What have we got to look forward to in the year ahead? Well, in at least two cases (Jane Got a Gun and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II), it will be films that have already appeared in both our previous look-aheads, for 2014 and 2015, while Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has been pushed back even further, to January 27, 2017. Which, ladies and gentlemen, should be sufficient evidence to take the rest of this article with a good deal of “provisional”. But next year will have its work cut out to beat the impressive showing of action heroines making the top 25 films, from the expected (Mockingjay Part 2) through to a number of very pleasant surprises (Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and I’d also argue, Spy). Does 2016 have a shot? Here’s a look at what’s coming up, in alphabetical order. Synopsis, in quotes, are from IMDb where available, subsequent comments are my own. Action heroine content not contractually guaranteed!
The 5th Wave (15th January)
“Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother.” Everyone’s #1 Hit Girl, Chloe Moretz stars in another film based on a Young Adult novel series, hoping for a Hunger Games-like jackpot. Above is the trailer, though to be honest, it looks more than a little generic, containing little except elements which appear to have been poached from previous successful efforts.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (27th May)
“When Alice wakes up in Wonderland she must travel through a mysterious new world to retrieve a magical scepter that can stop the evil Lord of Time before he turns forward the clock and turns Wonderland into a barren, lifeless old world. With the help of some new friends, Alice must also uncover an evil plot to put the Queen of Hearts back on the throne.” Particularly at the end, the original proved a pleasant surprise, with Mia Wasikowska kicking a surprising amount of butt. No Tim Burton to direct this one, but it still looks to be lush and lavish.
The Coldest City (TBA)
“An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents. ” Charlize Theron plays the agent, and her action heroine credentials should not need stating, after Fury Road. But just as promising is the director here, David Leitch, who was an uncredited helmer on the excellent John Wick, and has two decades’ worth of stunt credentials to his name.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (8th February)
“A story of lost love, young love, a legendary sword and one last opportunity at redemption.” Originally supposed to be out last August, it has been pushed back, but the plan is still for it to premiere simultaneously in IMAX and on Netflix, which is a bold if risky release strategy. I think we’ll be taking the former route, considering the cast includes not just Michelle Yeoh, but also Donnie Yen, and it’s directed by the greatest action choreographer ever, Yuen Wo-Ping. While it may not have the heart of the original, it is still the one to which we’re most looking forward, though the repeated changes to its release date are concerning.
“Beatrice Prior and Tobias Eaton venture into the world outside of the fence and are taken into protective custody by a mysterious agency known as the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.” I must confess to not having seen any of these. But with a worldwide gross over the first two of more than $585 million, they’re clearly doing something right, even if critical reaction has been lukewarm. But why was I not informed that Maggie Q is in the series? Maybe I’ll have to check them out, though might wait until the fourth film completes the story, in March 2017.
“When Michelle, the CEO of a gaming software company, is attacked in her home by an unknown assailant, she refuses to let it alter her precisely ordered life… This is the approach she brings to the situation when it appears that her assailant is not finished with her. As the mysterious stalker hovers in the shadows of her life, taunting her, Michelle coolly stalks him back.” Starring Isabelle Huppert, what stands out for me is this being directed by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Verhoeven (I will even defend Showgirls, dammit!). He has only made two other features since 2000, so this is a rare occurrence, and I’m keen to see what he brings to the field.
Ghostbusters (15th July)
No plot as yet, but plenty of controversy, with Paul Feig having gone for an all-female cast in his reboot of a much-beloved film. I was dubious about the entire thing myself – it smacked of stunt casting – but I was won over entirely by Spy, also by Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy, which was one of the most unexpected surprises of 2015, with a great blend of action and comedy. There’s still certainly potential for this remake to be screwed up, and a lot of people have their knives out. I’m no longer one, and am prepared to give it a chance.
Guns for Hire (TBA)
Let’s just give a synopsis. “Beatle is a quirky loner who refuses to live by society’s rules. Her business cards read “Towing/Assassination,” and she even has a hit man infomercial to go along with it. Her only human contact is with her psychiatrist and the stripper/hooker she employs once a week. Everything changes the night she meets Athena Klendon, a suicidal blonde with a secret. With a demented killer on their tail, courtesy of Athena’s crooked former employer, the two quickly strike a bargain. Athena will change her life insurance policy to reflect Beatle as the beneficiary in exchange for her own execution.”
“Ravenna is resurrected by her sister, Freya the Ice Queen. As the evil sisters prepare to conquer the land, the only ones who can stop them are the two renegades from Freya’s band of elite warriors, the Huntsmen – Eric, who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover, Sara.” While Chris Hemsworth gets the title role, beyond that, it’s all women, with Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as the sisters, plus Jessica Chastain (right) as Sara. Again, I didn’t see the original, which appears to have been more of a Snow White adaptation, and Kristen Stewart really didn’t interest me. This, on the other hand… Potential increasing.
Jane Got a Gun (February)
Jane Hammond “has built a new life with her husband Bill “Ham” Hammond after being tormented by the ultra-violent Bishop Boys outlaw gang. She finds herself in the gang’s cross-hairs once again when Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after dueling with the Boys and their relentless mastermind Colin.” A phenomenally-troubled production which saw its original director no-show for the first day of shooting, the IMDb says it is “Currently seeking a release date after the film was dropped by Relativity Media.” It was scheduled to have its world premiere in Paris last month, Then terrorists attacked the city. Really, they should probably just give up now.
Mile 22 (TBA)
“A CIA field officer and an Indonesian police officer are forced to work together as they confront violent and extreme political corruption.” Neither the CIA office (Mark Wahlberg) nor the Indonesian police officer (Iko Uwais, from the excellent The Raid films) are of interest to us here. But also signed on is MMA’s Ronda Rousey, who has been in a few films, including The Expendables 3 and Furious 7. This seems like it could be her biggest role yet – though her recent defeat at the hands (and feet) of Holly Holm suggest she might want to concentrate either rather more, or rather less, on her acting career!
“When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning, left) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.” Cult director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) is behind this one, and told Variety, “One morning I woke and realized I was both surrounded and dominated by women. Strangely, a sudden urge was planted in me to make a horror film about vicious beauty.” Like Crouching Tiger, this has been picked up by a streaming service – Amazon in this case – though a traditional release also appears planned.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (5th February)
“Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge — an army of undead zombies.” For some reason, I thought this was more of a comedy, but looking at the trailer (below), it actually seems to be taking itself pretty seriously, with Lily Davis leading a bevy of crinoline-clad ass-kickers.
Underworld 5 (21st October)
“The plot is unknown at this time.” There will, however, presumably be Kate Beckinsale in PVC. So, when, exactly, will tickets for this be going on sale? Do I need to form an orderly queue now? Shooting on this began in mid-October in Prague, and should be completed by Christmas. Amazing to think Beckinsale has been playing the role for more than a dozen years now. Theo James, from the Divergent series is also present, along with Charles Dance, but the film is not being directed by Len Wiseman. Which is probably a good thing, at least in terms of on-set tensions, since Wiseman and Beckinsale have reportedly split. Instead, it’s the feature debut of cinemtatographer, Anna Foerster.
“A CIA interrogator is lured into a ruse that puts London at risk of a biological attack.” Starring Noomi Rapace, this time without any dragon tattoos, this made a good early impression with the first picture, featuring Rapace in action. It has been described as a “female Jason Bourne-style thriller,” and is being directed by Michael Apted, who previously gave us Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.