Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021

Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021

On the walls: Halo Infinite (Image: Microsoft), 12 Minutes: (Image: Annapurna Interactive), Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images), Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Starling (Photo: Brooke Palmer). In the middle: The French Dispatch (Photo: Searchlight Pictures)
On the walls: Halo Infinite (Image: Microsoft), 12 Minutes: (Image: Annapurna Interactive), Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images), Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Starling (Photo: Brooke Palmer). In the middle: The French Dispatch (Photo: Searchlight Pictures)
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

After the year we’ve all had, it feels like courting disaster to pin any hopes on a wide release that wasn’t manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna. Looking back at what The A.V. Club published when we were still looking forward to 2020, we could’ve just republished some of it wholesale. But credit where it’s due: All but one of the movies in this image managed to see the light of day last year, so maybe our picks aren’t doomed to keep sliding down the calendar pages toward 2022. And if they do? Well, we’ve grown adept at waiting—though movie theaters, record stores, and concert venues don’t have that luxury, so please wear a mask, stop traveling, get vaccinated when and if you can, and maybe we can add “Seeing one another face to face” to this itinerary of everything we want to watch, listen to, play, and read in 2021.

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Hitman 3 (January 20)

Hitman 3 (January 20)

Illustration for article titled Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021
Image: IO Interactive

The open-world renaissance of the Hitman franchise reaches its culmination with this, the end of the globetrotting conspiracy story that’s been threaded through the franchise’s soft reboot in 2016 and its equally superlative sequel in 2018. That narrative is all well and good, certainly, but Hitman 3’s real test will be in whether it can match or surpass the digital playgrounds of the previous 2 installments, gorgeously rendered puzzle boxes brimming with ever-new (and hilarious) ways for taciturn killing machine Agent 47 to take out his targets. (And if they’re not up to snuff, never fear: Hitman 3 retains the ability to import those old maps into its new engine, complete with its new VR integration for those who want to get really up close and personal with their kills.) [William Hughes]

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Clarice (February 11)

Clarice (February 11)

Set six months after the events of The Silence Of The Lambs, CBS’s new drama looks to continue the story of newly minted FBI agent Clarice Starling, as she tries to move past the traumatic events involving Hannibal Lecter and begin the task of hunting down a whole new roster of murderers and madmen. Alex Kurtzman and his Star Trek: Discovery and Picard partner Jenny Lumet are behind the project, and Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars, The Originals) is stepping into Jodie Foster’s (and later, Julianne Moore’s) shoes, big as they are to fill, playing the titular agent. While press materials emphasize the way her troubled past and unique upbringing will play a pivotal role in the storyline, this is also a CBS procedural, meaning curious viewers probably shouldn’t go in expecting Hannibal, part two. (Especially since—thanks to bizarre rights issues—Dr. Lecter isn’t even allowed to be mentioned by name.) [Alex McLevy]

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No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (February 16)

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (February 16)

Illustration for article titled Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

Patricia Lockwood is the kind of writer that you stop and read immediately whenever she publishes something new. Whether it’s her highly praised comedic memoir, Priestdaddy; an essay about John Updike; or the disorienting effects of the coronavirus on her ability to read and think, her supreme intelligence and wildly imaginative, offbeat sense of humor always comes to the fore. That is why readers may consider putting in their days off now, as Lockwood publishes her first novel in mid-February. As with her extraordinary lecture “The Communal Mind,” in No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead), Lockwood explores, as only she can, what it feels like to be extremely online. What may be even more remarkable than the novel’s humor and insight is just how much heart it has, too. [Laura Adamczyk]

Read The A.V. Club’s review of Priestdaddy.

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Julien Baker, Little Oblivions (February 26)

Julien Baker, Little Oblivions (February 26)

Julien Baker’s last album, Turn Out The Lights, was on The A.V. Club’s list of the best albums of 2017 (and rightly so); while that album certainly evolved the stylistic palette of the passionate, powerful artist, Little Oblivions looks to be a far more expansive and ambitious development of the sonic spectrum of Baker’s music. It’s evident right there in the percussive electronic beat of lead single “Faith Healer,” segueing into a rolling snare beat and bass that lends a rich, rhythm-section anchor to her soaring vocal melodies and steady guitar-and-piano firmament. Adding these additional layers of instrumentation to the mix—with nearly all of them played by Baker herself—pushes her emotionally vulnerable lyricism to new places of heartfelt catharsis, most immediately in her ongoing exploration of how addiction and desire intertwine and complicate one another. For someone who’s only been on this earth for a quarter of a century, Baker makes the kind of music that feels as though she’s lived enough for three lifetimes; and all of them find a direct line to the listener’s heart. [Alex McLevy]

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Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 2)

Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 2)

Illustration for article titled Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

Kazuo Ishiguro writes with extraordinary elegance and draws from a deep well of feeling, even while so many of his characters’ desires remain below the surface. His latest novel, Klara And The Sun (Knopf), centers around a so-called Artificial Friend, who has uncanny observational abilities and one day hopes to be taken home by a customer from the store where she’s kept. Ishiguro told Publishers Weekly that the book asks “What is love? Can we replace a person we love?” and explores “the question of the romantic notion that we love.” With Klara, the Nobel Prize winner and author of The Remains Of The Day and Never Let Me Go has once again crafted a masterful story of yearning and alienation. [Laura Adamczyk]

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You Made Me Love You by John Edgar Wideman (April 6)

You Made Me Love You by John Edgar Wideman (April 6)

Illustration for article titled Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

We’d be on board even if this were solely a reprinting of Damballah. John Edgar Wideman’s 1981 short story collection, one third of the writer’s Homewood trilogy and which follows a family through slavery to their eventual life in Pittsburgh, spoke with a vital multitidinous voice and often explored the nature of storytelling itself in its connected tales. You Made Me Love You (Scribner), the writer’s selected short stories, begins here and goes up to and includes pieces from his most recent collection, 2018’s celebrated American Histories. “Stories are letters,” Wideman writes. “Letters sent to anybody or everybody.” You Made Me Love You at last assembles the best of Wideman’s—rich, strange, and deeply felt—for anybody or everybody to read. [Laura Adamczyk]

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Last Night In Soho (October 22)

Last Night In Soho (October 22)

From left: Edgar Wright (Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI) and Thomasin McKenzie (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
From left: Edgar Wright (Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI) and Thomasin McKenzie (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Like any great parodist, Edgar Wright has always exuded a clear appreciation for the stuff he’s lampooned. But it wasn’t until Baby Driver that the writer-director mostly removed the comic framework, indulging his love for car chases and crime-caper patter without really spoofing them. Early word on his new movie, Last Night In Soho, suggests he’s moved even further away from overt yuks. It’s a genre pastiche about an aspiring fashion designer (Jojo Rabbit’s Thomasin McKenzie) who’s mysteriously transported back in time to 1960s London. But though that sounds like a Midnight In Paris lark, it’s apparently mere setup for a throwback psychological horror movie—Wright has cited both Repulsion and Don’t Look Now as influences. He’s also called the film a “slow burn,” which means it could be a change of pace in more ways than one for this fast-car aficionado and master of the whip pan. [A.A. Dowd]

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Eternals (November 15)

Eternals (November 15)

From left: Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Chloé Zhao, Lia McHugh, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Lauren Ridloff, and Don Lee at San Diego Comic-Con International 2019
From left: Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Chloé Zhao, Lia McHugh, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Lauren Ridloff, and Don Lee at San Diego Comic-Con International 2019
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney (Getty Images)

After a whole year without a new entry in its forever franchise, Marvel is making up for lost time with no less than four movies currently slated for release in 2021. Of that Phase 4 crop, the most enticing is probably the big screen debut of Jack Kirby’s race of ageless planetary defenders. Why? Beyond a reasonably fun premise (albeit one that recalls this year’s most well-received comic-book movie) and a promising ensemble that includes Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, and Salma Hayek, Eternals is the first blockbuster from Chloé Zhao, who directed the most critically acclaimed movie of 2020 (and our second favorite of the year). Whether she’ll have space to express herself at the helm of a project this expensive remains to be seen, but after Nomadland, we’d follow her anywhere—even back onto the assembly line of the Marvel hit factory. [A.A. Dowd]

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12 Minutes (TBD)

12 Minutes (TBD)

Annapurna Interactive has quietly become one of the most interesting new gaming publishers on the block, and this time-travel-heavy, formally fascinating adventure game shows the polish—and star power—that the company has made its signature. Written by Luis Antonio (and featuring vocal performances from James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe), the game lays out its key gimmick in its title, and its tagline: “An interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop.” We’re not sure what actually playing 12 Minutes is going to be like, mind you, but thinking about all the twists and turns it’s hiding has already got us excited to find out. [William Hughes]

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Foundation (TBD)

Foundation (TBD)

The new year promises plenty of lavishly rendered new series, including adaptations of Lord Of The Rings and Station Eleven. Apple TV+’s Foundation leads the way for sci-fi wonders. Isaac Asimov’s book series is one of the bedrocks of expansive, speculative storytelling, full of rich world-building, detailed characterization, and primordial conflicts. That’s a lot for this adaptation from Josh Friedman and David Goyer to live up to, even with two of the most exciting actors working today—Jared Harris and Lee Pace—leading the series. Apple’s fared better with original dramas and comedies series like The Morning Show and Dickinson; For All Mankind, which broaches science fiction with its handsomely made revisionist history, has met a muffled response since launch. But Foundation could be the first big genre hit for the streamer, not to mention one of the biggest shows of 2021. [Danette Chavez]

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The French Dispatch (TBD)

The French Dispatch (TBD)

Every new movie by Wes Anderson is an event, at least for those enchanted and not irked by the colorful, symmetrical, one-of-a-kind dollhouse worlds he constructs from scratch. His latest presents itself as an anthology of whirligig stories published by the foreign correspondents of a fictional newspaper in a fictional French city. There’s no shortage of visual delights in the trailer (they include this time a swap to pristine black-and-white, for the whole nouvelle vague throwback effect), and Anderson has only grown his game ensemble; besides the usual players, expect Timothée Chalamet, Elisabeth Moss, Christoph Waltz, Henry Winkler, Jeffrey Wright, Lois Smith, and bona fide Frenchwoman Léa Seydoux among the new faces doing droll shtick at the center of the writer-director’s typically striking diorama sets. Even by the high standards set by the director of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, this looks magical—and, in its ode to maligned journalists everywhere, timely.

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Halo Infinite (TBD)

Halo Infinite (TBD)

Illustration for article titled Getting our hopes up: The A.V. Club’s 14 most anticipated releases of 2021
Screenshot: Microsoft

The sixth main series Halo game was the Xbox Series X launch title that failed to launch, with 343 Industries (who took the series over after creators Bungie jumped ship for Destiny) facing serious delays on its production in late 2020. Halo Infinite is still in limbo, in fact, with an undefined 2021 release date, and unclear priorities that have, in the past, included comments about a free-to-play version of the series’ vaunted multiplayer modes. Troubled production or no, the Halo brand name remains undeniably potent in gaming spheres, though—especially with Showtime’s Pablo Schreiber-starring TV adaptation of the series set to arrive on televisions in a burst of hype this year, too. [William Hughes]

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Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails Over The Country Club (TBD)

Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails Over The Country Club (TBD)

Lana Del Rey’s new album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, was originally supposed to come out back in September of 2020. Like many other peoples’ plans during the past year, that didn’t end up happening, thanks to delays in the vinyl production process. So while some unfortunate comments from the musician ended up being the most noteworthy thing Del Rey released in 2020, the follow-up to an album as superb as Norman Fucking Rockwell remains a must-hear piece of art. She’s been coy about the record itself, instead using the wait to announce a digital album of covers as a way to tide over fans until they can get their hands on it. But we got a small taste of it with the release of single “Let Me Love You Like A Woman,” a stirring torch song of desire and longing that once more combines the singer’s throwback-era appeal with a very modern plea for human contact during a time when it’s sorely needed. Yet it also doubles as a farewell of sorts to the NFR era, with her announcement to the unknown paramour that she’s “ready to leave L.A.” and try somewhere new. Whatever that newness holds, we’re excited to hear it. [Alex McLevy]

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Star Trek: Prodigy (TBD)

Star Trek: Prodigy (TBD)

The Star Trek universe continues to expand with Star Trek: Prodigy, Nickelodeon’s YA riff on the franchise’s intergalactic, socially relevant adventures. The animated series follows a group of feckless teens who explore the various corners of the universe in a derelict Starfleet ship. Though that premise borrows a bit from Star Trek: Lower Decks, with characters otherwise relegated to the background of an away mission, Prodigy is a multigenerational story, one that sees Kate Mulgrew reprise the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway to mentor these kids. Okay, so that sounds like Star Trek: Picard—we’ll just admit that we’re eager to see what Mulgrew does with the role, after having “invested every scintilla of [her] being” into Star Trek: Voyager. And though the premiere hasn’t been announced, animated series haven’t been as hindered by the COVID shutdowns as other productions, which means we probably won’t be bumping this off the list before Groundhog Day. [Danette Chavez]

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