We've made it folks to the final four of each category. Thanks for reading my inane comments on movies and I hope y'all found one movie that you might not have otherwise heard about or been excited about and because of me you either want to stay the hell away from it or would like to see it immediately. So these are the top sequels and remakes that I most want to see. I think once I reached the top 8 for the sequels list, I pretty much will watch this opening weekend regardless of reviews or word of mouth. I don't lead a life of adventure, so this is what I do. Tomorrow night I'll highlight the top 4 on original films coming out.
4. Ghost in the Shell
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Juliete Binoche, Rila Fukushima
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Jonathan Herman, Jamie Moss
Release: March 31
Putting aside the alleged white-washing of the very popular Japanese manga comic series, Ghost in the Shell is probably one of the most popular and prolific Japanese comic books in the Western world. I remember watching the anime movie when I was in middle school and it was simply amazing. And honestly, it's a testament to how popular this series is that Hollywood is finally doing a live action movie. Guys - we're getting an honest-to-goodness cyberpunk movie. The fans of the series are no doubt going to show up for this movie - so what would entice a regular movie-goer that has no clue what the hell is happening in this trailer? Well, first of all - Scarlett Johansson. She's a great actress and sure, she's pretty, but I think she's proven not only can she carry her own in an action movie (Avengers, Lucy), but that she can straight up act (Lost in Translation, Under the Skin). And the film is being directed by the man who filmed Snow White and the Huntsman. Sure, that script was terrible, but the visuals and imagination behind the film were fantastic. And finally, the script is from Jonathan Herman, the guy who wrote Straight Outta Compton and a relative newbie with Jamie Moss. I don't know how much of the intricacies and nuances from the comic and the film will show up in this version, but I have to believe from what I've seen and heard that they're sticking pretty close to the series. There may be a lot of exposition in this movie simply because the futuristic setting is so complex. In Ghost in the Shell, cyber implants are normal and people actually use cyber bodies to upload their conscious into them, hence the robotic look of Johansson's character. She's an agent working on investigating crime like ghost-hacking where other users hack a body to use for their own purposes. This being a gritty, cyberpunk noirish setting - there's lots of conspiracies and mysteries flying around. So while the setting may overwhelm some, the story itself is pretty grounded in certain detective and noir tropes. Hopefully the movie can live up to the 1995 animated version - I'd love to see a franchise come out of this movie because there's so much to uncover philosophically and metaphorically in this world. Plus, you know, it's pretty badass and cool looking.
3. Star Wars: Episode VIII
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Release: December 15
I think we've had two separate backlashes for The Force Awakens. Sometime during the beginning of this year, everyone was feeling a little bitter about how much The Force Awakens was a let down after almost universal praise when it was released. I think South Park kind of reignited that resentment for a second time this past month and people have once again started to needle in on that movie. But now that we're in full-Star Wars-every-year mode, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. These movies are going to make money and continually get made. I am of the opinion that The Force Awakens was the perfect way to re-introduce the series to not only long-time fans, but to get others excited about the series again or for the first time. Sure, it was similar, but the characters weren't exactly the same and I think that's going to be the difference in this next episode. Rian Johnson, the genius behind Looper and Brick - two of my all-time favorite movies - has delivered a script and he's making the film as we speak. There's been a lot of talk comparing this next episode to that of Empire Strikes Back and how the film took the series to a darker place and that we're in for a similar treatment. I think it's a fairly easy assumption to say that since The Force Awakens was similar, in a lot of ways, to A New Hope, that we should expect the same But many on the production team have gone on to say that while the tone is similar, the movie is entirely different. And I think that's why I think because of how different these characters are from the original trilogy's main cast will affect the rest of the Star Wars films. I think Rey and Finn are vastly different characters than Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, respectively. Rey doesn't have a family and she's way more resourceful than Luke ever was. Finn has a lot of self-doubt and conflicting emotions that I think wouldn't even enter Han's brain. So yeah - these characters are going to go through some things that may have a similar impact, but they're going to react quite differently and that's where I think this eighth episode will be different from Empire. Either way, the movie is going to do gangbusters. I would not be surprised if this film surpasses The Force Awakens. I also wouldn't be surprised if it can't quite make as much as The Force Awakens. It's certainly going to make at the very least a billion dollar worldwide. I'm just happy that we can talk about a Star Wars movie every year now.
2. T2: Trainspotting
Starring: Ewen McGregor, Kelly McDonald, Robert Carlyle
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Release: March 10
Trainspotting is one of my favorite films. There was a point in my life where I would watch this movie every. single. day. I won't lie in that pot may have been involved quite heavily in a lot of those viewings. But the movie is so much more than stoner fodder. It's a beautiful and tragic and uplifting story. It's such a seminal movie about addiction and friendship and being poor and Scottish. And I love it. They've gotten everyone back, 20 years later, to settle old scores and renew old flames. I'm excited to see what all these characters have been up to. I've always loved Danny Boyle since this movie. He's a chameleon when it comes to directing. Not only has he done a lot of dramas (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), but he's done horror (the terrific 28 Days Later), sci-fi (Sunshine) and thrillers (Trance, Shallow Grave). The dude is amazing and talented and I'll watch anything he's done. His only really bad movie was Steve Jobs, but it wasn't his fault. I think that movie was well-made, it's just Aaron Sorkin's script that was a bit too bloated and overwrought with metaphors and terrible coincidences. But Trainspotting is near and dear to my heart and I think the subject matter is ripe for a modern take. I think Renton's viewpoint on our modern society will be something we need in 2017. Maybe it'll suck, but from what Boyle's laying down in this trailer, I'm picking up. I love the fact that this movie is borrowing it's title heavily from the second Terminator movie which is so great. March is looking to be a spectacular month with not only this movie, but others from my list including Ghost in the Shell, Logan, Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire and Life.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Release: May 5
I think if you didn't realize this was going to be my #1 sequel for next year, you probably don't know me that well. Everyone is back for this sequel and oh my god oh my god oh my god. Seriously, this just looks really fun. Like funner than the first one. And funnier. I hope there's just more of Baby Groot running around yelling, more of Drax coming into his own, more of Rocket just getting angry at everything. And of course, Star-Lord being the bumbling and bold superhero along with Gamora just being a badass. James Gunn is directing again and he wrote the script for this one as well. He's gotten Kurt Russell to come aboard to play the father of Star-Lord and Sylvester Stallone is making a brief appearance. The film is still maintaining its distance from the Avengers and while there still will be implications to the overall narrative of the Marvel universe, the Guardians are still just chugging along in their own little part of the galaxy. There's no reason to doubt everyone involved in this film. It's going to be a lot like the first one, which is not a problem. Vol. 2 doesn't necessarily have to be bigger and louder and funnier, but it does have to have a reason for its existence and I think the main one is the group growing together. Yeah, that sounds awfully cheesy, but the main reason the first movie worked is because all of the characters worked and played off each other really well. If that can continue in this next film while also exploring Star-Lord's history and family and finding new ways for this team to kick ass, the movie is going to be awesome. On top of that, the soundtrack is probably going to be great as well. Using Sweet's Fox on the Run is the perfect set up for the trailer and I'm hoping they'll add some T. Rex and ELO in the mix as well. The summer movie season is going to kick off again with another Marvel movie and I cannot be more stoked.
4. The Dark Tower
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Katheryn Winnick
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Nikolaj Arcel, Akiva Goldsman, Anders Thomas Jensen, Jeff Pinkner
Release: July 28
What a strange trip it has been for Stephen King’s ultimate pop culture series. The project has been in development since 2007 when J.J. Abrams picked up the option to write and produce a movie series. The movie got kicked around for a few years, going back and forth between TV adaptation and movie, sometimes both and changing hands from Abrams to Ron Howard. It wasn’t until Sony fast-tracked the production and got a budget and cast that it was safe to say this was really happening. For those unfamiliar with King’s 7/8-book series, the story is about a cowboy/knight seeking to save his world by seeking the Dark Tower – a nexus point between time and space. It’s an epic piece of fiction in which a lot of pop culture collides and even Stephen King himself makes an appearance as a character. Included in the last chapter of the last book is a letter from the narrator, possibly King himself, to the reader warning about the ending and reading the last few pages will change things for the reader. It’s a very heavy, meta-like story and it’s filled with all sorts of lore and characters and settings that are at times amazing and other times SMH-worthy. I love Stephen King, but his story-telling can be cringe-worthy and The Dark Tower has its ups and downs. So here it is – a very much convoluted story that spans 8 books and a comic book series and features dozens of characters and spans decades (centuries?) and continents and planes of existence. Nikolaj Arcel, a Danish filmmaker who’s been nominated for an Oscar, is set to write and direct. And Idris Elba will play the mysterious gunslinger – Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey will play the antagonist – the Man in Black. But the story isn’t a remake – it is, in part, a sequel. If you’ve read the books and finished the final page, you’ll know that the Horn of Eld plays an important role for the story going forward and the movie has officially stated that the Horn is in play which means a sequel. After the film, the story is going to move to TV next year to fill in the backstory. Everyone will be reprising their roles and if everything goes according to plan and the film is a box office success, I’m sure they’re going to continue with another movie the year after that. Which means I’m going to have to dust off the old King books and have another go at it because I can’t remember shit when it comes to the series. It was all a blur almost 15 years ago for me. So yes, I’m excited for this series. It could be the best thing ever. It might be a damn disaster. But either way, I’m glad we’re finally getting to see this onscreen.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Guys, I know I'm a big bookworm. I probably read 2-3 books every month. But by and large the most stunning piece of fiction I've read since Cormac McCarthy's The Road is Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. Specifically Annihilation. I don't mean to oversell this book, but it's damn near perfect. It's a haunting tale that will get under your skin - the second book literally spooked me at one point. But I would advise y'all to read the first book (it's only 195 pages). The story is about Area X - a quarantined piece of land, somewhere in America, that is like a Bermuda triangle. No one who goes in comes back alive, or at least, the same person. The whole story is told from the perspective of the biologist, mainly. She is part of an expedition of four women (the others are a surveyor, an anthropologist and a psychologist) into Area X to observe and report back. But things don't go as planned and a lurking terror soon consumes them all. It's the way VanderMeer uses language and the unknown to slowly tear down your senses. You don't precisely know what is happening, but that something is scratching the back of your head and comes alive when you're sleeping. The studio found the perfect man to capture this tale and translate it to the screen - Alex Garland. The man behind the brilliant Ex Machina, Dredd, Never Let Me Go & 28 Days Later. As far as his scripting goes, he's on a whole other level than most screenwriters. I love this guy and I'm excited how he's going to handle this material. Natalie Portman plays the lead with a rather exciting supporting cast including Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Tessa Thompson (Creed) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful Eight). Oscar Isaac, everyone's secret crush, is in it as well, but honestly, I can't imagine what role he'll play unless it's something that will lead into an inevitable sequel. Seriously, if the film becomes a moderate hit at the very least, they immediately need to greenlight the next two books - Authority and Accepatance - because the whole trilogy is so GD amazing. And the story gets deeper and deeper and it's one of those books that haunts you long after you read it. And you can debate other people as to what it all means and how it affected you. There's no release date for the movie yet, but it is post-production, so expect an announcement soon. I cannot tell you how excited I am other than that I AM SO EXCITED.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Release: July 21
My wife has been constantly scouring my writings these past two weeks. She's been prodding me and asking constantly about when I'll write about Dunkirk. You see, this movie is the feature film debut of everyone's real secret crush, Harry Styles. Harry Styles isn't just a singer in a band. He's a prolific fashion icon, songwriter and the manic pixie dream boy of Tumblr. I've seen him get sweaty live in concert and he's got a presence bigger than the stage. He's like Mick Jagger if Mick Jagger was pretty, had a sense of style and hygiene and didn't do heroin and cocaine for 40 years. What I'm saying is the dude is a rockstar. And he's in a Christopher Nolan movie! How much more legit can you get than that? Christopher Nolan is the Steven Spielberg of our generation - he's had a somewhat similar career trajectory and I wouldn't be surprised if Dunkirk is his Saving Private Ryan moment. Dunkirk is the story of a real life event that took place during World War II, called the Dunkirk evacuation. This was a miracle - British forces managed to rescue their own troops along with Belgian and French soldiers that were surrounded by German troops on the northern coast of France. After fighting a vicious battle, more than 300,000 soldiers were evacuated. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Nolan will do here. He's got everything at his disposal - a brilliant cast, a formidable story, practical effects, vintage props and the talented Hoyte Van Hoytema, who was his cinematographer on Interstellar. World War II has always been a rich background for excellent storytelling and character development. I will never tire of watching and reading stories from this era - it touched so many lives and had a profound effect on the world at large. And there was so much happening during this time that something so crazy and miraculous as Dunkirk never received the proper Hollywood treatment. I doubt most of us had heard about this evacuation before the movie was announced. And so with all of these elements mixing together and Nolan's track record, Dunkirk is bound to be one of the year's biggest films. Do not doubt the power of a great World War II movie - and I think this might be one of them. Mostly because of Harry Styles. Mostly.