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Spotlight on the Year Ahead in Cinema

31/01/2016 19:44 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 10:12 GMT

How does cinema follow a year like 2015? A year when three of the top 10 biggest films of all time in the UK were released, including two of the top three. It was a year that also saw the release of the third biggest animated film in history (Minions), and the summer's best blockbuster, Mad Max: Fury Road, just snagged 10 Oscar nominations. It's a tough act, but I think 2016 just might be up to it. Awards season has already released some gems and there's quality liberally sprinkled across the calendar. As with last year, I've highlighted a film a month that cinemagoers can look forward to.

Spotlight (29 January)

The benefit of writing this article in late-January is that I can conveniently omit some of the best films of the month, including Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's brutal, beautiful The Revenant and the thrilling and surprisingly moving, Creed. Having said that, even if those two were still up for grabs, I might still have opted for Spotlight. This true-life tale of an intrepid team of journalists at the Boston Globe, who uncover a scandal in the Catholic church, is brilliantly written and wonderfully performed by a first rate ensemble. Its status as one of the favourites for Best Picture at the Oscars and BAFTAs is completely deserved.

Zoolander 2 (12 February)

Time to feel old: It's been fifteen years since Zoolander was released. Since the clueless male model became a household name, the reputation of his debut big screen outing has grown and it's widely regarded (by me) as one of the best US comedies this century. Ben Stiller, underrated as a director, is once again behind as well as in front of the camera and the brilliant supporting cast has added Kristen Wiig and Penelope Cruz.

Hail, Caesar! (4 March)

It's the Coen brothers, two of the most reliably brilliant film-makers in the world, and they've assembled a typically star-studded cast (Clooney, Swinton, Brolin, McDormand, Tatum, Hill, Johansson, Fiennes, phew!). The plot is delicious too. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, 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 smart money is on the Coen's delivering another off-beat treat.

The Jungle Book (15 April)

After the success of the live-action Cinderella, Disney is lining up their animated classics for the live-action treatment and next on the list is The Jungle Book. The story of an orphan boy, raised in the jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear, and a black panther, is well known but Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) has put together a terrific cast and who wouldn't want to see Bill Murray as Baloo? It has the potential to outperform Cinderella and be one of 2016's best family films.

Bad Neighbours 2 (6 May)

Bad Neighbours was one of the funniest films of 2014, with a host of great performances from Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron. The sequel comes out almost exactly two years later and with the same director and team of writers, there's every reason to expect it'll hit the mark like the first film. This time around Chloe Grace Moretz joins the impressive cast.

The Nice Guys (3 June)

Shane Black made his name in the 80s, writing Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout and starring in Predator. He could have been forgiven for retiring a satisfied man after that but after a few years off he turned his attention to directing, first with the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then the best Avengers movie, Iron Man 3. Thankfully he's returned to the kind of razor-sharp, action comedies for which he made his name and he has a great pairing in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as the leads. The first trailer is dynamite, so this is easily one of my most anticipated films of 2016.

Untitled Bourne Sequel (29 July)

I could have chosen any of five films for July. The all new Ghostbusters, from the best US comedy director, Paul Feig, was unlucky to miss out, as was Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory and Steven Spielberg's The BFG. No film next summer gets me quite so pant-wettingly excited though as Matt Damon's return as Jason Bourne. Paul Greengrass, the man behind Supremacy and Ultimatum, returns in the director's chair too, so odds on this being 2016's best action film are very short indeed.

David Brent: Life On The Road (19 August)

The Office is the greatest sitcom of all time, which automatically makes it one of the best things of all time. Gervais' film career so far has been a bit uneven but he's on the safest of ground with David Brent and if he can capture the perfect blend of humour and pathos that the series trod so well, it could be the best British comedy since Alpha Papa.

Bridget Jones's Baby (16 September)

Bridget Jones's Diary was a sensation. Renee Zellweger was a leftfield choice to play the lead but she did it so well, she even garnered an Oscar nomination for her performance. It also banked a remarkable £42m in the UK alone. In terms of British big screen comedy, only The Full Monty and The Inbetweeners Movie have been bigger. Zellweger is back, and this time she's pregnant. Sharon Maguire, director of the first film has also returned, so it should be another blockbuster British hit.

The Girl On The Train (7 October)

There's no two ways about it, The Girl On The Train is a literary phenomenon. Two million copies have already been sold in the UK and it's not even out on paperback yet. The action has been moved from south-east England to New York and Emily Blunt is in the lead, so it already has a more glamourous feel than the book. It's also cannily bagged the same release slot that Gone Girl utilised a couple of years ago, so it will be hoping for similarly impressive box office results.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (18 November)

When The Hunger Games series finished last November, something was needed to fill the gap it vacated in November. Thankfully it's been replaced with something with the potential to be bigger. Much bigger. The anticipation for the Harry Potter stageshow has shown that the appetite for the wizarding world hasn't been sated at all, so this tale of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school, should be one of the biggest films of the year.

Star Wars: Rogue One (16 December)

The UK well and truly embraced Star Wars once again last Christmas and in just 22 days, The Force Awakens became the biggest film of all time in the UK. Disney will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that it was such a success as more Star Wars is coming, and soon too. Rogue One is the first in the Anthology series, illuminating areas of the Star Wars universe that haven't been explored on the big screen. Rebels set out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, that allows Luke Skywalker to destroy it at the climax of A New Hope (spoiler alert). Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) directs a stupendous cast, including Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker and martial arts master, Donnie Yen. It's almost nailed on to be the biggest film released in 2016.

That's twelve months and twelve films, but there's also a new film from Martin Scorsese, expected to release towards the end of the year, Richard Linklater's follow-up to Boyhood, a Robert Zemeckis romantic epic starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and a big budget sci-fi starring two of the biggest stars in the world, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. It all adds up to another great year for cinema.