50. Split (Jan. 20)
M. Night Shyamalan seems to have come out of his rough patch of a nearly decade-long slump with 2015’s The Visit, which was a solid found footage horror film. In this film, he has James McAvoy in the lead playing a kidnapper with 24 personalities, 24 to be exact. It’s a role that could go in any number of directions, though McAvoy has the versatility to possibly pull it off. Anya Taylor-Joy, who was stellar in The Witch, and Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen) co-star with McAvoy. Early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are promising and suggest that Shyamalan may be finding his groove again.
49. Going Places (TBD)
Of all of the films on this list, this is the one I am most apprehensive about. It’s a spin-off of The Big Lebowski, my personal favorite movie of all time. The character getting the spin-off? Jesus Quintana, the creep who can role, man. Sadly, the fact that Quintana is a registered sex offender in The Big Lebowski is not the most problematic question facing this project. The first is that the Coens are not involved in the making of this film. Rather, John Turturro, who portrayed Jesus Quintana, is writing and directing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that he isn’t Joel or Ethan Coen. And it’s entirely possible that The Jesus plays better as a 5-minute character in The Dude’s story than the main character of his own story. Still, Noah Hawley has shown that their style can be replicated with the successful Fargo series on FX. And the cast of Turturro, Susan Sarandon, Audrey Tautou, and Bobby Canivale is promising.
48. Yeh Din Ka Kissa/The Meyerowitz Stories (TBD)
Unsure of what the title of this film is, the first which is translated as “The Story of the Day” is listed several places online, but the 2nd appears on Wikipedia. Baumbach is a director that I have really enjoyed over his last few films (Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Mistress America), though I’m more ambivalent about some of his earlier films (Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) that I have seen. But given my love for his most recent work, I’m interested in whatever his next project is, even if it involves Adam Sandler. IMDb describes the plot: “An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.” Dustin Hoffman, apparently, is the patriarch, and Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler are his sons. Emma Thompson is also involved. Every couple of years we get a respite from the bottom of the barrel Adam Sandler stuff and he attaches himself to something more high profile (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Reign Over Me, Funny People). Basically, whenever he is working with a name director, it’s worth paying attention.
47. The Glass Castle (TBD)
Short Term 12 was one of my favorite films of 2013 (If you haven’t seen it, it’s regularly available on Netflix Instant). This film, an adaptation of a best-selling memoir, reunites the director of that film (Destin Daniel Cretton) with the breakout star of that film and last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actress, Brie Larson. That alone is enough to interest me, but the cast includes Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, and Sarah Snook. Given the subject matter, a dysfunctional family raising kids in near-poverty, I’m guessing this comes out sometime between October and the end of December.
46. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
There are fans out there for 2014’s Lucy, but I am not one of them. To me, this would represent a return to form from a director who had a definite brand in the 90s after making a name for himself with La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, and The Fifth Element. It’s based on a 1960’s French comic book about two spatio-temporal agents, apparently, and stars Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Ethan Hawke, Clive Owen, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer, and Rihanna. The trailer immediately reminded me of The Fifth Element, which is a positive sign. It’s got a big budget and a prime summer release date. It will be an interesting summer experiment, given how it’s not a sequel or a superhero movie.
45. American Made (Sept. 29)
Director Doug Liman has a war thriller coming out Mar. 21st that also looks promising, The Wall, but it’s his 2nd feature in September that I am more interested in. American Made is his 2nd collaboration with Tom Cruise after the fantastic Edge of Tomorrow in 2014. That was an sci-fi action film whereas this film is about a pilot in the 80s who runs drugs for the Columbian cartels and gets recruited by the CIA for an operation. It also stars Lola Kirke, Domhnall Gleeson, and Jesse Plemons.
44. The Circle (Apr. 28)
I’ll be honest, I listed this film without seeing the trailer and based purely because it stars Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. After seeing the trailer, I’m intrigued, though a bit less enthused by it. Hanks and Watson are the big draw here, in a film about a young woman who gets involved in a mysterious situation after she starts working for a powerful tech company. Hanks as a tech visionary in the vein of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg but with a possibly dark secret is not as appealing as the possibility of what the secret that Watson is being let in on could possibly be. James Ponsoldt, the director, has made a string of good films leading up to this (Smashed, The Spectacular Now, The End of the Tour).
43. War Machine (TBD)
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has not been a particularly fruitful field from which Hollywood movies have been created compared to, say, World War II or Vietnam. While there are some real notable ones (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, American Sniper, Lone Survivor), there have been a lot of duds mixed in. War Machine is a satirical look at the generals and people running the war in Afghanistan. An adaptation of The Operators by Michael Hastings, Brad Pitt tops the cast as Gen. McChrystal, and is supported by Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Keith Stanfield, and Scoot McNairy. Maybe most promising is that the director is David Michod (Animal Kingdom, The Rover).
42. Life (Mar. 24)
There are two astronaut movies this year about a crew in space that makes a discovery that forces them to fight for their lives. It seems like every year features two movies with competing, similar storylines known as “Twin Films” (Armageddon/Deep Impact, Saving Private Ryan/The Thin Red Line, The Prestige/The Illusionist). This film features Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson. The trailer looks promising, but the most notable credit that director Daniel Espinosa has to his name so far is the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds film Safe House, which wasn’t terrible, but did little to distinguish itself.
41. God Particle/Untitled Cloverfield Project (Oct. 27)
This is the 2nd astronauts in space fighting for their lives movie of the year. What gives it the edge? First, the general idea that the 2nd of “twin films” tend to be better (though not always true) and the 1st can feel rushed. Second, this one is being made by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot company, and has the Cloverfield moniker/anthology/whatever attached to it. That makes up for a new, unknown director in Julius Onah. The cast is pretty solid ensemble of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, David Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, and Daniel Bruhl.