Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2016

So far, 2016 has felt like something of a lackluster year for film when compared to what felt like a rather stellar 2015. Maybe it is the hurt of summer '16 and the many disappointments it carried that is still making me feel worse about the year than it actually has been, but if the summer of '16 was a let down the latter half of the year certainly seems like it has a shot of righting the ship and offering plenty of interesting films that could fill the majority of my year end list that I'm beginning to get concerned about. In fact, the rest of the year is so jam-packed with highly anticipated stuff I think I could make a top twenty and be legitimately excited for each and every one of the movies on that list. As I did last year, I'm basically including a top fifteen with more of a focus on why my top ten are indeed my top ten, but hard choices had to be made.

I'm interested to see what Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks have to offer with Sully and the fact it was shot 100% on IMAX cameras. I'm equally as intrigued by what Oliver Stone and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have up their sleeves in Snowden, but while interested I can't say I'm necessarily excited for the possibilities these features hold. I kind of feel I know what to expect and if they fulfill those expectations, great-if they surpass them-even better. This could very much describe the way I feel about the likes of The Girl on the Train and The Accountant as well. I'm very much interested to see if either of these can rise above their genre trappings to be more than what their trailers promise or if they'll simply be solid exercises in those genres-which isn't a bad thing either. I expect Birth of a Nation may be a great film, but am I excited to watch another harsh account concerning slavery? Not really. If I knew or had seen a little more about Denzel Washington's Fences adaptation or Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain I might be more inclined to include them on my list. Speaking of Washington, I'm certainly eager to see such mainstream films as Magnificent Seven, When a Monster Calls, Deepwater Horizon, Moana, and Assassins Creed, but not more than what is currently on my list. Monster and Moana would definitely make that top twenty though.

I've excluded Martin Scorsese's Silence from this list as I've put it on the last four or five lists I've made of this nature and it seems and it still doesn't have a firm release date. If we were to get some kind of confirmation it would certainly be near the top, but as of right now I'm treating this thing as if it won't come out until 2017. Same for the Will Smith/Kate Winslet/Keira Knightley/Helen Mirren/ Edward Norton/Naomie Harris/Michael Peña starrer Collateral Beauty. We could get a trailer any day now given the December 16th release date, but as we haven't seen so much as a still yet there is nothing to go on. The one landing just outside this top fifteen is Ewan McGregor's directorial debut in American Pastoral which I unfortunately feel will take a while to get to my neck of the woods. And so, without further adieu, let's dig in...

While we've yet to receive a trailer for Nocturnal Animals I imagine that will be changing soon as the film just premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is set to have its North American premiere at this years Toronto International Film Festival. The second feature from director and fashion designer Tom Ford stars the likes of such top tier talent as Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams in a film about an art gallery owner who is haunted by her ex-husband's novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. The first reviews out of Venice have been promising and while I liked Ford's feature debut, A Single Man, well enough I look forward to seeing how the director has grown in bringing his impeccable sense of style to that of the medium of film.

It seems we should be getting a trailer for Passengers any day now as well though I imagine it will likely drop the week The Magnificent Seven arrives in theaters given that films also stars Chris Pratt and is also financed and distributed by Sony/Columbia Pictures. As the best chance for an out and out original property to break out this year the Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence vehicle comes from an original screenplay by Jon Spaihts (who famously wrote the first draft of Prometheus) and tells of a spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people that has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened sixty years early. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger. The film is directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and promises to be the major distraction of the Holiday season if it can steal attention away from the likes of Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts.

Two films that premiered at this years Sundance Film Festival are already in my top ten of the year so far and with the praise Manchester by the Sea has garnered so far it seems it stands a chance of joining those same ranks. Though I was somewhat surprised by the seeming simplicity of the first trailer for the film that premiered a couple of weeks back it's not hard to understand why that may be more marketing than a fair portrait of what all this film may actually offer. In only his directorial feature Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) has again written an original screenplay about an uncle who is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies. Like I said, surface level description seems as if it can only mean the film really zeroes in on the emotions and dynamics presented by such a situation. With a cast featuring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, and Michelle Williams just to name a few one can't help but feel this will have no problem living up to the hype.

Having not read many comics much less those of Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme I come at director Scott Derickson's (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) take on the Marvel hero and his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same way I came at Thor-intrigued, but slightly concerned. This is clearly somewhat new territory for the company given Doctor Strange very much exists in a magical reality and thus is the reason I'm excited for the movie. Marvel, despite its seeming need to micro-manage, still isn't afraid to at least try and go in new and different directions so that a Doctor Strange movie exists is one thing, but that it has been granted a cast that features the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role with support from Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg says a lot about how far Marvel's credentials have risen since the inception of the Avengers eight years ago. This first live action film featuring the Marvel character will follow the neurosurgeon as he seeks to repair his hands and his career after suffering a severe car wreck only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

It is with some hesitance that I place the latest from Tim Burton on my most anticipated list. I want to believe in the once unique director who ushered in a voice all his own and a visual style to match, but it seems for some time now that the director has more or less been operating on autopilot. While his last film, 2014's Big Eyes seemed like a step in the right direction and one that was out from under the ultra-stylized world he'd been sulking in for quite some time, but it seems the director is incapable of staying away from such an environment for too long as his next project was quickly decided to be the adaptation of Ransom Riggs best seller. The rather engaging novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, was originally intended to be a picture book featuring photographs Riggs had collected, but on the advice of an editor, he used the photographs as a guide from which to put together a narrative. That resulting narrative follows teenager Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield) as he gathers clues that take him to a mysterious island where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children. With Eva Green in the titular Miss Peregrine role and other heavy hitters such as Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, Chris O'Dowd, and Gone Girl's Kim Dickens filling out the rest of the cast I can't wait to see Riggs story brought to life.

Also premiering at the Venice Film Festival this year is Mel Gibson's first directorial effort in a decade, Hacksaw Ridge. the true story concerning Desmond Doss, a conscientious collaborator and Army medic who refused to bear arms during World War II, but ended up saving seventy-five men during the bloodiest battle of the war without firing a single bullet. To go along with this inspiring tale is the pairing of what looks to be some pretty spectacular visuals as Gibson has teamed with cinematographer Simon Duggan who has worked on films such as I, Robot and The Great Gatsby. The real highlight of that first trailer though was the focus on Andrew Garfield's performance and given he has this as well as Martin Scorsese's Silence potentially coming out this year it could be a huge awards season for the guy. Gibson has also stacked his supporting cast with the likes of Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, and Vince Vaughn. I'm a big Vaugh fan and love even more when actors play against type so if nothing else I'm excited to see what this might do for Vaughn's dwindling career. (11/4)

Warner Bros. returns to the wizarding world of Harry Potter with the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's 2001 novel Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them this winter and I'm both excited and nervous. I'm of course excited to return to this world and am more than interested to see what it was like at another point in history, but one can't help but to be cautious when messing with something that was fine the way it finished. The book was published under the pseudonym Newt Scamander and purports to be Harry Potter's copy of the textbook that was on his list of necessary school supplies in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Given our protagonist here is Scamander himself (as played by Eddie Redmayne) I'm assuming this is an original story that will give audiences insight into how Mr. Scamander came to be experienced enough to pen an entire textbook on the magical creatures of the wizarding universe. The key here is that director David Yates, who helmed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix all the way through the finale in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is back in the director's chair and though we may not be dealing with "The Boy Who Lived" there will at least be a similar tone to connect this universe together. And hey, I enjoyed Legend of Tarzan so say what you will, but I'm keen on optimism winning out here. (11/18)

Director John Lee Hancock can be rather hit or miss. Though The Blind Side was universally praised it doesn't seem to have aged as well as most expected. The reverse happened with his 2013 feature, Saving Mr. Banks, which initially underwhelmed crowds who expected a lot from the story it was telling, but for me has become something of a treasure. Why then, you might ask, is the directors next film this high on my most anticipated list? Well, a few reasons-the first being that it is once again Hancock taking on a true story with a very specific protagonist and it is in this territory the man seems to flourish (see also The Rookie). Second, the screenplay was written solely by Robert D. Siegel who previously wrote The Wrestler and Big Fan without any source material to pull from. Third is the fact that Michael Keaton stars and to say that guy is on something of a hot streak lately is an understatement. Keaton has led the last two Best Picture Oscar winners and in my opinion should have won the Best Actor statue for Birdman in 2015. Whatever has changed about his project selection over the last few years seems to have been for the best and that he found Siegel's screenplay about McDonald's founder Ray Kroc intriguing enough to take on the titular role can only mean good things for this 2017 Oscar hopeful. (1/20)

Ang Lee is a master filmmaker and there is no reason that any year he decides to release a film that that film shouldn't be at the top of every film lover's most anticipated list. Based on the novel by Ben Fountain that was published in 2012, the story follows Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who is part of a unit called the Bravo Squad who's been fighting in Iraq. After a fight anointed "the Battle of Al-Ansakar Canal", Lynn and seven other surviving members return to the U.S. and are hailed as war heroes. These war heroes are sent on a "Victory Tour" by the government and as part of this tour, Bravo Squad are invited as guests of the Dallas Cowboys to their annual Thanksgiving game. However, it is soon revealed that following the Victory Tour, the government has not relieved the men of their duty for their achievements and that they are to return to Iraq. Though I haven't read Fountain's novel the power of the story is evident in this short synopsis. It doesn't hurt that Lee has enlisted Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) to adapt the novel as well as a cast that includes Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, and Tim Blake Nelson to bring it to to life. The movie will also be notable for having been shot at 120 frames per second in 4K native 3D which I'm sure Lee has artistic reasoning for doing so as he doesn't necessarily seem like a guy who would bump ticket prices just for the sake of profit. (11/11)

The trailers for this thing have been downright fantastic and play on the big screen like any Disney executive might hope they do. Any time I've been in a theater with other movie-goers and a trailer for Rogue One plays things get completely quiet and the you can feel the music spreading goosebumps throughout. That said, there has been a lot of behind the scenes tinkering it seems as producer/writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) was reported to have first been brought in for re-shoots and has since been bumped up to supervising the final edit of the movie. While the studio is certainly downplaying the negatives of what this could imply it is hard to be overly confident in a product that gets the board room treatment rather than the original vision of a director that you supposedly hired for their unique vision. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) has, based on the trailers at least, seemed to deliver a Star Wars film from a perspective we haven't really seen before-through the lens of an actual war film. I don't think Rogue One will necessarily turn out to be a bad film, but I was more interested in seeing the singular vision Edwards so clearly seemed to have for this story of the rebels who set out on the mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. Still, this is a Star Wars movie and despite some new trepidation I still can't believe we're getting another new Star Wars movie this year and that's enough to be excited on its own. (12/16)

To say director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) is on a roll would feel like something of an understatement at the moment. Each of the directors last three films have been in my top fifteen of the year and his latest, a big-budget mystery/sci-fi epic that stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, just premiered at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews. And so, it is something of an understatement to say I'm excited to see what Arrival has is store for us common folks when we get the chance to finally see it. With Arrival, the director has paired with screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Lights Out) to tell the story of an expert linguist who is recruited by the military to determine whether the aliens on a craft that has landed have come in peace or are a threat. Both the teaser and the full-length trailers that were released less than a week apart look insanely tense and gorgeously photographed, but it did feel as if they maybe gave away more than I was hoping they would. The aspect of focusing on language and the breaking down of how we communicate with an invading species is insanely interesting and seems to have given way to a number of interesting facets that have been explored throughout the film all of which garner strong repercussions on the life of our protagonist. Here's hoping the marketing team knows what they're doing and there are still plenty of surprised packed into Arrival. (11/11)

Since its Cannes debut earlier this year I've been anxious to see how good director Jeff Nichols second feature film of the year would turn out given Midnight Special currently sits in my top three of the year (see that movie if you haven't!). Early word out of Cannes declared the film as a strong Academy Award contender and after Focus Features picked up the film and set an early November release date it seems that is certainly the plan. The film tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who were arrested in 1959 for violating that state's anti-miscegenation law. They pleaded guilty to the charge, but later challenged it in court with the case eventually reaching the Supreme Court as Loving v. Virginia. It is interesting to see Nichols take on a pure love story as most of his films have dealt more with love of the less romantic kind-namely that of the love between parents and children, of the love that creates legacy. In the fantastic Midnight Special he talks specifically of the love between a father and his gifted child. While most of Nichols' films have premiered in the spring only to be forgotten by the Academy by the time awards season rolls around if Loving is indeed as good as the early reviews suggest it will be nice to see Nichols finally get some recognition on a much larger scale. (11/4)

I re-watched The Walk for the first time since seeing it in theaters a few weekends back and it surprisingly held up much better than I expected. Director Robert Zemeckis' (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away) feature take on the story of high-wire artist Philippe Petit was met with mixed reviews and bombed at the box office, but I don't see that same fate meeting his latest film. Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard the director's latest is an original World War II spy thriller penned by Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises) about an intelligence officer in North Africa who encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. This idea of a wholly original story not based in any documented fact with a time period setting, starring one of this generations most iconic leading men and directed by one of our most diverse filmmakers is nothing to scoff at and thus why Allied has landed so high on my list. In a time when movies are greenlit based on franchise potential and brand recognition to have a movie such as this come to us from a major studio with major stars no matter if it's in the midst of Oscar season or not, is beyond enticing. And even though Pitt has starred in a string of WWII films at this point, anything the guy does is inherently intriguing given he tends to work with both prominent and interesting directors that like to push the boundaries of where narrative filmmaking has been before starting with the most important element: the story. Count me in. (11/23)

Bleed for This feels like the kind of movie that will fly under the radar yet be the one everybody seems to love. That said, the film does come from distributor Open Road who opened their eventual Best Picture winner, Spotlight, last year at Venice and then at Telluride before taking it to the Toronto International Film Festival and they seem to be doing very much the same with Bleed for This sans Venice as the film just debuted in Telluride this weekend. The film, from director Ben Younger, is a biopic about boxer Vinny Pazienza (played by Miles Teller) who in 1991 suffered a broken neck in a car crash forcing him to relinquish his WBA World Jr. Middleweight Championship. Bleed for This tells what may seem to be a familiar story as Pazienza opted out of fusing his neck and instead has a Halo installed allowing him to be trained on the sly for a triumphant return, but everything about the film looks like it will go against the grain-much like Pazienza seemed to do. The trailer for this thing is absolutely energizing and with the blood, sweat, and tears it seemed Teller poured into his Whiplash performance one can only imagine the dedication he put in here. It may be a combination of my affinity for Whiplash and sports dramas that has propelled Bleed for This so far to the top of my most anticipated list, but I simply can't help the feeling that it won't be hard to love this movie and not just for critics who are looking for a unique take on the sports drama, but general audiences as well. I can't help but feel Bleed for This will be a genuine crowd-pleaser. (11/23)  

Speaking of Whiplash, the easy pick for my most anticipated film for the remainder of the year is Whiplash director Damien Chazelle's follow-up to that magnificent debut, La La Land. Like many Oscar hopefuls La La Land has just made its premiere at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals and will be a featured presentation at this years Toronto International Film Festival only making me want to go into a deep depression as I won't be able to attend this years festival. If you've seen either of the two hypnotic trailers for the film you'll know the film is a throwback to the musicals of Hollywood's golden age with the likes of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling serving as our surrogate Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Working again from an original screenplay that tells the simple story of a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles it is difficult to imagine what Chazelle have considered doing to attempt to follow-up his more than impressive debut. Of course, instead of thinking about the inevitable comparisons the writer/director simply made a light. modern-day romance about a relationship between two creative people based on a script he wrote before even making Whiplash. The trailers have given us what feels like only a taste of the visual flair Chazelle has packed into this film and both Gosling and Stone seem destined to make us fall in love with the soundtrack. While we may not have seen much of La La Land yet there are one too many golden factors at play and the reviews so far have been fantastic easily making it the movie I'm most excited to see throughout the remainder of the year. (12/16)

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