2016 is shaping up to be a box office behemoth thanks to a bevy of blockbusters and pre-packaged movies that range from A to Z, literally, given the upcoming sequels to “Alice in Wonderland” and “Zoolander.”
However, there are plenty of original movies on the horizon, movies that aren’t based on comic books (“Doctor Strange”) or video games (“Assassin’s Creed”), though good old-fashioned books and articles were more than welcome, as you’ll see below.
There are no sequels or remakes or reboots or spinoffs on this list, just 61 original titles (with release dates!) spread out across the year — with an emphasis on two per month. Clearly, there’s hope yet for Hollywood.
JANUARY – “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” (Jan. 15) & “Jane Got a Gun” (Jan. 29)
Michael Bay aims to reinvent himself with the wartime drama “13 Hours,” which has good advance buzz despite not having a proven box office draw beyond the director himself. “Pearl Harbor” may not have endeared Bay to critics, but you never know. It may not be the next “American Sniper,” but it might be able to replicate the success of “Lone Survivor,” which grossed $150 million worldwide in January 2014.
Meanwhile, “Jane Got a Gun” finally shoots into theaters following several release changes in the wake of Relativity’s bankruptcy. Early word hasn’t been kind but we hold out hope as fans of its underrated director, Gavin O’Connor, and producer-star Natalie Portman. Plus, we’re excited by just about any movie that features Ewan McGregor or Joel Edgerton, let alone both of them.
ALSO: We were impressed with Andrew Renzi’s feature directorial debut “The Benefactor,” which offers a delicious Richard Gere performance that ranks among the actor’s best. There’s also Disney’s Coast Guard drama “The Finest Hours,” STX’s creepy doll movie “The Boy” and Natalie Dormer‘s horror movie “The Forest.”
FEBRUARY – “Triple Nine” (Feb. 26) & “Eddie the Eagle” (Feb. 26)
John Hillcoat‘s crime movie “Triple Nine” boasts a killer cast including Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Gal Gadot, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Michael Kenneth Williams and Clifton Collins Jr. I mean, wow! Open Road’s marketing team came out of the gate hard, putting the film’s best foot forward with a violent red-band trailer that let audiences know that this movie means business.
There are two inspirational sports movies coming out in February — the Jesse Owens biopic “Race” and the Matthew Vaughn-produced “Eddie the Eagle,” which stars “Kingsman” sensation Taron Egerton as Great Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper, Eddie Edwards. It was a tough call between them, as Owens is clearly a much more important figure in sports history, but something about that “Eddie the Eagle” trailer won us over. We can’t wait to watch the “Eagle” fly.
ALSO: Well, “Race,” for starters, but there’s also the Coen brothers’ showbiz comedy “Hail, Caesar!” and A24’s haunting period picture “The Witch.” We’ll also give the benefit of the doubt to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” though we can’t say the same for “Gods of Egypt.”
MARCH – “Midnight Special” (March 18)) & “Valencia” (March 11)
Jeff Nichols gets his biggest budget and starriest cast yet with this sci-fi tale featuring Michael Shannon as a father who must protect his son with special powers. We’re huge fans of Nichols so far and loved the trailer for this film.
The mysterious “Valencia” hails from J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot company and marks the directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars alongside John Goodman. We have no idea what to expect and hopefully it’ll stay that way. Surprise worked for Bad Robot’s “Cloverfield,” after all.
ALSO: The month brings original comedies from Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Brothers Grimsby”), Tina Fey (“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”) and Michael Showalter (“Hello, My Name Is Doris”). There are also timely thrillers about immigration (Jonas Cuaron‘s “Desierto”) and drone warfare (Gavin Hood‘s “Eye in the Sky”), as well as Terrence Malick‘s “Knight of Cups” and the Sundance-approved comedy “The Bronze.”
APRIL – “Demolition” (April 8) & “Everybody Wants Some” (April 15)
Jean-Marc Vallee‘s “Demolition” made my Top 10 list this year and may have been an awards contender had Fox Searchlight decided to open the film this fall instead of next spring. Jake Gyllenhaal is once again excellent as a man who learns to live following the death of his wife. The film plays a throwback to the ’70s, with both heart and soul in strong supply.
Richard Linklater‘s college comedy “Everybody Wants Some” is being advertised as the “spiritual sequel” to the director’s earlier classic “Dazed and Confused,” so it had us at hello. The film’s trailer was recently released and looked positively charming. Perhaps Blake Jenner and Wyatt Russell are the next Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck? You never know…
ALSO: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele bring their brilliant comedic minds to the big screen with the missing-cat caper “Keanu,” while Patrick Stewart puts his famously bald head to perverse use as the leader of a pack of violent skinheads in A24’s nail-biting thriller “Green Room.” There’s also the Melissa McCarthy comedy “The Boss,” the Kevin Costner thriller “Criminal,” the indie comedy “The Meddler” starring Susan Sarandon and a Miles Davis movie directed by and starring Don Cheadle.
MAY – “Money Monster” (May 13) & “The Nice Guys” (May 20)
Jodie Foster returns behind the camera for “Money Monster,” a thriller in which George Clooney plays a financial analyst on TV who gets taken hostage live on the air by a viewer (“Unbroken’s” Jack O’Connell) who felt wronged by his stock picks. We’ll watch Clooney in anything and here, he’s once again joined by his “Ocean’s 11” love interest Julia Roberts. Will sparks or bullets fly? We can’t wait to find out.
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in “The Nice Guys,” written and directed by Shane Black, who seems to be aiming for a similar flavor to his own “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” The movie promises fist fights, shoot outs, cool music and funky costumes.
ALSO: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in Oliver Stone‘s “Snowden,” Matthew McConaughey leads the Civil War drama “The Free State of Jones” and Greta Gerwig comes up with “Maggie’s Plan” with help from Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore.
JUNE – “Central Intelligence” (June 17) & “The Shallows” (June 24)
We’ll admit, the pairing of Kevin Hart and The Rock is irresistible, conjuring fond memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in “Twins.” We’re looking forward to seeing their chemistr, as the first trailer offered more than a few laughs.
Blake Lively stars in “The Shallows” opposite a menacing shark that has her cornered on a buoy, just yards from shore. Imagine a mash-up of Steven Spielberg‘s “Jaws” and “Duel.” We’ve heard great things about this script, so here’s hoping Jaume Collet-Serra delivers on the potential of the premise.
ALSO: There’s not a whole lot of originality due in theaters this month, though that will surely change with the addition of Sundance acquisitions. That said, we’re looking forward to the Naomi Watts thriller “Shut In” and the “top secret” Lonely Island movie, which is said to address themes of modern fame.
JULY – “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” (July 8) “La La Land” (July 15)
As excited as we are to see Zac Efron alongside Seth Rogen again in “Neighbors 2,” we’re even more excited to see him paired with Adam DeVine in the 20th Century Fox comedy “Mike and Dave Needing Wedding Dates.” And as hilarious as that duo seems on paper, it’s likely that the other title characters — the wedding dates, played by Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza — will steal the show.
“La La Land” is the latest from wunderkind director Damien Chazelle, whose “Whiplash” was one of the best films in recent memory. It’s a romantic musical about a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling and an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, so basically, that’s all you need to know, right? Wait, John Legend is in it too?
ALSO: Keep an eye on New Line’s horror movie “Lights Out.” It’s based on a popular short film and has been testing well. The studio released “The Conjuring” in the middle of summer and look how that turned out.
AUGUST – “Sausage Party” (Aug. 12) & “Arms and the Dudes” (Aug. 19)
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg teamed with Megan Ellison to produce “Sausage Party,” a raunchy, sure-to-be R-rated animated comedy about one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence. The incredible voice cast features Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, Nick Kroll, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride.
With “Arms and the Dudes,” Todd Phillips puts the “Hangover” franchise behind him to follow two young men who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. Jonah Hill stars opposite Miles Teller in the film, which is based on an incredible true story.
ALSO: Speaking of the “Hangover,” two of the original’s writers are back with a mom comedy starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Christina Applegate. There’s also Sam Worthington‘s faith-based thriller “The Shack” and Legendary’s action-thriller “Spectral,” which could be a summer sleeper.
SEPTEMBER – “Sully” (Sept. 9) & “Deepwater Horizon” (Sept. 30)
Clint Eastwood returns with another real-life drama, this one starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Sully Sullenberger, who successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River, saving hundreds of lives in the process. Hanks as a national hero should go over well with audiences and perhaps with Academy voters.
While “Sully” focuses on something going wrong in the air, Peter Berg‘s “Deepwater Horizon” follows a disaster on water. The film chronicles the offshore drilling rig that exploded in April 2010 and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Mark Wahlberg leads an impressive cast including Kurt Russell, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich.
ALSO: Relativity is slated to release the comedy “Masterminds” starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson. It hails from the director of “Napoleon Dynamite,” so we’re hoping for a movie that plays with formula. The same can be said for Screen Gems’ “Patient Zero,” which aims to put a fresh spin on the zombie genre with help from stars Natalie Dormer, Matt Smith and Stanley Tucci.
OCTOBER – “The Accountant” (Oct. 7) “A Monster Calls” (Oct. 14)
Ben Affleck stars in “The Accountant” as a mild-mannered number cruncher who uncooks the books, sometimes through violent means. Anna Kendrick co-stars alongside Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, J.K. Simmons.
The first trailer for “A Monster Calls” had much in common with that of “The BFG,” though it promises a more emotional coming-of-age film. Liam Neeson voices a tree monster who helps a young boy (newcomer Lewis MacDougall) cope with the terminal illness of his single mother (Felicity Jones).
ALSO: DreamWorks’ adaptation of the best-selling mystery novel “The Girl on the Train” is mighty intriguing, and could end up being the “Gone Girl” of the year. Tate Taylor (“The Help”) directs a star-studded cast that includes Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez, Luke Evans, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow.
NOVEMBER – “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Nov. 11) & “The Founder” (Nov. 23)
Ang Lee promises to push the technological envelope with “Billy Lynn,” based on the acclaimed novel by Ben Fountain. Lee cast relative unknown Joe Alwyn as the title character, an infantryman who recounts the final hours before he and his fellow soldiers return to Iraq. Vin Diesel and Kristen Stewart co-star alongside Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker and the great Steve Martin.
Hot off “Birdman” and “Spotlight,” Michael Keaton once again gets a juicy role, this time as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in “The Founder,” which hails from “Saving Mr. Banks” director John Lee Hancock. Laura Dern co-stars as his wife, while Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch play the McDonald brothers, whose namesake franchise has served millions. We expect Keaton to make another run at the Oscars, as this role looks tasty on the page as written by Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”).
ALSO: Matt Damon heads to China to scale “The Great Wall,” Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play spies and lovers in an untitled romantic thriller from director Robert Zemeckis. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson play brothers in search of their biological father in “Bastards.” And Bryan Cranston asks his daughter (Zoey Deutch) “Why Him?” in reference to her dating James Franco.
DECEMBER – “Passengers” (Dec. 25) & “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (Dec. 25)
A studio couldn’t come up with a more exciting pairing than Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, who star in the space romance “Passengers” from Morten Tyldum, director of “The Imitation Game.” Pratt plays a man who awakens from his spacecraft’s sleep chamber 60 years early and decides to wake up a second passenger rather than face the prospect of growing old and dying alone. The script has been orbiting Hollywood for years but it took Tom Rothman at Sony to get a greenlight.
Meanwhile, Tim Burton should put his stamp on 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ beloved best-selling YA novel, which stars Eva Green as orphanage director Miss Peregrine, along with Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney and rising young actors Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell.
ALSO: Expect some high-profile acquisitions from the fall festivals to be dated for the end of the year as indies jockey for position in next year’s awards race.