Winter Movie Preview – from Rogue One to Doctor Strange
Well that wasn’t a particularly great Summer now was it? It seemed like every time we were presented with the worst film of the year, the following Friday upped the ante of disappointment. Was there some competition that we didn’t know about? Were Hollywood execs trying to outdo each other with who could release the most dreadful film of the year and still turn a profit?
Of course, there was the occasional belter thrown in for good measure (The Nice Guys, Finding Dory) but Summer 2016 will mostly be remembered for giving us Suicide Squad, Warcraft: The Beginning, X-Men Apocalypse, Jason Bourne, Independence Day: Resurgence, Now You See Me 2, The Legend of Tarzan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Secret Life of Pets, Nine Lives, Ben Hur, and more. Thank goodness we had the Olympics.
But the Summer is now a fading memory. Ahead of us is the long, dark of Winter, and here at Entertainment Focus we have looked ahead and found the coming season to be strewn with must-see movies. From art-house indies and Oscar contenders, to long-awaited adaptations, franchise blockbusters and galaxies far far away. Here are the films you should be looking out for in the coming months.
The Girl on the Train – 5th October
Based on the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, this psychological thriller follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce and struggling with a drinking problem. She spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.
American Honey – 14th October
From writer-director Andrea Arnold comes this epic coming-of-age road movie, starring newcomer Sasha Lane, Shia LeBoeuf and Riley Keogh. The film follows Star (Lane), a teenager with nothing to lose, as she joins a crew of travelling magazine sellers. She gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law breaking, and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with her fellow band of misfits. The film looks absolutely stunning, with extraordinary performances, but it’s a thin premise for a film that clocks in at nearly 3 hours.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – 20th October
Tom Cruise reprises his role as crime fiction’s hardest man, in this sequel to 2012’s underrated Jack Reacher. Jumping nine books ahead in the series, Never Go Back finds him trying to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy, in order to clear his name. Expect a lot of people to get punched in the face, and for Reacher to say nothing.
Doctor Strange – 25th October
Marvel goes mystical with its fourteenth entry into the all-powerful MCU. Directed by horror maestro Scott Derrickson, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, the world’s foremost neurosurgeon. His career is ruined in a car accident that destroys his hands. He embarks on a journey of healing to the Far East, where he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who mentors him in the mystical arts. This is certainely one of Marvel’s riskier propositions, but I think at this point we trust them to get it right.
Nocturnal Animals – 4th November
Tom Ford’s sophomore effort is a psychological thriller starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Adams stars as a successful gallery owner, whose idyllic life with her new husband is shattered by the arrival of a novel written by her ex-husband (Gyllenhaal) – a violent thriller she interprets as a threat against her.
The Accountant – 4th November
Gavin O’Connor directs an all-star cast in this action thriller. Ben Affleck plays a mathematics savant, who uses a cover as a small town chartered accountant to hide that he is making a living cooking the books for some of the world’s most dangerous criminals.
The Light Between Oceans – 4thNovember
Acclaimed director Derek Cianfrance returns with this period romantic drama, based on the novel by M. L. Stedman. The film tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who rescue an infant lost at sea. Starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, this handsomely mounted adaptation could do very well during awards season.
Arrival – 11th November
The latest film from Sicario director, Denis Villeneuve explores how humanity deals with the arrival of several extra-terrestrial spacecraft around the globe. Amy Adams stars as a linguist, desperate to communicate with the visitors, before an all out war threatens to destroy the world. Villeneuve has been gradually ascending towards the A-list since his breakout film, Incendies in 2010. Based on the critical response after the world premiere in Venice this year, he has most definitely arrived.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – 18th November
If you’ve spent the last few years feeling deprived of cinematic wizards, witches, muggles and monsters, then despair no more – the wizarding world of Harry Potter is back. Set in 1920s New York, this will be a whole new visual playground for returning director David Yates. The plot follows the adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who inadvertently releases a number of magical beasts into the world, and becomes a target for a number of dangerous organisations. This is an absolute guaranteed box office smash.
Bad Santa 2 – 23rd November
Thirteen years on from the original, which has gone on to become something of a cult Christmas classic, Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) is back. The most vile and degenerate shopping mall Santa of all time is returning for more petty crime and drunken antics. Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks is a new addition to the cast, along with Kathy Bates as Willie’s equally despicable mother. Best of all, Brett Kelly returns as weirdo kid (now grown up) Thurman Merman!
A United Kingdom – 25th November
Amma Asante directs this biographical drama, based on the romance between Seretse Khama, a member of the Botswana royal family, and Ruth Williams, a white English woman he met whilst studying in London. In defiance of family, Apartheid and the British Empire, their eventual marriage both shocked and inspired the world.
Allied – 25th November
Robert Zemeckis directs this all-star World War II drama, about two assassins who fall in love during a mission to kill a leading German officer. Brad Pitt stars as Max Vatan, a US intelligence officer, with Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beausejour, a French resistance fighter. Reportedly based on a true story, this could well be one of the big hits of the season.
Sully – 2nd December
Tom Hanks continues his run of playing real life characters in big awards contender movies. On the back of Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies, Hanks is now playing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline pilot who became a national hero in 2009. Three minutes into a flight from LaGuardia airport, his Airbus A320 hits a flock of geese, disabling both engines. In an act of extraordinary skill and ingenuity, Sully ditches the aircraft in the Hudson river, saving hundreds of lives. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film depicts this heroic act, and the aftermath.
Moana – 2nd December
This could be huge. A 3D animated Disney musical, with songs co-written by Lin Manual Miranda, and featuring the vocal talents of Dwayne Johnson and Nicole Scherzinger. Set on a mystical island in the South Pacific, the story follows an adventurous teenager who sails out on a dangerous journey to save her people.
Bleed for This – 2nd December
Miles Teller ticks off the “transformational boxing movie” that is on the to-do list of every young male actor determined to be taken seriously. The film tells the true story of American boxer Vinny Paz, who against all odds made a comeback to the ring following a serious spinal injury. Expect lots of press coverage saying Teller trained hard enough to turn pro. Yawn. I’m sure the film will be fine, but my god we’ve seen it all before.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 16thDecember
If you saw the trailer for Rogue One, and your first reaction was “where’s Rey and Finn?” then quite frankly, you aren’t doing Star Wars correctly. This of course is not a further installment in the saga of the Skywalker clan, but a standalone prequel about the brave rebels who stole the plans for the Death Star. Directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and starring Felicity Jones, this looks to be a proper war movie, as we finally get a grunts-eye view of the rebellion. It looks sensational. We can’t wait.
Passengers – 23rd December
Two of the biggest box office stars on the planet join forces for this big budget sci-fi romance. Set on board a spaceship transporting them to a new life on another planet, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are two passengers whose hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. With no way of going back into cryo-sleep they have no choice but to face a lifetime with just each other for company. It’s a lucky thing they’re so attractive eh?
Silence – 23rd December
How does this sound for you: the passion project of Martin Scorsese. Based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō, the film has been in development for over 20 years, and tells the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan and face violence and persecution as they try to locate their mentor. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson. Paramount recently announced the late December release, suggesting they view this a major awards contender.
Fences – 25th December
Denzel Washington returns to the director’s chair for this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play. The film is set in 1950s Pittsburgh, and stars Washington as Troy, a former Negro League baseball player, now working as a garbage-man. He provides for his family the best he can, but is bitter at the way his life has turned out. The film also stars Viola Davis as Rose, Troy’s wife. This has got Awards nominations written all over it.
Assassin’s Creed – 1st January
Will this finally be the ‘good film based on a video game’ that the world has been waiting for? Based on the talent involved – reuniting the director and stars of Macbeth (Justin Curzel, Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard), and featuring a mind-bending plot about a modern man exploring the memories of his ancestor, and discovering he is the descendant of an ancient order of assassins – it has got a great chance. With Curzel behind the camera we can safely say it will be visually extraordinary. With Fassbender and Cotillard in front of the camera we can safely assume the performances will be exceptional and bring gravitas to the material. However, it is still a video game adaptation, and therefore no matter what could still be rubbish. Let’s hope not.
A Monster Calls – 6th January
Patrick Ness adapts his own book for this heart-breaking tale of a young boy trying to cope with the terminal illness of his mother, and the mythical monster he inadvertently summons. The film features Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver, with the vocal talents of Liam Neeson, and is directed by J.A. Bayona. If this hits the same emotional beats of the novel, remember to bring tissues. It will destroy you.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – 6thJanuary
From visionary director Ang Lee comes this harrowing war drama, about a young army private, Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who returns home following a brutal tour of Iraq, and is treated like a national hero. Through extensive flashbacks – filmed in a ultra-high HD frame rate to intensify the immersive experience – we see the reality of what Billy went through, juxtaposed with how his exploits are viewed by the folk back home. The film also stars Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, and Steve Martin.
Live By Night – 13th January
Adapted from the second novel in Dennis Lehane’s wonderful “Coughlin Trilogy”, Live By Night is a prohibition era gangster film, starring Ben Affleck and Zoe Saldana. With the action switching between the mean streets of Boston and the sultry sidewalks of Havana, this has the potential of being a classic crime drama. It also marks Ben Affleck’s return to directing after the Oscar triumph of Argo.
Manchester by the Sea – 13th January
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, and featuring a powerhouse cast, this critically acclaimed drama looks set to be an awards contender when the red carpets are rolled out. The film tells the story of Lee (Casey Affleck) who is made legal guardian of nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), following the sudden death of his older brother. Lee returns to his Massachesetts hometown and has to deal with both his separated wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the North Shore community.
La La Land – 13th January
After the breakout success of his incredible feature debut, Whiplash, Damian Chazelle was given the keys to Hollywood. He was essentially told he could make any film he desired. The film he desired to make was an old school Fred and Ginger song-and-dance romance in modern day L.A. Starring Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist who falls in love with Emma Stone’s aspiring actress, the early buzz from the festival circuit is that the film is an absolute dazzling joy.
The Birth of a Nation – 20th January
Not to be confused with D.W. Griffith’s notoriously racist epic from 1915, writer-director-star Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation tells the story of a pre-Civil War literate slave who organises an uprising against his oppressors. This was considered to be an early front-runner for the Oscars, but has been derailed recently by negative press coverage of Parker (which we won’t discuss here). The reviews from Sundance, where it won the audience and grand jury prizes, were hugely positive.
T2: Trainspotting – 27th January
Danny Boyle faces the monumental task of trying to recapture the magic of the iconic, generation defining adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s blistering tale of junkies and psychos, in this long awaited sequel to Trainspotting. Understood to be loosely based on Porno, the follow up novel to Trainspotting, the original cast have all returned, and filming took place in Edinburgh earlier this year. The first film was an unquestionable cultural phenomenon. Everyone had the poster, everyone had the screenplay book, and everyone had the soundtrack. Can lightning strike twice?
Patriots Day – 27th January
Immediately after filming Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg reunited for another harrowing true story. Patriots Day recounts the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the terrorist attack at the finish line, and the subsequent manhunt for the perpetrators. The excellent cast also includes Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and J.K. Simmons.
Loving – 3rd February
What a 12 months it has been for Jeff Nichols. Already established as one of the most distinctive voices in American cinema, he gave us the beautiful science-fiction chase movie Midnight Special back in April. Less than a year later, he is back with Loving, a historical drama starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, who play a married couple sentenced to prison, because in 1950s Virginia, an interracial marriage violates state law. An outside bet for awards recognition, but any film directed by Nichols is well worth seeking out.
The Lego Batman Movie – 10th February
When the colossal turkey that was Batman v Superman crashed into cinemas earlier this year, one of its many fatal mistakes was to show the trailer for The Lego Batman Movie beforehand. Those two minutes had more fun, wit, and inventiveness than the entire two and a half hours of BvS. Spinning off from the awesome The Lego Movie, with Will Arnett reprising his role as Gotham’s dark knight, and featuring support from Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, we are very excited for this film.
John Wick: Chapter Two – 17th February
It was never in doubt was it? There had to be a sequel. Aside from being a slick and stylish action thriller, (with outstanding fight choreography) John Wick is one of the most gleefully self-aware and enjoyable action movies of recent times. With a terrific mythology underpinning the action, and an instantly iconic central character who loves dogs, the decision to produce a sequel was surely a no-brainer. The plot inevitably sees Wick (Keanu Reeves) forced out of retirement, for more shadowy shenanigans in the criminal underworld. Yay!
The Dark Tower – 17th February
If you’re a Stephen King fan, this is probably the most anticipated film of your lifetime. If you’re not a King fan, you’re probably wondering what the hell this is all about. Essentially, it is an adaptation of King’s epic series The Dark Tower, a kind of dark fantasy-horror-western hybrid, drawing inspiration from Tolkien, Sergio Leone and Le Morte d’Arthur. Written over a 30 year period, and providing the connective tissue for much of King’s work, it tells the tale of Roland, the last gunslinger, and his quest to reach the Tower – the nexus of all known universes. But it’s also a sequel. Those of you who have read the book will know how this works. The plan, if this film is a hit, is for the mythology to be expanded with a TV series before the next film in the saga. It is a hugely ambitious undertaking for director Nikolaj Arcel, and his cast which includes Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, but we can’t wait to see how it turns out.