Cinema has a long road ahead of it if movies are going to reassert themselves as the most prestigious screen-based viewing medium. TV stole the title when no one was looking and doesn’t seem to be keen on relinquishing its new found glory. This past year didn’t do a whole lot to subvert television, since we got mostly reboots and sequels. Don’t misunderstand us here, we’re always up for a new Marvel movie and there’s nothing wrong with covering past material, we just want to see something fresh alongside.
This coming year seems poised to retake some of film’s lost territory though, with a healthy mix of existing franchises and originality being released some time in the next twelve months. Hopefully ticket prices don’t make any huge jumps, or we’re going to be out a couple hundred bucks by the end of the year.
It’s easy to say good things about this movie. Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, Laura Dern, B.J. Novak, John Carroll Lynch, and Linda Cardellini are all in it and they’re all great actors. What’s hard to say good things about is everything else. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because what started as a small, family-owned and operated burger joint was legally stolen from the brothers who founded it, the brothers also being the ones whose name still appears on every location. The only way Ray Kroc didn’t steal McDonald’s from the brothers is legally, since he did a lot of legal wiggling and maneuvering to finally acquire the rights to the small restaurant. Initial reviews seem to agree with us, but our main hope is that this movie doesn’t pull a Wolf of Wall Street and turn Ray Kroc into a role model the same way a ton of people missed the point of Jordan Belfort’s self-generated demise. Although, by including Belfort in the final cut of Wolf of Wall Street, it’s possible that even the filmmakers missed their own point.
At this point, Matthew McConaughey could do just about anything and we’d go see it. Since he took those few years off, he’s successfully established himself as an actor, not as the rom-com lead he was originally. Good thing he did too, because otherwise we might not get movies like Gold. The movie follows McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez’s characters on their quest for gold and everything that happens to them because of their discovery. As you’d expect with a gold find as large as theirs, they run into trouble both in Indonesia when they’re prospecting for the precious metal, and on Wall Street when they want to keep it. Greed is at the center of the story, as you’d expect of a movie called Gold, but it doesn’t seem to affect the main characters so much as it does everyone else. Sort of like how winning the lottery doesn’t necessarily change the winners so much as it brings financial sponges out of the depths.
John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick was one of the biggest surprises of 2014. What seemed like it was going to be another forgettable gun heavy action movie ended up being some of the most fun we’ve had at the movies since they added sound. It was a genuine, simple action movie that we’re still talking about and we’re totally on board for this sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 promises just as much gunplay as the first movie and it looks like the dog survives this time. That’s good, since we really don’t think we could take another scene like the one from the first movie. That puppy-sized blood trail still keeps us up at night. There’s also the promise of a Neo/Morpheus reunion in this one, and since John Wick is basically hitman Neo, this might end up being The Matrix sequel we always wanted.
Trainspotting was one of the better explorations of what it is to be Scottish and/or an addict at any stage, though not necessarily in that order. The movie gave us grounded, understandable characters, so even if it was difficult at times to understand accents, character motives and arcs were never hard to follow. Judging from the trailer, T2: Trainspotting promises a similar window into the souls of the same characters. Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie are all well-established addicts, which means even when no one’s shooting heroin, they’ve replaced it with something else, be it life, social media, nostalgia, porn, or a brand new drug. Roughly 20 years have passed since they’ve been together, and T2 explores how they’ve changed in that time and what their reunion might reawaken inside them.
Woody Harrelson has taken some odd roles in his life and he’s done well in almost all of them, but he always seems most comfortable with characters who are just slightly mentally askew. Tallahassee in Zombieland, Merritt McKinney in Now You See Me, and Woody Boyd in Cheers are all times when Harrelson got to mess around inside the heads of strange people. He’s getting the opportunity again with Wilson, a movie about Wilson and his ex-wife (Laura Dern) attempting to reconnect with their daughter, who’d been adopted years before. It’s a sort of second chance for Wilson, who otherwise has trouble connecting with people, thanks to the lack of a screening process between his thoughts and mouth. Mostly, we’re excited to see Harrelson get back to a bit of comedy, since that’s where we’ve liked him most.
Ghost in the Shell
There was a decent amount of controversy around the making of Ghost in the Shell, mostly focused on Scarlett Johansson in the lead role (we’re not picking sides here, but it’s interesting that the Japanese fans and film industry were surprised by the backlash). Whatever side of the issue you fall on, we think it’s fair to say the controversy introduced the movie to a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of it, especially since anime isn’t really in the forefront of the American public’s mind. We also think it’s also fair to say, thanks to the controversy, a lot more people are going to see this movie than would have otherwise. From what we’ve read and seen so far, the movie seems to be a sort of Minority Report, with a specialized, elite, technologically advanced law enforcement team using questionable strategies in the field. The world is highly stylized too, and looks like they ripped scenes from the anime and put them directly to screen. In fact, in our admittedly limited experience, this looks to be one of the more faithful anime screen adaptations and could do a lot to bring new fans to the medium.
The trailer for The Circle is creepy and upon a second viewing, we decided it wasn’t just us being cynical. The making of this movie seems motivated by the beginning of the end of social media’s golden age. We’re collectively starting to come out of the dominating theory that social media is inherently good, seeing as how Facebook’s gotten heavy backlash over its fake news problem and how our technologically enabled personal bubbles have actually made us more isolated instead of accepting. People are also starting to wake up to the fact that they’re what’s being sold when they use free web services. Add in increased concern about surveillance, both government and corporate, and the story writes itself. Well, David Eggers writes the book, then James Ponsoldt adapts the story.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie is easily one of our favorite directors. He’s an indie filmmaker that achieved wider appeal without compromising his own unique style. That deserves a lot of respect. It’s easy for a director to make a fun movie or two, then be handed blockbuster hits devoid of soul. But Ritchie found a way to make a blockbuster in Sherlock Holmes without destroying what it is that we like about his movies. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems like it’s going to follow that path. It clearly has a big budget behind it, but even its trailer is unlike any other recent releases. Within the first few seconds, it becomes clear that this is a Guy Ritchie movie, thanks to its tight camera work, motion tracking, snappy dialogue, and smash cuts. In fact, from the first half of the trailer, we’d say this is going to be closer to Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels than Sherlock Holmes or The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Both were enjoyable movies, but Ritchie’s work is always better when it’s closer to street level crime than international intrigue and “street” is the exact angle on King Arthur we’re promised. The only bad thing we can think of is its disappointing lack of Jason Statham.
For Americans, the early years of World War 2 are dominated by the Lend Lease Act, Pearl Harbor, and general feelings of isolationism. Major American involvement in the war didn’t start until 1942, and even then, most of our time and energy were spent in Asia and North Africa. In fact, on D-Day, the remaining duration of the war could be measured in months, not years, though they certainly couldn’t know that at the time.
All that makes it easy to forget that Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, Russia, and the Netherlands had been in an active and violent war for three years. Hopefully, Dunkirk will do for British and French forces what Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan did for the American invasion of Europe. The cast is fairly robust too, boasting Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and the grandson of Richard Attenborough, though it doesn’t look to be the ensemble type movie Saving Private Ryan is. Instead, it looks like it’s going to piece together the battle and subsequent evacuation through the eyes of soldiers and civilians on the land, sea, and in the air, as well as at different levels of the military hierarchy. The scale is intimidating, but with Christopher Nolan heading up the effort, this should be a movie to honor the event.
The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower is one of those adaptations that have been stuck in development hell for a very long time. This particular attempt started a decade ago when J.J. Abrams started working on moving the story from page to film. From there, directors and actors were hired and quit, scripts were written, and production companies jumped on and jumped off the project. We won’t go into all those details since, statistically, you have a friend who’s been keeping you in the loop whether you wanted them to or not. If you didn’t, here’s a video Mashable made explicitly for that purpose. The reason we’re excited for it has a lot to do with the excellent quality of the original novels. Stephen King has described his original books as his magnum opus. That’s high praise from anyone, but when Stephen King says it about himself, it doesn’t come off as bragging or pretentiousness. It sounds like objective fact. There’s also the added benefit of Idris Elba being the main badass protagonist, which is both a description of almost everything Idris Elba has been in and an easy way to get Idris Elba to be in your movie.
Blade Runner 2049
Our sincere hope for Blade Runner 2049 is that it’s not a sequel for sequel’s sake. Or nostalgia’s sake. If you’re going to follow up a cultural keystone like Blade Runner, you absolutely need to tell a story that makes it worth revisiting the classic characters and settings. Right now, it’s hard to tell, since the trailer isn’t much more than a teaser. What we like about the trailer though, is that Ryan Gosling is in it and Harrison Ford looks older. For the former, we like Ryan Gosling. Gangster Squad, The Big Short, Crazy Stupid Love, and The Nice Guys all feature his excellent performances. For the latter, if they’re bringing in Ford, it’s probably a direct sequel rather than a reboot. With a few notable exceptions (Mad Max: Fury Road), we’re not on the reboot bandwagon, so a sequel makes us more likely to enjoy it. It might be too early to tell, but overall, we’re cautiously optimistic.
Star Wars: Episode VIII
As it stands, Disney and Lucasfilms plan on releasing a Star Wars movie a year until the heat death of the universe. Which means, yes, we are getting a movie in 2017. This year, it’s the next installment in the saga as George Lucas originally (confusingly) numbered it. Supposedly, this story is going to be a more personal one for the characters, making it unlikely that we’ll see something on the scale of the Death Star or Starkiller base. Probably, we’ll see Luke Skywalker adopt a sort of Yoda/Obi Wan position, guiding Rey through her Jedi training, even if that doesn’t bode well for Luke’s remaining time in the galaxy. Although, the thought of a young, angry, inexperienced Kylo Ren fighting an aging, calm, fully realized Jedi Luke Skywalker is an enticing one.