Author’s Note: This article was published simultaneously on MonkeyGooseMag.com
Just like last year, given how much franchise films dominate the “most-anticipated movies” lists that flood the internet every January (which makes sense, given they’re known entities), we find it appropriate to shine a light on some other movies due out this year.
Quick Note: For the foreseeable future, it will be impossible for a Christopher Nolan release to fly under the radar or get lost in any shuffle, franchise movie or otherwise. For this reason, it felt appropriate to omit Dunkirk from this list (I think enough people are already well aware of it, especially compared to the 12 movies included here). So, despite its exclusion – and my opinion that Nolan’s last three movies have been disappointing, disappointing, and overrated – I’m personally very much anticipating Dunkirk, and you should too.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Directed by: Martin McDonaugh
I can’t believe that In Bruges was nearly nine years ago. The darkly comic hitman caper remains funny, tense, significant, and one of my all-time favorites. After the meta and relatively middling Seven Psychopaths, acclaimed-playwright-turned-acclaimed-filmmaker Martin McDonaugh returns to In Bruges form, with a geographically-confined story of people dealing with the fallout of a horrible crime. Starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, and Peter Dinklage.
As luck would have it, I found my way into a test screening of this movie way back in October, complete with an NDA, a disclaimer that the movie was still a work in progress, a post-screening survey, etc. While the NDA legally prohibits me from discussing literally anything about the movie – unless I’m prepared to give my first-born child to Fox Searchlight – I’ll just say that I cannot wait to see it again.
Directed by: Alex Garland
After her husband disappears, a biologist (Natalie Portman) joins an expedition into an environmental disaster zone. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer and also starring Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful 8), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Tessa Thompson (Creed, Westworld), and Oscar Isaac (too many good movies to name in the last five years).
Now that a little bit of time has passed and we can properly assess the films of 2015, Ex Machina has stayed with me more than most other releases from that year, including most of the Best Picture nominees (of which Ex Machina was left out – foolishly, in hindsight). After bringing us such a tightly-written, thought-provoking, tense but patient thriller in the vein of Blade Runner by way of Hitchcock, writer/director Alex Garland has more than earned my excitement and anticipation for his next project.
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Sounding remarkably like the comedic counterpart to Drive (2011), the movie follows a young in-demand getaway driver (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) who finds himself in over his head after a robbery-gone-wrong. Directed by the always-reliable Edgar Wright and also starring Lily James, Jamie Foxx, (St. Louis’ own) Jon Hamm, and the incomparable Kevin Spacey.
Mostly known for the Cornetto trilogy, the wonderful Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and a popular YouTube analysis by Tony Zhou, Edgar Wright has emerged in the last decade as quite the in-demand comedy director. His involvement alone pushed the hype machine to 11 for Ant-Man before he left that project in order to direct this one.
Directed by: George Clooney
A crime mystery set in 1950s suburbia (specifically, in an aptly-named but on-the-nose quiet family town called “Suburbicon”), the fallout from a deadly home invasion brings out the worst in a seemingly-perfect family.
The script was apparently written by the Coen brothers way back in 1986 after they made Blood Simple (1984), and George Clooney has been reportedly attached to direct and star since 2005 (when his film Good Night, and Good Luck earned him a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards). While I have no idea what’s taken so long to finally get the movie made, I would watch literally anything Joel and Ethan write.
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Based on a true story from 1858, a young Jewish boy in Bologna, Italy, is secretly baptized and then forcibly taken from his family to be raised Christian, sparking a political battle between the Pope and Italian unification. Oscar Isaac and Mark Rylance (fresh off his Best Supporting Actor win) both star.
Regardless of what you’ve thought of his past decade of work, Spielberg is still Spielberg. I maintain that if anyone other than Spielberg made War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies (all Best Picture nominees) over the course of four years, they’d be hailed as a genius. And yet, due to his unparalleled résumé, people act like Spielberg’s been slowing down in recent years. Sure, it may look like “slowing down” when you compare it to Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders, and E.T. in a seven-year span, or Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan in a five-year span, but… still.
Plus, the movie was written by award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, adapted from a book by historian and anthropologist David I. Kertzer. Spielberg directing a Tony Kushner script adapted from a non-fiction text was the exact situation for Lincoln, which went on to receive an absurd 12 Oscar nominations.
Directed by: Doug Liman
Release Date: September 29, 2017
Based on a true story, TWA pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is recruited by the CIA to help fight the rise of communism in Central America. Through his work with the CIA, Seal becomes a pilot for the Medellin drug cartel out of Colombia. Sarah Wright and Domhnall Gleeson also star.
Doug Liman has proven himself more than capable of handling action thrillers (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow), and Tom Cruise is literally the face of several action thrillers. Plus, if we learned anything in 2015, it’s that Domhnall Gleeson has a dynamite agent and picks great projects (he was in four movies that year, all Oscar-nominated, including two Best Picture nominees).
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Project
Directed by: Surely you can figure this out on your own
All we know is that it’s a drama about the London fashion industry in the 1950s, Daniel Day-Lewis is attached to star (in his first acting role in five years), and it’s expected to be put out by Focus Features in late 2017.
Paul Thomas Anderson is indisputably one of the best auteurs working today, but unfortunately he only makes a movie every 3-5 years. Daniel Day-Lewis is the best actor currently on the planet, but he too only makes a movie every 3-5 years (at best). The only other time the stars have aligned and they’ve made a movie together, the result was one of the finest pieces of cinema of our young century.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Two brothers (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) plan a heist at a NASCAR event, because casino heists are so 2007. Filling out the rest of the cast is Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston (The Nice Guys), Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road), Katie Holmes, and Seth MacFarlane.
After a self-imposed hiatus slash semi-retirement from feature filmmaking – during which he made the critical darling The Knick for Cinemax – Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Oceans trilogy, among others) finally returns. His name has come up in the on-going discussion of the exodus of talent from film to TV as studios have changed their production strategies and priorities in recent years. While it may have nothing to do with that on-going discussion, I’ll take his return to features as good news.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
The only known plot detail is that the movie centers around a couple whose “tranquil existence” is disrupted by uninvited guests. Jennifer Lawrence is attached to star, alongside Domhnall Gleeson (see above), Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris.
While I haven’t yet seen Noah (2014) – which was admittedly a departure from his typical style – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed five of the six movies Darren Aronofsky has directed (and I particularly love Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler). The modicum of plot we do have at this point indicates that perhaps he’s returning to the intimate, small-scale projects he’d done so well with before Noah (hell, even The Fountain was intimate in focus, despite spanning lifetimes in plot). Plus, half of Aronofsky’s movies have yielded an Oscar nomination for its lead, and Jennifer Lawrence has an absurd track record with the Academy.
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Release Date: April 29, 2017
Based on a novel of the same name by Dave Eggers (Away We Go, Where the Wild Things Are), the movie follows Mae Holland (Emma Watson) as she begins working at a powerful technology company. Directed by James Ponsoldt (director of the utterly delightful The End of the Tour) and also starring Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton.
This actually made the 2016 version of this same list, before STX pushed the release date to 2017. According to the trades, principal photography began in September of 2015, but apparently reshoots have been taking place as recently as this month (16 months after principal photography), threatening the already-pushed-back release date.
But at least now we have a trailer!
Song to Song
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Release Date: March 17, 2017
Two entangled couples, both featuring struggling musicians, search for rock ‘n’ roll success in Austin, Texas. Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara star as one couple, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman as the other.
(That said, I’ll give the same disclaimer I gave when I put Knight of Cups on this list last year: if the name “Terrence Malick” means nothing to you, then you’ll probably want to skip this one. Just a guess.)
Directed by: James Franco
Based on The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero (played in The Masterpiece by Dave Franco), the movie recreates the genesis and production of one of the most head-scratching and beloved so-bad-it’s-good movies ever made, The Room (2003) – a midnight screening mainstay in Los Angeles and across the country for the past decade. However, like the book, it’s also a tale of the dogged pursuit of Hollywood dreams (despite little-to-no positive feedback or encouragement) by The Room’s enigmatic and peculiar writer, director, producer, and star, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Paul Scheer, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor, Hannibal Buress, and June Diane Raphael also appear.
I’ve been a huge fan of The Room since college, and when I read The Disaster Artist, I honestly couldn’t put it down (seriously, the book is great). If you haven’t seen The Room, I recommend you either watch it start-to-finish (booze optional but highly encouraged) or at the very least look up clips/reviews on YouTube. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it really has to be seen to be believed, and it really does inspire baffled questions of “How and why was this made? Who thought this was a good idea?” The Masterpiece attempts to answer those questions.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say that – like with Three Billboards above – I’ve seen a rough-cut of this movie, with a similar NDA, hush-hush situation preventing me from divulging too much. My purposefully vague and brief assessment: there’s a lot to love about it. If you’re a fan of The Room, it’s an absolute must-see.