2021 will be a hugely transitional year for television and cinema as they react to our new post-pandemic habits. It could also be hugely entertaining year for audiences, as we get all those delayed 2020 releases plus some new ones. Here are my picks for three TV shows and three movies to see this year, plus a rundown of other big series and films:
Three TV shows to see
“Cobra Kai” Season 3 (Jan. 1, Netflix) – The “Karate Kid” followup saga switches from YouTube to Netflix to pick up the intense cliffhanger that saw hero Miguel seriously injure an opponent in the most epic school hallway fight ever. What’s more, Season 3 will re-introduce characters and elements from “The Karate Kid Part II,” when Daniel traveled to Okinawa.
“Clarice” (Feb. 11, CBS) – Although “The Silence of the Lambs” and its young female FBI agent are influential (see “The X-Files’ ” Scully), we only got two films with Clarice Starling herself, and only one with the iconic Jodie Foster performance. This long-gestating series – discussed as far back as when “Hannibal” was on the air — rectifies that, chronicling Starling’s time after “Silence.” Actress Rebecca Breeds certainly looks the part, if nothing else. (Also: Look for Cold Bananas’ “Hannibal” books and movies flashback series, starting later this month.)
“Better Call Saul” Season 6 (TBD, AMC) – The acclaimed saga of good-hearted but borderline-ethical lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a.k.a. Saul Goodman, wraps with a 13-episode season. That’ll make it one episode longer than “Breaking Bad.” When it ends, the debate over which of these two great Vince Gilligan series is better will likely rage through years of rewatches. (Also: Look for our “Better Call Saul” flashback series, starting later this month.)
Three movies to see
“No Time to Die” (April 2) – The Daniel Craig “James Bond” series has followed the opposite pattern of the famous “Star Trek” odd-numbered jinx. The first and third entries – “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” – are two of the all-time best “Bonds.” This fifth and final Craig film co-stars Ana de Armas (who broke out in “Knives Out”) and Oscar winner Rami Malek, good signs that the odd-numbered magic will continue.
“Don’t Breathe 2” (Aug. 13) – Fede Alvarez returns as a writer for this sequel to 2016’s surprise horror/suspense gem that made a scary star out of a character known simply as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang).
“Mission: Impossible 7” (Nov. 19) – In the previous two films, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie shepherded the “M:I” franchise through its rare arc of becoming an increasingly respected action saga as it grows older. Tom Cruise is joined by an eyebrow-raising supporting cast of actresses here, including Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff.
More blockbusters and couchbusters
DCEU TV and movies – In 2020, for the first time, the DC Extended Universe outpaced the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the public consciousness. It aims to continue the momentum from “Wonder Woman 1984” with the four-episode miniseries “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (March, HBO Max) and the movie “The Suicide Squad” (Aug. 6, theaters and HBO Max) – which itself could spin off into a TV series called “Peacemaker.” “Justice League” is a fascinating project, as it responds to fan demand for a rumored-but-nonexistent “Snyder cut” of the 2017 film by making it a reality with new footage and effects. And “The Suicide Squad,” a sequel to the similarly titled 2016 film that made Harley Quinn a big-screen star, brings superhero hitmaker James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) into the DC fold.
All those HBO Max movies – Disney/Fox has aimed to make Disney Plus a must-have streamer, but Warner Bros. nosed ahead with its decision to release all its pandemic-delayed 2020 movies, plus some always slotted for 2021, straight to HBO Max (in addition to theatrical release, if there are still theaters). Among the blockbusters-turned-couchbusters are “Godzilla vs. Kong” (May 21), “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (June 4), the aforementioned “The Suicide Squad” (Aug. 6), “Dune” (Oct. 1) and “The Matrix 4” (Dec. 22). Among non-franchise fare, “Reminiscence” (April 16) could be good: It’s a “Westworld”-ian SF/romance starring Hugh Jackman and Ferguson.
Marvel TV and movies – In 2020, Marvel pressed the pause button, but it has a veritable flood of projects slated for 2021. Six (!) Marvel Cinematic Universe series will stream on Disney Plus, and four (!) MCU movies will hit theaters, starting with a mildly risky slate of spinoff stars: “Black Widow” (May 7), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9; this marks the reveal of the real Mandarin, which will hopefully make people hate “Iron Man 3” less) and “Eternals” (Nov. 5). The year-capper will be the MCU’s third Tom Holland “Spider-Man” movie (Dec. 17). But even before that, Spider-verse fans are promised two (!) Sony films: Jared Leto’s “Morbius” (March 19) and Tom Hardy’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (June 25).
All those other movies pushed back from 2020 – Among other movies pushed back a year, 2021 promises to serve up Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” (March 5, Amazon Prime) and a bunch of theatrical releases. Making a case for venturing out to cinemas (especially if there’s widespread COVID vaccination) are “A Quiet Place Part II” (April 23), Anya Taylor-Joy’s “Last Night in Soho” (April 23), “F9” (the latest “Fast & Furious” film, May 28), “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (June 11), “Top Gun: Maverick” (July 2), “Death on the Nile” (Sept. 17) and “Halloween Kills” (Oct. 15).
What TV shows and movies are you looking forward to in 2021? Share your lists below.