Our Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

And now for something a little different…

Only not so much.

It’s our most anticipated films of the year ahead, an article you’ve likely seen in only a million places already. With the start of a new year, as we still sort through various releases from the last year we haven’t gotten to yet — I refuse to share my list of unseen films from last year because it’s shameful and scornful — it makes sense that everyone wants to look ahead and share what excites them the most. We’re no exception.

I’m your host, Matt. Let’s play our game.

We’re focusing today on my list of anticipated films. Some of our other Smarks weigh in on the flicks that suit their fancy a bit later down the page.

While the top of my board is not likely to change throughout the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shuffle amongst the rest of it as the calendar day pages fly off into oblivion. There is a plethora of [hopefully] great films lined up this annum, quite a number of which have yet to receive release dates, so this list is far from definitive and likely to change at any time.

We start with a few honorable mentions:

Annihilation— Ex Machina director Alex Garland’s follow-up is an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s science fiction horror novel about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who puts together an expedition to find her missing husband in an abandoned ecological disaster zone known as Area X.
 Baby Driver— Edgar Wright’s action crime thriller about a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) for various groups of thieves and a robbery that goes awry.
 It— Childhood friends are tortured as adults by a vindictive, millennia-old monster who takes the form of a demonic clown named Pennywise.
 Life— A crew on the international space station studies a sample from Mars that could prove the existence of extraterrestrial life but unleashes something sinister.
 Power Rangers— This reboot/adaptation focuses on a group of teens charged with saving the world after they inherit extraterrestrial suits, martial arts abilities, and control of massive war robots. The trailer for this one was surprisingly effective.
 Red Sparrow— Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian spy who turns double agent when she falls for a CIA operative.
 The Shape of Water— Guillermo del Toro’s latest fantasy adventure about a janitor (Sally Hawkins) in 1963 who develops feelings for a fish man hybrid being held in a government facility.
 Song to Song— A film about the relationships of musicians in the Austin music scene directed by Terence Malick featuring another all-star cast.
 Spider-Man: Homecoming— Sony and Marvel collaborate on the first standalone film of the MCU version of Spidey, a blend of John Hughes teen comedy and superhero shenanigans.
 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets— Luc Besson returns to The Fifth Element-style stomping grounds for this adaptation of a European sci-fi adventure comic series.

On to the main course:

15. Murder on the Orient Express

Director Kenneth Brannagh also stars as Agatha Christie’s iconic detective Hercule Poirot in the latest adaptation of one of the greatest mystery novels of all time. Like the 1974 Sidney Lumet film that precedes it, the cast of devious characters is filled with stars new and veteran alike. Past Brannagh collaborators Sir Derek Jacobi and Dame Judi Dench are joined by only the likes of Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Olivia Colman, Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. and Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley. A star-studded classic mystery is something we haven’t seen from Hollywood in a while, and Brannagh at the helm offers the potential to make it great.

14. The Circle

Dave Eggers’ sci-fi thriller novel is brought to life by writer-director James Ponsoldt, whose last film was the wonderful character piece The End of the Tour about acclaimed author David Foster Wallace. The film plays on the modern fears of surveillance society with a young college grad (Emma Watson) taking what seems like a dream job with a tech company called The Circle. She swiftly rises in the ranks within the company but soon comes to learn that decisions she makes with technology could impact all of humanity and its privacy. Watson’s joined by an impressive cast that includes Star Wars’ John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Karen Gillan, and some guy named Tom Hanks.

13. John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick wasn’t a movie that could change your life or redefine cinema, but it was a surprise of an action film that partied with style yet gave enough substance to not feel like you’d wasted your time being entertained. The revenge drama traded on pulp conventions in the best of ways, and it looks like the sequel carries on in wonderful fashion. Keanu Reeves found himself a new franchise that plays to his strengths, and the next frame seems to amp the gun fu up in reasonable and appropriate fashion. Here’s hoping the premise to bring Wick out of retirement a second time isn’t too bothersome. Even if it is, we get an unknowingly long-awaited reunion with Matrix compatriot Laurence Fishburne.

12. The Fate of the Furious

I’ve been an unabashed fan of this franchise since watching the first film with a buddy on a quiet New Year’s Eve night back in 2001/2002 before we plowed through the entire first Halo game in co-op glory. I’m not even a car fan, but I’ve stuck with the series the entire way, getting a kick out of the camaraderie and sense of family that keeps the films together as they get more and more outlandish and absurd. Furious 7 handled the death of star Paul Walker with grace, but you have to wonder what his absence will mean to the team going forward. Pitting the crew against Vin Diesel’s paterfamilias Dom Toretto seems both inspired and completely nonsensical. And I’m hesitant to get on-board with cars vs. an icebreaker submarine, particularly after the high-rise hijinks in the last film. Still, I gotta see the movie.

11. T2: Trainspotting

It might seem a bit silly to some, but Trainspotting was one of those seminal films for my generation. A screed against a life of conformity in addition to being a cautionary tale about excess and the vicious distractions that can take so many of us down. They’ve been talking for ages about making this follow-up, and author Irvine Welsh even wrote a sequel to his novel that the first film was based on. Porno apparently doesn’t serve as the basis for this film, though. It’s interesting to revisit these characters 20 years on, both for their own story and as a bit of a measuring stick for our own.

10. Thor: Ragnarok

In Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, it was clear that the Captain America franchise was the class of the bunch. The Winter Soldier and Civil War top my list of the quality of the MCU films ranked. Yet, my soft spot was for the Thor franchise. The first film is my fave of Phase One and I have no problem admitting that I adore the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster more than any other in the whole Marvel endeavor. The Dark World was a bother of a film, with some aspects better than the first film, but too much underdeveloped to be successful. Still, I’m excited for the closing chapter of the standalone franchise, even if the Planet Hulk elements don’t exactly set my world on fire. Hela, Surtur, and Ragnarok on Asgard do, though. With assists by Hulk and Doctor Strange, in addition to left-field directing choice Taika Waititi, could make this one of the most balls-out weird and wonderful MCU films to date. Bring on Beta Ray Bill!

9. War for the Planet of the Apes

What a surprise this franchise reboot turned out to be. We went to see Rise on a lark and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Not only did it give a relatively plausible explanation for how the apes came to rule Earth, they didn’t shy away from subtly connecting it to the original film series that started with the Chuck Heston film in 1968. The third film looks to expand upon those connections, as well as potentially bringing a close to ape leader Caesar’s direct story. (A fourth film has supposedly already been pushed into development, though it might feature a new cast of characters.) Woody Harrelson’s military commander seems the perfect foil for these apes we’ve come to know and love, as we appear to be in for full-scale war. What Andy Serkis and the the effects maestros have done is nothing short of brilliance, and this third film has the potential to go out strong and make this one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.

8. Wonder Woman

In many ways, this is my most anticipated comic book movie of the year. A major female-led superhero film. The first major superhero movie adaptation directed by a woman. (No disrespect to Lexi Alexander, who directed Lionsgate’s pseudo sequel Punisher War Zone a few years back. As well-known as Frank Castle is, though, I wouldn’t call him major nor a superhero.) A film that seems to take great cues from both Captain America and Thor with the period settings and the seemingly well-blended mythology angle. I have not been a fan of any of the three released DCEU films (note that Justice League is missing from my anticipated list; that’s not an oversight), but this is the first film in the series that holds real promise for me. The oh-fer on the DC films is what notches this down a bit for me.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

It might seem kind of silly in hindsight, or perhaps just not register, but Marvel’s gamble on the first film with this crew was a huge risk. Even amongst comic fans, the Guardians were a lower tier group with a small following. Yet, trusting James Gunn’s sensibilities fully — and stacking the deck with outstanding casting — allow for this whacky yet extraordinarily heartfelt property to come into existence. Things are only going to get weirder as Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill (Star-Lord, man, c’mon!) discovers his true heritage, the team grows by a few members, and everyone gets swept up in a scope that seems ten-fold larger than the first film, at very least. The first film is Marvel’s funniest (and arguably funnest), and the trailers for this one suggest they’ve gone up to 11. I won’t be mentioning Baby Groot, though. Wait… Dangit!

6. Dunkirk

Master director Christopher Nolan turns his vision to his first war film, a recounting of the devastating events at Dunkirk, France during the Second World War. German armies had overpowered and driven British, Belgian, and French forces back to the northern coast of France, ready to lay tremendous siege to the troops. Somewhere along the chain of German command, an odd decision was made to halt the impending wave, which gave time for the Allied forces to fortify their position and engage in a large scale evacuation of troops. When fighting resumed the forces tried desperately to hold of the Germans as thousands attempted escape. The battle nearly caused the British to offer a conditional surrender to the Germans, which would’be been crushing to the Allied effort in the war. With that kind of setup and Nolan at the helm, this could prove to be one of the most indelible war stories ever committed to film.

5. Molly’s Game

It seems kind of trite, and maybe even a smidge pretentious, to state that you are a huge Aaron Sorkin fan, but frankly, I could not care less. I was familiar with the guy’s stage work, fell in love with A Few Good Men, enjoyed the number of films that have been built on his scripts, and Sports Night and The West Wing rank as my 1–2 favorite TV series all-time. Now, he’s directed his first film, and that excites beyond measure. The subject is a bit less important, honest to say, but full of potential all the same. A young woman develops and curates one of the wealthiest underground poker games in the world, trading in Wall Street power brokers, politicians, and Hollywood stars. I’m a poker nut too, so that helps. It’s really Sorkin and his fantastic cast, featuring Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner, Idris Elba, Michael Cera, and Chris O’Dowd, that sells me on this.

4. Logan

Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recently commented in an interview that he had seen some footage from Hugh Jackman’s final turn as the clawed Canucklehead, and that it was the kind of film worthy to garner genuine awards buzz and recognition. I was a big fan of the last solo Logan film, The Wolverine, also directed by James Mangold, even with its third act issues. They seemed to have honed their mature take on the mutant and everything seen from the film is stark and stunning. I’m warming to the title — obviously, it’ll have narrative sense — but I’m fully on-board a tale that sees Wolverine’s healing factor faltering and the hero trying to survive what sounds like the near end of all mutants save a young girl cloned from his blood and Patrick Stewart’s gone-mad Professor X. Seeing these two put a bookend on two of their most iconic roles appears to be a treat.

3. The Dark Tower

For decades, fans have anticipated a filmed adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus. For most of the last few years, Hollywood has flirted with trying to get it done. Not too long ago, director Ron Howard floated an ambitious idea to turn the book series into a film-television hybrid featuring 3–5 films with seasons of a companion television series to air in between. This version of the project is a revised play on that concept. Oddly, the film will serve as a sort of sequel to the book series, while reliving a number of the events chronicled in King’s stories. (There’s a narrative device native to story that helps to make this possible.) I wasn’t sold on the announcement of Idris Elba as Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last gunslinger of Mid-World. I’m a big Elba fan but he didn’t seem like a good fit to me. Seeing images of him in costume helped assuaged concerns, and I look forward to Elba and Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black facing off.

2. Star Wars: Episode VIII

It seems baffling to me that Star Wars: The Force Awakens would become one of the more divisive films in the saga. Though, I guess it should’ve been expected, given it was the first SW film of the Disney era, J.J. Abrams’ involvement, and the apparently misunderstood decision to craft the story as a direct analog to Star Wars: A New Hope’s story. Yes, it was intentional. Yes, it was designed to give a familiar jumping-off point to tell a new story. Yes, it’s a frequent trope of mythology storytelling. And yes, it’s actually a staple of Star Wars. (Online reviewer Chris Stuckmann covered the SW formula in great detail in a video essay, so I don’t have to keep explaining how the saga is built on these devices.) In any case, I loved TFA. Nostalgia aside, it helped me relive a filmgoing experience I hadn’t really felt since I was a child, and it will forever hold my praise for that. It’s not a perfect film, but it does so much right that I couldn’t not be excited for the next film in the Sequel Trilogy. Director Rian Johnson of Brick and Looper fame gets to run free with our characters now that everything has been established. We might get to see the power of the fully armed and operational Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and we get to live the next moments of the lives of these rich characters who are welcome editions. I wasn’t particularly wowed by Rogue One as a whole, but December cannot get here fast enough.

1. Blade Runner 2049

It would seem that Episode VIII would be the top film to look for this year. If you look at many of these lists online, you’ll see it occupying that no. 1 slot in the overwhelming majority of them. As excited as I am for that film, I’m over the moon for the Blade Runner follow-up. Even if I can’t stand the title and think it sounds like one of those low-rent feature spin-off TV movies that aired in syndication on Saturdays in the early- to mid-’90s. The first trailer perfectly recaptured the look, feel, and haunt of Ridley Scott’s original with but the slightest hints as to the story of this new film. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard, and it’ll be interesting to see if they go with Scott’s assertion that he was a Replicant himself or definitively put an end to the debate. Ryan Gosling looks fantastic as the lead, a new Blade Runner hunting down rogue Replicants. Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography looks stellar, even in the brief glimpses we got. Denis Villeneuve has built himself into Hollywood’s next great mainstream auteur, the kind of filmmaker who lights your interest on fire just by mention of name, regardless of the project. We still know very little about the film, but there’s no way I’m not interested in seeing this. And bowing the day after my birthday makes a wonderful present.

And now from other Smarks…

Max

  • Patient Zero— A man can speak the new language of the world’s infected humans and leads an hunt into the pandemic to find the disease’s first patient and develop a cure.
  • Power Rangers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword— Guy Ritchie tackles ye olde Grail/Round Table legends in this stylized take of the life of Arthur Pendragon.
  • Wonder Woman
  • Spider Man: Homecoming
  • The Dark Tower
  • It
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales— Johnny Depp returns in the fifth installment of the series, as Captain Jack Sparrow tries to locate the Trident of Poseidon to take on ghoulish spirits from the Bermuda Triangle intent on killing all pirates in the world.

Brett

  1. A Dog’s Purpose— A dog learns value and purpose as he lives with various families over multiple lives. (read the book)
  2. Murder on the Orient Express
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Going In Style— Zach Braff’s remake of the 1979 film about three seniors robbing banks after falling on tough financial times and sleepy twilight years. — “Loved the original. Morgan Freeman is awesome.”
  6. Star Wars: Episode VIII
  7. Power Rangers — “My inner 12-year-old can’t resist.”
  8. Justice League— The DCEU’s team-up film has Batman and Wonder Woman putting together a team of metahumans to take on the extraterrestrial threat that Lex Luthor trumpeted at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  9. The Shack— A grieving and depressed father receives a letter that he believes is from God asking him to meet at the shack in the Oregon woods where his young daughter was abducted and killed. — “May go higher, but I’m only a third of the way through the book.”
  10. Logan — “Likely will fall off the list once I read The Circle.”
  • Blazing Samurai— Animated film about a dog who wants to become a samurai to protect his town against a feline warlord. — “Not an animated fan usually but…Mel Brooks.”
  • The Circle — “Heard great things about the book. Gotta read it before I see this.”
  • The Dark Tower — “Been told I should see it. May decide after if it’s worth reading what is like a dozen books in the series?” ([ed.] Seven books, a novella, and mentions throughout numerous King novels.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — “It will likely suck, but I saw the others… Might rent instead of going to it in a theater.”
  • Wonder Woman

Kevin

  • Alien: Covenant— In the sequel to Prometheus, Ridley Scott more explicitly ties the story to the existing Alien franchise. A ship with a colonizing crew finds a utopian planet but soon discovers the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender), who survived the first film, and deadly xenomorphic creatures that begin hunting them. — “Always been a big fan of the Alien series and Ridley Scott rarely puts out a bad film. This one supposedly ties together the franchise and builds upon that. I’m ready.”
  • The Dark Tower — “This was my favorite series from my favorite author. I’ve been dying for this to be a film for so long.”
  • War for the Planet of the Apes — “This has been a very under the radar and well done franchise reboot in my opinion. The story has been on-point from the get-go, and I’m excited to see Woody Harrelson play the man that loses the planet for the human race.”
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — “The first one was a lot of fun and this one should fully establish the franchise. Very excited.”
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 — “I normally don’t have high expectations for sequels, but if this is half as good as the first then this will be a really good action movie.”
  • Baywatch— The one-time world’s most popular TV series gets the big screen treatment. Lifeguards fighting criminals is pretty much the bulk of the story. — “This is just going to be a fun action/comedy with The Rock and Zac Efron. Nothing more and nothing less.”
  • King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword — “Guy Ritchie doesn’t do bad movies. I prefer his lower budget story driven films, but he can hang in the big budget tent pole world.”
  • Logan — “It looks like they are taking the Wolverine in a new direction. I like it.
  • The Circle — “I loved the book, and with Julian Assange wanting to start doing detailed tracking on the media and people who opposed Trump, could be a very relevant film.”
  • Pitch Perfect 3— The third film in the a cappella saga. Yeah, no one knows what it’s about yet. — “Don’t pretend you don’t like these movies.”

What are you most looking forward to in cinemas in 2017? Let us know in the comments below.


Originally published at SmarksOn.

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