It’s awards season and while Hollywood is falling over themselves to give each other resounding pats on the back it’s easy to forget there’s a whole twelve months of films ahead to get excited about. So, once again, Editor Alex Moss takes a look at Films To Excite in 2016. Full disclosure: some of his films from last year didn’t get a release and were re-scheduled for this year. Some of those that did get releases were slightly disappointing …. so make of this what you will.
The Nice Guys
First up and a film I’m almost giddy with excitement about is the latest from Shane Black. Pipe down young whipper-snappers who don’t know who that is. He’s the King of Hollywood, one of the greatest ever screenwriters. He’s two for two on the directing front having created the brilliance of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and somehow made Tony Stark likeable in Iron Man 3. So the thought of him making a ‘70s detective, noirish-thriller-come-comedy makes me salivate. Throw in what looks to be laugh-out-loud chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe and this one is impossible to resist. Don’t believe me? Watch The Trailer.
I like superhero movies; really I do. But if you’ve ever read some of their source material they’re considerably more adult and darker than the colourful flights of fancy Marvel like to churn out. So the thought of a sweary, violent, fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero played by Ryan Reynolds gets me excited. Now yes, I know, Ryan Reynolds isn’t the box office gold many predicted he could be and his last foray into the genre left us, well, it left us wanting to conjure a green lantern style sharp object to gauge our eyes out. But he’s played Deadpool before, in the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine and, until they really cocked it up, he was the stand-out character of that film. Here’s hoping. Do your best/worst Deadpool. Watch The Trailer.
Z For Zachariah
I’m kind of hanging my heart on this one based simply on the concept: most of humanity is wiped out and a girl finds herself caught in a love triangle between two very different men. It looks delicate, thought provoking and more than a little twisted. It’s got a stellar cast of talent with so-hot-right-now Margot Robbie supported by the ever dependable Chiwetel Ejiofor and the weirdly underrated Chris Pine. Director Craig Zobel made the disturbing Compliance and I’m hoping some of the darkness from that feature might leek into this one… please. Watch The Trailer.
I’m always intrigued by films with a simple yet character driven premise. Passengers does exactly that with a long distance space mission accidentally waking up a passenger 60 years earlier than planned and him making the decision, rather than dying alone, to wake up one of his fellow travelers. Okay, it’s not that simple a premise, but it stars two of the most desirable humans on the planet in the shape of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence and the voice – hopefully in the shape of a robot or an Alien style “Mother” AI – of Michael Sheen. But the real appeal here is that the film is directed by Morten Tyldum who gave us the blistering Headhunters and the emotionally fuelled The Imitation Game. If he can combine the character of the latter with the pitch-black of the former then this is going to be space to make you scream with joy.
War On Everyone
This one was actually on my list for last year but it never came out, so here’s a second shot at it. It’s directed by the genius behind The Guard and one of my recent favourites Calvary John Michael McDonagh. His characters are always conflicted, his dialogue infectious and he can tell a story with the most devilish black comedy. It sees two corrupt cops in New Mexico blackmailing criminals across the state, until they meet someone much more dangerous than they imagined. Which all sounds like a recipe for McDonagh to unleash some seriously foul language. That it also stars the man who stole every scene in Ant-Man, Michael Pena, makes this one I’m itching to see.
Again with the superheroes but this time it’s an indie spin from the maker of Mud and Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols. Regular collaborator Michael Shannon plays a father who goes on the run when he realises his son has vast and potentially dangerous superpowers. Add The Force Awakens’ brilliant Adam Driver along with Joel Edgerton and this one looks intimate and intriguing. It helps that Nichols has sighted John Carpenter as a big influence on this one. Bring on the electric soundtrack. Watch The Trailer.
I’m often on the fence with The Coen Brothers. They are, for me, the ultimate Marmite filmmakers. I either love their films or I just don’t get them. So I adore The Man Who Wasn’t There, Miller’s Crossing and Fargo but I really don’t get Burn Before Reading or, and I’ll catch flack for admitting this one, The Big Lebowski. Finished throwing things at your screen/me yet? Good. This one looks brilliantly inventive and The Coens always nail period stories. So setting their latest caper about a kidnapped Hollywood star, in the form of George Clooney, during the golden era of cinema ticks a few boxes. It’s got a hell of a cast and what looks like Busby Berkeley style dance numbers. Hopefully it will be Hail The Coens. Watch The Trailer.
Cops, robbers, double-crossings and a director who relishes in nihilistic violence. Triple 9 looks like it’s got the lot. It looks like the kind of film that Michael Mann used to make- a no-holds-barred descent into a world filled with crime where the moral boundaries are seen through sprays of bullet ridden bodies. John Hillcoat may have dipped a little in form with Lawless but The Proposition and The Road remain rich, gritty and darkly immersive pieces of work. Triple 9 also boasts a seriously powerful ensemble cast with Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot, Antony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Norman Reedus. Watch The Trailer.
The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most interesting and exciting filmmakers out there right now so the thought of him doing a horror is palpable to say the least. If you saw and loved/hated his last outing, Only God Forgives, you’ll know that Refn has the ability to unsettle on the same scale as David Lynch. The story sees an aspiring model, played by the always ethereal Elle Fanning, travel to Hollywood where she is consumed by the power of a collection of women who all want what she has. The likes of Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks and Jena Malone are also along for the ride.
La La Land
Did you see Whiplash? Did it exhaust, thrill and dazzle you in all the right ways? Well La La Land is from that film’s writer director Damien Chazelle and sees Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist who falls for aspiring actress Emma Stone in Hollywood. Chazelle’s Whiplash was simply staggering so his follow-up is much anticipated. Throw in Whiplash’s scene steeling actor J.K. Simmons and La La Land has enough potential to make your heart race.