Coming Attractions 

An early look at some anticipated movie offerings for 2023.

click to enlarge Lily Gladstone and Leonard DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," based on the book by David Grann about the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.

Lily Gladstone and Leonard DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," based on the book by David Grann about the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.

I’ve said it before: January gets a bum rap.

After the carnival of holidays that defines the year from Halloween through New Year’s Day, there’s something refreshingly low-stakes about the drabness of January. Spiritually, it’s a month of rainy Sunday afternoons, and what’s so bad about that? It’s time to read, savor, spend less if you’re so inclined, and catch up with movies that may have eluded you. However, it is human nature to anticipate the thrills that may be waiting for us up ahead, which brings us to my anticipated movies of the year.

As always, a caveat: Anticipatory lists tend to favor the low-hanging fruit, the established filmmakers and actors and series, as none of us know how the year is going to shape up. Smaller films, in particular, are usually not announced for release in advance, while hyped films are often just that … hype. I enjoyed very few of the movies that I anticipated last year, and in their place sprung surprising films from varied voices. That’s the exhilaration and occasional tedium of foraging through art.

“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” (Steven Soderbergh)

Soderbergh returns to the “Magic Mike” series after (officially, at least) sitting out of the director’s chair for “Magic Mike XXL,” which was vastly superior to the first film and ranks as one of the few truly sexy and freewheeling modern American movies. I’m curious to see if Soderbergh will try to up the ante somehow, though the trailer for “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” sells it as something surprisingly routine-looking. Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, and series newcomer Salma Hayek can’t be counted out though, and a romantic melodrama with middle-aged adults, however gorgeous they may be, cannot be taken for granted. (Feb. 10)

“Oppenheimer” (Christopher Nolan)

I am bored to active hostility by the sci-fi puzzle-boxes on which Nolan has built his reputation, but simpler, earthbound stories tend to bring out the moody existentialist in him, such as his underrated remake of “Insomnia” and “Dunkirk.” A biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who helped to pioneer the Atomic bomb, could play right into Nolan’s strengths. This suspicion is amplified by the casting of Cillian Murphy in the lead role, and by a couple of distinctively foreboding trailers. (July 21)

“Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning—Part One” (Christopher McQuarrie)

“Top Gun: Maverick” has gotten more attention, but Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” series is much smarter and more persuasive as a preservation of old-guard star vehicles. Yes, at this point they are all the same. Which is to say enjoyable, propulsive, and stylish, with a sturdy supporting cast anchored by Cruise’s superhuman charisma, which is by now admirable, funny, creepy, and, in the case of the McQuarrie “M:I” entries, intentionally satirical. Cruise has accomplished what the Daniel Craig run of James Bond films promised but never delivered: the evolution before our eyes of a secret agent from a fresh-faced yearling to a smoothie icon. In a year of another John Wick, another Ant-Man, another “Fast and Furious,” another Indiana Jones, another “Hunger Games,” and so on, “Dead Reckoning” is where I’ll be prioritizing my tent-pole dollars. (July 14)

“Beau is Afraid” (Ari Aster)

A holdover from 2022, though back then it had a better title, “Disappointment Blvd.” I’m still anxious to see what overrated but promising “elevated” horror guru Ari Aster has cooked up with lead actor Joaquin Phoenix. Word is that it’s a “nightmare comedy” about the life of a filthy rich entrepreneur. My guess is that a young maximalist like Aster will either hone his gifts or spiral into the outer reaches of formalist indulgence. It could be interesting either way. (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Nightbitch” (Marielle Heller)

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” revealed Heller to be one of mainstream American filmmaking’s most evocative and generous orchestrators of star-driven dramedies. In short, Heller is what people routinely claim Alexander Payne to be, except that she lacks his smart-ass sense of superiority and doesn’t let her films fall apart before reaching the finish line. “Nightbitch” stars Amy Adams as a stay-at-home mother who fears that she may be turning into a dog. The satirical possibilities sound virtually bottomless. (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Killers of the Flower Moon” (Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese’s highly anticipated adaptation of David Grann’s bestselling nonfiction novel was on my list for 2022, which proved overly optimistic. Like only a few other American filmmakers working today, Scorsese has the clout to take as long on a project as he damn well pleases, honing a film in the editing process for sometimes as long as nearly two years. The rumor is that “Killers of the Flower Moon” will unveil at Cannes this spring, with an autumn release forthcoming. Featuring a formidable cast headlined by Scorsese MVPs Robert De Niro and Leonardo Dicaprio, who’re reunited for the first time since their searing work in 1993’s “This Boy’s Life.” (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Walk-Up” (Hong Sang-soo)

As always, I have to sneak in one of my cheats, which is to say a film I’ve already seen and know to be good. If Hong’s “Walk-Up” had been officially released in America last year, it probably would’ve been at the top of my best-films list. One of Hong’s funniest, most moving, and structurally daring works, “Walk-Up” utilizes a singular building to represent the creative psyches and spiritual agonies of an intimate cast of characters. (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Priscilla” (Sofia Coppola)

Yes, Sofia Coppola is the daughter of Francis Ford, and she was raised among privilege and opportunity that is all but unimaginable to most of us. And she’s never shied away from that identity, as the perils and glories of wealth are her master obsessions. Coppola is a despairing stylist with an acute sense of humor and a profound sense of how rarefied realms operate. With all that in mind, I’m impatient to see how she handles the story of Pricilla and Elvis Presley. (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Maestro” (Bradley Cooper)

The recent version of “A Star is Born” is one of the great pop movies of the last several years, offering wish fulfillment hand-in-hand with surprisingly convincing and moving pain. A filmmaker to watch, Cooper now returns to the director’s chair for the story of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, whom he plays, and Bernstein’s wife, Felicia, who is played by Carey Mulligan. Spielberg and Scorsese previously circled this project, which Cooper has been working on for several years. (Release date unconfirmed.)

“Ferrari” (Michael Mann)

When Mann applies his self-consciously chic, chilly, pulpy, mythic style to crime projects that aren’t called “Heat,” I’m weary. For some reason, this style serves his biopics though, investing them with a dread and energy that’s distinctive for the genre. “The Insider” is second only to “Heat” as Mann’s best film, and I’m hoping he brings a similar kind of nervy, poignant obsessiveness to the story of sports car entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari, who is played here by Adam Driver, and who was recently accorded less than sympathetic treatment by “Ford v. Ferrari.” My guess is that Ferrari’s determination to craft perfectly sculpted cars will be utilized as a metaphor for Mann’s own fastidiousness. With that in mind, I’m not convinced that this film will actually see the light of day in 2023, but hope springs eternal.



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