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2016 pop culture preview: Captain America, an O.J. miniseries, and 10 more to look forward to

Including a Polynesian Disney princess and the latest indie horror flick with great reviews.

You're probably still reveling in all of the great pop culture that graced 2015, but look sharp — there's lots of great stuff to come. Here are 12 projects coming in 2016 that we can't help but look forward to with eager anticipation.

Legends of Tomorrow

There are already a ton of superhero TV shows, but Legends of Tomorrow has had the good sense to position itself as a superhero series that's just here to have fun. Following an unlikely group of time-traveling vigilantes, Legends of Tomorrow brings together an eclectic cast that includes a visibly enthused Victor Garber; the delightful Brandon Routh; and, most importantly, Wentworth Miller as the scenery-chewing, bon mot–tossing, debonair Captain Cold. We might have more TV than ever nowadays, but we can always use more time-traveling vigilantes. (Debuts January 21 on The CW.)

American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

FX's new pseudo-spinoff of American Horror Story will follow one new true crime story with every season, and the first is a doozy. Following the story of O.J. Simpson's murder trial from the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman all the way through O.J.'s acquittal, the story boasts an all-star cast — John Travolta! David Schwimmer! Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J.! — and writing from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the team behind such unconventional biopics as The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man in the Moon. Plus, since Ryan Murphy is involved, you can expect lots and lots of nods to the fact that the Kardashians are involved in this tale. (Debuts February 2 on FX.)

Hail, Caesar!

The Coen brothers' winning streak is many, many films deep (including bona fide classics like Fargo and No Country for Old Men), and even their handful of duds are worthwhile in their own ways. Add to that the fact that every time the brothers team up with George Clooney, it's a treat, and you have the recipe for a movie well worth anticipating. Clooney plays a lunkheaded Hollywood star who finds himself the subject of a kidnapping plot, while Josh Brolin is the guy who has to find a way out of the situation. With Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, too! If nothing else, this promises to be an incredibly fun time. (In theaters February 5.)

The Witch

The surplus of great indie horror movies has been one of the unsung stories of film in the 2010s. And if news out of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival is any indication, 2016's entry in this category will arrive early, with this eerie, terrifying look at what happens when a family living in America's earliest days confronts what they believe to be evidence of witchcraft and Satan's forces at work among them. The excellently creepy trailer (above) left us feverish with anticipation. (In theaters February 26.)

Black Panther.
The cover of Black Panther by artist Brian Stelfreeze. (Marvel)
Marvel

Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther

Coates is one of the most brilliant writers alive today, but he's never written a comic book. Starting in April, he will pen the script for Marvel's Black Panther. There are myriad questions surrounding the project, ranging from how well Coates can adjust to this completely different medium to what kind of story he's going to tell with one of Marvel's most prominent black superheroes. But one thing we do know is that writing a comic book has been a "childhood dream" for Coates, and it might be the biggest comic book story of the new year. (In stores in April.)

Captain America: Civil War

Compared with Avengers: Age of Ultron, the stakes are much lower for Marvel with Captain America: Civil War, which doesn't have to deal with the annihilation of the entire human race or Avengers-like box office expectations. From the looks of the sleek trailer that debuted in November, Civil War will tell a more intimate story about broken good-guy friendships, with a heavy dash of superhero politicking. Marvel has the opportunity to give us a different, more ambitious movie, the way it did with Captain America: Winter Soldier; here's hoping Civil War is just as splendid. (In theaters May 6.)

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters cast
The cast of the new Ghostbusters is full of comedic power.
Sony Pictures

It's too bad that disgruntled controversy over the upcoming all-female Ghostbusters squad has overtaken much of the conversation about the film, because this movie is stacked with incredible comedic potential. Not only does it star Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones, plus Thor as their secretary, but it was written by the fantastic Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Recreation) and is directed by the ever-thoughtful and very funny Paul Feig (Spy, Freaks and Geeks). It doesn't matter what your childhood associations with the original Ghostbusters are, or if you're scared Feig and company won't capture its spirit; give the 2016 version the chance to prove it could be awesome entirely in its own right. (In theaters July 15.)

Suicide Squad

It's no surprise that there was more buzz surrounding Warner Bros.' Suicide Squad than Batman v Superman (the tentpole to end all tentpoles) at San Diego Comic-Con 2015. The movie hinges on Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, a popular character who's appearing on the big screen for the first time, and the creepiness we saw from her in the trailer suggest Robbie is game for the role. A story where Superman doesn't care about killing or death (the story Batman v Superman is at least attempting to sell) is hard to swallow. But a ragtag black-ops team of convicts and villains without any loyalty to one another? That feels more organic and effortless, with a darkness that's much easier to believe in. (In theaters August 5.)

Today Will Be Different

Fans of Maria Semple's terrific debut novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette? have been anxiously awaiting her follow-up, and Today Will Be Different promises all of the same complicated plotting, comedic grace notes, and well-drawn characters that made the earlier book such a treat. In this one, a woman who's trying to change her life is blindsided by a memoir that reveals family secrets, written by the younger sister she tries not to talk to. Suddenly, all of her dirty laundry is public business — and we presume she won't be too happy about that. (In bookstores September 6.)

Moana

Disney's next animated movie isn't relying on the goodwill of Disney princess enthusiasts to carry it through. The story of a young girl going on a harrowing ocean journey, Moana features South Pacific mythology and an inspiring cast, most notably 14-year-old newcomer Auli'i Cravalho as the titular Moana and Dwayne "The Rock"Johnson as ... oh, who cares, he's The Rock. Also, Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda composed the music, and he is not likely to throw away his shot at Disney glory (and a likely path toward becoming the youngest person ever to EGOT, or win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony; he only needs the Oscar to finish it off). Moana doesn't come out until November, but every update we've seen about the production (mostly via The Rock's Instagram) has been refreshingly earnest. Hopefully Moana will be the Disney princess story today's kids deserve. (In theaters November 23.)

Certain Women

Certain Women.
Michelle Williams stars in Certain Women.
Film Science

Kelly Reichardt is one of the most promising young directors out there, and with Certain Women, she might have her highest-profile release yet. Starring Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Reichardt regular Michelle Williams, the film is an adaptation of Maile Meloy's terrific short story collection about the lives and loves of the women in a small Montana town. If nothing else, Reichardt in big sky country should make for some terrific images — and we're willing to bet that with this source material and cast, she'll have something special. (In theaters later in 2016.)

Anti

Rihanna is aware of our impatience for her eighth studio album — especially after the singles she dropped in 2015, like the protest ballad "American Oxygen" and the revenge fantasy "Bitch Better Have My Money," which raises its eyebrow and dares you to question it. The thing is, Rihanna doesn't care what you think. She'll put out Anti (the album formerly known as R8) at her own pace and on her own time, because she knows we'll be salivating for it no matter when she decides she's ready. After all, she's released seven albums in as many years. We can wait a while longer for one that represents Rihanna at the height of her powers. (In stores sometime in 2016 — we hope.)