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Our 100 Most-Anticipated Films of 2016

Written by on January 11, 2016 

60. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn; Summer TBD)

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Between Drive and Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn has evinced a keen interest in the color and corruption and beauty of the dark metropolis. His characters and the actors who play them often feel like models for ideas more than real people, in the best of ways. In The Neon Demon, this particular stylistic bent could pay big dividends. The story of a model moving to Los Angeles, the fiendish proclivities of Refn stand to be exercised to their terrifying fullest. – Brian R.

58 and 59. John Wick 2 (Chad Stahelski) and Coldest City (David Leitch)

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Update: John Wick 2 has been set for February 2017.

John Wick was a film that took many, myself included, by surprise in 2014. Keanu Reeves was perfectly cast as a stoic former assassin for a Russian mob boss in New York who goes on a blood-soaked path for revenge. Written by Derek Kolstad and further worked on by Reeves and debut co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski — though Leitch was never given credit by the DGA — the film was a success in blending stunning action setpieces with a simple story and intriguing world building. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Lionsgate thinks it has a franchise on its hands and is making a sequel with Kolstad scripting, Keanu starring, and Stahelski back in the director’s chair. Ruby Rose of Orange is the New Black will star alongside Common as the film’s big bads with a release set for sometime later this year and will definitely be a film to look forward to.

Meanwhile, David Leitch is helming his own film — one with quite the impressive background. Set in Berlin during the Cold War, a female agent (Charlize Theron) is sent to investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 agent and find a list of double agents he was helping. Written by Kurt Johnstad (300), the film is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Antony Johnston that released in 2012. While details remain slim, James McAvoy and John Goodman will fill out the cast alongside hot commodity Sophia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service and upcoming Star Trek Beyond). The release date is currently unknown but principal photography should be nearing completion and should hit later this year. Theron alone makes this a film to keep an eye on and I look forward to seeing what Leitch can achieve on his own. – Bill G.

57. Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight; Aug. 19th)

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Since 2009’s Coraline, Laika Studios has been a rising star to watch in the animation arena; their follow-ups ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls may not have garnered the same box office as the likes of Pixar, but they propelled the team forward as classically styled storytellers and light-bearers for the forgotten art of stop-motion. Although Trolls felt a little slight compared to their previous supernatural fables, that film is never less than beautiful in regards to the loving and feverishly inventive construction of its fantasy world. Now, drawing from the rich and beguiling well of Japanese folklore, Laika embarks upon a film that looks to expand its ambitions and epic, storytelling scope. CEO Travis Knight, who served as animation lead on the previous features, takes the helm for Kubo and the Two Strings and has emphasized that under the fantastical story of a street singer caught up in a quest filled with gods and monsters, there is an heartfelt exploration of how we deal with loss. If that doesn’t draw you in, how about a rich and enticing voice-cast that includes Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, and George Takei? If you’re still not convinced, there’s the achingly lovely animation that looks to push Laika forward into a whole new league while perfectly evoking the dazzling but melancholic world of this story. – Nathan B.

56. Insects (Jan Svankmajer)

Jan Svankmajer

Arguably one of the most well respected figures in the world of stop motion animation, Czech born Jan Švankmajer is best known for his surrealist visions born of clay and other trinkets. At the age of 79, the filmmaker continues to work on his already impressive body of work with a loose adaptation of From the Life of Insects, a 1922 play by the Čapek Brothers. It is expected to be a mixture of traditional filmmaking and Švankmajer’s unique brand of animation, in the vein of previous films such as Little Otik, Lunacy and Surviving Life (Theory and Practice). Revolving around the relationships between human and insects, the film will undoubtedly be another phantasmagorical mind trip into the imagination of one of the world’s most interesting and important animators. – Raffi A.

55. Christine (Antonio Campos; October)

Rebecca Hall

With some of the best independent dramas each year, from Martha Marcy May Marlene to Simon Killer to 2015’s James White, if you aren’t paying attention to Borderline Films, you should be. Their latest feature, Christine, comes from Simon Killer‘s Antonio Campos and is based on a true story of a news reporter who committed suicide on live television. Led by Rebecca Hall and Michael C. Hall, it’ll soon have its premiere in competition at Sundance, where they note, “bathed in dread and peppered with sharp humor, Christine is a hypnotic and arresting portrayal of a woman at a crossroads.” – Jordan R.

54. On the Milky Road (Emir Kusturica)

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It’s hard to know what to expect or even hope for with the new Emir Kusturica film. The Serbian renaissance man hit career highs early on with the likes of The Time of Gypsies and Underground, with a few strange dalliances into American filmmaking like Arizona Dreams along the way. In recent years his film output has been overshadowed by stranger projects, like the village of Drvengrad, which he had built for a film and now has taken up residence in. Still zeroing in on the unrest in the Balkans, Kusturica finds himself extrapolating on his short segment from Words with Gods to explore different critical junctures in the history of his country. There’s not much else we currently know about On the Milky Road, and outside of a few set shots of a luminescent Monica Belluci frolicking in water, there’s little to go on. With a talent like Kusturica, the sky may be the limit, and here’s hoping that this time it’s the film itself that emerges as the most talked-about, intriguing aspect of the production. – Nathan B.

53. The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Wim Wenders)

Wim Wenders

While Wim Wenders will be shooting Submergence with James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander this year, he also has another project already wrapped. The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez, starring Reda Kateb, Sophie Semin, and Nick Cave, is adapted from Peter Handke‘s play which follows a man and a woman conversing over a summer night. In taking on a seemingly smaller scale than some of his other features, hopefully it’s a return to form for the director. – Jordan R.

51 and 52. Neruda and Jackie (Pablo Larraín)

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When’s the last time a director had three films in the same year? With the highly recommended The Club arriving in February, Pablo Larraín recently shot Neruda, the biopic on the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, played by Luis Gnecco. His No star Gael Garcia Bernal plays Inspector Oscar Peluchoneau, who led the police manhunt for the title character, and we imagine it’ll get a festival debut shortly. After that, he’s currently shooting the Natalie Portman-led Jackie Kennedy biopic which is set the first four days of her life after the assassination of her husband, President John. F. Kennedy. It’ll be difficult for both to measure up to The Club, but we greatly look forward to the results. – Jordan R.

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