My 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

20: Untitled Cloverfield Anthology Movie (Dir; Julius Onah, Starring; David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Release Date; 27th October)

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Formerly known as God Particle, this film follows 10 Cloverfield Lane as a surprise entry into what is swiftly becoming a new Twilight Zone series for modern Hollywood. A fantastic ensemble (Oyelowo, Mbatha-Raw, and Bruhl are joined by Elizabeth Debicki and Chris O’Dowd) take on one of next year’s most exciting premises. As a team of scientists perform experiments on the ISS, the Earth disappears, forcing the team to survive whilst solving the mystery of the arrival of a new space station.

19: War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir; Matt Reeves, Starring; Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Release Date; 14th July)

 

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A prequel series that has been surprisingly great so far, War continues the saga of the origin of the Planet of the Apes as Caesar’s apes (Serkis) goes to war with the humans, led by the Colonel (Harrelson), for what should prove to be a decisive battle. We already know how this story ends, but the intense trailer promises thrills despite this fact. With quite possibly the best effects work in modern blockbusters and the promise of huge snowbound battles, the Apes series should go out with a bang this summer.

 

18: John Wick Chapter 2 (Dir; Chad Stahelski, Starring; Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Release Date; 17th February)

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The first John Wick was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015, the absolute pinnacle of ‘turn your brain off’ action films. Trailers for the follow-up promise more of the glorious same, with long, steadicam takes featuring very little in the way stunt doubles. Reeves’ assassin John Wick is back in action (with a new dog) after unscrupulous attackers try, foolishly, to kill him. With Wick taking on what looks like an entire army in the underbelly of Rome, and featuring a Matrix reunion for Reeves and Fishburne, this is one of early 2017’s most exciting prospects.

 

17: Coco (Dir; Lee Unkrich, Starring; Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Anthony Gonzales, Release Date; 8th December)

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With Finding Dory this year, and Cars 3 and Incredibles 2 on the horizon, Pixar are going through a rather sequel-y phase after the magical Inside Out. Luckily, they’ve also found room for an original piece, and it comes in the form of Coco. With the film inspired by the Latin American tradition of the Day of the Dead, we will follow 12 year old Miguel (Gonzales) as he finds himself meeting long-dead members of his family. Promising typical Pixar beauty, yet with some stills evoking the wonderful Kubo and the Two StringsCoco should prove to be a highlight of 2017 animation.

 

16: Alien Covenant (Dir; Ridley Scott, Starring; Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Release Date; 19th May)

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Though Prometheus was a letdown and the Covenant trailer, whilst exciting, looks a bit too much like a standard horror film, I’m still cautiously optimistic for Ridley Scott’s true return to the Alien universe. Acting as both a Prometheus sequel and the prequel to the original Alien that Prometheus really wasn’t, it promises mystery and a hell of a lot of violence. The trailer has already made clear that very few of these characters are getting out alive, though if you had to make bets on a survivor, then at least one of the two Michael Fassbender-played androids seem relatively safe, especially David from the last film, who appears to be the sole coloniser of the new xenomorph planet.

 

15: Wonderstruck (Dir; Todd Haynes, Starring; Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams)

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Carol was one of 2015’s absolute best films, so the next project from its director Todd Haynes was always going to be something to look out for. Adapting Brian Selznick’s book, Wonderstruck follows two children from two very distinct moments of 20th Century America who are mysteriously connected, despite a 50-year gap between them. Seeing Haynes take on the metaphysical in a period piece is a fascinating prospect, and we know already that he can really evoke the feeling of being immersed in the past, so this promises to be, if nothing else, visually sumptuous with a unique story at its core.

 

14: Thor Ragnarok (Dir; Taika Watiti, Starring; Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Release Date; 27th October)

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Though the standalone Thor movies are far from the strongest MCU entries (Thor 2 being the worst of the whole series and one of only three actually bad MCU movies), the new blood being brought in for Ragnarok is encouraging. New writer-director Watiti has been behind some of the most original and widely-praised comedies of recent years, and his sensibilities should bring some necessary levity to the inherently ridiculous world of Asgard. On top of that, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum join the already impressive cast list, giving Ragnarok the potential to be an absolute blast of a cosmic adventure.

 

13: Suburbicon (Dir; George Clooney, Starring; Josh Brolin, Julianne Moore, Matt Damon)

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Long-time Coen collaborator Clooney is, with Suburbicon, graduating from reading their lines to directing them. For his sixth film behind the camera, Clooney is working with a Coens script (that they themselves had planned on directing for a long time) and a cast very well versed in the brothers’ unique writing. Tackling ’50s suburbia and all the ridiculous social posturing it entailed while, of course, bringing a gruesome crime into the mix, Suburbicon promises to be a starry black comedy that should provide plenty of laughs and thrills in next year’s awards season.

 

12: Untitled Detroit Movie (Dir; Kathryn Bigelow, Starring; John Boyega, John Krasinski, Will Poulter)

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Kathryn Bigelow’s first film since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty (and written by that film and Hurt Locker‘s Mark Boal) sees her taking on another violently pivotal moment in American history, this time looking at the highly destructive ‘race’ riots in Detroit in 1967. Bigelow is one of the most capable directors of realistic action working today, so every rioting scene is likely to be terrifyingly immersive, and if the politics can be handled cleverly enough, this should end up being one of 2017’s most engaging and important films, especially as we enter the frighteningly shaky world of a Trump presidency.

 

11: Kong Skull Island (Dir; Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Starring; Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Release Date; 10th March)

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When this was first announced, it was hard to get excited about it, seeming as it did like nothing more than a cashgrab to set up an inevitable Godzilla/King Kong/whatever other monsters shared universe. But after some really great trailers, it’s become clear that Skull Island is one of the most intriguing blockbusters of next year, with a heavyweight ensemble cast and some inspired shots from rising star director Vogt-Roberts. Ditching the traditional ’30s setting in favour of the Vietnam War era, and clearly featuring a wide variety of giant creatures, Vogt-Roberts has promised plenty of monster action, which should make this one of 2017’s hottest IMAX tickets.

 

10: Downsizing (Dir; Alexander Payne, Starring; Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz)

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A consummate observer of the hilarious peculiarities of relationships, Alexander Payne moves in to more fantastical territory with Downsizing, a story of a man (Damon) who decides that shrinking himself is the answer to all his worldly problems. It’s a wonderfully nonsensical premise that should give Payne the opportunity to include plenty of absurdist humour with his typically acerbic, yet often warm and compassionate, writing. Releasing on a prime Oscar date in the US, it’s clear that there’s plenty of awards-worthy promise in Downsizing, and we can trust in Payne and a comedically gifted cast to ensure that this Academy friendliness doesn’t come at the expense of silly sci-fi laughs.

 

9: Under the Silver Lake (Dir; David Robert Mitchell, Starring; Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace)

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LA Noir is one of my very favourite genres, with everything from Chinatown to The Big Lebowski to The Nice Guys ranking pretty highly in any tally I make of my favourite movies. With that in mind, the idea that the immensely talented young director of It Follows was making an LA-set noir film with two of 2016’s most interesting stars was of course a stirring one. The plot is being kept under tight wraps for the moment, but given that Andrew Garfield is currently on a sensational run of form, one has to assume that there was something really special in this script to get its talent signed on.

 

8: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Dir; James Gunn, Starring; Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Release Date; 28th April)

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Following up the unexpectedly staggering success of the first Guardians of the Galaxy must have been a daunting task for James Gunn, but the trailer for this sequel to Marvel’s best standalone movie shows that he’s managed to keep plenty of the same magic. Reuniting the reluctant heroes on a quest to find Star Lord’s (Pratt) mysterious father (Russell), the trailers may have highlighted the humour, especially with Dave Bautista’s Drax, but Gunn has stated that this will also be a far more emotional film than the original. Getting that balance right in a space superhero romp is a challenge, but one that this team should be more than capable of, and Baby Groot looks ridiculously adorable.

 

7: Shape of Water (Dir; Guillermo Del Toro, Starring; Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer)

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There are very few better fantasy/sci-fi world-builders than Guillermo del Toro, and with The Shape of Water, he’s moving from the Victorian ghost story of Crimson Peak to an otherworldly visitation in Cold War America. As well as his incredible visuals, del Toro also has a proven track record of evoking the spirit of any historical setting he uses, so to see him tackle the paranoia and constant national fear of 1963 should make for one of his most engaging films since his masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth. Filling out his cast with some of the best character actors working today (Shannon, Stuhlbarg, and Spencer are joined by Richard Jenkins, Sally Hawkins, and others), this should be one of 2017’s most excitingly original films.

 

6: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Dir; Steven Spielberg, Starring; Mark Rylance, Oscar Isaac)

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Spielberg’s third film, and collaboration with Mark Rylance, in as many years (with three more planned between 2018 and 2020) shows no shortage of ambition as he continues one of the most prolific phases of his entire career. Taking on a fascinating historical story that saw the Vatican clash with the officially secular Italian state in a groundbreaking 1858 legal battle, the titular kidnapping was of a Jewish boy by his Catholic nanny after she had him baptised in secret. There’s a chance that Edgaro Mortara won’t make its official 2017 date, with only two cast members currently announced and principal photography not yet begun, but any film that has Mark Rylance playing the Pope is one to keep a very close eye on.

 

5: Dunkirk (Dir; Christopher Nolan, Starring; Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Release Date; 21st July)

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After a decade of superheroics and sci-fi, Christopher Nolan is grounding himself in reality for his latest, a retelling of the now near-legendary story of the Dunkirk retreat. Turning a resounding military loss into one of the greatest examples of British pluck and spirit, it’s a magnificent story, and needs someone like Nolan to sell the epic scale of the event. Continuing in the Nolan tradition of doing as much of the effects work as possible in camera, even going so far as controversially crashing a real Spitfire, this should be a very powerful war film. As suggested by the trailerDunkirk is way more focused on its young stars than its more headline-grabbing older actors (Branagh, Rylance, Tom Hardy), with lead Fionn Whitehead a total newcomer. Casting One Direction’s Harry Styles in his first movie role has proved divisive, but I highly doubt Nolan would use any bad performers, and Styles should bring in plenty of viewers not generally in Nolan’s demographic.

 

4: Star Wars Episode 8 (Dir; Rian Johnson, Starring; Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Benicio del Toro, Release Date; 15th December)

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JJ Abrams’ reintroduction to the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens made for a truly magical moviegoing experience, so this continuation of the main saga is on track to probably be 2017’s best, and certainly its most successful, blockbuster. Following the Star Wars tradition, the as yet unofficially subtitled Episode 8 will definitely be darker than its predecessor, with new director Rian Johnson no stranger to slightly bleak sci-fi. Adding Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern to the already exceptional cast of the seventh movie, Episode 8 also promises a bigger role for two of Awakens‘ most mysterious characters, Snoke and Luke. Tragically, it’s also our last chance to see Carrie Fisher on the big screen after her sudden and heartbreaking recent death, though it couldn’t be in a better place than the revitalisation of the series that made her such a beloved household name.

 

3: Spider-Man Homecoming (Dir; Jon Watts, Starring; Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Release Date; 7th July)

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Marvel’s only non-sequel next year (though of course this is very, very far from the first Spider-Man film) looks set to be the definitive take on the world’s most popular superhero. With Tom Holland actually looking like he might belong in a high school and a wonderfully diverse cast of kids, Homecoming should easily separate itself from the rest of the comic-book movie pack with its focus on teenage antics and drama. Lowering the stakes has worked wonders for Marvel in the past – just look at the Captain America sequels – and the premise of Spider-Man having to juggle villain-thwarting and normal teenage problems is a rich one. Holland is utterly charming in the trailer, as is Jacob Batalon as best friend Ned Leeds, and that’s before we even get to the adult stars. Downey Jr pops up as Iron Man, and with Michael Keaton leading a villainous group also consisting of Fargo‘s Bokeem Woodbine and the ever fantastic Donald Glover, we should be in for a real treat.

 

2: The Snowman (Dir; Thomas Alfredson, Starring; Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, JK Simmons, Release Date; 13th October)

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Thomas Alfredson’s 2011 adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of my favourite films of all time, so his follow-up (after a six year wait) was always going to make my most anticipated list. The fact that it’s another story based on a widely loved literary thriller is just icing on an already very rich cake. Taking on one of the many Harry Hole stories by Scandi crime writer Jo Nesbo, The Snowman should be a properly grisly noir, marshalled by one of the strongest directors of icy detachment working today. Naturally, the cast he’s assembled is fantastic (though not quite on the Tinker Tailor level), full of choices both eclectic and brilliantly obvious. Fassbender’s mastery of the mirthless laugh and grin should serve him well for the darkly funny role of Hole, a character that should get him back on to his traditionally excellent form after a bit of a dud year in 2016. Releasing just before the Oscar season starts in earnest, this is likely to be one of the very best films of 2017, though whether its genre trappings will allow it to be recognised as such remains to be seen.

 

1: Blade Runner 2049 (Dir; Denis Villeneuve, Starring; Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Release Date; 6th October)

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Though sequels/remakes/reboots of beloved genre classics rarely fare well with either critics or fans, Blade Runner 2049 looks sure to be a film that bucks that trend. With Sicario and Arrival in the bag, Villeneuve has proved he can make visually stunning action and sci-fi films that set the heart racing and pack in huge emotional power. Bringing Harrison Ford back as the iconic Deckard, the beautiful trailer did exactly what a teaser should, raising plentiful fascinating questions without giving anything important away. Alongside Alien, Ridley Scott defined modern sci-fi with the original Blade Runner, and he’s taking a hands-on role as producer here, while also letting one of the very best (and most bankable) modern auteurs leave his own stamp on this meticulously crafted world. With Villeneuve directing, Johann Johannson on score, Roger Deakins shooting, and star of 2016 Ryan Gosling in the lead, there’s no more exciting creative team on any film next year than on 2049, which easily tops this list as my most anticipated 2017 movie.

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