2016 in film, much like the year itself was incredibly mixed in quality, with many calling the year a “garbage fire” for movies. Many of the big-budget blockbuster films including: Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, Independence Day: Resurgence and Batman v Superman disappointed. Some critically, some commercially and some both. But on the flip side the horror genre flourished in 2016 (The VVitch, The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and as the year ended, independent films and dramas took the spotlight, garnering critical acclaim and well deserved Oscar buzz, with Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Silence and La La Land being hailed as shoe ins for Oscar nominations.
Looking at the slate of 2017s release I admit that I am more excited at this years releases than I was about last years. To fit only ten films on this list was an agonising task, but I managed to do it.
A very controversial choice to start this list beating out many blockbusters, but there’s something about this film that intrigues me. M. Night Shyamalan knows how to create tension and his two earliest works The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were masterpieces in both direction and writing. Signs is also a fantastic movie and with a masterful Mel Gibson lead performance it is one of the best alien invasion films ever made. After that, his works seemed to get progressively worse leaving many film buff’s wondering whether being hailed as ‘the next Spielberg’ had gotten to his ego. I’ll cut The Village a bit of slack because that film is gorgeous thanks to Roger Deakins beautiful work behind the lens and is actually a period romance piece which was marketed as a creature feature. After releasing four poor films (which included the atrocity The Last Airbender) he went back to his roots and made the low budget horror-comedy The Visit which was reasonably well received by critics and gave fans hope that Shyamalan can still make good films. The buzz for Split has been electric and many fans and critics who saw advanced screenings at the AFI Fest are calling it on par with his earlier work. It seems that teaming up with Blumhouse Productions has worked wonders for his career. It also has the criminally underrated James McAvoy in the lead role playing a character who inhibits 23 different personalities in his body. It also stars the up and coming star Anya Taylor-Joy who some would remember from The VVitch and Morgan (two horror films from 2016). With a twist that’s said to be on par with The Sixth Sense I’m rooting for a great original psychological thriller to capture my imagination in 2017. Split comes out in January.
9. Baby Driver
We have a new Edgar Wright film in 2017! Say no more. Well I will and I’m excited to because Wright is a modern-day auteur. His rapid editing and fast-paced style is electric and his aesthetic is one of the most noticeable in modern cinema. Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead – 2004, Hot Fuzz – 2007, The World’s End – 2013) is comedic gold with my favourite of the three being Hot Fuzz, which is a perfect parody of the modern mystery-action caper. Baby Driver has unarguably Wright’s biggest ensemble cast of his career with Ansel Elgort starring as a getaway driver who has to listen to music to drown out his ringing ears. Wright is even going to time the action to the beats of the songs. I can’t wait for the soundtrack already and I’m hoping the film will be just as good as the soundtrack is. We also have Kevin Spacey playing a crime boss, Jamie Foxx as a gun-slinging cohort and Jon Hamm as a party animal. Sign me up already! I’m really hoping that this film turns out to be a commercial success after Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was critically praised and has gained a cult following, but the box-office receipts were minimal. Baby Driver comes out in August.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Yes, I can hear you complaining already. There’s lots of movies I’m looking forward to in 2017! I really liked the first film, mainly because it was a huge change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Up to the point where the first film came out Marvel had been riding high with money making monolith The Avengers and they had just released Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was in my opinion the best MCU film up to that point and a great throwback to 1970s spy thrillers. Then there was Guardians of the Galaxy… What is this, how does it connect to the overall universe? Fans were shocked when Guardians was a comedic space opera which introduced one of the coolest lead protagonists in recent history in Star Lord, simultaneously telling everyone that Chris Pratt was a charismatic leading man to be reckoned with, showing shades of a young Harrison Ford. It had a sense of vibrancy and fun like not many other superhero films before it and that was testament to hilarious writing from James Gunn (he also directed the movie). Gunn and Pratt both return as well as key returnees – Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Karen Gillan. There’s also a great new signing in the form of Kurt Russell who is playing Ego the Living Planet – Star Lord’s father. If it can recapture the scope and humourous tone of the first film audiences are in for a treat. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes out in May.
7. John Wick: Chapter 2
Great throwback action films are a rare breed in modern times which is expected as superhero films are said to fill the ‘action’ void in cinema today. However, there’s nothing better than watching a great 80s style action film with kinetic fight and stunt choreography and the first John Wick (released in 2014) delivered that in spades. It was made for a small $20 million budget and ended up making $86 million making it a commercial success. It was also a hit with critics and fans with an 85% critic approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes. Keanu Reeves delivers a career best performance as assassin John Wick who seeks cold-blooded revenge for the death of his dog (which was his late wife’s final gift). It sounds silly on paper but Chad Stahelski and David Leitch directed the movie with so much style that it off-sets the plot’s simple structure. It incorporated elements of Hong Kong action cinema reminiscent of John Woo’s early films with the fight style gun-fu being prominently used. Derek Kolstad’s screenplay also has fantastic world building rarely seen in modern action movies today. The sequel moves location to Rome and the trailer suggests an all-out bloodbath with Common playing the new villain of the film. With Stahelski (this time without David Leitch) back in the director’s chair and Kolstad back on script duties all the signs point to a memorable action sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 is released in February.
6. Justice League
This is only as high on this list as it is due to it’s name value. We have never seen the Justice League grace the cinema and in 2017 we’ll get that chance. And because it’s the DC Extended Universe it will be directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman). It has one redeeming factor currently and that is Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Batman v Superman was arguably the most polarising movie of 2016, but after seeing it, Ben Affleck is my favourite cinematic incarnation of the character. He is how Frank Miller envisioned him in the iconic comic book The Dark Knight Returns. He’s morally bankrupt and the fact that Batman killed didn’t worry me. It’s a shame the rest of the movie didn’t live up to that character’s potential. The first Justice League trailer indicates a lighter tone with Ezra Miller’s Flash looking like an entertaining comedic presence and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has shown that she can make an impact in the DCEU. If there’s one movie to hope for this year, it’s Justice League, because if this flops, I cannot see the DCEU recovering. If Snyder can balance his usual great visuals with good storytelling I’ll be incredibly happy. Oh, and I’m betting that Superman shows up in the third act. Justice League hits theatres in November.
5. The Mummy
Yes folks, there’s a reboot of The Mummy coming out in 2017. Barely anyone knew until the trailer hit in December, it stars Tom Cruise in the lead role and it is intended to be the first instalment in Universal’s Monsters Universe, which will include Van Helsing and the Bride of Frankenstein among others. I’m looking forward to this movie purely because of the cast and writers. Tom Cruise at the ripe age of 54 is still the biggest movie star on the planet and rarely phones in performances. You also have Russell Crowe who is one of the best actors working today. What is most promising is that Christopher McQuarrie is co-writing the movie with Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange, Prometheus). McQuarrie and Cruise are a perfect working pair and their last collaboration Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was one of the best films of 2015. Alex Kurtzman is directing and has worked with Cruise once before as a co-writer on M:I-3. It’s his second directing effort after 2012 drama People Like Us. Unlike the original Mummy trilogy (1999-2008), this film will be set in modern day and will be located in London. Like Justice League, this could go either way, but with Cruise in the lead role that adds major credibility and I’m hoping that it’s a positive start in Universal’s Monsters Universe. The Mummy opens in June.
4. The Fate of the Furious
It’s a dumb title but it’s Fast and Furious so anything is possible. This is a franchise whose first four films were not very good. The first was a Point Break rip-off and when the 2009 instalment was a critical failure it seemed that this franchise was headed for the end of the road (pun very much intended). But it was Justin Lin’s Fast Five that removed the street racing element and decided to turn the franchise into an action-heist-spy franchise with great reward. The sixth was even more successful and Australian horror master James Wan was put in the director’s chair for the seventh instalment which was impacted by the tragic passing of co-lead Paul Walker in 2013, after two months of shooting. The film turned out to be a huge success making a staggering $1.5 billion at the box-office and ended on an emotional note. It would’ve been a perfect end to the series, but due to Universal Studios wanting money, we have The Fate of the Furious directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday, Straight Outta Compton). It finds Dom betraying his family in a shocking twist for the series. Charlise Theron and Helen Mirren have been added to the cast with Theron playing the villainous techno-terrorist Cipher. These movies are so absurdly entertaining that I love them (five to seven that is) and to see the increasingly ridiculous and physics defying stunts is something that I’m really looking forward to. The Fate of the Furious opens in April.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Tom Holland showed that he was perfect for the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the brilliant Captain America: Civil War. He was perfect amalgamation of nerd and cool, with Marvel the character is in safe hands. The most important question is whether this movie, the first collaboration between Marvel and Sony, and the big-budget debut of Cop Car director Jon Watts, can succeed where the most recent Spider-Man movies faltered. The last three Spider-Man films are very flawed. Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were both overstuffed with villains and plotlines with these movies feeling like set-up movies for future entries. This film is said to be inspired by the John Hughes films of the 1980s like The Breakfast Club which is promising and Marvel have collected some of the brightest young and older actors for this film. Michael Keaton as The Vulture, which like Tom Cruise with The Mummy, adds credibility to the film. Young talented actors Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Australian Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys) have also joined the cast. Marvel have an ability to take lesser known directors like the Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War) and Peyton Reed (Ant-Man) and help guide them to make great films. I’m hoping they can do the same with Jon Watts. If Marvel can hit a home run with Homecoming, then it will prove that as a studio, Marvel can do no wrong. Spider-Man: Homecoming is released in July.
2. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Manners… Maketh… Man. I love Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was a perfect homage to the Roger Moore and Sean Connery era James Bond films and its characters were so likable. Colin Firth as the James Bond ‘type’ mentor showed how much of a diverse performer he can be and it launched young Taron Egerton’s career who was such a great underdog that the audience could root for. Of course, this wouldn’t have been able to be achieved without Matthew Vaughn’s signature over-the-top kinetic direction style. He directs movies like a comic book (Kingsman was based off a Mark Millar comic book) and feels the personal obligation to entertain audiences. Vaughn’s writing (along with Jane Goldman) was also on point with continuous self-aware references to ‘spy movies’ and it contained witty dialogue. The Golden Circle will see the Kingsman teaming up with their American counterpart ‘The Statesman’ and mayhem will ensue. Cast additions include – Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry. Vaughn who is back to direct and write is putting all his eggs(y) in one basket and if he pulls it off we are in for one of the most fun cinematic rides of 2017. Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens in October.
1. Star Wars: Episode VIII
It’s a new Star Wars movie.
In all seriousness, this movie could not come fast enough. I am a fan of Star Wars franchise but I am not a fan who will camp out four days before the movie opens. However, what the originals did was change movies forever. Star Wars showed Hollywood what you could do with cutting edge CGI and the original trilogy will go down as one of the greatest trilogies of all time (it created fandom). The prequels were blue-screen messes with some below par acting and average George Lucas writing, however I do mostly enjoy Episode III – Revenge of the Sith even though it does have glaring flaws (dialogue). Episode VII was JJ Abrams’ throwback to the originals making a film very similar in plot and aesthetic to Episode IV. However, the great new characters along with the classic original characters helped make it one of the most fun movies I’ve seen. It also introduced a great new antagonist, Kylo Ren played brilliantly by Adam Driver. With Rian Johnson (Looper) on board directing I’m hoping that the film will again live up to the legacy of the original trilogy. This film will obviously be quite emotional due to the recent passing of Carrie Fisher and it’ll be bitter-sweet to see Fisher play General Leia for one last time. Is it December yet? Star Wars: Episode VIII opens in December.
~ Industrial Write & Magic