As the US summer season draws to a close, and the Australian temperatures lend themselves to sneezing at lighter clothes, we turn our bloodshot critical eyes to what the rest of the year has in store for us. Unlike days of yore when the back half of the year was a wasteland, strategic award season releases and Thanksgiving/Christmas blockbusters ensure that we’ll be knee-deep in film for the remainder of the year. Here’s what we’re looking forward to.
Being the interwebs and all, the standard disclaimer is that these are based on personal opinion. Having said that, everything you like is wrong, and your childhood dreams are now crushed forever. So feel free to sound off in the comments below with your own lists and opinions and such. Also, if you’ve not visited it already, a complete list of Australian Release Dates is right here on the site.
Long publicised as The Woods, the massive surprise of SDCC this year was that the film was actually BLAIR WITCH, a long-awaited sequel to the 1999 found-footage horror film, The Blair Witch Project. Suddenly it went from an interesting looking horror flick to one of the must-see films of the year. Even if it fails to live up to the impossible hype that we veterans of the late ’90s bestowed upon in, the expert marketing campaign mirrors that of the original, even if the “gimmick” of its reality is no longer in the toolbox.
Release dates: 16 September (US)/15 September (AUS)
It’s been 4 years since Oliver Stone’s last feature film as a director, with Savages receiving mixed reviews from critics. Yet with SNOWDEN, he seems to have tapped into the zeitgeist once again, and doubled-down on his conspiratorial oeuvre. With multiple release date delays, and choosing not to premiere at Cannes in favour of more Oscar buzz, this is the biopic of Edward Snowden, who infamously leaked classified NSA information to The Guardian and was the subject of the documentary Citizenfour. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, and a massive cast – that includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans, and Nicolas Cage – this is one where the buzz might be downplaying it.
Release dates: 16 September (US)/22 September (AUS)
A mere 8 years ago, the thought of a big-budget adapatation of Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE would have been unthinkable. Unless you count the 1978 television movie, which is actually pretty good and features some terrific period moustache work. Yet in the wake of successes with Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, not even the sky is the limit as Marvel Studios goes mystical. With Benedict Cumberbatch as the too-perfectly cast lead, the trippy trailers so far have pushed our minds to the limits of imagination, and we can’t wait for them to be broken and scattered across the planes of existence. Also: Tilda Swinton. ‘Nuff said. Want to get a head-start on the comics? Check out our Where to Start Reading: Doctor Strange guide.
Release dates: 27 October (AUS)/15 September (US)
HELL OR HIGH WATER
While this has just been released in the US this week, it’s pending Australian and UK release dates make this highly anticipated for us here in the Antipodes. Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges star in this modern take on a Western, based on Taylor Sheridan’s 2012 Black List screenplay. A slight departure from David Mackenzie’s previous films Young Adam and Hallam Foe, as the closing film of this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, it already has some local interest and a distributor in Madman.
Release dates: 27 October (AUS)/September 9 (UK)
Like Woody Allen or convicted rapist Roman Polanski, many will have trouble separating Gibson’s public controversies from his film career. There are many in the film community who are all too willing to overlook illegal behaviour, especially in the case of Polanski, when it comes to art. Yet Gibson the filmmaker has been in the metaphorical shadows for over a decade, and is finally subjecting himself to the Hollywood machine once again. Largely being hailed as the return of Mel Gibson, at least as a director, the recently controversial star joins Australian TV writer Andrew Knight, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Schenkkan, and re-teams with Braveheart scribe Randall Wallace for this biopic. Gibson’s first directorial effort since 2006’s Apocalypto, it follows the true story of US Army medic Desmond T. Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-Day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to bear arms. Doss went on to win the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in the Second World War.
Release dates: 3 November (AUS)/4 November (US)
If you know nothing else about this film, know that it is from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, who over the last 5 years has brought us the likes of the Academy Award nominatted Incendies and last year’s Palme d’Or winning Sicario. A reality-driven film about humanity’s first contact with alien visitors, the film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker and makes its debut at the Venice International Film Festival in September. We get the feeling it is best not to know too much about it.
Release dates: 10 November (AUS)/11 November (US)
Disney’s Polynesian-focused film has not been without its own controversies, including criticisms of the stereotypical portrayal of Maui (voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) as overweight. Yet MOANA comes from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin duo of Ron Clements and Jim Musker. It’s the first CG foray for the team, who were responsible for the revival of 2D animation at the studio with The Princess and the Frog in 2010. It follows the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), an adventurous teen who is aided by deity Maui (Johnson) in sailing the world and becoming a master wayfinder. It also features songs from Hamilton creator/star Lin-Manuel Miranda, so this has blockbuster written all over it.
Release dates: 23 November (US)/26 December (AUS)
BAD SANTA 2
It’s been 13 years since the apologetically foul-mouthed Bad Santa first dropped, and nobody really expected a sequel to the film. Nevertheless, Billy-Bob Thornton returns as the slightly irredeemable Willie T. Soke, and while we don’t get the return of Lauren “Fuck me Santa!” Graham, we have the pure joy of Kathy Bates as Thornton’s mother. It’ll never live up to the original, but we can swear our heads off trying.
Release dates: 23 November (US)/24 November (AUS)
LA LA LAND
Whiplash director Damien Chazelle follows up his award-winning tension bubble with a tribute to the golden age of American musicals. The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress that serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician as they struggle to make ends meet in the city of the title. Already having won the hearts and minds of the Internet with its charming trailer (below), this is one that we are sure will follow the whimsical success of The Artist with its heightened magical realism.
Release dates: 2 December 2016 (US)/TBA (AUS)
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
The very title shakes the foundations of the film industry, borrowed as it is from a 100 year old D.W. Griffith film that might have been a cinematic masterpiece, but also infamously celebrated the Ku Klux Klan. Nate Parker writes, directs and stars in the story of Nat Turner, an enslaved African American who led a rebellion of slaves and free men in Virginia in 1831. Already earning a massive buzz at Sundance this year, this film’s powerful message cannot be mistaken amidst the global awareness of the Black Lives Matter campaign. One of the few films on this list that is arguably essential viewing. Like many films with awards buzz, Australia will have to wait until 2017 to see this one.
Release dates: 7 October (US)/2 February 2017 (AUS)
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Do we really need to give a reason as to why this is on the list? The first film in the new standalone movie series from Lucasfilm, it tells the story of how a group of unlikely heroes unite to undertake a daring and seemingly impossible mission to steal the plans for an ultimate weapon of destruction: the Death Star. Written by Chris Weitz and John Knoll, it’s directed by Gareth Edwards. While we still have concerns as to the overall direction of the Star Wars franchise, perhaps watering itself down too much with one film a year, watching this trailer (one or fifty times) makes us realise that we didn’t know how much we wanted this particular film.
Release dates: 15 December (AUS)/16 December (US)
Two words: Martin. Scorsese. Re-teaming with screenwriter Jay Cocks (The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York), Marty sets out to tell the unlikely story of two Jesuit Portuguese Catholic Priests (Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson) who are persecuted when they travel to Japan to preach Christianity. Scorsese’s last film was The Wolf of Wall Street, a hyperkinetic look at the excesses of the titular businessmen. Scorsese is not stranger to costume drama, but this is also one of the few dramatic films without neo-muse Leonardo DiCaprio since 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead, with the only other exception from the last six being Hugo.
Release dates: November (US)/22 December 2016 (AUS)