A new year brings new films and character to fall in love with. Last year saw innovative pictures come to life. From an entire movie shot in a single take, shooting in the harshest conditions using only natural light, to George Miller’s masterpiece that is Mad Max: Fury Road. With cinema always pushing itself, it’s hard not to get excited about the new ideas coming to screen. So between all the reboots, comic book adaptions and indie features, here’s what I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2016.
20. Two Lovers and a Bear
Kicking off the list is the new film form Oscar nominated director Kim Nguyen (War Witch). The film follows two young lovers battling isolation, themselves, and the weather in a small town in the North Pole. Indie darling Dane DeHaan plays Roman and rising star Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) is cast as Lucy, with veteran actor Gordon Pinsent as the bear’s voice. Shot in Nunavut, Canada, the location alone ought to be worth your time.
19. La La Land
La La Land is writer/director Damien Chazelle follow up to his fantastic Whiplash. This time he added big star power to his cast with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the lead roles. J.K. Simmons will also return. The story follows a jazz pianist falling in love with an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The storyline is pretty simple, but then again so was Whiplash‘s.
When a spacecraft transporting passengers to a distant planet malfunctions, waking up a single passenger and leaving him faced with the prospect of growing old alone, he decides to wake up a companion. A sci-fi romance film from the pen of Prometheus writer John Spaihts and starring the combined charisma of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. If that isn’t enough, it’s directed by Headhunters‘ and The Imitation Game‘s Morten Tylden.
17. The Witch
Robert Eggerts’ debut feature was a breakout hit on the festival circuit last year – and judging by the trailer alone it’s not hard to see why. 2016 sees The Witch getting international release dates. Let’s hope that includes South Africa. Set in 1630 New England, it follows the story of a family confronting evil after their baby son disappears.
16. The Neon Demon
Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive/Only God Forgives) is back with his brand of ultra violence with this year’s The Neon Demon. Set in the Los Angeles fashion world, it follows the story of an aspiring model and a group of women that will do anything to steal her youth and beauty from her. Critics and fans alike were divided on Refn’s Only God Forgives (a tough act to follow after the tremendous Drive) so it will be interesting to see what he does with a straight up horror film. The cast includes Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone and Christina Hendricks.
15. Triple 9
Australian John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition, Lawless) is one of the current best visual storytellers. His work is often met with with great critical acclaim and his latest, Triple 9, looks to keep that streak going. It follows a band of thieves and corrupt cops planning to murder a police officer in order to pull off a heist across town. It features an all star cast that includes Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Theresa Palmer, Gal Gadot and Anthony Mackie to name a few.
14. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) is an absolute favorite of mine. He has not yet put a foot wrong in his career – with Midnight Special being his biggest project to date. I had this film on a list last year, but it seems that the producers opted for a 2016 release after Star Wars: The Force Awakens – probably due to Kylo Ren himself being in this film too.
The story follows a father and son going on the run after they discover the child possesses special powers. Nichols is taking on the sci-fi genre and bringing Micheal Shannon along for the ride once again. I can’t wait.
13. A Cure For Wellness
I’ve been a Gore Verbrinski fan for most of my life without even realizing it. I watched Mouse Hunt as a young child and it has always stuck with me. He brought a certain darkness to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise too. Horror fans will be happy to know that he is returning to the horror franchise for the first time since 2002’s The Ring. The story follows a young man searching for his boss in The Alps, only to be thrown in a mental asylum himself. The cast features Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth and Jason Isaacs.
12. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Growing up in the Potterverse, it’s hard not to get excited about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. With a screenplay by JK Rowling herself and directed by Harry Potter regular David Yates, the film follows Newt Scamander in the wizarding world of New York seventy years before the story of Harry Potter. Imagination is the ultimate escape from reality and this looks to have briefcases full of the stuff. Eddie Redmayne will play Scamander.
Colossal is the new feature out of Spanish director Nacho Viglondo’s strange mind. Best known for Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial, Viglondo has always been a genius when it comes to interesting plots, and Colossal definitely delivers on that front.
After a woman loses her job and her boyfriend, she starts to suspect that the events unfolding halfway across the world is linked to her mental breakdown – the events being a giant monster demolishing everything in it’s path. The film is described as Lost in Translation meets Godzilla and features the acting talent of Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens and Jason Sudeikis.
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton is back and directing a big screen adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ best-selling novel. His dark tones and general aesthetic is the perfect choice for the film, which follows the story of a young boy trying to solve his grandfather’s murder. This leads him to a small island off the coast of Wales where he meets some… well… peculiar characters. The battle between good and evil follows.
It is adapted for the screen by screenwriter Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, and Kingsmen: The Secret Service) and features an all star cast of Asa Butterfield, Dame Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Greene as Miss Peregrine.
9. Star Trek Beyond
Kirk and Spock is back with their latest adventure which sees them stranded on a unknown planet. JJ Abrams handed the reins over to action director Justin Lin from the The Fast and The Furious franchise. Whether or not this is a bad thing is yet to be seen, but judging by the trailer, we can expect a lot of action. The screenplay is co-written by Simon Pegg who will also be returning for the role as Scotty. Idris Alba will play the villain Krall. Beam me up, Scotty.
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
Stop motion studio Laika is delving into Chinese mythology for their latest production, Kubo and the Two Strings. It follows the adventures of young Kubo who goes on a quest to find the armor of his father, a legendary Samurai, wore – with gods and monsters hot on his tail. It features the voice talents of a very Western cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara. The trailer looks absolutely beautiful.
7. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Just read the title. With a screenplay by David O’ Russell and directed by Igby Goes Down‘s Burr Steers, we finally get to see Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on the classic Jane Austen novel adapted for the big screen. It stars Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet and Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy.
6. Doctor Strange
A wave of superhero movies are rolling in this year with the likes of Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and X-Men: Apocalypse. Marvel is even rolling out it’s first R-rated film in the form of Deadpool. I’ll end up seeing all of them, but to be honest I’m in no rush to do so. Maybe it’s the influx of comic book adaptations lately that got me desensitised to the genre. Although the supernatural element to Doctor Strange intrigues me.
I know very little about the character or the comic book but I’m quite curious to see what Kevin Feige and his team brings to the screen with this. Feige enlisted the talent of mainstream horror director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) to bring the origin story of the surgeon turned sorcerer to life. Benedict Cumberbatch is cast as the title role with Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen rounding off the cast.
5. The Great Wall
The Great Wall is visionary director Yimou Zhang’s latest feature film. Best known for his films House of Flying Daggers, Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower, his new film is branded as an epic 3D sci-fi fantasy film that follows a mystery centered around the construction of China’s The Great Wall – and it features monsters. It’s based on an original idea from Max Brooks (World War Z) and has a stellar cast that includes Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe. I’m intrigued and excited.
There was quite an uproar from the fandom when Sony announced that they’ll be rebooting the Ghostbusters franchise with director Paul Feig. Even more so when he announced that the new team of Ghostbusters will be led by an all-female cast. Previously, Feig has proven himself to be more than capable with female-led comedies with the likes of Spy, The Heat and Bridesmaids.
This decision comes as breath of fresh air in the Hollywood reboot era. Feig reunites with his old favourites Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig, with Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon rounding off the new team. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is set to play their secretary and the film promises cameos from the original cast. Personally, if I’m ever given the privilege to raise a daughter then I’ll be over the moon that she’ll have characters like the Ghostbusters to look up to.
3. The Bad Batch
In 2014, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour caused waves with her debut feature: the “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. The film gained a cult following a year later when it saw a wider release – and rightfully so, it’s beautifully shot and directed. Amirpour was praised by the critics and was even called the next Tarantino. She struck while the iron was still hot and announced last year that her next project is a “post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texan wasteland” called The Bad Batch. The cast includes Jason Mamoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Suki Waterhouse and Diego Luna.
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
After smashing all the records with the release of Episode VII it is clear that the Force is indeed awakened. This year Disney will be releasing the first stand alone feature film set in the Star Wars universe that will not follow the Skywalker saga of the previous seven films. Inspired by the opening text crawl of A New Hope, Rogue One follows a group of rebels attempting to steal the plans for the Death Star. Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) is at the helm of this project. The story will once again be female led with Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) in the lead. The film will also feature Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen and the terrific Ben Mendelsohn as the villain.
1. The Jungle Book
Mowgli will once again be resurrected in the new, live action adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel The Jungle Book. Jon Favreau took a seat in the director’s chair and personally I think there could not have been a better choice. He set the tone for the new wave of Marvel way back with Iron Man, he has shown versatility with a Elf and Chef, and has proven himself as a storyteller for a younger audience with the sci-fi adventure Zathura: A Space Adventure. I’m willing to forgive him for Cowboys and Aliens.
Newcomer Neel Sethi was picked out of 2000 hopefuls for the role of Mowgli and the creature cast includes the voices of Scarlet Johansson, Bill Murray and Idris Alba. The trailer promises an epic adventure with Baloo and Bagheera along for the ride.
Hail, Ceasar! – The Coen’s Brothers new comedy caper.
High Rise – Ben Wheatley’s adaption of JG Ballard’s visionary novel starring Tom Hiddelson.
Carnage Park – A horror film about two bank robbers hiding out in a caravan park that’s inhabited by a crazed ex-military sniper.
Demolition – Jean Marc Vallee’s latest, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Story Of Your Life – Thriller expert Denis Villeneuve follows up the brilliant Sicario with a sci-fi feature.
Green Room – Another film I had on a list last year that is finally getting a release date this year.
The Woods – Horror dream team Adam Wingard and Simon Barret from You’re Next and The Guest fame team up again.
The Belko Experiment – James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) wrote the screenplay about employees that have to fight to the death in a Brazilian factory.
The Legend of Tarzan – Why not.
The Nice Guys – Shane Black’s latest sleazy action caper.
See you at the movies. Or, you know, we can Netflix and chill.
Is your most anticipated film not on this list? Comment below to let us know what you’re excited for!
Less Wes Anderson, more Wes Craven.