Big screen blockbusters transfer to streaming sites

Lily James as Peggy Preston in The Dig Picture: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX

Lily James as Peggy Preston in The Dig which opens on January 29 on Netflix - Credit: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

Last year was not a classic one for cinema. Lockdown in March forced cinemas and theatres to close their doors and when they eventually allowed to re-open in the summer the major studios were reluctant to provide much in the way of new movies for them to screen.

For months cinemas survived on re-released classics, documentaries and smaller independent releases – which while gathering good reviews from critics didn’t have a broad enough appeal to draw audiences back into the multiplex.

The biggest winner of the lockdown has been the rise of the streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime and specialist films sites like the one run by the BFI, the MUBI film hub and Curzon Home Cinema.

Films that were destined for a cinema release were either postponed or released on streaming sites. Now that cinemas are shut again, studios are looking to premiere their major releases online even if cinemas remain shut.

Warner Brothers and Disney have both enthusiastically embraced online streaming and the other major players are now looking at simultaneous releases in 2021. With two years of high profile blockbusters waiting in the wings, the studios are now anxious to recoup their investment and clear the backlog.

Here are some of the high profile movies that we should be seeing in 2021 – on our favourite streaming sites and maybe in cinemas, if the vaccine works quickly enough.

B25_24872_CNomi (Lashana Lynch) and James Bond (Daniel Craig) in NO TIME TO DIE an EON P

Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and James Bond (Daniel Craig) in No Time To Die which finally gets a release in April - Credit: Nicola Dove 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.

No Time To Die; dir: Cary Joji Fukunaga, starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek.  Release: April 2, 2021
Daniel Craig’s twice delayed swansong as James Bond should finally see light of day this spring. Craig will be joined on screen by Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek as a mysterious new villain while co-stars Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris and Christoph Waltz reprise familiar roles.

The film finds Bond seemingly retired living the good life in the Caribbean but he soon finds himself lured back into a dark, secret world which refuses to let him go. This will be the 25th outing for Ian Fleming’s iconic secret agent.

Blithe Spirit, based on the play by Noël Coward, stars Academy Award® and BAFTA winner Judi Dench (S

Blithe Spirit, based on the play by Noël Coward, stars Judi Dench alongside Leslie Mann, Dan Stevens and Isla Fisher - Credit: Sky Cinema Original/StudioCanal

Blithe Spirit; dir: Edward Hall; starring: Judi Dench, Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann. Release: January 15, 2021
Noel Coward’s spiritualist comedy gets a 21st century makeover by Sir Peter Hall’s son Edward after his work on Downton Abbey and Mission Impossible franchises. A spiritualist medium holds a séance for a writer suffering from writer's block but accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife, which leads to an increasingly complex love triangle with his current wife of five years. 

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The Dig; dir: Simon Stone; starring: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James. Release: January 29 2021

The Dig tells the story of the discovery of Sutton Hoo. Filmed in Suffolk, it should feature a lot of the real locations and tell the story of landowner Mrs Pretty, her ‘ghosts’ and the tenacity of archaeologist Basil Brown who unearthed the historic finds. 

Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig Picture: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX

Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig, the story of the discovery of Sutton Hoo - Credit: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

Netflix had funded a joint cinema/streaming release but with lockdown once again shutting cinema doors it is now likely just to receive an online release. With war clouds looming the film will show what a race against it was to get the site excavated and recorded before anti-tank and anti-glider traps were sunk into the landscape.

Promising Young Woman; dir: Emerald Fennell; starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie. Release: February 12, 2021
Double dose of Carey Mulligan this spring as Promising Young Woman finally reaches our screens after a year of wowing audiences on last year’s festival circuit and then becoming a Covid-casualty as its release was postponed.

Promising Young Woman is the creation of writer-director Emerald Fennell who is best known for playing Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown. Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, who likes to fake blacking-out drunk behaviour on the weekends, just to see how far her nice-guy dates will go with someone who they think can’t resist and won’t remember in the morning.
It was one of the most talked about films in the world’s film festivals in 2020, it’ll be interesting to see how audiences react in 2021. There is already Oscar and BAFTA chatter.

Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century

Frances McDormand in the film Nomadland which may land her another Oscar - Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland; dir: Chloé Zhao; starring: Frances McDormand, Gay DeForest, Patricia Grier. Release: February 19. 2021
Last year as Miriam Margoyles roamed the Australian outback for a TV series she met a woman in her late 60s who lived and travelled in a camper van. This was her home. Miriam admired her courage but admitted she couldn’t contemplate such an existence as a way of life and yet for a lot of people, particularly women in their 60s and 70s, this is becoming their realty.

Frances McDormand plays just such a woman in Chloé Zhao’s docu-fictional movie about the phenomenon of “nomads”. This has become a worrying part of life in the United States where the recently retired or about to retire 60-somethings have found that the 2008 crash wiped out their pension pot and now they roam the country in campervans looking for seasonal work.
Could this deliver another Oscar for the versatile Frances McDormand? It just might.

Last Night in Soho; dir: Edgar Wright; starring:  Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Rita Tushingham, Margaret Nolan, Terence Stamp  Release: April 23
Edgar Wright’s latest Brit-pic tells the story of a contemporary young girl, passionate about fashion design, who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s but discovers that swinging London is not what it seems. She meets a dazzling young singer who would later become her idol but she discovers that time plays tricks and everything quickly starts to fall part in this time-jumping psychological thriller.
Wright also gets some genuine 60s stars in Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham and Margaret Nolan to play supporting roles. 

Ammonite; dir: Francis Lee; starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, Fiona Shaw. Release: March 26, 2021
This much anticipated true-life tale of Victorian sexuality finally gets a release date having been one of the hits of last year’s London Film Festival.

Kate Winslet plays 19th-century palaeontologist Mary Anning, whose pioneering ideas and extraordinary fossil finds were appropriated without acknowledgment by the male scientific establishment. Saoirse Ronan plays Charlotte Murchison, a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea but whose friendship with Anning soon becomes much more.

It’s a beautifully realized film which demonstrated that sometimes anger masks another emotion entirely.

Top Gun: Maverick; dir: Joseph Kosinski; starring: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm.  Release July 9, 2021
After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, back among the clouds, pushing boundaries as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.

With the passing of the years he still feels the need to prove that he is a ‘Maverick’. Jennifer Connelly is Tom’s love interest and Miles Teller plays Rooster Bradshaw, the son of Goose Bradshaw played by Anthony Edwards in the original film. Good news is that Val Kilmer is back as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky.

The studios are hoping that Tom Cruise fans will still make this one of the summer’s top blockbusters and who knows cinemas maybe re-opened by then.

Black Widow; dir: Cate Shortland; starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, William Hurt. Release:  May 7, 2021
The superhero blockbuster of the summer and one that has been a long-time coming. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, for so long the backbone of the Marvel Universe, co-star of the Captain America, Iron Man and Avengers films finally gets a movie of her own.

Scarlett Johansson is the former FSB agent Natasha Romanoff in a movie that takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War. She is isolated and must fight to survive. As the old USSR breaks up, the government tries to kill her but as the action moves to present-day New York, we catch up with her as a freelance operative.

The film also brings in Florence Pugh as an ally of Romanoff’s and Rachel Weisz is Melina Vostokoff, her handler from her former life in the world of espionage.

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