New Year, New Movies
Happy New Year everyone! With 2016 now behind us, the next crop of movies are ready to hit the market and this year the quality is surprisingly strong in the early months. Like last year’s preview, I won’t be selecting releases from cornerstone franchises. Such titles include Logan (release date: March 3rd), The Fate of the Furious (release date: April 14th), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (release date: May 5th), Alien: Covenant (release date: May 19th), Wonder Woman (release date: June 2nd), and Transformers: The Last Knight (release date: June 23rd). Unlike last year, I’ll be highlighting 10 titles (as opposed to five) because the strength of the films this year warrants the expansion. I’ll also be focusing exclusively on releases from the first six months of 2017, followed by a similar post for the 2nd half of the year in July.
*In chronological order:
1. Hidden Figures – dir. Theodore Melfi
Although technically released in limited engagement at the end of last year, Hidden Figures is the first film of 2017 to demand respect from audiences. This true story of three African-American women mathematicians who helped NASA launch a man into Earth’s orbit (the recently deceased John Glenn) shines a bright light on a story that is unfortunately under-taught in schools and likely to be unfamiliar to those who see it. Hidden Figures figures to be my first watch of 2017.
U.S. Release date: January 6th
2. The Founder – dir. John Lee Hancock
Yet another little-told story makes its way onto the list. This time we examine the founding of one of the most iconic franchises in history: McDonald’s. The Founder forms a solid acting triumvirate with Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, and John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman as the McDonald brothers. With what looks to be a sharp script, charismatic performances, and a gripping story, The Founder is the first value meal of the new year. Deception never tasted so good.
U.S. Release date: January 20th
3. War on Everyone – dir. John Michael McDonagh
Following up two of my favorite comedies of recent memory, The Guard and Calvary, John McDonagh is back in his black comedy wheelhouse with War on Everyone. This buddy-cop movie gone sour looks heinous and hilarious. Nobody does dark, satirical comedy like the McDonagh brothers, and this latest effort from the elder promises to deliver on all fronts.
U.S. Release date: February 3rd
4. I Am Not Your Negro – dir. Raoul Peck
The first documentary of the year to pique my interest also looks to be one of the most important movies of the year. Based on the writings of author and social activist James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro dares to ask the questions very few people are willing to ask. With narration from Samuel L. Jackson, this powerhouse of a film has already been shortlisted for this year’s Oscars. I personally can’t wait for February to come.
U.S. Release date: February 3rd
5. John Wick: Chapter Two – dir. Chad Stahelski
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That appears to be exactly the case with the sequel to 2014’s surprise hit, and crazily good, John Wick. Keanu Reeves is back as the most badass hitman with a soft spot for puppies and he looks deadlier than ever. It’s refreshing to see a sequel to a popular action movie that doesn’t try to deviate from the formula that made the first so successful. If the goal is to give the fans what they want, sometimes the best idea is to give them more of the same.
U.S. Release date: February 10th
6. Get Out – dir. Jordan Peele
“When white people attack” is basically the setup for this Blumhouse horror flick. What’s even more surprising is the name behind the camera. Jordan Peele is famously known for his comedic chops (Key & Peele) but this time he’s decided to step behind the camera and stretch his directorial muscle. With an original script (also written by Peele) and featuring one of the better trailers in some time, Get Out is mysterious, bold, and inventive. Hopefully Peele pulls it off.
U.S. Release date: February 24th
7. T2 Trainspotting– dir. Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle and the gang are back in the long awaited sequel to the cult classic Trainspotting. Boyle and Ewan McGregor share a long and storied history, so it’s nice to see them re-team on a project that is so beloved by many. With the same talent returning (including screenwriter John Hodge) to revisit the lives of our favorite Scottish junkies, the sky’s the limit for the intensity, and the madness.
U.S. Release date: March 3rd
8. Free Fire – dir. Ben Wheatley
I was introduced to Ben Wheatley after last year’s surreal, and quite confounding, High-Rise. One thing was clearly evident in his work though, his ability to world-build by using striking imagery. Where High-Rise’s pacing was deliberate and imposing, his latest film Free Fire looks to be a complete 180 from that style of heady drama. From the trailer, this film looks comical and chaotic. Boasting a killer cast with itchy trigger fingers, Free Fire represents cinema at its most fun and ferocious.
U.S. Release date: March 17th
9. The Circle – dir. James Ponsoldt
James Ponsoldt is one of my favorite rising directors. His résumé is small but accomplished, featuring gems like The Spectacular Now and most recently The End of the Tour. Dipping his toes into science-fiction, Ponsoldt is now more experienced and adept to adapt Dave Eggers’s popular book of the same name. I’ll admit, my expectations for this movie are high, perhaps unreasonably so. But I can’t resist rooting for smart directors with the potential for every project they take to be next level. Of course, having Tom Hanks captain your ship doesn’t hurt either.
U.S. Release date: April 28th
10. Rough Night – dir. Lucia Aniello
The directorial debut of Lucia Aniello (writer and director of Comedy Central’s Broad City), this raunchy comedy appears to channel the spirit of Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street. The setup is simple: Five college friends reunite for a bachelorette party where a male stripper winds up dead at a Miami beach house. Round that off with a stellar female cast (Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Demi Moore), Rough Night has a good chance to surprise everyone as the first comedy hit of the summer.
U.S. Release date: June 16th