2016: Winter Film Preview
by Dan Owen.
I’ve already previewed 8 television shows to look forward to in early-2016, but now it’s the turn of the movies. Below are 10 films that are premiering in the UK over the next three months, featuring frontiersmen, superheroes, giant pandas, monsters, boxers, models, and zombies! Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments below!
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
• dir: Quentin Tarantino | 8 January
The eighth movie from Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) is a post-American Civil War epic, concerning eight strangers who seek refuge from a blizzard in a stagecoach stopover — played by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. Shot on 70mm film and with a score by prestigious composer Ennio Morricone (returning to the Western genre for the first time in 40-years), The Hateful Eight promises to be another cinematic treat and reviews have been mostly positive in the U.S.
• dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu | 15 January
Another epic Western, this time from the Mexican director fresh from the critical success of Birdman. Inspired by the true story of an unlucky frontiersman, later adapted into a novel by Michael Punke, The Revenant follows a hunter called Hugh Glass (Leonard DiCaprio) who’s left for dead by his friends after a vicious bear attack. Co-stars Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter. Oscar buzz is already building for DiCaprio’s performance and Iñárritu’s startling direction.
• dir: Ryan Coogler | 15 January
Continuing the trend of the so-called ‘legasequel’ (a sequel that also works as a reboot, utilising nostalgia for an old franchise), Creed is ostensibly the seventh instalment of the Rocky saga. However, this time the focus is on the orphaned son of Rocky’s rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a boxing champion, and seeks mentorship from the legendary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). The buzz from the U.S has been overwhelmingly positive, with many critics remarking Creed is the second-best Rocky movie — which is no mean feat for the seventh entry in a 40-year-old franchise. There’s even been talking that Stallone could nab a Best Supporting Actor nomination at this year’s Oscars.
• dir: Rob Letterman | 5 February
Strangely delayed from its perfect pre-Halloween release in the U.S, this adaptation of the popular children’s books by R.L Stine finally arrives in the UK — where the author’s work isn’t especially well-known, although most people have seen the accompanying Nickelodeon-produced 1990s TV series. In this film, a teenage boy (Dylan Minnette) new in town discovers that his next-door neighbour’s father is none other than author R.L Stine (Jack Black) himself, before the writer’s frightening creations are released into the real world from his manuscripts. Goosebumps was a big hit in the U.S last autumn, and it should perform okay over here — despite the fact there’s less appeal in seeing characters like Slappy the Living Mummy brought to life with a £60 million budget, and Black’s star-power has dimmed.
• dir: Tim Miller | 10 February
Always a risky proposition, the anarchic Marvel superhero has somehow made it to live-action (ignoring Deadpool’s infamously poor handling in X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Largely thanks to test footage created by Tim Miller leaking onto the internet and being lavished with praise, 20th Century Fox bit the bullet and are delivering the Deadpool movie few ever expected to see: one full of subversive material, hardcore violence, and fourth-wall-breaking craziness. You’re probably already aware of the amusing pre-publicity that’s been running online for what seems like forever. Will mainstream audiences turn out for a superhero film with such a dark, snarky sensibility, post-Fantastic Four? I have my doubts. Deadpool isn’t a household name either. Let’s just hope we have a cult hit on our hands, and that it’s as glorious as star Ryan Reynolds is promising.
• dir: Ben Stiller | 12 February
An astonishing 15-years after the original Zoolander was released in cinemas, here comes the very belated sequel. Has it only been made because Ben Stiller desperately needs a hit after a run of flops like Tower Heist, The Watch and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Probably, but who cares. Derek Zoolander, the male model with the IQ of a gnat, is back, and he’s joined by old favourites like Hansel (Owen Wilson) and Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and new characters played by the likes of Penélope Cruz and Kristen Wiig. Zoolander №2’s trailer looks as spirited, vibrant and outrageous as ever, so let’s hope this follow-up is more Anchorman 2 than Dumb & Dumberer.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES
• dir: Burr Steers | 12 February
It’s taken years for this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody novel of the Jane Austen classic to get made, but it’s almost here. In 19th-century England, a plague is sweeping the nation and reanimating the dead… which rather negatively impacts the sweet romantic story of Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) falling in love with the dashing Mr Darcy (Sam Riley). Corsets and rifles at the ready! Co-stars Jack Huston, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance and Lena Headey. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is an irresistibly daft idea that could nevertheless fall flat on its face, rather like how Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fared, but let’s hope not.
• dirs: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson | 11 March
The unquestionable genius of writer-director Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) returns with stop-motion animated drama Anomalisa, about an author who struggles to connect with other people (voiced by David Thewlis). It’s already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival and widespread praise from U.S critics, so I’m expecting great things — as someone who devours Kaufman’s unique, insightful worldview. Although I’m hoping for something a shade less mind-boggling than Synecdoche, New York.
KUNG FU PANDA 3
• dirs: Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni | 11 March
Truthfully, I’m a little surprised there’s a third part in the Kung Fu Panda saga. You don’t hear anyone, even little children, talking about the first two films — do you? But they’re obviously successful and this one finds Po (Jack Black) uniting with his biological father and travelling to a secret sanctuary of other pandas, where he discovers he’s supposed to marry Mei Mei (Kate Hudson). Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, James Hong, Bryan Cranston and J.K Simmons all lend their vocal talents.
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
• dir: Zack Snyder | 25 March
Considering the mouthwatering proposal of pitting The Man of Steel against the Caped Crusader in a $200 million movie, there’s been a pervasive feeling of resentment about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A lot of that’s down to the fact director Zack Snyder made Man of Steel (a Superman film most people think didn’t understand the character’s enduring appeal), and this is essentially its sequel. However, the biggest draw is seeing what Ben Affleck brings to the role of a fortysomething Bruce Wayne/Batman — an exciting prospect on the face of it, tarnished by the fact Christopher Nolan’s game-changing Dark Knight trilogy is still fresh in everyone’s minds. A mix of reservations and a sense of poor timing has rigidly stuck to this project, meaning it’s been hard to get excited about its existence. But maybe that’s all for the best, because expectations are so low it will have to be truly dire to disappoint people. Me? I have hope. Affleck looks great in the black-grey Batsuit, for all his faults Snyder has a good visual eye, Gal Gadot looks perfect as Wonder Woman, and it’s essentially the beginning of DC Comics developing a multiyear ‘cinematic universe’ to rival Marvel. Is this too big to fail?
Those are my picks of the 10 most notable and exciting films on the horizon, to help sweep away those winter blues. Do you agree? Care to suggest a few more of your own in the comments below?