My top 20 most anticipated films of 2016

20: La La Land (Dir; Damien Chazelle, Starring; Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, JK Simmons, Release Date; 15th July)

La La Land

Following up his sensational Whiplash, Damien Chazelle is moving from New York to LA for a Hollywood-set musical that reunites Crazy Stupid Love co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Promising to be markedly different in tone from his debut, La La Land nevertheless retains some of Whiplash‘s DNA, from a love of jazz (Gosling plays a jazz pianist who falls in love with Emma Stone’s aspiring actress) to the presence of JK Simmons, here playing ‘The Boss’. Gosling and Stone have proven chemistry, and it will be exciting to see a director who clearly deeply loves music manage a full-blown musical.

19: Deadpool (Dir; Tim Miller, Starring; Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, Release Date; 12th February)

Deadpool

With more violence and swearing in just the trailer than pretty much all other superhero films put together, Deadpool deserves credit for pushing for the 15/18 rating that you need to actually bring this character from comics to screen. Hopefully there’s more to the film than just being deliberately edgy, but plenty of the trailer’s jokes land well and the acrobatic sword and gun fights look like a lot of fun. Ryan Reynolds is clearly having a blast playing the Merc with a Mouth and, given that there are six or seven comic book movies coming out in 2016, it’s not a bad idea for the first one to be a very different kind of superhero story.

 

18: Snowden (Dir; Oliver Stone, Starring; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Release Date; 13th May)

Snowden

Fittingly, Snowden has proved to be a rather elusive film thus far, with only a couple of stills and a footage-free teaser to show for what is meant to be a May release. In some respects, it feels too early for the proper Snowden story to be told, with the former NSA employee still essentially in exile and the debate on online privacy still raging, but it’s a fascinating topic which should hopefully revitalise the slumping career of the once-great Oliver Stone.

 

17: Jungle Book (Dir; Jon Favreau, Starring; Neel Sethi, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Release Date; 15th April)

THE JUNGLE BOOK

After 2014’s Maleficent and last year’s Cinderella, Disney continues their trend of remaking their classic animations in live-action. However, The Jungle Book sets itself apart from those two movies with the fact that the vast majority of the very starry cast are in voice only roles for remarkably real looking CG animals. Inevitably, 2016’s Jungle Book is going to be more serious than the 1967 classic, but I’m still childishly excited about seeing Baloo, Shere Khan, King Louie etc in ‘reality’, especially when they’re voiced by Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Christopher Walken. The muted colours and Dramatic Music of the trailer may be slight causes of concern, but I doubt Disney would let one of their beloved classic properties go to waste.

 

16: Death and Life of John F Donovan (Dir; Xavier Dolan, Starring; Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Taylor Kitsch, Release Date; TBC)

Death and Life.jpg

French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s first English-language film follows hot on the heels of his excellent Mommy and promises a timely, if controversial, story. Harington plays the eponymous Donovan, a Hollywood star who has his correspondences with an 11-year-old actor leaked, prompting suspicions and damning accusations that ruin his life and career. Dolan is no stranger to taboo stories and themes, and Death and Life should spark debate whilst deliberately disquieting its audience.

 

15: Assassin’s Creed (Dir; Justin Kurzel, Starring; Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons, Ariane Labed, Release Date; 30th December)

Assassin's Creed

Video game movies rarely inspire anything better than a ‘meh’ response, but with the same director/actor pairing as this year’s superb Macbeth, Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed stands a good chance of breaking that curse. Based on the universe of the Ubisoft games, but moving the action to an entirely new character (Callum Lynch, Fassbender) with an assassin ancestor that has never been seen in the games (Aguilar, Fassbender as well), the bulk of the action will take place in 15th Century Spain. The best part of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is not its action or its conspiracy story, but has always been its ability to immerse you in historical worlds that no other game takes you to. If Kurzel can master that, whilst delivering an overall plot that is engaging in both the past and present, then Assassin’s Creed will be a very exciting prospect indeed.

 

14: Midnight Special (Dir; Jeff Nichols, Starring; Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Release Date: 15th April)

Midnight Special.jpg

Jeff Nichols, the man behind Take Shelter and the truly lovely Mud, turns his hand to sci-fi for Midnight Special. His regular collaborator Michael Shannon plays a father whose son possesses world-altering superpowers, powers which force the family to flee a shadowy government organisation who believe the boy to be an alien weapon. Meanwhile, a cult develops around the gifted child, who see him, understandably, as a messianic figure. The idea of the real world responding realistically to superpowers has long been fascinating to me, and is a theme that most conventional comic-book or superhero movies shy away from. With the trailer combining family drama and supernatural action, Midnight Special is one of 2016’s most intriguing films.

 

13: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Dir; David Yates, Starring; Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Samantha Morton, Release Date; 18th November)

Fantastic Beasts

Returning the fictional universe that defined a generation, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reintroduces us to the wizarding world in the first full film written by JK Rowling. Set in ’20s New York, Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives in America from England, and quickly loses a few of the titular creatures from his TARDIS-like briefcase. Having to juggle the recapturing of the beasts with a far more hostile non-wizard community (America’s non-maj population is apparently a far cry from the UK’s bumbling muggles) Scamander’s journey through New York should be a lot of fun for old and new fans alike. With the trailer both bringing to mind all the old Harry Potters and setting up a whole new part of the mythos, I’m very excited to see Rowling’s magical world again.

 

12: Story of Your Life (Dir; Denis Villeneuve, Starring; Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Release Date; TBC)

Story of Your Life

Sicario came very close to being in my top 10 films of 2015, and was evidence of an already very good director getting even better. Denis Villeneuve loves his morally murky and precisely violent stories, sensibilities that should make for a unique take on the first encounter genre. Amy Adams takes the role of an expert linguist who has to determine whether or not the extraterrestrials come in peace, so expect tension, paranoia, and a study of humanity’s inherent aggression. It’s also the first major sci-fi film for Villeneuve, and will be an important testing ground for the director whose follow up to this is the Blade Runner sequel.

 

11: Neon Demon (Dir; Nicolas Winding Refn, Starring; Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Release Date; TBC)

Neon Demon

A study of the toxicity of the modelling industry and the damaging quest for youth and beauty is perfect ground for Nicolas Winding Refn to tread. His penchant for terrifying but strategically placed violence along with his more horror-movie-esque traits should make The Neon Demon a genuinely frightening, blood-soaked satire of the Los Angeles modelling scene. Drive was one of 2011’s best films, and the divisive Only God Forgives was perhaps even better, albeit far less easily watchable. Refn is a very particular and confident director, and any new film from him should always pique plenty of interest.

 

10: Captain America Civil War (Dir; The Russo Brothers, Starring; Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Release Date; 29th April)

Civil War.png

Acting as a sequel to both Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Civil War kicks off Phase 3 of the MCU and hands the reins of the franchise from Joss Whedon to Winter Soldier directors the Russo Brothers. Evidently lowering the physical stakes (but heightening the emotional ones) from the world-ending plans of Ultron (at least that’s what the trailer implies), Civil War sees Captain America and Iron Man come to blows over proposals for government restrictions on superhero activities. Civil War will most likely be the best comic book movie of 2016, but its familiarity makes it less exciting overall than Suicide Squad or Doctor Strange, and if it doesn’t drastically alter the MCU status quo, then there will be questions asked of this series.

 

9: Keanu (Dir; Peter Atencio, Starring; Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Jason Mitchell, Release Date; TBC)

Keanu

Key and Peele’s magnificent sketch show may have unfortunately come to an end this year, but at least we have the comfort of them making a movie together with their regular director Peter Atencio. Telling the tale of two nerds who have to pretend to be gangsters in order to retrieve their stolen cat, Keanu promises an insightful and hilarious study of what it means to be a black man in modern America. Some of the absolute best Key and Peele sketches revolve around the title duo playing gang members, so it’s only natural that their movie should revolve around this tried and tested premise. With any luck, Keanu will be a more than worthy goodbye to one of the best comedy double acts of recent years.

 

8: Suicide Squad (Dir; David Ayer, Starring; Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Release Date; 5th August)

Suicide Squad.jpg

When the Comic-Con trailer for Suicide Squad leaked alongside the official release of the Batman V Superman trailer, it immediately became very clear what the most exciting DC movie of 2016 was. Where BVS felt a little desperate, Suicide Squad seemed to actually earn its gritty, edgy tone, even if its PG-13 rating in the States is a bit of a letdown. An all-star cast looks set to elevate characters which are largely in DC’s B-Team in the comics, with Margot Robbie set to confirm her superstar status from Wolf of Wall Street as Harley Quinn. Jared Leto has a hell of a lot to live up to as the Joker after Heath Ledger’s definitive performance and a very mixed initial response to his take on the character, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as one of comics’ most iconic villains.

 

7: BFG (Dir; Steven Spielberg, Starring; Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Release Date; 22nd July 2015)

BFG

Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance reunite after their very successful collaboration in Bridge of Spies for this adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl book. Rylance takes the role of the Big Friendly Giant for what should be Spielberg’s most magical and family friendly film since Jurassic Park. The legendary director’s ability to get the best performances from his child actors will also be vital for a story anchored by young orphan Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill). From the brief glimpse we’ve seen of the film so far, it looks great, and sounds even better, with some of the best trailer music I’ve heard in a long time. The BFG is Steven Spielberg’s return to the summer blockbuster that he himself invented with Jaws, and could be 2016’s finest family film.

 

6: Untitled Fifth Bourne Movie (Dir; Paul Greengrass, Starring; Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Release Date; 29th July)

Bourne 5

Paul Greengrass returns to the franchise that he made into a classic action series, ditching the underwhelming Jeremy Renner story of 2012’s Legacy and bringing Matt Damon back into the fold along with new additions Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, and Vincent Cassel. Many of the set-pieces of the superlative Supremacy and Ultimatum still have very few action equals, and with a story that will reflect the stresses of the financial crisis and cyber-warfare, Bourne 5 should by all rights be one of 2016’s most exciting action movies.

 

5: Silence (Dir; Martin Scorsese, Starring; Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Release Date; TBC)

Silence

Having gone through years of development hell before finally securing its current cast and then being slated for a 2015 release, Martin Scorsese’s Silence has now released its first images and will definitely be coming out in the next year. This is, of course, fantastic news, as any new Scorsese film is, and the complete tone shift from Wolf of Wall Street to a story of Jesuit priests in 17th Century Japan makes Silence all the more interesting. The few shots of the film we’ve seen, in particular the image above, are strikingly beautiful, the scenery and colours looking almost unreal. Surely one of the strongest contenders for Best Picture in the 2017 awards cycle, I can’t imagine Silence being anything less than essential.

 

4: Rogue One (Dir; Gareth Edwards, Starring; Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Release Date; 16th December)

Rogue One.jpg

Force Awakens proved this year just how good a handle Disney has on the Star Wars franchise, which makes this upcoming spinoff all the more exciting. Set just before A New HopeRogue One will clarify how the Death Star plans ended up in the hands of the rebels. Focusing on a ragtag group of rebel pilots, it’s likely that Rogue One will have more in common with traditional war movies than the swords and sorcery tone that pervades the main Star Wars story, with a grimy aesthetic confirmed by the film’s first still. Felicity Jones heads up an excellent cast of character actors, including Mads Mikkelsen, the ever-brilliant Ben Mendelsohn, and Alan Tudyk getting back into a spaceship cockpit after Firefly and Serenity. If nothing else, Rogue One will be a must-see just for the slightly bizarre fact that Peter Cushing will be ‘resurrected’ via CGI to reprise the role of Grand Moff Tarkin.

 

3: Nice Guys (Dir; Shane Black, Starring; Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Release Date; 3rd June)

Nice Guys

From not really registering with me to having my second favourite trailer for any 2016 film, The Nice Guys shot up my list rapidly as I watched it over and over. Shane Black seems to be combining his own Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with LA Confidential (with Crowe and Kim Basinger in the cast) and moving it all to the sleaziest parts of the ’70s, making what should be one of 2016’s most purely entertaining films in the process. Ryan Gosling got genuine laughs from me all through the trailer, and Russell Crowe is rarely given enough opportunities to be funny, and they already look like one of 2016’s iconic pairings.

 

2: Hail Caesar (Dir; The Coen Brothers, Starring; Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Release Date; 4th March)

Hail Caesar

Already highly anticipated before the first footage dropped – it’s by the Coen brothers after all – Hail Caesar had my absolute favourite trailer of the year. Laugh out loud funny all the way through and featuring 2016’s best cast doing a lot of silly voices, particularly Josh Brolin and Tilda Swinton, I can’t wait to see the full film. With everyone clearly on top form in a full-blown 1950s Hollywood caper, Hail Caesar should end up as 2016’s answer to The Grand Budapest Hotel, an immensely funny and enjoyable early-year movie with a flawless cast of stars that may end up getting plenty of end-of-year awards attention. It may be a couple of months until it’s actually released, but we only need to wait until the start of February to see how good it is, as it’s opening the Berlin Film Festival.

 

1: Doctor Strange (Dir; Scott Derrickson, Starring; Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Release Date; 28th October)

docstrange.jpg

Ever since it was even vaguely hinted at, the idea of a Doctor Strange adaptation has always excited me more than any other possible blockbuster, and we’re finally getting one in 2016 with a sensational cast and a director who promises a whole load of dimension-hopping weirdness. The profoundly mystical world in which the title character exists should allow for wildly imaginative visuals and set-pieces, the likes of which we’ll surely have never seen in a superhero movie before. Cumberbatch in the lead role is perhaps slightly less intriguing than the previously rumoured Joaquin Phoenix, but I’m sure he’ll do a fantastic job. With Ejiofor, Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton,and  Rachel McAdams in support, Cumberbatch heads up one of the strongest batches of actors ever seen in the MCU, and if it even lives up to a quarter of my hype, it will be a wonderful movie indeed.

 

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