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TOH!’s 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

TOH!'s 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

Before Sundance sets in motion another year in film—and the Academy celebrates its favorite achievements from the last one—we look ahead to 2016, from to-be-distributed festival circuit favorites (Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan”) to highly anticipated blockbusters (the untitled fifth installment in the “Bourne” franchise). Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments below. 

“War & Peace” (BBC / The Weinstein Co., January 18) 
Ok, I cheated—technically speaking, original “House of Cards” scribe Andrew Davies and “Peaky Blinders” director Tom Harper’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 19th century epic is a six-part miniseries set to air in the U.S. on A&E, Lifetime, and History this winter. But given the novel’s 1,000-plus pages, that’s pretty damn concise, and let’s face it, an encyclopedic chronicle of tsarist Russia during the Napoleonic Wars is unlikely to receive the roadshow treatment. So say a thank you to “peak TV” and gird yourself for the 2016 version, starring Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) and Paul Dano, and featuring appearances by Brian Cox, Jim Broadbent, and Gillian Anderson. —Matt Brennan

“Hail, Caesar!” (Universal, February 5)

The Coen brothers’ long-in-the-works, star-studded showbiz
caper, set in the heyday of the studio system, will lead off the 66th edition
of the Berlin Film Festival. Set at the height of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the
high-gloss period comedy follows a single day in the life of studio fixer
Edward Mannix (Josh Brolin) on the fictional Capitol Pictures lot. The film
also features George Clooney as movie star Baird Whitlock, kidnapped in the
course of filming “prestige” epic “Hail, Caesar!”; Ralph
Fiennes as director Laurence Lorenz; and Tilda Swinton as real-life gossip
columnist Hedda Hopper. (By the looks of it, she could give Helen Mirren’s
Hopper, in “Trumbo,” a run for her money.) Channing Tatum shows up in
a sailor suit singing, dancing, and grinning from ear to ear, while Scarlett
Johansson turns her accent to full Brooklyn as a performer with a streak of femme
fatale. In short, it’s closer kin to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
than “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and it looks like a helluva lot of fun.

“Knight of Cups” (Broad Green, February 8)
Terrence Malick, who’s enjoying the most creative spurt of
his career, finally explores his adventures in screenwriting and the excesses
of Hollywood as some drug-induced quest for artistic and spiritual meaning. In
many respects, it looks like a re-enactment of “The Tree of Life,”
only through the looking glass, beautifully designed by Jack Fisk and lensed by
Emmanuel (“Chivo”) Lubezki. Indeed, glass and modern architectural
design figure prominently in contrast to the cleansing of water. Christian Bale
leads a great ensemble cast that includes, among others, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas,
Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots. —Bill Desowitz 

“The Witch” (A24, February 26)
The film I’m most excited for people to see in 2015 is Sundance best director winner Robert Eggers’ “The Witch.” Painterly images, ye-olde English, oozing ominous portent and pitch-perfect period detail drive this chilling tale of a family of 17th-century New England settlers pushed to hysteria and violence by the malevolent, titular force nesting in the woods. Anya-Taylor Joy gives a breakout performance as the teenaged daughter of puritan parents, played by the brutally committed Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson. It’s the most important American horror film since “The Blair Witch Project.” —Ryan Lattanzio

“Zootopia” (Disney, March 4)
Disney’s back with its
first anthropomorphic movie in decades, directed by Byron
Howard (“Tangled”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”), only it’s “designed
for animals, by animals.” On the surface, it’s a buddy comedy with newbie
bunny cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) teaming up with sly fox Nick Wilde
(Jason Bateman) to solve a disappearance that could tear Zootopia apart. The
world building by production designer Dave Goetz is very imaginative, with
Sahara Square, Tundra Town, the Rainforest District, and Bunny Burrow, among
others. And figuring out how to adapt individual animal behavior when rigging
them on two feet was also inspiring after the team went to Kenya. How about an
elephant that scoops ice cream? But the most hilarious scene involves a trip to
the DMV run by sloths. —BD

The Lobster (Alchemy, March 11)
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ uniquely strange sensibilities translate perfectly to English with the brilliantly funny “The Lobster.” What begins as a Wes Anderson-esque screwball tale of a near-future where singles (Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly) are herded to a hotel to find a match before they’re turned into animals unfurls unexpectedly into a moving love story. Watching the film I was reminded of the first time I saw “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: there’s nothing quite like it. “The Lobster” is unforgettable. —RL

Midnight Special” (Warner Bros., March 18)
After “Take Shelter” and “Mud,” I’m putty in Jeff Nichols’ hands, and his next collaboration with the immensely talented Michael Shannon, which premieres in competition at Berlin, features what may be his most arresting premise to date. Described by Nichols as a “sci-fi chase film” reminiscent of 1980s John Carpenter, “Midnight Special” stars Shannon as a man who goes on the run with his son (“Masters of Sex” regular Jaeden Lieberher) when the boy displays special powers. The film co-stars Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard. Color me excited. —MB

“Maggie’s Plan” (Sony Pictures Classics, May 20)
Rebecca Miller’s delightful romantic triangle stars Greta
Gerwig, Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke. A fall festival hit, the fifth feature
from “Personal Velocity” writer-director Miller, by far her funniest,
is based on a story by Karen Rinaldi. This witty comedy of manners stars Gerwig
as a 30-something academic who seeks to have a child on her own. She arranges
for a sperm donation from a handsome friend but winds up in love with a
university professor (Ethan Hawke) who is writing a book and raising two
children but not feeling supported by his careerist wife (Julianne Moore).
Complications ensue, and this well-matched, smart cast carries off this amusing
plot with aplomb. —Anne Thompson

Finding Dory” (Disney, June 17)
If you read our recent Pixar ranking, you know that I adore 2003’s “Finding Nemo”—largely because of Ellen DeGeneres’ irrepressible, grandly comic blue tang, now on the verge of her own star turn. More than a decade on, the character’s sweet, sincere humor remains lodged in my brain (“just keep swimming” is a useful mantra), and this sequel reunites the main players: Degeneres, “Nemo” writer/director Andrew Stanton, and Albert Brooks as the neurotic clownfish, Marlin. Add in Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents and you have the makings of a film with merits beyond the nostalgia factor. —MB

The Secret Life of Pets (Universal/Illumination,
July 8)
Forget “The Cat in the Hat.” “Footage from
“The Secret Life of Pets” (Chris Renaud, “Despicable Me”)
looks promising, as comedy voice actors Louis CK, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Jenny
Slate, Dana Carvey, Steve Coogan and Albert Brooks show us what pets do when
their masters close the door every morning. A loyal mastiff waits patiently by
the door. A bird opens up its cage and flies free. A very fat cat tries to
resist the temptation to raid the refrigerator—and fails. A bulldog repeatedly
barks and throws himself at the window as a tantalizing squirrel flits outside.
And a mischievous cat changes the music from classical to punk. —AT

“Lalaland” (Lionsgate, July 15)
30-year-old writer-director Damien Chazelle’s much-anticipated follow-up to breakout five-time Oscar nominee “Whiplash,” starring Miles Teller and Oscar-winner JK Simmons, is jazzy contemporary musical romance “La La Land,” which reunites “Crazy, Stupid, Love” costars Ryan Gosling (as an L.A. musician in love with actress) and Emma Stone. A September sunset photo shot in Griffith Park looks like something out of “An American in Paris.” Both os his feature films, Chazelle told EW, “are about reconciling your dreams with the need to be human.”  —AT

“Bourne 5” (Universal, July 29)
Despite the wickedly effective Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner, writer/director Tony Gilroy fluffed the attempt to revive the franchise with “The Bourne Legacy.” Returning to first principles, the untitled fifth “Bourne” finds Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass in the driver’s seat once more, along with series stalwart Julia Stiles and newcomers Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones. Though one wonders just how much more mileage there is in Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac spy, it’s enough to know that Damon and Greengrass made “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” two of the most artistically successful entries in the genre in recent memory. —MB 

“Kubo and the Two Strings” (Focus Features, August 19)
Laika embraces samurai and mythic Japan for its fourth
stop-motion movie, which marks the directorial debut of studio
president/CEO/artist Travis Knight. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art
Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling
stories to the people of his seaside town until he accidentally summons a
spirit from his past, which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old
vendetta. “Kubo” contains an opulence and majesty very new to
stop-motion (with textures in hair and costumes especially striking), and has
attracted a prestigious voice cast that includes Oscar-winning Charlize Theron
and Matthew McConaughey and Oscar-nominated Ralph Fiennes and Rooney
Mara. —BD

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
(Warner Bros. November 18)
For those in need of a “Harry Potter” fix, J.K.
Rowling expands the famous universe with her first screenplay about the life of
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an eccentric yet unassuming wizard, a member
of the British Ministry of Magic and author of the legendary future textbook.
In this introductory movie, all hell breaks loose during a Magical Congress
meeting in New York in 1926, when several dangerous creatures escape from
Scamander’s magical briefcase. The allegorical timing couldn’t be better for
the violence, fear and paranoia that ensues among wizards and non-wizards alike
(No-Maj). David Yates (who directed the final four “Potter” movies) appears
to have made a smooth transition with a familiar yet timeless vibe, and with a distinguished
ensemble that also includes Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler,
Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell. —BD

“The Book of Henry” (Focus Features, 2016)
In between “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars:
Episode IX,” Colin Trevorrow returns to the more intimate, Amblin-inspired
work that underscored his impressive “Safety Not Guaranteed” debut.
With a script by crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz, it’s about boy genius (Jaeden
Lieberher) who falls for the girl next door (Maddie Ziegler) in jeopardy and
plots a murder to protect her, which he writes in a book. The plot thickens
when single mom (Naomi Watts) discovers the book and joins him. Cinematographer
John Schwartzman and editor Kevin Stitt are back once again with Trevorrow
after the successful “Jurassic World” collaboration. —BD

 (Strand Releasing, 2016)

Greek New Wave filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari follows up her flippant 2010 erotic comedy “Attenberg” with the 2015 festival hit ”Chevalier.” This time she skewers male one-upmanship as six men on a yacht fishing and diving vacation on the Aegean Sea agree to compete in a game of grading everything about each other; the winner who accrues the most points at the end of the trip will wear home the Chevalier pinky ring. They take this contest so seriously (as do their support staff) that they monitor everything from cholesterol and snoring levels to cabinet construction, singing ability and literal dick measuring. “Chevalier” is an absurdly hilarious comedy of gender dynamics that could put Tsangari closer on the arthouse map to the more fanciful Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”). —AT

Creative Control” (Amazon, 2016)
Picked up for 2016 release by Amazon Studios, this hilarious and inventive sci-fi comedy imagines what tech-addled millennials will look like in near-future New York. Writer/director Benjamin Dickinson also stars as an advertising hotshot whose company teams with an augmented reality startup on a prototype that allows you to record and edit basically everything you see and do — and fabricate a dream sexual partner. “Creative Control” premiered at SXSW, where it deservedly picked up a special jury award. —RL

“Disorder” (Sundance Selects, 2016)
Scooped out of Cannes Un Certain Regard by Sundance Selects,
second-time director Alice Winocour’s badass thriller “Disorder” stars gentle giant Matthias
Schoenaerts as a PTSD-suffering soldier hired to protect the wife of a
diplomat, played by Diane Kruger, who finds herself under terrorist siege. It’s also an unbearably sexy love story. Note
to Hollywood: hire Winocour immediately. —RL

“Dheepan” (IFC, 2016)
Jacques Audiard’s controversial 2016 Palme d’Or winner is his best film yet: a beautiful drama centered on Sri Lankan refugees posing as a family in the suburbs of Paris, where they discover that the violence they attempted to outrun still hits close to home. Audiard channels Sam Peckilnpah’s “Straw Dogs” to deliver an explosive and surprisingly tender story of revenge and corruption. —RL

Silence (Paramount, 2016)
Martin Scorsese has wanted to make “Silence,” based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel about Portuguese Jesuits who face persecution while on a mission to remote 17th century Japan, for nearly two decades. And, despite his near-constant stream of work—”The 50 Year Argument,” the pilot for forthcoming HBO drama series “Vinyl”—the film will be his first narrative feature since 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” As if that’s not enough to have your inner cinephile itching for a fix, the first images of the film, which stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver and was shot on location in Taiwan, are positively striking. —MB

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