I am always surprised at the trouble I have every year when I put together my “Favorites” list. When I am consuming movies throughout the year, I never stop to consider if it seems to be a good or bad overall year for film, but when December hits and I’m trying to whittle the list down from fifty or more films, I realize just how many good movies there are being released every year. You just have to know where to look and keep your ear to the ground.
This year, it seemed like a good idea to do a look at my most anticipated films coming up for 2017, so that I’m not shocked about how many films are vying for my attention. Be aware, this is a very subjective list. If there is something not on this list that you are surprised about, it is because it is just not something I’m interested in. Of course, word-of-mouth/good reviews can change my mind and get me to check out something that is normally not my cup of tea, so I never say never. But this list is specifically what I am looking forward to, broken down into three categories.
It is worth noting that release dates change all the time, and some of the following films may get pushed back to 2018. Alternately, some 2018 films that I’m excited about may get moved forward to this year. And of course, there are a ton of very small indies that I know nothing about right now that will jump up, surprise me, and force their way on to the Favorites of the Year list. With that in mind, I will update this list throughout the year as things change. If you’re interested, bookmark this page and check back to see what gets added or subtracted.
Before I get started on what is upcoming, this is just a small sampling of good to great 2017 releases I was lucky enough to see at film festivals over the last couple of years:
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
Many of these will be smaller releases, available on VOD, Netflix, Shudder, or direct to Blu-ray, so keep your eyes peeled for them.
Now, on to future viewings.
PART ONE: THE (HOPEFULLY) SURE THINGS
The category title says it all. These are the (should be) can’t miss films of 2017.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Did you see the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and (especially) DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES? Enough said.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
The first film broke Marvel films out of the stale rut into which they had fallen (and have since fallen into again, despite the trippy imagery in DOCTOR STRANGE). Hopefully James Gunn is left alone again with this sequel and brings the same heart and sense of fun he did to the first GUARDIANS. The first trailer is very promising.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
I’ve loved nearly every cinematic incarnation of KING KONG (aside from that unfortunate 1976 version). To get a full on big-budget action movie set on Skull Island is exciting. The first trailer looked both epic and fun. And I endorse casting Shea Whigham in every studio blockbuster.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO
Even with its threadbare plot, there was a lot to love about JOHN WICK. It was both a nostalgic blast to see Keanu Reeves back to playing a kickass action hero and a kinetic exercise in cinematic mayhem. The only trepidation I have is not knowing where you take that character. But just turn Keanu loose on a roomful of bad guys and we should all be happy.
Christopher Nolan directing an epic World War II film shot for IMAX theaters? I’m on board.
Six words that make me giggle in anticipation of greatness: written and directed by Edgar Wright.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
Damn near a certified genius in writer/director Martin McDonagh behind the camera and a cast that includes Frances McDormand (in what looks like a meal of a role), Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Lucas Hedges? I am so in for this one.
A documentary about independent film legend Larry Cohen. Do you even need to ask why I’m excited about this one?
PART TWO: THE POTENTIALS
These have everything necessary to be great films, but just enough unknowns to make me slightly hedge my bets.
Director Tomas Alfredson made two of the best films of the last ten years with LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. I know nothing about THE SNOWMAN other than it is a detective story with Michael Fassbender, J.K. Simmons, and Rebecca Ferguson. That director and cast are all I need.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII
THE FORCE AWAKENS didn’t overly impress me, but ROGUE ONE pulled me back into caring about the continuation of the franchise. Rian Johnson as writer/director also raises the anticipation level a notch.
BLADE RUNNER 2049
A sequel to a masterpiece that never needed a sequel only makes it on the list due to Denis Villeneuve in the director’s chair. Fingers crossed.
I am pretty sick of superhero movies, but even I was blown away by the trailer for LOGAN. Overall, the X-MEN films have been an uneven bunch. Is Hugh Jackman’s apparent swan song as the titular character the stark epic they’ve been working toward?
EDGE OF TOMORROW director Doug Liman re-teams with Tom Cruise for a film about the CIA running drugs in South America in the ’80s. That gets my ass in the seat.
Arguably Stephen King’s most iconic villain, Pennywise looks freakishly terrifying in early images. Yes, Tim Curry was great in the TV version, but go back and watch it and you’ll see that he was the only good thing about that production. Hopefully this is the balls to the wall horror movie version of the novel that could never be done on network television.
Violent, trigger-happy satire/action movie from the always-anarchic Ben Wheatley? Sign me up.
Harry Dean Stanton stars as the titular character in a role that looks tailor-made for the legendary character actor. With Stanton’s Lucky playing a 90-year-old, chain smoker who has somehow outlived everyone he knows and David Lynch popping up in a supporting role, it certainly looks like there is a slight meta level to the film. And I endorse giving Stanton every lead role.
Staying in the vein of indie dramedies built around aging character actors is THE HERO. There also seems to be a bit of a meta feel to this one with Sam Elliott playing a past his prime western star who is seeking redemption in his final years of life. I’ve always liked Elliott, so sign me up.
I know next to nothing about this one other than it’s being billed as a sci-fi thriller. But James Ponsoldt is a damn good director, and you can’t sleep on a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, and Bill Paxton.
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
This long-running action movie/soap opera series peaked with the blissfully absurd fifth film. While the sixth and seventh films were still extremely entertaining, it felt like a dead horse was in danger of being beaten. The trailer for this eighth (!) film in the franchise didn’t do much for me. Have Vin Diesel & company finally overstayed their welcome? No matter my concerns, I will definitely see it to find out.
Mike Flanagan attempts to adapt the seemingly unfilmable Stephen King novel, with Carla Gugino starring. I’m really rooting for this one to surprise a lot of people.
I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE
Terrific character actor Macon Blair makes his writing/directing debut with a dark comedy/bloody crime film starring the always great Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, and Jane Levy. This one garnered great reviews at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to premiere on Netflix. With this cast and Blair behind the camera, this becomes a must-see.
SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER writer Taylor Sheridan makes his directorial debut with this crime drama about a murder investigation on a Native American reservation. This sounds like well-worn material, but Sheridan has taken standard premises and spun gold before.
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The first KINGSMAN film was fluffy, goofy, and not nearly as subversive as it thought it was. That said, I had fun with it. If this sequel gives me more of the same, I’m satisfied with that.
A horror anthology from five female directors (Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic, Sofia Carrillo) that should be worth a look. Hoping they pull off something truly scary.
Jordan Peele is a complete unknown when it comes to horror films, but I loved the trailer, and not enough genre films are taking on social issues in such a straight-ahead manner.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Luc Besson directing a mega-budgeted sci-fi/action flick with a cast that reportedly includes Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Rutger Hauer, and Rihanna? This will probably be a mess, but it promises to be a glorious one.
IT COMES AT NIGHT
KRISHA writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ follow-up to his astonishing first feature is a horror film starring Joel Edgerton, which means I will be there opening day.
I don’t know much about this low budget indie other than the trailer looks good, promising a coming of age take on a “is he or isn’t he?’ vampire tale. That’s enough for me.
Which Ridley Scott will show up? ALIEN Ridley Scott or PROMETHEUS Ridley Scott? Let’s hope the former.
The premise sounds questionable, but it’s an Alexander Payne film, which means it deserves a shot.
I don’t normally endorse American adaptations of mangas, but when Adam Wingard is at the helm, I’ll make an exception.
THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
Looks like BATTLE ROYALE for the corporate set, but James Gunn produced and wrote the screenplay, which raises the expectations quite a bit.
UNTITLED CLOVERFIELD ANTHOLOGY MOVIE
Very little is known about this extension of the CLOVERFIELD franchise, but the cast is solid and the producers are clearly not interested in simply repeating the previous films.
Sofia Coppola adapts the same novel that previously inspired an interesting but flawed Clint Eastwood/Don Siegel collaboration. Maybe Coppola turns it into the feminist Western that JANE GOT A GUN was supposed to be?
PART THREE: THE COIN TOSS
These films have just enough intriguing details to get me in the theater to watch them, but could go either way.
Yet another Liam Neeson action movie. Despite the terrible title and the generic premise, his one has a better supporting cast than usual and Neeson can always be counted on to not phone it in.
THE DARKEST HOUR
Gary Oldman going for an Oscar as Winston Churchill in a drama set during the early days of World War II? With Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI? Could be dull, but those two scenery chewers going at it is enticing and I’m enough of a history nerd that I’ll give it a shot.
Given the glut of superhero films over the last fifteen years, it’s ridiculous that it took this long to have a Wonder Woman movie. Fixing that obvious error combined with a good trailer has me interested. On the other hand: DC/Warner Bros. superhero films have been wretched post-THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I’ll still check it out.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS
Gore Verbinski is an interesting filmmaker, but his films often overstay their welcome. With a running time approaching two and a half hours, it looks like he is probably continuing down that path. Still, it’s nice to see a big-budget, studio horror film again.
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER FOUR
I’ve honestly never seen any of the INSIDIOUS films. I’ve had enough people recommend them to me to make me feel the need to binge them leading up to this fourth entry in the franchise.
The least interesting superhero in the ever-expanding roster of characters in the “MCU” gets his third stand-alone film. This only makes the list because of the presence of Taika Waititi as director. If he is able to get some of his signature humor and heart through the Marvel sausage factory, this could be fun.
Spies in Berlin during the Cold War, double agents, Charlize Theron? Yeah, I’ll watch that.
Fellow DAILY GRINDHOUSE writer Patrick Smith was so pumped after seeing this at last year’s Fantastic Fest, he has basically convinced me to watch the entire UNDISPUTED series of films just so I can be caught up when BOYKA is released. In other words, I have no idea what I’m getting into.
THE DARK TOWER
With this cast and the source material, this shouldn’t be a coin toss. But nothing seems to have gone as planned with this adaptation. Hopefully, the finished film does not feel as compromised as I fear it will be.
It’s great that everyone from the cast to director Danny Boyle have returned. But did anyone actually want a sequel? Also, shouldn’t at least two of these characters have died of overdoses within a year of the end of the first film? But 22-year-old me is excited for it, so I’ll give it a fair shot.
There have been plenty of low-budget rip offs of ALIEN, why not a big-budget one? A good cast elevates the status of this “trapped on a spaceship with a killer alien organism” flick.
An action comedy written/directed by Ron Shelton, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman, fending off a mob hit on a golf course? I don’t care if this gets the worst reviews of the year, I will watch a movie with that description every time.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
I don’t have the irrational hatred of Guy Ritchie that a lot of people seem to, so I’ll give his version of this oft-told tale a chance. But the question remains, why are they still making movies about King Arthur when EXCALIBUR already exists?
Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour delivered one of my favorite films of 2014 with A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. THE BAD BATCH is her sophomore follow-up, which should be cause for great excitement. But after a short festival run that left many under-whelmed, there is not much buzz for this post-apocalyptic film. Still, I’ll watch it. Amirpour is too great of a talent to completely write this one off on bad word-of-mouth.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
I’ll believe this re-boot is actually coming out this year when it opens. Assuming it does, you know we will all go see it. Every single one of us.
QUEEN OF THE DESERT
Normally I wouldn’t be interested in what sounds like an Oscar-bait biopic starring Nicole Kidman. But Werner Herzog is the writer/director behind it. Do I need to say more?
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
THE LEGO MOVIE was unexpectedly good for what was essentially a ninety-minute commercial for a toy line. While Lego Batman was the MVP of that film and Will Arnett’s voice work was stellar, this sequel feels like they’re pushing their luck. But maybe there’s more gold to be mined from the premise.
JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE
Because Takashi Miike.
I’ll always pay attention to Olivier Assayas. He is one of the more consistently interesting filmmakers currently going, even if his films never seem to quite get over the hump. This ghost story starring Kristen Stewart inspired a divisive reaction on the festival circuit, so I don’t know what to expect. And that is part of the attraction.
We’ve seen these stories about magicians who are using dark forces to channel actual magic before. I’m not sure this one will be any different, but the first teaser was solid. Hopefully the movie is too.
I don’t know much about this one other than it stars DAILY GRINDHOUSE favorite Lauren Ashley Carter. Her presence is pretty much all I need to watch it.
Christopher Smith has quietly put together a better than average filmography in the U.K. with movies like CREEP, SEVERANCE, and BLACK DEATH. DETOUR sounds like a noir we’ve all seen before, but a cast led by the impressive Tye Sheridan could raise it above its standard-sounding premise.
GET THE GIRL
Eric England, director of CONTRACTED, returns with this comedic crime story. Other than England at the helm, a cast that includes Noah Segan and Scout Taylor-Compton, and an interesting premise, there does not seem to be a lot of other information available. But I’ve been entertained by films with less going for them so I’ll hope for the best.
It’s unclear if this is a remake, or a sequel to the pretty good 1990 film. Kiefer Sutherland reportedly is back playing his character from the original film, and the new cast includes Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, and Diego Luna. That’s intriguing enough to get me to watch it.
This one sharply divided audiences on the festival circuit, but those who loved it, really loved it. Just glancing at reviews, the same words keep being repeated: “pretentious,” “shocking,” “disgusting,” “immoral,” “boring,” “incoherent,” “obscene,” “visionary.” That sounds like something worth watching to me.
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