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The Most Anticipated Movies Filmed In California
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The Most Anticipated Movies Filmed In California

From Thanksgiving feel-goods to awards contenders and scrappy indies to long-awaited sequels, this autumn has a lot of surprises in store.

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5 min read

November 11, 2021

As movie theaters begin showing signs of life and pushed-back release dates seem to finally get closer, the film-premier calendar is looking a touch more normal these days. While there are many things still in flux, fall 2021 is definitely one of the most stacked seasons in recent history. From Thanksgiving feel-goods to awards contenders and scrappy indies to long-awaited sequels, this autumn has a lot of surprises in store. But one thing’s for certain—cinema-goers are in for serious treats with the few of the most anticipated movies of the year. Here are a few filmed right here in the Golden State.

The Most Anticipated Upcoming Movies

Starring Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Gemma Chan, the Eternals are an immortal alien race emerging from hiding to protect Earth.

Eternals

Get ready for Chloé Zhao—fresh off a historic Oscar win for Nomaldand—to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a release date set in November, one of Hollywood’s most anticipated films will answer the question; will this talented director be able to conquer the universe (something she’s had tremendous luck in so far) or will she be swallowed by it? We’re banking on the former. 

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Zhao has promised that her signature filmmaking style—lush vistas, magic-hour lighting, and all that jazz—will be well on display in this film. Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, and Angeline Jolie are among the long list of powerhouse cast members, and that's how we know that this MCU cosmic ensemble adventure will prove worth the wait. The Eternals were first created by Jack Kirby in 1976 and initially imagined as an advanced, immortal race of aliens who’ve lived on Planet Earth in secret. Zhao’s adaptation seeks to expand on the comic book mythology, adding the director’s special flavor into the famed superhero world.

Olivia Munn plays Violet, who realizes that her life is built on fear-based decisions and must do everything differently to become her true self.

Violet 

In Justine Bateman’s feature directorial debut, Olivia Munn plays the title character, a successful Hollywood executive. And Justin Theroux plays—or rather voices—all the anxieties and self-doubts swirling around her head, adding another terrifying dimension to her conundrum. On top of being called one of Tinseltown's most anticipated upcoming movies, Violet is said to be Munn’s best work yet, and it’s only enlivened by the great potential that Bateman’s hearty script provides.

The Hollywood setting might be incidental, but Bateman’s status as a former teenage star and a long-time inhabitant of Hollywood adds a palpable knowledge of even the most mundane details—you can tell the director knows exactly what she’s doing. It’s through this intricate insight that Bateman draws vague avatars of the Hollywood elite, granting herself and Munn the chance to make subtle but necessary jabs at the entire establishment.

King Richard follows the journey of Richard Williams, father of two of the most gifted athletes of all time. Photo courtesy of King Richard.

King Richard

Will Smith being one of the biggest movie stars we’ve seen in the last 30 years is one of the reasons we’ve never really witnessed him play a normal person. We’re used to seeing him as a secret government agent saving the world from a giant alien cockroach or as Muhammad Ali, an actual legend considered to be the best heavyweight boxers of all time. But with King Richard, a studio biopic about Venus and Serena’s outspoken father Richard, Smith might as well have been called Ace, because he served.

The first thing we learn about Venus and Serena’s father is that Richard Williams wrote a 78-page plan outlining the entire careers of these athletes even before they were born. He heard a tennis player on TV say that she made $47,000 at a tournament and decided that having two daughters in the field wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. “I’m in the champion raising business,” Williams declared, setting up the premise for one of the most awaited Hollywood movies.

Licorice Pizza is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up in the San Fernando Valley. Photo courtesy of Licorice Pizza.

Licorice Pizza

The first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-anticipated Licorice Pizza was first screened at exclusive venues such as the Tarantino-owned New Beverly in Los Angeles. Previously titled Soggy Bottom, this movie marks Anderson’s follow-up to the six-time Oscar Nominee Phantom Thread. So what does the filmmaker have planned for his big return? Rounding up an ensemble cast consisting of Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, Alana Haim, and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late actor and frequent Anderson collaborator Phillip Seymor Hoffman), the filmmaker seems to have found the recipe for one of Hollywood’s most awaited movies. Bradley Cooper plays Jon Peters, the real-life Hollywood film producer whose credits included Barbara Streisand’s A Star is Born. And Cooper Hoffman is the lead, a teen actor navigating high school life and unexpectedly befriending Peters along the way.

Try Harder! follows students at Lowell High School as they apply and hope for admission to the college of their dreams. Photo courtesy of Try Harder!

Try Harder! 

SATs, ACTs, and early admission deadlines—a rat race every high school graduate knows a little too well. But this lead-up and all the competitive edge it brings out in students gets surprisingly affectionate treatment in Debbie Lum’s documentary Try Harder! Taking place in San Francisco’s Lowell Public High School, this breezy portrait earns its crowd-pleasing rep by not shying away from the most maddening aspects of the pre-collegiate journey. Try Harder!’s charm is largely due to the outsize of personalities that the high school students have, offering a refreshing counterargument to the belief that Gen Zers are nothing more than TikTok-obsessed, and antisocial outsiders. In Lum’s work, they’re big-hearted nerds like all of us.

West Side Story is an upcoming American romantic musical drama film starring Rachel Zegler in her feature film debut and Ansel Elgort.

West Side Story

The official West Side Story from 20th Century Studios says: “It tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City.” Steven Spielberg took on this project based on the iconic Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim musical and cast Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. This is Hollywood’s most anticipated upcoming movie right now; the 1961 adaptation of the musical was a cultural juggernaut with 10 Oscar wins—this includes Best Picture, so it’s safe to say people are really expecting a masterpiece. 

To achieve the greatness of its predecessor, Spielberg teamed up with frequent collaborator Tony Kushner, who earned screenwriting Oscar nominations for penning the director’s famed Munich and Lincoln

Pete "Maverick" Mitchell keeps pushing the envelope after years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators. Photo courtesy of Top Gun: Maverick.

Top Gun: Maverick

A quarter-century after Tom Cruise’s Maverick took to the skies, he decided to return to the cockpit—stunts and everything, obviously. By now, the eager student has become the teacher in one of the most anticipated sequels of all time: Top Gun: Maverick. Pushing the envelope after years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Maverick must confront the past while training a new squad of graduates for a dangerous mission with the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice. His ward also includes the son of his late BFF Goose, played by Miles Teller.

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