Star Wars: Rogue One
With ambitious film studios dating some films five or six years in advance these days, it's easy to know which blockbusters are lurking out on the horizon. But there's plenty to be excited about right now and in the months ahead, too.
We've already had a handful of great flicks in 2016, namely Deadpool, Zootopia, and Captain America: Civil War, but there's so much more ahead: a new Star Wars! Another Marvel flick! Maybe things that aren't part of gargantuan, proven franchises! We still don't have a lock on this year's essential Oscar contenders, but there's a lot we want to see in the meantime.
The lineup for the rest of the year looks superb, and we can't wait take in these hopeful cinematic wonders (while stuffing our faces with popcorn, obviously). These are the flicks which we're most looking forward to for the rest of this year, in expected release-date order:
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (19 August)
If you're reading this, then chances are good that a) you're well-versed in the internet and b) you're a curious sort. In which you might well be interested in Lo and Behold, the latest documentary from vaunted filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man).
Lo and Behold examines the modern connected world, from the origins of the web to cell signals, the expansion of knowledge, and robotics, and Herzog seems to tackle it all with a bemused sensibility. It looks pretty fascinating, even if it some of the topics would appear to be only loosely linked. And hey, Elon Musk is in it!
Kubo and the Two Strings (19 August)
There's no studio making major motion pictures like Laika, and after dazzling us with stop-motion flicks like Coraline and ParaNorman, the studio is about to release its most ambitious film to date: Kubo and the Two Strings.
It follows a young boy who must tame his bloodline's spiritual powers and find his father's magical armor as he trains to fight against an ancient evil. As with Laika's previous efforts, it looks absolutely stunning in motion, plus a voice cast anchored by Charlize Theron and Ralph Fiennes sounds good to us.
Blair Witch (16 September)
The original Blair Witch Project is solely responsible for the flood of found-footage flicks that followed, but the original is finally back: Blair Witch revives the franchise for the YouTube-and-smartphones generation, although it remains to be seen whether it can have the same word-of-mouth appeal in 2016.
So far, the signs are good: it was originally marketed under the title The Woods and generated intrigue without the franchise attached, and early screenings have been widely praised by citics already. It might not arrive with the same level of mystery as the first movie, but it could well be this year's must-see horror show.
Snowden (16 September)
We all know about Edward Snowden, the one-time United States government contractor who blew the lid off of the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs – and is still on the run. Well, now we'll all be able to know his story in painstaking, heavily dramatised detail thanks to Snowden.
Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role, the film shows how the techie wizard found himself looped in on a huge secret… and how he decided to share it with the world. There's a lot of talent onboard here, so hopefully Snowden gets the cinematic tribute he rightly deserves.
The Girl With All the Gifts (9 September)
Adapted from the popular novel of the same name, this sci-fi flick spotlights survivors in a dystopian future in which most of the world's population has been eradicated or turned into zombie-like beasts thanks to a killer fungus. Simply put, it sounds fascinating – but it also sounds incredibly similar to Naughty Dog's brilliant PlayStation 3/4 game, The Last Of Us.
Luckily, as the first trailer shows, The Girl With All the Gifts doesn't share all that much DNA with the gaming classic beyond some setting and premise elements, and instead looks like the rare bit of zombie-related media that has its own distinctive tone and approach. Count us in.
Doctor Strange (4 November)
Now that Captain America: Civil War has kicked off Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's time for a whole new cast of characters to get their own films – and Doctor Strange is up first. Don't know the Doc? He's not a typical hero: rather, he's a brilliant neurosurgeon who discovers a world of mystical powers after a brutal car wreck.
It's a new twist for the Marvel flicks, dipping into magic and spirituality – and with Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead, we're assured of at least one captivating performance. Director Scott Derrickson's career has mostly been spent in middling horror fare, however, so we're cautiously curious to see how he tackles this one.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (18 November)
After eight Harry Potter films… Warner Bros. is doing its damnedest to add a bunch more to the heap. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them serves not only as a prequel chapter to the whole Potter universe of witchcraft and wizardry, but also the first film of a new trilogy, with J.K. Rowling-penned sequels due in 2018 and 2020.
Set in the 1920s in the United States and with an all-new cast of characters, Fantastic Beasts finds a heap of magical creatures unleashed upon New York City, with magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) at the heart of the adventure.
Moana (23 November)
Zootopia? Big Hero 6? Frozen? All great, and proof that Disney's in-house animation efforts can hang with what Pixar's putting out these days. That's why we can't wait to see what Disney is cooking up with Moana, which hopefully continues the studio's impressive streak.
The teaser doesn't get too deep into storytelling, but it oozes the immense charm of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and teases us with one of the songs contributed by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. We have to believe this one could really be something special for all viewers, not just tykes.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (16 December)
The Force Awakens was undoubtedly one of 2015's movie highlights, with Disney showing that it can make a tremendous Star Wars film by teaming up with great talent. And the first trailer for the franchise's debut side story, Rogue One, has us eagerly anticipating another success.
You know how the original Star Wars began after the plans for the Death Star were stolen? Well, Rogue One will finally show us that adventure, with a band of Rebels (led by actors Felicity Jones and Diego Luna) teaming up for an epic sci-fi heist flick. And if the first teaser here isn't enough to get you excited, the fact that Godzilla and Monsters director Gareth Edwards is at the helm should do the trick.
Assassin's Creed (21 December)
Video game movies are historically - and often, legendarily – terrible, but we're holding out hope that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed can make the big-screen transition with some grace. As the trailer shows, some elements have been tweaked but the general premise seems intact.
Michael Fassbender is a fantastic actor, so maybe he can ground this big-budget action-fest about a man reliving the memories of his blade-wielding, death-defying ancestor. Given history, we admittedly expect to be disappointed… but hope against hope that we're not.