2016 Summer Movie Review: The Legend of Tarzan

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Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) go out to rescue Jane in David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan.

When someone brings up Tarzan, you might think of the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs from 1900s. Maybe you have seen the films starring Johnny Weissmuller from the 1930s with his famous cry, or—for millennials; myself included—have grown up with the 1999 Disney animated film with Phil Collins providing the soundtrack.

David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) brings back the familiar face in The Legend of Tarzan. It’s not just an origin story. Compared to other versions, it follows closely to Burroughs’ source material. Yates puts some serious effort into this grand adventure for a modern audience, but it left me wanting more.

Years after living in the African jungles for most of his life, John Clayton III, or Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) leaves his gorilla family behind to live in a gorgeous estate in England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). When they enter the Congo once again, they encounter Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who works under King Leopold of Belgium. He comes up with a scheme to capture John and Jane to exchange for diamonds. With the help from George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), John swings into action to save his wife from Rom.

Yates brings his magnificent vision that made his final two Harry Potter films such an epic conclusion. The panoramic shots of Africa (featuring realistic computer-generated animals) give the feeling that the audience is in for quite an adventure. While the movie is visually stunning, most of its narrative takes itself way too seriously; not to mention Tarzan’s origins feeling a bit rushed.

With Skarsgård leading a solid cast with his massive physique and warm emotion, they aren’t put in a lot of depth. Waltz’s portrayal of Rom is nothing but your stereotypical villain. Robbie’s Jane is more independent than in the other versions. As real-life George Washington Williams, Jackson provides the film’s wit and energy that most of the film lacks. Nevertheless, thanks to its nifty visuals, heart-pounding action, and sheer beauty, The Legend of Tarzan is a good attempt bringing the rope-swinging hero back to the silver screen.

2.5/4

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2016 Summer Movie Preview: July

The Fourth of July is almost here (I have yet to see the new Independence Day sequel, despite the negative reception). Anyhow, I forgot to give my thoughts on two movies that came out last month–Genius, starring Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe and Colin Firth as his editor Max Perkins. I have heard some not-so-good reception. With them leading a great cast, however, it seems something I would like to see. The other is Hunting for the Wilderpeople, which premiered at this year’s Sundance with positive feedback. Nothing much too say but…it looks funny as hell.

July seems to be a month of reboots, sequels, and book adaptations. Unfortunately, there is not much to look forward to. Here are my thoughts on what has yet to come out.

July 1

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The BFG – I think I’m in for a treat right here! Steven Spielberg is back to direct a family film after 25 years. Reuniting with the writer and producer of E.T.—the recently deceased Melissa Matheson and Frank Marshall—they bring Roald Dahl’s beloved 1982 novel to pure life. It follows a girl carried away by a giant to a world unlike she has ever seen before. To her surprise, he happens to be a Big Friendly Giant (hence the title). Fresh from winning an Oscar for his brilliant turn in Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance plays the title character through motion capture. He is nothing short of perfect!

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The Legend of Tarzan – Everyone has heard of Tarzan; from the films starring Johnny Weissmuller to the 1999 Disney animated classic (which I’m a big fan of). Alexander Skarsgård is the first Tarzan to wear cargo shorts instead of his trademark “special underwear”. He leads a stellar cast including Margot Robbie as Jane, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christoph Waltz. Directed by David Yates (director of the final four Harry Potter films and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), this seems to be more than just another origin story. Even though it hasn’t been getting good reception so far, it might be fun.

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The Purge: Election Year – Seriously!? Another one!? Of course, having avoided the previous two films (the first one starring Ethan Hawke), I’m going to avoid this film. Same goes with the future ones—if they are made.

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Our Kind of Traitor – A couple vacationing in Morocco soon go head-to-head between the Russian mafia and the British Secret Service when asked to give evidence about an MI6 agent. This sounds like your standard thriller. It’s hard not to appreciate the cast—Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris (Moneypenny!), Stellan Skarsgård, Damien Lewis. Then again, it relies on dialogue than action to carry through the thrills.

July 8

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The Secret Life of Pets – I guarantee this will make a lot of money, receive positive reception from critics and audiences alike, and become one of the most popular non-PIXAR animated movies of all-time. To me, I don’t care.

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – Zac Efron cannot catch a break. Can he? After the catastrophic nightmare known as Dirty Grandpa, he reunites with co-star Aubrey Plaza to star in another seemingly unfunny comedy centering two immature brothers finding dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii. How about using the money to take an actual vacation in Hawaii? Also, what the hell was Anna Kendrick thinking while she signed up to do a movie like this? Every time I see the previews, the pain ensues.

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Cell – John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson are back for another Stephen King adaptation, nine years after the underrated psychological horror film 1408. This time, they are saving the world from zombies caused from the viruses on people’s phones. I have heard nothing but horrible reception. Given that Stephen King was dropped out of completing the screenplay, it shows how awful this looks.

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Captain Fantastic – Ah…this is more like it! Known for starring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and two masterful films by David Cronenberg—A History of Violence and Eastern Promises—Viggo Mortensen stars as a father of six children about to learn the responsibilities of parenting in the seemingly eccentric yet delightful Captain Fantastic. Shown at both Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals with warm reception, this looks something to behold.

July 15

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The Infiltrator (opens July 13) – From a loving father to a meth lab creator to a controversial screenwriter, Bryan Cranston can do no wrong. It looks he’s going to continue his streak in The Infiltrator, following a narcotics officer dealing with a money laundering scheme involving Pablo Escobar. This looks like one tense crime story.

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Ghostbusters – After years of rumors of a Ghostbusters III, Hollywood decided to reboot one of the greatest films from the 1980s with an all-female cast. It consists of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Along with Chris Hemsworth, they all appeared on Saturday Night Live. It looks nothing but a disgrace to the original film. This quote, said by Jones’ character Patty Tolan, sums up how I feel about this movie: “I don’t know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell.”

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Tulip Fever – Alicia Vikander had a great year last year. Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Danish Girl—in which she a well-deserved Oscar for. She’s becoming one of my favorite actresses, not to mention going to star as Lara Croft, the upcoming The Light Between Oceans, and one upcoming summer release I’ll talk about later. I honestly don’t know how I feel about the latest costume drama Tulip Fever. I have to admit the cast is superb—Christoph Waltz, Judi Dench, Dane DeHaan, and Zach Galafianakis (pretty odd, if I say so myself). A part of me thinks this will be complete trash, while another part say this might turn out as fantastic.

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Café Society – Continuing his streak of making one movie every year, Woody Allen goes back in time once again. This time, this is the 1930s in Hollywood where dreams may come true during the Great Depression. After the disappointing Irrational Man, Café Society looks like a pure delight and a breath of fresh air for Allen. It brings back the nostalgia, beauty and charm that made me love Midnight in Paris so much. Not to mention the fantastic cast—Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively. It’s time for another great Woody Allen picture.

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Equals – A future where everyone is forbidden from using any emotions at all? It doesn’t sound like my kind of movie.

July 22

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Star Trek Beyond – I was introduced to the world of Star Trek with the 2009 film directed by J.J. Abrams. It blew me away, both from a narrative and a visual standpoint. I didn’t have to watch the original show in order to get what’s going on (I will, one of these days; don’t worry). Despite its flaws, Star Trek into Darkness is a worthy sequel. And that was where my admiration for Benedict Cumberbatch began. With Justin Lin now taking Abrams’ place as director, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew return to boldly go where no man has gone before. I’m ready.

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Ice Age: Collision Course – How many of these movies are there? The only great Ice Age movie is the first one. Do we really need another one?

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Lights Out – Mostly everyone is afraid of the dark. In the new horror film Lights Out, it’s about an entity only shows up when the lights go out which leads to a connection to a family. Originally a short film, writer/director David F. Sandberg and producer James Wan (who directed two of the best horror films of the decade—The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2) expand this genuinely creepy into a feature-length film. Be prepared to be leaving your lights on after the movie.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – This looks far from fabulous. I have no knowledge of the television show. What I’ve seen from the trailer made me cringe. Nothing else to say but just downright embarrassing.

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Don’t Think Twice – Keegan-Michael Key is one of the best comedians working today. Being in the sketch series Key and Peele and recently in one of the funniest movies of the year Keanu, this looks like a poignant and funny film set in NYC about pursuing one’s dreams. I’m looking forward to this one.

July 29

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Nerve (opens July 27) – I’m not a big fan of Emma Roberts or Dave Franco. The concept is intriguing enough; a reality video game of “truth or dare” takes a turn for the worst. Based on a book by Jeanne Ryan, Nerve looks like another standard thriller aimed towards teenagers. The attempts at humor and suspense feel a bit forced.

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Jason Bourne – He’s back! HE’S BACK! It has been almost ten years since Jason Bourne has disappeared without a trace. Now, he wakes up remembering everything from his past. Or does he? Paul Greengrass returns to the director’s chair and, of course, Matt Damon returns as the spy. Joining him are Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, and Julia Stiles reprising her role of Nicky Parsons. It’s rare for a summer blockbuster to feature more practical effects than CGI, which is what Greengrass is known for. As well as the handheld camera work.

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Bad Moms – Three solid actresses—Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Christina Applegate––cannot seem to save, what it looks like to be, an unfunny comedy. The trailer was one of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m skipping it for sure.

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Indignation – Logan Lerman has a long career ahead of him. Ever since his solid performance in Hoot, he has made a big name of himself in breakthrough roles such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Fury. In Indignation, another Sundance hit, Lerman plays a Jewish boy from New Jersey going to college in Ohio falling in love with his classmate in 1951. While clashing with the Dean, it puts him and his relationship to the test. I adore the old-fashioned feel of this movie. And the emotional tension seems unbearable. I cannot wait!

Recap:

Most Anticipated: The BFG, Café Society, Captain Fantastic, Indignation, Jason Bourne

Least Anticipated: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Bad Moms, Cell, Equals, Ghostbusters, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, The Purge: Election Year

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.

Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies for 2016

2015 is over. There have been a lot of surprises and disappointments than last year. Not to mention a lot of great films as well as some miraculous performances. It’s going to be so hard who and what will win in this year’s Academy Awards. But, this is not what I’m talking about.

I’m going to talk about the movies I’m looking forward to in the New Year. It looks like 2016 is going to be a fun year for movies as last year. I’m going to give you a list of my most anticipated movies for this year.

Before I begin, I just want to let you all know that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not going be on this list. I’m definitely going to see it when it comes out March 25th. However, I have a feeling it might turn out to be garbage. I mildly enjoyed Man of Steel, and Henry Cavill was a good choice for Superman (it’s great to have him back). I admit Ben Affleck looks cool in the Batsuit, but I can’t (and will never) picture him as Batman/Bruce Wayne. It looks like Jesse Eisenberg will steal the show as Lex Luthor. Zack Snyder is a unique visionary director, but his substance is rather lacking. Who knows? I might be wrong.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the top 20 most anticipated movies of 2016.

Honorable Mentions: The Accountant (October 7), The Bourne Sequel (July 29), The Finest Hours (January 29), The Free State of Jones (May 13), Gambit (October 7), The Huntsman: Winter’s War (April 22), The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), Moana (November 23), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (December 25), Silence (TBA) Snowden (May 13), Suicide Squad (August 5), Sully (September 9)

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20. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (in theaters February 5; directed by Burr Steers; starring Lily James, Matt Smith, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, and Lena Heady) – To start off the bat, I have a feeling this will undoubtedly suck. However, this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling parody looks like a fun guilty pleasure. Jane Austen meets The Walking Dead. How fun can it get? Also, Lily James is a freaking goddess!

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19. Inferno (in theaters October 14; directed by Ron Howard; starring Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, and Ben Foster) – Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are back to give us another adventure with Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon! This time, we are going to see him wake up in a hospital in Florence, Italy. With no memory of the recent events, he goes on the run looking for answers. I personally enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. They both kept me on the edge of my seat with its fascinating history, mysteries, and, obviously, the excellent performance by Hanks. But, it’s hard to deny their flaws. It looks like I am in for another good ride with Inferno.

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18. The Jungle Book (in theaters April 15; directed by Jon Favreau; starring Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, and Neel Sethi) – When Disney started doing live-action remakes for the new generation, I became quite skeptical. Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland started off that trend. It became a ginormous box-office hit, but mostly everyone hated it. It was visually stunning but everything else was a bit of a disaster. Then, Maleficent was released four years later. Even though Angelina Jolie was born to play Disney’s most famous villainess, why make her a good person? Kenneth Branagh brought us, in my opinion, the best version of Cinderella (Walt Disney would have been proud of it, if he was alive today).

Even though I haven’t seen the original in years, I’m liking the looks of the new version of The Jungle Book. I appreciate Jon Favreau not only as an actor, but also as a filmmaker. With films like Iron Man and Elf, he brings a unique visual style and narrative. The voice cast is nothing short of excellent–Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, and Christopher Walken as King Louie. It also has a little Life of Pi vibe to it (considering they are somewhat similar). As much as I’m looking forward to this, I’m still waiting for the remake of Beauty and the Beast.

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17. The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (in theaters June 10; directed by James Wan; starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Simon McBurney, Sterling Jerins, and Frances O’Connor) – The Conjuring was a breath of fresh air. It did have plot devices everyone is familiar with (i.e. a family moving into a new house surrounded by an evil entity). What James Wan does with the true story of the Harrisville investigation by Ed and Lorraine Warren (played to perfection by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) is avoid any cheap scares and deliver an old-fashioned horror film relying on atmosphere.

Due to the success of that film, the disappointing spin-off Annabelle came out a year later. The beginning of The Conjuring talks about the Warren’s investigation of the Annabelle doll (the true story, in fact, consisted of a cursed Raggedy-Ann doll; the Annabelle in the film is a ventriloquist doll to make it more creepy). Now, the sequel reprises Wilson and Farmiga as the Warrens traveling to London to investigate a poltergeist consisting of two daughters. With James Wan returning to the director’s chair, I am ready for another scary good time.

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16. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (in theaters November 18; directed by David Yates; starring Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Jon Voight) – It’s fascinating to set a story 70 years before our beloved protagonist Harry Potter heads to Hogwarts. Eddie Redmayne is already becoming one of my favorite actors. After getting success for his roles in The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl, it looks like he’s going to have a ball playing the magizoologist Newt Scamander, who heads to New York City for a brief stop to publish his studies of the magical creatures in the Wizarding World. Then, a No-Maj (the American word for “Muggle”) releases the fantastic beasts out of Scamander’s suitcase. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I have nothing but a good feeling about this.

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15. Star Trek Beyond (in theaters July 22; directed by Justin Lin; starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and Idris Elba) – I’m not the biggest Trekkie. When I saw J.J. Abram’s 2009 version of Star Trek, it introduced me into a futuristic universe “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. The origin story of human James T. Kirk and the Vulcan Spock gave a lot of emotional support. From the breathtaking special effects, witty dialogue, and the awesome characters, I enjoyed every second of it. The sequel Star Trek into Darkness did have its flaws, but it was as enjoyable as before. It was where Benedict Cumberbatch became one of my favorite actors. Now, Fast and Furious director Justin Lin is taking over for Abrams to direct the third entry of what is officially a trilogy. I’m looking forward to see the Enterprise crew actually discovering new worlds and civilizations. It looks like this will be the funniest in the new Star Trek film series.

Stars On The Set Of 'The Girl On The Train'

14. The Girl on the Train (in theaters October 7; directed by Tate Taylor; starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, and Édgar Ramírez – Based on the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, the film stars Emily Blunt as a woman witnessing a murder on the train. While trying to get the pieces of the puzzle together, she begins she might have been involved in the crime. From reading the plot summary, this sounds like an Agatha Christie story or another Gone Girl. Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) directs this murder mystery. I always like a good murder mystery. Without hearing too much of the story, I can’t wait to go in with an open mind.

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13. Doctor Strange (in theaters November 4; directed by Scott Derrickson; starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, and Mads Mikkelson) – Like I mentioned before, Benedict Cumberbatch is becoming one of my favorite actors. From Sherlock to The Imitation Game, he sure does know how to bring the wisdom into those roles. Now, he’s about to tackle another ambitious yet fun role: Doctor Strange. Without knowing too much of the superhero, seeing the picture of Cumberbatch in costume makes it look like he was born to play the role. Even though we have yet to see a trailer for Doctor Strange, I’m hoping it will look good.

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12. Warcraft (in theaters June 10; directed by Duncan Jones; starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Daniel Wu, and Dominic Cooper) – I have never played any of the Warcraft video games. Everyone remembers World of Warcraft becoming the most popular online game ever. Duncan Jones transitions from his low-budget sci-fi status of Moon and the smart mainstream sci-fi hit Source Code to direct a big-budget fantasy adaptation of the first Warcraft video game from 1994 (Orcs and Humans). With a lot of horrible video game adaptations coming out over the years, this might break the streak to deliver a visually dazzling battle between the humans and orcs. This looks like it will be a new Lord of the Rings.

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11. Hail, Caesar! (in theaters February 5; directed by the Coen Brothers; starring George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and Channing Tatum) – Joel and Ethan Coen have made some of the best films of all-time (The Big Lebowski, True Grit, to name a few). This satire of the film industry has one of the best casts this decade. George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Ralph Fiennes, among others. I’m sensing this might be the first great movie of 2016.

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10. The BFG (in theaters July 1; directed by Steven Spielberg; starring Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Wilton, Bill Hader, and Mark Rylance) – It has been over twenty years since Steven Spielberg has directed a straight-up family flick. He is back to direct an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). Mark Rylance is perfect in every sense!

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9. Everybody Wants Some (in theaters April 15; directed by Richard Linklater; starring Tyler Hoechlin, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Blake Jenner, and Wyatt Russell) – Richard Linklater’s follow-up to Boyhood brings us back to the 1980s. It’s sort of a sequel to Dazed and Confused. It’s been getting some early praise for being funny and touching. Count me in!

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8. X-Men: Apocalypse (in theaters May 27; directed by Bryan Singer; starring Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Rose Byrne)– 2014’s Days of Future Past is one of the best films in the X-Men franchise. It brought the older versions of the characters we know and love collaborating with their younger selves. And it features the funniest and coolest action sequence of the decade. Bryan Singer is only bringing back the younger characters back to fight Apocalypse (played by the great Oscar Isaac).

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7. Captain America: Civil War (in theaters May 6; directed by the Russo brothers; starring Chris Evans; Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, and Martin Freeman) – Captain America vs. Iron Man. What more needs to be said?

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6. The Nice Guys (in theaters May 20; directed by Shane Black; starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Ty Simpkins, and Matt Bomer) – Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are two wonderful actors. Seeing them working with each other is like a dream come true. Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) brings 1970s Los Angeles to life.

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5. La La Land (in theaters July 15; directed by Damien Chazelle; starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, and John Legend) – Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash takes a more whimsical side. A musical love-story starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a jazz pianist and actress falling in love in 1950s Los Angeles. And J.K. Simmons is going to have a small role as the boss. I’m hoping for a toe-tapping good time in the theater.

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4. The Witch (in theaters February 19; directed by Robert Eggers; starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Lucas Dawson, and Julian Richings) – Finally! A horror film (also a big hit at last year’s Sundance) that relies on nothing but pure atmosphere.

3. Star Wars: Rogue One (in theaters December 16; directed by Gareth Edwards; starring Felicity Jones, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, and Mads Mikkelson) – Come on! It’s Star Wars! And it takes place before the events of the first Star Wars!

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2. Finding Dory (in theaters June 17; directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane; starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, and Idris Elba)– 13 years ago, Finding Nemo was released in theaters. My 7-year-old self never seen anything like it before; going under the sea where different species of fish interact with each other. In 2016, we get a sequel centering on the beloved Blue Tang fish Dory with short-term memory loss. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks reprise their roles as Dory and Marlin. Disney/PIXAR have a lot of sequels as well as some original films up their sleeves. I’m so exciting see them all! Okay, maybe except for Cars 3.

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1. Deadpool (in theaters February 12; directed by Tim Miller; starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, and Stefan Kapicic) – Seriously, who isn’t looking forward to this movie? It’s rare to see a superhero movie getting a hard-R. Ryan Reynolds is going to own Deadpool!

Here’s to a good 2016!