It may seem crazy to already cast an eye to the big movies of 2017, but like any good movie junkie that’s just what we do. We need our fix. The great news about being a movie junkie is that supply is always high. With 2016 firmly wrapped up (though I still need to see a few top releases like Silence, Paterson and Toni Erdmann), I already can’t wait for 2017 to get rolling. There’s always the exciting possibility that, despite already being aware of many 2017 releases, many of my favorites are still completely off my radar. 2016 films like Hell Or High Water, The Invitation, Indignation, Moonlight and OJ: Made In America all ended up on my top films list, but their very existence was completely unknown to me this time last year.
Many lists like this one have come out in the last couple of weeks, and they all have pretty much the same movies. As a result I’ve set many of those aside. Obviously I cannot wait for “legacyquels” like Star Wars Episode VIII, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, and the like- even though I await them with gritting teeth and inherently high expectations. Then there are some that are practically guaranteed to be fantastic, such as Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, or F. Gary Gray’s Fate Of The Furious. We’ll of course have tentpoles of the Marvel and DC comics worlds, with Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming, Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2, Thor: Ragnarok and the Justice League movie. It’s going to be a big, big year. So with all of those out of the way, I wanted to highlight ten other films I await with high anticipation; ones that you may have either overlooked, not heard of, or perhaps already written off.
The Girl With All The Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy)
Another zombie flick might not excite you if you have serious zombie fatigue like me. Fortunately this England-set film seems more in line with the high art dystopia of 28 Days Later than it does the tired soap opera of The Walking Dead. Already out in England, it played to great reception at Toronto Film Festival last year. It drops On Demand on January 27th. Starring: Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine.
War For The Planet Of The Apes (dir. Andy Serkis)
The Planet Of The Apes series is my favorite ongoing Hollywood reboot. I never would have guessed it; but the way it manages to explore themes of oppression, resistance, leadership, and the tenuous nature of peace, have made it quite relevant in these times of upheaval. With director Matt Reeves returning, there’s no reason this one won’t be another riveting chapter in the story of Ceasar (Andy Serkis) and his clan of ape humanoids. Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer.
Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
The post Key & Peele lives of Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been quite productive for them, with highly regarded films like Don’t Think Twice and Keanu already under their belt. Peele seems ready to continue this with his directorial debut, a horror satire about a young black man visiting his white girlfriend’s largely white suburban hometown, only to discover that things are more sinister than they appear (of course). Peele is a master of ringing precious insight and copious laughs out of racial identity issues, as well as a steward of genre films. Get Out seems like the perfect sandbox for him to play in. Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lakeith Stanfield.
Split (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
Will the Shyamalanaissance continue after the success of 2015’s The Visit? That low budget, found footage riff on the tale of red riding hood was one of the more purely fun films of the year. This one, starring James McAvoy as a man with several split personalities who kidnaps three young women and keeps them in his basement, seems like another focused, largely single location, back to basics approach to filmmaking. It’s welcome after a decade of big Hollywood misfires from this once adored filmmaker. Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor Joy.
Kong: Skull Island (dir. Jordan Vogt Roberts)
The trailers for this film were my favorite of 2016- featuring an absolutely stacked cast looking awesome yet terrified on a jungle island, while being attacked from all around by prehistoric creatures. It looks almost like a reimagining of the original fused with the blood orange skies and perilous tropics of Apocalypse Now. Needless to say, this is one of the big question marks on this list. Will the studio fully commit to a dark story about human folly in the face of nature, or will it have been test screened into something bland and bloated? With a young and largely unproven director at the helm, I am worried he’ll have been bullied into submission. Only one way to find out- see it for myself. Starring: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman.
Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland)
I wasn’t as high on Alex Garland’s directorial debut (2015’s Ex Machina) as some others were, but there’s no doubt that his smart, dry, Kubrickian sci-fi is needed in our cinematic landscape these days. Not to mention the overtly feminist themes of that film- which Annihilation, with its majority female cast of both established stars and up-and-comers, seems poised to continue exploring. Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, Genesis Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson.
The Belko Experiment (dir. Greg McLean)
Before he became known for Guardians Of The Galaxy, director James Gunn was writing nasty horror screenplays that were big on gore and high on cultural skewering (2004’s Dawn Of The Dead, Slither). This office building set take on an everyman for himself Battle Royale scenario seems to be a return to his roots. Directed by Greg Maclean, the man behind the brutal Wolf Creek, there’s no reason to think this won’t be an essential (if not punishing) watch- particularly when it rips on something as deserving to be ripped on as the culture of 9-5. Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Melonie Diaz.
Brawl In Cell Block 99 (dir. S. Craig Zahler)
All I know about this movie is that it’s directed by the guy who made Bone Tomahawk, and it stars Vince Vaughn and Don Johnson. That, and its title suggests it’s about a prison fight. Sign me up. Both actors have long been pigeonholed for giving certain kinds of dad friendly performances; but recent years have seen them trying hard to break out of those confines. Regardless of how it ends up, I’ll show up just to see if Zahler throws any more body splitting into the mix. Starring: Vince Vaughn, Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter
Untitled Detroit Project (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
One thing that’s rough about a lot of modern action films and crime procedurals is that they’re not all directed by Kathryn Bigelow. With at least four all-time classics under her belt, and plenty more gems in the rough, she is one of the undisputed queens of the riveting action sequence. In recent years, her collaboration with screenwriter Mark Boal has brought extra layers of sociopolitical meaning to her films. There’s no doubt that this one (once again with Boal), about the Detroit riots of 1967, will once again be rife with timely commentary. If nothing else, it will at least be a visceral, heart-racing thrill of a watch. Starring: Jack Reynor, John Boyega, John Krasinski.
Under The Silver Lake (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
I know next to nothing about this movie, except that it’s a modern noir crime thriller set in Los Angeles, and it’s directed by David Robert Mitchell (whose It Follows was my favorite movie of 2015, and one of the best horror films of the century). I’ve been awaiting his next film since the credits for It Follows started rolling. He’s a brave, fearless director, doing incredibly new things with familiar concepts. The genre of film noir is always ripe for such an artist to come along. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Jimmi Simpson.