20 Most Anticipated Films of 2016: Part 1

I felt the need to make the blockbusters  and studio sequels their own category.  There’s a different kind of anticipation for those movies.  Whatever, I don’t need to explain my lists and reason to you, it’s my blog.  At any rate, here’s Part 1 of my most anticipated films that I am looking forward to in 2016, either because of the material, the actors involved, the reputation of the director, or all of these factors and more.  Part 2 will be posted on Tuesday or Wednesday.

20. War on Everyone
War On Everyone 1

Writer/director John Michael McDonagh made 2011’s absurd buddy comedy The Guard and 2014’s moving and powerful Calvary.  Both were Irish affairs.  Now, he’s set his sights on New Mexico for a tale about two corrupt cops (Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard) who go around blackmailing and framing every criminal they come across.  Theo James (Divergent series) and Tessa Thompson (Creed) have supporting roles.

19. Our Kind of Traitor
Our Kind of Traitor

John le Carre adaptations have come back into vogue in recent years, to critical acclaim, even if they lack in box office receipts.  This latest one, about a family getting caught between British secret service and Russian mafia when a Russian oligarch attempts to defect, stars Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, and Naomie Harris.  I love a good espionage thriller, and this could be my fix in 2016.

18. The Invitation
The Invitation 1

I’ve heard some buzz for this film, which hit the festival circuit in 2015 and currently enjoys a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 7 positive reviews.  I have not seen any trailers for the film, and the director (Karyn Kusama) has only made one film I’ve seen, the forgettable Jennifer’s Body.  But the premise of this film, which sounds like it might be an indie thriller about an ex-husband who attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife who may be in a cult, is all the hook I need.

17. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane 1

I planned on having a different movie in this list until I saw the trailer for this, an apparent spinoff of Cloverfield.  It’s set in a bunker where a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up from a car accident to be told by the owner of the bunker (John Goodman) that there is a chemical that has left the outside world uninhabitable.  Seems like a small movie with a small budget ($5 million) that J.J. Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, have managed to keep under wraps until it produced the trailer two months before it opens.  This technically could fall under the blockbuster/sequels criteria that I mentioned, but given the size and scope of it, I think it belongs here.

16. Demolition
Demolition 1

Jean-Marc Vallee has made a name for himself in the last few years with Dallas Buyers Club and Wild.  After working with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon on those projects, he’s working with Jake Gyllenhaal on Demolition, a film which deals with the emotional healing and discovery process of a man who loses his wife.  Gyllenhaal has become one of my favorite actors in the last few years, becoming a very versatile actor in the process. Early reviews seem to be mixed on the film as a whole, but very high on Gyllenhaal’s performance.  My fear is it devolves into melodrama.  It co-stars Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper.

15. Everybody Wants Some
Everybody Wants Some 1

Richard Linklater’s follow-up to 2014’s Boyhood is an ensemble piece with a cast of relative unknowns that is supposed to be the spiritual successor to arguably his most beloved film, Dazed and Confused.  The brief synopsis on IMDb says, “A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.”  Sounds great and the trailer looks entertaining.

14. Nocturnal Animals
Nocturnal Animals 1

Tom Ford, a fashion designer turned director, made A Single Man in 2009.  He’s back behind the camera for this adaptation of a novel, Tony and Susan.  Said to be a story within a story, about a woman who gets a manuscript from her ex-husband, dealing with their relationship as well as the family in the manuscript.  Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johsnon, and Michael Shannon head up the cast.

13. Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge 1

Say what you want about his personal life, but when Mel Gibson steps behind the camera, it is usually good news for film fans.  Hacksaw Ridge is his first directorial effort in a decade, and it tells the WWII story of the U.S. military’s first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  Andrew Garfield plays the lead, and the cast includes VInce Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths, and Hugo Weaving.  This project screams “awards” but it will be interesting to see what happens in that regard given Gibson’s last decade.

12. Silence
Silence 1

Whenever Martin Scorsese makes a film, you have to take notice.  Here, he is tackling a historical drama about 17th century Jesuit priest (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) who go to Japan to spread Christianity and look for their mentor (Liam Neeson), experiencing and witnessing persecution along the way as Japan bans Catholicism and seeks to isolate itself from western influences.  I’m interested in any Scorsese film, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles the spiritual and religious aspects of this story.

11. The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon 1

Nicholas Winding Refn is a director I took note of when Bronson came out in 2008.  He followed that up with a trippy Viking movie, Valhalla Rising in 2009, and made one of my favorite films of 2011 in Drive.  He followed that up with the disappointing Only God Forgives in 2013.  I’m hoping The Neon Demon is a return to form.  He knows how to make highly stylized, visually striking films with sudden outbursts of graphic violence.  Usually they have substance to go with their significant style.  It will be interesting to see what this story about a young, aspiring model played by Elle Fanning, whose youth and beauty are consumed by older, beauty-obsessed women.  Something tells me the consumption could be taken literally, given that it is Winding Refn at the helm.

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