29th Mar2017

Top 20: Films to see in 2017

by Dan Clark

We are a few months into 2017 and already we had a number of standout movies like Get Out, Logan, and The Lego Batman Movie. Hopefully that is just the start of what is to come. Considering that, myself and Kevin – the hosts of podcast Cinema Geeks – combine forces to put a list together of 20 movies to watch in 2017.

Let us know what you think of the list in the comments below. Did they leave any off? Are the rankings off base? Let your voice be heard!

20) The Lost City of Z

What Can Go Right: A film with this type of setup sure would have to be bungled in order for it not to work. It describes the life of British explorer Percy Fawcett who made several attempts to find an ancient lost city in the Amazon and disappeared in 1925 along with his son. It should be in good hands with James Gray at the helm who in his last film, The Immigrant really found his stride. The cast also plays as a who’s who in Young Hollywood with so many actors on the verge of breakout performances.

What Can Go Wrong: This film has been in production for SIX years. It was on my most anticipated list in 2016 and never came out. The lead role has gone from Brad Pitt to Benedict Cumberbatch to finally, Charlie Hunnam. Many times this sort of thing does not bode well for the final product. Here’s hoping that the time was spent perfecting the screenplay and making sure they got everything just right.

19) The Man With the Iron Heart

What Can Go Right: With the success of Amazon’s Man in High Castle the world is ready for another alternate history World War II story. The Man with the Iron Heart could be that movie. While not as drastically different as the man in high castle the novel it is based on tells the story of the The Czech resistance attempt to fight back against the Germans. Jack O’Connell is on the brink of becoming a major actor and Jack Reynor impressed a lot of people in Sing Street last year. Them acting together should be a feat to see.

What Can Go Wrong: Unlike Man in High Castle a lot of the subtext of this film requires a deeper understanding of the history of the time outside of the basics. I could see those who lack that knowledge not fully appreciating or understanding the ramifications of the narrative completely.

18) Song to Song

What Can Go Right: The plot for this film is so intriguing, who doesn’t want to see Ryan Gosling and Roony Mara as a couple navigating the scene of sex, drugs and rock and roll intertwined with another couple played by Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman. Emmanuel Lubezki is providing the cinematography in this film that even the more outspoken Terrence Malick fan should be able to get behind.

What Can Go Wrong: With so many people listed as being in this film, from Christian Bale to Cate Blanchett to Benicio Del Toro and even Val Kilmer, who knows who actually will eventually appear in the final product. Tree of Life is regarded by many as a masterpiece but his last film Knight of Cups fell short for many of those same folks. Which film will Song to Song line up more closely with is still anybody’s guess.

17) Mother!

What Can Go Right: Noah may have received a lot of unwarranted hate from those that went in with the wrong expectations of what film they WANTED to see, but regardless of how you felt about Noah, Aronofsky’s resume cannot be ignored. Black Swan, The Wrestler, Pi and Requeim for a Dream for example. Pair that with a stellar cast including the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Domnhnall Gleeson amongst others, and there is so much that could go right here. If nothing else it should be interesting from a direction standpoint. Also, Jóhann Jóhannsson is providing the score.

What Can Go Wrong: I suppose it depends on where you fall on each of his films, but it may be interesting for some to note that he did not write The Wrestler or Black Swan. In mother! he is both the writed and the director and the past two films he sat in both of those chairs for did not go over well with many (Noah & The Fountain).

16) Mute

What Can Go Right: Duncan Jones just might be able to rediscover the magic that he had with Moon especially with Sam Rockwell back under his direction. The plot of the Science Fiction Mystery seems right up Jone’s alley and I hear spiritual sequels do rather well these days. Even more fasicinating though is that Jones has described this film as the middle film in a connected Trilogy that began with Moon. Oh yea, and one of the characters goes by the name, Cactus Bill!

What Can Go Wrong: Being distributed by Netflix hasn’t gone over well when it comes to critical acclaim and award season and unfortunately has made many of these films lost on the mainstream public. Hopefully Mute does not suffer that same fate. The biggest thing that could go wrong here though is if Jones is not able to capture lightning in a bottle twice and the high expectations most will go into this one with, aren’t fully realized.

15) The Death of Stalin

What Can Go Right: After eight years Armando Iannucci is returning to the world of film. His last and only film to this point as In the Loop and it is one of the best comedies of the last decade. Although he has been absent from the movie world his television career as continue to impress with work on shows like The Thick of It and Veep. Now he takes his sense of comedy to tell a more daring story revolving around one of the most evil men in history. They say comedy is tragedy plus time. If that is the case this should have a lot of comedy to enjoy.

What Can Go Wrong: While In the Loop was a great success it was basically just a continuation of the show The Thick of It. This will be the first time Armando Iannucci is making a movie that is completely original. Can you recreate that same type of magic in through a new format? Also based on these last few months the political landscape has been trying to say the least. By the time this is released will people be able to enjoy a movie that is politically centered? It could end up just being a painful reminder of the craziness we once again fine ourselves in decades later.

14) Spider-Man: Homecoming

What Can Go Right: Tom Holland could become the perfect version of Spider-Man. He has the capability to take all the best parts of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield and finally give us a version of the character that no one can complain about (who are we kidding, we are talking about comic book fans here). Another thing that could go right is the fact that we are finally getting a Spider-Man film that Sony does not have entire control over. Bringing this character into the MCU can’t be anything but an improvement over how he has been handled previously. Add these two things to the fact that you also have Iron Man involved to some degree and I can’t imagine this film not living up to the hype.

What Can Go Wrong: Jon Watts is a fairly inexperienced director, and although I enjoyed Cop Car, will he be able to step up to a project of this magnitude without getting lost. Also, no less than six people have screenplay credits for this film including a pair who have almost exclusively written for comedies such as Horrible Bosses and 2015’s Vacation. There also have been some early grumbling on the subject of the film’s major villain.

13) Untitled Detroit Riots Movie

What Can Go Right: The directing and writing duo that brought us Zero Dark Thirty are coming together once again to create a film that centers once again on a vital moment in American history. I will let me ignorance show as I am not very familiar with this specific riot, but if Zero Dark Thirty thought us anything it is this team can methodical tell a compelling story with respectable realism and authenticity. I mean Mark Boal was put on trial for the information he was able to obtain. That journalistic mindset bodes will for this movie

What Can Go Wrong: Part of me wonders if this would be better told through a documentary format rather than a film narrative. It reminds me of a very underrated documentary Let the Fire Burn that solely used archived footage to tell a similar story. Seeing real life events played out has more impact that a recreation of those events typically. Will it be difficult to enjoy this movie when all you can think of is determining what is real and what has be fabricated for story purposes.

12) The Circle

What Can Go Right: James Ponsoldt has made two small films with a lot of heart. Spectacular Now was a coming of age film that was never tied down to any of the genre’s normal conventions. End of the Tour was a unique vehicle in its own right. Now with The Circle Ponsoldt has the best cast that he has ever worked with along with some well regarded source material from author Dave Eggers.

What Can Go Wrong: As indicated to this point Ponsoldt has made films that were intimate and very personal. Barely was there more than one person on screen at a time. Based on this films description the scope of The Circle is much larger and will require a lot more juggling as a film maker. Last year another film based on a Dave Eggers novel came out in A Hologram for the King, and that film came and went very quickly–something very uncommon for a movie starring Tom Hanks. That could easily happen again.

11) The Disaster Artist

What Can Go Right: The Room has been called the worst film ever made by numerous sources. However, it’s one of those films that is so bad that it is at the same time intriguing and borderline mesmerizing. So, now we get a movie about that movie. What could go wrong?

What Can Go Wrong: Do we really need a movie about the worst movie ever made? Although there is a ton to lampoon when it comes to the source material will the team involved be clever enough to do it in a way that actually makes for more than just a SNL treatment. James Franco seems to be involved in two dozen films a year and if this was just another tally for his filmography then we may have a film that is even worse than The Room.

10) The Dark Tower

What Can Go Right: This is one of those movies that has been in development for ever and has gone through so may different iterations before ever being released. At one time it was going to be part movie and part TV series. Then it was not going to happen at all, but now it is finally coming out as a movie. So based on the sheer force of will that it took for this to get made it should lead to something great. Plus the world needs a great Western franchise doesn’t it?

What Can Go Wrong: With that said movies that have been in development hell have not fared the greatest. By the time actors are chosen, scripts are written, and they begin shooting the energy is simply gone and you are left with a soulless film. Was this made because people believe in it, or was it made because after all the money that was poured into it they had no other option?

9) Alien: Covenant

What Can Go Right: Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise…again. Alien is equally one of the best horror movies and Science Fiction films of all time. Unlike Prometheus that simply existed in the same universe, this is a full on return of the xenomorph. One of the biggest issues people had with Prometheus was with the script, but this time Damon Lindelof is gone and in walks John Logan who has a much more impressive tracked record with movies like Gladiator, Skyfall, The Aviator, and Rango.

What Can Go Wrong: John Logan also wrote Star Trek: Nemesis and Spectre so he has had his own troubles creating disappointing editions to noteworthy franchise. The biggest concern though is that this will do nothing but recreate moments from the Alien franchise that have been done to death at this point. Alien was revolutionary in 1979 but in 2017 we have seen the Alien in the shower routine again and again. Also will this get lost in its own mythology like Prometheus did?

8) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

What Can Go Right: From all accounts, Volume 2 is in good hands. James Gunn once again has done the writing and the directing as he did with the first film. Also, Marvel has churned out four films since the Guardians last appeared which should mean people will be ready for the change of scenery once again. You add in Kurt Russell and a few surprises along the way, and this should easily be a film you can bank on.

What Can Go Wrong: Kurt Russell can’t hurt, but will the character of Ego prove too hard a task to pull off even for the MCU? What role will Sylvester Stallone be playing and will he distract from the overall film? Will they go to the well one too many times when it comes to the comedic one-liners from Groot and company? Remember, the first one caught everyone by surprise, but this time people will be going in with very elevated expectations and many are bound to be disappointed in varying degrees.

7) Annihilation

What Can Go Right: Not many directors find success in their debut film to the extent that Alex Garland did with Ex Machina. In his follow-up to that film, Annihilation finds him back in the science fiction genre, reunited with Oscar Isaac and handling a plot that is eerily similar to his first film. Also, let’s not forget the trio of actresses he gets to work with here in Thompson, Leigh and Portman.

What Can Go Wrong: With Annihilation, Garland is adapting another person’s writing whereas in Ex Machina he was working on something he wrote himself. Sometimes that can be restraining for some directors. Garland has done enough writing that I can’t see that being a big issue but perhaps he is setting himself up for giving us a film that doesn’t separate itself enough from his prior work.

6) Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion World Drama

What Can Go Right: At this point all there is to go on is the director Paul Thomas Anderson and a lead actor in Daniel Day-Lewis. For me that’s enough to buy a ticket now. There Will Be Blood is in the argument for one of the greatest American made films in the last fifty years so there is reason to believe this will be a great movie. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of if not the greatest actor of his generation, and he only does a movie like once very four years. He is like the Hailey’s comet of actors. When he appears it is an event the world needs to see.

What Can Go Wrong: One thing that could go wrong is this may not even come out this year. Anderson and Day-Lewis work on their own time so although shooting has begun we may not see the actual final product till 2018. Beside that there’s a great deal of hype to live up to just based on the pedigree. Sometimes the expectation that you will be the greatest among great is impossible to live up to, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s last film a much more mixed response than he is used to receiving.

5) Okja

What Can Go Right: The last time Tilda Swinton teamed up with Bon Joo-Ho’s in the film Snowpiercer she gave one of her most notable performances–which is saying something for an actor of her caliber. Bong Joon-Ho is the master of crafting films with morphing tones. A movie like Mother can start as a humorous tale of wonder and slowly transform into this dark sardonic movie with an emotional gut punch. With The Host he also showed he could take the classic monster tropes and add some new life into them. Based on this movies description it appears he’ll be approaching that idea once again. He is the type of director that reminds you how creative movie makers can be so anytime he has a film coming out it should be near the top of the list to check out.

What Can Go Wrong: It is somewhat strange seeing Bon Joo-Ho traveling similar ground he once went down. To this point everything he has done has been different from the last but on paper Okja has story elements he has already brought into past films. At this point all we have to go off of is a description so to be fair that may not end up being the case at all. With Snowpiercer Joo-Ho worked with a lot of American actors and the culture barrier did not impact that film at all, however Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano can be very specific actors who can give one of the best performances all year or one of the worst. It tends to depend on the directors ability to use them so more may be required for Joo-Ho than he previous work with American actors.

4) Dunkirk

What Can Go Right: Outside icons like Spielberg and Scoresse there may not be another director working today that has the same clout with both critics and audiences like Christopher Nolan. When you make movies like The Dark Knight, Momento, and Inception there is a chance your next film will be on of the best of the year. When you add on some of Britain’s best actors along with a amazing story that deserves to be told Dunkirk could be this decades Saving Private Ryan

What Can Go Wrong: This is Nolan’s first time ever doing a war film. There have been many great directors that were not able to transition their skills to this genre. For everything Nolan is great out he is often criticized for the way he shoots action. When you combine that with the normal chaos of war battle sequences you may end up getting big moments with little impact.

3) Blade Runner 2049

What Can Go Right: Blade Runner is one of the most revered science ficiton films of all-time. Enough time has passed that this shouldn’t be just a typical sequel cash grab. It has a director that has been on fire lately in Denis Villeneuve. The cast sees a combination of the classic Harrison Ford along with one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars in Ryang Gosling, not to mention an appearance by the ever pleasing Jared Leto. Top that off with the fact that one of the writers from the original film, Hampton Fancher is credited as writing the story as well as helping out with the screenplay and this has all of the makings of an instant classic.

What Can Go Wrong: You walk a fine line when you go back to the well on a property that has grown and endured the test of time like that of Blade Runner. For every Fury Road you have a dozen other properties that would have been better left alone. It’s also somewhat worrisome that one of the screenwriters on this installment is also credited with working on the screenplay for 3 other major blockbusters in 2017. One wonders how it would be impossible to bring quality to that many projects in such a short time. Also, Villeneuve’s streak will end eventually right?

2) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

What Can Go Right: Riding the high that was the Force Awakens fans will no doubt be clamoring for Episode 8. Regardless of how some people felt about Rogue One, so far Disney has shown that the franchise is in good hands. Not to mention the cliffhanger that Episode 7 left us with. Now we will get a movie that fulfills what many fans have been wanting to see for so long, the return of Luke Skywalker.

What Can Go Wrong: They are bound to have a mistep eventually, right? Perhaps the complications from the death of Carrie Fisher cause for some unfortunate choices on the editing room floor. Perhaps the way in which The Force Awakens ended will make for hype that can’t possibly be lived up to. Perhaps, I’m grasping at straws here…

1) War For the Planet of the Apes

What Can Go Right: When people talk about how nothing good can come from reboots I put to this series. At this point I feel it is safe to safe this version of the Planet of the Apes stories has surpassed the original. With every installment Weta Digital sets a new standard for performance captured. With this franchise Matt Reeves has brought a level of direction missing in most blockbusters. The Apes films have done more in two movies than other franchise have done in ten. Storytelling is not sacrificed for mindless entertainment, but there is still plenty to be entertained by which his why this is the number one film to anticipate for 2017.

What Can Go Wrong: Despite the past two films successes one area Dawn suffered with was with the human characters. Adding Woody Harrelson can help that problem but the more you step away from Rise the more the intimacy of that installment is lost. The biggest concern is the loss of the character of Koba played by Toby Kebbell. Both Kebbell’s performance and the character of Koba were reasons Dawn was such a success. Koba was the ultimate sympathetic villain which played in the Shakespearean like dynamics of him and Ceaser. It will be challenging to capture that same type of dynamic or come up with a new one that is equally as compelling.

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