Twenty Films You Have to See in 2016
Whether they're awards season heavyweights, box office giants or something that sparks excitement closer to home, these feature-lengths aren't to be missed in the year ahead
The Local Interest
Enniskillen filmmaker Stephen Fingleton’s full-length debut is an astonishing dystopian fable set in a Northern Ireland being slowly consumed by nature in the wake of a global catastrophe. Filmed in Ballymoney, it presents Belfast’s own Martin McCann as a nameless man scratching a living from a modest forest holding. Not to be missed, it will finally seeing the light of day in February after screenings at last year’s Tribeca and Belfast film festivals.
Release date: 5th February 2016
A Patch of Fog
The first feature film from Michael Lennox, the Belfast-based, Oscar-nominated director of Boogaloo and Graham, Patch of Fog stars Conleth Hill and Stephen Graham as partners in a twisted relationship born of the former’s kleptomania.
Dark and unnerving, Lennox’s picture was filmed in and around Belfast last year. It made it into the official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival – no small achievement – and should debut in the UK at some point this year.
Release date: TBC 2016
Bangor provided the filming base for Ben Wheatley's follow-up to his psychedelic English Civil War drama A Field in England. He relocates to 1975 with this adaptation of JG Ballard’s anarchic class commentary, starring Tom Hiddlestone as a doctor residing in the upper echelons of a symbolic tower block. As he adjusts to his environment the lower orders begin to corrode the delicate balance put in place by the edifice’s architect (Jeremy Irons).
Release date: 18th March 2016
Lost City of Z
A big-budget project most notable locally for drawing a number of its stars to the Belfast shoot, this is a big-screen take on the doomed adventures of Percy Fawcett, who, in 1925, disappeared while searching for a lost Amazonian city. The film is produced by Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray (The Yards, The Immigrant). It also boasts a cast made up of Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland and Sienna Miller.
Release date: TBC 2016
The Oscar Contenders
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino returns to the milieu first visited in Django Unchained with his latest tribute to the Western genre. As ever, an eclectic troupe (including, of course, Samuel L Jackson) will bandy about Tarantino’s trademark dialogue, this time while sheltering from a blizzard in antebellum Wyoming. Backed up by Ennio Morricone’s first Western score in 40 years, The Hateful Eight checks all the boxes associated with its idiosyncratic auteur.
Release date: 8th January 2016
Leonardo DiCaprio leads the way for Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu to take a second shot at Oscar glory in as many years. DiCaprio portrays legendary explorer Hugh Glass, a man whose struggle for survival and pursuit of vengeance in the icy American wilderness props up Iñárritu’s signature visceral filmmaking. Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson appear also as men caught in the grip of the storm.
Release date: 15th January 2016 - Read our review
Irishman Lenny Abrahamson adapts for the screen compatriot Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name. Rooted in the real life the crimes of Josef Fritzl, it tells of a mother (Brie Larson) and son (newcomer Jacob Tremblay) living in a cramped single room, her carefully constructed reality being the only shield between the child and the truth of their situation. Room has already earned acclaim across the Atlantic and comes to the UK as an Academy favourite.
Release date: 15th January 2016
Ryan Coogler re-teams with his Fruitvale Station topliner, Michael B Jordan, for the Rocky movie that isn’t really a Rocky movie. Instead, Adonis Johnson — son of Rocky’s late friend, Apollo Creed — sits at the centre of this boxing epic that sees the young pretender lean on Sylvester Stallone’s gnarled veteran for support and advice in his pursuit of sporting glory. Coogler is a gifted young artist who has eschewed the franchise’s cornier trappings for a picture generating serious critical hype.
Release date: 15th January 2015
The Big Short
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt comprise the all-star line-up for this biting take on Michael Lewis’s study of the roots of the 2008 financial crash. Given his comedic background, director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) should bring his own acerbic style to a serious subject rife with a sense of the ridiculous. Expect Oscar buzz.
Release date: 22nd January 2016
Sure to be one of the most talked-about releases this winter, Spotlight recounts the efforts made by the news team at The Boston Globe to expose the child abuse cases covered up by the city’s archdiocese. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and a rejuvenated Michael Keaton headline what promises to be an unblinking portrait of a grim chapter.
Release date: 29th January 2016
This is an historical account of the personal and professional trials faced by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While blacklisted during the period of hysteria whipped up by Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Trumbo won two Academy Awards for Roman Holiday and The Brave One — iconic victories for one of Hollywood’s most famous leftists. Jay Roach brings it all together but Cranston’s performance, in particular, is garnering significant praise.
Release date: 5th February 2016
The Crowd Pleasers
Marvel’s ‘Merc with a Mouth’ makes his long-awaited standalone debut in Tim Miller’s own directorial bow. Ryan Reynolds, who portrayed the erstwhile Wade Wilson in that atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, gets another run at the character and early footage suggests that that is as irreverent and as bloodthirsty as Deadpool devotees demand.
Release date: 10th February 2016
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Zack Snyder sustains his Superman odyssey with a sequel to 2013’s impressive, ‘Nolanised’ Man of Steel. This time around, Henry Cavill’s heroic demigod clashes with DC stablemate Batman (the controversially cast Ben Affleck), a greying version of the Dark Knight set on curbing the global influence of Superman.
Like Marvel’s approach to weaving its leading characters into a larger framework, this is DC’s first major shot at a contemporary big-screen crossover, which may or may not feed into the David Ayer-helmed Suicide Squad (see below).
Release date: 25th March 2016
The Jungle Book
A long overdue live-action retelling of the 1967 Disney classic (itself an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's tome), The Jungle Book drips class. Jon Favreau calls the shots on a picture seemingly steeped in the finest traditions of its mother studio, one showing off strong names — Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walker — to enliven the expensive CGI. The molten-voiced Scarlett Johansson’s sinister, slithering cameo in the trailer, however, truly tingles the spine.
Release date: 15th April 2016
Captain America: Civil War
Decoupling once more from the Avengers behemoth, Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) ratchet up their simmering mutual antagonism in this latest offering from the bottomless Marvel universe. This series has actually established itself as one of the company’s most solid titles and the Russo brothers’ tendency to paint their virtuous central character in shades of grey continues to compel.
Release date: 29th April 2016
Independence Day: Resurgence
Independence Day transformed the modern understanding of the summer blockbuster 20 years ago and its sequel arrives perhaps without fanfare but brimming with that same dash of overblown fun. Roland Emmerich orchestrates the chaos again, his returning cast (sans Will Smith) doing battle with the seriously ticked-off interlopers they saw off two decades hence. Nostalgia alone renders this a must-see.
Release date: 24th June 2016
Star Trek Beyond
Pop culture’s other favourite astral saga arrives for the third instalment of a freshly crafted canon possessing some serious style points thanks to pared down, yet extremely sleek, new attitude. Granted, the plot remains fairly ambiguous, and original creative force JJ Abrahms has departed for galaxies new (and far, far away), yet it retains a sound pedigree — Simon Pegg has added screenwriter to his acting duties — to go with welcome additions (Idris Elba fills out the villain role). Winking and nodding at its dapper roots, Beyond could be one of the summer’s cooler contributions.
Release date: 22nd July 2016
DC takes the Marvel route with an ensemble piece built around a cadre of its own figures. The big difference here, of course, is that this gang is made up of the comic giant’s most villainous names. David Ayer brings to the table those hard-edged sensibilities displayed with the likes of Harsh Times and End of Watch, a telling choice by Warner Brothers for a film apparently laced with darkness. Will Smith, Margot Robbie and, most interestingly, Jared Leto (as a reimagined Joker) star.
Release date: 5th August 2016
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
JK Rowling’s 2001 Harry Potter spin-off receives its inevitable cinematic makeover courtesy of Hogwarts favourite David Yates, who will no doubt hit all the necessary marks. Eddie Redmayne lightens up a bit, portraying eccentric wizard Newt Scamander, author of the eponymous instructional volume, but his presence hints at a maturity not readily associated with Rowling’s work.
Release date: 18th November 2016
Star Wars: Rogue One
Arguably more fascinating than the recently recharged Star Wars chronology is Disney’s plan to expand outwards. A standalone film set shortly before the events depicted in 1977’s A New Hope, Rogue One explores the Rebel Alliance plans to disrupt the creation of the Death Star.
Monsters and Godzilla helmer Gareth Edwards is in charge, overseeing the likes of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn. Expect the hysteria to start building early on this one.
Release date: 16th December 2016