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Monday, February 15, 2016

25 Films To Look Forward To In 2016

As we've done since 2013, it's our annual look at the films we're most excited for over the next 12 (now technically 10 and a half) months. We've gotten past the January doldrums, and with February now halfway done, we're finally getting out of Hollywood's cinematic dumping ground. What's coming next? Here's what we think you should keep your eye out for.





31 (Harper)
Release: January 23

Rob Zombie has slowed down a considerable amount since the aughts, when he put out four fairly acclaimed horror films in six years. Since then he’s only directed the somewhat forgotten witch tale The Lords of Salem, so it is with some excitement that his new film 31 is releasing sometime this year after premiering at Sundance. What makes this one stand out is his supposed return to form–the story of carnival workers trying to survive a hellish night of being stalked by killer clowns sounds reminiscent of his best. Horror fans will be anxiously awaiting a real trailer for this one! 





The Witch (Harper)
Release: February 19

There was a lot of buzz around The Witch at last year’s Sundance, and again when the first trailer released the words “scariest” and “disturbing” definitely got thrown around. We don’t get a lot of quality period horror films these days, so the extremely creepy story of a family in 1630s New England who are being terrorized by a demonic witch living in the forest is especially interesting. The dark, candlelit cinematography looks to be moody and genuinely terrifying in ways that other recent period horror films like The Woman in Black could never be.





Triple 9 (Harper)
Release: February 26

One of a few films on this list that we picked last year, the shockingly incredible cast is alone enough to make it pretty intriguing. Gal Gadot, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, and Anthony Mackie all appear in the story of a group of criminals and corrupt cops who are planning the murder of an officer to distract from a heist. The film is directed by John Hillcoat, the Australian auteur behind The PropositionThe Road, and Lawless, all of which handle violent stories with poignancy and subtlety. Add to that my local bias–the movie takes place in and was shot in downtown Atlanta–and I’m definitely sold. 





Certain Women (Cal)
Release: March 11

Look, Kelly Reichardt is one of the best directors working today. She hasn't made a bad film, and she's made a number of very good ones, including the wonderfully tense Night Moves and Meek's Cutoff. Her newest fil m, Certain Women, just premiered at Sundance. The film, adapted from a short story collection by Maile Malloy, follows three different stories about women in Montana: In one, a woman tries to build her dream home despite setbacks from an elderly neighbor; in another, a ranch hand falls in love with her oblivious teacher at an adult education class; in a third, a lawyer struggles to be respected by a client who keeps second-guessing her. The stories are small in scale, but Reichardt has always excelled at finding little moments of beautiful, uncomfortable, harrowing, touching drama in life's smallest moments. With hope, Certain Women will follow suit.





Midnight Special (Harper)
Release: March 18

Mud was one of the best films of 2014, so needless to say we were excited to see his next feature last year, when it was originally slated. Midnight Special is decidedly more supernatural than its predecessor; it tells the story of a father (Michael Shannon) who has to take his son on a dangerous journey after the discover that the boy has super powers. Rounding out the cast are Adam Drive and Kristen Dunst, hot off celebrated performances in Star Wars and Fargo respectively. Despite the delayed release date, there’s plenty here to get us excited about Jeff Nichol’s newest.





Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Kyle) 
Release: March 25

Probably my most divisive pick, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the official start of the DC Cinematic Universe. Yes, I know, nobody liked Man of Steel apparently. Neck-breaking, grim dark, mass amounts of destruction, blah blah blah. I'm excited to finally see Batman and Superman meet on the big screen along with a big helping of Wonder Woman, and Jesse Eisenberg looking to have a ball as Lex Luthor. This is my Episode VII and I'll stand up for it until I can't anymore. I'm sure everyone has already chosen their side, but hopefully those of us that are keeping an open mind will be in for quite a treat.




The Invitation (Cal)
Release: March 25

I know very little about The Invitation. I know it's a horror movie. I know it was directed by Karyn Kusama, who did the excellent, underrated Jennifer's Body. I know it premiered at Fantastic Fest last year to rave reviews. I know I've been assured it's better to go in blind. And that's all I need to know. The Invitation will debut in theaters and on VOD in March.




Everybody Wants Some (Kyle)
Release: April 15 

The latest from Richard Linklater, visionary director of films like Boyhood and Before Midnight, looks a bit obtuse at first glance from the trailers. A story focusing on the day to day of baseball jocks in their freshman year of college, it functions as both a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused and a thematic one to Boyhood. Still, despite some iffy marketing, I have a feeling that this is just a tough movie to sell to the general public as most "hangout" movies are. Here's to his hot streak continuing!









Captain America: Civil War (Shane)
Release: May 6

Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with perhaps the most anticipated film of the bunch.  Loosely based on the Mark Millar and Steve McNiven comic of the same name, Captain America: Civil War sees the titular character facing off against his former friend Tony Stark when the two disagree about how much government oversight should be used on the Avengers.  Not only does this film see the Russo Brothers return to Cap after the hugely successful Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but this film will feature the Marvel Cinematic debuts of Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and, perhaps most anticipated, Tom Holland's Spider-man.  The hype for this one is absolutely palpable.



The Nice Guys (Cal)
Release: May 20 

Shane Black went from being essentially blacklisted after a supremely lackluster run in the 1990s to coming back absolutely on fire in the mid-2000s with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a comeback vehicle for Robert Downey Jr. and Black's own directorial debut. Since then, he managed to become the rare auteur to keep his personal directorial stamp on a Marvel Cinematic Universe title with the excellent Iron Man Three. Now, he's back in the pulpy, goofy world of private eyes and ridiculous crime with The Nice Guys. In it, bruiser Russell Crowe and PI Ryan Gosling team up to track down a missing girl in 1970s Los Angeles, and in doing so, get involved in a mob war. A simple plot, sure, but Blacks plots only matter inasmuch as they give him an opportunity for rapid-fire banter and canny subversion of macho action tropes.


The Conjuring 2 (Shane)
Release: June 10 


Three years ago, Saw director James Wan gave us the start of another unique horror franchise with The Conjuring.  Based on the actual case files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring 2 sees the couple journey to England to investigate yet another grisly haunting.  The first film was an absolute blast and, despite a mostly horrible spin-off Annabelle, its sequel has a ton of potential.  With ripe source material, a more than capable director, and two fantastic leads in Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, The Conjuring 2 is a more than welcome horror sequel that will hopefully live up to its predecessor. 


Ghostbusters (Hannah)
Release: July 15

I'm normally not a fan of franchise reboots, but when an all-female Ghostbusters film is directed by comedy director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy), I make an exception. The film features actresses Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Kristen Wiig as the rebooted team, with Chris Hemsworth appearing as the group's secretary. 




La La Land (Kyle)
Release: July 15

Whiplash, I've found over time, is one of the most rewatchable movies of 2014. Much of that credit has to go to the sharp as a whip behind the camera work of Damien Chazelle. This is his follow-up, a musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Given his aptitude toward musical stylings in his filmmaking and writing structure, I'm excited to see what he can do in this time-tested realm.


Suicide Squad (Kyle)
Release: August 5

More DC from me, this time coming from David Ayer, the first non-Snyder director to get his lens on whatever the DC movie universe is taking shape as. I like a lot of Ayer's work, particularly the all too underrated End of Watch, and his crackling script for Training Day. The trailers for this one have led to me think that it might be the big surprise hit of this year's superhero crop, with a fantastic concept (jailed supervillains have to pull off a job for the government and they'll get a possible get out of jail free card) that feels like a can't miss. Heck, it even makes Jai Courtney look exciting for once.



The Lobster (Harper)
Release: October 16


The Lobster takes place in a strange, dystopian future in which single people are given 45 days to find true love in a pastoral setting. The catch? If they fail to find their special someone, they are transformed permanently into the animal of their choice. Colin Farrell’s David finds himself facing down life as a lobster if he can’t find a mate in this surreal comedy by Greek writing/directing duo Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. Along for the ride are Rachel Weisz Ben Wishaw, John C. Reilly, and Léa Seydoux.

Pic from Arnold's previous film, Wuthering Heights
American Honey (Cal)
Release: October 29


The fact that Andrea Arnold has only made a single film since breaking out  with 2009's superb drama Fish Tank is practically a crime. Her 2011 Wuthering Heights was ambitious, heralded by a casting decision that reimagined Brontë's story in a clever, emotionally powerful way, but... well, Wuthering Heights simply isn't that good a story. Now she returns with original material in American Honey, a road trip movie about a teenage girl crossing the Midwest with a group of salesmen, partying, drinking, and just generally fucking around. It sounds wildly different from anything she's done to date, and I can't wait to see how this quiet, very British director approaches a raucous American road trip party drama.


Doctor Strange (Shane)
Release: November 4


Taking the spot that was pretty successful for Thor: The Dark World, Marvel hopes to capitalize on some of that Fall box office money with their newest magic-related franchise: Doctor Strange.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Stephen Strange, a gifted surgeon who (naturally) seeks out the mystic arts after losing the use of his hands in an accident.  Directed by Sinister's Scott Derrickson, there's a lot we still don't know about this film.  Until we get a trailer, things are still kind of up in the air in terms of how this could turn out.  I wouldn't despair too much, however, as the stunning  artistic source material of Doctor Strange's 53 year comic history offers some of the most unique visuals to ever grace the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Hooray for some experimentation!  Hopefully it works out....



Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Hannah)
Release: November 11 


The cast sounds more like a weird dream than an awards-season contender - Vin Disel, Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker - but the group comes together in a film directed by Ang Lee, the master behind Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, The Ice Storm, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. An adaptation of Ben Fountain's novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk follows a group of war veterans returning from Iraq and are sent on a victory tour, including being honored at a football half-time show. 


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Shane)

Release: November 18


While WB certainly has a lot of faith in their DC Cinematic Universe, one can't blame them for tapping the incredibly successful Harry Potter well for more oil.  Taking place around 100 years before Harry's time at Hogwarts, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tells the story of Newt Scamander, a wizard who journeys to New York City and gets into some hi-jinks when his suitcase full of magical creatures is set loose.  With a rather eclectic cast lead by Eddie Redmayne, the film marks Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's first foray into screenwriting.  As the first of a proposed trilogy, WB is banking on brand recognition as well as the talents of Rowling and returning director David Yates.  Hopefully Yates being on board doesn't give this film too similar a look to the latter Harry Potter films, instead taking on a life of its own. 


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Shane)

Release: December 16


With the resounding success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the bar has been set incredibly high for Disney's next entry in the Star Wars saga: Rogue One.  Taking place just before Episode IV: A New Hope, the film tells the story of the band of Rebels responsible for stealing the plans to the Death Star.  Marking the first live action, standalone Star Wars film to be released in theaters, Rogue One has a lot of pressure to set the tone for Disney's experimentation with anthology films between the usual saga films.  With a cast that includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, and, if rumors are to be believed, James Earl Jones returning as Darth Vader, Rogue One will also be the most diverse Star Wars film to date.  Coming off the success of his remake of Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards is one of the most exciting hires Disney has made for Star Wars.  With nostalgia for this series at an all time high, Rogue One being a period piece of sorts will likely strike the right chords with a lot of people.


Pic from Amirpour's previous film, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
The Bad Batch (Cal)
Release: TBA

Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was stylish and unpredictable, an eerie, low-key vampire tale that stubbornly refused to fit into any particular genre. Her newest film, The Bad Batch, may be bigger in scope, but my guess is it'll be no less difficult to pin down. Billed as a 'cannibal love story', Amirpour is gathering a fascinating cast - Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey - for her bloody dystopian romance that claims Mad Max and El Topo as its influences. Added bonus: It's produced by Megan Ellison, one of the great heroes of modern cinema (she produced, in 4 years, The MasterTrue GritZero Dark ThirtyHerFoxcatcher, and a half-dozen other ambitious films) and a woman with an eye for talent.



The Circle (Hannah)
Release: TBA

A film adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel by the same name, the The Circle follows an employee who joins a powerful new tech company and sees things start to fall apart. The film will be directed by James Ponsoldt, who is fresh off the success of The End of the Tour and also directed The Spectacular Now. The cast includes John Boyega, Emma Watson, Patton Oswalt, Tom Hanks, and Karen Gillen. 




The Neon Demon (Kyle)
Release: TBA

Nicolas Winding Refn has been against the ropes just a tad since the poor reception that his Drive follow-up, Only God Forgives, received. As you'll recall, I quite enjoyed that meditative ode to Tokyo Drifter, but I was in a slim minority it seems. His newest, heading to Amazon, is a horror film starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves and more. It centers on a young woman who arrives in LA as an aspiring model, only to comes across a group of women who aim to devour her vitality and youth. Refn is stylish to a fault, so I at least know this film will be lovely to behold.




Nocturnal Animals (Hannah)
Release: TBA

A Single Man remains one of the most gorgeous movies I've seen, which is nothing less than you'd expect from fashion designer Tom Ford's first directorial debut. 2016 should finally see the release of Ford's follow-up in Nocturnal Animals, a thriller and story-within-a-story of a woman who receives her estranged ex-husband's first manuscript and begins to read the novel and rehash her past. The film sold for $20 million after a bidding war at Cannes and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, Michael Shannnon, Armie Hammer, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. 




Silence (Hannah)
Release: TBA 

When Martin Scorsese makes a movie, it belongs on any most-anticipated list. Add to that the casting of Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield in the lead roles, and that goes double. Silence is a film 23 years in the making, first entering development in 1991 and then hitting delay after delay. Based on the Japanese novel by Shusaku Endo,  the film centers on two Catholic priests who teach to Japan to spread their teachings of Christianity and face violent consequences. 




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