50 films to look forward to in 2016 – part 1

From Michael Caine conducting to a cartoon sausage, check out which upcoming releases are hot on our radar for the year ahead.

Little White Lies

We don’t know about you, but we’ve had a blast at the movies this year. Yet while many of our favourite theatrical releases of 2015 will live long in the memory, we’re already looking ahead to the next 12 months.

There are a bunch of great movies that don’t appear on this list – Louder Than Bombs, Son of Saul, Dheepan, Knight of Cups to name just a few – which we’ve intentionally omitted on the grounds that they’ve either a) already done the rounds on the festival circuit or b) been out for several months elsewhere. Now that we’ve got that small caveat out of the way, in no particular order…

1. Youth

Eta 29 January

Okay, so Paolo Sorrentino’s seventh feature may have had its premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival back in May, but we think it deserves its place on this list because, well, it’s completely brilliant. Michael Caine is on top form as retired conductor Fred Ballinger, who experiences a late-life crisis while on vacation at a fancy Swiss spa resort. Daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) and best buddy Mick (Harvey Keitel) do their best to stem the flow of his malaise, while a curious assortment of side characters provide light relief. Youth is at once a miraculous, moving and searingly funny film that’s right up there with the director’s very best work. Watch the brand new UK trailer and see for yourself. Adam Woodward

2. The Unknown Girl

Eta unknown

Adèle Haenel (Water Lilies, Les Combattants) is a 26-year-old blonde French actress who embodies every role with committed passion. We’re thrilled that she has come to the attention of the Dardenne brothers, who have cast her as the lead in their eighth feature, The Unknown Girl. Haenel is Jenny, a doctor who becomes obsessed with the identity of an unknown woman who died after being refused surgery. The combination of the Dardennes’ gently exposing social realism with Haenel’s captivating energy is going to be a rich dish. Although, after the perfection that was Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, it will be interesting to see how a new Dardennes’ leading lady fares. Sophie Monks Kaufman

3. The Hateful Eight

Eta 8 January

Quentin Tarantino’s pre-game shenanigans have made for juicy fodder for film columnists, with the outspoken director deciding to take aim at the US police force. He’d better hope they’re not the types who dig westerns (films about the law of the gun, machismo, etc), as his new one is a riff on this most American of genres. For the last few films, there’s been the feeling that Tarantino has finally made the movie that he and no-one else would actually want to watch, but audiences have turned up in droves. With no bankable “movie stars” in The Hateful Eight, one wonders if this could be the one that finally breaks him. David Jenkins

4. Anomalisa

Eta 11 March

Anomalisa is Charlie Kaufman’s second feature as director (following 2008’s Synecdoche, New York) and seventh as a writer. It’s an intricate psychological tragicomedy told using stop-motion puppets, for which he’s teamed up with animator Duke Johnson. David Thewlis voices alienated customer services guru Michael; Jennifer Jason Leigh voices Lisa. When describing this film, the temptation is to unleash a rainstorm of adjectives. Superlatives like ‘masterful’, ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘accomplished’ are accurate but when the creators have been so specific in their world-building, taking the baton involves greater imagination. Anomalisa is a tiny, hand-crafted vision of the John Milton quote: “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven.” SMK

5. The Here After

Eta 11 March

This impressive debut from robustly monikered Swedish writer/director Magnus von Horn takes place in a rural community that’s thrown into turmoil after the release of a local young offender. Talented up-and-comer (and Sweden’s answer to Ed Sheeran) Ulrik Munther plays John, who returns home having served his time desperate to get on with his life only to find that not all of his peers are willing to forgive and forget. An intelligent film that asks us to find sympathy for someone guilty of a terrible and tragic crime. AW

6. Spotlight

Eta 29 January

In a year with no discernible Oscar frontrunner, there are wags and award prognosticators whispering that this could be the year of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, the director’s universally adored follow-up to the universally despised Adam Sandler vehicle, The Cobbler. This ensemble procedural follows the investigative journalism unit at the Boston Globe whose stirling, meticulous journalistic efforts help to uncover mass corruption in the Catholic church. The film is also proof that Birdman wasn’t Michael Keaton’s big comeback – it was just his warm up for this. DJ

7. Zoolander 2

Eta 12 February

With the exception of Spy, 2015 was a bang average year for mainstream comedies. Now, it’s too early to speculate as to whether next year will be any better, but we’re already pinning our hopes on Zoolander 2 – although the trailer for this long-awaited sequel does kind of make us wish that Ben Stiller had retired his narcissistic comic creation in favour of a Mugatu spin-off. This one sees Derek Zoolander and Hansel (Owen Wilson) team up to thwart a major conspiracy to rid the world of its most ridiculously good-looking people. Expect big hair and (manicured digits crossed) bigger laughs. AW

8. Bone Tomahawk

Eta 19 February

Hearing all kinds of strange thing about this neo-western about a cannibal hunter played by Kurt Russell. Most talk of how S Craig Zahler film takes its good sweet time to reach its gory denouement, focusing on ripe genre dialogue and building up meaty side characters than simply offering a stock cavalcade of genre conventions and 10-a-penny thrills. This film has come out of nowhere, but here’s hoping that it, alongside The Hateful Eight, can kickstart the Oater revival. DJ

9. The Violators

Eta Spring

Debut director Helen Walsh is an established creator of mysterious, sexually curious fictional females. The Warrington-born writer has four published novels: ‘Brass’, ‘Once Upon a Time in England’, ‘Go to Sleep’ and ‘The Lemon Grove’. The Violators is set around the Birkenhead docks in Liverpool and concerns the coming-of-age of 15-year-old Shelly (Lauren McQueen), a school drop-out who fills her days listlessly walking across this urban wasteland. The film takes a dark turn but tone remains strangely serene and hopeful. The Violators plays like a more poetic and cryptic Clio Barnard film. Walsh’s ability to conjure electric sensuality out of compromised situations is disquieting and fascinating. SMK

10. The Neon Demon

Eta Spring

Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning. If there’s a more intriguing director/star pairing coming our way in 2016 we haven’t seen it. The Neon Demon sees the Drive and Only God Forgives director fix his crosshairs on the modelling industry, following the story of an aspiring ingénue named Jesse (Fanning) who’s swallowed by the fashion world when she relocates to Los Angeles. On the genesis of the project Refn has said: “One morning I woke and realised I was both surrounded and dominated by women. Strangely, a sudden urge was planted in me to make a horror film about vicious beauty,” Colour us intrigued. AW

11. Hitchcock/Truffaut

Eta 4 March

One of the highlights of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this documentary by cinephile and programmer Kent Jones takes the famous tome of the title and runs with its spirit rather than its story. There is lovely footage of inquisitive Nouvelle Vague godhead Franoçois Truffaut firing probing questions at an Alfred Hitchcock who is clearly loving the attention, but what Jones has done is made a film in which he has roped in a host of other famous directors (David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Wes Anderson, James Gray, etc.) to talk about Hitchcock and how his work affected their own work. It’s a movie about how directors talk about themselves, and a fascinating and lively one at that. DJ

12. The Club

Eta 25 March

Reported to be one of the biggest box office hits of all time in its native Chile, Pablo Larrain’s The Club is also a movie that works in neat tandem with another title on this list – Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. Where the later film focuses on the external process of revealing a dark, shrouded secret, this film explores the situation of corrupted priests from an interior vantage, taking place in and around a small, beach-side bunkhouse to which disgraced priests are posted to repent for their sins away from prying public eyes. DJ

13. The Jungle Book

Eta 15 April

When Disney revealed that they were developing a new live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s cherished collection of stories, our immediate reaction was one of indifference. Since that 2013 announcement there’s not been a marked shift in our anticipation level. That was until we saw some exclusive test footage at a Disney slate presentation. For starters, the voice cast is sensational: Bill Murray (Baloo); Scarlett Johansson (Kaa); Idris Elba (Shere Khan); Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha); Ben Kingsley (Bagheera); Christopher Walken (King Louie). Then there’s the photorealistic CG animation which, aside from looking completely amazing, lends the film an unexpectedly dark tone. Give the trailer a whirl and get excited. AW

14. Untitled Joanna Hogg Project

Eta unknown

In April 2015, writer/director Joanna Hogg (Archipelago, Exhibition) spoke at a BFI panel discussion celebrating Laura Mulvey’s visual pleasures essay. She mentioned that she was writing a screenplay “set in the 1980s about a young female student” that drew inspiration from the essay. She went on to cite a specific line: ‘the silent image of woman still tied to her place of bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning,’ revealing that the line triggered a memory that she will use in her new film. “It was the memory of my parents having a dinner party with friends. Then, towards the end of the dinner party, the women got up, myself included. My mother and wives left the table and left the men talking at the table. We moved next door.” SMK

15. Demolition

Eta 29 April

Jean-Marc Valée has become something of the awards season go-to guy for A-listers looking to get a nomination under their belt. In the case of Matthew Mcconaughey, make that a certified win for The Dallas Buyers Club. This new one see Jake Gyllenhaal actually dialing it back little after a series of “big” turns in Southpaw and Nightcrawler to play a grieving widower who is unable to locate an outlet for his feelings. The film traces his transformation from a slick, unfeeling corporate stooge to someone who’s a little bit more free and easy with his life, and this change is kickstarted by the relationship he develops with a woman (Naomi Watts) working in the complaints department of a vending machine company. DJ

16. The Commune

Eta 29 July

After reinterpreting an English classic with Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Vinterberg is back on edgy Danish terrain. The man who co-founded the naturalism-loving Dogme 95 manifesto with Lars von Trier is at his best when putting ordinary people into low-key situations that slowly become melodramatic. Festen and The Hunt both pivoted around allegations of child abuse, detailing the fall-out at a family celebration and for a cosy small town. The Commune is partially drawn from Vinterberg’s childhood experience of living in a commune. The trailer shows a comfortable middle-aged couple with progressive ideals opening the doors of their large house. Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking, A War) co-wrote the script, just as he did for The Hunt. Expect knife-edge tension, multi-faceted characterisations and painful group dynamics. SMK

17. Victoria

Eta 1 April

The new new one-take wonder on the block, Victoria is a film by German director Sebastian Schipper which unfolds in a single, unbroken shot. The film was shot between 4am and 6.30am on the streets of Kreuzberg in Berlin, and it follows the nighttime travails of the titular character (played by Laia Costa) as she tipsily stumbles from a late night club dance club and hooks up with a group of latchkey knockabouts who let them into their world. What initially feels like a definitive portrait of those character building moments which occur before the sun rises soon becomes something more high risk and dramatic, but we won’t tell you exactly what goes down. DJ

18. A United Kingdom

Eta unknown

This sees Amma Asante continue to explore racial tension at fascinating, lesser-told historical junctures. Belle harnessed the full star power of Gugu Mbatha Raw to tell the true story of Britain’s first black aristocrat, Dido Elizabeth Belle. A United Kingdom is Asante’s third feature and flips the racial tension of her previous film using two internationally acclaimed British actors: David Oyelowo plays Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, who causes a social stir after he weds a white woman, Ruth Williams, played by Rosamund Pike. Their relationship and its repercussions is based on actual events from the 1940s. SMK

19. I Saw the Light

Eta Spring

The seemingly ubiquitous Tom Hiddleston caps off a busy 2015 with luxuriant music biopic in which he steps into the cowboy boots of beloved country crooner Hank Williams. Marc Abraham’s film is extremely traditional in its formal outlook, and it’s all the more interesting for it. Instead of attempting to impose a neat arc on Williams’ sadly curtailed life, or trying to second guess the significance of his actions for the pleasures of a contemporary audience, the film stands back and observes a life being lived, and Hiddleston’s effortless screen charisma lend a melancholy smoothness to the whole impressive and old fashioned affair. DJ

20. Sausage Party

Eta Summer

“An animated movie about one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence.” If the official plot synopsis hasn’t sufficiently whet your appetite for this Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen-penned comedy, chances are you’re either dead inside or a vegetarian. Sausage Party boasts the vocal talents of Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig and James Franco… and pretty much every other top Hollywood comic actor you could care to mention. We have absolutely no clue how this one will turn out, but to be perfectly frank the film had us at ‘R-rated 3D-animated sausage comedy’. AW

21. Julieta

Eta unknown

Pedro Almodóvar’s twentieth feature spans 30 years in the life of a woman named Julieta, with the role split between Spanish actresses, Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte. The film was originally titled Silence, but was changed as it clashed with Martin Scorsese’s latest (more on that in part two). Back in March, before the change, Almodóvar’s production house El Deseo described the film as being: “about inevitable destiny, a guilt complex, the unfathomable mystery which makes us abandon the ones we love, excising them out of our life as if they had never meant anything to us, and about the pain this abandonment causes in the victim.” It sounds like the type of operatic female-led melodrama that Almodóvar has built his name on. To quote his previous work, I’m so excited! SMK

22. Snowden

Eta Spring

Just in case the actual documentary (Citizenfour) about fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden was too dry, Oliver Stone is here with his own sexed-up version of events. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Snowden, Shailene Woodley is Snowden’s sensitive, fitness advocate girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, and Melissa Leo as Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, with Nicholas Cage, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant and Joely Richardson adding support. At the risk of sounding cynical, Snowden sounds more likely to be a hammy hoot than a lean paean to truth. Dramatising the stories of political figures before any perspective can be applied tends to go that way *cough* The Fifth Estate *cough* although Anthony Dod Mantle is director of photography so at least it will look pretty. SMK

23. Star Trek Beyond

Eta 26 July

With JJ Abrams away on a different fanboy-bating franchise behemoth, the door was left open for Justin “Fast & Furious” Lin to navigate the USS Enterprise through this blockbuster sequel. An action-packed trailer revealed plenty of plot details, although we’re only given the briefest of glimpses of new recruit Idris Elba, who’s reportedly playing the villain. Up until now this reboot series has been surprisingly great, and we’re willing Lin not to drop a Klingon-shaped clanger. AW

24. Everybody Wants Some

Eta unknown

After making one of the greatest films of the new millennium, Texan golden boy Richard Linklater should now have carte blanche to do whatever the hell he likes. And so he’s chosen to pick up the reigns on his long-gestating “spiritual sequel” to his early defining statement, Dazed and Confused. At one point called That’s What I’m Talkin’ About, the film comprises a cast of unknowns and it explores a subject that’s very close to the director’s heart: the college baseball scene of the 1980s. The film will receive its world premiere at the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival in March. DJ

25. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Eta 25 March

It’s hard for us to muster up too much excitement for a new Zack Snyder joint, given the Wagnerian windbaggery of his 2013 effort Man of Steel. And yet Snyder still manages to command gigantic budgets for his so-called “dark” superhero movies. The early teaser trailers suggest this will be business as usual, with Henry Cavill once more sliding into the iconic blue-n-red leotard and cape, while Ben Affleck takes up his tenure as the Dark Knight. Here’s hoping Snyder surprises us with something vaguely coherent. DJ

Look out for part 2 of our 2016 preview tomorrow and let us know which forthcoming releases you’re most excited about @LWLies

Published 15 Dec 2015

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