With our podcast covering the subject tomorrow, I thought it was an appropriate time to finally divulge what I’m looking forward to the most in 2016. Here goes nothing:
10. Hail, Caesar! – February 5th
This comedy from the Coen brothers seems right up my alley – a spiritual follow up to their last zany picture, Burn After Reading, or to their 2000 classic O, Brother Where Art Thou. Co-starring George Clooney as hapless A-lister Baird Whitlock, who is kidnapped by a strange group called The Future, it follows Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he works to change the face of Hollywood before it crumbles around him. Coming out a scant three weeks from now, it’s the first of my anticipated films to enter theatres. I’m hopeful that this will be as wonderful as some of the Coens’ other flicks have been, such as the aforementioned comedies, and their recent best one yet, Inside Llewyn Davis. The sardonic tone and wry voice of the Coens is perfect for ridiculing inside Hollywood, so I’m really excited to see what they lampoon here.
9. Green Room – April 1
Jeremy Saulnier started out with his independent thrillers in 2007 and the underrated classic Murder Party. Following that up in 2013 with Blue Ruin, it starred character actor Macon Blair, who turned in one of the most unnerving performances of the past decade. Well this year sees Saulnier debut what I expect to be his masterpiece, Green Room. When a murder occurs in the middle of a punk rock band’s show, the band is stuck inside the claustrophobic venue with the murderer and his sadistic cronies. The punk band? Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Alia Shawkat. The villain? Patrick Stewart. That last part alone is enough to get me in the seats.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – June 3
So in 2014 we were given a fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was a reboot, brought to us by the guy who supposedly ruined our collective childhoods with a terrible Transformers franchise and only likes it when stuff goes boom. Sometimes that isn’t always bad, as seen in his more “reserved” pictures such as Pain & Gain or this weeks 13 Hours. As for TMNT? They made just enough money that it warranted a sequel, and while it would be tempting to continue to just rehash what’s come before on screen, they’ve decided to resurrect some of the more interesting characters from the animated show in the ’80s. Joining a more talkative Shredder (who died yet again, but whatever) will be Bebop & Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and Casey Jones. The latter was performed with aplomb by veteran actor Elias Koteas, but Stephen Amell looks pretty good in the trailers. As for the other characters, they’re finally making it to the big screen (after 1991’s Secret of the Ooze subbed in Rahzar and Tokka fairly ineffectively). After that, there’s been rumors of a Technodrome appearance, as well as everyone’s favorite brainy villain, Krang. It’s all about the enemies in this one, and for once, too much is just what the franchise needed.
7. Captain America: Civil War – May 6
Speaking of too much, there’s been talk lately of Marvel finally going over the deep end. There’s going to be 67 characters in The Avengers: Infinity War. While that can seem a bit much, comics have always had too much all at once, so it’s not really a surprise to me. As for this flick, the internet has been abuzz with the word that it’s basically another Avengers film anyway. As far back as I can remember, Marvel films have always been about the bigger picture, so that doesn’t bother me too much. Sure, we’ll have Ant-Man (great, if used right), and Hawkeye could show up (why not, he’s a good friend). Obviously we’ll have Iron Man facing off with War Machine (unless he dies, the trailer suggests that) and new ally Black Panther (why not, he is my favorite anyway) against Cap and his buddies Falcon and Winter Solider (but reformed, so just plain old Bucky again!). Interestingly there hasn’t been too much press showing the women in Cap’s life, even though obviously Peggy Carter is ancient, her granddaughter should show up in rare form, alongside absent from the trailers Black Widow (another almost paramour). I don’t mind that comic movies use all their characters, it’s why we go to see them. The first two Captain America films were some of my favorite Marvel pieces, and I don’t expect this to be any different. Each had its own style and tone, and I can’t wait to see what happens when things fall apart.
6. Rogue One – December 16
Surprised a Star Wars film is so low? Don’t worry, it’s like when I anticipate my Seattle Seahawks losing. I don’t want to put all my horses before the cart and expect perfection. I did that with the prequels, and while I’m satisfied enough, holding back my feelings about Force Awakens helped me to love it even more than I probably should. Anyway, about the movie itself, it’s basically The Dirty Dozen set in the Star Wars universe, starring Mads Mikkelsen as the regretful architect behind the Death Star who opts to hire his daughter Felicity Jones to recover the plans and help the Rebellion destroy it before someone dies. Spoiler alert, that doesn’t matter. What does is the eclectic cast, including Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna and one of my favorite actors, Alan Tudyk. His role is unknown, but like Lupita N’yongo he’ll likely be a voice for a CGI character. Fine by me, he was great as the robot in I, Robot. While a lot is still unknown other than that, it’s already got me in the seat by name recognition alone. Besides this, we’ll have to see how it fares to see if any other “anthology” Star Wars films will follow. My money points to yes.
5. The Witch – February 19
The past few years have brought some of the best horror to screens in decades. Each year has had it’s one spine-tingling word of mouth feature that gets everyone in motion to the theatre. 2013 was You’re Next, 2014 was The Babadook, and last year had It Follows. This year’s entry in that vaunted list is The Witch, a Puritan drama centered around the supposed abduction of small children from a Massachusetts settlement town. With the religious implications and the Salem Witch trial inferences, this looks to be one of the most chilling settings for a horror film in recent memory. Beyond that, the cinematography already looks engrossing from the trailer, and the actual scares look to be unsettlingly grotesque. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to be scared.
4. Zootopia – March 4
On the animation front, while people settle down from one of the best Pixar films in nearly a decade, Disney churns out yet another classic. I wasn’t too high on this from the teaser trailer and the early synopsis, but the second trailer had me hooked. Jason Bateman stars as Nick Wilde, a fox con artist who roams the anthropomorphic city of Zootopia, where there has been a recent outbreak of savageness. He’s forced into a partnership with rookie cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny who no one expects will ever be much of a figure on the police force. Brought to us by the team that directed Wreck-It Ralph, Bolt and Tangled, it’s easy to see that the creative staff is stacked. The other reason I’m excited is that the animation looks spot on, capturing Bateman’s ticks and tweaks, and the style is frantic enough to keep me interested throughout. The noir story reminds me of a deliriously epic French comic I read a few years back, Blacksad. The artist there, Juan Diaz Canales, was actually inspired by ’90s Disney animation, so it looks to be art imitating art here, but that’s perfectly fine by me. Hopefully he agrees.
3. The Nice Guys – May 20
In 2006, Shane Black brought us one of the finest action buddy comedies of all time in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It literally revitalized Robert Downey Jr’s career. We definitely wouldn’t have the Marvel universe if not for Shane Black. Ok, that might be going too far, but maybe we’d be seeing a ton of Hulk pictures instead. Ok, that’s also too far in the other direction (fat), as we’ve seen from Val Kilmer’s career trajectory, but you get my drift. Shane Black made gold, and I’m hoping he can use his alchemy again here with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe starring as two bumbling private eyes in 1970’s Los Angeles. As a spiritual successor to Kiss Kiss, the story follows Crowe as he has to deal with up-and-coming Gosling when a case goes awry. Expect ironic action, witty banter and shenanigans galore. The trailer is already the best of 2016.
2. Kubo and the Two Strings – August 19
After Laika’s success with Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls, I would expect nothing less than one of the finest animated films of the decade. Their oeuvre has delighted me to no end, and the story for this one is more striking than any previous. It actually reminds me of the work by Irish animator Tomm Moore (Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea). In it, we follow Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young boy caring for his mother in an ancient Japanese village. A spirit causes havoc in the village and Kubo must set off to find a magic suit of samurai armor to defeat the monsters that the spirit releases. In general, Japanese culture fascinates me, and I think Laika’s style lends itself to a story of this magnitude. Other voice artists include Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes, so we’ll be in good company.
1. Star Trek Beyond – July 22
There’s been a lot of unnecessary outcry for the newest Star Trek film. JJ Abrams has left for the bigger franchise, Justin Lin has injected a ton of testosterone into the proceedings, and the whole things looks like a blurry mess. Well, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Star Trek Into Darkness was kind of a bore, to be honest, and I want more adventure from these grand space adventurers. 2009’s Star Trek was a nice blend of story and substance, while Darkness just kind of left both out to dry. While I expect this to be a bit of a story of the week plot, it still will advance our experiences with the crew of the Enterprise, and that cast has consistently knocked it out of the park. More of Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy is always good for me, as well, as he is very possibly the best rendition that they could find in place of the original DeForest Kelley. His wry delivery is spot on, and Zachary Quinto is a wonderful heir apparent to his foil, Spock. Speaking of which, this is the first time Leonard Nimoy won’t be around to guide the younger version of himself, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting some surprise cameos. There’s a lot riding on this, as fatigue could set in for the franchise before the new series even begins next year. I’ve said it before, though, and I’m a huge Star Trek fan. I expect great things from this.
Gambit (if it even happens); X-Men: Apocalypse (because it’s actually happening); La La Land (more jazz from Whiplash director Justin Chavelle, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – their third pairing); Suicide Squad (I’m hesitant, so it’s lower); Passengers (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a doomed space mission, sounds perfect for my Christmas film); Knight of Cups (because I still have faith in that loopy Terrence Malick magic); The Legend of Tarzan (my birthday movie, with Margot Robbie); Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (again, hesitant, but expect good enough); Moana (Disney’s other release, from the team behind Treasure Planet and Aladdin, will likely be a split for best of the year with Zootopia); The Founder (will Michael Keaton finally get the Oscar he so richly deserves, for playing McDonalds founder Ray Kroc?)
Everybody Wants Some – This could be good. I hope I’m wrong. But it looks like Richard Linklater took a step back after finishing up his masterful Before trilogy and the insanely interesting experiment Boyhood. This really just looks like he did Dazed and Confused: The College Years.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – Unnecessary, trite sequel because none of the actors or crew had anything better to do. Was anyone clamoring for this, especially after the derivative sequel show tanked worse than that racist Giovanni Ribisi-Seth Green comedy Dads?
Mother’s Day – I didn’t realize Gary Marshall was allowed out. Here he’s lambasting yet another Hallmark holiday with his unfunny kitschy intertwining tales of romance. I don’t know why we bother to expect better of Hollywood, but here we are.
Bridget Jones’s Baby – Okay, so Renee Zellweger needed something to do post surgery, but was it a third film in the Bridget Jones series? Yes, it’s her Riddick, but at least Pitch Black was good to begin with. I don’t expect this to be anywhere near good, let alone make any money.
Jumanji – The worst offender on this list, I almost shudder when I remember this is coming. No sooner was Robin Williams cold than the studios pushed this forward. Okay, they had this in the works long before he succumbed to life’s problems, but this is one of those films that never needed a remake. If you disagree with me, wait for next year when I dread the remake of Memento.