So, after putting together the preview for the first half of the year, I found the second half far more interesting, and it took a bit longer to pull together. Let’s jump right in:
Spider-Man: Homecoming / July 7th – Finally, the Spider-Man everyone has always wanted. Sony has loaned the distribution rights to Marvel Studios for what was likely a hefty sum. But, no matter, Spider-Man has finally joined the Avengers, and fans eagerly anticipate this latest release as the beginning of something fantastic. Most considered Tom Holland to have held his own well against Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War last year, so knowing that more of that is in store will likely delight audiences. In a twist of irony, Michael Keaton has been cast as The Vulture, which feels like a giant inside joke after his role in Birdman. The last thing to note: Donald Glover has been added to the list of top billed cast members, which should elicit some excitement after his incredible success with his show, Atlanta, at the Golden Globes.
Dunkirk / July 21 – Christopher Nolan returns with this WWII epic. Rumors of him purchasing actual planes from the era and blowing them up angered history buffs and delighted film fanatics. Whatever the case, Nolan’s desire for real and grounded filmmaking will certainly be on display in Dunkirk. July is not a typical month for war movie releases, but it is the month Nolan has chosen to release most of his films over the past decade. It would be nice if Dunkirk finally gets Nolan the Oscar recognition he probably deserves (whether he actually cares about awards is another discussion altogether).
War for the Planet of the Apes / July 14 – The third in this rebooted franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes reveals what looks like the last stand of humanity against their primate opponents. This movie will likely have a decent story, good cinematography, and excellent acting as the preceding installments have. It will also likely have a good opening weekend at the box office, maybe even better than the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which took a substantial $72 million. That said, I am not super interested in seeing a war between mankind and an army of primates, and I wonder if others will feel the same, especially when other, lighter fare is available (a la Spiderman).
Kingsman: The Golden Circle / October 6 – The first Kingsman movie surprised everyone as a hit. I still remember walking into the theater completely unaware of what The film was, not having seen a trailer or read a single review. Many critics hailed this as a new and interesting entry into a tired subgenre (action/spy). I cannot express how much I disliked this film. I know I am in a small minority (even as I watched, nearly everyone else in the theater laughed and gasped while I remained silent), so I’ll explain my opinion and move on: I found this movie a weird spin on Young Adult and Classic James Bond. The problem with those genres (for me, anyhow) is that they both usually have poor scripts and plots, poor acting, and rampant sexism. The first Kingsman had good acting, but the entire final act shows the young male protagonist performing acts of “heroism” and villain-defeating spectacles… all because an attractive female character has promised him certain sexual favors. Seriously? Absurd, sexist, and NOT a new take on a classic genre. I do not look for anything better out of this second Kingsman movie.
Blade Runner 2049 / October 6th – The original Blade Runner, although not initially a hit at the box office, became a genre-defining cult classic. Ridley Scott followed his sci-fi classic Alien with Blade Runner, and, at the time, the movie was hailed by critics as groundbreaking and visionary. Nominated for two Oscars (Best Art Direction and Visual Effects) Blade Runner continues to be respected in the industry as a standard for futuristic science fiction films. The question now becomes, “can that magic be recaptured for the sequel?” Sequels are tricky things – most of the time we just roll our eyes, say it’s a cash-grab, go see it anyhow, and wind up disappointed that we were right all along. There is, however, hope for this film. The director, Denis Villeneuve, was just nominated for Arrival, and Ryan Gosling, the new lead, likewise received a nomination for his role in La La Land. Most impressively, the cinematographer, Roger Deakins, has been nominated 13 times (all without wins); so step aside DiCaprio fans – the man has worked on some of the most noteworthy and beautiful films in the past two decades and many are saying this is Deakin’s moment to finally win it all. Oh, and for anyone interested, Harrison Ford is reprising his role as well.
Justice League / November 17th – If you saw Batman Vs. Superman: first, I’m sorry, and second, Justice League will continue whatever little story existed in that. Seriously, the acting, script, and pacing of Batman Vs. Superman makes me almost certain that I’ll skip this DC adventure. I think what disappoints me most about the entire DC and Warner Bros. universe is Zack Snyder’s involvement. He co-wrote, produced, and directed Batman Vs. Superman, which ended up costing the studio over $700 million to make, market, and distribute. The film opened to lackluster reviews and now he’s been given the reigns to the rest over the DC Universe. This continued mismanagement of Warner Bros. largest franchise will only hurt the company in the long run. It’s these types of foibles that make Disney look so much better.
Thor: Ragnarok / November 3rd – This, the third Thor movie, will supposedly inform us on the God of Thunder’s activities following Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor is one of the least favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a very bad second entry into the series did not help. With two other Marvel movies coming out this year (Guardians and Spider-Man) perhaps people will be excited for this addition to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), or perhaps they’ll have superhero fatigue. The biggest thing going for Thor: Ragnarok is the director: Taika Waititi. If you just did a double-take and asked, “WHO?” No worries, you’re not alone. He hails from New Zealand and, unless you’ve seen his indie films (What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople) you’ve likely not heard of him before. But, know this: both of the aforementioned movies are funny and well done (I attended the SXSW premiere of Wilderpeople last year, and it was a favorite of mine and many others). Some great, wry humor might be just the thing to help make Thor a bit more relatable and fun.
Murder on the Orient Express / November 22 – Okay, imagine a remake of a classic Agatha Christie novel, directed by a respected Shakespearean Theatre director, and starring some of the most recognizable names in showbiz. That is Murder on the Orient Express. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it stars people like, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, and more! The film should, by all accounts, be excellent. Not much has come to public attention, except for this little gem, made by Josh Gad while working on set with Daisy Ridley…
Josh Gad interrogates Daisy Ridley about Star Wars
Star Wars: The Last Jedi / December 15 – Speaking of Daisy Ridley… I am a sucker for Star Wars -, always have been, likely always will be. For those of you who share my affection for this classic franchise (excluding the prequels), this film is directed by Rian Johnson, known for the clever neo-noir, indie-film, Brick, and his second project, Looper. A self-proclaimed geek, Johnson has written the scripts for both Episode 8 and 9. After reading them, J.J. Abrams said he wished he was sticking around to direct Episode 8 himself, it was so good. Whether or not that is just hype, we’ll have to wait and see, and we know precious little about the film thus far. Despite this, Disney has managed to keep the film in conversation, even without a trailer or set pictures, simply by changing the color of the title poster (notice the red instead of the traditional “Star Wars gold”). I am very curious to see what this change in directors and writers does for the rest of the Disney Star Wars Universe.
Jumanji / December 22 – So, it’s been over 20 years since the original Jumanji hit theaters, starring Robin Williams. I don’t believe I even stayed awake through the whole thing when I was a kid and never went back to revisit… maybe that makes me a pathetic cinephile. I will not, however, miss this reboot (not a remake). With stars like Dwayne “How Many Movies Can I be in Every Year?” Johnson, Chris Rock, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black I expect this movie to be a hit at the box office, IF (and that’s a big if) it can manage to get an edge in the marketing against Star Wars: Episode VIII. I don’t know how good the story will be, but once again, we have a huge budget and franchise riding on the very muscular shoulders of “The Rock”, so all things are possible. And I mentioned how much people seem to just like Dwayne Johnson, no matter how crappy the movie around him turns out… I think it has something to do with his incredible down-to-earth relatability, which is shown in things like his wrap announcement on Instagram:
As I’m saying in this vid, I can’t express my gratitude enough for our incredibly hard working and brilliant production crew – the backbone and spirit of our business. THANK YOU and look forward to seeing you all down the road.
We made a great movie that honors and evolves the cool and dangerous #Jumanji mythology – one that that I think the world’s gonna dig.
And finally, like so many of us, Robin Williams was a hero of mine and one of the main reasons why I signed on and wanted to make and produce this film. Pay homage to the legend of “Alan Parrish” (name of Robin’s character in the original). Thank you to the William’s family for their support. I truly believe we made something you guys will be proud of.
Until then that’s a DJ wrap. And to quote ol’ Luke the Drifter, Hank Williams himself… If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you down the road.
Pitch Perfect 3 / December 22 – Immediately greenlit after the wild success of the 2015 sequel, Pitch Perfect 3 has lots going for it, and one thing not. First, it’s a fun, female-led, franchise with a good reputation. Those are not easy to come by these days, which is weird, because the audience for such films is largely underserved. Second, the director, Trish Sie, has a very interesting background. She got her start directing the first music video for a band called OK GO… yes, that treadmill video you’re thinking about… if you’re not thinking of it, watch it here as soon as you finish reading. Sie has the right background for this installment of the series: she’ll keep things fresh, funny, and musical. The unfortunate thing that may crush any chance this film has real financial success: Star Wars. Perhaps you all think I’m over estimating the absurd box office power of that movie, but I assure you, I’m not. It’s predecessor holds nearly every December box office record available. For months Episode VII was the largest grossing film, not only of 2015 (when it was released) but of 2016… When Disney wants theaters to show their film, they’ll get it done. Hardly any screens will be available for something like PP3, and it will also be competing with Jumanji. I really hope audiences show up to see Pitch Perfect, it’d be a shame to lose movies like this because studios planned a poor release date only to blame the movie for not succeeding at the box office. I can just see the headline now: “Studio Execs Claim Audience Doesn’t Exist for Female Led Franchises.” That’s false, and I hope Pitch Perfect 3 proves it.
To wrap up, 2017 will be an interesting year. Hollywood will continue to resurrect old franchises IP (intellectual property) and franchises (The Alien Movie, Baywatch, The Mummy, more superhero movies, etc.), even though many attempts at this in 2016 failed horribly (Ghostbusters, Zoolander 2, Independence Day 2, etc.). I don’t think that all of the attempts in 2017 will work, but I do think that we may get some surprises. Additionally, I think we can expect to see Disney set more box office records. I think $3.7 billion and 35% of the market share is totally within their grasp. I am pretty excited to see what comes out of SXSW and Sundance again this year; and we won’t have to wait long for some of those movies, because Netflix and Amazon bought nearly 20 combined from Sundance last month. So, enjoy this year’s films, there will surely be some good ones.