Hollywood 2017 – Part 2 (July – December)

A list of 30 movies to look forward to during the second half of 2017.

The second half of 2017 holds the promise of being one of the best movie periods in recent memory. Even the mainstream blockbusters are from directors with distinct filmographies. We will also see two much anticipated directorial debuts, quite a few award-season dramas, and even the swansong for one of the greatest actors of our generation. With such an eclectic mix on the slate, here’s a shortlisted preview of 30 movies to look forward to during the rest of the year.

Note: Release dates mentioned are for the USA, for the sake of some order. They are also, owing to the rebellious nature of entropy, subject to change.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
07 July
Directed by: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei

Premise: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.
Thoughts: After last year’s Captain America: Civil War, this is already described as the best big-screen avatar of the beloved comic book hero. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man now gets his own movie under the watchful eyes of MCU mastermind Kevin Feige. After the disastrous reboot from Sony, this is a welcome change. Early reviews of the movie indicate that this Spidey is indeed a winner!

A Ghost Story
07 July
Directed by: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Premise: In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.
Thoughts: David Lowery has a uniquely resplendent feel to his movies that are at once calm and soothing, but at the same time haunting. This was especially true of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, his 2013 movie starring the same leads as this movie. The fascinating premise and above image notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is *not* a horror movie, but in fact a romantic drama!

War for the Planet of the Apes
14 July
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

Premise: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
Thoughts: Likely the culmination of a modern Apes trilogy, War sees Caesar’s struggle with the surging of intelligence in his species versus the continued fight for survival from the humans. Rise and Dawn were exceptionally good movies (considering the genre and trend). Now with Matt Reeves again behind the camera and Woody Harrelson as the main antagonist, War has the potential to make this one of the best trilogies of modern times.

21 July
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance

Premise: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Thoughts: Chris Nolan has made a war movie. Yes, Christopher NOLAN has made a WAR MOVIE! The only decision to make here is: where to watch the movie? Advice: Mall of the Emirates IMAX screen – there is no better way to experience this movie in the UAE, especially when more than 75% of the movie was shot using IMAX cameras.

Atomic Blonde
28 July
Directed by: David Leitch
Starring: Charlize Theron, Sofia Boutella, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Premise: An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.
Thoughts: Charlize Theron in a John Wick-type movie, from a director who was a stunt coordinator. Talk about a juicy setup! The trailers came out of nowhere earlier this year, and have provided the right amount of intrigue and excitement that fans of ass-kicking action love. It’s also what we have to whet our appetite with while waiting for a Mad Max: Fury Road Furiosa-spinoff.

04 August
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore

Premise: Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion, with the city under curfew and as the Michigan National Guard patrolled the streets, three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel.
Thoughts: Kathryn Bigelow is relentless. Not just within her movies, but even in the consistency of her releases. And while the critical and box office success of Wonder Woman has helped champion the cause for women directors, let’s not forget this 65-year old Oscar winner who is arguable the best of the lot. Detroit will also provide John Boyega to flex his (massive) acting muscles. If the trailer is anything to go by, he has reserved Denzel Washington’s space for the next generation.

Wind River
04 August
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Jon Bernthal

Premise: An FBI agent teams with a town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.
Thoughts: Taylor Sheridan started his screen writing career with Sicario. He followed it up with Hell or High Water. They were easily among the best movies of their respective years. Wind River is his third script, and this time he is directing it as well. No other movie on this list can describe “subdued excitement” better.

Logan Lucky
18 August
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver

Premise: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.
Thoughts: Thank God for the obvious. I’m not sure a single soul who follows movies really believed Steven Soderbergh retirement announcement post his last movie, the grossly under-watched Side Effects. His re-debut movie looks like a truck-load of fun, including the “introducing” actor Daniel Craig. Yup, all crazy. All fun.

Battle of the Sexes
22 September
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming

Premise: The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.
Thoughts: This comedy based on the real event comes from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine. Though I am not a big fan of that movie, this has the advantage of a wonderful cast and there is potential for immense love all round, especially with the goofy 70s look set to match the tone.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
22 September
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal

Premise: When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.
Thoughts: Matthew Vaughn has quietly developed a reputation for his fast-paced, fun, hyper-violent movies. After the incredible fireworks from Kingsman, he is back with a sequel that looks equally outlandish and full of more R-rated entertainment. This time we also have Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore. And… Colin Firth returns! How? Well, somehow.

American Made
29 September
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones

Premise: A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.
Thoughts: Tom Cruise *not* saving the planet! Last time Doug Liman and Tom Cruise worked together, we got the excellent Edge of Tomorrow. This time, they couldn’t be working on a movie more different. Set in the past (80s), based on real world events, and made from the top script in the 2014 Black List of unproduced scripts, American Made has the ingredients of a good fall-season movie. Movie recommendation: Cruise’s last historical movie was… the underrated Valkyrie.

Blade Runner 2049
06 October
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright

Premise: Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Thoughts: When a Blade Runner sequel was announced, there was a collective groan from fans of the original – why would one the greatest (standalone) Sci-Fi’s even need a sequel? But then Denis Villeneuve happened. Roger Deakins happened. Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto happened. And then we got that gorgeous teaser. Now, Blade Runner 2049 ranks among the most anticipated movies of this year.

13 October
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

Premise: Centers on a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Thoughts: The artists impression of Jennifer Lawrence with a cut in her torso and holding her bloody (anatomically correct) heart in her hands – what better way to convey the mood of Arnofsky’s new movie. The premise lends little understanding of the title or that poster, but trust the director to give you another masterpiece that will be dark (in theme), and obsessive.

The Snowman
13 October
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Michael Fassbender, Chloë Sevigny, Val Kilmer

Premise: Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.
Thoughts: Tomas Alfredson just doesn’t make enough movies! Six years after Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, he comes back with another crime-drama led by the ever-impressive Michael Fassbender. Trust to find little more before the movie releases (trailer notwithstanding), but prepare to be mesmerized by a visual, hard-boiled and gruesome mystery. Trivia: Martin Scorsese was at one point considered directing this movie.

God Particle
27 October
Directed by: Julius Onah
Starring: Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, Ziyi Zhang

Premise: A shocking discovery forces a team of astronauts aboard a space station to fight for survival while their reality has been altered.
Thoughts: J J Abrams’s cinematic experiment called Cloverfield is fascinating to say the least. It started with the eponymous monster movie, then came the psychological-horror 10 Cloverfield Lane last year. This new movie is set in the same world (or in space above it), and is shrouded in secrecy as Abrams’ projects tend to be. Like his TV show Lost, Abrams seems to be building a maze of ideas and clues with each movie that will be fascinating to watch and get trapped in.

03 November
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac

Premise: A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
Thoughts: Clooney hasn’t had a good run lately, neither behind nor in front of the camera. Let that not take away the fact that he can make good movies (Good Night, and Good Luck). His latest directorial effort is scripted by the Coen brothers. It should be fascinating to watch their work represented onscreen by Matt Damon and Oscar Isaac.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
03 November
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Colin Farrell

Premise: A teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family take an unexpected turn.
Thoughts: With two of his movies (Dogtooth, Lobster), Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has singlehandedly raised the level of good-quality weirdness in cinema. Hence, do not for once doubt that there will be any lack of absurdity in his latest movie, again starring Colin Farrell. I’d be happier though if the movie is more than just attention-seeking. Blast from the Past: dose of nostalgia in the movie, as it also stars 90s pin-up girl Alicia Silverstone.

Thor: Ragnarok
03 November
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo

Premise: Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
Thoughts: In arguably one of the best trailers of the year, we see Thor and Hulk pitted against each other in a gladiatorial arena. Who is not excited by how that plays out? The rumour is that for the most part this movie is a road-trip with Thor and Hulk. Helmed by Taikia Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), expect Ragnarok to be among the best of the Marvel movies. Plus, Cate Blanchett already looks set to be one badass villain (she shatters Mjolnir!).

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
10 November
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand , Abbie Cornish

Premise: After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, a mother paints three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at the town’s revered chief of police. When the second-in-command Officer, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between the mother and the chief’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
Thoughts: Future-Oscar-Winner Woody Harrelson as a good guy vs Frances McDormand as a mouthing-off disgruntled mom; now that’s a match-up worth watching, especially under the direction of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). He provides his actors with some fiery dialogues. With those two actors delivering them, also accompanied by Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage, I’d say we have the potential of a verbal-action movie here!

Justice League
17 November
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill

Premise: Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.
Thoughts: Though critically derided, Zack Snyder’s two DCEU movies were box office (and home media) successes and enjoy an ever-increasing fan-base. Now with Wonder Woman proven to be the biggest movie of the summer (in box office and acclaim), plus the news that Joss Whedon (Avengers) helped with additional writing and scenes, Justice League is poised to give DCEU the wider acceptance it deserves. P.s.: with the little that we saw of The Flash in the teasers/trailers, I’d say we got a scene-stealer in the house!

Last Flag Flying
17 November
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne

Premise: Three vets go on a road trip up the Eastern Seaboard, one of whose only child has been killed in the early days of the Iraqi invasion.
Thoughts: Though it may not be possible for him to top Boyhood, the Linklater flavour is very real and will always be relevant. Set as the opening movie of the 2017 New York Film Festival, Linklater’s latest could finally bring some respect to the older-men-on-road-trip genre. Just look at those 3 actors and tell yourself you do not want to watch them together for a whole movie?

Molly’s Game
22 November
Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner

Premise: Molly Bloom, a young skier and former Olympic hopeful becomes a successful entrepreneur (and a target of an FBI investigation) when she establishes a high-stakes, international poker game.
Thoughts: There is no doubt that Aaron Sorkin is the most inventive and distinct screenwriter working in Hollywood these days. His memorable lines and fast-paced dialogue have become the stuff of cinema legend with The Social Network. Now he makes his directorial debut with a movie with that has to have a lot of banter and comeuppance – it’s a high-stakes poker game after all. And damn, we all can do with Idris Elba speaking Sorkin!

24 November
Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Edward James Olmos

Premise: Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who sets off a chain of events relating to a century-old mystery, leading to an extraordinary family reunion.
Thoughts: After the worlds of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, cars, rats, robots, emotions and dinosaurs, Pixar brings us the world of the dead! And if that sounds morbid, it certainly is not so in motion. The trailer presents the dead as warm, loving and funny! Are we looking at a generation of kids who are not only not scared of skeletons, but want them as toys? Meanwhile, treasure this one for it’ll be the last original Pixar movie for the next three years! (There is no other original Pixar title announced yet and an untitled one is set for 2020).

Darkest Hour
24 November
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas

Premise: Within days of becoming Prime Minister, Winston Churchill must face his most turbulent and defining trial: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation.
Thoughts: The movie does not look too fascinating, and it will be tough to better John Lithgow’s fantastic portrayal of Winston Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown. But Gary Oldman (also future Oscar winner) is no pushover. Watching him rise to the challenge where Churchill’s character is the lead (and not supporting, like in The Crown) should be a treat for fans of the actor and of history.

Murder on the Orient Express
24 November
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz,Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench

Premise: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.
Thoughts: The most famous case of Agatha Christie’s popular literary detective, Hercule Poirot, gets a lavish big screen adaptation. The gallery of colourful characters each is portrayed by a popular star, and given Christie’s fantastic story, should be a great whodunit for a new audience. While this new version is unlikely to be as good as the 1974 classic (with Albert Finney as the detective, and likewise starring many famous stars of the era including… Sean Connery!), I recommend to stay away from any articles, trailers, or even the original if you intend to watch this movie – try not to have a hint of what’s to come onscreen.

The Shape of Water
08 December
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins

Premise: An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.
Thoughts: Guillermo del Toro, what an enigma of a director. His best are among the best of their genre (Hellboy!), while his worst is still like a car-crash in slow-motion (Crimson Peak). While the premise of his latest suits the director’s sensibilities like we know it, the movie has a romanticized pitch that makes me slightly apprehensive.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
15 December
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio Del Toro

Premise: Having taken her first steps into a larger world in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rey continues her epic journey with Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker in the next chapter of the saga.
Thoughts: Back to main continuity! Easily *the* most anticipated movie of the year for most film fans, just for being a Star Wars movie. After the awesomeness that was The Force Awakens, this also features Mark Hamill’s fan-favourite Luke Skywalker in a major role (he was painfully missing from The Force Awakens). So much excitement, so many questions! December 15th, why you make us wait?

22 December
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Starring: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, Christoph Waltz

Premise: A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.
Thoughts: Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig make a fascinating movie couple. And because this is an Alexander Payne movie, it won’t be an outright comedy, but a light-hearted social-drama. Therefore it should be interesting to watch Ms Wiig playing it straight in a lead role. That aside, Matt Damon as a shrunken guy sounds hilarious!

Phantom Thread
25 December
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Camilla Rutherford

Premise: Set in the fashion world of 1950s London, a dressmaker is commissioned to design for members of high society and the royal family.
Thoughts: An age of acting will end with this movie – Daniel Day-Lewis has announced that this is his last movie, and he will retire after it. Even though he is a method actor, unlike with Joaquin Phoenix, Day-Lewis is too sincere to use retirement as a gimmick to prepare for a role. Fitting that his swansong is in a PTA movie, considering his last great performance was in There Will Be Blood (let’s skip Lincoln). Surely, the movie is not as simple as the premise makes it sound. There has to be an element of ambition to it. We wait, then we watch.

Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Rosamund Pike

Premise: In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.
Thoughts: Christian Bale and director Scott Cooper’s criminally under-watched and underrated Out of the Furnace is proof that these two equal magic on-screen. Though Hostiles does not have a release date yet, there is a high probability the movie will get a limited release before the year’s end, to take advantage of the awards season buzz it will undoubtedly get, considering Christian Bale has a meaty dramatic role in it. He is joined by Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, and the forever reliable Ben Foster. Now, if you are of the many who have not watched Out of the Furnace, you got yourself some homework.

As with every year, the movies that will define the year may not even be on our radar yet. Film Festivals and Awards season will bring forth a myriad of movies to suit the breadth and height of any cinephile. Be on lookout for the movies that generate a buzz, and continue checking out our weekly article “Out This Week” every Thursday.

Enjoy yourself at the movies!

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.