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:
The Oscars are expanding the 2020 movie year by two months in order for more films to get released and compete for statuettes. That’s a smart move, but on Dec. 31, I’m happy to make my year-end list and say good riddance to this year of the pandemic and all it wrought – including the push-back of many films to 2021 and the beginning of the end of cinemas. But we’re not tossing out the movies with the year itself, because enough good ones took the financial risk of coming straight to our home theaters. These were my 10 favorites:
Like everything else, TV took a hit in this year of the pandemic, but networks felt the impact more so than streaming and premium. The latter categories put out several good short-form series or seasons, accelerating what had been a gradual shift to that format and making a tough year bearable. These were my 10 favorite TV series of 2020:
With Christmas approaching, it’s a good time look back at the films of Shane Black, the unofficial King of Christmas among moviemakers. Although he may not have any overt watch-it-every-year “Christmas movies” – his first hit, “Lethal Weapon,” comes closest to that celebrated status – he peppers holiday trappings into his films more than any other major filmmaker today.
For roughly the first half of the season, “Dark Angel” Season 2 (2001-02, Fox) is in a sophomore slump to match the inevitable ratings slump that goes with Fox’s Friday-night sci-fi dumping ground. Then it remarkably turns things around and closes even more strongly than in Season 1. Logan (Michael Weatherly) regains his Season 1 hairstyle and glasses, and newcomers Alec (Jensen Ackles) and Joshua (Kevin Durand) finally get episodes that make them fully realized members of the hero team.
In retrospect, “The Dark Knight” (2008) perhaps didn’t need much of a promotional boost; it was one of those movies that came out at the right time, en route to box-office records. Nonetheless, it did have a neat little tie-in “movie,” the Eastern-style animated “Batman: Gotham Knight.” Much like “The Animatrix,” this is a series of short segments – six of them, totaling 75 minutes – that purports to flesh out the larger universe.
For 21 years, from 1998’s short story “Maguffins” through 2018’s Joss Whedon-penned “The Reckoning,” Buffyverse stories unspooled in comic books – with Buffy always having a home at Dark Horse and Angel and Spike making a brief foray over to IDW in the middle years. For most of this time, four-color “Buffy” and “Angel” stories were fans’ lone source of further adventures.
Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last year of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1:
From his first writing credit (1981’s adaptation of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”) through his most recent writer-director gig (the 2013 TV movie “Phil Spector”), David Mamet has given us a new appreciation for the way men talk to each other, outlined the keys to pulling off long cons, and provided insightful looks into controversial historical figures ranging from the Prohibition era to tabloid headline-grabbers.
From 1997’s “Halloween Rain” through 2008’s “One Thing or Your Mother” — and with the bonus of Kiersten White’s “Slayer” duology in recent years — the Buffyverse tie-in novels gave us a way to escape into the world of Slayers and vampires between WB New Tuesdays and after the shows went off the air. But with nearly 100 original “Buffy” and “Angel” novels out there (more if you count novelizations of episodes), it can be intimidating to figure out where to start.