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Film preview: New action-packed theatrical releases bring thrills to winter chill

Emily Hu / Daily Bruin

By Ana Camila Burquez, Ruwani Jayasekara, Puja Anand, and Gavin Meichelbock

Jan. 18, 2024 4:24 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 21 at 7:56 p.m.

Cinema’s fiery films will be keeping audiences warm this winter.

While temperatures might be dropping, the season’s lineup of upcoming releases is soaring sky-high. From new installments of action-packed franchises to outstanding original thrillers, this assortment of films could warm any viewer’s heart.

Read on for the Daily Bruin’s selections to chill out with this quarter.

[Related: TV preview: Five upcoming shows to start watching this winter]

(Courtesy of Apple TV+)
Dua Lipa (left) and Henry Cavill (right) star in “Argylle.” The reinvented spy movie will premiere Feb. 2. (Courtesy of Apple TV+)

“Argylle” (Universal Pictures, Apple TV+)

“Argylle” isn’t your typical book adaptation.

Matthew Vaughn’s latest project is hitting the screen Feb. 2 with the new spy movie “Argylle.” Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill and Dua Lipa, the film tells the story of author Elly Conway (Howard), whose espionage novels about agent Argylle (Cavill) start mirroring real life. The film is an adaptation of the book by the real Elly Conway, which Vaughn said inspired him to reinvent spy movies with an author simultaneously writing as the movie progresses.

The trailer takes a humorous approach to spy movies, focusing on the journey Elly embarks on after realizing the power of her novels. The film takes Elly into a real-life espionage world alongside her cat, Alfie – who takes the spotlight in the trailer multiple times – while trying to escape those who are interested in her “future-telling” abilities.

Full of secrecy, “Argylle” will take the audience into the espionage world in a way they’ve never seen before.

-Ana Camila Burquez

(Courtesy of Sony Pictures)
Dakota Johnson plays the titular role in “Madame Web.” The Sony superhero film is set to release Feb. 14. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

“Madame Web” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Sony’s latest superhero outing is bringing Spider-Women into the not-so-Spider-Verse.

On Feb. 14, Sony swings into its live-action Spider-Verse with a new adaptation of the character Madame Web. The film stars Dakota Johnson in the titular role as she goes from being a New York paramedic to the all-seeing protector of the Spider-Verse. The trailer shows Madame Web bringing together a group of three young Spider heroes, Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor). Madame Web must use her newfound connection to the Spider-Verse to protect the three girls from an unknown arachnid adversary (Tahar Rahim).

While the marketing focuses on the film’s action set pieces and reality-bending fight scenes, “Madame Web” is more intricate than it seems – much like a spider’s web. The film also features a young Ben (Adam Scott) and Mary Parker (Emma Roberts), Peter Parker’s uncle and mother, respectively. With the inclusion of younger versions of these characters, a fresh take on the Spider-Man mythos, never before seen on the big screen, will be explored.

With its focus on unfamiliar heroes and the prospects to expand on familiar side characters, “Madame Web” is shaping up to be a welcomed addition to Sony’s live-action Spider-Verse.

– Gavin Meichelbock

(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides in “Dune: Part Two.” The second film in the sci-fi book adaptation franchise will arrive in theaters March 1. (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

“Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Dune: Part Two” makes its highly anticipated return to the desert.

Following a set of delays due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, the second installment of the sci-fi franchise is slated to be released March 1, nearly three years after its predecessor’s box office success. Delving further into the relationship between Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and Chani (Zendaya), “Dune: Part Two” tells a story of power and war, resulting in a much more action-packed and stimulating film than its prequel. Fostering a newly established sense of confidence, Paul takes upon his prophesied role as the leader of the Fremen in an inevitable rebellion against the Harkonnens.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two” rounds out its star-studded cast of Academy Award nominees with the introduction of Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan and Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. Adapted from the second half of Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune,” the sequel is set to be screened in IMAX 70mm, recently popularized by Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” inviting audiences to fully immerse themselves in the spectacular visual effects and unearthly score.

Following its highly accoladed antecedent, “Dune: Part Two” is set to live up to its legacy in its journey back to the big screen.

– Ruwani Jayasekara

[Related: Film review: A triumph of absurdist fantasy, ‘Poor Things’ delivers Emma Stone at her best]

(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)
Jack Black and Awkwafina voice Po (left) and Zhen (right) in “Kung Fu Panda 4.” Nearly a decade after its third film, the franchise returns March. 8. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Kung Fu Panda 4” (Universal Pictures)

The dumpling-loving Dragon Warrior may be retiring his title soon.

One of Dreamworks’ greatest hits, the “Kung Fu Panda” series, is back with a new movie after nearly a decade. Set to release March 8, “Kung Fu Panda 4” follows the beloved Po (Jack Black) as he characteristically stumbles into becoming the next spiritual leader of the Valley of Peace. The film comes full circle with Po’s origin story, as he now must find and train a new Dragon Warrior to take his place. Directed by Mike Mitchell, the fourth installment boasts Oscar winners Ke Huy Quan and Viola Davis, with the latter playing the shape-shifting, universe-threatening villain Chameleon.

Audiences can expect to see Po grapple with the complexity of spirituality and can chuckle while he clumsily trudges along the path to inner peace, all while fighting his new foe, who threatens to channel the powers of Po’s old enemies. The trailer hints at the series’ classic style: slapstick humor in Jack Black’s deadpan vocals, quirky 2D animation and tons of exuberant action sequences. After years of build-up, this addition is sure to transport fans to Po’s absurdly hilarious world, morphing them into their childhood selves watching a panda master kung fu.

From spiritual journeys to fighting evil, this movie is far from black and white.

– Puja Anand

(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Godzilla and Kong return in “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” The next installment of the Warner Brothers Monsterverse will arrive March 29. (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (Toho Co., Ltd., Warner Bros. Pictures)

Godzilla and Kong are teaming up to put the “big” back in “big-screen.”

Three years after the 2021 box office smash hit “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the two titular Titans roar back into theaters March 29. Adam Wingard returns to direct yet another all-killer no-filler, MonsterVerse smackdown. The trailer delivers on all the action, visuals, mayhem and pink Godzilla fans have come to expect from the Warner Brothers MonsterVerse. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” will dive deep into the Hollow Earth and uncover the history of Skull Island and the legendary Titans. The film will also explore the ancient Titan War that resulted in Godzilla and Kong being the last of their species.

The title characters are set to face their most treacherous villain yet, Skar King. Seen wearing the spine of a Godzilla-like Titan as a bandolier, Skar King threatens the existence of every species as he seeks to conquer the Earth. Unable to defeat this new threat alone, Godzilla and Kong must work together to prevent Skar King from creating his empire.

If audiences can only see one film on the big screen this winter, nothing is bigger than Godzilla and Kong.

– Gavin Meichelbock

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