The Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 - Part 5 & 6

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

From here on out, at least in this section of sequels/remakes, half the movies are going to be superhero movies. That's just how I roll. And about half the movie-going public, too. As much digital ink has been spilled over the crushing weight of the 'superhero' genre and that apparently a general malaise has swept over critics and the public. But there's a large amount of evidence that people are still pretty excited about seeing these movies. Deadpool, Captain America and Doctor Strange's collective success offers plenty of evidence that we still haven't reached peak superhero. Hell, even the DC movies BvS and Suicide Squad made a huge chunk of money compared to their previous DC counterparts. So yes, as long as there is compelling and timely stories to tell about these characters, I think there will always be movies like superhero movies. Maybe there won't be as many in ten years, but they'll still be around. Marvel may already see the writing in the wall once they finish their 3rd phase of movies - they've gone on record saying they want to create more 'intimate' stories.

12. John Wick: Chapter 2
Staring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose
Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Release: February 10

Everyone's back from the original film and there's quite possibly a chance that the sequel will be better than the original. John Wick came out of nowhere two years ago to kick some ass. It was a refreshing throwback to a fun action flick. There wasn't anything fancy going on - just straight up revenge and hyper-realistic action. And there was just a little bit of world-building sprinkled throughout to leave everyone wanting to see more of it. Keanu Reeves has done the sequel game - most successfully with Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, but has also seen the worst with The Matrix Reloaded. I think the fact that both the writer and director are back we can expect more of the same - just on a grander scale than before. The visuals look like a treat and just what the hell is Laurence Fishburne doing with a dove in his hands? If there isn't some nod and wink to the Matrix or Neo, the movie will have failed. I cannot wait to see what shenanigans Mr. Wick gets himself into just as long as there is going to be a lot of gun-fu.

11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey, Jr.
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Release: July 7

As much as I'm not excited about seeing a third different Spider-Man in the past 15 years, I am just as excited to see this version of Spider-Man. I'm probably one of the few who like the Amazing Spider-Man films. Was the second one bad? Maybe, but it handled Gwen Stacy with grace and the set up for future movies seemed more solid than whatever the hell was going on in Spider-Man 3. Marvel knows this movie isn't about an origins tale. They've specifically invoked the name of John Hughes when describing the inspiration for this high school comedy/action film. I'll maintain the main reason behind the success of the Marvel movies isn't because they're great action films. It's because they find a way to make a certain type of film - a political thriller, a sci-fi adventure, a family drama - and just substitute well-rounded superheroes instead of normal humans. It's worked quite well and if this all goes according to plan, Spider-Man is looking at a trilogy of John Hughes-type movies. Tom Holland has already shown a little bit of what he'll bring to the character and they go the man Mr. Keaton himself to show up as the bad guy - the Vulture. It's good to see they're doing a new villain instead of writing a new version of Doc Ock or Green Goblin. Marvel has once again plucked an indie director to have a go at it - this time Jon Watts, whose only other feature film credit is the Kevin Bacon drama Cop Car. This is a brilliant move for Marvel - they can guide Watts to what they want to see in the movie without him wanting to see his vision of the movie. And they can concede some blame to the director if things don't pan out. There's a lot of writers for this movie but one that stands out - John Francis Daley. He was Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks and has written quite a bit in his career - including Horrible Bosses and the Vacation movie. This might be a case of too many cooks - who knows who wrote what or who has written the final version, but six of these guys are still credited as writing the screenplay. Next year is going to be a pretty safe year for Marvel - they've got Spider-Man and they'll have two sequels as well. Hopefully this take on Spider-Man won't ruin the brand for us.

10. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Starring: Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Release: October 6

Another movie that came out of nowhere (although I'll proudly admit it was on my radar a few months before it came out), Kingsman was absurd and fun and really kickass. Matthew Vaughn is a director that I'll watch no matter what he's doing. He's done Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake and X-Men: Last Stand. The dude knows how to make a genre movie. And he's back for his first sequel both as director and writer. I love his style and aesthetic in how he juxtaposes absurd action sequences with comedy and drama. Plus the cast for this sequel is bonkers - Firth maybe back in some sort of flashback sequence, but Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry are aboard as the US version of the Kingsman (called the Statesman). And Julianne Moore is donning her supervillain mask here as Poppy the notorious evil person who ends up destroying the Kingsman's HQ. I like the idea of an American version of the Kingsman and I think there's a lot of possibilities and interesting avenues this story could go. There's a lot of potential for more world-building in this sequel and if the movie can once again balance between the ridiculous action and comedy with the somewhat-grounded drama of the first film, then this will be another solid success for Vaughn.

9. Wonder Woman
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Allan Heinberg, Geoff Johns
Release: June 2

Wonder Woman was the best part of Batman Versus Superman and it's fitting she's going to be the lead-in for the Justice League movie. I don't know too much about the history of Wonder Woman, but the movie looks to be a superb origins story. I love the World War I setting and the idea that Wonder Woman is making a comeback in the present after more than likely bowing out of saving the world after what happens in this movie. Gal Gadot was a good choice for Warner Bros - a lot of people groaned at the idea of someone as unknown as Gadot at the time would take on this very weighty role. It's almost as if she has to answer for all women and talk about glass ceilings because she will be the first leading lady in a superhero movie. Speaking of ladies, WB done good by getting Patty Jenkins the acclaimed director of Monster to come out from directing TV shows. Unfortunately they decided to go with some dudes to write the movie - they've had a lot of experience writing TV shows but nothing on this scale before. So we'll see. I think the trailer really pops - I like the look of the action and the movie looks beautiful. There is a lot of drab grays but I think that might be a conscious decision. In the Amazon everything is colorful, but once the movie turns to action in Europe, it's desolate and gray. I get it, but I don't have to like it. There's going to be an enormous amount of pressure on this film to make significant dollars and if everything comes together there should be no doubt this film will do gangbusters in June.

Welcome back to the back half of my list! There's still a lot of movies to get excited about. This section is a bit of a mixed bag. And that's a good thing - I'm always looking for unusual movies that may not exactly land on your typical Google search for most anticipated movies 2017. Because at the end of the year, I'm usually more impressed by the movies that have great writing and character depth than the big budget superhero flicks. Don't get me wrong, I love those movies, but sometimes those dramas hit closer to home for me. Like last year, Spotlight was my favorite and the year before was Whiplash. So while this list may be a bit heavy on sci-fi and action, it's the smaller movies that have a bigger impact.

12. Lost City of Z
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller
Director: James Gray
Writer: James Gray
Release: April 21

I've been waiting for this movie ever since I finished the book of the same name from 2009. The story is about the obsession of one Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon with his son looking for an ancient civilization - El Dorado. The book is at once romantic and adventurous and also scientific and mysterious. The author, David Grann, recreates Fawcett's travels in an attempt to find out not only the truth about the Lost City of Z, but also the fate of Fawcett himself. It's a powerful narrative and after reading, got me on the hook of similar non-fiction books like Mark Adams' wonderful series of ancient wonders (Turn Right at Machu Picchu, Meet Me in Atlantis). The movie would be a tough one to write - I was hoping there would be a Julie & Julia narrative where the story would cut back and forth between past and present. Alas, the movie is focused solely on Fawcett's tale and the parallels and discoveries made from Grann's story will be lost. However, I'm still excited to see the tale on screen and I think Fawcett's relationship with Henry Costin was undertold in the book so it'll be interesting to see how the movie turns out. Charlie Hunnam looks fantastic as the larger-than-life figure and Robert Pattinson has been quietly shedding that Twilight image and it's working. And James Gray knows drama - his movies revolve around broken relationships - We Own the Night, Two Lovers, The Immigrant. The movie got solid reviews at the NY Film Festival and I'm excited to see what everyone is talking about.

11. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Release: July 21

The passion project of Besson, the director behind The Fifth Element, Valerian looks to be as big and epic as you can get with science fiction. Based on the seminal French comic book series, the film looks to strike it rich where the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending failed. It's going to be hard to create a new franchise, but this movie looks so out there and bizarre and brilliant that I really am pulled in simply because of the visuals and the insane amount of stuff happening on screen. Granted, I know nothing about the story based on the trailer, but it's so pretty. Apparently the two leads are special operatives for the humans and are ordered to investigate an empire in the city of Alpha - an ever-expanding city housing thousands of species. While the marketing so far has been focused on the visuals (who can blame them?), there's going to need to be some substance behind all the beautiful colors. The source material is strong and Besson has created some wonderful stories so there's a chance this might be the best sci-fi movie next year. I'm all in with Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne - they're two up-and-coming actors who've managed to play the angsty teen (DeHaan was Harry Osborne in The Amazing Spider-Man, Delevingne was the manic pixie girl in Paper Towns). This will be their true test - can they hold up an entire movie? It sounds like their relationship is a bit complicated and apparently Valerian (DeHaan), in the comics, is a time-traveller and stumbles across Laureline (Delevingne) in 11th century France. I don't know if their backstory will be strictly canon in the movie, but there's potential for a lot of chemistry and a unique dynamic between the two if they play it right. The cynic in me believes this science fiction tale will be doomed to reap a $100 million domestic box office take and barely scrape by internationally. But with a solid marketing team and good reviews, this might just turn out to be one of my favorites next year.

10. Gifted
Starring: Chris Evans, Jenny Slate
Director: Marc Webb
Writer: Tom Flynn
Release: April 12

Sometimes good dramas are the best. I hope this movie is more than just fluff. I hope this movie isn't manipulative but has something to say about education and raising a child in a not-normal household. Plus I enjoy the hell out of Chris Evans. Even more so with Jenny Slate, who had one of the best movies in 2014 with Obvious Child. This movie could fall into the trap of being too patronizing and heavy-handed where it comes across as a joke (The Help, anyone? Ironically, Octavia Spencer was in that movie too!). But I think the talent not only on the screen, but behind it, will give this movie a bump. Marc Webb, the director who made one of the better rom-coms in the past decade - (500) Days of Summer - is back from the superhero gig and getting back to his indie roots. With a script by relatively unknown Tom Flynn, the movie will have to rely on a good mix of feel-goods and weighty drama. It's a tricky balance for these kinds of story - there has to be real depth to each character and there can't just be a grandma who's evil simply because the story calls for a villain. Life is complicated and it looks extremely complicated for Chris Evans' character. Ultimately at the end of the year, for me, it's the more quiet and contemplative movies that really have an impact more so than the big blockbuster. Maybe Gifted will be that movie next year.

9. Battle of the Sexes
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Release: ????

Now here's a story I'm excited to see. I know some of the details of the infamous match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but I was not alive in 1973 to witness the glory of the game. Apparently it was a spectacle and to see it recreated with all the drama and flair of Hollywood - now that is something to get excited about. And also, how timely is the GD movie? I planned this list a couple months ago and when I read about the movie, it went immediately on it. I never even thought about the parallels to this year's election. But putting that aside, this movie should be a pretty light-hearted affair. I don't think the movie is going to be deadly serious - choosing Emma Stone and Steve Carell as the leads will certainly lead one to think it's more of a comedy. The script was written by Simon Beaufoy - a writer I've admired for a while. He's written such excellent films like Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Hunger Games: Catching Fire. How appropriate, too, that the film is being directed by a woman and a man? The duo were behind the beloved indie darling Little Miss Sunshine and the interesting, if flawed, Ruby Sparks. There isn't a release date yet on this one, but I wouldn't be surprised if they'll announce one soon. With everyone's track record this could be the relief we need next year.

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