I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
It’s officially 2020, and Hollywood is buttering the popcorn for more superhero movies, sequels and remakes (some of which are actually welcome). However, rather than merely get the same movie repackaged as new, we are getting some needle-moving progress with different voices at the helm.
Here are 12 movies to get excited about in the new year:
I will take a spiritual-sequel (or legacy-sequel) any day over a straight-up remake, especially when the original doesn’t need any refinishing. 1992’s Candyman is arguably one of the all-time horror greats. Tony Todd’s hook-handed menacer has an origin story that is far more fascinating than your typical killer. And now that Jordan Peele is shining a spotlight on the narrative (as co-writer and co-producer), with Little Woods director Nia DaCosta in the director’s chair, 2020 cinema is bleeding excellence.
The new take surrounds the gentrified Cabrini-Green in modern-day Chicago. In real life, the housing development was replaced with a Target store. With the return of Todd and and casting of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (who slays in HBO’s Watchmen), I’m dying to know what kind of spin Peele and DaCosta will put on it.
Judging by the poster and the trailer’s mind-tickling images, the latest cloak of mystery from Christopher Nolan looks a lot like the spiritual cousin to Inception and The Matrix (and perhaps the conclusion of Doctor Strange).
It stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) as a deceased special agent who’s recruited into the “afterlife” to stop World War III supposedly. I am going to assume this is a far cry from that abysmal 2013 Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges-starring movie R.I.P.D. Considering how Nolan actively demonstrates sharp-dressed subversions of Hollywood conventions, Tenet will be one of the most exciting original features of the year.
Even though I had my gripes about 2018’s sequel do-over for the Halloween franchise, I have greater faith that this follow-up — the perfectly titled Halloween Kills — will correct the course. I feel that enough criticism was tossed in the filmmakers’ court for them to know where their new direction steered right and wrong. Based on the behind-the-scenes teaser that was shared on scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ Instagram last year, the blood is bound to run thick, with the dread bordering on unbearable.
If you were blown away by the visuals of Blade Runner 2049 or were intellectually and emotionally challenged by Arrival and Prisoners, you can expect French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s next project to do both. Villeneuve is at the helm of a new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic Dune, and it stars half of Hollywood (including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Javier Bardem, to name a few). If you have that much talent involved — and Warner Bros. supports it enough to give it an awards consideration release slot as well as a go-ahead on a sequel — you can bet on this Dune not getting lost to the sands of time.
A QUIET PLACE PART II
It’s been two years since Big Tuna descended upon audiences with frightful monsters who stalk only by sound. John Krasinski returns to the camera for a second scare, as the threat amplifies and tests the central family (reprised by Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe).
The trailer dropped on New Year’s day, and the glimpse already packs a heart attack. With franchise newcomers Cillian Murphy and Djimon Honsou thrown in peril, night time dreams are about to get spookier.
Set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, Wendy is a reimagining of Peter Pan but told from the perspective of the original tale’s deuteragonist. But don’t fret. This is not another Disney remake. It comes from studio Fox Searchlight and has visionary filmmaker Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) calling the shots.
Zeitlin explores the imaginative side of a child’s mind like no other, incorporating surrealist touches that are burrowed in a grounded reality. Prepare to be wowed and emotionally ripped open.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO
Edgar Wright is a storyteller who demands your attention. His Last Night in Soho revolves around a young woman (Jojo Rabbit‘s Thomasin McKenzie) who’s captivated by the youth-driven cultural revolution of the 1960s. Due to a curious connection to another woman (The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy), she gets the opportunity to experience the swinging era first hand, which may come with terrifying consequences.
Seeing how it’s the newest feature from the director of Baby Driver and Shaun of the Dead, and labeled as a “psychological horror” film, I feel confident in deeming this a bloodbath worth the dip.
THE FRENCH DISPATCH
For indie movie lovers, the prospect of a new Wes Anderson film carries the same weight of thrill as a Marvel movie for superhero fans. Coming off his second Oscar nomination, Anderson is returning to live-action filmmaking with The French Dispatch. According to Anderson’s remarks in French publication Charente Libre, his upcoming film is a “love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in [the titular magazine].” It is sure to have Anderson’s quirky style and will have all of his usual suspects (pretty much all of Hollywood for this one, Chalamet included).
THE SOUVENIR: PART II
It’s seldom that we get sequels to indie films. Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy is one of the rarities that found a way to consistently improve upon what came before, with each chapter functioning as its own story. Last year’s The Souvenir, written and directed by Joanna Hogg, peeled back the layers of toxic relationships, substance abuse and how events can keep us from achieving personal goals. All its themes were not served on a heavy spoon but instead sprinkled throughout a very human story. I’m excited by what Hogg can further push in her dramatic continuation.
It’s a Pixar movie, so I’m destined to be moved by it. The animation studio has two original flicks in the cannon this year, with the equally-as-impressive looking Onward due out in March.
However, of the duo, Soul appears to be striking something as fresh as Toy Story and Inside Out. Boasting a creative concept that involves what happens beyond the human world may seem like questionable material for a film primarily aimed at children. Still, Pixar knows how to expertly introduce our youth to truths we would rather shield them from. I already have a Kleenex box reserved for it.
This is hopeful thinking. I saw this film at Fantastic Fest in 2019, and it was my favorite movie I saw there. If it had been released before the year closed out, Wyrm very well could have been in my No. 1 spot. It’s exactly the kind of cinematic experience I chase whenever I go to the movies — something I can relate to, be entertained by and that feels new.
In many ways, Christopher Winterbauer’s coming-of-age film is like Eighth Grade meets The Lobster. It takes place in an alternate universe where adolescent kids are forced to wear neck monitors until they have their first kiss. As if growing up wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, imagine having to wear a collar that displays your sexual maturity to everyone. It’s a delightfully weird and affecting creation.
COMING 2 AMERICA
The 1988 original comedy is one of the funniest movies out there, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I am about to let my soul glow with this long-awaited sequel. Eddie Murphy will return as Prince Akeem Joffer of Zamunda, and so will Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos (and hopefully some more “Sexual Chocolate,” too).
In Coming 2 America, Prince Akeem discovers he has a son in America and must return to find him. Dolemite is My Name filmmaker Craig Brewer directs, and Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan co-star.
Others to consider: Green Knight (TBA- David Lowery’s next), Birds of Prey (Feb. 7), King of Staten Island (Summer TBA), Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5), No Time to Die (Apr. 8), Zola (TBA – an A24 oddity), Nightmare Alley (Fall TBA – Guillermo del Toro’s next), Eternals (Nov. 6), Black Widow (May 1), Macbeth (Fall TBA), Next Goal Wins (TBA – Taika Waitit’s next) and Mank (TBA – David Fincher’s next).