7. Zoolander 2
Release date(s): February 12
Ah, the Wall Street 2 of comedy sequels. The cultural timing seems right but can it break the comedy sequel curse? Anchorman 2 was supposed to, then missed the mark wide. Skepticism aside, the characters of Derek Zoolander, Hansel and Mugatu (played by the veritable Big Three of aging comedy superstars, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell) always seemed ripe for an update in the new world of 2016. The film’s trailer did a lot to allay doubts that this could be really, really funny. In an age where everyone seems to be trying to cash in on nostalgia by “getting the band back together,” this is one reunion that could be fun.
Release date(s): May 13
The story of Edward Snowden is ripe for a cinematic telling, especially by historically-minded Oliver Stone. It’s literary; is he a noble man or a traitor, a hero or a villain? The fire he started in the debate over freedom vs. security made the USA Freedom Act happen last June and is continued to be debated on the campaign by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul. Match the story and storyteller with an up-and-coming movie star in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and an eclectic supporting cast (Shailene Woodley, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa Leo, Timothy Olyphant, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage etc) and you have (hopefully) a consciousness-raising film.
5. The Nice Guys
Release date(s): May 20
Shane Black is one of those writers, like David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino, that leaves an indelible mark on a script, usually in the wiz-bang snarky dialogue or deconstructing symbol of masculinity. After scoring huge directing the $1+ billion grossing Iron Man 3 in 2013, Black rightfully cashed in to direct his own script, a comedic period noir starring walking symbols of masculinity Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. A question mark was whether traditionally dramatic actors could channel Black’s sharp tongue like, say, Robert Downey, Jr. but the trailer put those doubts to bed. In a sea of familiarity, it’s refreshing to have an original voice like Black back in the game.
Release date(s): July 16
The death of Harold Ramis in February 2014 was the death of the oft-delayed-for-Bill-Murray threequel reuniting the original cast with a new generation of ‘busters. Pretty quickly, a new pitch took over from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) to reboot the whole thing with his signature funny women stepping (Bridesmaids duo Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy plus SNL breakout stars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones) in as four new Ghostbusters in modern New York. Given the track record of the three principals, the potential for McKinnon and Jones to break out anew, there’s a ton of potential here for a new beginning for this franchise.
3. The Magnificent Seven
Release date(s): September 23
No photos released
As a lover of both the original Kurosawa film Seven Samurai and the Western remake of the same name, I’m looking forward to this modern retelling of such a classical tale. It’s a sign of it’s durability that last month alone we can have two homages (Ridiculous Six and The Hateful Eight) as far away from one another in tone, quality and content as possible. My anticipation turned to confidence when director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer, Southpaw) assembled a cast consisting of megastars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt and character actors Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Wagner Moura, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer, and Peter Sarsgaard. Expect this one to print money come fall.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Release date(s): December 25
I read the book and liked a lot of it, director Tim Burton hasn’t made a good film in a while and is due, and the cast is pretty spot on. Combine these factors and you have this upcoming adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ YA adult novel – the first in a trilogy of course. It concerns young Jacob (Asa Butterfield of Hugo and Ender’s Game fame) whose grandfather’s death sets him on a journey complete with invisible monsters and time travel to find the titular Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her peculiar children. Riggs’ novel was deservedly praised for integrating old photographs into the narrative, which added an eerie and bizarre backdrop that hopefully Burton is suited to recreate on screen. It’ll be the key to making it as special a movie as the book was.
1. Story of Your Life
Release date(s): N/A
No photos released
This unscheduled sci-fi tale comes from new filmmaker-to-watch Denis Villeneuve, who is on quite a streak after directing Enemy, Prisoners, Sicario and this film in a row with a plum job directing the Blade Runner sequel up next. Amy Adams stars as a linguist hired by the military to make first contact with an alien craft and determine their intentions in an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s award-winning 2000 short story of the same name. Supported by Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg, the synopsis hearkens back to old school sci-fi with the hard science of The Martian thrown in. While the person who made Sicario such a beautiful film (legendary DP Roger Deakins) isn’t back, Villeneuve is an innate visual stylist all his own. Will his streak of cinematic greatness end?
MOVIE TRENDS in 2016
5. Superhero films: Marvel (Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse & Doctor Strange)
Release date(s): February 12, May 6, May 27 & November 4
You’ll forgive me for compressing; there’s just so many of these damn comic book films now. Both Marvel and D.C. (more on them next) seem to realize this and have set up quite the varied buffet of darker and weirder superhero fare this year, from the superhero-movie-as-an-R-rated-comedy (Deadpool) to the superhero-movie-as-a-disaster movie (X-Men: Apocalypse). The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is stepping up its game as well with a stacked Captain America film that seems awfully like a third Avengers film to introducing the psychedelic magic of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). For those keeping score at home, the Avengers films and Doctor Strange are part of the MCU owned by Disney while Deadpool and the X-Men films are in a separate franchise universe owned by FOX.
Of the bunch, I think Deadpool has the most promise (the above trailer is set to DMX’s “X Gon Give It to Ya.” ‘Nuff said), Civil War‘s trailer got me from expectant to excited, and I love what Marvel’s saying about Doctor Strange and hope it delivers. Despite a stellar cast, I am most reserved for Apocalypse which had a bad trailer and already looks pretty cheesy.
4. Superhero films: D.C. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Suicide Squad)
Release date(s): March 25 & August 6
On the opposing side, they’re just trying to get out of the gate. While Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman is poised to blow the doors of the hinges for the Justice League (seriously, didn’t the above trailer spoil literally all three acts?) and, more broadly, Warner Bros.’s entire D.C. Extended Universe , it’s Suicide Squad that is garnering the most interest. It’s their attempt at this year’s above-mentioned “dark and weird” superhero genre and, overall, it’s a smart play. Its story is equal parts Guardians of the Galaxy and The Dirty Dozen, a team-up movie but with bad guys. Writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch and Fury) specializes in morally-ambiguous antiheroes and is just the right auteur to pull this off.
As a fan of the flawed Man of Steel (there’s legitimate criticism to be made), I’m optimistic the brand can shine as Marvel’s has, but in a different creative way. And, as a fan, the hiring of Patty Jenkins, James Wan and Batman himself Ben Affleck to direct Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the next Batman film respectively, should give hope that we’re going to get creative and innovative visions of these classic superheroes.
3. Franchise expansions (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them & Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
Release date(s): April 22, November 18 & December 16
The newest thing in franchise filmmaking in 2015 was the rebootquel – stories that aren’t quite sequels or remakes/reboots but combine elements of both to update what is, for all intents and purposes, the same story for a modern audience. Two made a ton of money (Jurassic World & Star Wars: The Force Awakens), one didn’t (Terminator Genisys) and two made less money but garnered heaps of critical acclaim (Mad Max: Fury Road & Creed). But that’s old now. In 2016, franchises are looking to create spinoffs that will defy the limits of traditional franchises.
Got Snow White in the movie’s title but want to make a sequel without her (let’s forget why)? Chuck the actress and the character and tell a different story in the same world. Want people to think the words “Wizarding World” first instead of “Harry Potter?” Get J.K. Rowling to write an original screenplay based on a magical “textbook.” Want a Star Wars film every year? Start telling anthology stories set in different parts and times of the galaxy far, far away. Forward-and-backward moviemaking doesn’t cut it in 2016. You have to go side-to-side and diagonal.
2. Video game adaptations (Warcraft & Assassin’s Creed)
Release date(s): June 10 & December 21
Video game adaptations have, thus far, sucked. So there’s a low bar to clear to make a quality film but consequently, pessimism runs rampant about even the possibility. Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed are entering this gauntlet with an all-or-nothing attitude. The former, from the fantasy MMORPG, comes from uber-nerd director (and son of David Bowie) Duncan Jones featuring Orcs fully-rendered by actors in motion-capture while the latter reunites the team behind last year’s Shakespeare adaptation Macbeth – director Justin Kurzel, stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard – to tell the story of a man who’s memories can be transplanted by machine to his ancestor, an assassin in medieval Europe. If these films fail to make money, it won’t be for lack of trying. These will be reverent and smart adaptations but will there be an audience for them? That has yet to be proven.
1. Delayed sequels (Independence Day: Resurgence & Bourne 5)
Release date(s): June 24 & July 29
Following up on my rebootquel remarks, a precursor to their surge was the delayed sequel, checking in on a character or characters we haven’t seen for a while. That’s the case behind Independence Day: Resurgence – coming 20 years after the original – and Bourne 5 – coming 9 years after the last Matt Damon-led film. Since the original was such a formative film for me growing up, my nostalgia leans heavily with Resurgence and, really, any excuse to have Jeff Goldblum back in a blockbuster is good enough for me. It was the trailer that made me realize how powerful that feeling was there.
As for Jason Bourne, I remain neutral. Paul Greengrass – the filmmaker who made the second and third films such hits – is back with Damon so I expect it will be well-made and have some topicality to the picture at the least. But the Bourne films always came across as cold to me and with the story of the (former?) amnesiac’s mysterious past exhausted, I’m curious more than excited how they continue the superspy’s story.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 2016 here we come!