You're poring through our 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2016 list. You repeat that process several times over, perusing ever more closely each time. But each time you grow a little more aghast. Finally you realize: It Isn't Bloody There. Spitting coffee all over your computer screen in rage, you scream, to the alarm (and incomprehension) of your office-mates, "Where the HELL is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 'Cemetery of Splendour'?"
Every year we have an odd kind of limbo problem in that there are films we get to see in 2015 at festivals that do not have releases till 2016. It means we can't technically call them "Anticipated," because we've already seen them, and they're somewhat known quantities. That said, some of them are so amazing we want to make sure you hear about them, and some of them are so dire we want to warn you away from them.
And so this list was born — not to gloat (ok fine, to gloat a tiny bit), but to curate a selection of such titles, point you in the direction of their original reviews and let you know when you're going to be able to level the playing field and check them out. Read on and enjoy — from the point of view of those of us lucky enough to see films early, 2016 was already a great year, even before 2015 was finished.
“A Bigger Splash”
Director: Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love”)
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson
Synopsis: A rock star and her boyfriend welcome an old friend and his teenage daughter to their holiday home for a week of sex, betrayal and murder.
Verdict: A remake of Jacques Deray’s “La Piscine,” Guadagnino’s reunion with his “I Am Love” star Swinton for a stylish sunshine noir is “less refined and a lot messier” than some Euro-thrillers, per our review from Venice last year, but “that also makes it livelier and more eccentric.” With great performances from all four leads, particularly a revelatory Ralph Fiennes with “a kind of manic energy that indicates his voracious appetite for life and sex and food,” it’s a sort of cinematic equivalent of a sleazy beach read — “not deep, not refined, in fact it’s kind of trashy.” Which we mean entirely as a compliment.
Our Review: Jess’s B grade verdict from Venice.
Release Date: May 13th
“Born To Be Blue”
Director: Robert Budreau (“That Beautiful Somewhere”)
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet Laine-Green
Synopsis: The legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, deep in the depths of heroin addiction, attempts to mount a comeback by playing himself in a movie.
Verdict: 2016 brings not just one but two biopics of jazz trumpeters that have already screened on the festival circuit, and our favorite, by a nose, was the Canadian-made “Born To Be Blue,” starring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker. Sam Fragoso’s review at TIFF acknowledged that the film “falls into some of the trappings of biopics,” but for the most part, “does right by its central subject.” Hawke, in his best turn in a while, “manages to breathe new life into the incomparable trumpeter,” and goes so far as to “prompt you to reevaluate the career of its subject.” Could this turn out to be this year’s “Love And Mercy?”
Our Review: Sam gave it a B at TIFF
Release Date: March 25th
“Cemetery Of Splendour”
Director: Apitchatpong Weerasethakul (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”)
Cast: Banlop Lomnoi, Jenjira Pongpas
Synopsis: Uhhh… a sleeping sickness epidemic affects a group of soldiers in Thailand. Sort of.
What You Need To Know: Five years on from his astonishing “Uncle Boonmee” winning the Palme D’Or, Apichatpong Weerasethakul returned to Cannes last summer for “Cemetery Of Splendour,” and the results were just as great. “Weerasethakul is utterly unique among filmmakers, the kind of director who makes films so singular it’s impossible to think of how you would even go about mimicking his style,” Jess wrote from the Croisette, and the resulting, almost indescribable film has a mood that’s “perhaps the purest expression of cinema as it was meant to be seen.” Proving to be “even quieter and more subtly strange” than its predecessor, it left us feeling as possessed as some of the film’s characters.
Our Review: A great big A grade from Jess in Cannes.
Release Date: Strand Releasing will roll it out across the U.S. from March 4th.
Director: Pablo Trapero (“Carancho,” “White Elephant”)
Cast: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich, Gastón Cocchiarale, Giselle Motta
Synopsis: The true story of the Puccios, a middle-class family who set up a kidnapping ring in Argentina in the 1980s.
What You Need To Know: Pablo Trapero’s been seen for some time as one of the most important up-and-coming Argentinean directors, but “The Clan,” and his Silver Lion win for Best Director at Venice last year, looks to expose him to a much wider audience. A Scorsese-influenced family crime saga, Jess found it to be “a superior film to ‘Black Mass’” in its examination of organized crime, using the story of the Puccios to open up an examination of “the wider society of the time and the political corruption and ruthlessness that lingered like a hangover” after the fall of the military dictatorship in the country. Though Trapero’s seriousness means the film isn’t quite as fleet-footed as it might like to be, it’s an absorbing and tense picture, anchored by a “fabulously icy performance” from “The Secret In Their Eyes” star Francella.
Our Review: Jess gave it a B in Venice last year.
Release Date: Rolls out, courtesy of Fox, from January 29th.
Director: Pablo Larraín (“Tony Manero,” “No”)
Cast: Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers, Alfredo Castro, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking
Synopsis: Four Catholic priests live in a seclusion in a beach town together, having disgraced themselves, but their life is upturned by the arrival of a fifth priest who is known to someone in the community.
What You Need To Know: His brilliant Oscar-nominated “No” has clearly made Pablo Larraín fiercely in demand, as “The Club,” which premiered at Berlin last year, is the first of three of his movies to open this year (biopic “Neruda” and English-language debut “Jackie” were on our Most Anticipated list). And it’s another win for the Chilean helmer, as Jess reported at the time: “a gripping thriller, an incendiary social critique and a mordant moral fable” that might be the director’s “finest hour to date.” Shot against an almost permanent dying of the light, it’s a furious, purgatorial movie with “a thin vein of the very blackest comic sensibility running through it” and brilliantly drawn characters who linger long after the credits roll. Seek it out as soon as it arrives near you.
Our Review: Jess’ A grade take from Berlin.
Release Date: Music Box Films have dated it for February 5th.
Directors: Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow
Cast: Brian De Palma
Synopsis: Documentary about the work of the great director Brian De Palma, helmer of “Carrie,” “Scarface,” “The Untouchables” and more.
What You Need To Know: There’s plenty of filmmaking documentaries every year, but few get much in the way of eyeballs outside festivals — even something like last year’s “Hitchcock/Truffaut” got only a very small release. But “De Palma” has more chance than most at breaking out, given that it’s co-directed by Noah Baumbach and focuses on the oft-commercial, always fascinating Brian. And that Jess called it “the fastest, funniest and most exhilarating hour and forty-seven minutes of this year’s Venice” at the festival last year. A whistlestop tour of De Palma’s filmography, it’s formally unadventurous but full of “pure gold,” “a hit of garrulous cinephile cocaine so pure you want to do a Tony Montana, fall face-first into it and inhale it all in one go.”
Our Review: A glowing B+ from Jess in Venice.
Release Date: A24 will release it this spring.
“Embrace Of The Serpent”
Director: Ciro Guerra
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Brionne Davis, Luigi Sciamanna, Nilbio Torres, Antonio Bolivar
Synopsis: An Amazonian shaman travels with a German and an American scientists in search of a rare, sacred plant.
What You Need To Know: Jess’s discovery of Cannes last year, and it’s clear that she wasn’t the only one: The film was a surprise inclusion on the Academy’s shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film, and could well end up among the final five nominees next week. A “fantastical, quasi-mythical, soul-crushing yet often very funny story” told in stunning black and white, it’s a “wildly original” work from a relative newcomer that comes across as “somewhere between a rebel yell and a lullaby.” A fierce, angry post-colonial tale of the atrocities done to the Amazonian tribes, it has an “authenticity and immediacy that it’s hard to remember many other period films achieving,” but also a playfulness, with the film shifting into horror and hallucination by its end. Essential.
Our Review: A from Jess in Cannes.
Release Date: February 17th
Director: Lucille Hadžihalilović (“Innocence”)
Cast: Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier
Synopsis: 10-year-old Nicolas lives on an island populated only by young boys and women.
What You Need To Know: Even compared to her partner, Gaspar Noé, who makes a movie every five years or more, Lucille Hadžihalilović is less than prolific: 11 years passed between her first feature, the beguiling “Innocence” starring a young Marion Cotillard, and “Evolution.” Fortunately, as Nik discovered at TIFF, the wait was worthwhile. “Cloaked in a mystifying atmosphere and possessed by a transfixing, amorphous mood,” the film is a “nightmarish lullaby that nestles itself into the unsuspecting viewer like some alien organism, engendered to haunt one’s mind with a phantasmagorical presence.” It’s a film for fans of Dreyer, Cronenberg and “Under The Skin,” and though not for everyone, if you fit into any of those categories, you should be queueing now.
Our Review: Nik’s A- verdict from TIFF.
Release Date: Alchemy haven’t set a firm date yet, but look for it this spring.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin”)
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Mark Webber, Patrick Stewart
Synopsis: After they witness a murder in a a remote bar, a punk band must fight a group of murderous skinheads to survive.
What You Need To Know: “Blue Ruin” was one of the most striking and ingenious genre movies of the decade so far, so hopes were high when follow-up “Green Room” premiered at Cannes last year. According to Oli, those hopes were met: the movie, a smart spin on the “Assault On Precinct 13”-style siege thriller, has “a surprising level of texture to a film so lean,” with a script that “doesn’t rush the set up, taking its time to carefully lay out the pieces.” Once they’re laid out, though, there’s plenty of carnage, with a couple of the goriest moments we can remember in a recent movie. With a very fine ensemble cast, including Stewart smartly underplaying his head villain, Saulnier’s turned out an “exciting, splattery, funny genre movie that never once feels disposable.”
Our Review: Oli gave it an A- at Cannes.
Release Date: April 1st
“Knight Of Cups”
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Teresa Palmer, Brian Dennehy
Synopsis: A comedy screenwriter in L.A. buries himself in Hollywood excess to hide the emptiness of his life.
What You Need To Know: At this point, as he steps further and further away from narrative, you either know if you’ll like a new film from Terrence Malick or not. “Knight Of Cups,” his cameo-packed Hollywood tale, finds the director “more abstruse than ever, and more involved with existential questions which are beautiful, vital, universal, and also completely unanswerable,” according to Jess’s review from Berlin last year. “Designed to be a deck of cards from which everyone makes their own hand,” it’s even more inscrutable than “To The Wonder,” and possibly even more beautiful, with Emmanuel Lubezki “making his presence felt in every frame,” and Malick, in his contrast of poetry and shallow excess, occasionally feels like he’s “doing something new.” Unlikely to convert the non-fans, then, but Malickians should be in heaven.
Our Review: B from Jess in Berlin.
Release Date: March 4th