Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movies Spotlight – 2016 Movies, Part 2 – August 2016

Overall, 2016 has felt disappointing at the movies. Yes, we have a few great movies like Everybody Wants Some!!, Green Room and The Witch, but the year seems to have produced one disappointment after another (especially this Summer). Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Finding Dory, and Deadpool lived up to our expectations (and surpassed them), but Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men: Apocalypse, The BFG, The Legend of Tarzan, Jason Bourne, and now Suicide Squad have all come up short (seemingly pulling down our opinions of the whole year and our enthusiasm for what is to come). And yet, there are a number of films to still be excited for:

Pete’s Dragon
At face value, it is surprising that Disney would remake Pete’s Dragon, a back-catalog 1970s musical that I imagine anyone under 35 does not even know ever existed. But Disney has done something interesting with this remake, they have only taken the very basics from the original and let indie auteur David Lowery run with it, resulting in a family film that actually feels substantial. Lowery also has a great cast with Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford and Karl Urban. In theaters August 12th. Check out the trailer.

The Light Between Oceans
Derek Cianfrance makes brooding dramas, steeped in deep, dark emotions. This all makes him the perfect filmmaker to take on an adaptation of The Light Between Oceans, a drama about a man and wife who decide to raise a baby they find adrift only to discover years later that the child’s mother is still searching for it. The cast is among the year’s absolute best with Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz. This could be 2016’s first serious Oscar contender. In theaters September 2nd. Check out the trailer.

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins’s novel was a huge success, making this adaptation one of the most anticipated films of the Fall. Emily Blunt leads a good cast and Tate Taylor has proven very adept in his ability to produce strong cinematic adaptations (like The Help). The mystery thriller is about Rachel Watson, a divorced woman who takes a train past her old house everyday on her way to work; only, one day something is different when she believes that she witnesses a murder, but that is not the whole story. In theaters October 7th. Check out the trailer.

The Birth of a Nation
Writer/director/star Nate Parker won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with his slavery drama The Birth of a Nation. The film feels vital, given the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and our current sociopolitical climate. Parker also represents a much needed fresh cinematic voice. The film is about Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher who organizes a rebellion against the masters in the antebellum South. In theaters October 7th. Check out the trailer.

Doctor Strange
Marvel Studios can do no wrong with their Cinematic Universe (aka the MCU), or so it seems. Doctor Strange, however, represents an interesting challenge. Marvel bottled lightening with Guardians of the Galaxy, a gaggle of heroes unknown to general movie-going audiences, but can they do it again with Dr. Stephen Strange? They certainly have the goodwill of their fans, a promising (and different) concept and a phenomenal cast, headlined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Eijiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. In theaters November 4th. Check out the trailer.

Indie auteur Jeff Nichols is one of America’s brightest independent filmmaking stars. His new drama tackles the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple struggling to live in 1958 Virginia. Like The Birth of a Nation, Loving feels tonally vital right now. The buzz out of the Cannes Film Festival, where it screened in May, was very strong with special notices for leads Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. In theaters November 4th. Check out the trailer.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Filmmakers have had limited success tackling the Iraq War, as it seems to be difficult to really capture the tone of such a twisted and problematic conflict and portray the struggles faced by the men and women in the middle of it (my personal favorite is the HBO miniseries Generation Kill). That said, auteur Ang Lee is a good fit to take it on. Lee also has a good eclectic cast with Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker. The film adaptation is about Billy Lynn, a war hero who temporarily gets to come home. In theaters November 11th. Check out the trailer.

Auteur Denis Villeneuve made my favorite film of 2015 with Sicario; he is back in 2016 with the sci-fi drama Arrival. It is about an expert linguist who is recruited by the military to determine if an alien race that has landed crafts across the globe comes in peace or are a threat. Villeneuve again champions the need for more roles and better roles for female actors by casting Amy Adams in the lead (he famously gender switched the lead in Sicario, casting Emily Blunt). In theaters November 11th.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Cynically speaking, we all knew Warner Bros. would find a way to keep the Wizarding World of Harry Potter going; however, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has the pedigree to delight fans. J.K. Rowling is providing the script, David Yates (who directed films 5-8 of the Harry Potter series) is behind the camera, and Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne stars. The film is about the adventures of Newt Scamander, a specialist in magical creatures, in 1920s New York City. Even after eight films, I am excited to return to the Wizarding World. In theaters November 18th. Check out the trailer.

Manchester by the Sea

Auteur Kenneth Lonergan is finally back with a new film with Manchester by the Sea, a drama about an uncle who must take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father passes. The film has a ton of Oscar buzz coming out of its early festival screenings, many calling it the best film of 2016 so far. It boasts a solid cast, led by Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams. In theaters November 18th.

Disney’s latest ‘princess’ film aims to be something completely different. First, Moana, a young Hawaiian woman, is actually voiced by a young Hawaiian woman in Auli’I Cravalho and second Moana is her own hero without a love interest. This feels like a big step forward for Disney, who has made big recent strides forward in promoting its female characters. The film also features voice-work from Dwayne Johnson as Maui the demi-god. Ron Clements and John Musker lead the creative team (they have given us some of our most beloved Disney films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin). In theaters November 23rd. Check out the trailer.


Each new Robert Zemeckis film feels like a big deal, as he is a filmmaker known for pushing the visual envelope forward while telling big stories. His new film, Allied, is a WWII action romance about two spies working for the Allies who marry each other and work together, but what if one of them was really a double-agent working for the Nazis? The film also happens to have two of Hollywood’s most dynamic leading actors in Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard playing its spies. I think this is a sleeper for film of the year. In theaters November 23rd.

La La Land
Bursting onto the scene with Whiplash, writer/director Damien Chazelle is back with a musical dramedy and he has J.K. Simmons with him again. We need more good musicals; this one looks magical and sublimely charming. It stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who has fantastic chemistry) and is about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. In theaters December 16th. Check out the trailer.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Set right before the beginning of A New Hope, Rogue One is about the team of rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star. Director Gareth Edwards describes the film as a war movie, set in the Star Wars Universe. Writer Tony Gilroy is working with Edwards presently finishing up the final editing process, getting the tone just right. Everything we have seen so far is very promising. Plus, the cast, fronted by Felicity Jones, is very good. This is the film I am most looking forward to seeing. In theaters December 16th. Check out the trailer.


Sony’s most high profile film of 2016 is Passengers, a sci-fi adventure about a spacecraft shuttling thousands of people to a distant colony planet that experiences a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers awakening two passengers 60 years early. The story sounds intriguing alone and then you throw in the very charming leads Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt and Passengers suddenly jumps to the top of a lot of ‘Most Anticipated’ lists. If Lawrence and Pratt have chemistry, I cannot imagine this not being highly entertaining. Rising star Morten Tyldum is behind the camera. In theaters December 21st.

A few others to look out for: Queen of Katwe, American Honey and Lion. 


  1. Manchester by the sea was definitely a hit of 2016 for me. I loved that film. I haven’t watched some of the movies you have posted about. I’ll add them to my watch list.

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