Autumn Preview: Cinematic Highlights for the rest of 2016

30 Aug 2016 BY Michael Prescott

4 mins
Moana
Moana

With the summer blockbuster season coming to an end, we turn our attentions to the films that autumn and winter have in store as Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals mark the unofficial start of awards season, franchises continue to thrive, and the seasonal delights of Hallowe'en and Christmas await.

At the start of the year we picked out the 58 films to look out for this year, and more recently, in our latest podcast, we recommended six of the first half of 2016's best films to catch up on. But to give you a better idea of what's ahead in the final four months of the calendar year, let's further explore six of the exciting titles due to hit cinemas in the back half of 2016.

Kubo and the Two Strings - September 9

First up is one we have sky-high expectations for - the latest animation from esteemed stop-motion studio LAIKA. Their previous three releases - CoralineParaNorman and The Boxtrolls - are not only firm Into Film favourites, but all three received prestigious Academy Award® nominations.

LAIKA have established a reputation for darker thematic material than is commonly associated with children's and family cinema, not least through their exploration of monsters - a recurrence in all of their films to date.

Their most recent film, The Boxtrolls, allows us to empathise with strange creatures living under the streets; ParaNorman follows a child who can speak to the dead; and in their first feature, Coraline (an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel, and surely the scariest of the bunch) a young girl discovers a path to a secret, alternate universe...

The upcoming Kubo follows in their fantastical footsteps, taking place in ancient Japan, where demons, gods and magic are particularly significant, as youngster Kubo attempts to find his father's magical suit of armour in order to overcome the unforgiving spirits of the past.

We're so excited to see what this fabled studio do with such a rich setting and premise.

Trolls - October 21

October half-term sees the release of Trolls, based on the toy dolls (famed for their unruly hair) of the same name.

Featuring new songs by Justin Timberlake as well as fresh takes on classic pop tunes, Trolls boasts a bright and bold design, as the film looks to combine the high-energy feel of The Lego Movie with the amusing silliness of Minions.

DreamWorks Animation have long been searching for a true successor to the animated franchise throne ever since Shrek - the original of which is now fifteen years old - and although the MadagascarKung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon franchises have had big box-office success, none have quite reached the heights of the loveable green ogre.

DreamWorks will be hoping that their colourful new creation could be the answer they've been waiting for.

Doctor Strange - October 28

October also sees the release of Doctor Strange, the 14th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which began with Iron Man back in 2008, and is set to take the MCU in a daring new direction. In the film, Doctor Stephen Strange suffers a career-ending car crash, but soon has his eyes opened to a mysterious new world by an enigmatic mentor known only as The Ancient One...

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is its casting: could this be the role that cements Benedict Cumberbatch as a worldwide star? Beyond the British actor, the supporting cast is also full of exciting names joining the MCU. Mads Mikkelsen's best work up until now has come in his native Danish films, A Royal Affair and The Hunt; Tilda Swinton more often works with acclaimed indie directors like Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive); whereas Michael Stuhlbarg has recently made the successful transition from TV to cinema, with appearances in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man and Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs.

Add in Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor - notable character actors rather than traditional stars - and you can see why Doctor Strange is a project with huge potential. Heres hoping the ambitious casting pays off!

A United Kingdom - November 25

October brings with it the start of the British Film Institute (BFI)'s Black Star season, the UK's biggest ever celebration of black actors, with screenings and events taking place across the country right through to the end of December.

Additionally, our own Into Film Festival (IFF) - which returns this year between November 9 - 25 - will include its very own Black Star strand, complementing and supporting the BFI's activity. Booking for the Into Film Festival opens from September 6 - with exclusive early booking on September 5 for members!

A United Kingdom is Amma Assante's follow-up to Into Film favourite Belle, and will play as part of our IFF Black Star strand. The film has also been selected as the opening gala of this year's BFI London Film Festival on October 5.

The film stars Selma's David Oyelowo and Made in Dagenham's Rosamund Pike, in a story based on real events that saw Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana cause uproar when he married a white English woman in the late 1940s. This is sure to be one of the films of the year.

Moana - December 2

The lead-up to Christmas sees the arrival of Disney's latest animation, Moana. Much like Kubo and the Two Strings, this feature focuses on the traditions and mythology of a particular culture; in this case the islands of Oceania in the South Pacific.

Moana continues the recent Disney focus on strong female protagonists, and sees a courageous teenager team up with a demi-god named Maui (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) to take to the dangerous seas in order to help save her people.

Disney's animation department has produced hit after hit in recent years. Tangled, the studio's 50th animation, represented a real return to form, and Wreck-It RalphFrozen and Zootropolis have all built on that success, with stunning design work, beautiful stories and wonderful characters. Let's hope the Disney renaissance continues with Moana.

Passengers - December 23

To round off 2016, two mega-stars come together in sci-fi film Passengers, which sees Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence find themselves stranded on a spaceship 90 years before it's due to arrive at a distant colony planet.

Both have found big-screen success in rebooted franchises recently, with Pratt playing a velociraptor wrangler in Jurassic World, and Lawrence taking on the mantle of Mystique in X-Men

The last few years have seen a wealth of space-faring films, with Star TrekGravityInterstellarThe MartianStar Wars: The Force Awakens and Guardians of the Galaxy (in which Pratt played Star Lord) all finding success with audiences, critics and awards voters alike.

Passengers - from The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum - has its work cut out to match those films, particularly as it's set to go head-to-head with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at the box office.

Audiences are sure to be intrigued by the chemistry between the films two stars, and whatever the outcome, one thing's for certain - space movies are back in a big way!

2017 and beyond...

Looking even further down the line, we cant help but wonder what 2017 may bring. After Birdman and Spotlight, will Michael Keaton feature in the Best Picture winner three years in a row with The Founder? Could Assassins Creed be the film to finally bring a notoriously poor history of video game-to-film adaptations to an end? Can the live-action Beauty and the Beast follow in the footsteps of Cinderella and The Jungle Book?

With all this and more to look forward to, a trip to the cinema remains as special as ever.

Michael Prescott

Michael Prescott, Film Curation Officer

Michael has an MA in Film Studies with Screenwriting from Sheffield Hallam University. He has previously worked at the British Council and on the BFI Film Academy, and has volunteered at organisations including Sheffield Doc/Fest and Cinema for All.

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