Hollywood 2017 – Part 1 (January – June)

A list of 20 movies to look forward to during the first six months of 2017.

Another new year begins with renewed hope for a year of good times at the cinemas. A year ago the first half of 2016 seemed exciting, but ended up being dismal with mostly terrible summer releases. A bad year though tends to be followed by a good one, and 2017 indeed has the potential to provide the rebound that we need from 2016’s slate. Following is the first list of movies to look forward to in this new year, with focus on the release schedule of January to June. There will be a second list at the advent of July for movies to look forward to during the second half of the year.

So, what’s in store? While fans of franchises will not be disappointed, there are also enough original films in this list to excite those tired of studio-driven cash-grabs. Read on, find out what upcoming movies suit your taste, and mark the dates!

Note: Release dates mentioned are for the USA, for the sake of some order. They are also, owing to alleged potential Russian hacking, subject to change.

13 January
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

Premise: In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.

Thoughts: It has taken 25 years for Martin Scorsese to bring this passion project to fruition. It is also his first religion-themed movie since the highly controversial 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ. Now this title already featured in our 2015 and 2016 lists, therefore it comes as a relief that the movie has already screened at select venues and is in fact getting a wide release early this year. Early reviews even put it alongside the Scorsese’s best works!
Note: due to its subject matter, Silence may not have a release in your country of residence

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
20 January
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev

Premise: Xander Cage is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

Thoughts: The first xXx (2002) was the kind of fun summer movie you wanted from Hollywood: lots of good action, a charming leading man and a budget that doesn’t draw studio interference. Vin Diesel wasn’t a big star then, but he is one now and the movie may suffer for it. Heck, Diesel can still be charming and a box-office draw, but do you recall the last time you enjoyed his movie when he wasn’t playing Dominic Toretto or Riddick? (No, Groot doesn’t count). His return as Xander Cage is the final straw for most of his remaining fans – therefore it doesn’t bode well that the director’s previous movie holds a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score.

20 January
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Kim Director

Premise: After three teenage girls are abducted by a strange man they begin to meet all of his 24 personalities. But can they use them to aid in their escape?

Thoughts: Surprise! In an actual real-life twist to how directors’ careers go, Shyamalan may indeed have caught us all unaware. After bottoming out with The Last Airbender, the director has slowly been clawing his way up the quality chart. While the results have been arduous, his latest may yet be another (small) step towards better films, if early reviews are anything to go by. The trailer shows a devious McAvoy, and the premise reads sinister-fun. Look forward to this, but don’t forget how The Visit turned out.

The Founder
20 January
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman

Premise: The story of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

Thoughts: Keaton, being the current muse of the Acting-Fairy*, seems to be delivering knock-out performances on demand (Birdman, Spotlight). In this movie he plays the man who parents subconsciously curse for their children’s demands of Happy Meals®, and seems like Keaton has likely delivered another winning performance here.
*An imagined luck &/or skill charm that had in the recent past benefited Matthew McConaughey and Jake Gyllenhaal.

John Wick: Chapter 2
10 February
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane

Premise: The continuing adventures of former hitman, John Wick.

Thoughts: John Wick defined how to have non-stop fun in a straight-forward shoot-em-up. That’s all we ask of this sequel too: Keep it simple.

03 March
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Doris Morgado

Premise: In the near future, an aging Wolverine and Professor X must protect a young female clone of Wolverine from an evil organization led by Nathanial Essex.

Thoughts: Deadpool gave 20th Century Fox the balls to finally make an R-rated Wolverine movie. That’s 3 movies too late already. Our love for the actor-character combo aside, how many chances do we give this series? Yes, it is already a series of its own, apart from the X-Men films <sigh>. The production stills and the trailer does promise something different – but just like Logan in the movie, we may already be well past our capacity to recover from the hurt.

T2 Trainspotting
10 March
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller

Premise: A continuation of the Trainspotting saga reuniting the original characters.

Thoughts: Danny Boyle, of the fantastic original films Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and many more is now making a sequel to his cult movie. Boyle hardly ever disappoints, and his rare misfires can only be called that due to the otherwise excellence of his cinema. Therefore even though this is his first sequel, the worst possibility is that we will get a memorable movie. If you haven’t watched the original, you have ~68 days in the new year to remedy the situation.

Kong: Skull Island
10 March
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Toby Kebbell, Samuel L. Jackson

Premise: An action/adventure story centered on King Kong’s origins.

Thoughts: A good cast. A wonderful teaser, followed by a good trailer. And those gorgeous visuals. We’ve only had one King Kong movie in recent times, therefore it is hardly surprising that the studios want to revive it as a franchise. This movie is expected to set up an eventual crossover with 2014’s Godzilla for a prize-fight “vs” movie. Commercial prospects aside, Kong: Skull Island genuinely looks to like a summer monster movie to be excited about.

The Wall
10 March
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena

Premise: An American sharpshooter is trapped in a standoff with an Iraqi sniper.

Thoughts: Now here is a survivor movie that has the potential to surprise us. The movie narrows down the focus of a war to two people, locked in a sharp-shooting battle. If pulled off, and the director has the potential for it (he made Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow), this could be the best sniper stand-off movie since Enemy at the Gates. Also, John Cena finally gets an A-list movie. Can he prove himself as big a star as his WWE rival Dwayne The Rock Johnson?

17 March
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Benicio Del Toro, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Holly Hunter, Val Kilmer

Premise: Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.

Thoughts: Re-read that cast list. And look at that director’s name. Whether it ends up being a fantastic masterpiece or a majestic failure, Weightless should be high on any cinephile’s list. Meanwhile, read our resident Malick aficionado Faizan Rashid’s odes to The New World, Tree of Life and Voyage of Time.

Beauty and the Beast
17 March
Directed by: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Premise: An adaptation of the Disney fairy-tale about a monstrous prince and a young woman who fall in love.

Thoughts: Disney has a split hit-or-miss ratio for the live-action adaptations of its animated classics, but the stakes are high for this one: Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and is a personal favourite for many. While the cast and crew involved with the live-action adaptation is commendable, and the movie may actually turn out to be good too, can it match or improve upon the high standards of the original? Recommendation: keep a check on your expectations.

24 March
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson

Premise: Six astronauts aboard the international space crew discover life on Mars.

Thoughts: Space sci-fi slasher movie. Sort of. The premise states six astronauts and the trailer suggests some of them will get killed. Looking at the cast we know the 3 who will survive for the last act. Which means… Jake Gyllenhaal is the sole reason to watch this movie – he’s earned it with his performances from the last six years (Source Code, End of Watch, Enemy, Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Southpaw)

Ghost in the Shell
31 March
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Wincott, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche

Premise: A cyborg policewoman attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker.

Thoughts: This movie is an adaptation of a much-loved cyber-punk Japanese anime, inspiring the odd visuals from the trailer. Scarlett Johannson hasn’t yet achieved the combination of box-office success & critical acclaim for a movie that she headlines (unlike Jennifer Lawrence). This is another chance that will be a measure of her star-power. Either way, it surely can’t be any worse than Lucy. Or can it?

The Fate of the Furious aka Fast & Furious 8
14 April
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron

Premise: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of crime and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

Thoughts: Does it even matter what the movie is about apart from fast cars, Vin Diesel and his cast-mates? Suffice to say, this is another F&F movie and all of us will be watching it! Side note: I will succumb to temptation and provide a captain for the image – “Two Bald Heads Are Better Than One”.

The Lost City of Z
21 April
Directed by: James Gray
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland

Premise: Based on David Grann’s best-selling book of the same name, The Lost City of Z is the true-life drama which centers on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Thoughts: James Gray does not make movies often, but when he does they strike the right chord. Even though his trusted Joaquin Phoenix isn’t in The Lost City of Z it does look intriguing. And yes, that skanky bearded fellow next to Charlie Hunnam is… ex-shiny vampire Robert Pattinson!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
05 May
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone

Premise: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Thoughts: More than most Marvel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy struck a chord among those who aren’t comic book fans. Its fandom has since exploded, especially for little Groot. The sequel seems to offer more of the same, but with more explosions (as the case always is). If James Gunn pulls this one off too, and there’s little reason to doubt the Marvel production machine anymore, you won’t have to wait long before Marvel unites the Guardians with the Avengers. BTW, did you notice the last name on the cast list above?

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
12 May
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Annabelle Wallis

Premise: When young Arthur, not knowing his royal lineage, grabs Excalibur and is instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, he is forced to make up his mind. He must learn to understand the magic weapon, deal with his demons and unite the people to defeat the dictator Vortigern, the man who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king.

Thoughts: For some inexplicable reason, the trailer for King Arthur is Filmphoria’s most watched and shared video ever.That’s a view count of over 94,000! Even though it looks like another Guy Ritchie movie in the tone of his Sherlock Holmes films, perhaps that is exactly what people want?

Wonder Woman
02 June
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

Premise: An Amazon princess leaves her island home to explore the world and, in doing so, becomes one of the world’s greatest heroes.

Thoughts: Even for those that disliked Batman v Superman, the character of Wonder Woman was a saving grace for the movie. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this first major female superhero movie is also one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Director Patty Jenkins has enough respect as a filmmaker to pull in cinephiles who’ve given up on the DCEU, and the trailers enforce the anticipation. Now let’s just pray that Warner Bros. doesn’t interfere and leave out the best bits for an Extended Edition.

Cars 3
16 June
Directed by: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson

Premise: Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Thoughts: As a sequel to the *only* rotten movie from the Pixar stable, the initial announcement for the 3rd Cars movie was seen as a mere toy-selling venture. But all that changed with the release of the short teaser: it is both breath-taking and heart-breaking. We literally watch a car-crash in slow-motion! And the gritty, realistic visuals suggest a mature and poignant film. If the movie lives up to the teaser, and there is no doubt that Pixar has the potential for it, many of us grown-ups will likely be ordering Lightning McQueen toys to put next to our Wall-E toy.

The Beguiled
30 June
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst

Premise: While imprisoned in a Confederate girls’ boarding school, an injured Union soldier cons his way into each of the lonely women’s hearts, causing them to turn on each other, and eventually, on him.

Thoughts: Such a wicked premise! Colin Farrell as the charming imprisoned soldier, and women fighting over him, told by Sofia Coppola. The fact that it releases smack in the peak of summer season is equally fascinating. The intrigue factor is high on this one!

Other movies that could be of interest with release dates in the first half of 2017: The Mummy (Tom Cruise), The Lego Batman Movie (animated), Baywatch (yup, slo-mo running on the beach), Unicorn Store (Brie Larson’s directorial debut), The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson), Alien: Covenant (Prometheus sequel from Ridley Scott), another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel and even an untitled Cloverfield anthology movie among many others. Continue checking out our weekly article “Out This Week” every Thursday!

Wish you a Happy New Year, and a fantastic time at the cinema!

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.