Ten Movies to Look Forward to in 2017
Hollywood is on pace to top last year’s industry record of $11 billion in domestic movie ticket sales, after a 2016 that had its highs – like the subversive and small-budgeted, adult-superhero-fare Deadpool, Disney’s state-of-the-art The Jungle Book, Marvel’s crowd-pleasing billion dollar grosser Captain America: Civil War, and Lucasfilm’s first mic-dropping Star Wars standalone Rogue One – and its lows, with no blockbusters more disappointing than the financially successful but frustratingly disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
The summer movie season, where Hollywood makes its most dough, had its duds – there was the eighteen years too late Independence Day: Resurgence, the passable but forgettable Now You See Me 2, the domestic bomb but overseas hit Warcraft, the mediocre Legend of Tarzan, a so-so Ghostbusters redo, the tired Ice Age: Collision Course, and the mishandled and unfortunately botched Suicide Squad – with only a handful of 2016 releases managing to surpass the overwhelming feeling of lukewarmness that permeated through much of the year.
Even with the tremendous bomb that was Alice Through the Looking Glass and a trio of solid but overlooked productions – The Finest Hours, The BFG and Pete’s Dragon – Disney has managed to set an all-time record, being the first studio to exceed $7 billion dollars at the box office in a single year. Zootopia, Captain America: Civil War, and Finding Dory are among the year’s biggest hits, all surpassing one billion dollars at the worldwide box office, with Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book coming close and Rogue One proving itself a Death Star-sized hit to close out 2016.
Warner Brothers’ Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad – the second and third installments of the DC Cinematic Universe – were critical flops but commercial monsters, bringing in $873 million and nearly $750 million, respectively. Two of the year’s most anticipated blockbusters ended up being two of the most disappointing – especially after Suicide Squad‘s fun but ultimately deceptive trailers – leaving little optimism for the waiting-in-the-wings Wonder Woman and Justice League, both out in 2017. The less said about Passengers, Collateral Beauty and Assassin’s Creed the better, with Rogue One and Fences the only worthwhile new releases venturing out to see this holiday movie-going season.
2017 is poised to be even bigger with a new slew of blockbusters to look forward to, including:
10. John Wick: Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves-starrer John Wick proved itself an unexpected hit in 2014, with the fun, stylish and explosive action thriller praised for its kinetic energy and well shot ass-kicking scenes. John Wick: Chapter 2 has a tough act to follow, but the strength of its predecessor makes the sophomore Wick an exciting prospect. The recently released second trailer for John Wick: Chapter 2 looks to offer the same colorful and riotous action audiences are expecting, with returning director Chad Stahelski hopefully managing to recapture the energy that helped make John Wick a surprise blast. Action followups rarely outdo the originals – Die Hard 2 and Taken 2 certainly didn’t – and even if the second John Wick doesn’t reach Terminator 2: Judgement Day levels of reaching and then topping the bar set by the original, if the movie is at least fun, entertaining and a worthwhile effort, it could be a great way to get 2017 started. Wick goes off in John Wick: Chapter 2, out February 10th.
20th Century Fox’s long running X-Men franchise has been hit-or-miss since its inception in 2000. X2 has long been considered one of the best of the genre – even if it has been surpassed in recent years – and the deservedly praised X-Men: Days of Future Past is now widely considered the gold standard of the mutant superhero series. Its followup, this summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, was a mediocre letdown – especially after Fox’s own Deadpool got so much right earlier in the year. Hugh Jackman, who will have starred as Wolverine – the X-Men’s metal-clawed, healing badboy mutant and the franchise’s main man – for seventeen years and across eight appearances by the time Logan drops this March. The Aussie is as identifiable with the role as Robert Downey Jr. is with Iron Man, and Logan – the third of the Wolverine spinoff series, following the no-longer-counts and best forgotten about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the pretty good The Wolverine – will apparently be Jackman’s last outing as the most popular of all the X-Men.
Director James Mangold’s Logan looks to be dark, serious, adult and dramatic – just the way an R-rated movie using a Johnny Cash track in its trailer should be. If Jackman really does forego that potential Deadpool/Wolverine movie and hangs up the claws after one last time, Logan could be the superhero version of Unforgiven – and the best possible way for this version of the beloved character to go out. Logan snikts for the last time on March 3rd.
Pixar Animation Studios is best known for their track record of beloved and creative original films like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Up – and while their sister studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios, is undergoing a second renaissance period with a recent track record of CG-animated hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana, some have made the case that the studio peaked with 2010’s billion dollar grossing Toy Story 3. Pixar followed the smash hit with the critical and creative flop that was Cars 2, the undercooked and overlooked Brave, the middling Monsters University, and the visually stunning but otherwise unexceptional The Good Dinosaur all failing to resonate with audiences in the same manner as their past successes, with only Inside Out a true return-to-form for the prestigious animation company that, more often than not, can do no wrong. This year’s Finding Dory is among 2016’s biggest hits – and its the highest-grossing domestic animated release of all time – and while it was enjoyable enough and better than any of its animated competitors not produced by Disney, it lacked the spark inherent to Finding Nemo and most Pixar productions.
Cars 3 will race into theaters this summer, but its Coco – Pixar’s newest original idea, and the studio’s only non-sequel arriving in the immediate future – raising eyebrows. Disney/Pixar offered a first look at Coco earlier this month, with director Lee Unkrich’s (Toy Story 3) Día de los Muertos-inspired film taking a music-packed look at the magical and colorful Land of the Dead. Heavy on the music but not a musical, Coco is a big question mark and its uniqueness – including its all-Latino cast – should give hope to those feeling Pixar has been in a creative lull the last few years. Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur were original ideas that arrived to varying degrees of success, but Pixar’s Coco has a lot left to reveal – meaning there’s a lot to anticipate as we can only imagine what’s in store from grim grinnin’ ghosts musically celebrating that festive Mexican holiday. Coco comes to life November 22nd.
Director Christopher Nolan’s strong filmography – including Momento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar – made Dunkirk an exciting prospect even before we knew what the movie would be called (or what it would be about). When we learned it would be a World War II drama, there was hype. Announcements of the film’s cast – including Nolan regulars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, with Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and James D’Arcy filling out the cast – it became hard not to look forward to a project that sounds like a prestigious awards drama, even if it is dropping in the middle of the summer blockbuster season. After last summer’s first enticing tease, the newly released trailer #1 offers a lot in the way of drama, the booming and terrifying action of war, and the beautiful cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar). There have been countless World War II films, of varying genres and varying successes, but the wartime actions of the greatest generation never get old – especially not when a savvy and talented Christopher Nolan is at the helm. Dunkirk arrives July 21st.
6. Kong: Skull Island
Visionary director Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies) was the perfect choice to helm Universal’s 2005 redo on the iconic king of the jungle, King Kong. The epic was a box office and filmmaking success, with a Kong crafted for the modern era. The oversized beast – no relation to the most recent cinematic iteration – will return in Kong: Skull Island, part of Warner Brothers and Legendary’s proposed interconnected monster movie-verse. Two of cinema’s most legendary creatures – King Kong and Godzilla – will do battle in 2020, with the Kong of Skull Island pitted against the nuke-powered titular star of 2014’s Godzilla. As cool as that sounds, Kong: Skull Island makes a strong case for itself with its premiere trailer – one that depicts a blockbuster with appropriately big action, a visual feast, and a cooky John C. Reilly. This is a savage, badass Kong – who has his soft side, of course – with a team of explorers venturing into a mysterious, dangerous island in the Vietnam war era.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (The Kings of Summer) take on the property looks grand and colorful, with the kind of scale invoked by the mere mention of King Kong. A solid and well-rounded cast of Hollywood names, both proven and up-and-coming – including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, John C. Reilly, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson – taking on King Kong while trapped on an island inhabited by fantastical creatures, all with an Apocalypse Now vibe? Sold. Kong: Skull Island roars into theaters March 10th.
5. War for the Planet of the Apes
Fox successfully revived the iconic Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011 after Tim Burton’s disastrous 2001 remake, with director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes among the best and most engaging blockbusters of its year. Its followup, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was even better – a big budget, beautifully crafted modern blockbuster with an appropriate old school flavor. Matt Reeves’ handling of the material made for a smart, action-packed, and visually stunning blockbuster that again put the Apes franchise a worthwhile inclusion on any “best of the summer” list. Reeves returns for his second go with War for the Planet of the Apes, which will once again find ape leader Caesar – brought to life by motion capture master Andy Serkis – in conflict with humans, lead by the all-monkeys-must-die Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
Reeves’ Dawn felt like a blockbuster in a class of its own: it has the grand action and set pieces audiences want and expect from their summer entertainment, while also offering a genuinely emotional and intelligent look at a concept that could be outright silly and laughable if improperly handled. The third installment of the rebooted series looks socially and thematically relevant and its imagery – its wide and foreboding landscapes, its moody and ominous forests and ape dwellings – promises a visual stunner that should have the appropriate heft, action and dramatics to back up the claims that the modern Apes franchise is among Hollywood’s best. This franchise has delivered on all the expected blockbuster fronts with its last two outings, and the recently debuted first trailer sees Caesar wrestling with his darker instincts – making for what could be the most compelling Apes yet. War for the Planet of the Apes swings into theaters July 14th.
4. Beauty and the Beast
Disney began transforming their treasured animated classics into live-action re-imaginings with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, with Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book all arriving to box office success in recent years. Those last two were critical darlings, and rightfully so, faithfully bringing to life the beloved masterpieces overseen by Walt Disney himself. Disney’s fairy tale slate in the coming years includes re-dos of The Little Mermaid (featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of “Hamilton” and Moana fame), Peter Pan, Aladdin (from Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword director Guy Ritchie), Cruella (an origin story of the 101 Dalmatians villainess, played by Emma Stone), Mulan, Dumbo (potentially directed by Tim Burton), The Lion King (from The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau) and more – with Beauty and the Beast, a re-working of Disney’s iconic 1991 film, next in line to charm and wonder audiences. Cinderella and The Jungle Book were the best kind of adaptations, serving as faithful productions that added to their animated predecessors while also offering freshness and dazzling magic to justify live-action “remakes.”
A Broadway-esque musical brought to life by director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), Disney’s newest Beauty and the Beast will repurpose Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award winning soundtrack, with Menken – whose music is ingrained in the minds of all millennials, having provided the scores for most of the Disney renaissance films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules – returning as composer for the live-action iteration, even utilizing unused lyrics penned by late songwriter Howard Ashman. Included in the film’s soundtrack will be the new “Our Song Lives On,” which – coming from Menken – will most likely be a new Disney classic. The film’s first trailer shows a lavish and gorgeous production, one that amazingly conjures images of the incomparable animated masterpiece, and its cast – including Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou, Emma Thomspon as Mrs. Potts, Kevin Kline as Maurice, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Stanley Tucci as Cadenza and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth – should make for a toe-tapping, enchanting time at the movies. Beauty and the Beast waltzes into theaters March 17th.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy was a big gamble for Marvel Studios, who had established themselves as a major Hollywood player with hits like the Iron Man franchise and The Avengers. The subversive and fun space romp – accompanied by a best-selling soundtrack of well placed hits – was the breakout success of 2014. With a core cast of one-of-a-kind and interesting characters – there was the smarmy and roguishly charming Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the stern and brave Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the takes-everything-literally Drax (Dave Bautista), the fiery and ornery Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the heart-stealing Groot (Vin Diesel) – the Guardians of the Galaxy became instant household names after decades of wallowing in the comic book lower class. Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) lovingly crafted one of the most unique and daring superhero productions in years, and the inevitable followup has long been one of the most anticipated movies of recent years.
Marvel kicked off December with the first trailer for the film, and the hype is real: Baby Groot (once again voiced by Diesel) is already a hit with audiences and poised to move more merchandise than Tickle Me Elmo. Beautifully photographed, colorful, and humorous – and sure to feature another bumping soundtrack – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is sure to feature everything you loved about the original and more. Gunn is making sure the trailers are “not going to give away very much” – we’ve seen nothing of Star-Lord’s dad, played by Kurt Russell – and what we have seen is funny and engaging. A-lister Chris Pratt is best in the role that propelled him to stardom, and the off-the-charts chemistry of Guardians‘ ensemble will make for a worldwide hit and crowd-pleaser that could be even better than the original. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a lot to live up to, but James Gunn is every bit as capable as fellow Marvel stable directors Joe and Anthony Russo, whose Captain America: Civil War managed to outdo their own Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was then the best Marvel movie at the time. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens May 5th.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
In 2015, Disney-owned Marvel Studios hashed out a deal with Sony – holders of the screen rights to Marvel’s most famous superhero, Spider-Man – to allow the webslinging superhero the opportunity to take part in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. After making an amazing splash in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, Spidey’s cinematic prospects are looking the best they have since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Rebooted for a new generation, high schooler Peter Parker (Tom Holland) will headline Spider-Man: Homecoming, the webhead’s first solo flick set in the same New York City home to Tony Stark and Avengers tower. Described as a John Hughes-inspired coming of age story, Spider-Man: Homecoming is creatively produced by Marvel Studios – makers of such hits as Iron Man, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – with Sony distributing the film. Marvel and Sony dropped the first trailer earlier this month ahead of its theatrical debut with Rogue One, and between the high school setting, the light but dramatic tone, the sense of humor, and glimpses at some big action scenes – including Spidey displaying a show of power by struggling to hold together a separating ferry, and tackling the winged, scary-looking and villainous Vulture (Michael Keaton) – Spider-Man: Homecoming looks like it nails everything people love about Spider-Man and the almost always downtrodden Peter Parker.
Marvel Studios was launched on the backs of former B-list, C-list and even D-list characters, forging what would eventually become one of Hollywood’s most successful producing companies – and the highest grossing franchise of all time, with more than $10 billion in box office sales. Marvel made hits out of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and took the unlikeliest of cinematic successes – like a group of space a-holes, a little guy who talks to ants, and a cape-wearing sorcerer – and turned them into hits that all managed to gross more than half a billion dollars worldwide. Now they’re working with Marvel’s flagship character, who has persevered as one of the biggest characters in comic books for more than fifty years – and the results are looking promising, right down to a fanboy-teasing flyby of Iron Man and Spider-Man side by side. It’s not that Marvel Studios can do no wrong, but they are the best in the superhero game – they’re making monstrous hits that please the most hardcore of comic book fans as much as they do your average moviegoer who has never so much as heard of Amazing Fantasy – and a Spider-Man movie that’s finally in the creative web of Marvel Studios is both an exciting prospect and a dream come true. With the most fun and faithful take on Spidey yet, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man is coming up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and July can’t come fast enough. Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters July 7th.
1. Star Wars: Episode VIII
Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion dollars in 2012, relinquishing the globally beloved and iconic Star Wars franchise from creator George Lucas who would no longer be involved with a galaxy far, far away. Disney successfully revitalized the Star Wars brand with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, co-scripted by Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and J.J. Abrams, who Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy sought to direct the 32 years later sequel to 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Opening to wide critical acclaim and even bigger financial success in December 2015 – the seventh episodic installment of the saga would go on to gross more than two billion worldwide, making it the third highest grossing film of all time – Star Wars: The Force Awakens proved the Force was strong with Disney, who were personally selected by Lucas as “the custodians of Star Wars.”
After the one-two punch that was Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One – the recently released freshman standalone set in the Star Wars universe, telling the tale of the heroic Rebels who captured the Death Star plans that would provide a major victory for the Rebel Alliance come time of Star Wars: A New Hope – most fans should have the utmost faith in Star Wars: Episode VIII, which will continue the adventures of Star Wars‘ newest fan-favorite characters including Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and lovably sassy astromech droid BB-8. Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) takes over directorial duties from Abrams (who remains on as producer), and though we’ve seen only the briefest of footage, there’s a lot to be excited about come December 2017 – setting high expectations for a movie that has yet to have even its title revealed.
The continued plot threads of Rey’s journey towards the path of a Jedi, her eventual tutelage under Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, who appeared just in the closing minute of The Force Awakens), the development of Sith-wannabe Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) under the mysterious Snoke (Andy Serkis), the furthered appearances of classic franchise characters such as R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca alongside the newer generation of heroes like Finn and Poe – with The Force Awakens having set the stage for the future of the mainline Star Wars series, there’s a lot to look forward to come Episode VIII, which won’t need Jedi mind tricks to topple the box office behemoth that was The Force Awakens. Star Wars: Episode VIII opens December 15th.