Every movie fan has a “Can’t wait to see that!” title they carry around in their personal Anticipation Files.
In 2015, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was by far the most hyped and hotly anticipated movie of the year (and probably of all time). I was just as excited about “Creed,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Spotlight,” “The Big Short” and “The Revenant,” and none of those titles let me down.
We now hit the Refresh button on “Upcoming Movies” and turn our attention to 2016.
Quick: What’s the year’s most anticipated film? I’d say “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — but that’s just one of the reboots, remakes, sequels and (that rarity of rarities) original films already generating buzz as we load the 2016 Movie Calendar.
I’m looking forward to dozens upon dozens of films slated for release next year (and dreading more than a few). This is my own 16 for ’16: my most eagerly anticipated movies heading soon to a theater near us.
“Hail Caesar!” (Feb. 5)
This has all the makings of a classic Coen brothers comedy. Josh Brolin stars Eddie Mannix, a 1950s Hollywood “fixer” —the guy who cleans up messes and keeps scandals out of the tabloids. When a famous leading man Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped, who ya gonna call? Eddie Mannix. Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill also star.
“The Girl on the Train” (Oct. 7)
The shorthand for this one is it’s 2016’s “Gone Girl.” Emily Blunt is the young woman who is obsessed with a seemingly perfect couple (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett). Based on the mega-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, “TGOTT” also features Rebecca Ferguson, who was such a standout in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and Justin Theroux from HBO’s “The Leftovers.”
“Deadpool” (Feb. 12)
Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool first appeared in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and he returns as the title character in a film said to be more faithful to the Marvel Comics, where Wade Wilson/Deadpool debuted as a villain but eventually evolved into a complex anti-hero.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (March 4)
Can’t wait to see the adaptation of Kim Barker’s sizzling, wickedly funny and intense memoir about her days covering Afghanistan and Pakistan as a reporter for ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune in the 2000s. A 2011 review in the New York Times said “Ms. Barker … depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.” The movie stars … yep. Tina Fey.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (Feb. 5)
Just when I thought I could go the rest of my life without seeing yet another version of Jane Austen’s much-filmed classic.
“Finding Dory” (June 17)
Some 13 years after “Finding Nemo,” Pixar serves up this sequel, which will take place a few months after the first story. Writer/co-director Andrew Stanton returns, as do the sensational voice stars from “Nemo,” Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.
“The BFG” (July 1)
He’s a Big Friendly Giant! The talented Bill Hader stars as BFG in this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel. Some guy named Spielberg directs, so you can understand why we have high hopes for this one.
“Captain America: Civil War” (May 6)
Chris Evans, who is not Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool,” “Green Lantern”) but reminds me of Reynolds in looks and acting style, has come to own the role of Captain America. This looks to be the most intriguing and complex adventure yet for the Cap: Amidst growing concerns over collateral damage, i.e., loss of civilian life in superhero battles, the Avengers split into two opposing groups — one led by Captain America, the other led by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).
“Ghostbusters” (July 15)
You may have heard a little about this one. I would have been fine with Hollywood leaving the original “Ghostbusters” alone, but if we’re gonna get a reboot, it doesn’t get more promising than Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”) directing; Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as Ghostbusters, and reported cameos by a number of original cast members, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver.
“Suicide Squad” (Aug. 5)
The DC Comics version of “The Dirty Dozen,” with Jared Leto, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Viola Davis et al., starring as Death Row convicts secretly commissioned by the government to, you know, save the world.
Martin Scorsese’s oft-delayed project about two Jesuit Catholic priests who travel to Japan in search of their mentor — and find themselves in a world of hurt — is finally scheduled to be released in 2016. Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson star.
“War Machine” (TBA)
From “Troy” to “Inglorious Basterds” to “Fury,” Brad Pitt has joined many a movie battle. This time around he’s playing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the much-respected commander whose career went up in flames after he criticized Vice President Joe Biden and other Obama administration officials in a Rolling Stone article.
“Sully” (Sept. 9)
Another A-list adaptation of real-life events. Clint Eastwood directs Tom Hanks (who else?) in the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who pulled off an emergency landing in the Hudson River after his plane was struck by a flock of geese.
“LaLa Land” (July 15)
Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash” reunites Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (“Gangster Squad,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) in a musical comedy about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Nov. 18)
Movie version of a textbook owned by one Harry Potter. Fantastic! The story reportedly takes place some 70 years before Harry’s adventures, and will be set in New York.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (March 25)
Fanboys and fangirls who wailed in protest about the casting of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight must have missed his work in films such as “The Town” and “Gone Girl.” Affleck’s an underrated actor capable of playing charming, successful and popular (someone like, say, Bruce Wayne), as well as dark, brooding and dangerous (ala the Batman).
Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel”), who knows a thing or two about intense, epic action sequences, directs. Henry Cavill returns as Superman, and the supporting cast includes Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons and Holly Hunter.
This film could be a real force in 2016.
We go from bad to worse with this list, starting with the 10th lousiest film and ending with the most odious of them all.
10. At Number 10, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which managed to drain all the outrageous and absurd laughs from the original. This is a mind-numbingly unfunny comedy.
9. Number 9, “The Fantastic Four.” Remember that dopey version of “The Fantastic Four” from 2005? Well, this one is just as awful. After an intriguing prelude, it’s just loud and stupid and truly dopey.
8. At Number Eight, here’s another reboot that was DOA. The next-generation edition of “Vacation” was crude, offensive, ugly and crass.
7. You’ve probably never heard of my pick for the seventh-worst film of 2015. Lucky you. “The Cobbler” stars Adam Sandler, who takes a break from lousy comedies to headline this horribly ill-conceived, period-piece fantasy story. It’s so bad I’d almost recommend you check it out so you can be as appalled as I was, but I like you too much to do that to you.
6. At Number Six: another sequel with none of the appeal of the original. “Magic Mike XXL” is a road-trip movie about dim-bulb male strippers heading for one last big performance before they chase their post-pole dance dreams. Halfway through, I was rooting for that RV to drive right off a cliff.
5. At Number Five, one of the worst movies of Robert De Niro’s career: “The Heist.”Everything about this caper flick feel contrived and forced. And the performances from a very talented cast are shockingly bad.
4. The fourth-worst film of 2015 is “The Last Witch Hunter.” Vin Diesel lumbers and mumbles his way through a Razzie-worthy performance as, well, the last witch hunter. One can only hope.
3. At Number Three, “The Age of Adaline,” starring the lovely but hopelessly lost Blake Lively as a woman who stops aging as the result of a stupid screenplay. This movie paints itself into a truly creepy corner when Adaline comes face to face with her past, in the form of her current lover’s father.
2. At Number Two, “By the Sea,” an incredibly dull vanity project from writer-director Angelina Jolie. She and her husband Brad Pitt are a beautiful, bickering, irritating couple, and the more time we spend with them, the less interesting they become. What a dull film.
1. And the absolute worst movie of 2015 is “Jupiter Ascending.” Mila Kunis plays a toilet-scrubbing Chicago maid who is actually the chosen one to save mankind, as she learns when Channing Tatum’s Caine arrives on the scene. Caine is an interplanetary hunter who’s half-wolf, half-human, and he zips around on flying skates, and it’s even worse than it sounds. This is an incomprehensible disaster with characters who have names such as Sargon and Plith and Greeghan and Falque. Anyone who watches this movie is Falqued.
The best movies of 2015:
10. At Number 10, the rousing, gritty, thoroughly entertaining “Straight Outta Compton.” Director F. Gary Gray and the stellar cast remind us of NWA’s legacy as groundbreaking rappers — and important street journalists.
9. Number Nine is a little movie doing pretty decent box-office business: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” J.J. Abrams saved the day for millions upon millions of fans who have been mired in the Dark Side after those underwhelming prequels, counting the minutes until the Force returned. Loved Harrison Ford’s crusty reprise, and Daisy Ridley’s breakout performance as a girl-power badass.
8. My Number Eight film of the year is “Spotlight,” one of the best movies about investigative newspaper journalism since “All the President’s Men.” Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, among others, are so authentic I’d believe they were journalists if I bumped into them in the Sun-Times newsroom.
7. I’m surprised there isn’t more love and admiration for my Number Seven movie, “Sicario.” It’s a devastating look at the war on drugs. Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro are outstanding.
6. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” checks in at Number Six. Shot in glorious 70mm and featuring a typically eclectic Tarantino cast, this is a darkly funny, intricately woven and, yes, fantastically bloody Western.
5. At Number Five, that rare action film that’s getting serious awards buzz, and deservedly so. We’re talking “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller’s outrageous, audacious, wildly great apocalyptic adventure. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron excel.
4. Next up, “The Big Short.” Adam McKay somehow found a way to turn the brilliant but hardly visual book about the mortgage crisis by Michael Lewis into one of the most entertaining films in recent years. Pitch-perfect casting, with Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell all doing nomination-worthy work.
3. My third favorite movie of the year is only in a select few theaters right now, but you’ll want to check it out now or when it comes your way in January. “The Revenant” is a beautiful, haunting, sometimes jaw-dropping epic of the frontier. Leonardo DiCaprio nails one of the most challenging roles of his career, and there’s Tom Hardy again just ripping up the screen as one of the more intriguing villains you’ll ever see.
2. At Number Two, “Inside Out,” one of the smartest animated films ever made. It’s colorful and funny and sweet and heartwarming — but it’s also an amazingly complex journey through the human mind. This film deserves not only a best animated picture nomination, but a nod as one of the best pictures of the year, period.
1. And my Number One film of 2015, and one of the very best films of the decade, is “Room.” This is a disturbing, magical, heartbreaking, uplifting, fantastical modern fairy tale with some dark edges and some moments of pure, spiritual sunlight. I loved every inch of this movie.
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