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Pop-culture preview: 21 releases to look forward to in 2021

<p>Warner Bros.’s decision to release their 2021 slate, including “Dune” and “In The Heights,” on HBO Max has been controversial.</p>

Warner Bros.’s decision to release their 2021 slate, including “Dune” and “In The Heights,” on HBO Max has been controversial.

This year, more than any other, is about looking forward to brighter, more exciting days. The entertainment industry, after facing unprecedented setbacks due to the pandemic, will look to this year as an opportunity to bounce back and make up for the fairly limited 2020 release schedule. While there are hundreds of projects in the works that will release in 2021, it seems fitting to take a sneak peek at 21 films, shows and video games that will fulfill many media consumers’ entertainment cravings.

Marvel Studios' “Black Widow” is one of the most anticipated movies pushed back to this year. This action-spy thriller follows Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff long before she became part of the mighty Avengers. If her complicated past won’t draw movie fans, the casting of David Harbour and Florence Pugh certainly will. The 25th James Bond Film “No Time to Die” is another spy thriller delayed by more than a year, fearing an unsafe and unsuccessful opening. And for Bond, it makes perfect sense to wait, since it’s Daniel Craig’s fifth and final time playing Bond. In this installment, he comes out of retirement to face a scarred villain portrayed by Rami Malek.

Warner Bros.’s decision to release their 2021 slate on HBO Max has been controversial to say the least, but it means that we won’t have to worry about any delays for three major films. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” will easily take the musical world by storm, “Dune” will stake a claim for sci-fi fans’ attention and “Matrix 4” will see Keanu Reeves return to his iconic role in the franchise after 18 years.

Speaking of long-awaited returns, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law will reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson in “Sherlock Holmes 3,” and if rumors surrounding the upcoming “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sequel are to be believed, we could see former Spider-Men Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield don the webbed suit alongside Tom Holland to create the ultimate multiverse experience. While many film companies have had to make tough decisions to delay their movie or release it on a streaming service, TV productions were free from this burden and surprised audiences with myriad projects that persuaded eager consumers to subscribe to all the streaming giants.

WandaVision” premiered Jan. 15 to critical acclaim. The off-beat show pays homage to television’s history, yet creates a new and explorative story no Marvel fan would ever expect. Marvel has also given Tom Hiddleston’s “Loki” free reign in his solo show, and while the trailer only leaves us in more confusion as to what the show will be, audiences can comfortably expect tricks and deception galore from the god of mischief.

Upcoming TV adaptation “Dopesick” is expected to harrowingly capture Beth Macy’s bestselling book on the opioid crisis in America, and the surprising announcement of a “Lord of the Rings” TV series on Amazon will expand beyond J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novels and take a look into the past before any of the events of the Lord of the Rings novels and films as we know it.

Fans of “Downton Abbey” will enjoy the same team’s 19th century period drama “The Gilded Age” on HBO Max, while fans of musical comedy and John Mulaney won’t be surprised to hear that the talented kids from his 2019 “Sack Lunch Bunch” special will return for two sequels later this year on Comedy Central.

One television special the world missed out on, of course, was the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While there is still uncertainty about whether the games will actually proceed, Olympians and fans alike have missed the international competition and hope to see it bounce back.

The pandemic has managed to boost the video game industry as people had more time to spend indoors, and the recent release of next generation consoles indicates the industry’s intent to keep the entertainment buzz going even when things return to a more normal state. Nintendo is bringing some of their best this year by giving “Super Mario 3D World,” a favorite of the Wii U games, a home on the Nintendo Switch with an expansion titled, “Bowser’s Fury.” The Nintendo 64 classic “Pokémon Snap” will also make a (revamped) return on the Switch with new islands to explore and fulfill any person’s photography passions.

Sony has several exclusive projects coming out this year, and it’s no surprise that their 2017 success “Horizon Zero Dawn” will be followed by “Horizon Forbidden West,” which is set in a far-future, post-apocalyptic world filled with robotic predators and the last of humanity. However, adventure seekers should look no further than “Deathloop,” a time-bending assassin drama that could define a new generation of single player narratives on the PlayStation 5.

Microsoft is hoping that the delay of their next generation headliner ‘’Halo Infinite” won’t affect sales, especially after a poor gameplay demo earlier last year. The developer’s commitment to a well-polished game may signal a new era for Microsoft and gaming at large, where quality is prioritized over corporate deadlines.

One game that may fall under the radar is “Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga,” due to the inundation of Lego Star Wars titles year after year. This complete collection is a comprehensive yet humorous take on the iconic film franchise that will easily be enjoyed by Star Wars fans, Lego enthusiasts and everyone in between. Giancarlo Esposito’s outstanding performance as Moff Gideon in Star Wars’ “The Mandalorian” showed how perfect of a villain he can be, so his casting in “Far Cry 6,” is bound to introduce us to a merciless antagonist ready to terrify "Far Cry" fans.

The 21 projects outlined are only a sliver of what’s to come this year. Productions are hard at work to deliver entertaining narratives while staying safe, so whether it’s in a spaced-out, sanitized movie theater or an at-home entertainment station, these projects can make 2021 a little more enjoyable for all of us.

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