
‘Dune: Part Two’
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Zendaya
Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novels were long considered ‘un-filmable,’ but Villeneuve disproved that theory with 2021’s “Part One,” marrying Herbert’s vision with his own to create a superb sci-fi epic. Part two will see Chalamet’s Paul Atreides seek revenge against those who wiped out his family, with some help from the Chani and his new allies, the Fremen. Along the way, he must somehow prevent the nightmarish future that he has foreseen.
‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman
Just over a decade ago, the first “Hunger Games” film propelled Jennifer Lawrence into mainstream stardom and cemented Suzanne Collins’ novels as bona-fide cultural phenomena. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” takes us back into that dystopian universe, but serves as a prequel to the four films released so far. Blyth stars as a young Coriolanus Snow (the future president of Panem and villain of the previous movies), who is serving as a mentor for the upcoming Hunger Games and forms a bond with the tribute from District 12: Lucy Gray Baird. Expect revelations about what happened to turn Snow into the monster he would become.
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