10 Films You Must See Before 2016 Ends

Originally written on November 3, 2016

By: Nick Poulimenakos

2016 will forever be known as a year that included many ups and downs in the film industry.  This year saw movies like Zootopia, Captain America: Civil War, Kubo and the Two Strings and Green Room, being released alongside truly horrible films such as Gods of Egypt, Norm of the North, Dirty Grandpa and The Huntsman: Winter’s War.  As we move towards the final two months of this wild ride of a year in film, here are ten movies that you need to see before the year ends!


  1. Passengers

Premieres: December 21, 2016

From Morten Tyldum, the director behind one of my personal favourites, The Imitation Game, comes Passengers.  This romantic science-fiction film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as Aurora Dunn and Jim Preston, two passengers who awaken early from a 120 year journey from Earth to a distant colony planet, which is still 90 years away.  The two soon realize that a malfunction is what caused them to wake up and is now impacting the ship as a whole and must find a solution all while finding themselves falling for each other.  I’m most looking forward to seeing the dynamic between Pratt and Lawrence, and how their two characters react to the feelings of survival and imminent disaster.  Based on the trailer, this film seems like a mix between The Martian, Gravity and, to a certain extent, Interstellar.  With Thomas Newman scoring the film and a script written by Jon Spaihts, this movie has the makings to be a success.


  1. Silence

Premieres: December 23, 2016

Visionary director, Martin Scorsese, has been working on adapting Shusaku Endo’s famous 1966 novel of the same name for the past 20 years.  The film, which stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, details the lives of two Jesuit missionaries who face violence, torture and persecution when they travel to 17th century Japan to locate their teacher and spread the teachings of Christianity.  Silence seems to be just as emotional and brutal as previous Scorsese films as this is his passion project.  Reuniting with Jay Cocks, the writer of Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence, and renowned composer, Howard Shore, Silence looks to be a serious contender when awards season rolls around in a few months.


  1. Manchester by the Sea

Premieres: November 18, 2016

A film that has already been called “a masterpiece” by various entertainment outlets, Manchester by the Sea follows Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler who becomes the legal guardian of his recently deceased brother’s son Patrick.  Lee decides to return to his hometown, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts where he deals with his estranged ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the rest of the North Shore community.  Critics have described the film as absolutely gut-wrenching and beautiful with Casey Affleck earning critical acclaim for his somber and deeply emotional role.  Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, the man behind You Can Count on Me and the co-writer of Gangs of New York, Manchester by the Sea looks to be the next film that could potentially make a case for each major award at this year’s Oscars.


  1. La La Land

Premieres: December 9 2016

Writer/Director of the beautiful musical-drama film Whiplash, Damien Chazelle returns to the big screen for the first time since 2014 with his next big musically infused comedy-drama movie, La La Land.  The film centres on an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and an up-and-coming musician (Ryan Gosling) as the meet in the city of angels and fall in love while both struggle with entering their respective entertainment industries.  A film that has already won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, critics are calling the film ‘remarkable,” “a whole lot of fun” and “filled with powerful performances,” La La Land brings musicals into a new and exciting light with an alluring excess of heart and performances that are magical and a career best for Stone and Gosling.


  1. Arrival

Premieres: November 11, 2016

At its core, Arrival is an alien invasion film.  However, this is film that is no Independence Day or Battle: Los Angeles.  Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker and directed by Sicario mastermind, Denis Villeneuve, Arrival is a film that revolves around a mysterious alien spaceship that lands on Earth.  Adams plays a linguist who, along with Renner’s mathematician character, are tasked with investigating why the ship landed on our home planet.  Based on the theatrical trailer, this film looks to be an emotionally gripping film that also includes classic sci-fi action, and the looming threat of an alien global war.  Adams, an awards season favourite, is already being praised for her compelling and charismatic performance that anchors the film.  Arrival looks to be delivering a sci-fi film that balances heavy themes that are uncommon in the genre and look for this film to be a favourite among award shows.


  1. Assassin’s Creed

Premieres: December 21, 2016

Okay bear with me here…  I know that video game movies have not be successful when translating from the gaming system to the silver screen.  Movies such as Warcraft, Rachet and Clank, and Prince of Persia were all terrible films.  However, Assassin’s Creed, in my opinion, looks to be the film that will change all of this.  Starring the always wonderful Michael Fassbender, this film follows Callum Lynch, a death row inmate and descendent of the Assassins who is rescued by the present-day incarnation of the Templar Order, Abstergo Industries.  Callum is then forced into the Animus Project and must re-experience the memories of his assassin ancestor during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.  The reason why I call this film the saving grace of the “video game to movie” genre is based on three defining factors.  The first is the star of the film, Michael Fassbender who is virtually fantastic in every role he plays.  The second is director Justin Kruzel, who previously collaborated with Fassbender on a beautiful adaptation of the Shakespearean classic, Macbeth.  The third is that the film follows an original story that, while set in the AC universe, centres around original characters that are not bound by previous stories allowing the filmmaker to showcase his own personal vision.


  1. Doctor Strange

Premieres: November 5, 2016

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back with its second film of the year.  Following the massively successful Captain America: Civil War comes one of the most daring entries into the cinematic universe, Doctor Strange.  Directed by well-known horror movie director, Scott Derrickson, the newest film in the MCU takes it back to its origin story roots with Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant but arrogant surgeon who, after a career ending car crash, travels the world to find a mystic being known as the Ancient One.  There, he learns the ways of the mystic arts in an effort to not only cure his injuries but eventually become the sorcerer supreme and defender of Earth.  Being an MCU film, I’m already personally excited.  However despite this, as a comic book fan, Doctor Strange has always been one of my favourite characters.  The classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko 1960’s work on the character has always been memorizing and this film looks to be paying the ultimate tribute to it.  Casting an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch in the main role is just one of those perfect castings.  Cumberbatch simply looks like his comic book counterpart and based on trailers, he immerses himself into the role as master of the mystic arts.  Adding in the insane visuals that have been consistently teased and Michael Giacchino debuting his first musical score for Marvel Studios, this film proves that the MCU has no plans of slowing down.


  1. Moana

Premieres: November 23, 2016

From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the very same studio that has brought viewers Big Hero 6, Frozen and Tangled, comes Moana.  Moana centres around a young princess on the mystic island of Polynesia.  The princess, Moana (Auli’I Cravalho) along with her new found partner, the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) set sail on a quest for an island that is said to include mysterious and magical secrets. Truth be told, I have been excited for this movie ever since it was announced.  I mean seriously, this movie truly has a lot going for it.  The film is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker who happen to be the geniuses behind such films like The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog and Aladdin. On top of that, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man who created the Broadway smash hit Hamilton is part of the musical composing team for the film.  And if all that wasn’t enough of a selling point, this film has Dwayne Johnson in a musical role.  Yes, The Rock himself will be performing original songs for the film in classic Disney fashion alongside the main protagonist.


  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Premieres: November 18, 2016

THE WIZARDING WORLD IS BACK! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?  From Harry Potter veteran, David Yates and, in her screenwriting debut, J.K Rowling comes the prequel/spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  The film follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels to 1920’s New York City with a case filled with magical creatures.  From there he is roped into a wild chase after several of his animals escape the case all while dangers within the wizarding world continue to grow.  Being one of the most anticipated films of the year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them seems to really have it all.  From action to comedy to drama, this really seems like a complete film.  It is a film that boasts an ensemble cast which includes Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston and Ezra Miller.  James Newton Howard debuts in the Wizarding World with his score for the film that, from listening to it, seems to infuse classic John Williams riffs, his own original work and the overall magical tone of the music in the Harry Potter universe.  Seriously, this movie would have been number one on my list had it not been for a certain epic space opera film being released in December…


  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Premieres: December 16, 2016

Anybody who knows me would have probably guessed that this would have undoubtedly been my number one pick.  Rogue One is set to be the first of many anthology films in the Star Wars universe.  These films are meant to step away from the main Skywalker storyline and instead showcase popular stories outside of the main plot.  This film sees how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans for the inter-galactic super-weapon, the Death Star from the Galactic Empire leading into the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.  The film stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, who, along with Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, are tasked with forming a team and stealing said plans.  I can’t even begin to describe my excitement for this film.  The cast, the director (Gareth Edwards), the composer (Michael Giacchino), the story, the visuals; it’s just all perfect for me.  The most exciting part is how separated the story feels from the main Star Wars story.  This is a film that, while the force is mentioned, isn’t focused on it.  This is not a tale of the Jedi, Sith and the journey of the force.  This is a gritty-war film that includes a rag-tag group of freedom fighters wanting to defeat the tyrannical Empire.  Each time a trailer drops for this film, the excitement builds to an even higher level.  I would compare my excitement for this film only to my excitement for Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars is back in full-swing and you can bet on it that I will be at the movie theatre, opening night, popcorn in hand and cheering as the film finally debuts on the big screen.

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