Two days ago I was riffing about a Cinemaholic checklist piece called “The 25 Most Awaited Movies of the Second Half of 2016.” I was working my way backwards from #25 but only got as far as #19. Only John Lee Hancock‘s The Founder seemed to offer possible intrigue among these seven. The other six — John Cameron Mitchell‘s How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Alexandros Avranas‘ True Crimes, Scott Derrickson‘s Doctor Strange, Justin Chadwick‘s Tulip Fever, Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon, Amma Asante‘s A United Kingdom — didn’t feel quite right.
I don’t know why I even started this thing as the Cinemaholic list is partly whimsical and certainly too popcorny, but I might as well finish it. Please note that the reverse order of the films listed indicate Cinemaholic’s levels of excitement and/or preference. It doesn’t reflect mine.
18. Farren Blackburn‘s Shut-In (Europa, 11.11.). Featuring: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, David Cubitt, Jacob Tremblay. Synopsis: Psychological indoor creeper — New England, winter, possibly Orphanage-like. HE suspicion/presumption: Essentially a genre film, doesn’t seem top-tier enough. Bottom line: Maybe a classy spooker and maybe not, but what’s it doing on a most anticipated list? And what kind of a first name is “Farren”?
17. Clint Eastwood‘s Sully (Warner Bros., 9.9). Featuring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan, Jerry Ferrara. Synopsis: Everyone knows the synopsis — I’m sick of repeating it. HE suspicion/presumption: The bureaucrats gang up on poor, honorable Sully after he saves a planeload of people = downish moral fable about how seasoned, reliable good guys aren’t sufficiently valued. Bottom line: You know Hanks will nail this.
16. Justin Kurzel‘s Assassin’s Creed (20th Century Fox, 12.21). Bottom line: Not for me, doesn’t belong, needs to be shunned, “Turning Against Fassbender,” nope.
15. Stephen Gaghan‘s Gold (TWC/Dimension, fall/holiday). Featuring: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard. Synopsis: An unlucky balding guy (McConaughey) pools forces with with a geologist (Ramírez) to find gold in the Indonesian jungle. Bottom line: The director-writer of Syriana is a skilled, serious-minded fellow so you have to presume this is an attempt to revisit the spirit of Treasure of Sierra Madre (or something like that), but why is this film being distributed by Dimension?
14. Gavin O’Connor‘s The Accountant (Warner Bros., 10.14). Featuring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow. Synopsis: Math-savant assassin, being eyed by the feds, zeroes in on corruption within a robotics company…or something like that. Bottom line: O’Connor being a good director, I’m sure this will deliver a satisfying high-genre experience. But I don’t get why Cinemaholic is going “ooh!…ooh!…excited!” It’s basically an adult popcorn movie.
13. Benedict Andrews‘ Una (Jean Doumanian Productions/WestEnd Films/Film4 Productions). Featuring: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsoh, Ruby Stokes, Indira Varma, Tara Fitzgerald, Riz Ahmed. Synopsis: A young woman in her early 20s (Mara) confronts a 40ish guy (Mendelsohn) who molested her when she was 12, and who went to prison for this. Bottom line: Una is an adaptation of David Harrower’s 2005 play Blackbird, which I saw performed by Jeff Daniels and Alison Pill at a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation in ’07. It’s a good, strong play but Mendelsohn filling Daniels’ shoes is a stopper. He always plays creeps and baddies, and here’s another variation. What are the odds he smokes cigarettes in this? What are the odds that he sweats? Awards attention for Mara but not Mendelsohn…please.
12. Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight, 10.7). Featuring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Mark Boone Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry. Synopsis: Saga of legendary 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Bottom line: An all-but-certain Best Picture contender, but that’s all. Waits too long for rebellion and therefore unsatisfyingly structured. A good film in certain respects but way overpraised at Sundance.
11. Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between Oceans (Disney, 9.2). Featuring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz. Synopsis: A childless couple living off coast of western Australia (Fassy, Vikander) rescues a baby girl found drifting in a rowboat with a dead guy, and decide to adopt her as their own. Then they meet the real mommy (Weisz). Bottom line: The instant I heard about this I said to myself, “I’m not interested in a movie that is basically about the fact that any stupid, unlawful, emotionally desperate act will eventually run into consequences.” On top of which I’m not sure I like Fassy any more. On top of which Disney is opening it on 9.2 — a date that speaks volumes.
10A. Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea (Amazon/Roadside, 11.18). Featuring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, Tate Donovan. Synopsis: An alcoholic loner janitor from Quincy (Affleck) learns that his recently deceased brother (Chandler) has made him the guardian of his son (Hedges), but the janitor has major qualms. Bottom line: The strongest, best written, most emotionally pulverizing film I’m seen so far this year. Definite Best Picture contender. All but locked Best Actor nomination for Affleck (unless, of course, Affleck refuses to campaign or does so rotely or somehow fucks things up in some way I haven’t anticipated).
That’s it for today. It’s a holiday. It’s nice and sunny outside. I’ll finish this tomorrow.
The last films on the list (#10B back to #1) are Tate Taylor‘s The Girl on The Train (thumbs up), Morten Tyldum‘s Passengers (yes and no), Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (likely thumbs up, 120 fps visuals), Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals (ditto), Colin Trevorrow‘s The Book of Henry (another popcorn thriller), Robert Zemeckis‘s Allied (maybe but I’m feeling certain doubts in the pit of my stomach), Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival (maybe), Paul Greengrass‘s Jason Bourne (a Bourne flick is Cinemaholic’s third-highest anticipated 2016 film?), Damian Chazelle‘s La-La Land (diverting high style exercise if nothing else) and Martin Scorsese‘s Silence (guaranteed to be strong, arty, grueling).