Now, I personally love massive explosions, out-of-this-world settings, and larger-than-life clashes between forces of good and evil. Star Wars is my favourite movie ever and I used to line up for the yearly comic book film extravaganzas along with the rest of the world in anticipation of two hours of mindless popcorn crunching fun they all promised. But it’s been 7 years since Marvel and Iron Man took the world by storm, and since then the entire landscape of Hollywood has changed, mutated, into a soulless machine that recycles, reboots, and remakes anything the general population is vaguely familiar with. They even made a movie out of Battleship. Somewhere in a boardroom, film execs are cutting and pasting elements of box office hits into a blockbuster flowchart, slapping a coat of paint on it, and selling it back to us. And since we actually pay for it, they just keep doing it.
But for me, too much of any one thing eventually sucks (yes, even bacon, believe it or not). These days I go out of my way to look for movies that may have all those loud, explosion-y bits all those other movies have, but also have fresh and original ideas behind them. It may shock you, but there are actually a good handful of such films releasing every year. Here are 10 movies (in no particular order) you should definitely catch if you, like me, are a little tired of seeing CGI guys punching other CGI guys through exploding CGI metropolitan area for the umpteenth time.
10. Sicario (2015)
With an absolutely all-star cast and one of Canada’s emerging directors (Prisoners, Enemy), this gritty war on drugs drama shows a hell of a lot of promise. Brolin and del Toro have shown themselves time and time again to be masters of the grizzled badass archetype, and Emily Blunt proved she knew how to kick ass in last years Edge of Tomorrow alongside Tom Cruise. The film premiered at Cannes earlier this year and after garnering universal acclaim, is set for wide release this fall.
9. Regression (2015)
I’ve never found ghosts, gore, or monsters to be all that horrifying. Thank goodness for horror films like Regression then. On the surface, it seems to be nothing more than a crime mystery. Ethan Hawke plays a detective investigating a man accused by his daughter (Emma Watson) of an intriguing crime. Things get interesting when this man says he’s guilty without remembering the crime at all. The detective must get his suspect to relive his memories in order to get to the bottom of things, and along the way gets drawn into some creepy, culty-sounding, conspiracy.
8. Self/Less (2015)
This trailer has to be one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. This role looks like it could really show off what Reynolds is capable of as an actor and I fully expect he’ll smash it out of the park. Coming to theatres this July.
7. Southpaw (2015)
This Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie inspired by the life of Billy Hope is another July release, and according to early reviews, its an absolute masterpiece. It’s clear to see how Gyllenhaal completely threw himself into the role. After looking like a wispy stick in last year’s Nightcrawler, he’s bulked up to heavyweight, following in the footsteps of Christian Bale and his dramatic weight fluctuations in the past. Southpaw could easily be a typical underdog sports story, but with writer Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) behind it, I’m not surprised to see it elevate itself far above the competition.
6. Jane Got a Gun (2015)
Few movies have been plagued with as much drama as this one. Originally announced in 2012 to star Natalie Portman (Star Wars, Black Swan), Michael Fassbender, and Joel Edgerton with director Lynne Ramsay at the helm, Fassbender had to drop out due to scheduling. Edgerton took over Fassbender’s role and Jude Law came in to replace Edgerton. Then on the day production was scheduled to begin, Ramsay quit. The next day Gavin O’Connor was brought in to take over as director, but then Jude Law quit because he only came to work with Ramsay. Then the cinematographer also quit, and a new writer was brought in to rework the script. Bradley Cooper signed on to replace Law, but a month later he also quit due to scheduling. Finally, Ewan McGregor (Star Wars, Trainspotting) took Cooper’s place and Jane Got a Gun could finally be shot. After all that the movie’s release has been set back twice from Summer 2014 to this fall. After such a long journey to get here I can only imagine the passion and perseverance Natalie Portman has for this film. I certainly look forward to seeing the fruits of her and all the crew’s labour. This Western revenge drama sounds like it’ll be worth the wait.
5. Gods of Egypt (2016)
There hasn’t been very much press about this one. They’ve yet to even release a teaser image or poster. However this still intrigues me because I have a soft spot for fantasy epics based on mythology and anything that puts a sword in Gerard Butler’s hand is worth a watch in my books. There aren’t many details regarding the story, but what we do know is that a young mortal (Thwaites) will join forces with Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to take down set (Butler). And let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to see King Leonidas go up against The Kingslayer?
4. Crimson Peak (2015)
Guillermo del Toro has one of the most diverse portfolios in film and is certainly Mexico’s most successful filmmaker. He’s done Blade, Hellboy, Pacific Rim, helped write The Hobbit Trilogy, and created a hit TV series, The Strain. But my introduction to him came in the form of his tragic fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, which arguably remains to this day his best film yet. His dedication to practical costumes and old school fairy tale influence gave that film an enticing dreamlike quality that quickly turned to nightmare. Crimson Peak is the first film he’s done in years that seems to be following in Pan‘s footsteps and I can’t wait to see what dark corners of the human mind it goes.
3. In A Valley of Violence (2015?)
Directed By: Ti West
Starring: Karen Gillan, John Travolta, Ethan Hawke
Unless you’re fans of the cast or just love Westerns, this revenge Western might not seem all that interesting. We got a drifter (Hawke) rolling into town to revenge murder some guys that killed his best friend. But hope comes from the film’s writer and director Ti West, who’s more well known for his work in the horror genre than Western films. That gets me thinking that he’ll bring a really dark and terrifying blood-soaked atmosphere to this film that we don’t see a lot of in the genre. There’s no word yet on a release date, but considering that the film is finished and West is hopeful for a December release, chances are good that we’ll be seeing plenty of cowboy hats and revolvers before the new year.
2. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern
Genre: Western (Cowboys must be making a comeback)
Of course a list about original films would be remiss without an appearance by Quentin Tarantino. The man’s created some of the greatest films this generation has ever seen. What’s more impressive is that it’s no secret that he borrows things from just about every film in the book and still makes them his own. While we’ve yet to see a trailer, we know that the film will be about eight dubious characters forced into each other’s company by a relentless blizzard. With Tarantino returning to the Western and bringing along a heavily stacked cast paired with his talent for engaging dialogue, The Hateful Eight will no doubt be my favourite Christmas gift this year when it hits theatres December 25th.
1. Second Born (2016)
Directed By: Park Chan-wook
Genre: Science Fiction Thriller
This one is a bit of a wildcard. I know next to nothing about this film, except that it involves microchip-based body-swapping and the director of the instant classic revenge film, Oldboy, which had, among many things a character actually eat a live octopus. Park knows how to tell compelling, unique stories that never lose sight of the point he’s trying to get across. his involvement alone is more than enough to pique my interest, and though it may be a long ways a-coming, I have a feeling it’ll make a big splash when it does.