Film Carew's 50 Films To Watch In 2016

31 December 2015 | 10:45 am | Anthony Carew

'Batman vs Superman' couldn't be any worse than 'The Age Of Ultron', could it?

Dear world: if you haven’t heard the horrifying news —or, even worse, seen the motherfucking trailer— then be aware that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a thing that really exists, and it’s coming to cinemas in 2016. Hide the children!

Gladly, there is much else to look forward to in the coming 12 months. From auteurism to explosions, manifold sequels to endless comic-book ‘universe’-building, here’s 50 films to keep an eye out for in Sweet ’16.

1. 20th century women

Director: Mike Mills.

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Cast: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Thea Gill, Billy Crudup.

Six years after his luminous Beginners —one of the decade's best films so far— Mills returns. His latest film is a coming-of-age tale set in California in 1979 (and with intimations that punk is involved), in which a host of women, from mother Bening to the beyond-amazing Fanning, teach a teenage boy lessons in life.

2. anomalisa

Directors: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson.

Cast: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan.

Seven long years after Synecdoche, New York, we finally have more Charlie Kaufman on screen. In a world of stop-motion marionettes, Kaufman gets plenty existential (of course!), and shows himself, as ever, an underrated chronicler of human behaviour and emotions. The results are plenty great; Anomalisa clocked in at #9 on the impossibly-prestigious Film Carew Best Films Of 2015 countdown. 

3. assassin's creed

Director: Justin Kurzel.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed.

Rolling right of the back of his blood-red, smoke-black MacBeth, Kurzel brings stars Fassbender and Cotillard along with him for his next lark: a movie adaptation of the ultra-popular video-game series. As institution, the Video-Game Movie sets off alarm-bells, but Kurzel's approach is apparently to insert an original story in the world of the game. And, after Snowtown and MacBeth, he's amassed enough cred to create anticipation.

4. batman vs superman: dawn of justice

Director: Zack Snyder.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa.

It couldn't be any worse than The Age Of Ultron, could it?

5. the bfg

Director: Steven Spielberg.

Cast: Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Wilton, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement.

The excellent Bridge Of Spies —especially its opening reel— showed that Señor Spielbergo's still got it. And his sense of scale, spectacle, and awe seems like a natural match for Roald Dahl's eternally-beloved fable.

6. the birth of a nation

Director: Nate Parker.

Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aunjanue Ellis, Penelope Ann Miller, Gabrielle Union, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley.

The year's most audacious, borderline-trolling title comes with Parker's first directorial turn. Borrowing the name of D.W. Griffiths' 1915 shrine to All-American, Klan-lovin' racism, Parker brings to screen the tale of Nat Turner, who lead a 19th-century slave rebellion. It sounds plenty post-12 Years A Slave, but if the filmmaking's anywhere near as ballsy as the film-naming, that'll hardly matter.

7. captain america: civil war

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo.

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman.

The stakes in normal Marvel movies feel impossibly low —the day shall always be saved— but in an Avengers vs Avengers rumble, you know the only thing that's going to get hurt are CGI buildings. If y’wanna ease the pain: take a shot every time RDJ cracks wise at an inappropriate time.

8. certain women

Director: Kelly Reichardt.

Cast: Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Jared Harris, James Le Gros, Rosanna Arquette.

Reichardt not only returns, but reunites with Williams, who starred in her great Wendy & Lucy and Meek's Cutoff. Here, the lives of three women —Williams, Stewart (bananas good in Clouds Of Sils Maria, PS), and Dern— intersect in off-the-beaten track America; the film based on the short stories of Maile Meloy (AKA: the sister of Decemberists bro/Wildwood scribe Colin Meloy).

9. christine

Director: Antonio Campos.

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Timothy Simons, Maria Dizzia, Kim Shaw.

The true-life story of Christine Chubbuck is so crazy that it naturally suggests a cinematic adaptation. And Campos —who once helmed the genuinely unnerving After School— seems like the kind of filmmaker who could tap into its particular kind of control-freak psychosis; with the duelling Halls fine choices as leads.

10. the circle

Director: James Ponsoldt.

Cast: Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, Patton Oswalt, Ellar Coltrane.

Dave Eggers' acclaimed novel is brought to screen by the rising Ponsoldt (last three films: SmashedThe Spectacular NowThe End Of The Tour), with Watson the new-girl-on-the-job who explores the dark shadows of her towering tech-company employers.

11. deadpool

Director: Tim Miller.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Andre Tricoteux, Brianna Hildebrand, Taylor Hickson.

Wise-crackin’ Ryan Reynolds sure worked great with Green Lantern, right?

12. the disaster artist

Director: James Franco.

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Kate Upton, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Alison Brie.

Tommy Wiseau's worst-film-of-all-time contender The Room is still screening in cinemas 12 years after it was made, the centre of a cult of derision big on celebration. The Apatovian boy's club count themselves as fans, and, so, the hyper-prolific, dilettantish Franco will don the quasi-vampiric accent and stringy, greasy wig in a to-screen translation of Tommy's car-crash filmmaking. Franco's bro plays Greg Sestero, whose same-titled blow-by-blow account of his time on the set of The Room serves as the source text.

13. doctor strange

Director: Scott Derrickson.

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

The Sinister team making another branded MCU product may not scream excitement, but Doctor Strange is one of Marvel's less cookie-cutter heroes —loads of room for lightness/darkness/internal conflict— and the cast for this thing is plenty starry.

14. everybody wants some

Director: Richard Linklater.

Cast: Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman, Zoey Deutch, Wyatt Russell, Tyler Hoechlin.

Linklater's follow-up to his beloved Boyhood picks up, thematically, where that film left off: at the first few days of college, when classes haven't started, but parties run wild. Even better, it's set in the early-'80s, and serves as a spiritual sequel to Linklater's 1993 classic Dazed & Confused.

15. fantastic beasts & where to find them

Director: David Yates.

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Dan Fogler, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman.

J.K. Rowling’s supplementary piece of Harry Potter ephemera —published as if one of the boy-wizard’s textbooks— is turned into its own tale of witchcraft and wizardry, its fictional author made manifest as Eddie Redmayne, footloose in NYC in the roaring ’20s.

16. finding dory

Directors: Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane.

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Albert Brooks, Dominic West, Idris Elba.

In 2015, Pixar gave us the classic Inside Out (let’s forget The Good Dinosaur ever happened), constituting a defiant return-to-form from our animation overlords. A 13-years-on sequel to Finding Nemo doesn’t smack of inspiration, but Pixar still stands as one of cinema’s most reliable brands, and Toy Story 2 totally made you cry, right?

17. free fire

Director: Ben Wheatley.

Cast: Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Treynor, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor.

Wheatley is fresh off High-Rise, his ultra-’70s-styled, kinda-bonkers Ballard adaptation, which landed at festivals in 2015. Free Fire sticks in the period: his latest a portrait of gang warfare in Boston in 1978. Given the touch Wheatley has show with genre (Kill List) and period (A Field In England), the so-so premise is rich with potential.

18. ghostbusters

Director: Paul Feig.

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Perkins, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Kenneth Williams, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver.

With Feig teaming back up with Bridesmaids stars Wiig and McCarthy, this Ghostbusters-with-women remake seems like it has the potential to be genuinely funny. At worst, well, at least it’s already pissed off MRA dickwads.

19. hail, caesar!

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen.

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

The phrase “new Coen Brothers” makes any movie required viewing, but Hail, Caesar! seems especially delicious. It’s a film set in 1950s Hollywood, making it feel like a spiritual successor to the legendary Barton Fink.

20. the hateful eight

Director: Quentin Tarantino.

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, Channing Tatum.

Fuck yeah.

21. hunt for the wilderpeople

Director: Taika Waititi.

Cast: Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Sam Neill.

It’s hard to get more Kiwi than Waititi —director of Eagle vs Shark, Boy, and What We Do In The Shadows— adapting a Barry Crump book for screen. It may be Waititi’s last oh-so-Kiwi flick for a stint: he’s signed up to next direct 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.

22. independence day: resurgence

Director: Roland Emmerich.

Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Paxton, Sela Ward, Maika Monroe, Joey King, Vivica A. Fox, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The OG Independence Day was a landmark of blowing-shit-up blockbusterin’. And, for those who love shit exploding, runamok American patriotism, Emmerichian idiocy, and Goldblum delivering lines like he’s taking the piss, well, here we go again!

23. it's only the end of the world

Director: Xavier Dolan.

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

Dolan —that ultra-prolific French-Canadian boy-wonder— hit upward-mobility paydirt when he shot the video-clip for Adele’s world-conquering Hello single. The rumour mill already has Adele repaying the favour by appearing in Dolan’s upcoming English-language debut, The Death & Life Of John F. Donovan. But, before that, there’s It’s Only The End Of The World, a family reunion film stacked with a loaded cast of French stars.

24. julieta

Director: Pedro Almodóvar.

Cast: Adriana Ugarte, Emma Suárez, Rossy de Palma, Imma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner.

After the tepid sex-farce I’m So Excited!, Almodóvar attempts to right the ship, and does so with a most Almodóvarian premise: a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown recounts the misadventures in her life 30 years prior; thus stories within the story unfold, timeframes intersect, etc. Given Almodóvar’s last non-sex-farce was the excellent The Skin I Live In, hope abounds.

25. la la land

Director: Damien Chazelle.

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

Chazelle’s follow-up to his wildly-successful Whiplash finds him sticking with the jazz theme that began with his debut, 2009’s Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench. Only, here, he pushes it further: Gosling a jazz-pianist who falls in love with Stone’s actress in a full-blown screen musical.

26. the light between oceans

Director: Derek Cianfrance.

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz, Emily Barclay, Caren Pistorius.

M.L. Stedman’s acclaimed novel —set at a remote lighthouse in Western Australia, between the two World Wars— is brought to screen by Cianfrance, last seen cavorting through the years with the ambitious The Place Beyond The Pines. There’s plenty of local lovin’ at play: it was shot in New Zealand and Tasmania, features old pal Anthony “Grommet” Hayes, and boasts cinematography from great DP Adam Arkapaw (Justin Kurzel’s films, True Detective Season 1, Top Of The Lake, etc).

27. lo and behold, reveries of the connected world

Director: Werner Herzog.

One of the greatest documentarians of our time tackles the topic of our time: the rise of the internet’s information age. O, to hear Herr Herzog waxing philosophical in that accent! Werner’s plenty busy in 2016: he’s also directing his latest narrative feature Salt And Fire, which finds him —after the dead-eyed Queen Of The Desert— returning to the desert, this time with Michael Shannon and Gael García Bernal in tow.

28. the lost city of z

Director: James Gray.

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Angus Macfadyen.

Given it’s a James Gray joint, who knows when The Lost City Of Z will actually hit screens. But the premise sounds super-great: this an adaptation of David Grann’s book, which chronicled the true-life tragedy of Colonel Percy Fawcett, who vanished into the Amazonian jungle searching for a mythical city.

29. love & friendship

Director: Whit Stillman.

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Emma Greenwell, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry.

After his great pilot for The Cosmopolitans wasn’t turned into a series (seriously: boo, Amazon, boo), Stillman has reunited his Last Days Of Disco heroines Beckinsale and Sevigny for an adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novella. It being Stillman, he already turned it into a book in 2015 (take a deep breath: Love & Friendship: An Adaptation Of Jane Austen’s Unfinished Novella Concerning The Beautiful Lady Susan Vernon, Her Loves And Friendships, And The Strange Antagonism Of The DeCourcy Family); now there’s just the film to come.

30. midnight special

Director: Jeff Nichols.

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst.

Jeff Nichols’ long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Mud finally hits cinemas early in 2016; boasting magic-realism and religious sect creepiness and ol’ bug-eyed stand-by Michael Shannon. Shannon’s on-board for Nichols’ already-in-production next film, Loving, which stars Edgerton and Ruth Negga in a based-on-a-true-story, Oscar-season tale of the inter-racial marriage that became a civil-rights landmark.

31. the neon demon

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn.

Cast: Elle Fanning, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves, Karl Glusman.

Returning after the back-to-back of Drive/Only God Forgives, Winding Refn’s latest is a femme-centric, sex-filled horror-film set in Los Angeles, about “vicious beauty” and the electricity of the city.

32. the nice guys

Director: Shane Black

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Matt Bomer.

Since selling his Lethal Weapon script for a shit-ton of cash three decades ago, Black has been one of Hollywood’s more elusive figures. The Nice Guys —a thriller-comedy set in the underworld ’70s LA porn— marks just his third directorial effort, following 2005’s self-reflexive black-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2013’s cheque-cashin’ Iron Man Three.

33. nocturnal animals

Director: Tom Ford.

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

Ford’s second film —following 2009’s A Single Man— finds him adapting Austin Wright’s mystery-thriller Tony And Susan. The novel unfolds as a story-within-a-story, offering up a chance for manifold layers and Gone Girl-style unreliable narration.

34. paris is happening

Director: Bertrand Bonello.

Cast: Vincent Rottiers, Finnegan Oldfield, Laure Valentinelli, Jamil McCraven.

The latest film for Bonello —the auteur behind Tiresia, On War, House Of Tolerance, and Saint Laurent— got eerily topical real fast. The film is set in Paris and is about domestic terrorists, its production continuing even after it was briefly halted by the real-life terror attacks in Paris in November.

35. passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum.

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

Last seen crashing the Oscars with The Imitation Game, Norwegian director Mortn Tyldum’s next trick is a space-travel sci-fi saga, with Pratt and Lawrence getting their deep space freak on. It’s not to be confused with the lame 2008 film Passengers, a plane-crash-survivor support-group movie whose telegraphed twist —they’re actually all dead!— still makes me laugh.

36. personal shopper

Director: Olivier Assayas.

Cast: Kristen Stewart, David Bowles, Ty Olwin, Anders Danielsen Lie, Lars Eidinger.

Following the brilliant Clouds Of Sils Maria, Assayas and Stewart reunite for Paris-set, English-language film described as “a ghost story taking place in the fashion underworld”. Well now!

37. rogue one: a star wars story

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk.

After the great collective sigh-of-relief that was The Force Awakens, the endless raft of new Star Wars universe spin-offs no longer seems so questionable. Especially given the best-and-brightest have been appointed custodians: Edwards, coming off his great Godzilla, the first to tackle a B-movie tale in a galaxy far, far away.

38. silence

Director: Martin Scorsese.

Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Ciarán Hinds, Asano Tadabobu, Ryô Kase.

Scorsese’s adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel was originally intended for release in time for this year’s Oscar season. Instead, now, we’ll have to wait for the old master’s 24th feature, a portrait of a pair of Portuguese Jesuit priests (Adam fucking Driver is in this thing!) on a mission in 17th-century Japan.

39. star trek beyond

Director: Justin Lin.

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, John Cho, Sofia Boutella.

The recent unveiling of the Beyond trailer pissed off Star Trek nerds, increasing my interest in seeing this thing roughly 500%.

40. steve jobs

Director: Danny Boyle.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.

Aaron Sorkin gets all Sorkinist with another portrait of one of our tech-billionaire overlords: his zingin’ dialogue bringing out a picture of its once-celebrated subject as insufferable egotist and cruel control-freak.

41. story of your life

Director: Denis Villeneuve.

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

Coming off the searing Sicario, Villeneuve adapts Ted Chiang’s sci-fi short-story about a first-contact dialogue with a race of freshly-arrived aliens, with Adams the heroine linguist(!) who learns how to communicate with them.

42. suicide squad

Director: David Ayer.

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne, Margot Robbie, Jail Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Adewale Akinnuote-Agbaje, Viola Davis.

You’ve seen the trailer. The trailer looks great! Even if that slow-and-spooky-cover-of-an-old-standard-for-the-trailer trope is out of control. It’s enough to create a sense of genuine anticipation for a film that, otherwise, look likes a transparent attempt at MCU-esque DC-cinema world-building.

43. things to come

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve.

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Edith Scob, Roman Kolinka.

Hansen-Løve follows up her great French-house epic Eden with Things To Come, which stars the eternal Huppert as a 50-something philosophy professor whose life is falling apart; past MHL form suggesting that the film’ll move fluidly through time as it goes. Like all of her films, it also scans as hugely personal: growing up, both Hansen-Løve’s parents were philosophy professors.

44. triple 9

Director: John Hillcoat.

Cast: Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Teresa Palmer, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Michelle Ang, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kenneth Williams.

After the misstep of Lawless, Nick Cave’s favourite director hopes to get back in form with this hard-bitten crime-thriller, which boasts a bonkers fucking cast.

45. untitled bourne sequel

Director: Paul Greengrass.

Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed.

Though it’s yet to be gifted a catchy title, Damon is already out front-and-centre spruiking the latest Bourne film, which finds he and Greengrass returning to the franchise that reshaped modern action movies.

46. war machine

Director: David Michôd.

Cast: Brad Pitt, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Emory Cohen, Scoot McNairy, Anthony Michael Hall, Keith Stanfield.

Michôd follows up The Rover with a satire of the American occupation of Afghanistan, the film a fictional adaptation of Michael Hasting’s exposé The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story Of America’s War In Afghanistan.

47. wiener-dog

Director: Todd Solondz.

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Zosia Mamet, Julie Delpy, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn.

Just as Life During Wartime was a quasi sequel to Happiness, Todd Solondz’s latest film is a spiritual successor to Welcome To The Dollhouse. And, 20 years later, Heather Matarrazzo has turned into Greta Gerwig! Its vast cast of characters (Zosia Mamet!) are united by one dachshund, making for a Solondzian ensemble piece with a straight-up punning title.

48. the witch

Director: Robert Eggers.

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickey, Harvey Scrimshaw.

Eggers’ amazing debut killed it at festivals in 2015, and now it’ll open wide early in ’16, being primed as a potential horror breakout. In truth, whilst it’s genuinely unnerving and will creep you the fuck out, it’s less a horror movie, more a bracing work of cinematic time-travel, recreating the religious hysteria of 17th-century Puritan New England.

49: x-men apocalypse

Director: Bryan Singer.

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan.

For non-fanboize, the X-Men movies are just a soup of confusion: who are all these people on multiple planets in multiple timeframes in silly costumes? Why are they fighting? Where did I leave my glasses? But for fanboize, they are the ultimate shrine to their comic-book devotion: so many characters! So many easter-eggs! So many capes! So many things whooshing around via CGI!

50. zoolander 2

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penélope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Munn, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, yet another Miley Cyrus cameo.

Remember when 15-years-on sequels once seemed like a bad idea? In an era of cast reunions and revived IP, the world seems excited by Stiller dredging up his sketch-comic male-model creation. Expect endless celebrity cameos, and an in-on-the-joke-ness that may or may not make it actually funny.