Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Film Preview

In 2012, I first decided to write up the films I was anticipating in the coming year in a formal article. Before then, I just tacked my top ten list on at the end of my yearly retrospective. Back in January of 2012, I picked the title “Film Preview” purely because it sounded catchy. “Preview,” perhaps, implied that I had some sort of insider insight on these up-coming movies. I don’t. I’m a nerd and a nobody, like all of you. Maybe I should’ve called it “Film Predictions” instead. “Baseless Film Predictions,” even.

Just to show you how clueless I am, let’s look back on 2015’s Film Preview. Of the films in my top ten, three have yet to receive wide releases. One is receiving a wide release this April, among positive buzz. Another has gotten rave reviews on the festival circuit but still hasn’t been picked up by a distributor. The last of them, “The Sea of Trees,” received disastrous reviews at Cannes, sinking any anticipation I had for it. On a related note, “Absolutely Anything” went straight to video-on-demand amid little fanfare. (Though I liked it.) It’s a crap shoot. It always is.

There’s no gurantee that any of the films listed below that I’m excited for will be any good. There’s no gurantee they’ll be hits. That they’ll ever be released, seen by anyone, or even made. This is what is both exciting and frustrating about being just another random schmo on the internet. All I know is what I like. When a good idea strikes my fancy. When filmmakers, writers, or actors I like do something cool. With that in mind, here are ten movies (and a bunch more) that I’m excited for in 2016.

The Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2016:

1. The Neon Demon

I came late to the Nicholas Winding Refn train. “Drive” didn’t live up to the hype, in my opinion. I still haven’t caught up with “Valhalla Rising” or the “Pusher” films. “Only God Forgives,” on the other hand, blows me away more and more every time I watch it. The story will reportedly feature a riff on the Countess Bathory story, with some cannibalism mixed in. Count me in.

Yet Refn’s involvement is not the only thing that makes “The Neon Demon” my most anticipated film of 2016. “The Neon Demon” is a horror film, a genre Refn has circled around without ever fully committing to before. The film, set in the world in L.A. modeling, revolves around women. The combination of director and subject has already caused some controversy. The fantastic cast includes Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning, Jean Malone and – why the hell not? – Keanu Reeves. Likely to be either a fiasco or a masterpiece, “The Neon Demon” definitely appears to offer us something no other film will this year.

2. Colossal

Holy shit, you guys. Kaiju movies are hot again! Within the next five years, we’re getting two new Godzilla movies, a new King Kong movie, a new Gamera movie, a big budget Power Rangers film, and it’ll all culminate in 2020 with “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Next year, Toho is releasing a new Japanese Godzilla film. In Japan, it’ll be released with the elegant title “Shin Gojira.” In America, its title will be the far more generic “Godzilla: Resurgence.” “Neon Genesis Evangelion” auteur Hideaki Anno will be directing, who will surely bring a unique approach to the classic character. For all these reasons and more – including the creepy poster – “Godzilla: Resurgence” should be my number two movie of the year.

But it’s not. A Japanese release has been scheduled for July. No American release has been specified yet. Unfortunately, even high profile Japanese genre movies tend to take a few years to arrive state-side. Luckily, “Godzilla: Resurgence” is not the only kaiju flick coming in 2016.

Nacho Vigalondo, a proven and eccentric Spanish filmmaker, will be unleashing “Colossal.” Described as a low budget and off-beat take on the kaiju genre, the film attracted controversy before production even started. The director freely described it as “a Godzilla movie” and used images of the monster king in promotional images. The notoriously litigious Toho were quick to take legal action. Luckily, “Colossal” is still moving ahead. The story, of a woman with a psychic connection with the giant monster, will also apparently feature a giant robot. For such a small project, a surprisingly loaded cast has been attached. Anne Hathaway will star, along with Dan “The Guest” Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, and Tim Blake Nelson. If nothing else, it seems certain that “Colossal” will be a unique take on the beloved subgenre.

3. The Belko Experiment

After the enormous success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” James Gunn went from a cult filmmaker with limited mainstream success to the hottest director in Hollywood. Because the Marvel machine rolls ever forward, Gunn went straight to work on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” scheduled for a 2017 release. However, Gunn was able to use his newfound clout to get a personal project pushed into production.

“The Belko Experiment” is a dark horror/comedy, the kind of movie Gunn made before becoming a blockbuster filmmaker. Set in a South American office building, the employees are suddenly drafted into a game of death, forced into mortal combat. The premise is solid and will hopefully show Gunn returning to “Slither”/”Super” territory. Adding to my excitement is that Gunn has handed directorial duties over to Greg McLean. The Australian filmmaker behind the very mean “Wolf Creek,” intense survival tale “Rogue,” and smart-ass sequel “Wolf Creek 2,” McLean’s career never truly took off despite his obvious talent. The collaboration between two smart, talented filmmakers should make for an interesting film. (And Michael Rooker is it in too, of course.)

4. Moana

2016 will be a typically busy year for Disney’s animation studios. Pixar will release “Finding Dory,” which looks charming even if I’m weary of Pixar’s continued willingness to sequelize their classics. Two proper Disney Animated Features are scheduled for this year. March will see the release of “Zootopia.” The trailers are funny and the character designs are amusingly varied. Yet I’m keeping my expectations measured for that one.

Coming in November is 2016’s second, far more exciting Disney Animated Feature. “Moana” is set in the world of Polynesian mythology, a setting ripe for exploration. The story, a tale of ocean exploration involving a young heroine and the god Maui, sounds like classical Disney stuff. (And since he’s the only ethnically Hawaiian actor in Hollywood, the Rock is obviously voicing Maui.) In other words, “Moana” is shaping up to be a mash-up of “Lilo & Stitch” and a Disney Princess movie. Yeah, that sounds awesome to me.

Ron Clements and John Musker will handle directorial duties. This is the same team behind many classics of the Disney Renaissance and, most recently, “The Princess and the Frog.” Though made in the now-standard CGI, I trust the directors’ traditional animation sensibilities will bring something special to the table. Plus, you know all that water is going to look pretty.

5. Wiener-Dog

I’ve discussed my enthusiasm for the films of Todd Solondz before. The maker of maybe the most neurotic comedies in the world, Solondz’ films are deeply noncommercial. Funding is difficult to acquire and Solondz has admitted that each film he makes may be his last. “Wiener-Dog” finds the director once again revisiting characters from his past films. Despite previously killing her off in “Palindromes,” Solondz has revived “Welcome to the Dollhouse’s” Dawn Wiener as an adult.

Beyond this connection, “Wiener-Dog” seriously sounds like a departure for the director. The plot synopsis describes the film as being about “a dog that travels the country, spreading comfort and joy.” Cute dogs, comfort and/or joy are not things I usually associate with Solondz’ deeply unnerved stories. I suspect this plot description may be slightly misleading and I honestly worry a little about what Solondz might do to that poor, innocent dog.

The fantastic cast includes indie darling Greta Gerwig as Dawn, Kieran Culkin, Julie Delpy, Ellen Burstyn, and playwright Tracy Letts. Most importantly, it also includes Danny DeVito, such a natural fit for Solondz’ style that I can’t believe they haven’t worked together before.

6. Endless Poetry

Another eccentric filmmaker I’m a big fan of is Alejandro Jodorowsky. The Chilean filmmaker/comic creator/spiritual guru disappeared from the movie scene for over two decades, unable to find funding for his far-out visions. A few years back that suddenly changed and, now in his eighties, Jodorowsky is suddenly creating movies again.

“The Dance of Reality” was Alejandro’s proud return to cinemas a few years back, an autobiography about Jodorowsky’s difficult childhood in Chile, filtered through his typically surreal lens. “Endless Poetry” is a direct sequel to that movie, detailing the director’s teenage years spent among bohemian circles and other artistic movements. What a fascinating moment in time that must have been. I look forward to Jodorowsky’s unique interpretation of what was surely a weird time and place.

It took both a Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign to get the project fully funded but Jodorowsky is promising a release for the movie this summer. Like all of his films, “Endless Poetry” is a family affair, with his sons Brontis and Adan both appearing in front of the camera. Even in his old age, nobody makes movies like Alejandro Jodorowsky. A new film of his is always an event.

7. The Bad Batch

Ana Lily Amirpour made a splash not that long ago with “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” An off-beat fusion of multiple genres – including vampire movie, feminist allegory, slice-of-life Iranian drama, crime story, romance, and even a little musical – that movie drew a lot of attention. I liked it; did not love it. Amirpour’s follow-up sounds even more irresistibly odd though.

“The Bad Batch” is a “Romeo and Juliet”-style romance, set in a post-apocalyptic Texas, among two dueling clans of cannibals. That’s an eye-catching premise if I’ve ever heard one. Amirpour’s sophomore feature has attracted a diverse, fascinating cast. You’d probably expect Jason Momoa to show up in a movie about cannibals in a nuclear wasteland. Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves – making his second appearance in the top ten – aren’t too outside that wheelhouse either. But who’s that headlining the cast? Jim Carrey? Okay, now that’s interesting!

8. The Woods

Initially, I was reluctant to embrace Adam Wingard. His films, at first, struck me as a little too hip, even for a hardened indie horror enthusiast like myself. Then I saw “You’re Next,” which was a blast. “The Guest” was even better, a fantastic mixture of different genre elements. “The Woods” is Wingard’s latest feature and yet another collaboration with Simon Barrett, screenwriter of the aforementioned films.

That alone is enough to get me excited. Plot wise, we still don’t know much about “The Woods.” We don’t even have a cast list yet. Apparently, it’ll revolve around college students on a camping trip into the titular location when some sort of bad shit goes down. Hey, the backwoods are always a good setting for a horror flick. Will “The Woods” be a supernatural story? A slasher? A monster movie? I’m excited to find out! The only thing limiting my enthusiasm is that utterly generic title, already used by Lucky McKee ten years ago. Hopefully, the project will be re-titled between now and its release.

9. Elvis & Nixon

Richard Nixon is a fascinating figure in pop culture. The most reviled of all American presidents, Nixon still crops up as a symbol of everything wrong with the establishment. Also, he had a goofy face, sweated a lot, and talked funny, insuring his continued appearances in many comedies. One of the weirdest chapters in Nixon’s history was when he met Elvis Presley, another enduring pop culture icon. Presley; by then well into his fat, sequin jump suited, pill-addled phase; met with the presidents in hopes of becoming a DEA agent. (Which was ironic, considering Elvis himself was heavy into drugs at the time.) During their meeting, Presley ranted to the president about the Beatles and hippies. Nixon gave Elvis his badge and, in return, Elvis gave Nixon a gold-plated gun.

It’s a really weird story and one ripe for cinematic adaptation. This isn’t even the first time someone has attempted it, as Allan Arkush made “Elvis Meets Nixon” in 1998. What really pushed “Elvis & Nixon” over the top was the cast. Michael Shannon is playing Elvis and Kevin Spacey is playing Nixon. That’s a bit of casting equal in weirdness to the story being told. (Tracy Letts is also in the film, making his second appearance on this list.) Director Liza Johnson is a bit of a question mark but, if the movie is even half as bizarrely entertaining as the events that inspired it, it’ll be awesome.

10. Aztec Warrior

In 2009, Scott Sanders delivered one of the preeminent cult classics of our time with “Black Dynamite.” I love “Black Dynamite,” you love it, we all love it. “Aztec Warrior” is a film that Sanders has been trying to make for a while, being in and out of various stages of production for a few years.

Luis Guzman stars as a retired luchador, the titular Aztec Warrior, who sets out on his first adventure in years. Terry Crews co-stars as Guzman’s arch-enemy, Jaun Claudio. Seeing Sanders bring his signature style to a lucha libre movie, a genre as crazy as the blaxploitation films he homaged/lampooned in “Black Dynamite,” sounds like a great time to me.

Of course, it might be awful. The years spent in development hell, the limited information available, and the lack of images even now concerns me. It seems likely that “Aztec Warrior” will probably slip out onto video-on-demand without much attention. Who knows. I’m keeping my hopes up!

Other Upcoming Films of Note:

After experimenting a little with his last feature, it looks like Rob Zombie is returning to familiar territory. “31” is set in the seventies, like “House of 1,000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects,” and the first half of his “Halloween” remake. Like two of those movies, it’s also set on Halloween, as the title indicates. The plot involves an army of killer clowns, with names like Sex-Head, Psycho-Head, and Father Murder. The main characters are carnies, so you know Zombie’s beloved white trash culture will be prominently featured. The cast includes cult figures and established Zombie players Malcolm McDowell, Meg Foster, E.G. Daily, Lew Temple, and Ginger Lynn. The film has apparently received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. In short, “31” sounds like Rob Zombie remixed all of his favorite topics into another movie. Excuse me if I’m not more interested in that Groucho Marx bio-pic he’s working on instead.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Maybe the most hyped movie of next year, the ridiculously entitled “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is DC/Warner Brothers’ late-in-the-game attempt to launch their equally iconic catalog of superheroes into a Marvel-style cinematic universe. Warner Brothers isn’t taking any risks either. They’re throwing in everything: Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Aquaman, Doomsday, Alfred Pennyworth, Cyborg, Mercy Graves, Holly Hunter, and probably the Flash and Batgirl as well. How will one movie satisfactory introduce all those characters and still have time for the fight between Batman and Superman that the film is ostensibly about? And are we really sure we want a director as divisive as Zack Snyder sailing this ship?

We’ve been talking about this movie for so goddamn long, it seems, that I’ve acclimated to its existence, for better or worst. Whether or not you liked “Man of Steel,” it’s the spring-board for an entire universe now. Affleck will do fine as Batman, Jesse Eisenberg will turn Lex Luthor into a Jesse Eisenberg character, and Gal Gadot will probably do alright as Wonder Woman. Even if the movie sucks, I’m excited that this is paving the way for more interesting, ground-breaking stories. Like the long-overdue "Wonder Woman" movie, the "Aquaman" movie I never thought we’d actually get, and the delightful sounding “Lego Batman.”

Captain America: Civil War
2016 will be the year of beloved superheroes beating the shit out of each other, it seems. As uncertain as everyone is about “Batman v. Superman,” the inverse is true of “Civil War.” That teaser trailer was fantastic. The film, smartly, seems to have ejected most everything from its source material. The Russo Brothers’ last stab at the character was so good that I’m actually anticipating their next go-around. By this point, who wouldn’t love to see that smug look punched off Robert Downey Jr.’s cocky face? Marvel has gotten so good at this that the introduction of B-listers like Black Panther or Crossbones qualifies as an event. Yeah, I’m pumped. It’s okay to be pumped.

The Circle
An awesome cast is enough to get me interested in a film I otherwise wouldn’t care about. “The Circle” is the latest from director James Ponsoldt. I still haven’t seen “The Spectacular Now” or “The End of the Tour,” so that doesn’t mean anything to me. The plot, about a sinister tech company, is as generic as the title. But that cast, you guys. Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Ellen Wong? Shit, I’ll take a gamble on that.

You might not know who Lauren Ashley Carter is but you really should. The doe-eyed scream queen first made an impression on me in Lucky McKee’s “The Woman.” Later, she proved that wasn’t a fluke with the supremely underrated “Jugface.” Now it sounds like Carter is getting an even bigger showcase for her talents. “Darling” is directed by Mickey Keating, the latest director to come out of Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. In 2015, Keating released “Pod,” an interesting if uneven flick that also featured Carter. (He has another film coming this year, called “Carnage Park.”) “Darling” is one of those indie horror flicks about a young woman slipping into madness. You know I love that shit. It's also in black and white, runs under eighty minutes, and seems to be generously ladling on the Polanski references. I can’t wait for this one.

A Deadpool movie is arriving just in time for everyone to become sick of him. Oh yeah, sure, I thought Deadpool’s hyper-violent, heavily meta antics were amusing when I first discovered them. Sure, there are still decent comics featuring the character being published. Yet there’s a big difference between reading something on the page and watching something on-screen for two hours. Does anyone really want to be trapped in a theater with Deadpool for two hours?

On the other hand, a hard-R superhero tent-pole is an interesting proposition. And Gina Carano’s in it! After the phenomenal “The Voices” last year, the Ryan Reynolds Redemption Tour is in full effect, with this primed as a major stop. Additionally, the trailer was pretty funny. We’ll see if the movie can live down the obnoxious ad campaign they’ve been hitting us over the head with for the last year.

Doctor Strange
It’s hip to say that all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are exactly the same, visually indistinct from each other if not narratively bland as well. I don’t agree with this and have enjoyed the overwhelming majority of the films the studio has produced so far. I’ll admit though, they do tend to fade into each other after a while. “Doctor Strange” could be a chance to shake things up a little. Strange’s adventures have always been more psychedelic than his fellow heroes. Director Scott Derrikson has a horror background, which means this story might be willing to get a little spooky. (Though, full disclosure, “Sinister” bored me and Derrikson also directed the lame remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”) At the very least, Strange’s power set are in a different playing field than Iron Man or Captain America’s, more mystical than brawny.

Yes, the cast is fantastic. I’m finally starting to come around to Benedict Cumberbatch. His mixture of arrogance and self-deprecating humor seems well suited to Dr. Stephen Strange. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One is cool. I’m really looking forward to seeing Chiwetel Ejiofor as a villain, even if Mads Mikkelsen (probably playing Dormammu) will almost certainly overshadow him. It’s nice to see Rachel McAdams in a major blockbuster release again. Plus, Scott Adkins’ inclusion guarantees there will be some balls-to-the-walls ass kicking in the movie too.

Free Fire and High-Rise
Ben Wheatley has certainly had an interesting career, thus far. He began with the brutal and eerie crime/horror hybrid “Kill List,” next made the hilariously dry dark comedy “Sightseers,” and then went on to the freak-out period piece, “A Field in England.”  Wheatley actually has two features coming 2016, both of which are likely to show his diversity as a director.

High-Rise” is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel, a dark social satire about class struggle, upheaval and collapse inside a high-tech apartment building. Tom Hiddleston, who continues to make really interesting choices as a leading man, fronts a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, and Sienna Miller. I haven’t read the book yet but it sounds like a good match with Wheatley’s style while also moving the director into a more – for lack of a better term – sociological area.

Wheatley’s other 2016 feature is “Free Fire,” which seems it’ll return the director to his crime film roots. The story is simple, about two gangs getting into a shoot-out in an empty warehouse. A set-up like that seems to suggest a lot of action. Knowing Wheatley’s approach though, he’s likely to mine the material as much for paranoid thrills as bloody gun wounds. “Free Fire” also has a great cast, including Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, and Brie Larson. While "High-Rise" will probably end up as the more complex project, I'll admit the ninety-minute gun fight interests me a little more.

No 2016 film has generated more controversy, or perhaps “outrage” is the better term, than the upcoming reboot of “Ghostbusters.” A new revision of a series as beloved by the nostalgia crowd as “Ghostbusters” was always going to generate debate. Even that wasn’t what infuriate so many people. Instead, it was the decision to populate the lead roles entirely with women. Oooh boy, did that piss the internet off. A huge debate about sexism, misogyny, equality, women being excluded by male dominated nerd circles, and much more ensued. Of all things, who would have expected “Ghostbusters” to become a corner stone in the culture wars?

The sexist, knee-jerk reaction to next year’s “Ghostbusters” is terrible, of course. Yet I wish I could muster for enthusiasm for the film itself. I haven’t seen any of Peter Feig’s previous comedies, as they all looked overly shout-y and obnoxious. Maybe bad trailer editors are to blame there. Melissa McCarthey, once so charming and funny as Sookie on “Gilmore Girls,” seems to have built a film persona based around being boorish, loud, and falling down a lot. I’m not really familiar with any of the other lead actresses. Getting Chris Hemsworth to play the receptionist is a clever idea though. The busting of ghost is an idea that could be spun in any direction, so I’m intrigued to see how this one will handle that.

In other words, I’m not a horrible sexist pig but I’m also fairly cautious about the new “Ghostbusters” movie. Clearly, I’m a man without a country.

Leatherface and Halloween Returns
While that eternally forthcoming new “Friday the 13th” reboot continues to linger in development hell, two other slasher icons might return in 2016. Unfortunately, neither of the new films seem likely to reignite the series. “Leatherface” is a new prequel to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a franchise already abundant with reboots, remakes, and prequels. The script will reportedly feature a teenage Leatherface, in the days before the character starting wearing other people’s face and swinging a chainsaw around. That’s a deeply terrible idea. Only two aspects give me any hope about this project. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the French madmen behind “Inside’ and “Livid,” are directing. That’s good, though it remains to be seen if Bustillo/Maury’s sensibilities will survive the American studio system. I briefly got excited when Angela Bettis was going to play Leatherface's mom, amazingly spot-on casting, before she left the project.

A few months back, “Halloween Returns” seemed ready to go. A continuity reboot of the long-running “Halloween” series, picking up after part two, it was going to be directed by Martin Dunstain and might’ve starred Gillian Jacobs. While another continuity reboot is the last thing the “Halloween” series' tangled timeline needed, Dunstain at least seemed to have a clear vision for the movie. However, before 2015 concluded, Dimensions lost the rights to the franchise, leaving “Halloween Returns’” status up in the air. So much for 2016 being the year slashers come back in vogue…

How the fuck are they going to remake this one for Middle America? “Martyrs” was perhaps the most extreme film to emerge from the New Wave of French Horror, earlier last decade. Those who described it as nothing but a sequence of intense violence weren’t exactly wrong but also missed the intense philosophical underpinnings. It was the ultimate example of and much needed rebuttal to the “torture porn” genre that was popular at the time.

An American remake doesn’t exactly bode well for such a confrontational film. Reportedly, an early version of the script kept both protagonists alive, scaled back the nihilistic tone, and made the violence more “Saw”-like. Daniel Stamm, of “The Last Exorcism” fame, was attached before the budget was cut down. None of this exactly raises one’s hope for the American version of “Martyrs.” They seemed to have done exactly what you’d expect, gut everything interesting or exciting about the original and slick everything else up.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Now that “Episode VII” has, predictably, been a massive hit, Disney’s plan to roll out a new “Star Wars” movie every year until the heat death of the universe can officially begin. “Rogue One” is the first of the “Anthologies” films the studio plans on producing, spin-offs or side stories set within the larger “Star Wars” universe. The story will revolve around the Rebel spies who retrieved the blue prints of the Death Star before the beginning of “A New Hope.” This plot presents an interesting oppretunity to show the Star War through the eyes, not of the heroes of the rebellion, but the expendable grunts in the trenches. Gareth Evans, whose direction is grand in scale but rooted in gritty reality, seems perfectly matched for the material. A cast that includes Danny Lee and Mads Mikkelsen is the cherry on top, the promise that this could be more interesting than Episodes VIII through IX will be.

Star Trek Beyond
While “Star Wars” has roared back to life as the most beloved science fiction series of our time, its closest competitor continues to be in the hands of people who don’t understand it. People want to turn “Star Trek,” a series that is as thoughtful and political as it is pulpy, into just another explosion-filled action blockbuster. The horribly awkward trailer seems to strand the Enterprise crew on another planet, taking the entire exploration aspect of the series out of the equation. While Disney is very willing to embrace the wider mythology of the “Star Wars” universe, Paramount seemingly wants to run away from “Trek’s” own deeper mythology.

This is a bummer as the exit of Roberto Orci, Justin Lin coming in as director, Simon Pegg taking on scripting duties, and Idris Elba being cast as the villain all initially raised my hopes. (And the title is a lot better than “Star Trek Into Darkness.”) Perhaps Pegg is right and the trailer just misrepresents the film. Yet that promise does little to improve my expectations.

Suicide Squad
As apprehensive as I am about “Batman V. Superman,” “Suicide Squad” has given me far more reasons to be concerned about the future of the DC Cinematic Universe. A team of supervillains going on a suicide mission for a chance at pardons is a great idea for a movie. David Ayers, who specializes in movies about the camaraderie among tough men going on missions, seemed like an ideal pick to direct. The cast wasn’t great. Will Smith’s presence threatened to overtake a movie that should be an ensemble film. Margot Robbie wouldn’t have been my first choice for Harley Quinn. Human Quaalude Jai Courtney isn’t welcome in any project, much less a potential franchise-launcher. We didn’t know how Jared Leto would approach the Joker. Still, I was hopeful.

Then the pictures started to be released. The Joker is covered in self-referential tattoo, has a chrome grill, and dresses like a scenester mall kid. Harley Quinn’s trademark red and black bodysuit seems to be traded out for a tank top and a pair of booty shorts. I don’t know what the hell is going on with Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress. Everyone else looks like a generic military dude or is covered in hideous make-up. The trailer struck me as overly self-serious, concluding with a look at Leto’s obnoxious Joker. (The stories of him acting like a pretentious knob on-set doesn’t help matters.) What could’ve been a neat, off-beat superhero flick is now gearing up to be a major fiasco. Maybe the final product will surprise me. Maybe.

Story of Your Life
Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” was a chilly, nicely acted psychological thriller with some impressively bizarre, unexplained giant spider imagery. I haven’t seen his follow-up, “Scicario,” though the reviews were impressive. His next feature, “Story of Your Life,” has a killer premise. The script approaches a sci-fi first contact story from the perspective of a linguist, a fresh angle for such a tale. Amy Adams, who will probably be underused in “Batman V. Superman,” should get a better display for her talents here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was, truthfully, mostly awful. I didn’t hate it like everyone else on the internet did but it still wasn’t very good, was it? There’s little reason to assume the sequel will be any better. The rushed production, maintained cast and visual design, and another director from Michael Bay’s roundhouse of apprentices all points to this being very similar to the first one.

Yet I can’t help but be excited for this one. Bebop and Rocksteady will be in a live action “Ninja Turtles” movie for the first time. How long have we been waiting for that? The trailer, which prominently features a giant portal appearing above New York City, seems to suggest Dimension X will play a role in this. Does that mean Krang might appear? What are the odds of the Technodrome showing up? My inner six year old has been waiting for these things to appear in a movie for years.

Trash Fire
One of my favorite horror films from the last few years was “Excision,” a delightfully twisted dark comedy about a teenage girl’s obsession with blood and surgery. Richard Bates Jr’s follow-up, “Suburban Gothic,” was such a massive disappointment, a random collection of quirk-fest comedy clich├ęs with a thin ghost story coating. “Trash Fire” sounds like a return to form for the director. The plot revolves around a man, at the urging of his girlfriend, attempting to reconcile with his family. Gory, darkly comedic shenanigans ensue. Yep, that sounds like a Richard Bates movie!

The Witch
In 2014, “The Babadook” was the toast of the indie horror ball. In 2015, “It Follows” met similarly glowing praise. If the increasingly positive festival buzz is any indication, 2015’s break-out horror hit will be “The Witch.” A story of supernatural terror set among a puritan village has been getting phenomenal reviews, frequently being described as very frightening. The trailer is certainly creepy. If it lives up to the hype remains to be seen but I’ll definitely take a chance on “The Witch.”

Yet more movies I want to see in 2016 but don’t feel like writing about:

Angelica, The BFG, Cell, The Corpse of Anna Fritz, A Cure for Wellness, Detour, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Frank & Lola, The Founder, Green Room, Hardcore, Hail, Caesar!, In the Valley of Violence, In the Tall Grass, Kickboxer: Vengeance, Legend of Tarzan, La La Land, Last Girl Standing, Lights Out, Midnight Special, The Mind’s Eye, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Nice Guys, Silence, Southbound, There are Monsters, Tallulah, Triple 9, WolfCop II, X-Men: Apocalypse, and XX.

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