2017 Epic Preview: Film & Television

Happy New Year! In David’s annual feature, here are 25 films and 10 new TV series he’s keeping an eye on in 2017.

This list is hardly exhaustive, of course, and there are probably many “big” releases missing — not to mention the many terrific films that will hit the festival circuit that neither you nor I have even heard of yet. But since it’s never too soon to mark your calendar for things, please enjoy this countdown of what I’m looking ahead to in the new year (all release dates subject to change):

FILM

25. Wonder Woman (6/2)

Gal Gadot, God bless her, was just about the only redeeming thing about the staggeringly awful Bats v. Supes: Like Tears in the Rain, and while I have no idea whether this film will be any good, it’s still the DC offering with the best chance of it. (Hence, no Justice League on this list.) Patty Jenkins (Monster) is behind the camera, and has assembled an overqualified cast (Robin Wright! David Thewlis! Connie Nielsen! Chris…Pine?) for super-powered derring-do. Most importantly, looks like our girl Diana might actually get to crack a joke or two. Maybe. It could just be editing.

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24. The Book of Henry (6/17)

If you’re the preternaturally gifted moppet Jacob Tremblay (Room), you might as well go straight to playing a child genius. If you’re newly minted blockbuster director Colin Trevorrow, you need a palate cleanser between Jurassic World and Star Wars: Episode IX. Behold the mysterious The Book of Henry, about which little is known: is it sci-fi? Supernatural? Or (more likely) just a straightforward family drama? Naomi Watts, Lee Pace, Dean Norris, and Sarah Silverman also star.

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23. Molly’s Game (TBA)

A new film written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Steve Jobs) is always a big deal — but Sorkin making his directorial debut is something else entirely. And just what story drew enough of his fascination to finally take that leap? Jessica Chastain plays the real-life Molly Bloom, who went from Olympic skiing hopeful to the creator of a high-stakes, international poker ring. Also starring Idris Elba, Michael Cera, and Kevin Costner.

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22. Logan Lucky (10/13)

If you put “Steven Soderbergh” and “Heist Movie” in the same sentence, I’ll be there with bells on. But this isn’t Ocean’s Fourteen (or even Ocean’s Eight, coming in 2018) — it’s Logan Lucky, a different exercise in fizzy all-star entertainment. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play brothers attempting to pull a job in the middle of a NASCAR race. Other cast members include Daniel Craig (look at that image!), Hilary Swank, Sebastian Stan, Katie Holmes, and Katherine Waterston.

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21. Murder on the Orient Express (11/22)

Speaking of all-star casts, the 1974 Agatha Christie adaptation was itself a throwback to the glory days of Old Hollywood, which makes this new version, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, a throwback of a throwback? If you somehow don’t know the pitch, it’s right there in the title. Johnny Depp plays the victim (thankfully, so he’ll have the least screen time); the suspects include Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer,  Michael Pena, and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom, Jr. Sounds like it will be worth the trip.

20. The Circle (4/28)

No, this isn’t a lost episode of Black Mirror. Based on the heady Dave Eggers novel, The Circle introduces new employee Emma Watson to a future-tech company that’s totally not Evil Google, no way. And Tom Hanks totally isn’t playing a Steve Jobs-ian guru, not at all. It’s adapted and directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now), and also stars John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Bill Paxton, and — most intriguingly — is the first major credit for post-Boyhood Ellar Coltrane.

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19. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri  (TBA)

He may have bit off more than he could chew with 2012’s Seven Psychopaths, but In Bruges is still incredible, and I’m still in on whatever playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh wants to do. What can we expect from Three Billboards? Other than violence, black comedy, and a cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, and Frances McDormand? I don’t know — do you need anything else?

18. Spider-Man: Homecoming (7/7)

I’m personally not big on Spider-Man. But even I had to admit that he was flawlessly used in Captain America: Civil War, and that this trailer makes Homecoming look like a blast. An MCU version of a John Hughes movie is a great concept, and best of all, Uncle Ben is already dead. Tom Holland is back as the webslinger; Michael Keaton is Evil Birdman Vulture; Robert Downey, Jr. does his thing; Zendaya, Bokeem Woodbine, Laura Harrier, and Donald Glover round out the diverse cast. Director Jon Watts makes his tentpole debut.

17. Blade Runner 2049 (10/6)

There are three Marvel films on this list, but only one 1980s Ridley Scott sequel. And I picked Blade Runner 2049 over the “eh”-looking  Alien: Covenant for one reason alone: Hollywood’s new go-to for moody science fiction/property resurrection, Denis Villeneuve. Between Arrival, this teaser, and the recent announcement that he may finally be the one to film the unfilmable Dune, it’s been a big year for the French-Canadian director. Plot details here are appropriately opaque, but we know it stars Ryan Gosling in a great jacket, and a returning Harrison Ford in…whatever he showed up to set in.

16. Kong: Skull Island (3/10)

I’ll be honest: I was not interested in this movie. I enjoyed 2014’s Godzilla, but Legendary’s announced gambit to reboot all of its old monster franchises smelled of desperation, and catapulting director Jordan Vogt-Roberts from teen dramedy The Kings of Summer to this seemed to be just the latest ill-considered studio gamble. But if this trailer is any indication, Skull Island is striking a very different, much more playful tone, and whatever John C. Reilly is doing in this movie, I want more of it. We also get Hiddleston, Brie Larson, utility infielders Sam Jackson and John Goodman, and monsters galore.

15. The LEGO Batman Movie (2/10)

Trading on the surprise success of The LEGO Movie with a Batman spinoff also seemed like a questionable decision three years ago, but guess what? LEGO Batman is currently the only good Batman, and this looks hilarious. Longtime Robot Chicken director Chris McKay is at the helm here, and I’ll put Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes (Alfred), Michael Cera (Robin), Billy Dee Williams (Two-Face!), Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), and Rosario Dawson (Batgirl) up against Zack Snyder’s cast any day.

14. Logan (3/3)

Here’s our highest-ranking “Can this really live up to the trailer?” contender, as setting the famously beloved Old Man Logan story arc to Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt” is so obviously perfect it’s hard to believe that 20th Century Fox is actually going to let the film go as dark and adult as it needs to. But we also know this is Hugh Jackman’s last ride, and he reportedly took a big pay cut to help James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) get this made their way. If it’s really a heavy R-rated drama in mutant garb, Logan could be incredible. Patrick Stewart and Boyd Holbrook lend extra gravity to the proceedings.

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13. The Shape of Water (TBA)

Guillermo del Toro looks to bounce back from the disappointing Crimson Peak with a “Cold War-era fantasy romance,” possibly involving merpeople, definitely involving Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, and frequent creature suit-wearer Doug Jones. It only finished filming a few weeks ago, so here’s hoping it slips into theaters by year’s end.

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12. Thor: Ragnarok (11/3)

Every piece of news that trickles out about the third Thor film only makes me more excited, and director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) is practically buoyant with the confidence that Ragnarok is going to be defiantly cosmic and thoroughly goofy. It also brings Tom Hiddleston back for a final turn (he says) as Loki, the MCU’s best villain; expect an assist from Doctor Strange’s Benedict Cumberbatch as well as newbies Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Jurassic buddies Sam Neill(!) & JEFF GOLDBLUM(!!!) as The Grandmaster. And could we really be borrowing from Planet Hulk, too? The mind whirs.

11. Beauty and the Beast (3/17)

The tale as old as time gets a live action update, the latest in Disney’s largely successful “raid the vault” campaign. Bill Condon directs, with Emma Watson and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as the title characters; housemates include Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra MacDonald, and Luke Evans as Gaston. Bits of this trailer look like a shot-for-shot remake, but it’s lovely enough, and my daughter is already going mad for it.

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10. The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (TBA)

Spielberg’s juggling this spiritual drama with blockbuster bait Ready Player One (2018), and Edgardo Mortara has yet to actually begin shooting, but a late-December release date is still likely. The story centers on a Jewish-Italian boy who, after being taken from his family and baptized as a Christian, becomes a symbol for a larger political battle for democracy and political unification. The Beard’s bromance with Mark Rylance continues, this time having him play Pope Pius IX; Oscar Isaac co-stars.

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9. The Death of Stalin (TBA)

The great satirist Armando Iannucci left Veep to make this, his first feature film since 2009’s brilliant In the Loop. Based on a graphic novel by Fabien Nury, it will follow both the Soviet dictator’s final days as well as the chaos created by the sudden power vacuum. And if that doesn’t sound ripe for comedy, you don’t know Iannucci. The mostly British cast includes Jason Isaacs, Paddy Consadine, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, and Steve Buscemi.

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8. Annihilation (TBA)

I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy earlier this year, and found it a fascinating mix of Crichton, Lovecraft, and Lost. Now Alex Garland (Ex Machina) is adapting and directing the first in the trilogy; if you don’t know anything about what this is and don’t like books, definitely try to go in as cold as possible. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh play four team members exploring “Area X,” a pristine and dangerous jungle that one day suddenly appeared without explanation. Oscar Isaac is on board this one too, but I won’t tell you as who.

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7. Coco (11/22)

Any original film from Pixar is cause for celebration (give or take a Good Dinosaur), and this one seems especially lush in cultural detail. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) directs Coco, about a young musician named Miguel who accidentally opens up a portal to the land of the dead and lands smack in the middle of a century-old mystery. The all-Latino cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal as Miguel’s skeleton guide, and Benjamin Bratt as a legendary (and late) singer. If we can all make it through Cars 3 in June, we should be richly rewarded here.

6. War for the Planet of the Apes (7/14)

After 2014’s Dawn showed what this series was capable of, director Matt Reeves now has the far harder task of delivering the next (final?) installment of Caesar’s story without the benefit of low expectations. But judging at least from this trailer, this looks every bit as epic and emotional as I’d hoped. Motion capture wizards Andy Serkis, Terry Notary, and Karin Konoval are back as our favorite apes, with Woody Harrelson as their new human antagonist. We may know how this story is going to end, but the journey can still be thrilling.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (5/5)

James Gunn probably deserves as much credit as anyone for Marvel’s Phase 3 resurgence, because the weirder Marvel allows him to go, the bigger the net it creates for guys like Scott Derrickson (Doc Strange) and Taiki Waititi. The new adventure with Star Lord and the gang probably doesn’t have them overlap with any Avengers (not yet, anyway), but new additions include Kurt Russell, Nathan Fillion, and Elizabeth Debecki. Just watch that trailer again and admire how perfectly Dave Bautista plays that last scene. I love him.

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4. The Dark Tower (7/28)

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. So begins the first installment of Stephen King’s great western fantasy opus, firing imaginations across seven (main) novels and four decades. It’s a story so sprawling — nearly every book King’s ever written fits in in some way — and challenging, that director Nikolaj Arcel hopes to combine the powers of film and television to bring it all to screens. But all of that depends on the success of this first film, which sports the dream casting of Idris Elba as the hardened Roland Deschain, Matthew McConaughey as his charismatic nemesis and devil, and newcomer Tom Taylor as Jake, the boy in the middle. To make fans further salivate, the presence of a certain Horn of Eld opens up its own world of possibilities…

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3. Baby Driver (8/11)

Edgar Wright is one of my favorite filmmakers alive, and it’s been a long time since his last, the Cornetto Trilogy-capping The World’s End. To hear him tell it, Baby Driver is an action film, not a comedy (though you can bet on it being funny) — albeit one with an unconventional premise: Ansel Elgort plays a young getaway driver with severe tinnitus, so the entire film is scored by and edited to his own personal soundtrack. Lily James (Cinderella) is the romantic interest; Kevin Spacey is the crime boss; Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal also star. Few film directors have a better feel for pacing and style, and this one should be a treat.

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2. Star Wars: Episode VIII (12/15)

Nothing more to add here, and not just because we don’t actually know anything about it. (And no, I haven’t been reading the rumors. Why would you?) Leave it to the great Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick, Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias”) to follow up the planet-shattering success of The Force Awakens with the chapter that will forever be compared to The Empire Strikes Back. Good luck, everyone.

1. Dunkirk (7/21)

Christopher Nolan. World War II. Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and…Harry Styles? Like you’ll have anything better to do on July 21st.

Also…new films from Short Term 12‘s Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle), Duncan Jones (Mute), Terrence Malick (Weightless), and Darren Aronofsky (Mother)…Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne reunite in John Wick Chapter 2…Luc Besson’s newest sci-fi epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets…Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison (The Current War), Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill (Darkest Hour), and a Dick Cheney biopic from Adam McKay…Kathryn Bigelow tackles the Detroit Race Riots, and Guy Ritchie does King Arthur…from foreign directors, look for follow-ups from Tomas Alfredson (The Snowman), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of a Sacred Deer), and Boog-Joon Ho (Okja).


TELEVISION

10. The Young Pope (HBO, 1/15)

The TV preview is always the hardest to pull together because there’s just not very much information out there. But in the case of The Young Pope, we might have too much. I don’t even know if I plan to actually watch this series, much less if it’ll be worth watching, but I can’t not include something that looks that insane. It’s created by Italian arthouse director Paolo Sorrentino, and Jude Law’s character is named Lenny. Lenny!

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9. The Deuce (HBO, TBA)

David Simon has a lifetime pass after The Wire, and HBO keeps giving him money to make socially aware series/miniseries that no one watches. His latest is The Deuce, a patchwork story of how the New York real estate boom of the 1970s coincided with the adult film and drug industries. James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal star. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I don’t blame you.

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8. Dear White People (Netflix, TBA)

Based on the 2014 Justin Simien film of the same name, Dear White People promises a scathingly funny look at race relations on an Ivy League college campus. Simien is writing every episode and directing the pilot. The cast includes Antoinette Robertson, Brandon P. Bell, and Logan Browning.

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7. Powerless (NBC, 2/2)

The premise is clever enough: in a world of superheroes (DC’s, specifically) somebody has to clean up their messes, and that’s where the insurance adjusters of Powerless come in. The presence of Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk is reassuring, though I’m less sold on Vanessa Hudgens, and then there’s the little detail that creator Ben Queen has already left the series. But NBC gave it an immediate full-season order, and their recent track record (The Good Place, Superstore) certainly shows an upswing. Fingers crossed for this one.

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6. Barry (HBO, TBA)

Bill Hader co-wrote and directed the pilot for Barry, a half-hour comedy due on HBO in the fourth quarter. He also plays the lead, a low-rent hitman who tracks a target from the Midwest to Los Angeles and accidentally falls in with a troupe of tryhard theater actors. The cast includes Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, and Ron Funches.

5. American Gods (Starz, TBA)

The Neil Gaiman novel serving as source material is an ambitious, if flawed, piece of modern mythmaking: imagine a world where the gods of our ancestors are being slowly replaced by new ones with names like “Media” and “Technical Boy,” and they call upon a mortal ex-con (Ricky Whittle) to help them fight back. With a cast that includes Ian McShane, Peter Stormare, Gillian Anderson, Orlando Jones, and Emily Browning, American Gods could be a new Game of Thrones...or a total catastrophe. We’ll be relying on the steadying hand of showrunner Bryan Fuller (Hannibal).

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4. The Terror (AMC, TBA)

Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciaran Hinds topline this new anthology series based on a 2007 novel by Dan Simmons, which itself is based on one of the Royal Navy’s most enduring mysteries: what happened to the HMS Terror, which went looking for the Northwest Passage in 1848 and never returned? Simmons and AMC posit…monsters. That the real-life ship was, no joke, rediscovered just three months ago probably doesn’t constitute as a spoiler alert.

3. Taboo (FX, 1/10)

Oooh, a miniseries about shipping alliances in the early 19th century? Sounds like…well, it doesn’t sound great on paper, but of course this isn’t a story of trade, but of murder and conspiracy and revenge. Then you see that Tom Hardy created the series himself with his father, Chips (Chips?), and you see Jonathan Pryce, and Oona Chaplin, and Michael Kelly, and you think…actually, this looks super moody and cool. Time to quake once more at the name East India Trading Company.

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2. The Defenders (Netflix, TBA)

No one is quite sure how many Marvel series Netflix is dropping on us this year; we know we’re getting Iron Fist on March 17th, and there’s a second season of Jessica Jones and even The Punisher on the horizon. But it all builds to this, the long-awaited, 8-hour unification of the studio’s quartet of NYC heroes, including Daredevil and Luke Cage: The Defenders. Story details are limited, but we know two things: Sigourney Weaver is playing the Big Bad, and Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez have their work cut out for them.

1. Legion (FX, 2/8)

Holy smokes, Noah Hawley is making an X-Men series. The genius creator of Fargo (the series) brings his prodigious talents to the world of superheroes, along with Dan Stevens, Jean Smart, Bill Irwin, Jemaine Clement, and Aubrey Plaza. Stevens plays the title mutant, the son of Professor X, who believes he “just” has schizophrenia until other powers start to emerge. It’s going to be trippy for sure, and hopefully as finely-tuned as we’ve come to expect from Hawley. I can’t wait.

Also…Jim Carrey lets us into the world of 70s standup with Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here…Tina Fey & Robert Carlock produce workplace comedy Great News for NBC…Fox brings CTU back one more time, but without Jack Bauer, in 24: Legacy…Phil Lord & Christopher Miller deliver time-travel comedy Making History, also for Fox…CBS launches the now Bryan Fuller-less, likely doomed Star Trek: Discovery on its “All Access” streaming service.

Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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