As of July, 2016 is not my favorite movie year. Aside from the likes of Deadpool, Zootopia and Civil War, so far there haven’t been many movies to be truly excited about — though we’re still anticipating Rogue One, Loving, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts, The Handmaiden, and even a couple of 2017 entries (The Dark Tower and Episode VIII). We know the studios love to save their best for awards season, and with foreign made films often taking more than a year to hit our side of the pond, some lucky attendees will get to see these five beauties in 2016. I suspect the rest of us will have to wait longer, but they’re still thrilling enough to put on your list right this minute.
Free Fire (A24)
Directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley and Armie Hammer. Uh, who cares what it’s about, just look at that cast! Wheatley takes on a British crime thriller he cowrote with his usual partner (Kill List, A Field in England, Sightseers, High Rise), Amy Jump, with Larson in the lead as Justine, a woman who brings together Irish fellas Chris and Frank (Murphy, Smiley) and a gang led by Vernon and Ord (Copley, Hammer). As you’d expect of most arms deals involving Murphy — or happening in empty warehouses — something goes terribly wrong, and we can only imagine the deadly chaos that ensues (Reynor calls Free Fire “One of the definitive gun-fight movies”). And hey, bonus Powers (Copley, Taylor) reunion! Release date TBA.
Una (formerly Blackbird)
Directed by Benedict Andrews, starring Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Game of Thrones‘ (and Outlander powerhouse) Tobias Menzies and Indira Varma, Riz Ahmed, Tara Fitzgerald and Ruby Stokes. Based on (and script written by) David Harrower’s Tony and Olivier winning Blackbird which Ben Brantley, in his review of the Broadway version said an earlier production of left him shaking. This triggering, abusive tale is loosely based on U.S. marine Toby Studebaker. Without completely giving away the tale, Rooney plays the titular woman who has an intense confrontation when she seeks out Mendelsohn’s Ray — a man she first met when she was twelve — at his workplace. As awful as the story sounds, I can’t think of a better cast, especially Mendelsohn, and I’m ready to cry/freak out all the way through it. Release date TBA.
Arrival (formerly Story of Your Life)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma. Based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, this science fiction outing finds linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) recruited by the military to communicate with an alien race that’s made contact, but whom we can’t exactly understand — well, not you and me, per se, but you get my drift. Having just rewatched the 1977 film, I think it’s really about time for an amped up round of Close Encounters adventures. With Villeneuve at the helm, and ernest Amy (she’s the female Tom Hanks) in a role that sounds perfect for her, we can expect a tense confrontation of the best kind. (I’m going to assume Renner plays an alien, because as a human being he makes no sense.) Release date: November 11, 2016
Directed by Tomas Alfredson, starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, Chloë Sevigny, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones and James D’Arcy. Based on the novel by Jo Nesbø, and if you’ve read anything by the Norwegian writer (Headhunters, The Leopard), you know we’re in for a thrilling ride. Fassbender plays detective Harry Hole, Ferguson’s his new partner; the pair are on the hunt for a super-creepy serial killer and of course, there’s a wicked twist. Release date: October 13, 2017.
Trespass Against Us (A24)
Directed by Adam Smith, starring Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Sean Harris (all your private parts just spontaneously combusted), Rory Kinnear, Lyndsey Marshal and Killian Scott (Calvary reuinion!). We started with an A24 British crime film and we’ll end thusly. Three generations of gangster Cutler history weighs heavily on Chad (Fassbender) as he tries to angle an exit strategy for his children. Caught between police and patriarch (Gleeson), I’m guessing there’s no way out. Bonus: score by the Chemical Brothers. Release date TBA.