EDITORIAL: My 16 most anticipated films for 2016
The turn of the calendar means we have a brand new year of movies to examine. Last year in this same annual editorial, I prognosticated that 2015 would be one of the biggest years in movie history and it surely impressed. "Jurassic World" smoked everything and the year ended with an even bigger nuclear bang in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The cash registers will be chiming for that one until spring.
2016 looks decidedly less spectacular that 2015 on paper. I think there is still plenty to love, but I don't think we'll get another pair of $500 million-plus earners like "Jurassic World" (over $600 million) and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In an annual tradition, here are the sixteen movies I'm most looking forward to for 2016. I'm a ranker kind of guy, so let the first countdown begin. Enjoy!
HONORABLE MENTION: "Kung Fu Panda 3," "Midnight Special," "I Saw the Light," "Hail, Caesar!," "Money Monster," "The Best Man Wedding," "Criminal," "Everybody Wants Some," "The Free State of Jones," "Snowden," "The Nice Guys," "Warcraft," "Ben-Hur," "Pete's Dragon," "The Girl on the Train," "Inferno," "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," "The Accountant," "Sing," "The Legend of Tarzan." and the "Untitled Fifth Bourne Film"
16. "The Great Wall"-- Matt Damon has earned indestructible credibility. He only works with the best directors and always pick his parts wisely. In this 3D historical adventure, his directorial challenge is Chinese director Zhang Yimou ("Hero," "Raise the Red Lantern"). That combination intrigues me. (November 23) (not trailer yet)
15. "Assassin's Creed"-- I don't play video games, but Michael Fassbender is becoming a must-see actor. He re-teams with his "Macbeth" director Justin Kurzel and the production photos look outstanding. (December 21) (no trailer yet)
14. "The Magnificent Seven"-- Normally, we should be rolling our eyes at an unnecessary remake of a classic, but the presence of Denzel Washington re-teaming with his "The Equalizer" and "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua gets my attention. Throw in Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Matt Bomer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, and the final film score of James Horner and you have a party. (September 23) (no trailer yet)
13. "The BFG"-- I am one of those people that will pay money to watch Steven Spielberg cook dinner, let alone make a feature film. Channeling Roald Dahl's 1982 classic for the big screen, Spielberg returns to the family fantasy genre he's known for creating classics in. (July 1, 2016) (trailer)
12. "The Jungle Book"-- Speaking of live-action family classics, "The Jungle Book" might just be one Disney "re-imagining" that I might actually like. Normally, I find the "Cinderella" and "Maleficent" entries of the world to be too revisionist and unnecessary. For this one, I trust director Jon Favreau and his creative ability to get the most respectful story out of his top-notch cast (Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson). I can start whistling "Bare Necessities" right now. (April 15) (trailer)
11. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"-- Mark me down as cautiously optimistic about this one. "Harry Potter" had its epic and proper ending. I personally don't see the need for senseless spin-offs to something that was buttoned up and finished. The presence of reigning Best Actor Eddie Redmayne adds a bit of credibility that I can't ignore. (November 18) (trailer)
10. "Ghostbusters"-- Carry my cautiously optimistic feelings to one more selection. I'm all for strong female protagonists and I think "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig has made the right casting choices (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones), but I still question the need of this film. It either needs to be its own thing to blaze a new trail or dignified enough in homage not to sour its history (i.e. "Terminator: Genisys"). (July 15) (no trailer yet)
9. "Suicide Squad"-- There's something about actors pushing themselves to the limit playing the Clown Prince of Crime and Batman's greatest adversary, The Joker. That character possesses a true, haunting, and magnetic mystique. We cannot help but watch in amazement and amusement. Who knows how much Jared Leto is even in "Suicide Squad" (it looks like Will Smith's show), but The Joker is worth the price of admission alone. (August 5) (trailer)
8. "Doctor Strange"-- Benedict Cumberbatch is coup of perfect casting for Marvel Films. With "Doctor Strange," the superhero brand is crossing over in the magic and sorcery and Cumberbatch is just the guy to give it credibility. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Tilda Swinton round out the adventure from the director of "Sinister." (November 4) (no trailer yet)
7. "Deadpool"-- Fanboys around the comic book shops have dreamed of a hard-R "Merc with a Mouth" movie for ages and finally Fox looks like they've put the right pieces in place not to screw it up. Wade Wilson was a part Ryan Reynolds was born for since "Van Wilder" and gets another crack after the much maligned "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" butchering of the character. The marketing for this has been pitch perfect in the necessary over-the-top fashion. (February 12) (red band trailer)
6. "Star Trek Beyond"-- J.J. Abrams was too busy with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to fully direct this third rebooted "Star Trek" feature, but he left it in good hands with long-time "Fast and Furious" franchise helmer Justin Lin. The full Chris Pine/Zachary Quinto-led crew is back and Idris Elba plays your heavy. I've been a fan of these new films and I'm sticking with them. (July 22) (trailer)
5. "X-Men: Apocalypse"-- What can I say? I'm a grown-up who remembers being a comic book-loving kid that never thought what he was reading would ever be a movie. To me, even with the worst movie versions like "Green Lantern," there is a measure of dream fulfillment. The storied "X-Men" villain Apocalypse, being played by Oscar Isaac, is one of those components I never thought I would see. Bryan Singer, as of "X-Men: Days of Future Past," has returned the excitement and gravitas back to this franchise. Sign me up. (May 27) (trailer)
4. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"-- I want to think that the better people stewarding the "Star Wars" universe learned the lesson of prequels from the mistakes of George Lucas before his sale to Disney. This may not be the best idea, but Gareth Edwards is a good director, Felicity Jones is a good lead, and, until they prove otherwise, "Star Wars" is must-see fanboy viewing. (December 16) (no trailer yet)
3. "Independence Day: Resurgence"-- This piece of cheese is ranked this high because of the kid in me. I was there opening night in the summer of 1996 before my senior year of high school cheering at the top of my lungs with everyone else at the Will Smith original. It remains the most raucous movie experience and environment I've ever been a part of in my entire life. I'll be that teenager again when the return film drops this summer. (June 24) (trailer)
2. "Captain America: Civil War"-- There has been no better Marvel film than "Captain Ameican: The Winter Soldier" from two years ago. It raised the stakes and the artistic merit of these fantasy blockbusters. With that team re-assembled (pun intended) with a whole bunch of familiar big-hitters, this film might as well be "Avengers 2.5." In any other year, this would be #1, but I'm a DC kid. (May 6) (trailer)
1. "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice"-- As the aforementioned comic book kid and a guy who found the praises worth singing in "Man of Steel," there is no bigger 2016 film for me than Zack Synder's second crack at Superman. Delayed from a chance to come out last year, this would have been competing with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" for the top spot on this list last year. The trailers are admittedly revealing too much, but I am undeterred. Take my money now. (March 25) (trailer)