Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Legends of the fall: 10 Most Anticipated Movies

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in Jeff Nichols' Loving.

There you have it. Three years in a row makes it a tradition here at Last Cinema Standing. We put the depths of the summer movie season behind and look ahead to a bright future in our darkened theaters. That’s right. It is time for Last Cinema Standing’s 10 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall – with a couple cheats thrown in for early September movies that look too interesting not to include.

Some of this list will court controversy, which will be addressed below, but for the most part, some big-name directors are taking on some fascinating projects and some young gunslingers look ready to break out in arresting fashion. Your mileage will vary on how much these films appeal to you as a group, but with everything from horror-fantasy to documentary to historical drama to surreal comedy, nearly everyone should be able to find something on this list for which to be excited.

Before moving forward, let’s take a quick look at the past and consider how last year’s list held up. The Revenant lived up to its billing as the most anticipated movie of last year and delivered a spectacle unrivaled in ambition and achievement. It was also the only movie to make both the most anticipated and end-of-year 10 best lists.

That said, Macbeth (No. 3) and Suffragette (No. 7) were both magnificent films that earned an honorable mention on the year-end countdown, and the only true clunker on the list was Jobs, at worst an intriguing failure. Meanwhile, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language The Lobster (No. 5) has a strong shot to end up on this year’s best list, its release having been delayed to this spring.

Among the following 10, one or more of the year’s best films could reside. Only time will tell. For now, they represent promise and potential. Presenting Last Cinema Standing’s 10 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall:

10. Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood
Release date: Sept. 9

There was a period from about 2003-2008 when Eastwood was appointment viewing. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Changeling, all magnificent in distinctly different ways. They are all recognizably Eastwood films, but each brings something new to the table. Since then, the results have been less than magical, and I have never agreed with the populist opinion on American Sniper. Sully, on the other hand, has the feel of something that could be special. How special will depend on two things: the director’s handling of the plane landing and Tom Hanks’ central performance. I have no doubts in my mind about either.

9. Toni Erdmann, directed by Maren Ade
Release date: Dec. 25

Of these 10, Toni Erdmann is the film about which I know least. Ade has directed sporadically over the years – just three features since 2003 – but she has been a producer on several of Portuguese master Miguel Gomes’ works, and the buzz around this film has been deafening. Since debuting at Cannes, critics have billed this as the frontrunner for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. To the best of my knowledge, it is a surreal comedic drama about a father and daughter. The last time I went solely on buzz out of Cannes, the film was Leviathan, and if you follow the site, you know how that worked out.

8. The 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay
Release date: Oct. 7

Selected to be the first documentary to open the New York Film Festival in the event’s 54-year history, DuVernay’s latest film chronicles the history of racial inequality in the U.S. prison and judicial system. It is an expansive topic and difficult subject matter, but if anyone can bring to the film the necessary investigation and investment, it is DuVernay, whose Martin Luther King Jr. film Selma already stands as a modern masterpiece.

*Note: I could not find a trailer for The 13th, so here are DuVernay and others talking about the wonderful work she does.

7. Kicks, directed by Justin Tipping
Release date: Sept. 9

Many words have been written in this space about Creed director Ryan Coogler – I cannot say this enough: the best young filmmaker working today – who burst onto the scene in 2013 with Fruitvale Station. Tipping’s directorial debut has all the markings of a similar breakout, tackling the everyday struggles of an inner-city kid who wants a new pair of sneakers. Like Coogler, Tipping is from Oakland, Calif., where Kicks is set, and I will admit to a little personal bias here. The Bay Area is rarely on screen unless San Francisco is being destroyed by a monster or natural disaster, and certainly, the East Bay, where I grew up, never appears. If Tipping can capture the rhythms and feel of life on the other side of the Bay, that is more than enough for me.

6. A Monster Calls, directed by J.A. Bayona
Release date: Dec. 23

Originally slated for an October release closer to Halloween, the studio shuffled this one back to a Christmastime slot, which tells us two things. First, it will be more family-oriented fantasy than horror, which it always seemed anyway. Second, the studio believes in its awards prospects. Bayona, from Barcelona, has made just two previous features, the excellent Spanish horror The Orphanage and the problematic but enthralling The Impossible. If Bayona can find the right balance between the family drama of the latter and the thrills and storytelling of the former, A Monster Calls will be a can’t-miss prospect.

5. Voyage of Time, directed by Terrence Malick
Release date: Oct. 7

Though I was a fan, Malick rubbed many of even his most ardent supporters the wrong way with his Knight of Cups earlier this year. With Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Knight of Cups, Malick seems to be drifting further from straight narrative filmmaking, which is fine by me. However, for those who wish Malick would again tackle subjects with more well defined substance, it does not get any more substantive than this. A documentary about the entire history and future of the universe that clearly evokes the best sequence in Tree of Life – or any recent film for that matter – sign me up.

4. The Light Between Oceans, directed by Derek Cianfrance
Release date: Sept. 2

We will not have to wait long for this one. It opens Friday. However, anticipation for Cianfrance’s follow-up to The Place Beyond the Pines has been high since the cast list was announced, headlined by Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. Early reviews are in, and they are decidedly mixed. I also was not over the moon for either The Place Beyond the Pines or Blue Valentine, Cianfrance’s two most recent features, which both received glowing critical praise. However, with a cast like that, it would take more than an ocean to keep me away.

3. Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols
Release date: Nov. 4

Nichols’ Midnight Special was a tremendous work of science fiction, unfairly forgotten toward the beginning of this year. The same fate is unlikely to befall his forthcoming feature, which tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple sentenced to prison in 1950s Virginia for the crime of getting married. The story alone would be enough to get me in the theater, but Nichols’ best work – Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud – has a deeply humanist streak that should be perfect for this material.

2. The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker
Release date: Oct. 7

The controversy surrounding the accusation of rape against Nate Parker cannot be ignored, and it would be irresponsible to do so. The facts of the case are widely available, and I will not recount them here. This is not the forum for that discussion. If after reviewing the details of the case, however, you choose not to see this film on moral or ethical grounds, that is a decision I respect but with which I do not agree. If Parker is in fact a rapist, he belongs in prison, but the movie has been made. Should this telling of the Nat Turner slave revolt live up to its subject, its press out of Sundance, and the promise of its early trailers, The Birth of a Nation has all the makings of truly great art.

1. Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese
Release date: TBA

Scorsese is the greatest living filmmaker. That needs no qualifier. He simply is. As such, any film of his is an event. Add to that he reportedly has been trying since 1991 to bring to the screen Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel about two Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan, and it becomes clear this is a passion project. Scorsese brings care and thoughtfulness to everything he makes, but the 25-year struggle to make this film means he sees something remarkable in this story that he feels he can bring to life. Of course, this project has attracted actors and craftspeople who are the best in the business, so the film will be gorgeously rendered and wonderfully acted. The star, though, is Scorsese, and that is a star on which we can all wish.