The Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 - Part 1 & 2

This article was first published over at dailyoftheday.com, but re-posting here for posterity's sake.

Now that I got all that negative energy released from last week, now I can focus on the (hopefully) good movies coming out next year. Sometimes I really like the anticipation of a film before its release - at this point it's everything you want it to be. Sure those expectations can spiral out of control (Suicide Squad, BvS anyone?) once the crushing reality of a mediocre movie comes out. But that's not what this list is all about, folks.

6 years ago I was trying to find out about movies coming out the following year and there wasn't any in-depth articles about it that I could find. Sure, there were little shorts briefs for like the top 20 movies, but they didn't delve into the production or writing or anything, just HEY check this movie out, it should be cool!-kinda writing. So I've been doing this over at my dumb little blog  and I've always, always done 50 movies along with 10 runner-up films. And last year it got overwhelming - there just wasn't enough good films for me hit 50, but I did it anyway. Unfortunately my lists have ended up having such stunning pieces of shit like London Has Fallen and Ben-Hur.

This year I've cut back to 40. And I've divided them up between 20 "originals" and 20 "sequels/remakes". I think it's fair to say there are a lot of sequels and/or franchise movies that I'm looking forward to but also I'm excited for the original films that are coming out. Yes, it's a lot of movies to put on a list for next year, but honestly, if you love movies as much as I do, this is a pretty low number as far as how many movies someone like me will watch next year. I'll start out with the first 4 sequels on my list that I'm looking forward to next year and then tomorrow the first 4 from the originals list and so on.

20. Murder on the Orient Express
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Release: November 22

A remake of the 1974 film which is based on the Agatha Christie novel. That film is a classic and it's interesting that over 40 years later we're getting a remake with a ton of stars. Not mentioned in the credit line above: Penélope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Gad, Michael Peña, Daisy Ridley. It's a big cast and Branagh is starring in the titular role of detective Hercule Poirot - the man tasked with figuring out who murdered an American business tycoon. Everyone is a suspect and for those that haven't read the book or seen the original, it's a fun mystery. I think I'm most excited to see the performance out of everyone and how Branagh will live up to the extraordinary shoes of Sidney Lumet, the director of the original film. Branagh is known for his period pieces both in front and behind the camera so this is right in his wheelhouse. Michael Green - a writer whom you're going to see a lot on this list, is behind the screenplay. He's worked on a lot of  TV shows (Smallwood, Everwood, Heroes, the upcoming American Gods) and also was the hand behind the abysmal Green Lantern movie. I guess I'll know by the end of the year if I really, truly, like the guy. I think the story is ripe for a modern take - I'm guessing the movie is going to be set in the 1930s like the original, but it might be a more modern take. Either way, it should be a fun drama with all these characters.

19. Baywatch
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Zac Efron
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Release: May 19

I will admit I had a hard time coming up with the last couple of movies for this section of the list. But once I read more about this movie, the more I liked about it. First of all, it's got The Rock in it and that's automatically gonna pique my interest. But also the fact that the comedy writers from MTV's The State and Wet Hot American Summer (my all-time favorite comedy) wrote the treatment for the script says a lot about how this comedy will shake out. I'm totally expecting a lot of tongue-in-cheek jokes and very meta-humor akin to the 21 Jump Street movie and a lot of making fun of it's own show like The Brady Bunch Movie. And the director is Seth Gordon - the guy behind Horrible Bosses and the great documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. He's been on and off with me - I hated Identity Thief, but I really love the TV shows he's directed - Community, Marry Me, The Goldbergs. Oh and also I think I'm actually a Zac Efron fan. I don't know why, but I have a soft spot for the guy. I feel like he doesn't get enough good roles even though he's real pretty. He won me over in Neighbors and I've heard that mega-failure DJ movie We Are Your Friends is actually really good. I'm a little on the fence about this one, but it could turn out to be hilarious if it gets good reviews and the trailers look funny.

18. The Mummy
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Release: June 9

Now I know I went on a rant about dumb reboots and remakes, but The Mummy actually stood out among the others from last week's post. I can't believe they got Tom Cruise for the lead role, but these are desperate times for the movie star. I think he's made a real comeback and I'll watch pretty much anything he's in. Despite his public persona, he's such a magnetic figure onscreen. And the mummy itself is going to be female - played by Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond badass Sofia Boutella. I think this is great - it should be at least an interesting dynamic if nothing else. Plus sprinkle in comedic actor Jake Johnson (New Girl's pretty funny Nick) and Russell Crowe - this could be a fun summer blockbuster. Alex Kurtzman, who hasn't had a whole lot of directing experience, will be behind the camera. He has written a lot of big-budget action flicks, notably Star Trek and Transformers. He's working off a script by Jon Spaihts - the hot hand in Hollywood right now. He's written Prometheus, Doctor Strange and the upcoming Passengers. So I guess you might want to avoid this movie if you hated Prometheus. I absolutely loved that film, so color me excited. This movie might not be a gamechanger - but I'm willing to bet it'll be a fun diversion next summer - akin to Star Trek Beyond this year.

17. Blade Runner 2049
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Release: October 6

This should be higher on my list. I'm just hesitant to put a sequel for such a beloved sci-fi film too high. Maybe my brain is just tempering expectations. I love everything I've heard about this movie. The cast - bringing back Ford for the same role, set 30 years later from the original. And Gosling is a pretty on-the-nose casting. Ditto for Jared Leto. Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. He just kinda gets any genre he's directing. Whether it'd be a gut-wrenching drama like Prisoners or a heart-pounding thriller like Sicario or a sci-fi epic like The Arrival. So I'm excited what he'll bring to the table with this movie. It's going to take a certain kind of production and director to carry the weight of 35 years between the original and the new film. Plus you have the original film writer back - Fancher along with the writer mentioned earlier in this post - Michael Green. (I swear his name is going to pop up more than some actors, which is...unusual). I don't normally point out the composer behind the film, but Villeneuve is teaming up again with Sicario and The Arrival composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. If you don't understand my enthusiasm, here's a some examples of how good he is and how diverse, too. There is barely any images or news on the production - I think this film will be shrouded in mystery until this summer when the marketing kicks in. I don't know if the studio thinks this might be an Oscar contender with the October release date, but the film certainly has the pedigree and potential to break in, especially if the script is top notch and the acting is solid. I am cautiously excited. I know this could be a big disappointment. But gosh darnit, Villeneuve is the X-factor here and I think we might have an amazing, instant-classic on our hands next year if everything plays out right.

This next part of my list is going to dive into 'original' films. That is, these films have never been made and they're not a part of a franchise. There are a lot of adaptations on this list but some of the best movies come from the best books. One of my pet peeves is when people talk about all the sequels and nothing's original. First of all, no movie is an original work of art - they're all stealing from something. Secondly, there's a lot of great movies that have original, fresh takes on old stories - you just have to find them. I think both sides of the coin can live in harmony - it's nice to have comfortable, familiar movies like Star Wars and the Marvel films, but it's also nice to see something unique, like The Accountant or Nice Guys.

20. The Circle
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writer: James Ponsoldt
Release: April 28
This sorta sci-fi film is based on the novel by Dave Eggers - the creative genius behind McSweeney's and the nonfiction novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The story revolves around a talented worker, Mae, who finds herself recruited into the powerful and mysterious tech company known as The Circle. Things aren't what they seem and Mae finds herself tangled up in a web of conspiracies and corporate power. I have yet to read the book, but I love Eggers and this could be a really good adaptation with the talent involved. Emma Watson has proved she can act outside of Harry Potter (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Bling Ring) and how can you not love national treasure Tom Hanks? Plus James Ponsoldt is writing and directing. He doesn't have an extensive resume, but I really fell in love with The Spectacular Now, which was one of my favorite movies from 2013 and he also did the David Foster Wallace biopic The End of the Tour which was fantastic. This is one of those movies that won't receive a lot of buzz and I think it'll quietly get released, much like Egger's last adapation - Hologram for the King. Plus the technology the company is making sounds interesting and I'd like to see how they adapt it to the screen. According to Wikipedia: "SeeChange: light, portable cameras that can provide real-time video with minimal efforts. Eventually, SeeChange cameras are worn all day long by politicians wishing to be 'transparent', allowing the public to see what they are seeing at all times." I believe in the talent surrounding the movie and this could be a drama worth checking out come April.

19. Life
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Release: March 24
First of all, I'm getting sick of trailers sticking a 5-second clip of the trailer right before the trailer. It's the dumbest, most idiotic trend I've seen in a while. Second, there's been a huge swath of poorly-titled films lately. Life is just another example. I mean looking back this year can be mind-numbing: The Boss, The Witch, The Accountant, The Shallows, The Forest. They lack depth and it's disappointing especially if that movie is actually good (Like The Witch and The Accountant). Life looks like a better version of Apollo 18. First of all the cast is solid - as much as I don't like Ryan Reynolds, he's still a charming actor. Jake Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar sometime in his career. And Rebecca Ferguson is quickly growing on me - she was really good in the last Mission: Impossible movie and had a decent turn in The Girl on the Train. Daniel Espinosa is the director of the decent Safe House. I have yet to see any of his other movies, but I think the movie is going to come down to the performances and the script. This might just be a polished turd. My hope is that it doesn't devolve into dumb schlocky sci-fi horror akin to Apollo 18. I'm actually hoping this turns out more like John Carpenter's The Thing. Just in space and with way better looking actors. Because if the movie starts to play tricks on the audience as to who's infected or not and it's clever, I'm all in on this one. Otherwise, this could be a dumb, disastrous movie.

18. Free Fire
Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley
Release: March 17
The reviews coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival were stellar for this movie and I am quite stoked about seeing this one. I like the idea that this is a bottle movie - in that there's really only one location for the whole film and it looks absolutely brutal but hilarious. Plus the cast looks great in all their 70s glory. Brie Larson is a badass. Sharlto Copley is playing another wildly weird character and Armie Hammer continues to be the most underappreciated actor of the decade. Ben Wheatley, whom I've never really heard, is a rising star according to those in the know. I think a lot of people have been comparing him to Guy Ritchie - with his penchant for creating stories about dopey criminals and badasses. I really dig the aesthetic of the 70s and combine that with a lot of whacko characters and force them into a warehouse full of guns and ammunition - this should be a fun ride.

17. Red Sparrow
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Eric Warren Singer, Justin Haythe
Release: November 10
There is not a whole lot of information about this movie - it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page! I think it's because it is too far out from here to really get any info. But the movie is based on the novel of the same name. According to Google Books the story is about a double agent: "In today's Russia, intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet bureaucracy. Ordered to become a "Sparrow," a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to Nathaniel Nash, who handles the CIA's most important Russian mole. The two operatives collide in a duel of spycraft, deception, and, inevitably, forbidden passion that threatens not only their lives but the security of America's most valuable Russian spy." I feel like a lot of people are "over" Jennifer Lawrence, but she's still a really good actress and I'll watch anything she's in. Plus I really enjoy Joel Edgerton, even if he makes dumb movies like Exodus: Gods and Kings where he plays an Egyptian, damned his Australian heritage. And I like a good spy story which Hollywood loves, but they're hard to find outside of James Bond, Bourne and Ethan Carter lately. And Francis Lawrence, best known for directing a few Hunger Games movies, is behind the camera. I really enjoyed those movies (although the last two could've just been one big epic movie IMO), so I'm excited to what he'll do with a spy thriller.

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