HEAT VISION

Winter's Upcoming Action and Sci-Fi Releases

'Birds of Prey' and 'Mulan' are just the start of blockbuster movie-making for this season.
'Birds of Prey'   |   Courtesy of Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
'Birds of Prey' and 'Mulan' are just the start of blockbuster movie-making for this season.

The future is now. New season. New year. New decade. New movies. So we may not have flying cars yet and Los Angeles looks nothing like the cyberpunk reality of Blade Runner, but the future has arrived all the same. Lucky for us, we have plenty of movies to keep our eyes on the future, hopefully leading us away from dystopia and providing some relief from reality. While blockbuster season is still months away, winter 2020 has quite the selection of science fiction and action films to tide us over until April and the start of summer movie season.

Below, take a look at what's to come.

Bad Boys for Life (Sony Pictures)

Release Date: Jan. 17

What's it about? Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett reteam for one last ride in this third installment of the Bad Boys series. The film stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

What's unique about it? It's been almost seven years since we last saw the Bad Boys onscreen, and the third installment has been in development for almost as long. Even though their characters are suffering a midlife crisis, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence haven't missed a beat. Though Michael Bay isn't back in the director's chair, filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah look game to deliver the high-stakes action, explosions and banter we've come to love from the franchise. The Bad Boys may be headed out but they look to be kicking the year off in style.

The Gentlemen (STX)

Release Date: Jan. 24

What's it about? An American expat runs into trouble when word gets out that he plans to sell his marijuana empire. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.

What's unique about it? Guy Ritchie has spent the past several years in the blockbuster field, delivering hits like Aladdin (2019) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) and misses that should have been hits like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). Now he's heading back to his roots with the kind of films he made his name on. While in true Ritchie fashion we can't quite parse through the trailer, we do know The Gentlemen boasts an all-star cast, fun action beats and amusing accents, making it look like one of the year's earlier surprises and a solid return to form for the unmistakable director.

The Rhythm Section (Paramount Pictures)

Release Date: Jan. 31

What's it about? A woman becomes an assassin, seeking revenge against those responsible for the plane crash that killed her family. The film stars Blake Lively, Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown.

What's unique about it? This spy thriller from director Reed Morano (The Handmaid's Tale) is from James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. The Rhythm Section looks like a major turn for Lively, who has emerged as a real presence with recent performances in The Shallows (2016) and A Simple Favor (2018). The trailer promises a hard-as-nails action thriller that could land Lively and Morano a much deserved franchise.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Warner Bros.)

Release Date: Feb. 7

What's it about? After splitting up with the Joker, Harley Quinn teams up with Black Canary, the Huntress, Rene Montoya and Cassandra Cain to take down crime lord Black Mask. The film stars Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor.

What's unique about it? The first superhero film of 2020 in a year led by comic book films directed by women, Birds of Prey is the first R-rated film in DC's cinematic universe. Warner Bros. found tremendous success with Joker last fall, and while Birds of Prey is connected to the larger DC universe and isn't vying for Oscar buzz, the popularity of Harley Quinn isn't to be underestimated. Director Cathy Yan looks to bring a punk rock energy to the superhero team-up film and will certainly give fans something to rally behind as Harley Quinn, and hopefully her crew, become all the more central to Warner Bros.' plans going forward.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount Pictures)

Release Date: Feb. 14

What's it about? Based on the popular video game series, an anthropomorphic hedgehog from outer space teams up with a small-town cop in order to escape a government agency looking to harness his speed powers. The film stars Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough and Jim Carrey.

What's unique about it? After the whole Sonic design disaster last year that led Paramount to redo the VFX of the lead character, we can't help but be curious about the final project. Personal expectations aren't high, but if Jeff Fowler's film hits with younger audiences and fans of the video games, then that'll be a win. Plus it looks like Jim Carrey is having a blast, and that may be worth the price of admission alone.

Onward (Disney)

Release Date: March 6

What's it about? In a world populated by magical creatures, two teenaged brothers go on a quest for magic so that they might spend a day with their deceased father. The film stars Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer.

What's unique about it? In true Pixar fashion, Onward looks to be deeply amusing and a real tearjerker. The feature debut of longtime Pixar animator Dan Scanlon, Onward's urban fantasy setting seems perfectly primed for a current pop culture landscape dominated by a resurgence of mainstream fantasy with Game of Thrones, The Witcher and Dungeons and Dragons. The film could do for fantasy what The Incredibles did for superheroes 15 years ago. And the Marvel fan in us can't help but get a kick out of Holland and Pratt sharing the screen again, even if they're animated.

Bloodshot (Sony Pictures)

Release Date: March 13

What's it about? Based on the best-selling Valiant comic book, a soldier killed in action is brought back to life with nanotechnology. But his new gifts come with a cost, as the company that revived him not only controls his body but his memories. The film stars Vin Diesel, Toby Kebbell, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan and Guy Pearce.

What's unique about it? While Valiant Comics may not have the brand recognition of Marvel or DC, it is one of the biggest publishers in the comic industry and its books run a wide range of characters and subgenres. There's hope that Bloodshot launches a franchise and injects some variety into the ever popular superhero-movie landscape dominated by Marvel and DC. Director Dave Wilson, a longtime visual effects animator, makes his feature debut with a film that looks to pack the full-bodied action audiences expect from a Vin Diesel movie along with the sci-fi concepts and moral quandaries that cast it as a successor to Robocop (1987).

Mulan (Disney)

Release Date: March 27

What's it about? A young Chinese woman disguises herself as a male soldier in order to save her father and protect China from Hun warriors. The film stars Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Yoson An, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li and Jet Li.

What's Unique about it? Of all the Disney remakes that have come out in recent years, Mulan looks like the one most likely to do its own thing without being restrained by the animated film. It is making some major departures from the 1998 animated film, including a lack of musical numbers, and Mushu. But director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) looks intent on delivering an epic action film that includes elements of Chinese legend and folklore. Although rumored to have a massive production budget, the film's success could lead to Disney taking greater creative chances with its readaptations.

Mark your calendars and plan your trips to the movies, escaping reality for a short while. Explosions, magic, superheroes, spies and hedgehogs await.

  • Richard Newby
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