Hello and welcome to my Top 40 Albums list! This will be my twelfth year of doing a year-end, and tenth in total of doing a Top 40 Albums list. A decade, what????? Time flies, to quote an obscure late-era Weezer song. This is also the first time i’ve done my year-end exclusively in the following year (meaning, not doing it in 2015. Couldn’t think of a better way to word it). So I hope you aren’t sick of talking about 2015 stuff, as I just got here! I also greatly look forward to reading all the year-ends i’ve missed, as i’ve only had the chance to comment on my bros O and Red’s, and I feel bad for not commenting on more. I will make up for it, I promise!
This will be a slightly trimmed-down version of my typical year-end (Because it’s the New Year, and it was my thread’s New Year’s Resolution to lose weight.....This thread co-written by Dad Jokes), but I hope to hit as many stand-bys as I can. Starting with....
- As soon as this thread is posted: My Top 10 Singles of 2015!
- Following that is a favourite list of some: The Movies in 2016 i’m Most Anticipating! Due to time, it’ll probably end up being a top 20 at the most, but it’s a list I have fun with coming up with each year, so i’ll work extra hard on making those 20 or so entries count.
- Top TV Shows of 2015! Maybe another top 20 list? I certainly watched way more than 20 shows that I loved this year, but again, time constraints.
- And finally, The Main Event, something which won’t be cut down on: My Top 40 Albums! I have a feeling this will be posted realllllllly last minute, as i’ve been having some iTunes problems over the past month, so i’ve lost track of certain albums, but i’m really going to try to get it all up. it’s my tenth year of doing a Top 40 Albums list, so it would be a travesty if I missed it!
A new Dwight Yoakam release is always a major event for me, and this year’s Second Hand Heart was no exception. I’ll talk in more detail about that album and my connection to Dwight during the album write-up, but for now “Liar” is a complete joy to listen to. A raved up rockabilly Sun Records/Elvis-type deal that rocks harder than most of the current artists who identify themselves as rock, plus the little guitar lick after the chorus reminds me of the Wayne’s World flashback/dissolve noise.
09. The Blue Jean Committee – Catalina Breeze
I fell in love with The Blue Jean Committee first when I saw their now-iconic November 2011 performance of “Massachusetts Afternoon” so I have been awaiting new material from them ever since. which finally came this year with “Catalina Breeze.” Okay, jokes over: The Blue Jean Committee is the brainchild of Fred Armisen, which was previously featured in a 5-to-1 SNL sketch and made its big return this year (in a slightly different incarnation) as part of the incredible new IFC series Documentary Now! I’ll be talking more about Documentary Now as a show on my TV list, so you may be asking why a comedy song is on a list with a bunch of legitimate songs? Because it works as a legitimate song. And if this top 10 singles list is all about the songs that made an impact with me this year, songs that get stuck in your head or give you something you never know you wanted until you got it, then “Catalina Breeze” certainly belongs on here. A part of my affection for this song is that i’m a huge fan of the genre they are parodying/paying homage to, that ‘70s California soft rock genre like Steely Dan. Fred Armisen is so gifted at these genre-homages as he gets exactly what makes those songs great, the really weird lyrics that sound brainy until you actually break it down and they make no sense (“A bar stool intellectual, a master’s degree in small talk, and going to the movies”), both the organ and guitar tones (that guitar solo melts me!!). It’s just a genuinely tremendous song in its own right regardless if you have seen Documentary Now. The song also features a guest harmony vocal from the great Petra Haden, who sings Bill Hader’s part (a running joke in the episode).
08. Blur – Lonesome Street
I still have to pinch myself when I listen to new songs from Blur, as for years it looked like something that had a zero percent chance of ever happening. I liked the various projects that Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon did on their own, but still nothing can touch Blur, one of my all-time favourite bands. 2012 was the first year of their reunion, and what a reunion it was: they released my #1 single of 2012 “Under the Westway,” and did a huge Hyde Park concert tied to the London Olympics (which is documented on the album Parklive, which is one of the best live albums i’ve ever heard). Even with all that, I wasn’t sure it would be anything more than that, so when “Lonesome Street” was released, I flipped! Re-teaming with their classic ‘90s producer Stephen Street (who in the intervening years produced the first two Kaiser Chiefs records), “Lonesome Street” is a great BritPop throwback while also managing to sound current. More on The Magic Whip as a whole on my albums list.
07. Courtney Barnett – Depreston
The video linked to above is important, as it was the moment where Courtney Barnett went from someone I liked to someone I absolutely loved. Her performance on Austin City Limits, which was a culled down to 20some minutes on TV, really shows what a great talent she is. While this particular performance culled doesn’t feature it, her stage banter throughout was charming, and by the end of the set, I guarantee everyone in attendance as well as the millions watching at home wanted to be her best friend. “Depreston” is my favourite song of hers, really painting the picture of a personal experience by making it relatable to everyone, the mark of a great songwriter. She reminds me a lot of Nick Lowe, one of my musical heroes, the way she writes universal songs that alternate between wry amusement and moving. And sometimes in the same line, like in “Depreston” where she sings, “a garage for two cars to park in, or a lot of room for storage if you’ve just got one,” a great detail that says a lot in so few words. I would highly recommend you check out her performance on Austin City Limits, as you don’t get the full Courtney Barnett experience on record, and the next best thing to seeing her live is this long-ish TV set. Again, if you don’t like her by the end of the set, I don’t know what to tell you.
06. Carrie Underwood – Smoke Break
Prior to 2015 I wouldn’t have exactly considered myself a Carrie Underwood fan, though I have liked some of her singles over the years. “Smoke Break” changed that for me, produced by Jay Joyce Da Gawd (producer of every Eric Church album, the last couple Little Big Town albums), Joyce strips away her typical balladeer bombast, and gives Underwood a straight-ahead southern rock production that really puts her in a new, welcome light. I like some of Carrie’s big ballads, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to hear a song by her that isn’t just constant HIGH NOTE HIGH NOTE HIGH NOTE. And she has said as much in interviews promoting the album, she is thankful for songs like “Smoke Break” which she can easily sing live without blowing out her vocal chords. The song itself (co-written by Underwood, Chris DeStefano and the great Hillary Lindsey) uses the phrase “i’m going to take a smoke break” and applies it to just taking a breather from what life throws at you, in general. That’s one of my favourite aspects of country songwriting, once they find the hook (which often come from everyday sayings/phrases), they can then mine what that subject is about and build a story off of it. It’ s a song that anyone can relate to, and a nice prelude to the very good album Storyteller that followed.
05. Jeff Lynne’s ELO – When I Was a Boy
In the Courtney Barnett write-up I mentioned how Nick Lowe was one of my musical heroes. Another one of those heroes is the great Jeff Lynne. His weird blend of orchestral rock, whether in ELO or the many great albums he’s produced, is so singular. He’s one of those guys where there is no mistaking his style, those drum parts, the guitars. So i was so happy that ELO decided to put out a new album this year, their first since 2001’s Zoom, and the lead-off single is everything I could have hoped for and more. The “Whiter Shade of Pale”-like march gives it a sweeping feeling, in addition to the touching personal lyrics about Lynne’s childhood. More on the album and my feelings on Lynne in my Top 40 Albums write-up.
04. Ashley Monroe – On To Something Good
“On To Something Good” is a very different type of song from Ashley Monroe: its upbeat, the lyrics are hopeful, and its less classic country and more ‘90s country that could have been played right beside Vince Gill (who co-produced it) and Lorrie Morgan. Written by Monroe, Barry Dean and Luke Laird (Nashville’s answer to Max Martin), this upbeat peppy tune instantly motivates me when I listen to it (“I’m better moving on than going back, i’ll ride this train ‘til it runs out of track” is one of the memorable lines). As alluded to above, it’s a change of pace from Monroe, who I just adore. “Like a Rose” ranked at #2 on my 2013 singles list, and the album by the same name also ranked at #2, so when i say that I am not criticizing any of her work, as the album The Blade has its fairshare of beautiful bummers. And to tip my Top 40 Albums list a little bit, i think just as highly of The Blade as I do Like A Rose, so expect me to share more of my thoughts on Monroe then.
03. Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’
KV is one of my go-to guys and a regular presence on my year-end. Every two to three years I know he’s going to deliver with a great album, and he did it again this year with b'lieve i'm goin down. The lead-off single to the album, “Pretty Pimpin,” just might be the most accessible and catchy song KV has ever made. The moment I was taken aback by just how far the song the reach of the song went was when I was reading a Rolling Stone article, with the headline The Five Songs I Wish I’d Written, and this was written about “Pretty Pimpin”:
The person who said that? Pop-country superstar and current American Idol judge Keith Urban! WHAT. If you were to tell me back in 2010, when I first heard KV’s music, that in just a few years time he’ll become so popular that Keith Urban of all people would single out his songwriting, and wished he had written one of his songs...... To say I wouldn’t have believed you is an understatement. KV and KU! Now we just need a KW artist to form the triad. Keith Whitley (RIP)? Anyway, i’m thrilled for my boy KV and hope this leads to a big performance during the final season of American Idol, especially if he brings along his brother Jelloman.
02. Young Guv – Crawling Back to You
The best kind of power-pop makes you yearn for an unspecified past, nostalgic for past memories. I can’t quite put my finger on why, maybe it’s the syrupy sweet hooks and guitars that line up the genre, the often romantic lyrics, whatever it is the genre’s masters (whether its Big Star or The Raspberries, to list only a couple) often give me that melancholic feeling. No one did that better this year than Young Guv, who is better known as Ben Cook from ****ed Up, and his instant classic song “Crawling Back to You.” The entire Ripe 4 Luv album is filled with great songs that recall the early ‘90s, but “Crawling Back to You” is the song i’ve gone back to the most. To use the word again, there’s such a yearning quality to Cook’s singing, his vocals on this track kind of remind me of the great Mike Viola’s (who famously sung on “That Thing You Do”). This is a heavy duty song, and probably the least known in my top 10, so I urge you to check it out.
01. Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Tuesday, April 14th was a historic night in late night TV. On that night’s episode of Late Show with David Letterman, with just over a month’s left worth of episodes in his historic run, was the final Network Television Debut in Letterman history. I made a list last year compiling ten of my favourite performances from Letterman of 2014, and quite a few of them were Network Television Debuts. Letterman’s team, which included the best music booker in late night Sheryl Zelikson, had a real knack for giving great, undiscovered artists a spotlight, which was usually followed by Dave’s genuinely warm reaction to them after they “blow the roof off the dump” to use Dave parlance. What this long set-up is getting at is Chris Stapleton was the artist chosen to be the final Network Television Debut in Letterman history, and he made his mark in a big way. This was my first time seeing Stapleton perform, I only knew of the songs he wrote as a country listener, and was instantly taken with him. His powerhouse voice, the great backing by his wife Morgane, and his sleek band (my favourite line from the post-performance is when Dave, as he points towards the steel guitar player says “That’s tremendous, that’s amazing. That’s like flying a helicopter, isn’t it?”), all in service of the wonderful title track from his equally wonderful album. Since this performance, Stapleton has gone on to bigger things, with the performance at the CMA’s with Justin Timberlake being his true star-making performance in the mainstream and what sent his album soaring to the top five for weeks on end, and I could not be more excited for his success. But when I think about when I became a fan of his, i’ll always remember that April night when he made his Network Television Debut on my favourite TV show.
Next up: The 2016 Movies list! I'll try to have that up before the end of the week. In the meantime, i've got some commenting to do!
Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge a lot of movies that would have made the cut if I was doing my usual Top 40-or-so list. A lot of high profile titles missed the cut for reasons such as 1) I don’t have much to say about them beyond that i’m excited (Rogue One, Batman/Superman and the other huge tentpole movies), or 2) I have written about them before and wanted to write fresh things instead (like Midnight Special, which ranked in my top 20 last year. I’m still just as excited for it, but I again have nothing new to say about it). There are exceptions to these two rules as you’ll see below, but that’s when my enthusiasm for the movie overrided everything. Now, in no particular order, the list of movies that just missed the cut:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards)
Batman vs. Superman: Dumb Subtitle (Zack Snyder)
The Secret Life of Pets (Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney)
Pete’s Dragon (David Lowery)
Star Trek Beyond (Justin Lin)
Everybody Wants Some (Richard Linklater)
The BFG (Steve [I call him Steve because we’re tight] Spielberg)
Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Edward Zwick)
John Wick 2 (Chris Stahleski, David Leitch)
The Brothers Grimsby (Louis Leterrier)
The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)
Eddie the Eagle (Dexter Fletcher)
Arms and the Dudes (Todd Phillips)
The Boss: Not the Sasha Banks Story (Ben Falcone)
The Neon Demon (Nicholas Winding-Refn)
Deepwater Horizon (Peter Berg)
Army of One (Larry Charles)
Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbligia)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ang Lee)
20. The Disaster Artist
Release Date: TBA 2016
Directed by James Franco
Written by Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Jacki Weaver, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Sharon Stone, Kate Upton, Ari Graynor, Hannibal Buress, Nathan Fielder, Andrew Santino
The story of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is well-known, so I won’t spend much time discussing it here outside of noting that it is one of the few infamous bad movies that lives up to the hype. As bat-ish crazy the movie itself is, the making of the movie might have been even more, as documented in Greg “Oh Hi Mark” Sestero’s 2013 book The Disaster Artist. The book talks about Sestero’s relationship with Wiseau during the making of it, the outlandish moments, the realization that this wasn’t a normal film shoot (Sestero was a struggling actor who just needed work prior to The Room), and later the unlikely friendship and bond he struck with Wiseau. It’s the stuff of a great movie, a possible Ed Wood for the 21st century, so who better to tackle the job than The Renascence Man himself James Franco! I’m on record as a big Franco fan, even when he’s made something that is not good I appreciate that he continues to challenge himself and risk failure, which actors of his stature rarely want to do. So why not have Franco not just direct the movie, but take on the big shoes of Tommy Wiseau?? His brother Dave plays Greg, in what will be the very first movie the two have done together, which is noteworthy in its own right. The brotherly bond they share should make the relationship of the movie work, in both good and bad (i’m sure no one is more annoyed by James’ antics than his own brother haha, which is perfect for this role).
Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s flourishing production company Point Grey are behind it, and bring with them a really stellar cast. The casting for the roles are pretty spot-on: Ari Graynor as Juliette “You’re Tearing Me Apart Lisa!” Danielle, Jacki Weaver as Carolyn “i Got the Results of the Test Back I Definitely Have Breast Cancer” Minnott, Josh Hutcherson as Philip “Denny” Haldiman, Zac Efron as Chris R, Kate Upton as Michelle, NATHAN FIELDER AS PETER Are you kidding me??? Even if the movie doesn’t entirely work, it will be worth a watch just to see all these actors inhabit these roles.
19. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Release Date: World Premiere at Sundance 2016
Directed and Written by Rob Burnett
Starring Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle,, Megan Ferguson, Julia Denton
Short answer to why this movie made my list: it stars one of my favourite actors (Paul Rudd) and was written and directed by the executive producer of my favourite show Late Show with David Letterman (Rob Burnett). In fact Burnett is still the head of Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company so I hope we get to see that familiar logo at the front of this movie. But anyway to describe more about the actual movie: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is based off a novel, whose logline reads as such:
For Ben Benjamin, all has been lost—his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. Hoping to find a new direction, he has enrolled in a night class called the Fundamentals of Caregiving. There he learns the basics of the art of inserting catheters while avoiding liability, and he is instructed about professionalism and how to keep an emotional distance between client and provider.
But when Ben is assigned his first client—a tyrannical nineteen-year-old boy named Trevor who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy—he soon discovers that the endless service checklists have done nothing to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated teenager who has an ax to grind with the whole world.
The logline goes on into the plot, but that gives you the gist of it. Rudd plays Ben Benjamin (maybe that’s another reason i’m looking forward to it??) while the role of Trevor is played by the great Craig Roberts who has many good credits (the lead in Submarine, the role of Assjuice in Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, and most recently the lead in Amazon’s series Red Oaks). To the interest of the ATRL crowd, Selena Gomez plays the third lead as the role of Dot, who is “a sassy young woman who hitches a ride with the pair during a road trip, and whose forwardness and lack of embarrassment about Trevor’s condition causes him to develop a crush on her”. On its surface, this is familiar material, but I think “familiar material” gets a bad rap. 3 minute and 30 second pop songs have a formula to them, and if executed at the highest level, they give you a rush of joy and the response you are craving for. The novel is well-regarded both critically and commercially (4 and a half star on Amazon), the creative team is strong, it has a great cast, so I don’t see why it can’t be a wonderful movie.
18. Goon: Last of the Enforcers
Release Date: TBA 2016
Directed by Jay Baruchel
Written by Jay Baruchel, Jesse Chabot
Starring Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Elisha Cuthbert, Kim Coates, T.J. Miller, Marc-André Grondin, David Paetkau, Jonathan Cherry, Tyler Seguin, Michael Del Zotto, James Duthie, T.J. Miller
2011’s Goon was one of the surprises of that year, an instant-classic hockey movie that could be uttered in the same breath as the immortal Slap Shot. And I would know, i’m Canadian! The movie was a genuine box office hit in our Home and Native Land, but it also developed a nice cult following in the U.S. and other parts in the world. So much so that we now have a sequel upon us, Goon: Last of the Enforcers!! One of the changes between the two films is that Michael Dowse isn’t returning as director, which is a slight bummer (check out Dowse’s Fubar, a Calgary-shot comedy classic). Instead, the main driving force behind both movies, co-writer and co-star Jay Baruchel, is taking the reins, which is not a bad consolation prize at all.
The plot of the movie isn’t fully known beyond this basic one line: “During a pro lockout, Doug the Thug's (Seann William Scott) team, the Halifax Highlanders, reunites with a bunch of new players “ Most of the original cast is set to return (Liev Schreiber as Ross the Boss! Kim Coates’ Ronnie Hortense! Alison Pill’s Eva Glatt!) with some brand new names including Wyatt Russell (playing the captain of the Halifax Highlanders) and most excitingly Calgary-born Elisha Cuthbert, who is playing Eva’s “outlandish sister” Mary*. There will also be various cameo appearances (NHL players Tyler Seguin and Michael Del Zotto were spotted on set), and in what should be a fun bit, TSN hockey analyst James Duthie will be the sportscaster in the film along with TJ Miller! God bless Jay Baruchel for sneaking in so much Canadian stuff into these movies. I cannot wait to check it out, and if you haven’t seen the first Goon yet, you are missing out!
*A fun personal story: Years back Cuthbert was dating former Calgary Flames player Dion Phaneuf, so she still lived here even after her big success from 24. I would often go to the farmers market, and she was there a few times there with him! That’s not much of a story, just a fun detail that relates to the topic of the movie haha.
Release Date: TBA 2016
Directed by Craig Johnson
Written by Daniel Clowes
Starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, Tom Proctor, James Salto, Roxy Wood, David Warshofsky
Oftentimes when i’m including a book adaptation, I haven’t read the book (such as with the #19 movie). But in the case of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Wilson, I am very familiar with the source material. I bought the book when it came out in 2010 and it instantly struck a chord with me. Stories about misanthropes often appeal to me haha, and this was a story that had a really touching core to it (short version: after his father dies, he decides he wants to reconnect with his ex-wife, and from that meeting finds out he has a teenage daughter) while never eschewing to sentimentality. Originally the book was set to be adapted by Alexander Payne, which made perfect sense to me, which then lead to a lot of people such as me thinking that Paul Giamatti would play Wilson. Years later, Payne became busy and had to drop it, but he stayed on as a producer to shepherd it and made sure it got made. That replacement director became Craig Johnson, who directed the wonderful movie The Skeleton Twins with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig a couple years ago. He’s a great fit for this material, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny sometimes breaks-your-heart, and the decision to cast Woody Harrelson as Wilson surprised me, but I really warmed up to it. Who doesn’t love Woody Harrelson?? And then to make it even sweeter, the incredible LAURA DERN.... Sign me up! I am also very encouraged that Daniel Clowes adapted it himself, and i’m curious to see how he did it. Wilson is an 80 page graphic novel, so there has to be a lot of new material to fill in the blanks, so who better than the author himself Clowes to come up with it? On paper, this is a very promising sounding adaptation of a book that I love, so i’m very hopeful that it’s going to turn out great.
16. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Written by Robert Carlock
Starring Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Christophe Abbott, Billy Bob Thorton, Alfred Molina, Josh Charles, Nicholas Braun
First off, let me just say that this is a horrible title. I just hate it. It’s so overplayed, I feel like five episodes of TV within the past five years have used it. And even if it wasn’t overplayed, it’s just a really weak. The original titles were a lot better: first it was called The Taliban Shuffle, which was the name of the book this movie is adapting, and then later Fun House, which is used in the trailer to describe the place Tina Fey’s journalist character stays (“welcome to the Fun House”). Both have an actual point to them, and I just worry that this bad title will dissuade people from seeing it.
What is the movie? As mentioned above it’s based off Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which details her time reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The movie changes Barker’s occupation to a cable news reporter and it tells the story of Barker befriending Margot Robbie’s British TV reporter, they both go to report on Operation Enduring Freedom, and Barker ends up developing a “crazy relationship” with Martin Freeman’s Scottish journalist character. It’s all quite interesting in its own right and you can see a more dramatic version of that story happening, but it looks to be going in a full-on comedic direction. Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels are producing the movie together, which is a first, and the genius comedy writer Robert Carlock (EP/showrunner of 30 Rock and EP/showrunner of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) wrote the screenplay, which is as strong of a comedy pedigree as you can name. The directors of it are Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, who have had a very varied career (wrote Bad Santa, and directors/writers of I Love You Phillip Morris, Crazy Stupid Love, and Focus). I haven’t loved everything they’ve done, but they often lend an interesting touch, so they might suit the material well. I think the potential for this movie is big, as we haven’t really had an all caps GREAT modern war comedy, so hopefully Tina, Lorne, Robert Carlock and company can break that streak.
15. Kung Fu Panda 3
Release Date: January 29, 2016
Directed by Jennifer Yuh-Nelson, Alessandro Calroni
Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, J.K. Simmons, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim
Two animated film franchises in the 21st Century mean a lot to me: the first is How To Train Your Dragon and the second is Kung –Fu Panda. I’ve seen all of the movies in theatres, and both are great counterpoints whenever someone comes up with the lazy, inaccurate criticism that Dreamworks Animation movies are just dumb comedy and pop culture references. Both the Panda and Dragon films have very moving stories, thrilling action sequences, and logical sequels (which you often can’t say about Pixar). To focus on Panda, the second movie ended with a cliffhanger, as it showed Po’s biological father for the very first time. The series has gained a lot of mileage, both comedically and dramatically, with the relationship between Po and his goose father Mr. Ping, but the decision to have Po reunite with his bio dad is very important too and it made me giddy with anticipation for the third movie’s release. Well, now it’s here, and the casting for Po’s bio dad is spot-on: Bryan Cranston! How great is that? The trailers have shown some of the fun comedy that will come from that meeting, as well as Po in the Panda sanctuary with the dozens of cute little pandas greeting him. There will of course be a new Big Bad (Kai, played by J.K. Simmons), and it looks to lead up to Po now being the one as Kung-Fu Master teaching all the panda kids his special ways, just as Master Shifu did with him in the first film.
That point leads into something important about these movies: the action scenes are SO GOOD. The second film in particular has some of the coolest animated action sequences you will see, directed brilliantly by Jennifer Yuh-Nelson (props to Dreamworks to giving a female director a chance to take on a major franchise like this). I listened to an interview with Yuh-Nelson on KCRW’s The Treatment, talking about her inspirations, and she mentioned Jean Claude-Van Damme films, which you often don’t hear directors proudly declaring as inspirations for their career, which made me gain even more respect for her. She’s really cool and has done a superb job with this franchise. And again, the emotional beats in these movies have really affected me, and I imagine the third movie will be no different. I mention both the great action and character work/emotion, because that stuff never comes through in the AC/DC-scored commercials. These are slyly deep films that deserve recognition, which is why Kung-Fu Panda 3 is without a doubt my most anticipated animated film of the year...... Family animated film that is. MORE ON THAT LATER.
14. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Directed by Nick Stoller
Written by Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nick Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Billy Eichner, Selena Gomez, Nora Lum, Clara Mamet
I was very happy about the success of Neighbors, not just as a success for Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s Point Grey, but mainly for director Nick Stoller. One of the most unheralded people in comedy today, up to that point he hadn’t really had a big hit film: his first movie as director Forgetting Sarah Marshall did pretty good (most of its success came later), and so did Get Him to the Greek. His third movie however, the underrated The Five-Year Engagement, was a bomb, which bummed me out. So yeah, when Neighbors became a hit, it was a win for the Good Guys (to use a Scott Hall phrase. Stoller didn’t have “one more” this was the one!!).
So yeah, now we have the sequel, a rare sequel for Seth Rogen*, but the reason for it is very strong, I feel, and it’s that subtitle: Sorority Rising. One of the great developments since Bridesmaids broke out is that we are now seeing more women get chances to lead off big studio comedies, and for that reason alone is why this Neighbors sequel should exist. The premise of it is very simple: Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (the great Rose Byrne who nearly stole the first movie) reunite with Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) to help battle the sorority sisters who move in to their neighboring house. Playing the head of the sorority is Chloe Grace Moretz, a great choice, with the rest of the sisters being unknown/lesser-known actors: Kiersey Clemons from Dope and Transparent, Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill’s sister!) Clara Mamet, among others. I have Selena Gomez listed above, i’m not sure if that’s just a cameo, but i’m looking forward to seeing her in it.
The original writers of the film Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien (more on them in the next entry) are back, along with some help from Stoller himself, plus Seth and Evan! Everyone is pitching in to make this thing great! Another detail about Neighbors, which I couldn’t find a place to talk about is Rose Byrne’s character, and how important it was for Rogen’s comedy going forward. The genesis of that character, being the wife who is just as crazy as the husband and wasn’t scolding her husband for her actions, became a big breakthrough and all of Rogen’s movies going forward. I saw Rogen in an interview recently say that the dialogue between Rogen and Byrne’s characters could be interchangeable, they act almost as if they are one person.
*one of them many reasons I respect and admire Rogen is that he has it written in his contract for there to never be a sequel to Superbad, as it was such a personal project for Seth & Evan.
13. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Release Date: July 8, 2016
Directed by Jake Szymanski
Written by Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Starring Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Mary Holland, Stephanie Faracy, Alice Wetterlund, Sam Richardson
You read the title of this movie, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and i’m sure you’re asking “Ben, there’s no way this could be any good. It sounds like a 2001-era R-Rated comedy in the style of Tomcats.” Here’s the thing, the writers of the film Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien saw those very same pitfalls. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with the writing team (and no Brendan O’Brien is not the legendary Pearl Jam producer):
O’Brien: We brought the idea to Chernin Entertainment. We thought, “Yeah, that could be a good movie,” or it could be a potentially very bad movie because it’s about two party bros who need to bring dates to their sister’s wedding or else they’ll go crazy. They’re just these stunted dudes who have a very codependent relationship and two girls who are in a codependent relationship as well.
Cohen: Honestly, the breakthrough was: What kind of girls would they end up bringing? It seemed like if they had nightmare dates who were crazier than they were, they’d get what they deserved. There was a cosmic justice aspect of it that really cracked us up.
(for further context: this movie is based off an actual news story, of two guys who put up a Craigslist ad looking for wedding dates, which later became viral. That’s the initial idea they are referring to)
Playing Mike and Dave are Zac Efron and Adam DeVine, which is an interesting team. They are definitely believeable as two party bros, but I think what really sets this movie apart is the casting of the two ladies: Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. If what Cohen and O’Brien are saying is true, and the movie will be as much about Kendrick and Plaza getting the huge comedy moments as much as the Efron and DeVine, then I think this has the potential to be something really great. Another plus in the “The Female Characters Will Be Treated as Actual People” category is that the great Christine Nangle was on set as a producer the entire time doing punch-up. She’s a great comedy writer who has written for SNL and Kroll Show, but most recently won an Emmy as part of the Inside Amy Schumer team. I tend to be a believer in the school of “have as many funny people on set to help pitch-in jokes for different perspectives” philosophy, which Judd Apatow helped popularize, so this all sounds very good to me.
A couple other great tidbits about the movie: The director is Jake Szymanski, a first-time movie director, who has been doing solid comedy work for years. He directed lots of the early Funny or Die stuff, works a lot with Will Ferrell/Adam McKay on digital stuff, and just last year directed the really funny HBO special 7 Days in Hell. So I believe he’s a great choice for this, as if the movie tanks, he probably won’t direct another big movie like this, so there’s more passion to get it right. I also like the supporting cast a lot, which features some great ringers: Stephen Root as Efron and DeVine’s father, the very funny Mary Holland and Alice Wetterlund, and Sam Richardson from Veep!
12. Keeping Up with the Joneses
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Directed by Greg Mottola
Written by Michael LeSieur
Starring Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot, Maribeth Monroe
The premise for this movie is I guess what you would call high concept, a very simple clear premise that has mainstream Multiplex appeal: “A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.” A movie like that could have been made in the 80s, 90s, or today and you wouldn’t blink. What ranks this movie high on the list are the people involved with it. Director Greg Mottola has yet to disappoint me, he’s one of my favourite directors. The Daytrippers, Superbad, Adventureland, Paul, and Clear History, I really love all of those! He’s a guy who elevates simple concepts and brings a true filmmaker’s touch to it, he’s someone who really knows his stuff. And then of course, Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis as the two leads. Who doesn’t love them?? Hamm in comedies is always tremendous, and while Zach has been in some less-than-stellar films, he is always the bright spot of whatever he’s in. The rest of the cast is pretty promising too: the great Isla Fisher (she should be in more things!) the hilarious Maribeth Monroe from Workaholics, and the new Wonder Woman Gal Gadot! As of now, its release date is pretty close to Batman vs. Supeman, so i’m not sure if this will stick. As long as it’s released sometime this year, i’ll be fine.
11. Captain America: Civil War
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily Van Camp, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Martin Freeman, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Paul Bettany
I never write a lot about the Marvel Studios movies, because I just feel like I don’t need to sell you on them haha. They Are Doing Just Fine. I’m very excited for Civil War, and what it will bring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m also really excited to see Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang make an appearance, as Ant-Man just might be my favourite Marvel Studios movie to date. It’s sooooo good!
10. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
Release Date: March 2016 on Netflix
Directed by John Lee
Written by Paul Reubens, Paul Rust
Starring Pee-wee Herman, Joe Manganiello, Jessica Pohly, Alia Shawkat, Stephanie Beatriz, Tara Buck, Lynne Marie Stewart, Monica Horan, Diane Sallinger, Leo Fitzpatrick, Brad William Henke, Lindsay Hollister Mackenzie Marsh, Alexandra Ella
I’ve been doing this _____ Movies I’m Anticipating list for a long time, and this year’s list features a milestone: the first time a Netflix/non-theatrical movie has made the cut! 2016, man. Things are getting crazy!
We’ve been hearing talk of a new Pee-Wee Herman for going on a decade, back when Paul Reubens announced he was planning two movies, one for children and one for adults. That plan fell by the wayside, until news came out on June 30th, 2010 (I looked it up!) that a new Pee-Wee movie was officially in the works, this time under the Apatow Productions banner. Since 2010, it has been dribs and drabs of news at a verrrrrrrry sloooooooooooooooow pace, reasons given included more tinkering on the script, studio notes from Universal Pictures, it was almost looking like it was going to become the Chinese Democracy of comedy movies. That was all until Netflix last year swooped in to save the day after Universal dropped it, and here we are today! The movie has been filmed, it’s currently in post-production, and we are just a couple months away from this movie actually existing for us to all watch!!
So what is Pee-wee’s Big Holiday? Not a lot of information has been given out, and as far as I know this brief logline is the only thing that’s out there:
In Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, a fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny.
Judging from the cast list, that mysterious stranger looks to be Joe Manganiello’s part, which is intriguing casting. The great John Lee directed the film, of PFFR fame, which is really exciting news to me. The idea that one of the guys behind Wonder Showzen is directing Pee-wee’s big comeback movie is kind of amazing. Reubens co-wrote the script with the wonderful Paul Rust, who i’ve been a fan of for many years. He’s had bit parts in things, but how I became a fan was through his appearances on Comedy Bang Bang, he has a great comedic sensibility*. And of course Judd Apatow being a producer, that’s some Dream Come True ish right there. I hope the movie is a big success (whatever big success on Netflix means), and satisfies both the long-time fans (for those who haven’t seen it, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of the greatest comedies ever, and I still hold it’s Tim Burton’s best film) and converts new fans and is the first in a series of new Pee-wee projects. Let’s just hope the next project doesn’t take as long!
*Rust is also the co-creator and star of Netflix’s upcoming series LOVE, which premieres February 19th, and also co-stars Gillian Jacobs, and co-created/produced by Judd Apatow. February & March will be the months of Rust & Apatow on Netflix!!
Release Date: April 29, 2016
Directed by Peter Atencio
Written by Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens
Starring Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael-Key, Will Forte, Method Man, Nia Long, Rob Huebel, Tiffany Haddish, Jason Mitchell, Jamar Neighbors, Madison Wolfe
Key & Peele sadly left the airwaves (do we still call them airwaves? I do!, anyway haha) in 2015, but luckily for us it should mean a lot of different kinds of K&P-related projects are on the horizon. First up is Keanu, written by Peele and K&P/Community/Rick&Morty writer Alex Rubens, and directed by K&P’s series-long director Peter Atencio. Before I get into the movie itself, I want to puff up Atencio up a bit, as I think he was pivotal to the show’s success. Yes, the writing of the sketches were strong, but Atencio is such a gifted director and was able to mimic every style/every kind of sketch they threw at him. I can’t find it online, but I remember one straight-forward sketch he turned into a Tony Scott tribute, complete with spinning cameras, and it elevated what would have been an OK sketch on paper into greatness. So the thought of Atencio getting the chance to direct a major studio comedy is very, very exciting to me, even looking past the K&P factor.
Now, to talk about Keanu, the movie is about “Friends hatch a plot to retrieve a stolen cat by posing as drug dealers for a street gang.” The cat’s name is Keanu, so sadly we won’t be getting a John Wick appearance in this. It’s a great cast, Key & Peele themselves of course, but also the king Will Forte (playing a pot dealer!), Method Man, Nia Long.... Well you can just read the cast above. It’s a really strong, diverse cast. I expect a lot of well-done action/heist elements on top of the great comedy, so i'm feeling very hopeful about it.
My goal was to get all 20 posted at once, but i'm coming down with a slight fever, so i'm going to take a break, and maybe i'll have the remaining eight up in the next couple of days. And that also includes me commenting on threads! I said I would, and I barely got to, I apologize again. Thanks for all the comments!
From the movies you've listed, the only ones that I've heard from are the ones in which Zac stars (I guess i heard about them for other reasons ha) and of course, Civil War, which I would call my most anticipated movie this year... not so much after that trailer that made everybody's expectations being thrown to the landfill. But well, let's see how it goes in the end! Waiting for the rest of the list.
14. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
13. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (maybe)
11. Captain America: Civil War
Civil War will be a massive event, as usual with Marvel films. Neighbors was funny so I have decent hopes for the 2nd one, though we all know how comedy sequels usually go. I'm not super interested in MaDNWD yet, but I probably will be once I see a trailer.
08. The Nice Guys
Release Date: May 20, 2015
Directed by Shane Black
Written by Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Starring Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Margaret Qualley, Rachelle Brooke Smith, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Ty Simpkins, Keith David
To me, the best trailer of 2015 was the red-band trailer for The Nice Guys. I know a lot of people loved the various Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailers, and so did I, but in terms of construction of a trailer, the editing, and the ultimate purpose of a trailer the “I-want-to-see-this-RIGHT-NOW” feeling, it was definitively The Nice Guys for me. I’ve rewatched it five times on my own volition, plus two times in the theater, and it never gets old.
Part of what makes this movie so appealing to me is that I love Shane Black. The one part I always cringe at in the trailer is when they say it’s “from the director of Iron Man 3,” which is technically right (and Iron Man 3 is one of my favourite Marvel movies!), but that doesn’t tell you why this movie will be good. Say “FROM THE WRITER OF LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT”! And that’s without using the credit which does the best job of selling it “FROM THE WRITER AND DIRECTOR OF KISS KISS BANG BANG.” Sadly that movie wasn’t very successful in theaters, but has since grown a decent cult following, so I understand why they wouldn’t tout that. If you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you need to do that. And I guarantee after you finish watching it you’ll come away with two thoughts: 1) Michelle Monaghan needs to be given a great, lively part like this again, and 2) I have an urge to watch whatever Shane Black makes next. Which luckily for you, the late-comer, is only a few months away!
The Nice Guys is one of those movies where there is a plot (“A private eye investigates the apparent suicide of a fading **** star in 1970s Los Angeles and uncovers a conspiracy”) but that’s not the real reason to be excited about it. With Shane Black and movies of this type, it’s all about CHARACTER. It’s as much about the bumbling and effing around, as much as it is about solving any kind of case. My favourite movie of 2014 was Inherent Vice which is a case study in this sort of genre, same goes with another one of my all-time favourite movies The Big Lebowski. It’s about the feel, the period, the banter between the lead characters. Just the knowledge that when you go to see this movie you can recline back and know you’re in good hands. I don’t know what else to say, both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling look tremendous in it (the bathroom stall scene is perfection), i’m a sucker for ‘70s period stuff, all of it just looks great to me.
07. The Legacy of the Whitetail Deer Hunter
Release Date: TBA 2016
Directed by Jody Hill
Written by Jody Hill, Danny McBride, John Carcieri
Starring Danny McBride, Josh Brolin
When I make these movies lists, I really try as hard as I can to pick movies i’m certain will be released in that given year. Not to pat myself on the back, but i feel like I have a good barometer for this sort of thing. All that said, of the twenty movies listed, this one is the least i’m certain will come out this year. So why include it then? Because it’s the long anticipated (at least by me) third feature film from Jody Hill, his first since 2009’s Observe and Report.
Every once in a while when you are watching, listening or experiencing art of any kind you get one of those jolts, that jolt you are seeing something brand new that permanently alters your sensibility. It only happens every few years at the most, so it really matters when it happens. I definitely had one of those jolts when I saw the early leaked cut of the Eastbound and Down pilot in the summer of 2008, directed and co-written by Jody Hill. I’ve mentioned this story in the past, so I won’t go on about it, but it really blew my mind. In 2009 the series itself followed by Observe and Report, which I adored. Jody has stayed active in film/TV, wrapping up Eastbound and Down (which ended up as one of my all-time favourite shows), setting up the production company Rough House with Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, but a new film from Jody has been long-teased about.
CUT TO 2015: news of The Legacy of the Whitetail Deer Hunter comes out, and I am ecstatic! And even better, the film began filming in October and is very likely to be done!! So when I slot this movie for TBA 2016, it’s not that far-fetched. It could come out this year!
Details on the project are slim, and have mostly come from local North Carolina newspaper stories, but here’s what I can gather about it:
“The film is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his father who try to strengthen their relationship through hunting.”
And apparently part of the inspiration from it comes from an actual hunter named Roger Raglin, who put out a DVD in 2000 using the “The Legacy of the Whitetail Deer Hunter” name, which is the role Josh Brolin is playing. While I don’t personally condone hunting, this is another aspect I love about the Hill/McBride crew: they don’t condescend to the south. They treat them like actual people and not stereotypes! Kenny Powers is certainly not a role model, but he’s absolutely a believable character that people have met in their life. And with this, hunting, whether you like it or not, is a major part of people’s lives in the south, and I can’t recall a major movie like this tackling it previously. I’m sure they’ll find the humour in it, as well as the weird and unsettling moments, and make something that even the egg-heads on the coasts can enjoy. Again, i’m not 100% sure this will come out in 2016, but by putting it on this list, this is sort of my way of willing it to happen haha!
Release Date: TBA 2016
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Jay *****, Martin Scorsese
Starring Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, Ken Watanabe, Ciaran Hinds, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Olda
I wrote about this movie last year, so i’m just going to C&P my entire write-up form then here as it all still applies (just replace “2015” with “2016” and it all still works).
Silence is Martin Scorsese's passion project, a movie that has had a complete script, written by him and Jay ***** , since 1996 (!). An adaptation of Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel, "The film takes place in the 17th century, where two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread Christianity." He identified with the novel due to its "no-frills approach to exploring Christian themes and ideology," and as so many of his films have had a Roman Catholic theme to them, this is clearly a very personal project for Scorsese (not to mention as a young man he almost became a priest, even entering the seminary).
This is why Scorsese will always be one of my favourite directors of all-time (it's a coin flip between him and The Coen Brothers for who is my ultimate favourite), how he can follow-up the modern-day Caligula that is The Wolf of Wall Street with a movie about ****ing 17th century Jesuit priests. Who else has that kind of range?? And the cast assembled for this thing!! While I love Neeson's action movies, seeing him do a great dramatic performance again is long overdue. Adam Driver is one of my favourite rising star actors, and Andrew Garfield is very good as well. And as Ryan/Red noted in his comment in this very thread, Ken Watanabe might be one of the most underrated actors working. To make this cast even crazier is the possible addition of Robert DeNiro, the first time Scorsese and DeNiro have worked together since Casino! The reason why I said "possible" is because I got this from (of all things) a tweet from Larry King sent on October 7th,: "#RobertDeNiro told me he just wrapped up a movie called The Intern. His next movie will be w/ #LiamNeeson and they'll be shooting near China." Seeing as Silence will be shooting around Taiwan, and this is Neeson's next project, that has to be it, right? And yet no one else has caught it! Maybe they are saving the announcement once it officially begins filming in early 2015, but that is pretty monumental news that Larry King broke haha! Anyway, if this movie indeed comes out in 2015 (and who knows if it will, but a November 2015 release from Paramount was the last plan I read), it will be one of the most important movies of 2015, Scorsese's nearly two decades in the making passion project finally seeing the light of day.
05. Sausage Party
Release Date: August 12, 2016
Directed by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir
Starring Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd, Edward Norton, Anders Holm, David Krumholtz, Salma Hayek, Nick Kroll, Craig Robinson, Conrad Vernon
I can’t believe this movie is actually getting made. For those not aware, I need to set the stage for it a bit: Sausage Party is a hard-R-rated computer-animated movie about “the story of Barry, a hot dog voiced by Michael Cera, who begins to suspect that the entire ideological afterlife that has been explained to him for his entire existence is, in fact, a lie.” Also part of the plot involves the group of sausages needing to get back in their aisle at the supermarket before the fourth of July. The other sausages are voiced by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill (Frank and Carl), and the all-star voicecast will all be voicing various other kinds of things in a supermarket (Edward Norton plays Sammy Bagel, Jr., Bill Hader is both guacamole and an old bottle of fire water, Kristen Wiig is a hot dog bun, Salma Hayek plays Teresa Taco, Nick Kroll plays the villain “Douche,” which I think you can figure out what that is, etc).
So now that you know what it is, let’s just take a moment to marvel that something this weird is getting made. The road to Sausage Party getting made has been long, as most studios didn’t want it, which Rogen later joked that it ended up becoming this weird passion project for them. Because, really, why aren’t there any R-rated Pixar/Dreamworks-style animated movies? Look at how successful adult swim and all the Fox animated shows are, and there’s proof that there’s an audience for adult cartoons, so why can’t we also have that in the theater? It’s basically been South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, and Ralph Bakshi movies. In their time of need, guess who saved Sausage Party and funded it? Megan Ellison of Annapurna Productions!! Ellison, the powerful Academy Award-nominated producer of such films as Zero Dark Thirty, The Master, Her, and many others, being the one to save Sausage Party might be as funny as the plotline for the movie. It also gives her unlimited respect to me, and proves she’s cool as can be.
Another remarkable tidbit about Sausage Party: legendary near-EGOT composer Alan Menken composed a song for the movie!! A song sung from the point of view of one of the characters, just as they used to do in all the Disney films of his era (he composed The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, to name a few). That fills me with such joy! And on a similar-animated movie note, the co-director of the film Conrad Vernon is a major Dreamworks guy, and helped direct Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Madagascar 3. So between Menken and Vernon, there’s some genuine animated movie experience behind this silly thing.
Seth Rogen revealed in a recent interview that the budget for the film is surprisingly cheap, as they essentially had to build their own animation studio, which cut costs down a ton, as according to him the main reason why the Pixar movies cost in the 100 million range is solely for the infrastructure and non-creative means. And while there has yet to be any footage/pictures from it released (which is why I had to use that Simpsons pic), Rogen exclaims that the animation is just as good as whatever else is out there, so it’s not going to look cheaply animated. I cannot wait to see it for myself.
04. Hail, Caesar!
Release Date: February 5, 2016
Directed and Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, Dolph Lundgren, Fisher Stevens, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lambert, Kyle Bornheimer, Patrick Fischler
This movie is out very soon, so I won’t go on much about it. I’ll just mention my usual points: like I brought up in the Scorsese paragraph, it’s either him or the Coens as my favourite directors, and I especially love the Coens in comedy mode (Burn After Reading is one of the best movies of the 00’s! Tuchman Marsh said so!), so this is very exciting to me. The cast is spectacular, George Clooney is never better than when he’s in silly Coens-mode, Channing Tatum continues his run through all the greatest directors, and ****ing Dolph Lundgren is in it???? The plot:
“Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood "fixer" helping the production of the upcoming film entitled Hail Caesar starring famous actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). When a hungover Whitlock is kidnapped by a group named The Future, Mannix is the one in charge of collecting $100,000 and rescuing him”
The Coens in kidnapping mode again, gotta love it! Again, i don’t have a lot to say about it, as it’s out very soon, and you should already be excited for this. If you aren’t, check your pulse!!
Release Date: June 3, 2016
Directed by Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Written by Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg
Starring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, Mike Birbiglia
I mentioned in The Legacy of the Whitetail Deer Hunter paragraph how long i’ve been anticipating a new film from Jody Hill. I would also put Akiva “Hot Rod” Schaffer and Jorma “MacGruber” Taccone in that category. Those are two of my favourite comedies ever, and that they are joining forces to make something together???? OH MAN!!
Really, in a lot of ways, this is the official follow-up to Hot Rod, the first film the three Lonely Island guys have worked on together since then. On Conner4Real, they are trading one comedy mogul (Lorne Michaels) for another, as Judd Apatow is the big producer behind this one. It’s a great fit, and on paper could be the silliest movie Apatow has been involved with since Walk Hard. Wait, Step Brothers and Anchorman 2 were pretty silly as well. I guess I just wanted a reason to bring up Walk Hard haha.
Details are thin, as all that is known about it is this: “A rapper's (Samberg) album bombs, leaving him with little career choice other than to re-form his old boy band.” On its own, that’s a great plot for a comedy, with the promise of some great music industry jokes, in particular music docs like Katy Perry: Part of Me and the Justin Bieber docs. Hey, it really is the new Walk Hard! I was right the first time! Andy, Kiv and Jorm star in it, and the other main stars include Sarah Silverman (playing “the rapper’s sharp and sarcastic publicist who has to suffer many indignities”), Tim Meadows (“Connor’s constantly upbeat and overworked manager”), and Imogen Poots (Conner’s love interest).
Assuming it goes in the Walk Hard route, it’ll be a full-on comedy with musical bits interspersed throughout (likely inserted like The Lonely Island’s videos), rather than a full-blown musical, which is the better call. Some of these movies I put on the list I have high hopes for, and they sometimes don’t meet them. In the case of Conner4Real, i can’t see any scenario where this doesn’t deliver. Everything about it just sounds too fantastic.
02. Zoolander 2
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Nick Stoller, John Hamburg
Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Kyle Mooney, Jon Daly, Christine Taylor, Cyrus Arnold, Billy Zane, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Olivia Munn
Before I go into talking about Zoolander 2, let me bring up a personal story. I’m proud to have seen Zoolander in the theaters, as while I know it gained the majority of its following after the fact on DVD/TV, i’m glad I was in on the ground floor with it. And in this instance it’s funny, as I saw it for my birthday! This was right after 9/11, as you might recall, and the movie theater had one of those kids birthday party rooms, where you can set up, see a movie, and then go in the party room for cake and pizza and everything else. The decision to do that with Zoolander makes me laugh to this day, which is hardly a kids movie haha! I’m reminded of that orgy scene, and how I and other group of kids laughed so hard, while I imagine my mom was cringing lmao.
About Zoolander 2, i’m glad this is finally happening. This movie has been talked about forever! At a point, it looked like Justin Theroux was going to direct and Jonah Hill was set for the main villain! I’m glad it shook out this way though, as Stiller had to return to direct it. I wrote a piece about him during my Secret Life of Walter Mitty write-up a few years ago, and how he’s one of the most underrated & influential comedy directors ever, so i’ll spare you that again. The Zoolander 2 script had been written on-and-off for nearly a decade with Stiller, John Hamburg (famous comedy director, who also co-wrote the original Zoolander), the great Nick Stoller, and indeed Justin Theroux himself (the people who only know him from The Leftovers need to know he has comedy bonafides, and directed the Heart of Darkness parody for Stiller’s Tropic Thunder). One name missing from the list is the dearly departed Drake Sather, who helped co-create the character for the VH1 Fashion Awards vignettes with Stiller in the ‘90s. He also co-wrote on the original movie and wrote some of the funniest jokes (including the “is this a center for ants??” bit). He’ll be missed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dedication to Sather at the end of the Zoolander 2 credits.
The decision to set Zoolander 2 in Italy was a great call, as cities like Milan are huge in fashion and there’s plenty to skewer there. I like the cast a lot, Cruz fits the setting, the right returning people are back, and there are plenty of great comedy ringers on the side (Fred Armisen! Kyle Mooney! Beck Bennett! I’m starting to sound like the late Don Pardo!) Another great thing about Stiller is he always tries to find the new comedic talents to help him, which is why both Moshe Kasher and Jon Daly were on set pitching jokes. If those names aren’t familiar to you, google them, and you’ll understand how great they are.
The whole comedy sequel thing is a bit overblown I think. The original movie doesn’t disintegrate after the release of the sequel! All I want is to spend some more time with these characters and get some new laughs. It probably won’t be better than the original, but what is? I’m excited they made it and I can’t wait to watch it in UNDER A MONTH!!
Release Date: July 15, 2016
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Michael K. Williams, Matt Walsh
As you can tell from these lists, comedy has always been my favourite genre. I have other interests, like the Pro Graps, music, TV, and whatever else, but comedy from an early age has always been what I loved the most. And one of my favourite movies as a kid was Ghostbusters, a movie that combined a group of some of the funniest people ever in the context of a huge sci-fi movie. I like a lot of Sci-Fi, I don’t go crazy for it like others, but I always love it when comedy and sci-fi mix. Later on, I discovered Paul Feig’s Freaks and Geeks, after it was cancelled, and I instantly loved it and it became on of my favourites of all-time. I’ve really enjoyed watching Paul Feig’s career explode since Bridesmaids, and in-between that the talk of a new Ghostbusters movie interested me too. All of this is my long way of saying when the news came out that Paul Feig was the person in charge of a new Ghostbusters I FLIPPED OUT. In a good way! I know flipped out can have negative connotations, but that would have been quite the plot twist after that paragraph lmao.
I’m going to avoid talking about the faux-controversy surrounding it, as it’s just the fuel of Men’s Rights Activists (as Leslie Knope once said “that’s not a real thing”) and Breitbart articles, I just want to focus on the main cast for a little bit. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, obvious picks but obvious in a great way in the same way Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd would have been obvious in 1984. Kate McKinnon, superb casting. She is always funny, her instincts are incredible. And then the rookie of the group, Leslie Jones, great. If you aren’t as familiar with her, I highly recommend this New Yorker article on her which explains her amazing life story that led to this point. I look at that picture above, and I just say “I WANT TO SEE THIS NOW.” What a remarkable group of talent, I cannot wait to see how they interact not just together but in this Sci-Fi/comedy setting.
Other bits of casting I love: Chris Hemsworth in the receptionist role!!! Amazing. But maybe by favourite bit of non-Ghostbusters casting is of Neil Casey, playing the big villain of the movie. This is where Paul Feig is using his success for good. He could have cast a huge star in the role, and instead he went for who the funniest person would be. Casey is a UCB improve guy, wrote on both SNL and Inside Amy Schumer, he’s a really funny guy with an edge to him that is distinct. From what i understand, Casey is going to have some sort of computer imagery on him as the villain, which should be fun. And for the OG Ghostbusters fans like myself, I didn’t include them in the cast break-down, but yes, it does look most of the original cast is returning for cameo roles (R.I.P. Harold Ramis), with the exception of Rick Moranis, who doesn’t do anything in show business anymore.
The term on “so many levels” is often meaningless, but I am truly looking forward to Ghostbusters on so many levels. 1) as a new Paul Feig movie, 2) as a movie starring these great comedians, 3) as a reboot/whatever of one of my all-time favourite movies, and there are probably others. I am also excited for this movie for the future youth of the world, the kids who get to see this one and are inspired as I was in the ‘90s. That’s the spirit of Ghostbusters that I believe Feig is continuing on, the idea that comedy can be anything you set your imagination to, that it can be as big as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Men.
Sorry for the delay! That “slight fever” I was referring to? It became Not So Slight shortly after I sent that out, and I was laid out sick for days after that. So my whole schedule has been messed up a bit, and i’ll have to condense things even further in hopes of getting the lists I want posted. I’ll try and figure something out! Thanks again for the comments, and due to me being out I didn’t get to comment on others as promised, but I really will this time!