2017’s Big Movie Year

2016 was a rough year for Hollywood. There were a few expected blockbusters and a few surprise hits, but overall the movie-making conglomerate oversaw a downturn in revenue and ticket sales. Even the heavy-hitters like Marvel and Star Wars were down compared to their 2015 installments. There were some great movies to be enjoyed, as well as some stinkers, but as 2016 wraps up and eyes turn toward 2017, we can look to the new year with a little more confidence. There are some great movies on the way, as well as some guilty pleasure films and a few smaller ones that we have hopes for.

Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the next Hollywood calendar:

JANUARY

The first quarter of the year is usually the leanest for big movie releases, but in recent years things have picked up. March has become a month for big movies that studios are afraid would get lost in the summer shuffle. February is always good for one or two movies designed to be counter-programming to whatever inane romcom takes over on Valentine’s weekend.  And while January is usually a dumping ground for movies not good enough for a previous-year’s release, there is an occasional gem that is quietly released.

This January, turn your attention to SPLIT, the newest film by M. Night Shyamalan. The famous horror director is trying to mount a comeback after multiple movies failed to move the needle. His 2015 movie, The Visit, was a surprisingly good (though not great) movie—his first since Signs—and early buzz for SPLIT is even more positive. The plot at first glance looks like “Psycho meets Sybil” and is bolstered by an all-in performance by James McAvoy. Whether or not there’s a contrived twist ending is TBD, but here’s hoping M. Night has truly found his groove again, because when he does, horror fans will be all the better for it.

Also don’t sleep on Bye Bye Man. The quasi-indie horror movie has been a long time in development, and its release had been pushed back more than once. It’s finally dropping on the world in January and looks very promising.

FEBRUARY

is a movie everyone should be rooting for. If you’re looking for a date movie that isn’t your traditional, typical crap, here’s a great alternative. If you’re looking for a movie to serve as a gateway to deeper sci-fi movies, here you go. If you are constantly complaining that Hollywood is out of original ideas and that all the big movies are either remakes, reboots or otherwise adaptations, this is a fresh story, with a great cast, and an interesting—original—premise. Give this movie a chance and if it’s good, talk it up for others to see.

Also coming in February is a sequel/reboot of the Ring franchise, as well as Lego Batman, (spin-off of 2014’s hit Lego Movie), and the mysterious Chinese production, The Great Wall. Much of the plot to The Great Wall has been kept under wraps, and most of the attention has been given to the casting of American Matt Damon (which is silly, since the Chinese production company is the one who signed him). The movie will do massive numbers at the box office (likely because seeing it will be mandatory for the Chinese), but whether or not it will actually be any good is the big mystery. Here’s hoping.

MARCH

Several big movies are on the way as spring approaches, promising to make this the biggest and busiest March in Hollywood history. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tops the bill, promising as faithful and fun an adaptation as 2016’s brilliant Jungle Book. Everything from the music to the cast to the art style has been well-received and the movie is expected to make huge money, giving Disney an early leg-up on the competition (it’s almost unfair how many billion dollar enterprises The House of Mouse has under their umbrella: animated-to-live action remakes, Disney animated features, Pixar animated features, Marvel, Star Wars).

After Deadpool went from “never gonna happen” to “niche movie for a niche audience” to “holeecowblockbuster” Fox went all-in on what is being teased as the final appearance of Hugh Jackmon’s Wolverine character. His previous two solo-outings were either terrible (X-Men Origins) or mediocre (The Wolverine) but early buzz on LOGAN is that it will be, not only the best of the three, but one of the best of the entire X-Men franchise.

Kong: Skull Island is Warner Bros. attempt to create a shared universe franchise with their Godzilla property. Eventually the two mega-creatures will come face-to-face, presumably to duke it out in a battle for supremacy, but in the meantime we will be introduced to the new—and very very big—Kong here. It’s not going to be cinematic gold, but hopefully it can offer enough exciting set pieces to keep the anticipation for the big “versus” movie going. The other big March release is Power Rangers which teases big robot-powered action scenes mixed with CW-quality acting. Screw the haters, every 90’s kid is going to adore it.

APRIL

The only big release to keep an eye on in April is THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. The title, as well as the fact that Paul Walker is no longer living, seems to point to this being the final installment in the franchise. If so, that would show a remarkable amount of financial contentment on the part of Universal. They stuck with the franchise when half the movies were throwaway racing flicks. The series only morphed into a box office heavyweight very recently and now that it has, will all parties just walk away from it?  It’s possible we get a spin-off franchise starring Dwayne Johnson, but in the meantime this looks like the (big and loud) end of the line for the Fast/Furious saga.

MAY

This summer will belong to the comic book fan, even moreso than previous summers. Kicking things off is the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2014 unlikely smash hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. VOLUME 2 promises more everything, as a good sequel should, but its place in the greater cinematic universe will hopefully prevent things from feeling too retreaded. The original was released in August, signaling the studio’s worry in its ability to find an audience. This time they are dropping it on the first weekend of May, the ultimate sign of confidence. This should be a great one.

In addition, there’s a new Alien movie (entitled “Alien: Covenant“) which, by the looks of the trailer, will bridge the gap between the horror-stylings of the original franchise, and the more philosophical discussions posited in the 2012 Prometheus film. Prometheus had big ideas and clunky execution; maybe this one will stick the landing. The last big May release is the fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Javier Bardem joins the franchise, playing the wretched Cpt. Salazar. The initial trailer focused heavily on the villain and showed nothing of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Whether or not that’s a subtle acknowledgement that Depp isn’t a cash cow anymore and that his role in the movie might be reduced remains to be seen.

JUNE

WONDER WOMAN might just be the most important movie in the DCEU. Obviously more is (financially) riding on Justice League, but DC really needs this movie to work because it’s the first major solo movie they’ve ever attempted that didn’t feature either Batman or Superman. Marvel’s MCU is a multi-billion dollar enterprise but has only featured two-or-three (depending on how you look at Civil War) “Avengers” movies. The rest have been solo outputs. DC needs Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern (potentially) to be able to stand on their own and make them big money. For that to happen the quality of the movies needs to increase. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman made money, but were loathed by critics and will probably not endure over the years the way, say, Iron Man or Captain America: The Winter Solider will. Wonder Woman needs to be a hit, not only in terms of raw dollars, but also with critics. If it is, then WB execs can finally breathe easy and look to their next release with a little optimism for a change.

Universal is trying to get in on the shared universe fad too, hoping to turn their monster movie properties into a co-dependent franchise. To that end, The Mummy is coming back, with Tom Cruise replacing Brendan Fraser as the lead (poor, poor Brendan Fraser). The trailer promises exactly the kind of movie Tom Cruise has perfected to big box office success: Lots of crazy stunts, frantic pace, and of course, running running and more running. It should be good popcorn fun…which is more than can be said for the other big June release: Transformers: The Last Knight. That loud and stupid franchise returns with another installment that is sure to insult the brain on its way to a billion dollars. It’s silly how much it angers me to see such terrible movies make so much money.

JULY

The month of July promises to be the busiest of the year, as it is almost every year. All four Fridays of the month offer something equally different and promising. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the sixth solo movie for the webslinger and the third different iteration of the character on the big screen in fifteen years. The previous series (starring Andrew Garfield) was aborted after only two movies due to diminishing box office returns. And yet, just three years after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to move the needle, fans eagerly anticipate Spider-Man’s return to cinemas with all the excitement of an Avengers movie. Of course, that’s entirely thanks to the character now being folded into the MCU. The movie promises a more comics-accurate portrayal, as well as a story that walks alongside the popular shared universe (the movie will even feature an extended cameo by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man). You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone pessimistic about Homecoming‘s chances to restore Spider-Man to cinematic excellence.

One week after Homecoming debuts, the third installment in Fox’s rebooted Planet of the Apes series hits the big screen. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES tries to do what few movies in a trilogy can: Make it three for three. The first movie in the rebooted series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprising hit. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrived with much higher expectations but managed to meet and even exceed them. Now the anticipation for the third film is through the roof and if the initial trailers are any indication, the movie will pull off the hat trick.

Not many directors have such name recognition that their last name is enough to sufficiently tease a new film. Spielberg can do it; so can Scorsese. Add Nolan to that list. After films like Memento, The Prestige and the Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan has the cachet to make whatever he wants, with whatever story he wants, with basically any budget he wants. Inception was the first movie he made without those typical restrictions, and it made almost a billion dollars. Interstellar was the next and it too made big bucks. Now he’s back with DUNKIRK, but unlike the previous two movies, this one will not be a science-fiction story, but instead a traditional period-piece War Film. If Nolan can turn that kind of a movie into a summer blockbuster he really will be Midas.

Keep an eye out also, on the final Friday of the month, for The Dark Tower. Steven King’s huge book series is finally being adapted to cinemas, and Sony is hoping it will turn into a major film franchise for years to come. The production has been troubled, moving from director to director and writer to writer over the past decade. Almost every major studio has owned the rights, tried to develop it, and ended up cutting their losses over the years. Whether it is a pleasantly surprising hit or a glorious disaster, it’s finally coming in mid-2017.

AUGUST

August had been developing a nice little reputation as the month for “almost blockbusters” to land on and score big with lesser competition. This year, however, the pickings are slim.  To illustrate that, consider that the biggest movie of the month is ANNABELLE 2, a sequel…to a spinoff…of a franchise. The original Anabelle film wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exactly so good you couldn’t wait to see another one. It was a good appetizer while horror fans awaited the next edition in the much better Conjuring series. 2016 finally saw the Conjuring sequel we’d been waiting on (and it was quite good) so now we have Annabelle 2, apparently to tide us over until Conjuring 3 comes our way. How much more can you do with a “possessed doll” story, though? We’ll find out if there’s more to milk from the concept as the summer winds down.

SEPTEMBER

Steven King’s IT is finally getting a big screen adaptation (the classic Tim Curry movie was made-for-TV). Nostalgia for the original may keep this one from being given the fair shake it deserves (a similar thing happened to the 1997 miniseries adaptation of The Shining) but it has a good cast and the people in charge are saying all the right things about how faithful it will be to the source material. Go into the film with an open mind, and try not to compare Bill Skarsgård to Tim Curry; the movie might just surprise us.

OCTOBER

October looks to be very busy: There’s a new Saw, a new Insidious, a new Cloverfield, a new Friday the 13th, a new Kingsman. There’s even a My Little Pony movie coming out, but the month will belong to BLADE RUNNER 2049. Harrison Ford returns to the role of Rick Deckard, continuing his 80’s movies comeback that began with last year’s The Force Awakens. He’s also got another Indiana Jones film in the pipeline, which will be his first time donning the fedora since 1989 (you heard me).  His coming back to Blade Runner is a big deal, however, because it seemingly puts to bed one of the most persistent fan theories of them all (that Rick was actually a Replicant). The trailer promises the same noir aesthetic and creepy vibe of the original. Ridley Scott is not directing, but Denis Villenueve has put together a stellar track-record thus far (2016’s Arrival was great, as was 2015’s Sicario). Harrison Ford seems enthused about the project too, which is probably the biggest reason fans are excited.

NOVEMBER

Thor has, to this point, offered the weakest of the Avengers’ stand-alone offerings. Iron Man’s first movie was a critical and box office hit, and the two sequels made big money too. Captain America’s films have gotten better and better (and made more and more) with each offering. Thor, however, has kind of floated in that “average, but not great” category from the beginning. The original solo movie was okay while the sequel, The Dark World, was a bit of a mess. THOR: RAGNAROK, however, is shaping up to be more than redemptive. No trailer has been released yet, but some teaser-images have shown off co-star Hulk in gladiator gear, making fans all kinds of giddy. Director Taika Waititi is bringing his own quirky sense of humor and style to the movie, too, and has teased fans with promises of a big action and huge ramifications for the MCU going forward.

Whether or not JUSTICE LEAGUE earns a billion dollars will depend on the popularity of Wonder Woman. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but it’s true: If June’s WW movie fails to connect with audiences, it will probably be one failure too many. The goodwill and benefit of the doubt built up over the years will be extinguished and only the fanboys will come out to see DC’s big team-up film. The fact that it’s launching in November and not in the summer has more to do with WB’s impatient approach to their cinematic universe and doesn’t say anything (one way or another) about the quality of the film Zack Snyder has made. Will it be good? It certainly looks good, but no one has ever accused Zack Snyder of making an ugly movie. We just need it to be coherent and semi-logical. If it is, and if Wonder Woman gives it enough of a headwind, the DCEU might be able to sprint (instead of limp) toward their 2018 slate of films.

DECEMBER

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII will likely not reach the box office zenith that its 2015 predecessor achieved. It’s hard to duplicate the kind of fervour that comes with decades of pent-up nerd anticipation. But the movie will still, very likely, break all the 2017 records (and 2016’s records too), and become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Director Rian Johnson takes over for JJ Abrams with aspirations to take the series into directions it has not gone before. Considering how the biggest knock on the exceptional Force Awakens was that it was a little too familiar, Johnson’s ambition has been welcomed by the Star Wars community with open arms. Fans are dizzy with anticipation over where the story will go, the role of Luke Skywalker, the identity of Snoke, and more. There are a few other films coming out in December of 2017, and several big movies coming out between now and next Christmas, but everything in the interim will feel like wonderful appetizers as we await the long lines, marathon screenings of Episodes 1-7, and finally the familiar John Williams fanfare welcoming us back to the Galaxy far, far away.

2016 is history; bring on 2017!

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