Generation Film’s Top 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

war-on-everyone25. War on Everyone

Director: John Michael McDonagh (Calvary, The Guard)

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Tessa Thompson, Theo James, Stephanie Sigman

Synopsis (from IMDB): Two corrupt cops in New Mexico set out to blackmail and frame every criminal unfortunate enough to cross their path. Things take a sinister turn, however, when they try to intimidate someone who is more dangerous than they are. Or is he?

Thoughts: John Michael McDonagh certainly doesn’t live under the shadow of his talented playwright and sometimes filmmaker brother Martin McDonagh, and has created two brilliant films of his own: The Guard (2011) and Calvary (2014). His latest sees him taking a step out of his comfort zone, meaning he’s no longer setting his film in rural Ireland and it’s not headlining the talents of Brendan Gleeson. Instead, McDonagh is tapping into his morbidly dark sense of humor now set in America with a corrupt cop comedy that seems perfectly conjoined to his stylishly violent milieu. There’s no doubt that this perceptive writer and attuned director will be able to deliver darkly comedic observation on American law enforcement that will fit right in with his already established filmmaking pedigree. It also doesn’t hurt that the cast is exceptionally talented, especially the emerging Tessa Thompson who seems to be on a killer hot streak of films from Dear White People (2014) to Selma (2014) to Creed (2015)

Certain-Women-620x41324. Certain Women

Director: Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy & Lucy, Night Moves)

Cast: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone, Jared Harris

Synopsis (from IMDB): The lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail

 Thoughts: Not many audiences know what to make of a Kelly Reichardt film, mostly because she’s quite capable of creating atmospheric art-house character studies that seem elusive. Whether it’s her activist thriller Night Moves (2013), her contemplative pioneer western Meek’s Cutoff (2011), or her portrait of loneliness in Wendy and Lucy (2008), Reichardt makes truly independent and thought-provoking film. Certain Women brings her back to familiar territory in telling compelling stories about women in America, this time adapted from a series of short stories by author Maile Meloy. She has a powerful cast featuring her regular muse Michelle Williams and the always brilliant Laura Dern, but it’s that Kristen Stewart who brings a questionable variable to the entire affair. Certainly Stewart has been branching off into the indie world with Oliver Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia (2015), but her talents haven’t yet convinced to sustain over the course of multiple films. But perhaps Reichardt might be the right influence on her potential. It’s quite exciting to see if that’s a possibilities

The-circle-223. The Circle

Director: James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour, Smashed, The Spectacular Now)

Cast: Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, Karen Gillen

Synopsis (from IMDB): A woman lands a job at a powerful tech company called The Circle, where she becomes involved with a mysterious man

Thoughts: Adaptations have dominated the career of director James Ponsoldt ever since he left behind his original screenplay days of Off the Black (2006) and Smashed (2012) to tackle Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now (2013) and then last year’s stellar David Foster Wallace memoir from David Lipsky The End of the Tour (2015). With his next project, Ponsoldt is continuing his adaptation chronicles with Dave Eggers’ The Circle, which seems to be an intriguing blend of dramatic sci-fi and engrossing thriller. Because he’s such a literate and instinctual director there’s no doubt that Ponsoldt can make this film a memorable one, especially with such an incredibly talented cast of newcomers and veterans alike. If there’s anyone who can tackle a complex novel adaptation with the proper attention to detail and the ability to master complex themes, it’s Ponsoldt.

gosling-crowe22. The Nice Guys

Director: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3)

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley

Synopsis (from IMDB): A private eye investigates the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles and uncovers a conspiracy

Thoughts: Shane Black’s second directorial project was the divisive Iron Man 3 (2013), a film that was weighed down by formula, questionable creative choices, and typical Disney/Marvel redundancy despite having Black’s wit and breaks into dark humor. Still, the film made well over a billion dollars and the positive outcome from that is more creative freedom for personal projects. So now he’s back with another private investigation black comedy that closely resembles his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), and if the trailer is anything to go by it should be a raucous and bloody good time. Putting the unlikely duo of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as polar opposite partners in a 1970s mystery thriller might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best creative outcomes come from taking casting risks (plus these two can be real pros). Hopefully it isn’t a repetition on his earlier action-comedy works and takes his distinct, witty, and versatile screenwriting to a different level under his now developed direction.

kubo-and-the-two-strings21. Kubo and the Two Strings

Director: Travis Knight (directorial debut)

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara

Synopsis (from IMDB): Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shore side village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.

Thoughts: Laika—the Portland-based animation company—has had a series of exceptional stop-motion critical hits, including Henry Selick’s adventurously strange adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (2009), the pictorially beautiful ParaNorman (2012), and the Monty Python-esque The Boxtrolls (2013). With its next feature, Kubo and the Two Strings, it seems the studio is set to take on even more ambitious material in what seems like fantasy meets an Akira Kurosawa samurai picture, a perfect opportunity for their beautifully designed animation to tackle an epic narrative. Directed for the first time by the studio’s head Travis Knight, this Japanese-influenced fantasy seems like it will push the boundaries of the studio into making a lasting piece of animated artistry. With Pixar resorting to a sequel this year with Finding Dory (a crowd pleaser to be sure) this seems like the animated film that will deserve more critical attention.

high-rise20. High-Rise/Free Fire

Director: Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England)

Cast (for High-Rise): Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss

Synopsis (for High-Rise): Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control

Cast (for Free Fire): Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer

Synopsis (for Free Fire): Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival

Thoughts: English director Ben Wheatley filmography is filled with experimental narratives and projects that seem to push the boundaries of cinematic normalcy, especially his last head-trip oddity A Field in England. There’s been a break from his consistent output, but that seems to have culminated to delivering what seems like two incredibly promising films that suit the quirky, strange, and violent filmmaker’s regular attributes. His first is the sci-fi thriller High-Rise, which already has a trailer and looks exceptional in its potential weirdness and phenomenal cast. His other is a Boston gangster film that seems as though it’s a blend of Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010) and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Considering this will be a return to crime drama form from his established beginnings with Down Terrace (2009) and Kill List (2011), Free Fire might be the film that we should ultimately be anticipating from the British auteur.

Mystical-Strange-005-EW.0.019. Doctor Strange

Director: Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen

Synopsis (from IMDB): After his career is destroyed, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon gets a new lease on life when a sorcerer takes him under his wing and trains him to defend the world against evil.

Thoughts: Why did I list Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange as one of the most anticipated films over the Russo brothers Captain America: Civil War? To be fair it’s confusing me too, but it might have something to do with the underwhelming trailer for the latter, and the fact that Marvel has been getting better in their introductory films as of late, most notably in the thoroughly entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and last year’s surprisingly energetic Ant-Man (2015). Of course the totalitarian Disney hands will attempt to make this as formulaic as possible, but Doctor Strange has the best possible chance of slightly breaking away considering the character’s origins and the focus on mysticism. Plus, it has probably the best cast Disney/Marvel has ever assembled under one superhero roof, most notably the great Tilda Swinton and the phenomenal Mads Mikkelsen. Here’s hoping that Doctor Strange will be the blockbuster surprise of the year.

its-only-the-end-of-the-world18. It’s Only the End of the World

Director: Xavier Dolan (Tom at the Farm, Mommy, Laurence Anyways)

Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, Nathalie Baye,

Synopsis (from IMDB): Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a terminally ill writer, returns home after a long absence to tell his family that he is dying

Thoughts: Québécois wunderkind Xavier Dolan proved he’s one of modern day cinema’s unstoppable forces when he finished his fifth movie in five years with the phenomenal soul-rattling Mommy (2014). With two possible films coming out this year (his first English speaking film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan has been temporarily postponed), the definite release we will see is his second play adaptation after Tom at the Farm (2013): It’s Only the End of the World. Based on the late French playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce’s staging of the same name, Dolan has compiled together an incredibly talented cast to bring this cinematic adaptation to life. Though plays can often present limitations in their staging, Dolan has proven that there aren’t really such things as limitations towards his expressive and open creativity. Considering Dolan has already established himself as one of the top ranking young filmmaking talents in the world this should prove to be a riveting, beautiful, and emotionally devastating experience.

bfg17. The BFG

Director: Steven Spielberg (Jaws, E.T.- The Extra Terrestrial, Schindler’s List)

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement

Synopsis (from IMDB): A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike his peers, refuses to eat boys and girls

Thoughts: May god or whatever power there is strike down those who mess up Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest children’s books of all time. But really, what could go wrong? Granted Steven Spielberg hasn’t been on the greatest of filmmaking streaks (with Lincoln (2012) and Bridge of Spies (2015) being mild standouts), but his inherent sentimentality is made for this material, especially when it’s been written by E.T.- The Extra Terrestrial scribe Melissa Mathison (who unfortunately passed away after principal photography had wrapped). It’s problematic to have Disney overseeing this creation, but Spielberg wouldn’t have taken up the opportunity unless he had some sort of creative control, which could definitely work in this projects favor. The early trailer looks promising (despite the initial awkward look of WETA visual effects), and because it’s such a beloved book it just simply has to be good…no exceptions.

salt-and-fire16. Salt and Fire

Director: Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man)

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Shannon, Anita Briem, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres

Synopsis (from IMDB): A scientist blames the head of a large company to cause an ecological disaster in South America. But when a volcano begins to present eruption signs, they must unite to avoid disaster, despite their ideological differences.

Thoughts: Early this year you’ll get to experience a Werner Herzog disaster known as Queen of the Desert, and it’s so abysmally bad that it will make you question whether or not you’ll ever want to risk seeing a Werner Herzog film again. But that would be thoroughly unfair to the almost fifty-year career of one of the most idiosyncratic voices in cinema, a filmmaker who has brought us the imperialist Brechtian epic Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972), the foolish audacity as heroism adventure Fitzcarraldo (1982), and even the documentaries Grizzly Man (2005) and Into the Abyss (2011). The other film out in 2016 is Salt and Fire which seems more in tune to Herzog’s anthropological and contemplative sensibilities; a tale that pits man against the indifferent destruction of nature. Hopefully this becomes another one of Herzog’s perceptive dramas that proves to us again why he’s considered such a cinematic visionary.

How-To-Talk-To-Girls-At-Parties-700x35015. How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Director: John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, Shortbus)

Cast: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas, Alex Sharpe

Synopsis (from IMDB): An alien touring the galaxy breaks away from her group and meets two young inhabitants of the most dangerous place in the Universe: The London suburb of Croydon.

Thoughts: The main reason to be excited for this film is one reason and one reason alone: Neil Gaiman. Based on the author’s Award-winning short story of the same name, How to Talk to Girls at Parties could prove to be a thoroughly whimsical adaptation worthy of the screen placed in the capable directing talents of John Cameron Mitchell. Known for his unyielding and explicit films—such as the genuinely enlivening Shortbus (2006) and the emotionally poignant cult classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)—Mitchell has the ability to really tackle anything, especially a sci-fi, punk-modulated, romantic comedy that blends strangeness with accessibility. Of course this could end up being a complete disaster to the possibilities of other Gaiman adaptations, but that seems unlikely considering Mitchell’s cult sensibilities and genuine respect for other’s material.

09395-joseharo.NEF14. A Monster Calls

Director: J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible)

Cast: Lewis Macdougall, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Gerladine Chaplin

Synopsis (from IMDB): A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness

Thoughts: Director J.A. Bayona’s last two features—the atmospheric haunted house film The Orphanage (2007) and tsunami survival family drama The Impossible (2011)—have both predominately featured children in central dramatic roles. His latest doesn’t seem to be any different, considering it’s an adaptation of Patrick Ness’s low fantastical A Monster Calls. What seems like it could be a blend of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009), Bayona’s latest has a teaser trailer that invokes his definitive tone as a unique cinematic voice. At the center of it all is child actor Lewis Mcdougall who has the opportunity to make up for being involved in the disaster known as Joe Wright’s Pan (2015). Hopefully this darkly toned children’s film involving nightmares, illness, and an unpleasant beast will create the kind of emotional parable we all should expect from enhanced fantasy material.

the bad batch13. The Bad Batch

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)

Cast: Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna

Synopsis (from IMDB): A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland that’s set in a community of cannibals

Thoughts: Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour confidently announced her presence on the filmmaking circuit with a brilliant, assured, and original blend of genres—from horror to film noir to the western—known as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Her refreshing vision on vampire mythology and lore became something much more through Amirpour’s suave cinematic style and effortless existence in the realm of being confidently cool. It’s tough to follow any sort of promising debut, but it seems as though Amirpour seems intent on treading the same unconventional waters of darkly twisting another type of love story. With a larger name ensemble that seems compelling in both their diversity and their potentially out of place casting, The Bad Batch seems like a thoroughly promising continuation for a young female director who has a distinct and passionate cinematic voice.

loving12. Loving/Midnight Special

Director: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud)

Cast (for Loving): Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, Bill Camp

Synopsis (for Loving): Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentence to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married

Cast (for Midnight Special): Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver

Synopsis (for Midnight Special): A father and son go on the run from the government after the dad learns his child possesses special powers

Thoughts: After four years of waiting since the release of Mud (2012) it seems this year we’ll be given the double dose gift of Jeff Nichols with two very different films. Loving—which is the landmark tale of an anti-miscegenation case—seems to be the more topical of his two films, mostly because it has a timely message about societal mores versus individual choice. It seems more fitting to the filmmaker’s uncompromising and quiet style that has defined him as a new voice for Americana cinema. However, Midnight Special—a John Carpenter inspired sci-fi thriller with Spielbergian overtones—seems equally promising, and it would be the filmmaker’s first foray into the realm of the big budget blockbuster. The early trailer makes it seem incredibly intriguing and the cast is sure to make it a must see for numerous types of audiences. With two films from the great Jeff Nichols heading to our cinemas, it’s sure to be a very rich filmmaking year indeed.

La-La-Land-750x40011. La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench)

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt

Synopsis (from IMDB): A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles

Thoughts: The kinetic jazz as boxing film Whiplash (2014) put young filmmaker Damien Chazelle on the map, and he’s not wasting an opportunity to tackle one of the most difficult genres in movie history: The Musical. What seems like a partial remake, at least in spirit, of his own Harvard thesis debut Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009), La La Land seems like a truly ambitious creative endeavor to bring an original musical to the big screen without any established Broadway prominence. Collaborating again with Justin Hurwitz, Chazelle seems to be putting together another inventive jazz piece that may suggest he could be biting off more than he can chew. But if the intensity and immaculate direction of Whiplash (2014) suggests anything it’s that this risk taking filmmaker can pull off incredible dramatic feats.

hail_caesar_2016_pic0110. Hail, Caesar!

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, Fargo)

Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand

Synopsis (from IMDB): A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line

Thoughts: The Coen Brothers have established themselves as essential treats to the cinema, and their next film seems like another retreat into their genteel silliness reminiscent of The Big Lebowski (1999) and Burn After Reading (2008). Fictionally based on the real-life Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (who was played by Bob Hoskins in Allen Coulter’s Hollywoodland (2006)), Hail, Caesar seems as though it should take Hollywood through the satirical ringer it deserves from the Minnesotan duo. Their usual farcical antics should drive this rambunctious comedy forward, but it also seems there’s a possibility that their dominant signature morbid tone could enter into the equation. Featuring an eclectic cast of familiar Coen collaborators (including George Clooney getting to return in something besides the unfortunate Intolerable Cruelty (2003)) and some desirable new ones, this has everything we could want for from the quirky and perceptive cinematic brothers and could very well become one of their regular classics.

Jeremy-Renner-and-Amy-Adams9. The Story of Your Life

Director: Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners, Sicario)

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Synopsis (from IMDB): Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat.

Thoughts: Québécois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has firmly placed himself firmly on the forefront of first rate modern filmmakers ever since his Oscar-nominated foreign film Incendies (2010). With each emerging film—from his mournful thriller Prisoners (2013) to his mind-bending doppelganger head-trip Enemy (2013) to his morally ambiguous War on Drugs thriller Sicario (2015)—Villeneuve keeps growing as profound cinematic talent. Before he tackles the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982)—a project that doesn’t yet feel particularly wise—he was able to make a thoughtful sci-fi adaptation of Ted Chiang’s intriguing novella. The Story of Your Life seems promising as a high-concept science-fiction film about language, perception, and investigation and it has a great cast driving it forward. Though cinematographer Roger Deakins will not be collaborating on this picture, the presence of Bradford Young (A Most Violent Year, Selma) will certainly keep things consistent in visual excellence.

nocturnal8. Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford (A Single Man)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Amy Adams, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Isla Fisher, Michael Shannon

Synopsis (from IMDB): Based on Austin Wright’s Tony and Susan, where a woman finds herself mesmerized by the manuscript for a novel given to her by her ex-husband

Thoughts: The return of fashion designer icon Tom Ford to the realm of filmmaking has been postponed for too long ever since his stunning debut with A Single Man (2009). Just as he explored the deeply interior feelings of his protagonist in his last film, he’s back again to adapt another intriguing self-examination novel from Austin Wright. It all seems appropriately ambitious for the second time filmmaker, and it will no doubt feature his ravishing visual style and exemplary work with fine actors. Though there’s always doubt when Armie Hammer and Aaron-Taylor Johnson enter any acting equation, there’s plenty of talent from Gyllenhaal, Adams, and Shannon to make up for their questionable consistency. If Nocturnal Animals approaches even a partial level of quality of Ford’s first feature, then it will definitely be something to marvel at for years to come.

war machine7. War Machine

Director: David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover)

Cast: Brad Pitt, Topher Grace, Meg Tilly, Scoot McNairy, Emory Cohen, Will Poulter

Synopsis (from IMDB): A satire of America’s war with Afghanistan with a focus on the people running the campaign

Thoughts: Darkness has defined director David Michôd’s work, whether it’s been his sensational directorial debut in the Australian gangster drama Animal Kingdom (2010) or his drenched in cynicism post-apocalyptic moral study in The Rover (2014). Even his one-off Hollywood script for the unsentimental, black comedy Hesher (2010) was immensely downtrodden, though its potential was butchered in direction by not being in his own hands. Returning to the realm to the darkest side of comedy is an attempt of finding humor in war with War Machine, what could perhaps be described as a modernized version of Robert Altman’s Mash (1970). Getting the Netflix original treatment, it’s safe to say this could make traction with awards contenders and even get more notice than Cary Jo Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation (2015) did just last year. An outsider’s perspective might not always be welcome, but Michôd’s writing combined with his directing abilities have proven to be a thrilling combination.

american honey6. American Honey

Director: Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road)

Cast: Sasha Lane, Arielle Holmes, Shia LeBeouf, Riley Keough, Will Patton, McCaul Lombardi

Synopsis (from IMDB): A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending, and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.

Thoughts: Andrea Arnold has established herself as one of the modern day British filmmaking greats with her dedication to gritty realism, whether it’s been her seductive piecemeal thriller Red Road (2007), her skillful naturalistic re-imagining of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (2011), or her brilliant youth-in-trouble masterpiece Fish Tank (2009). With American Honey she has changed settings from the lower-income urban centers of Britain to the expansive Midwest of America. It’s a road film based around the controversial “Mag crews,” and it’s certainly a film that speaks to her usual talent in showcasing complex female protagonists. Seeing as how she’s considered one of the top tier emerging international auteurs, this American set adventure should see her artistry exposed to more people who need to be more familiar with her work.

the handmaid5. The Handmaid

Director: Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst)

Cast: Ha Jung-Woo, Kim Min-Hee, Jo Jin-Woong

Synopsis (from IMDB): An heiress falls in love with a petty thief. A modernized Korean version of Sarah q Waters’s novel, Fingersmith.

Thoughts: Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook is reason enough to get ardently excited for this updated adaptation of Sarah Waters’s novel Fingersmith, a Victorian age tale of lesbianism, servitude, and thievery. His version will be set in Japanese-occupied Korea, and you can be sure it shall tackle some socio-political commentary and his penchant for complicated moral ambiguities, all the while told through his uniquely stylish tone that involves excessive violence and luscious sexuality. Though he deviated into his first English speaking film with Stoker (2013), he’s back in the comfort of his home country and language as he tackles challenging themes ranging from loyalty, betrayal, and desire amidst his chosen esoteric setting. If it’s anything close to approaching the quality of his Vengeance Trilogy—Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), and Lady Vengeance (2005)—or any of his other inventive thrillers than this should be a guaranteed classic.

passengers4. Passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, The Imitation Game, Fallen Angels)

Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

Synopsis (from IMDB): A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 60 years early. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger.

Thoughts: Up to this point in his career Morten Tyldum has taken a thoroughly conventional cinematic route, which has included his traditional romance dramedy Buddy (2003) and the confident Oscar-bait model for The Imitation Game (2014). However, those who know his twisted and darkly comic thriller Headhunters (2012) know he’s capable of high-concept bending of genre conventions, which is what his next film Passengers looks intent on doing to the science-fiction genre. Tyldum’s confidence behind the camera can’t necessarily fail when aided by a great cast (Pratt and Lawrence for the win), an original script from promising screenwriting talent Jon Spaihts (penned the upcoming Doctor Strange for Marvel), and collaborating with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street, Brokeback Mountain). Passengers is looking like a unique, high-concept, contemplative sci-fi that could potentially be a leading awards contender.

Asghar-Farhadi-The-Salesman3. The Salesman

Director: Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past)

Cast: Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti

Synopsis (from IMDB): Details are vague, but it’s supposedly linked to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Thoughts: It’s tough to anticipate a film that has nothing but scarcity of details about it, but considering this is from Asghar Farhadi—the filmmaker behind the astounding Iranian melodrama A Separation () and his French-speaking follow-up The Past ()—there’s nothing else to feel but anticipatory giddiness. It only helps that it’s linked and most likely inspired by the great playwright Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which seems like impeccably chosen material for the Iranian dramatist. Whether it’s a direct adaptation, an inspired update, or even an experimental twisting of the material, Farhadi’s morally complex, suspenseful, and continuously involving filmmaking style will be sure to keep us captivated. Apparently it’s already been finished and is seeking out a notable festival circuit, so this might become a prime contender for the foreign language Oscar this upcoming year.

Neon Demon2. The Neon Demon

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson, Only God Forgives)

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcoate, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks

Synopsis (from IMDB): When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Thoughts: Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has established himself as one of the most unique new voices in cinema, and his next film might be one of his most ambitious yet. He’s primed here to take the city of Los Angeles and its hyper-superficiality through a stylishly violent and hypnotically surrealist ride that’s inspired by the myths from his home country involving Hungarian serial killer Countess Elizabeth Báthory. Though he’s shaking off the lackluster critical success of his last film Only God Forgives (2013)—a misunderstood homage to the nightmarish filmic poetry of Alejandro Jodorowsky—the filmmaker behind such boundary pushing films such as Drive (2011) and Bronson (2008) demands our undivided cinematic attention. Be sure to keep an eye out for this sure to be hyper-violent and electrically morbid black comedy that will assuredly leave you breathless from his visual experimentation and cringing from its perceptive societal denigration.


Director: Martin Scorsese (Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed)

Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano

Synopsis (from IMDB): In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity.

Thoughts: Martin Scorsese’s years long passion-project to adapt Shusaku Endo’s historical fiction masterpiece will finally make its way into theaters this year, unless it turns out to be a monumental ruse that is meant to induce widespread anticipatory suffering. The Catholic raised, almost-turned-priest filmmaker has tackled religious oriented material before—most notably in his thoroughly underrated adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)—and this seems like an opportunity where passion and expertise will make one of his finest additions to his already brilliant filmography. Having been adapted before for the cinema in Masahiro Shinoda’s Chinmoku (1971), it will be incredibly interesting to see how Scorsese invokes his own brilliant interpretation of the powerful material. It’s a riveting book in the hands of an adoring, resourceful, and respectful filmmaker who will undoubtedly do his due diligence in making a grand and emotional cinema experience.



Honorable Mentions:

Free State of Jones (Gary Ross)

Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman)

Keanu (Peter Atencio)

The Light Between the Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)

Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz)

Gold (Stephen Gaghan)

Triple 9 (John Hillcoat)

Captain America: Civil War (Anthony & Joe Russo)

and X-Men: Apocalypse (Bryan Singer)

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  1. […] David is most certainly getting some praise from those, like me, anticipating War Machine this year.  From Generation Film: […]

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