The new year brings a wealth of new possibilities, possibilities for change, depth and exploration. But who cares about any of those things, because there’s a ton of new films coming out.
Even if you have proper priorities, like I do, you still may not know exactly what to get excited for. Well, that’s what they pay me the no bucks for. Here’s a selection of the most interesting films of 2016 (that have release dates).
5) Kubo and the Two Strings (Aug. 19)
First up, we have this absolutely gorgeous piece of animation from Laika Studios, who haven’t whiffed a film yet with projects like Coraline, The Boxtrolls and the especially impressive ParaNorman. The story, set in ancient Japan, follows a young boy named Kubo, whose life is forever changed by the return of a vengeful spirit which sparks him on a quest for the legacy of his legendary late Samurai warrior father.
The film boasts an impressive voice cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, George Takei and Ralph Fiennes. The pedigree of this film is huge and if it can combine this cast and gorgeous stop-motion animation with Laika’s signature penchant for storytelling and no small amount of surprises, this will be an experience to remember.
4) The Nice Guys (May 20)
This slot celebrates the mid-budget auteurs, directors who’ve got the experience and the weight to get a few stars, and the budget to play around with some more ambitious ideas.
The Nice Guys, filmed in Atlanta, stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. It is the story of two detectives, a girl in danger and a whole lot of swearing, violence and physical comedy in ‘70s L.A. Director/Writer Shane Black has consistently turned in some of our great action-comedy films and this appears to continue strongly in the tradition of great writing and dynamic direction and performances.
Plus, seeing Gosling continue to break out of his Drive mode of “staring off into the middle distance and letting things happen around him” acting and play wacky and weird characters seems like a crazy amount of fun.
3) The Witch (Feb. 19th)
This one goes out to the low-budget indies. Many of them made quite a splash at festivals last year, but the vagaries of getting film distribution delayed their release into this year. But no matter, they’re here and ready to blow your mind.
The Witch made quite the splash at Sundance last year, breaking the mold of indie dramas about families and important things to craft what is being touted as one of the most disturbing and unsettling horror films in sometime. Robert Eggers won the Best Director award at Sundance for this debut feature, and based on what we’ve seen, it’s well earned.
The film tells the story of a Puritan family whose child is taken from them by an unknown evil. This surprisingly authentic looking Puritan village swirls with fear from the disturbing images seen so far, and I fully expect to be wowed when this film finally bows.
2) Hail, Caesar! (Feb. 5th)
Now nothing lights up the cineplex like a good comedy. And the comedies we know about well in advance are often the best. These are the comedies created by auteurs with great ideas who need the time to craft and create.
Hail, Caesar! is one such comedy, which comes to us from the Coen brothers, the brilliant directors behind everything from Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? to No Country For Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis. This film returns to the classic days of Hollywood to tell the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood fixer, after the star (George Clooney) of his newest movie is kidnapped by a mysterious group calling themselves The Future.
Is that premise not enough for you? This film stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Dolph Lundgren and, in the best casting of all, Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-style song and dance man.
If that’s not one of the greatest ensemble casts on one of the greatest premises by one of the greatest working directorial teams, I’ll eat my hat.
1) Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25th)
Of course, there’s nothing like a great blockbuster film. If I told you I got into film and film criticism for any reason but talking about these blockbusters, I’d be lying to you.
And if I told you it was because of anything but these characters, I’d be lying, too. These DC Comics characters were my first pop culture love, the first films that truly got me excited, my first academic research paper and the first critical conversation I entered.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the film that culminates all of that, a cinematic showdown between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel decades in the making. Not only has this film promised huge war between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman, but it’s also promised to deliver a hugely expanded universe for these characters to play in, the debut of Wonder Woman on film played by Gal Gadot (Fast Five), Jesse Eisenberg’s delightfully manic Lex Luthor and all manner of melodramatic and soapy superhero fun with Zack Snyder’s signature visual flair.
This is perhaps the most important film for any studio this year. This is the pivot for Warner Brothers’ future plans and will make or break the DC Comics cinematic universe. It fills me with great excitement and great trepidation to see this film unfold. I say this to brace you for the amount of writing I’m about to do for the film I’m most excited for this year and perhaps for any year in a long time.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is going to be a lot of things. It could be a triumphant, epic, visually fantastic announcement of the renewed power of these characters. It could be an absolute disastrous mess of tonally incorrect melodrama. It could be both. We just know one thing: it won’t be boring.