Movies in 2024: The big hits, sure disappointments, and indie gems to expect

By Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

Dune Part Two is eagerly awaited. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Dune Part Two is eagerly awaited. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Ari Mattes takes a look at what to expect from the film world in 2024, tipping the flicks worth your time this year.

Last year was the worst for Hollywood cinema in my memory. The few excellent films such as May December and The Equalizer 3 couldn’t combat the Barbies, Napoleons and Saltburns. It means 2024, bolstered by a slew of films being released post-strike, cannot but look up.

Currently Mean Girls – a musical reimagining of the stage musical based on the excellent 2004 film – is leading the year’s box office (it looks about as enthralling as an old sock), but Self Reliance, The Beekeeper and sci-fi space thriller I.S.S. are in cinemas now and may be worth a look.

Though 2024 once again proffers a mind-numbing number of sequels, along with the now commonplace attempts to capitalise on old properties by “freshening up” material, thankfully there seem to be fewer superhero films than usual on the cards.

Denis Villeneuve is no David Lynch, but Dune Part One was an impressively immersive, stately epic, engagingly cinematic spectacle. It was overblown and pretentious, but commanded attention. Dune Part Two is eagerly awaited, even if all the best actors were killed off in part one.

Guy Ritchie has a knack for making films that just work, regardless of how often they recycle the same schtick (the gangster comedy and the serious existential thriller). Though it boasts perhaps the worst title of the year, we’ll see if, in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Ritchie is once again able to infuse incredibly hackneyed material with his signature restless energy.

Other big budget genre films include the Matthew Vaughan-directed hitman caper Argylle; Imaginary, a new Blumhouse horror film about a coercive teddy bear directed by Jeff Wadlow; and Ballerina, an action movie starring the exceptional Ana de Armas as an assassin.

Civil War, the new film from Alex Garland, has a compelling premise – in a dystopian future, journalists travel across a war-torn United States – but Garland is sure to murder it with his Statue of Liberty-sized heavy hand.

Luca Guadagnino, one of the great auteurs of the 21st century, brings us Challengers, the film I am most anticipating. While it doesn’t exactly sound thrilling – a romantic drama set in the world of tennis – his approach to multiple genres has been inventive and idiosyncratic, stylish without suffocating the resonances of the performers and medium.

Another excellent film-maker, though his works are almost diametrically opposed to Guadagnino in affect and tone, Eli Roth’s version of the video game Borderlands (starring Cate Blanchett) promises to be a cinematic sci-fi romp.

Low-key releases

As usual, there’s a bunch of American “indie” films coming out. Some may be worth checking out – such as Scrambled, a comedy about a broke, single woman who decides to freeze her eggs, and Lisa Frankenstein, a Diablo Cody-penned horror comedy about a teenage goth who reanimates a handsome corpse from the Victorian era.

The new estranged father-daughter drama Bleeding Love looks genuinely moving, starring father/daughter duo Ewan and Clara McGregor. Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, a wacky action comedy, seems like a departure from his usual stomping ground, but Linklater’s films usually display enough of a reverence for cinema that it should at least be mildly arresting.

More minor genre films include Lights Out, about an ex-soldier turned underground fighter pitted against corrupt cops (!), an absurd premise suggesting a potentially immensely satisfying film; Spaceman, a sci-fi film pairing Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan (a combination of such little sense it might make for some interesting onscreen weirdness); and Sleeping Dogs, a mystery starring Russell Crowe about an ex-detective with Alzheimer’s forced to come out of retirement to solve an old case – a dynamite premise for a thriller.

How they will turn a feature film out of the exceptional kids book of 1955 Harold and the Purple Crayon is anyone’s guess, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do. Arthur the King, a dog adventure film starring Mark Wahlberg, looks like a sweet-natured adventure yarn.

Kevin Costner returns to directing with the western epic, Horizon: An American Saga, his first film as a director since 2003’s Open Range. Costner has acted and directed in some good (if easily lampoonable) films in his career, and this one boasts an excellent supporting cast, including Jena Malone and Michael Rooker, so may be worth the effort.

Sequels, sequels, sequels!

There’s nothing wrong with a sequel in principle. Sometimes it’s delightful to return to the same scenes and characters. But many sequels are pumped out with little aesthetic merit.

Do we really need another Saw? 2024 says yes with Saw XI, in a franchise that churns out sequels as efficiently as one of Jigsaw’s horrific torture machines.

Sequels that may warrant splurging on a popcorn and choc-top include Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, following War for the Planet of the Apes, a standout film of 2017. Bad Boys for Life of 2020 rejuvenated the series and, on the back of this, I am keen for the wittily named Bad Boys 4.

The other major sequel sure to print money is Joker: Folie a Deux, a musical sequel to Joker. Why is this a musical? So it can co-star Lady Gaga? Joaquin Phoenix returns as the gauntly hilarious title character, and it’s directed again by Todd Phillips. The producers must have been so impressed by Phoenix’s dancing throughout the first they decided to give him more opportunities.

If, like me, you loathed the smarmy tone of the first two Deadpools, and think Ryan Reynolds has about as much screen presence as a brick wall, you are unlikely to race out to see Deadpool 3. But if you’re a fan, then the prospect will surely thrill you.

There’s a new Alien film, Kung Fu Panda 4, a new Godzilla vs. Kong, Despicable Me 4, a new A Quiet Place, a new Lord of the Rings, a new Lion King, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, a new Inside Out and a new Mad Max.

Smile 2 is the sequel to one of the more genuinely disquieting horror schlockers of recent years, and Damien Leone’s Terrifier 3 will probably prove popular in the ghoulishly violent horror series featuring one of the most compelling boogeymen since Freddy Kruger.

By far the two weirdest sequels to be released are Beetlejuice 2 and Gladiator 2. If Napoleon provided irrefutable proof Ridley Scott is past his prime, turning an epic story into what felt like a tedious telemovie (or an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch), then it would be hard to argue the uncalled for Gladiator 2 holds much promise. In any case, it will probably make truckloads of money – everyone who saw Gladiator will go and see it – and I’m just a snooty critic.

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice similarly hardly cried out for a sequel. The original starred Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin at the top of their game, and Michael Keaton at his scene-stealing best, and cemented Burton’s reputation as Hollywood’s master of wacky and whimsical fairy tales. But there’s nothing in the narrative that suggests the need for the return to these characters – they should have been allowed to lie dead in the graveyard.

Nostalgia trip

Beetlejuice 2, of course, continues the Hollywood push to capitalise on old property by appealing to new generations while retaining original fans.

The same can be said of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, the fourth in the series starring Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, and the first since the underwhelming third film of 1994. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is coming out in 2024, yet another new Ghostbusters film (apparently two in the 1980s weren’t enough).

The minor TV show from the 1980s, The Fall Guy, has been turned into a feature film starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt – it looks like it could be fun. The Transformers series is returning to its roots with Transformers One, an animated film that won’t have the distinction of being Orson Welles’ final screen credit. There’s a new Karate Kid film, and Twisters, a stand-alone sequel to the 1996 blockbuster hit Twister.

Perhaps the strangest “reboot” is a remake of the bone-crunching cult masterpiece of the 1980s, Rowdy Herrington’s Road House, with Jake Gyllenhaal starring in a role definitive of Patrick Swayze’s career. Directed by Doug Liman, who has a flair for visually arresting sequences, it might work, but why on earth such an acterly-actor as Gyllenhaal would take on this role is anyone’s guess. A joke? A dare? In memoriam for his relationship with Swayze during the shooting of Donnie Darko?

Nostalgia for the 1990s perhaps explains why several new romcoms are coming out, most of which look pretty low rent – Beautiful Wedding, Players, Upgraded, Musica, The Idea of You and Project Artemis, starring Scarlet Johansson and Channing Tatum, a return to the genre that defined the period.

A prequel to one of the horror masterpieces of the 1970s, The Omen, The First Omen looks like it’ll be about as necessary as the World Book encyclopaedia in 2024. Ricky Stanicky boasts an awful name, typical of a Peter Farrelly comedy. There’s a third film in the Strangers slasher film series, The Strangers: Chapter One, directed by Renny Harlin (who has fallen far from his glory days when he was directing films such as Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger).

For a similar reason, it might be interesting to watch Peter Five Eight – notable because it stars Kevin Spacey, who only a handful of years ago was one of the biggest actors in Hollywood and is now struggling to get roles in this kind of tripe.

We don’t need a (super)hero

After the glut of the last decade and a half, few superhero films are being released (the SAG strike may have something to do with it).

Madame Web, following the Spiderman-adjacent heroine, looks like much other pretentious superhero nonsense, but it does star two strong actors – the appealingly low-key Sydney Sweeney and the mesmerising Dakota Johnson. Kraven the Hunter looks like it might be worth watching, and, if you’re a fan of the Venom films (I am), then Venom 3 is one to look out for.

If you’re feeling subversive, it may be worth checking out The People’s Joker, which, following its premiere at Toronto, had its screenings cancelled because of problems with copyright – understandable for a film pitting a transgender Joker against a fascist Batman.

Other notable non-superhero films include M. Night Shyamalan’s Trap; Wolfs, a new thriller starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt; and the Barry Levinson gangster film Alto Knights starring Robert De Niro playing dual roles as competing mob bosses (what else is there for De Niro to do?), floating around Hollywood since the 1970s.

If you’re a fan of low-budget cinema, you can look forward to Mea Culpa, the new Tyler Perry legal thriller starring Kelly Rowland.

I’m intrigued by the ludicrous and delightful sounding Red One, a Christmas action film starring The Rock, keen to see new vampire film Abigail, and Leigh Whannell’s Wolf Man, following from his classic monster movie The Invisible Man. People who love music biopics (not me) might be interested in Back to Black, about Amy Winehouse, and the imaginatively named Bob Marley: One Love.

Lots of people are excited by the prospect of Robert Eggers making a new version of Nosferatu – so much so it’s set to be released on Christmas Day. Given his previous films, I am quietly confident Eggers will drain any potential joy – and terror – from the material.

There are a lot of Hollywood movies coming out, some of which might be worth watching. Luckily for cinephiles, there are certain to be plenty of non-Hollywood films on our screens in 2024.

This article is republished from The Conversation.


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