Friday, January 1, 2016

The Movie Guru's Top 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

Another year has come and gone. 2015 is over in approximately 4.5 hours and it's been quite a ride. 2015 has been a great year for movies and I'll go through all of that when I reveal my Top 20 list next week. But before we look back at 2015, it's time to look forward to 2016 and all of the cinematic possibilities that it offers.

I'm not gonna lie- I'm not quite as excited for 2016 as I was for 2015. There don't seem to be as many exciting blockbusters and after such a great year, I'm a bit wary. But there's still so much to look forward to in 2016, a wide range of comedies, sequels and superhero spectacles. Batman and Superman will square off for the first time, Captain America and Iron Man will fight over civil liberties, and we'll finally learn the untold story of how the rebels stole the Death Star plans in Rogue One. In addition, new films from Shane Black, Richard Linklater, The Coen Brothers and Damien Chazelle will hit theaters this year, making for a slate of movies that could be quite interesting. With all that said, here are my Top 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2016, along with 10 honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

KNIGHT OF CUPS- Terence Malick's latest is set in Hollywood and has received some pretty divisive reactions from people who have seen the movie at various festivals. It was on my honorable mentions list last year, and there's no reason that it shouldn't be again this year. With a cast led by Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, this one holds promise. March 4

ZOOTOPIA- The latest trailer for Disney's Zootopia premiered earlier today and I remain fascinated by the world that Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore has created here. The sloth DMV gag was great, and if Zootopia features a plethora of that cutting satire, we're in for a treat with this one. March 4

THE WITCH- One of the most acclaimed horror films to come out of last year's Sundance Film Festival, I caught the second half of the trailer for The Witch just before The Visit. And it really terrified me. This New England folktale looks absolutely mesmerizing and scary in unique ways. I can't wait to see if it lives up to the hype. February 26

THE JUNGLE BOOK- Jon Favreau's mo-cap update on the classic Disney animated film looks scarier and more intense than anything we've seen in that universe before. But man, hearing Baloo whistle "The Bear Necessities" as he floated down a river really got to me. April 15

EDDIE THE EAGLE- I didn't know much about this film until recently, but the first trailer was phenomenal and after the breakout success of Kingsman earlier this year, I'm interested to see what Fox can do with Taron Egerton's latest. It looks like the kind of inspirational sports story that can really connect with audiences. February 26

THE ACCOUNTANT- I honestly have no clue what this is really about, but with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick in a violent thriller opening in the middle of Oscar season, you can color me excited. October 7

TOP SECRET UNTITLED LONELY ISLAND MOVIE- The Lonely Island was a part of my childhood. As a middle schooler, we all listened to their songs obsessively, so I can't wait to see what the guys can do on the big screen. June 3

SNOWDEN- Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden biopic was originally set to be released on Christmas Day of this year, but smartly avoided Star Wars and the Oscar season clutter for a May 2016 release. The cast here is terrific and I'm very intrigued to hear what Oliver Stone has to say about surveillance in our modern era. May 13

THE FOUNDER- Michael Keaton goes for the Oscar again as McDonald's founder Ray Kroc in a film directed by Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side's John Lee Hancock. This film has a lot of potential to be an interesting biopic, and the cast is filled with great character actors like Nick Offerman, Linda Cardellini, John Carroll Lynch and Patrick Wilson. November 25

TRIPLE NINE- The red-band trailer for Triple Nine is a burst of high-octane violence on a frightening scale. It looks absolutely mesmerizing, and the cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Michael K. Williams, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer and Gal Gadot is icing on the cake. February 26


The Top 25

25. UNTITLED NEXT BOURNE CHAPTER- July 29


We all thought that the Bourne story was over with The Bourne Ultimatum, but Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass have returned to continue the saga. There hasn't been too much info about this film, but I like that Greengrass is back in the director's chair, and the supporting cast anchored by Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones and Riz Ahmed, there's a lot of promise here. The Bourne trilogy is an exciting and emotionally satisfying action series. Let's hope that the next chapter continues that trend.

24. MOANA- November 23


Disney's last trip into the world of princesses was Frozen and we all know how that turned out. Now, the studio is back with Moana, Disney's first Polynesian princess. I love the oceanic setting of this new tale and the voice cast that features Dwayne Johnson as a demigod is an added plus. I don't know if this will be the instant classic that Frozen was, but it certainly has the potential to be something magnificent.

23. GREEN ROOM- April 1


Green Room took the Toronto International Film Festival by storm and after reading the plot description, I can understand why. The film follows a punk rock band that gets trapped in a secluded venue after they see a vicious act of violence that they most certainly shouldn't have. In addition to that, we have Patrick Stewart playing a villain and a director who was infinitely praised for his directorial debut Blue Ruin. I absolutely can't wait to see what Green Room has to offer.

22. THE BFG- July 1


Look, I'll admit that I'm not as excited for The BFG as I am for Spielberg's upcoming adaptation of Ready Player One. That film would be my most anticipated for 2017 if not for a little film called Star Wars: Episode VIII, but this is a story for a year from now. Nonetheless, The BFG is based on a classic Roald Dahl tale and it feels like something that is right in the director's wheelhouse. The first trailer was a terrific tease and hearing the John Williams score play in the background got me very excited. This might finally be the film that brings back the true magic of Spielberg.

21. GHOSTBUSTERS- July 15


No 2016 blockbuster has been as controversial as Paul Feig's reboot of Ghostbusters. The new take on the 1984 classic will star four women- Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones- and that alone has set the internet by storm. But moving beyond the controversy, we have a film that has the potential to be incredibly smart and funny. Feig proved his action/comedy chops with Spy and everything that we've seen from Ghostbusters so far makes it seem as if the team behind the film will honor the source material while putting their own unique spin on things.

20. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE- March 25


Some might be surprised to see this one so low on my list, but there's no denying that I'm very worried about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There have been glimmers of hope in the marketing, and yet, there's still this strange sense that the first film in DC's planned superhero empire will be a colossal disaster. Ben Affleck as Batman has been a point of debate for years now, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman seems oddly placed, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is puzzling and Doomsday looks goofy. There's still a glimmer of hope that Batman v Superman will be great, but DC needs to show me something good and they need to show it soon.

19. DOCTOR STRANGE- November 4


Pitched as the biggest head trip in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is one of Marvel's riskiest gambles yet- and one of their most exciting. The first look at Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme debuted earlier this week and he looks phenomenal, and it'll be cool to see how the rest of the cast (Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen and Rachel McAdams) does in this bizarre world. I don't know how Doctor Strange will translate to the cinematic medium, but conceptually, this looks dazzling.

18. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN- July 1


I had no interest in David Yates' The Legend of Tarzan until I saw the trailer earlier this month. And man, it looks really good. I don't know what the story will be here, but David Yates has seemed to capture a sort of darker adventure spirit that just looks really sweet. Plus, the cast led by Alexander Skarsgaard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz is truly terrific. There have been reports of issues behind-the-scenes, but that hasn't even come close to dimming my hope for this one yet.

17. THE CONJURING 2- June 10


The first installment in the Conjuring series was absolutely terrifying. Like, legit scary. It came out of nowhere in 2013 to surprise the hell out of people and it was a massive hit. James Wan is back in the director's chair and Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return to their roles as the Warrens for a case in the heart of England. No footage has debuted yet so I don't know how scary this looks, but in a case of brand loyalty, I'm still pretty excited for The Conjuring 2.

16. NEIGHBORS 2- May 20

Just like The Conjuring, Neighbors came out of left field to be a smash hit in 2014 and surprised everyone with its gross-out humor and heart. And just like The Conjuring 2, we have yet to see any footage from Neighbors 2, which has been rumored to have the subtitle of Sorority Rising. Still, this is one of my most anticipated comedies of the year- Neighbors is one of those raucous frat house movies that I simply love to death and I can't wait to see what crazy tricks Nicholas Stoller has up his sleeve for the sequel.

15. MONEY MONSTER- May 13

This is one of the few movies on this list that I'm looking forward to not because of the director, or the cast, or the franchise, or the brand, but simply because it sounds like a good movie. Money Monster follows the story of a Jim Kramer-like financial guru (played by George Clooney) who gets held hostage on live TV (Jack O'Connell) by someone who followed one of his incorrect stock tips. Described as a cross between Network and Dog Day Afternoon, this is one of those ideas that is so purely brilliant that I can see this becoming an instant classic. Jodie Foster in the director's chair worries me, but I'm hooked on the concept alone.

14. DEADPOOL- February 12


If you read my Deadpool trailer discussion, you sorta already have an idea of where I stand on this film, But I'm here to tell you that despite my trepidation, I'm still extremely excited to see what Ryan Reynolds has cooked up with his "true" version of the classic hero. The trailers have been great and if the filmmakers keep the character at bay and allow for a real story to be told, this has the potential to be one of the most unique superhero movies ever. I'm just hoping that the character doesn't get too grating too fast.

13. STAR TREK BEYOND- July 22


Okay, the first trailer wasn't great. Even the film's screenwriter, Simon Pegg, has admitted that. The tone-deaf mix of Beastie Boys and Fast and Furious-style action caused fans to groan and with good reason. And yeah, there's no J.J. Abrams this time around. So there's reason to worry about Star Trek Beyond. But still, the cast of this rebooted Trek franchise is truly killer and Justin Lin is a more than capable director. I don't have the expectation that Beyond will reach the heights of the original or Into Darkness, but I'm still expecting another strong Trek movie from this crew.

12. SAUSAGE PARTY- August 12

Sausage Party is the most ribald, raucous and awesome concept of the year. No questions asked. One of the things that I've always loved about Seth Rogen is his constantly innovating style of humor. He dabbles in a wide variety of genres and he's not okay with just doing the same type of movie over and over. He's done stoner comedies, romantic comedies, Christmas movies, apocalyptic tales and spy movies- all to great success. Now, he's experimenting with the animated genre for a film set in a grocery store. Nothing has been seen from Sausage Party yet, but Rogen's promise of an R-rated Toy Story in a grocery store has me more than pumped. Not to mention the voice cast of practically every actor in Hollywood history. This is definitely a breakout hit waiting to happen.

11. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE- May 27


X-Men: Days of Future Past remains one of the best superhero movies of all time. Emotional, epic and told on a scale unparalleled by almost anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the quasi-reboot of the X-Men franchise was a truly thrilling film. Which is why Apocalypse has the cards stacked against it. The fourth X-Men flick directed by Bryan Singer has to top Days of Future Past on a spectacle level and somehow raise the emotional stakes in a way that we haven't seen before. The first trailer was an interesting tease, but I'm betting that there's something much more compelling at the heart of Apocalypse. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are wonderful actors and with Oscar Isaac as the villainous titular mutant, there's no reason not to be psyched for this one.

10. PASSENGERS- December 21

Passengers is our yearly space movie, hitting theaters around the same time as Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian. But this one has one very unique weapon- the duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Telling the story of a spacecraft heading to a distant colony planet, a single passenger is awakened early, setting a course for certain death. To give some companionship, the passenger accidentally awakens another passenger. This is an infinitely fascinating concept and its mix of sci-fi and romance sounds great. In addition, Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum is at the helm, which adds to the promise of this one. But make no mistake- the reason this one is so high on the list is because of the pairing of Lawrence and Pratt, which is sure to be one of the biggest stories in the movie world this year.

9. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM- November 18


Ever since the Harry Potter franchise ended in 2011, fans have been asking about a return to the Wizarding World. Five years later, J.K. Rowling has penned a new prequel and David Yates is back in the director's chair, taking the action to New York several decades before the events of the Boy Who Lived. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will follow the adventures of the magizoologist Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) aaaaand that's about all we know. The supporting cast is great, with Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler and Colin Farrell all set for significant roles. But honestly, who cares about all that? We're back to the universe that I grew up with and I could not be more excited to see what Rowling has drawn up here.

8. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL- March 18


Midnight Special, the latest from acclaimed Mud director Jeff Nichols, has been shrouded in secrecy from the start, but the idea behind it is truly curious. A sci-fi chase movie described to be in the vein of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Midnight Special seems like the kind of boldly original science fiction film that will remain a classic for years. Plus, a cast led by Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Nichols regular Michael Shannon, and St. Vincent breakout star Jaeden Lieberher is something that immediately catches your eye. All in all, I have high hopes for Nichols to do something truly special with this one- it might not work, but I can't deny the originality and imagination behind this gamble.

7. SUICIDE SQUAD- August 5


Suicide Squad is DC's riskiest gamble so far. Filled with degenerates and villains and mostly unknown characters, this murderer's row of literal murderers is going to test the brand power of DC Comics. Thankfully, Suicide Squad has a filmmaker like David Ayer behind it and the cast is equally powerful- Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis and so on. While this is the biggest test for DC, it's also the film with the most potential- the grungy and brilliant first teaser sparked millions of views back in July and there has been a lot of curiosity around Leto's turn as the Clown Prince of Crime. This offbeat Guardians of the Galaxy-with-criminals is the DC offering that I'm truly interested to see in 2016.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR- May 6


The Captain America franchise is the best that Marvel has to offer. Period. The First Avenger is an engaging, pulpy piece of retro cinema and The Winter Soldier is 70s paranoia with a modern bend. I don't know if Civil War will feel like a Captain America movie (the presence of Iron Man, Ant-Man, Black Widow and everybody else will certainly be distracting), but with the Russo Brothers at the helm, anything is possible. They did a great job with The Winter Soldier and if they bring their political eye and knack for hard-hitting fights to one of Marvel's most popular stories, the sky is the limit for this hotly anticipated film.

5. LA LA LAND- July 15

Damien Chazelle crushed Whiplash. It's not often that a director hits a home run with his debut feature. Chazelle's pulsing, intense jazz opus was a visceral and haunting experience, but for his follow-up feature, Chazelle is heading into some new territory. Telling the story of an aspiring musician who falls in love with an actress in Los Angeles, La La Land sounds like the kind of glossy, beautiful musical epic that I will fall in love with. The first picture (which debuted in EW yesterday) was all kinds of gorgeous and I love the cast, which includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Finn Wittrock and J.K. Simmons. All in all, this is one of 2016's most promising films and I can't wait to see what one of Hollywood's newest rising stars has created for his second act.

4. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME- April 15


Dazed and Confused is the best high school movie of all time. Filled with clever characters, an easy-going flow and a thoughtful core, it's the most accurate and sad movie about those formative years. Richard Linklater's spiritual sequel, Everybody Wants Some, has the potential to be the greatest college movie of all time. With a great cast filled with new faces and a breezy tone that seems to emulate Dazed to perfection, this looks like one of the 2016 movies that could become an instant classic.

3. HAIL, CAESAR!- February 5


Hail, Caesar! is the latest from Joel and Ethan Coen and I'll be darned if it doesn't look like one of their best. A star-studded Hollywood-set comedy, Hail, Caesar! is the story of studio head Edward Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he deals with the kidnapping of his biggest star (George Clooney) and all of the other celebrity craziness surrounding him. Also starring Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johannson, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill, this screwball 1950s comedy looks like a pure blast of fun, The Coens haven't had a movie since 2013's masterpiece Inside Llewyn Davis and I'm so ready for another blast of their wonderful characters and sardonic wit. This one can't come soon enough.

2. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY- December 16


The Star Wars franchise launched in a big way last year with The Force Awakens, but Disney has much bigger plans for this series. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first spin-off movie in this new Star Wars franchise and there's the potential for a really dark, fun story. The tale of how the rebels stole the Death Star plans is led by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and a cast filled with great actors like Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn. Plus, Darth Vader is in this one. That alone puts Rogue One near the top of my most anticipated list.

1. THE NICE GUYS- May 20

You're probably thinking that this is a weird pick for my #1 most anticipated of 2016. That's understandable. Shane Black's The Nice Guys isn't a franchise movie or a sequel or a superhero flick- instead, it's a 70s comedy with a trailer that floored me. When this trailer came out earlier this month, I felt like this was a film that was made for me. A Ryan Gosling-Russell Crowe buddy comedy? In Los Angeles? Set in the 1970s? Count. Me. In. It looks like Inherent Vice on steroids and if that doesn't get you excited for this film, nothing will. The Nice Guys has everything that I look for in a movie and I can't wait to see if it lives up to its potential.

That's it! Here's to a great 2016!

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