Of all my addictions, my biggest and most long-lasting one has to be films. Or movies. Cinema. Whatever the street name is for it. Each year the streets fill up with my favourite dealers, delivering a fresh batch of goods for temporary euphoria, and this year they’re coming in hot.
Trying to narrow down this list to 25 films proved harder than I thought. There are some notable works that I left out for already being on my list of must watch movies of 2016, but then having their release date pushed to this year. Films like Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, Greg Maclean’s The Belko Experiment, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal and of course Gore Verbinski’s return to the horror genre with A Cure For Wellness. The trailer alone looks absolutely incredible:
Anyway, on with the list.
25. Kong: Skull Island
I’m a huge fan of John Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer. Needless to say, I was quite excited when he was given the reigns on a major studio production – even more so when it was a new take on King Kong. The initial artwork and teaser trailer looked amazing, giving the film an old war feel [The latest poster also looks a lot like that of Apocalypse Now]. The latest trailer gave away to a little much for my taste though, and I’m not sure if I’m still THAT excited to the film’s cliched approach (they find a white man that’s been living on the island for years, c’mon). Anyway, it still sports a great cast, director and visual approach so I’m ready for a trip to the island.
XX is a new horror anthology film that features four tales directed by four female directors and has four female leads. Now this shouldn’t be a selling point in this day and age, but it’s still a pretty cool concept. Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation) and Annie Clarke (yes, St. Vincent) are among the filmmakers bringing their own brand of horror to the screen. One of the tales is written by horror master, Jack Ketchem, and the cast includes Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Alone At Night).
23. Free Fire
Oh, Ben Wheatley. One of our generations top auteurs (A Field in England) with a near perfect repertoire. With Free Fire he takes his audience back to the 1970’s, where an arms deal goes wrong and a mass shoot out erupts. This is Wheatley’s take on an action comedy and it is set in a single location. With an impressive cast of Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Shartlo Copley, Cillian Murphy and Micheal Smiley among others, this looks like pure violent fun.
22. 20th Century Women
Regular Air collaborator and indie film darling Mike Mills (Thumbsucker, Beginners) is back with what is set to be a semi-autobiographical look at, and a homage to the women in his life. The coming-of-age tale features performances from Annette Benning (who is currently receiving Academy Award buzz), Elle Fanning, a pink-haired Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup. That, plus the 70’s setting makes 20th Century Women a visual feast:
21. The Beguiled
After Sofia Coppola left the live action reboot of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which was most likely due to creative differences, it was announced that she will be taking on the remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film, The Beguiled. Set in 1864, it follows the story of a wounded Union soldier in the American Civil War trapped in a Confederate Girls’ Boarding school where he turns the women on each other, before they eventually turn on him.
A dreamy take on the Western genre by Sofia Coppola? I bet. Also, it should be noted that the film was shot in 35mm and features a cast that includes Elle Fanning, Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and The Nice Guys‘ breakout star Angourie Rice.
Joon-ho Bong is one exciting filmmaker. Snowpiercer is one of the best sci-fi films of the last decade, and will surely stand the test of time. Okja is the Korean director’s second creature feature after The Host, and follows the story of a South Korean girl trying to stop a evil corporations from stealing a shy and introverted creature from her – named Okja. Lily Collins plays a red headed animal rights activist and the cast also includes Jake Gyllenhaal. Netflix and Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company gave Joon-ho Bong full creative freedom on this project, so you know we’re in for an adventure.
19. Thor: Ragnarok
As with Spiderman: Homecoming this year, I’m more interested in seeing the director’s take on an old tired formula, rather than thinking of it as yet another superhero movie in a franchise that looks like it’s set to outlive us all. Taika Waititi already gave us What We Do In The Shadows and last year’s absolutely marvelous Hunt For The Wilderpeople. His sense of humour is undeniable and can already be seen in the short teaser released last year for Thor: Ragnarok. The film’s official synopsis mentions Thor escaping from a interstellar prison without his trusty hammer, as well as a gladiator-style brawl against The Hulk.
18. The Shape of Water
I’m a huge fan of Guilermo Del Toro. The man is a visionary. I’m not sure about the release date, but it’s said to be released in 2017, so let’s hope the studio gives him his normal Halloween weekend. Set in 1963 to a Cold War backdrop, the film is a love story about a woman that rescues a mysterious underwater creature from a government laboratory and goes on the run. The cast boasts Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, GDT favourite Doug Jones and Michael Shannon(!). I can’t wait to get lost in yet another of Del Toro’s worlds.
17. The Discovery
I am completely fascinated with the idea of an afterlife. What comes next? IF there is something after my current state existence. That being said, The Discovery‘s premise hits close to home. A scientist makes a discovery of the afterlife, a event that leads to the people across the globe killing themselves to see what it’s like on the other side, and a couple living in the aftermath of the discovery. The director/writer team of The One I Love is behind this, which was yet another strange romance film.
16. The Book of Henry
After the massive success of 2015’s Jurassic World, director Colin Trevorrow chose to return to his Safety Not Guaranteed indie roots with The Book of Henry. The story, the first draft of which was written way back in 1998, tells the the tale of a single mother raising two boys, of which one is a child genius. She finds plans written by her son, Henry, of which he sets out to right a wrong committed by the next door neighbor. The film apparently takes on the theme of child abuse. The cast includes Naomi Watts, as well as breakout child actors Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) and Jacob Tremblay (Room)
15. War Of The Planet of The Apes
Those damn dirty apes are back in the conclusion to the prequel trilogy series. This promises to be quite an epic cinematic climax after the events of Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes, this time with added Woody Harrelson, and with Matt Reeves back in the directors chair. See humans getting their asses kicked by apes come July:
14. Wonder Woman
This is director’s Patty Jenkins first trip back to the big screen after 2003’s Monster and it finally looks like DC has a good film on their record again with this big time-hopping action adventure spectacle.
This is the film that had members of the audience faint and paramedics called in at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. It’s been described as Suspiria meets Ginger Snaps by ways of early Cronenburg. This teenage cannibal coming of age tale follows a young vegetarian that develops a insatiable hunger for meat after a hazing ritual at veterinarian school. I simply cannot wait to feast my eyes on this.
The trailer completely sold me on this one. After we were handed X-Men schlock for the better part of a decade, James Mangold breathes new life into the tired universe with a R-rated Wolverine feature. Did I mention the trailer?
11. The Endless
Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are two of the most exciting up-and-coming filmmakers of the last decade. They have an unbelievable knack for writing flawless dialogue, as well as an unmatched visual sense. Everything they’ve put out so far is original. Both Spring and Resolution are masterpieces filmed on a small budget, with their imaginations guiding us.
The Endless follows two brothers returning to the death cult they escaped from and finding their beliefs not as crazy as they initially thought. What’s interesting to me is, according to the IMDB page, that the two main characters of Resolution will be making a return in The Endless. If you’ve seen Resolution then you’ll no doubt be intrigued too. Also, it seems the Benson and Moorhead are paving their own interconnected cinematic universe.
10. Ghost In The Shell
Whitewashing controversy aside, this looks visually stunning. And not only because Scarlett Johansson is in it. The beloved cult anime gets the live action treatment by home-wrecking Snow White and the Hunstman director Rupert Sanders.
Cast Scarlett Johansson as a black man for all I care. Cast her in everything.
Duncan Jones had a slight misstep with last year’s Warcraft. But he’s back with a Netflix production and a story set in the same cinematic universe as the highly acclaimed and his feature debut, Moon. The film follows a mute bartender looking for his missing girlfriend in a futuristic Berlin. Is this Jones’ take on the sci-fi noir genre just like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Alex Proyas’ Dark City before him? It certainly sounds so. The cast includes Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux.
8. T2: Trainspotting
Our favourite on screen junkies are back. Director Danny Boyle too, with the original cast. I’m sure this will be much more than just a nostalgic trip back with characters we grew up loving – Boyle always has new tricks up his sleeve.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
The intergalactic gang of misfits are back. James Gunn slides into the writer/director’s chair again for the follow up to his 2014 comic book adaptation, a job done so well that I forgot I was watching a Marvel movie. As with sequels, we can expect the stakes to be raised even further and the action to be bigger. The trailer teases new worlds and monsters and baby Groot!
6. Baby Driver
We live in the age of reboots, remakes, sequels and adaptations. Edgar Wright, however, plays by his own rules. After his split from Marvel’s Ant-Man in 2014, he announced that he will be returning with one of his own stories, Baby Driver. Wright calls it a musical crime caper, in which we follow a getaway driver that uses the beat of music to aid his driving skills and a heist that went wrong. Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) plays the title character, Kevin Spacey the crime boss, Lily James (Cinderella) the love interest, and Jamie Foxx and John Hamm (Mad Men) two gun slinging bank robbers. Meryl Streep and Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea is also in here somewhere.
5. Blade Runner 2049
Everything director Denis Villeneuve touches turns to gold. From Prisoners to Sicario to Arrival. His knack for tension and suspense will leave him as one of our generations most remembered filmmakers. And after more than 30 years post-Blade Runner, he is the man trusted with the job to finally direct a sequel to the highly influential 1982 sci-fi noir.
The story is also set 30 years after the original film and follows an LAPD officer, K, that makes a discovery that will plunge civilization into further neon-tinged darkness, with his quest to solve the mystery leading him to Rick Deckard himself. Harrison Ford will return to his iconic role and Ryan Gosling plays police officer K. The film already looks beautiful.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I love the new Star Wars universe that Disney is giving us. A new film every year? We are not worthy. Each announcement, each trailer, each film still gets me excited and has me watching them with a childlike sense of wonder. The Last Jedi will follow the Skywalker saga and picks up where The Force Awakens left us. Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Brick and Looper) took on the screenwriting duties and is at the helm of The Last Jedi, and it’s rumored that he is bringing his own version of an Ewok-like creature to the universe. I’m sure things are going to getting at least a little weird. This will also be Carrie Fischer’s last film after her passing in December 2016.
3. Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott is delving back into the Alien franchise he started in the 70’s with a follow up to 2012’s Prometheus. According to Scott, he aims to shock audiences again with this sci-fi horror. He got his R-rating too. Micheal Fassbender is returning as an asshole robot, and the cast also includes Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup and James Franco.
2. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is one of my all time favourite films. The tacky, funny, and colourful space opera is a smart visual feast and the perfect example of the filmmaker’s extraordinary imagination. I’ve been waiting for years and years for him to return to outer space.
I’m glad he didn’t go the sequel route. Instead he adapted the 1970’s graphic novel that follows the time travelling secret agent Valarian and his partner, Laureline, on their adventures through a galactic empire. 2017 is no doubt a very, very good year for science fiction, and this film’s new worlds are on top of my list to explore. The film stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne.
1. The Lure
Originality makes the film. New ideas brought to life by ordinary. The Lure has not been released yet, but already it’s got cult status written all over. A musical-horror-comedy about mermaids, all the way from Poland nonetheless. Two mermaids start a band and lures in the male town folk to feast on their organs. Sold. The music is pretty great too:
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Jack Sparrow takes on the Spanish seas. [Releasing in South Africa and some territories as Pirates of the Carribean: Salazar’s Revenge, for some reason]
Song To Song: a Terrence Malick love story set in the Austen music scene with aN all star ensemble cast.
Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Martin McDonagh already gave us In Bruge and Seven Psychopaths.
Baywatch: Of course.
Kingsmen: The Golden Circle: The first one was really enjoyable.
The Dark Tower: I haven’t read the books but apparently it’s really good and a big deal.
Dunkirk: A Christopher Nolan World War 2 film.
Rock That Body: Scarlet Johannson is in it.
Annihilation: Alex Garland latest after Ex-Machina.
Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman doing Winston Churchhill.
The Killing of The Sacred Deer: From the guy that gave us The Lobster.
Under The Silver Lake: David Robert Mitchell follows up It Follows with a crime thriller.
It’s going to be a busy year at the movies; see you next year.
Less Wes Anderson, more Wes Craven.