The most dangerous criminals in the world are gathered to be used as agents for the U.S. government, controlled by nano bombs planted in their neck… but the Joker (Jared Leto) complicates everything. This 3D film continues where Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ended, with the same slam-bang dystopian style and what amounts to a cameo appearance by Batman. The story, which echoes The Dirty Dozen (1967), is uneven with a dark sense of humor. Margot Robbie is fun as the sassy and sexy Harley Quinn, but Leto is a disappointingly bland Joker.
2016-U.S. 123 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by David Ayer. Cast: Will Smith (Floyd Lawton/Deadshot), Jared Leto (The Joker), Margot Robbie (Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney… Cara Delevingne, Scott Eastwood, Ezra Miller, Common. Cameo: Ben Affleck.
Trivia: Also released in a 136-min. cut. Tom Hardy was allegedly first cast in Kinnaman’s role.
It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2016 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.
* 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Michael Bay leaves his robots aside for a while, taking on a politically sensitive subject. Looks far from another Zero Dark Thirty (2012) though.
* Kung Fu Panda 3 – Another entry in this popular animated franchise.
* Jane Got a Gun – Natalie Portman stars in a Western, alongside Ewan McGregor, about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband.
* Hail, Caesar!– Another star-studded comedy from the Coen brothers, where we follow the adventures of a Hollywood “fixer” (Josh Brolin). Looks like great fun.
* Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – A film adaptation of the bestseller that promises blood, gore and Victorian romance. Stars Lily James.
* Zoolander 2 – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back as the dim-witted models that we first met in 2001. The sequel is on a large scale and has many cameos, including Justin Bieber.
* Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds plays the superhero in a movie whose first trailer was wildly praised at its release during Comic-Con. The character is tied to the X-Men movies.
* The Witch – This low-budget horror movie, which follows a 17th century Puritan family as it encounters evil in the New England woods, premiered at Sundance last January and is finally bowing in theaters.
* London Has Fallen – The sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) moves the action to London. Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler are back as the President and his Secret Service agent.
* Knight of Cups – Terrence Malick is back with a movie following a Hollywood screenwriter. Starring Natalie Portman and Christian Bale, the trailer looks very “malicky”.
* The Divergent Series: Allegiant – The last book in the popular series has been divided into two movies; here’s the first part.
* Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – The most talked about superhero movie of the year, a follow-up to Man of Steel (2013). Starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman.
* The Boss – A new Melissa McCarthy comedy is usually worthy of some attention. This one has her as a ruthless former executive who’s sent to prison. Her husband Ben Falcone directs.
* The Jungle Book– Jon Favreau’s live-action take on the Disney classic was originally supposed to have premiered in 2015. Featuring the voices of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.
* Everybody Wants Some – Richard Linklater’s new movie has been described as sort of a sequel to both Boyhood and Dazed and Confused.
* Captain America: Civil War – The third Captain America puts Cap (Chris Evans) in conflict with Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). This year’s biggest Marvel event.
* Snowden – Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the famous whistleblower in Oliver Stone’s take on how Snowden leaked classified documents to the press. Expect controversy.
* The Nice Guys – Shane Black is back with another action-comedy that looks overly familiar… but the trailer is funny, and stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling seem game.
* X-Men: Apocalypse – This one follows X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and has the younger versions of our most famed mutants battling the world’s first mutant.
* Alice Through the Looking Glass– I was no big fan of the original Alice in Wonderland(2010), but we’ll have to see what Muppets director James Bobin has up his sleeve. Several of the first film’s stars return.
* The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist – The first film was damned scary, so James Wan’s sequel had better be good. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as the ghost-hunting couple.
* Warcraft – Duncan Jones is adapting the famous game and we’re all wondering if this is the one that will change the sad reputation of movies based on video games.
* Finding Dory – The follow-up to Finding Nemo (2003) has the same challenge as The Conjuring 2 – how can you top a beloved sequel? The trailer shows that Pixar likely has found the lovely tone of the first movie.
* Independence Day: Resurgence – 20 years have passed since the first Independence Day, and this sequel brings back some of the old stars as well as new ones. And, of course, the aliens are back.
* The BFG– Steven Spielberg directs this family-friendly story about a giant. Based on a Roald Dahl story, the script was written by the late Melissa Mathison who also wrote E.T..
* The Legend of Tarzan – Alexander Skarsgård plays Tarzan in this take on the classic story, directed by David Yates. The trailer suggests a rather traditional approach.
* Ghostbusters – The remake of the 1984 comedy classic has women replacing the male ghostbusters of the original. Stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig; directed by their Bridesmaids helmer, Paul Feig.
* Star Trek Beyond – The third movie in this new franchise premiered a trailer a few weeks ago that sent fans into a rage. Will it honor the predecessors or turn into a new Fast and Furious?
* The Bourne sequel – It still doesn’t have a title, this fourth movie in the franchise to star Matt Damon, the first since 2007. Paul Greengrass is back as director.
* Suicide Squad – David Ayer directs this dark DC Comics adventure that unites supervillains recruited by the government. Will Smith leads the cast; Jared Leto plays the Joker.
* A Cure for Wellness – We don’t know much about this project, but it’s a supernatural horror movie directed by the very uneven Gore Verbinski. Dane DeHaan has the lead role.
* Sully – Clint Eastwood directs this film about the pilot who heroically landed a plane on the Hudson River. Tom Hanks plays “Sully”.
* Deepwater Horizon – The story of the 2010 disaster that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is directed by Peter Berg and stars Kurt Russell and Mark Wahlberg.
* The Accountant – Warriordirector Gavin O’Connor is back with a thriller starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons.
* Gambit – After Deadpool comes this, another spin-off set in the X-Men universe. Doug Liman is directing, with Channing Tatum in the lead.
* Inferno – Ron Howard is once again directing this third entry in the franchise that began with The Da Vinci Code(2006); Tom Hanks also returns as Robert Langdon.
* Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Tom Cruise returns as Lee Child’s antihero, now directed by Edward Zwick. This time, Reacher is accused of an old homicide.
* Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch plays a surgeon who discovers a world of magic and different dimensions. Another Marvel adventure gets its big-screen treatment.
* Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates’s second movie this year is a return to Harry Potter world for him; this is a prequel set in the 1920s, starring Eddie Redmayne.
* The Great Wall – Hollywood’s love affair with the Chinese market continues with this film about a mystery surrounding the construction of China’s Great Wall. Directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Matt Damon.
* The Founder – The story of the man who turned a small hamburger joint into McDonald’s stars Michael Keaton.
* Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – A stand-alone film, a prequel to Star Wars (1977), depicting a team of rebels trying to get their hands on the plans for the Death Star. Directed by Gareth Edwards.
* Passengers – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in this space romance set in the future, directed by The Imitation Game‘sMorten Tyldum.
* Assassin’s Creed – The second adaptation this year to possibly save the reputation of movies based on video games. Stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
While striking against a drug cartel, an elite DEA force led by John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) steals $10 million of their money… only to learn that someone is betraying them. One of the director’s hard-boiled cop movies, but this time without the credibility that made End of Watch (2012) memorable. Looks like he was aiming for something along the lines of The Shield, but it’s impossible to invest in these ugly characters and Schwarzenegger is too bad an actor for his part. Turns downright absurd in the end.
2014-U.S. 109 min. Color. Directed by David Ayer. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (John “Breacher” Wharton), Sam Worthington (James “Monster” Murray), Olivia Williams (Caroline Brentwood), Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Mireille Enos.
As U.S. forces make their final push into Germany in April 1945, tank commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his veteran crew are saddled with a fresh-faced typist (Logan Lerman) as new bow gunner. After several brutal cop movies, David Ayer turned his attention to World War II and the results are not altogether different – this is also a movie that portrays male camaraderie on a frontline where lives are easily lost. A thin story and relentlessly grim; the filmmakers go to great muddy and bloody lengths to hammer home their points. Still, an oddly fascinating nightmare, and the cast delivers, especially Pitt.
2014-U.S. 134 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by David Ayer. Cast: Brad Pitt (Don “Wardaddy” Collier), Shia LaBeouf (Boyd “Bible” Swan), Logan Lerman (Norman Ellison), Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jim Parrack… Jason Isaacs.
It’s time for that annual list of this year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2014 for ya.
* Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – This reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst cum action hero has Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh (who’s also directing), but the trailer disturbingly shows another variation on the Jason Bourne concept.
* Labor Day – Jason Reitman returns, aided by Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, what looked like a promising drama has now been dumped in the frigid January slot.
* The Monuments Men – George Clooney directs this story about museum curators and art historians trying to rescue vital pieces of art before Hitler gets his hands on them. Starring Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Originally slated for a late 2013 release.
* RoboCop – The remake has Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman. One vital question remains: What’s the point?
Also interesting to note this month: Kevin Costner and Liam Neeson will clash in 3 Days to Kill and Non-Stop, two action thrillers that look pretty similar in style and tone. One likely hit will be Son of God, a movie based on material from The Bible as well as previously unseen footage.
* The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson’s new movie has a star-studded cast and an intriguing story set between the world wars.
* Grace of Monaco – Another movie originally slated for a late 2013 release, this one is hopefully better than Diana. Nicole Kidman plays the princess.
*Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets return for a jewel-heist caper. Lots of star cameos, as expected.
* Noah – One can’t help but being intrigued by a Darren Aronofsky movie about the biblical hero. Stars Russell Crowe, and the trailer has Gladiator-esque qualities.
* Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A summer of big blockbusters begins with this Marvel sequel.
* Sabotage – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies has been largely tongue in cheek, but the trailer for this film, directed by David Ayer of End of Watch fame, suggests a different approach.
* Transcendence – Johnny Depp stars in this sci-fi flick about a scientist who downloads his mind into a computer. Directing debut of cinematographer and Christopher Nolan loyalist Wally Pfister.
* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – The sequel looks like it might have the same problems as the first one. On the other hand, the first one was surprisingly good.
* Godzilla – Looks like a tired retread on paper, but director Gareth Edwards and the cast might make a difference. The trailer has the right look.
* X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer tries to unite two franchise threads. Let’s hope it’s better than Star Trek Generations(1994).
* Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise fighting aliens. Again. Directed by Doug Liman.
* How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Could become the animated hit of the summer. DreamWorks will be anxious to make sure that the sequel matches the wonderful original.
* Transformers: Age of Extinction – The last time I made the mistake of giving Michael Bay the benefit of a doubt. This time I’m sure Mark Wahlberg will be lost in a flurry of incomprehensible battles.
* Tammy– Melissa McCarthy puts her stardom to the ultimate test, being directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, in a summer blockbuster comedy that has Susan Sarandon playing her alcoholic grandmother.
* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski Siblings return after Cloud Atlas (2012) with another sci-fi movie, this one starring Mila Kunis.
* Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel strikes back with another adventure, this one starring among others Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.
* Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s follow-up to their 2005 movie. Postponed for a year after its original 2013 release date. Hardly promising.
* The Expendables 3 – I’ll mention this simply because Mel Gibson plays the villain and the cast also has Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer. I guess it has to be seen to be believed.
As a Swede, I have to highlight two world-famous fellow Swedes this month: Lasse Hallström is set to release The Hundred-Foot Journey, a film about an Indian family competing with a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, starring Helen Mirren, and Alexander Skarsgård who’s starring alongside Meryl Streep in Phillip Noyce’s sic-fi drama The Giver.
* The Equalizer – Another TV show gets a movie adaptation, this one directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.
* Gone Girl – David Fincher adapted the bestseller, with Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris set to put the screen ablaze.
* Get On Up – James Brown is the latest music star to get a proper screen biography. Directed by Tate Taylor (of The Help) and starring Chadwick Boseman.
* Interstellar – Christopher Nolan returns with one of the year’s most highly anticipated sci-fi films. Starring Matthew McConaughey, who’s clearly continuing his current brilliant streak.
* Dumb and Dumber To – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return after 20 years. Are they getting any smarter?
* Fury – Another film by David Ayer this year (after Sabotage), a war movie set near the end of World War II. Stars Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.
* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Francis Lawrence directs this complex endeavor, where author Suzanne Collins’s book has been chopped into two chapters.
* Exodus – Ridley Scott mounts a comeback after the creative abyss known as The Counselor. This biblical epic, starring Christian Bale, looks more like Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
* The Hobbit: There and Back Again – The third and final chapter in Peter Jackson’s insanely protracted franchise
* Annie – Another movie adaptation of the Broadway hit, this time featuring Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz and Beasts of the Southern Wildstar Quvenzhané Wallis.
* Into the Woods – The Brothers Grimm fairy tales are presented with a twist in this film, directed by Rob Marshall, and starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.
* Unbroken – Angelina Jolie is set to direct this World War II story, which is based on a best-selling book and adapted by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.
Two South Central beat cops (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña) get a little too close to the activities of a Mexican drug cartel. Director David Ayer returns for another gritty portrayal of life in the crime-ridden part of Los Angeles where he lived as a young man. This one has a semi-documentary feel to it as the cops bring a camera; a lot of effort has also gone into a realistic depiction of police work. The title is an indicator of where the story will take us, and the movie can’t quite escape that predictability, but this is nevertheless a highly charged drama that builds a funny, real and moving friendship between Brian and Mike (with a lot of help from the two stars).
2012-U.S. 109 min. Color. Produced by David Ayer, Matt Jackson, John Lesher. Written and directed by David Ayer. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brian Taylor), Michael Peña (Mike Zavala), Natalie Martinez (Gabby Zavala), Anna Kendrick (Janet), David Harbour, Frank Grillo… America Ferrera.
Trivia: Co-executive produced by Gyllenhaal.
Last word:“I really wanted to get it right, I wanted to get all the details right. I wanted it to be as seamless as possible and not have anyone call B.S. on me, because if you’re a professional cop, that’s your world. So a really good friend of mine, Jaime Fitzsimons, who spent 14 years on the job with the LAPD, was on set and helped prepare the actors and trained with the actors for five months. Nine times out of ten, I’d defer to him and say ‘Alright, you’re right, I want to get that right’. And on the tenth occasion, I’d say ‘Nah dude, I gotta do the director stuff here. We’re going to go Hollywood on this one’.” (Ayer, TIME)
Alcoholic LA detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is part of a group of cops that tend to bend the rules; as Tom witnesses the murder of a colleague, an Internal Affairs captain (Hugh Laurie) starts watching him. Director David Ayer has experience from the rough streets of South Central, so he has the ability to give the film an aura of credibility. However, the deeper Reeves gets involved in the intrigues between the cops and the gangbangers the harder it is to believe the story. Explosive moments here and there, but the characters are too thin. The Shield it ain’t.
2008-U.S. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by David Ayer. Screenplay: James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer, Jamie Moss. Cast: Keanu Reeves (Tom Ludlow), Forest Whitaker (Jack Wander), Hugh Laurie (James Biggs), Chris Evans, Martha Higareda, Cedric the Entertainer… Jay Mohr.
Trivia: Hip hop artists Common and The Game have small roles. Spike Lee, Oliver Stone and David Fincher were allegedly considered for directing duties as the project ran hot and cold over the years.