Films of Note Remaining in 2016
Here we are, already in September, and I can honestly say that 2016 has been a pretty disappointing year in film. Most of the “much anticipated, much hyped” offerings have been boring, Jason Bourne, or just utterly abysmal, Suicide Squad. Of the films I’ve seen this year, my favorite list only includes a few really solid films; most of the ones I’m including I liked for certain characters or situations. (I’m looking at you The Secret Lives of Pets.) As is usually the case at this time of the year, I’m crossing my fingers that the remaining four months will help us finish strong. Not really holding my breath. But … I have seen trailers for some films that give me hope. Here are just a few of them:
The Magnificent Seven – This action/western directed by Antoine Fuqua stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Byung-hun Lee, and Martin Sensmeier (these are the only actors I really care about being in this film), and it’s co-written by Nic Pizzolatto of True Detective fame, and Richard Wenk. If you aren’t totally stoked, just watch the trailer. Every time I watch it, and I’ve seen it a lot, I get amped. Trailer (Sept. 23)
Storks – This animated film is about how storks have moved on from carrying babies to packages. But then an order comes in for a baby and hilarity ensues. At least I hope so. Andy Samberg voiced the main stork. The wolves cracked me up. Trailer (Sept. 23)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – The adventure/fantasy seems to have Tim Burton returning to his characteristically odd/unusual fare. This outing focuses on a home for children who, among other things, need weighted shoes to remain on the ground, have a fanged mouth in the back of her head, and a couple of burlap sack headed kids reminiscent of the creepers in The Orphanage and Trick ‘r Treat. I love and adore Eva Green, the titular Miss Peregrine, and I’m super stoked to see that she transforms into a crow. Adding to my anticipation is the fact that Jane Goldman adapts. You might know her from her screenplays for The Debt, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Trailer (Sept. 30)
The Girl on the Train – The mystery/thriller stars Emily Blunt as a divorcee who gets embroiled in a murder investigation. The director, Tate Taylor, made a splash with The Help, and the screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, the person behind Secretary, and Chloe, both decent efforts, adapted Paula Hawkins best-seller for the screen. There is a good supporting cast that includes Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Laura Prepon, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney, and Justin Theroux. Trailer (Opens Oct. 7)
The Accountant – Ben Affleck stars as a forensic accountant – also a mathematics savant – who un-cooks the books for notorious, very dangerous clients. The description alone won’t sell this crime/drama/thriller. It might sound like A Beautiful Mind but it’s not. Things seem to go very wrong for the accountant, and the trailer shows us Affleck packing some serious heat. I have great hope and expectations with Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) behind the camera, and Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, and J.K. Simmons supporting. Trailer (Oct. 14)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – I was one of the few people who really loved Jack Reacher. I didn’t get all pissy that Tom Cruise wasn’t the embodiment of the character in the book – I never read the book – and I was disappointed when they put the kibosh on sequels. For whatever reason, there IS a sequel, and I’m super stoked. I like Cruise. He hasn’t done me wrong since Minority Report – I like a few of his older films, but this sci-fi flick started his unstoppable streak for me – and it doesn’t look like he’s about to start anytime soon. As long as Reacher keeps cracking skulls, I’m good for about four more sequels. My expectations are raised by the fact that Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai) directs. Trailer (Oct. 21)
Doctor Strange (Nov. 4) – Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular doctor, this Marvel film is about a neurosurgeon who sets out to repair his hands but ends up finding himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats. I will admit that I’m a bit nervous that Scott Derrickson is co-writing and directing, because I can’t honestly say that I have liked anything he’s written. (He’s a “horror” writer responsible for Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Deliver Us From Evil.) I do like one of his co-writers, Jon Spaihts, who had a hand in Prometheus. The trailer, though, that was the stuff. It BLEW me away, because it looks a bit like the offspring of The Matrix and Dark City. And Cumberbatch, people, and Mads Mikkelsen. There was a lot of fuss about Tilda Swinton playing “The Ancient One,” because she’s not Asian. Or an old man. But she looks like a praying mantis come to life, and I think she’s supposed to be Celtic. Whatever. Watch the trailer. You will get excited, too. I think this is the film I am MOST looking forward to seeing in 2016. Will be seeing this in IMAX and 3D. Trailer
Arrival (Nov. 11) – Eric Heisserer (The Thing) adapts Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” which is about a linguist who is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. I’m not really a fan of Amy Adams, who plays the lead, but the concept is intriguing, and the trailer gives me goosebumps. I think this could be an important “contact” film. I do sometimes like films directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario); he has an interesting style, and I am a Jeremy Renner fan. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres, and this one looks as if it could be a lovely addition. Trailer
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov. 18) – Not even slightly a JK Rowling fan, but I’m into magic and wizards, so I’ll give it a whirl. I also trust Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander, and I like the supporting cast, which includes Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, and Ron Perlman. Potter fans will love to know that David Yates, who helmed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and both of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films is behind the camera on this one. Trailer
The Edge of Seventeen (Nov. 18) – I’m not usually one for teen angst/coming-of-age films, but both times I saw this trailer, I got a bit weepy. I get this girl. The premise is that Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a “loser” high schooler who feels even more alone when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her popular brother (Blake Jenner). Woody Harrelson plays a smart ass teacher, Mr. Bruner. I love Harrelson. This could become the new Juno, but only if Juno had been any good. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Trailer
The Shack (Nov. 18) – Based on William P. Young’s novel, and adapted by John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns), Destin Cretton, and Andrew Lanham, the film centers on a grieving father (Sam Worthington) who gets to meet God. Usually I’m pretty reluctant to see films such as this. It seems very “insider Christian” if you get my meaning, but I like this cast – Radha Mitchell, Graham Greene, Octavia Spencer, and Worthington. And Jesus is actually being played by an Israeli! Check out Avraham Aviv Alush. Cute as a button. Tunisian-born, Israeli raised. Finally, we might be moving away from Teutonic Jesus. Directing is Stuart Hazeldine, whose film Exam, I caught on Netflix years ago. It was pretty good. And earlier than that, he made a short called Christian, about “the Son of God who visits a tough British high school disguised as a 14-year-old … and sparks fly.” I have a feeling this guy isn’t going the typical “uplifting” route. Now we just need a trailer.
Moana (Nov. 25) – Disney’s newest will focus on a sea-faring teen, Moana Waialiki (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), who sets off on an adventure to save her people. On her journey, she meets the demi-god Maui (v. Dwayne Johnson). I’m a big fan of South Pacific culture and mythology, so I’m really excited about this one.Trailer
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec. 16) – Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) helms this Star Wars prequel about a group of rebels trying take down the Empire, by stealing the plans to the Death Star. It brings me a lot of comfort and joy that the screenwriting duo behind this is Chris Weitz (About a Boy), and Tony Gilroy (the Bourne films). Raising the bar. And that the cast is so diverse and awesome: Riz Ahmed (so amazing in HBO’s The Night Of), Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen (playing a blind swordsman!), and Wen Jiang. I don’t think a lot of details have been leaked about the plot, which is good; however, I did read in EW that this will have more philosophical/religious overtones than the other Star Wars films, and I’m super cool about that. (The setting is Jedha, “a small desert moon frosted by a permanent winter … it is a holy site for pilgrims from across the galaxy who seek spiritual guidance.” Squeal!) Another film to talk about in class. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but lost a lot of hope after those god-awful prequels. The Force Awakens kicked my love into the stratosphere. This and Doctor Strange are the only films I need to see this year, and if both are as good as they look to be … I’ll be one happy moviegoer. Faith in film restored. One to see in IMAX. Trailer
Passengers (Dec. 23) – No trailer yet for this Jon Spaihts-written adventure/sci-fi flick starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. IMDB gives this synopsis: “A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.” It sounds like it could be disturbing and depressing, which makes me happy. If it has a Prometheus vibe, I’ll love it. If it ends up being more romance-y; not so much. The director is Norwegian – Morten Tyldum – and the two films of his that I’ve seen – Imitation Game, and Headhunters – were both good.
Sing (Dec. 23) – Think American Idol but with animated animals. When Buster Moon, a koala (voice Matthew McConaughey), is on the brink of losing his theater, he gets the idea to drum up business by being host to a singing competition. Lots of famous folks lending their voices: Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Offerman, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, and Jennifer Saunders to name a few. The songs in the trailer sold me on the idea. Wish they would release the soundtrack already. According to the official site, the film has more than 85 hit songs. Written and directed by Garth Jennings (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). http://www.singmovie.com/
Assassin’sCreed (Dec. 23) – A big screen adaptation of the very popular Ubisoft game, this action/adventure/fantasy focuses on Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), a man who, after he’s executed, is brought back so he can access the memories of his 500-year-old ancestor, Aguilar, and gain the skills of a master assassin. At least that’s what it seems to be about. The costumes look amazing, as do the stunts. Lots of kickass fighting. The trailer gives me chills. Fassbender is a fave of mine, and I’ll see him in almost anything. Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson also appear. Justin Kurzel is reteaming with Cotillard and Fassbender, who he directed in Macbeth. The screenwriters are Bill Collage and Adam Cooper (both Exodus: Gods and Kings), and playwright Michael Lesslie. This is one I’ll definitely be seeing in IMAX. Trailer
Split (Jan. 20) – M. Night Shyamalan’s newest horror/thriller about the abductor of three teenagers who has a split personality. I wouldn’t normally care about a Shyamalan film, but James McAvoy plays the lead, and he’s interesting to watch. There is potential that this could be scary, but I’m not holding my breath. Trailer
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Jan. 27) –I’m a Resident Evil fan. I own all of the films, and love Milla Jovovich. The trailer isn’t particularly inspiring – I only like a few of these films enough to rewatch them – but I’ve come this far; I’m not quitting on Alice, the Umbrella Company, or Raccoon City. To the end. It’s good to see Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) was added to the cast, and Ali Larter, and Iain Glen are back. I hope there is a LOT of killing. Directed and written, as usual, by Paul W.S. Anderson. Trailer
The Lego Batman Movie (Feb. 10) – Batman (voice Will Arnett) was the best part of the Lego Movie, so the fact that he has a stand-alone. Yes. Ralph Fiennes voices Alfred. Trailer
John Wick: Chapter Two (Feb. 10) – In the first film, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) took revenge on a bunch of scumbags who killed his dog, and I can’t tell you how much I loved that film. Living vicariously. I’m sure he’ll be killing a whole bunch of new baddies, and I’m super excited to see that. Ruby Rose joins the cast as do Peter Stormare, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne (holy reunion!), Lance Reddick, Common … it’s all good. No trailer yet.
The Dark Tower (Feb. 17) – I never thought that this Stephen King story would ever see the light of day. Ron Howard was knocking it around for who knows how long. Then miraculously they started casting some big names – Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, and Idris Elba as the Gunslinger – and boom! We have a film. And a release date. Also in the film are Katheryn Winnick (Vikings), and Jackie Earle Haley. Danish director Nikolaj Arcel is (A Royal Affair) behind the camera.
The Great Wall (Feb. 17) – I love Zhang Yimou, and own most of his films. He has an amazing visual style. But this isn’t going to be a sensitive historical film about the treatment of women in China, which is his usual fare. It stars Matt Damon, Diego Luna, and Andy Lau as archers on the Great Wall, ready to fight … from the trailer it looks like giant lizards. Godzilla in China directed by Zhang? Um, yes, please. I get giddy every time that lizard monster chomps on one of the soldiers. YES! Trailer
Kong: Skull Island (March 10) – From a screenplay by Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins, and Dan Gilroy, this action/adventure/fantasy film centers on King Kong’s origins. Tom Hiddleston leads the charge; John Goodman looks like the baddie. Samuel L. Jackson is also along for the ride. I love big monster films, and I like everything Kong. In fact, I wrote a chapter for an unpublished book about Kong, if anyone is interested. See the trailer! Trailer
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (March 24) – Guy Ritchie has no real track record with me. I loved Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch is fun, but everything since then bored me to tears. He likes to revisit and rehash the same things, and this film seems to continue that trend. How many times can he have bare-chested guys boxing? So why do I care? Jude Law plays Vortigern, Eric Bana plays Uther Pendragon, and Aiden Gillen plays Goosefat Bill Wilson. I care not a toss that Charlie Hunnam is King Arthur. This film is included very reluctantly on this list. Trailer
Ghost in the Shell (March 31) – Based on Masamune Shirow’s manga and adapted by Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton), the action/crime/drama centers on a cyborg policewoman who attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker. Despite the fact that this is a Japanese manga/anime, the powers-that-be decided to cast Scarlett Johansson in the lead. White-washing is indeed a Hollywood problem – and they know it is, because they were going to use computer software to make Johansson appear more Asian (slaps forehead), but I’m going to reserve judgement until after I see this. And I am looking forward to it. On the plus side, the film does have an international supporting cast, including Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbaek, and Rila Fukushima. Rupert Sanders, who proved he had chops with Snow White and the Huntsman, directs.