Film Reviews

Films of 2024

Published December 31, 2023
Anya Taylor-Joy is Furiosa about something in the latest Mad Max sequel

It’s been a trend for years, but 2024 is shaping as a cinematic smörgasbord of Hollywood sequels and remakes. The industry seems to have grown so risk-averse it’s unwilling to take a chance on new stories and unfamiliar characters – which may be viewed as an incipient threat to creativity and talent, or a great incentive for independent productions. Nevertheless, it’s the big studios, not the indies, that are sending out the press releases.

The smaller features that grab the headlines in 2024 will emerge gradually via the worldwide network of film festivals. Who, for instance, would have forseen Parasite’s success in 2019, or the ridiculous adulation showered on Everything, Everywhere, All at Once at last year’s Academy Awards?

Paul Mescal does his best Rusty impersonation in ‘Gladiator 2’

The big sequels to watch out for include Dune Part Two (29 Feb), Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (28 Mar.), Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (23 May), Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (23 May), Deadpool 3, Alien: Romulus, Beetlejuice 2, Joker: Folie á Deux, and Gladiator 2 (all TBA). One can also expect the continuation of the Spider Man movie that broke off in the middle, with words, ‘End of Part One’. Long before that, (on 14 Feb) you’ll be able to sample another spidery confection, called Madam Web, in which Dakota Johnson becomes the latest Hollywood star to embarrass herself in a superhero outfit for a suitably large fee.


Throw in remakes of Mean Girls, The Color Purple and F.W. Murnau’s vampire classic, Nosferatu, which is being re-vamped by Robert Eggers, and you’re bound to feel a twinge of déjà vu.

Old & new ghouls in ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’

This is only a small selection from the conveyor-belt of sequels. Kung Fu Panda, for instance, is up to No. 4, with no end on sight. I’ll be surprised if we get through twelve months without another installment in the relentless Star Wars franchise, although you’ll have to wait until 2025 if you’re counting down the days until the release of Fast and Furious 11.

Remember, not all sequels are bad. The Godfather Part Two, is one of the all-time great movies. Even the most recent Hunger Games was, to my mind, an improvement on its predecessors. Dune Part One was so dull that Part Two must surely be better.

Something gets up Timothée Chalamet’s nose in ‘Dune: part 2’

On the whole, sequels tend to succeed when the original directors remain in charge. And so, with George Miller helming Furiosa, Ridley Scott back for Gladiator 2, and Tim Burton returning for Beetlejuice 2, we can keep our fingers crossed. Todd Philips’s Joker was one of the hits of 2019, but the director will have to work hard to reproduce the same mixture of social and psychological tension a second time around, with Joaquin Phoenix back in the lead role, and Lady Gaga playing Harley Quinn.

Among this year’s significant biopics, the first offering is Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla (18 Jan.) which reverses the usual focus of the Presley marriage, best described as All About Elvis. In Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, for instance, Priscilla scored hardly more than a cameo in the King’s illustrious career. I‘ve yet to see the film, but Coppola badly needs a hit. She showed us what she could do in Lost in Translation (2003) but has subsequently struggled to recapture that groove. Priscilla’s story is a promising subject.

Billy Skarsgård is the gorgeous new Nosferatu

Look out for two other biopics with a musical bent: Bob Marley: One Love, and Back to Black, on chanteuse maudite, Amy Winehouse. I thought at first glance that Ben Kingsley was playing the famous reggae meister, but it’s actually Kingsley Ben-Adir. Banish all thoughts of Gandhi in dreadlocks gyrating on stage, even though it might have been a lock for an Oscar nomination.

The Amy Winehouse film is being directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, who gave us that solid but unspectacular John Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy (2009). Marisa Abela plays Amy, in what she is probably hoping will be a breakout role. Taylor-Johnson will need to be at the top of her game to make a better Winehouse film than Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy (2015). In both the Marley and Winehouse flicks, one can confidently expect the music to distract from any cinematic deficiencies.

Priscilla smells peanut butter & jelly on Elvis’s breath, ‘Priscilla’

On past performances alone, I’m looking forward to Todd Haynes’s May December (1 Feb.), Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves (14 Feb.), Ethan Coen’s Drive Away Dolls (22 Feb.), Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers (24 Apr.), Bong Joon-ho’s Mickey 17 and Jeff Nichols’s The Bikeriders (both TBA).

The Haynes film is a double-header with Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. It concerns an actress who goes to meet the woman she will play in a film – a former teacher who began a relationship with a 13-year-old student that would last 23 years. There’s no truth to the rumour than Brigitte Macron was approached for the role.

In the park with Aki Kaurismaki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’


Aki Kaurismäki has given us a typically poignant and whimsical tale of two misfts who find love amid a range of banal obstacles. At the other end of the spectrum lies Coen’s high-octane, same-sex roadtrip, starring rising star, Margaret Qualley and emerging Aussie actor, Geraldine Viswanathan. Guadagnino’s Challengers looks at a love triangle in the world of top-level tennis, in which new Hollywood heartthrob, Zendaya, shares the lead with two boofy blokes. Bong’s Mickey 17, is a science fiction mystery, featuring Robert Pattinson as an “expendable”, whose mind is transferred from one body to another. Hopefully the new body will display superior acting ability.

Jeff Nichols, a maker of low-profile, quality films, is taking on the bikie genre that gave us productions as diverse as The Wild One and Stone. Nichols should be slightly more nuanced in his approach. If you didn’t get enough of Austin Butler in Elvis, he’s back in this movie, along with Jodie Comer and Michael Shannon.

Jeff Nichols’s ‘The Bikeriders’

Among other non-Hollywood films set to launch, are the two major prize winners at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival: Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall (25 Jan.), which took out the Palme d’Or; and recipient of the Grand Jury Prize, Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Interest (22 Feb.). The former details an investigation into the mysterious death of a famous novelist’s husband in an isolated location in the French Alps.

Glazer’s film presents a controversial view of Auschwitz through a focus on the Nazi commanders who seek to build a comfortable life for themselves away from ‘work’. It sounds more chilling than any number of action-packed war dramas.

Gardening tips from Auschwitz, ‘Zone of Interest’

A last ‘foreign’ film of note is Subtraction, by Iranian director, Mani Haghighi. Every year the Iranians make a handful of excellent social realist features, in defiance of the most stringent censorship in their own country. The result is a cinema of moral dilemmas that addresses issues pertinent to all nations. In this story, a Tehran couple meets their doubles – and that’s all I know so far.

I wish I could reel off a list of Australian movies one wil be able to see in 2024, but aside from the Hollywood-adjacent Furiosa, the only movie that has been getting any decent pre-publicity is Force of Nature: The Dry 2 (8 Feb.), which features Eric Bana’s return as not-all-that-interesting copper, Aaron Falk. Robert Connolly’s The Dry (2020), was a solid film by local standards, and one expects the sequel to be much the same. It’s disappointing though, that on the cusp of the new year, this is the pick of the Aussie litter.

Bana in the Bush, ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’

Cut to the here & now. While you’ve got a liitle time over the summer holidays, you’ll be able to see Dream Scenario (1 Jan.), a superior cult movie, in which Nicolas Cage plays a mild-mannered professor who inexplicably finds himself appearing in the dreams of thousands of strangers. It’s fun at first but matters soon take a turn for the worse.

Feel-good Pacificana comes in the form of Next Goal Wins (1 Jan), a comedy by Taika Waititi, in which Michael Fassbender plays the coach given the task of lifting American Samoa off the bottom of the world soccer rankings. It’s not earth-shattering stuff, but it’s a lot of fun.

Next up are The Boys in the Boat and Ferrari (both 4 Jan.), true stories of high achievers. The former, directed by George Clooney and starring Joel Edgerton as the coach, introduces us to a group of working-class lads from Seattle who rowed their way to the Berlin Olympics in 1936, against all the odds. It’s a wonderfully old-fashioned style of movie in which the Americans are allowed to be the good guys again, rather than a horde of racists and brutes.

Michael Fassbender teaches American Samoa how to play soccer – ‘Next Goal Wins’

Ferrari is a late-life bio pic of Enzo Ferrari, that spends as much time examining his complicated conjugal arrangements as his racing cars. The appropriately named Adam Driver continues his series of portrayals of Italian tycoons, following 2021’s Maurizio Gucci. It’s a stop-start film, but good on the home stretch.

Two other notable January releases are Sean Durkin’s wrestling drama, The Iron Claw, which looks intriguing, although I’ve yet to see it; and Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which is irresistible. Paul Giamatti puts in an outstanding performance as the grumpy, old classics teacher at a boys’ school, given the task of looking after the students who stay on over Christmas. The movie was a sleeper in the United States but has gradually become an Oscar favourite.

With apologies to Ferrari, the year gets off to a strong start, but after a few laps don’t be surprised if the pace begins to fall away under the sheer crush of sequels.


Published in the Australian Financial Review, 26 December, 2023