Something Old, Nothing New...
Only one film in the top 20 highest grossing features of 2016 at the box office was an original concept: the well-trained computer-animated romp The Secret Life Of Pets.
Audiences couldn’t resist fast food filmmaking, which served up a comforting array of sequels, prequels, remakes, spin-offs and adaptations of existing material such as novels and comic books. Top of the menu were Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Bridget Jones’s Baby, a rollicking live action Jungle Book, Finding Dory and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
It should come as no surprise that 2017 promises a relentless onslaught of the deeply familiar across all genres. Testosterone-fuelled showdowns torn from the pages of Marvel and DC Comics punctuate the year, including Hugh Jackman’s final bow as Wolverine in the gritty chase thriller Logan (March), a groovy battle beyond the stars with Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (April), and a stand-alone origin story for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (June).
High school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) spins a new web of intrigue in Spider-Man: Homecoming (July), sibling rivalry unfolds on an epic scale, pitting Chris Hemsworth against Tom Hiddleston in Thor: Ragnarok (October, and Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) continue to flaunt their gym-toned physiques in the superhero smackdown Justice League (November), directed by Zack Snyder.
Fans of computer animation have plenty to whet their appetites - in 2D or 3D - including a new adventure for Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s loveable blue creations Smurfs: The Lost Village (March), the return of arch-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and those mishap-prone minions in Despicable Me 3 (June), and one final lap of glory for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in Pixar’s Cars 3 (July).
Later in the year, everything is far from awesome for the Caped Crusader in The Lego Batman Movie (August), and Jim Carter, Miriam Margolyes and Tim Pigott-Smith provide voices for high-flying characters in The Little Vampire (October), based on the children’s book series by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.
There are also two live action renderings of very different animations: Disney’s tale as old as time Beauty And The Beast (March), which pairs Emma Watson’s songbird Belle and Dan Stevens’ hideously transformed Prince, and Scarlett Johansson as a counter-terrorist cyborg in the bullet-riddled dystopia of Ghost In The Shell (March).
There Will Be Blood...
Gore hounds, who like their horror movies bloodthirsty, will be howling with glee at 2017’s monstrous offerings.
In terms of remakes, Tom Cruise meets his match in Sofia Boutella’s decaying Egyptian princess in The Mummy (June), Pennywise the shape-shifting clown dances through nightmares in Stephen King’s It (September), and hockey mask-clad maniac Jason Voorhees is resurrected in Friday The 13th (October).
Additionally, vampires and werewolves continue their feud in Underworld: Blood Wars (January), Milla Jovovich completes her six-picture tour of duty as the survivor of zombie apocalypse in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (February), the urban legend of a killer videotape resurfaces in Rings (February), and Ridley Scott conducts a symphony of screams in deep space in Alien: Covenant (May).
There are chills aplenty too in Annabelle 2 (May), World War Z 2 (June) starring Brad Pitt and a legion of the undead, a belated sequel to Flatliners (September), the conclusion to Jigsaw’s reign of terror in Saw: Legacy (October), and the supernatural chills of Insidious: Chapter 4 (November).
Turning Over An Old Leaf...
Book shelves provide the inspiration for T2 Trainspotting (January), which reunites director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and the original cast, the saucy slap and tickle of Fifty Shades Darker (February), the harrowing real-life events of the bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon in Patriots Day (February), and a boardroom battle royale in the computer-animated comedy, The Boss Baby (April).
Oscar nominee Jacob Tremblay (Room) plays a boy with a facial deformity who proves that beauty comes from within, in Wonder (April), the true story of an animal lover’s bravery during the Second World War casts Jessica Chastain as The Zookeeper’s Wife (May), Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her supporters face the final showdown in The Divergent Series: Ascendant (June), while Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey lock spurs in Stephen King’s western horror, The Dark Tower (July).
Also, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne blast into space in Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (August) directed by Luc Besson, Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole in Jo Nesbo’s frost-bitten thriller The Snowman (October).
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are plane crash survivors who fall in love in The Mountain Between Us (October), Jennifer Lawrence essays a Russian double agent in Red Sparrow (November), and Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) interrogates an all-star cast of suspects including Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express (November).
An as-yet untitled biographical drama about AA Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), sometimes referred to as Goodbye Christopher Robin, which focuses on the creation of Winnie The Pooh, is also scheduled for release towards the end of the year.
The Bigger The Better...
The small screen can be thanked for big-budget thrills and spills, including a mighty morphin’ new version of Power Rangers (March), a tongue-in-cheek splash with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards of Baywatch (May) featuring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in fetching red shorts, and high-speed shenanigans on two wheels with Dax Shepard and Michael Pena in the buddy cop caper ChiPs (August).
Outrageous stunts, eye-popping pyrotechnics and cuteness abound in some of the year’s biggest blockbusters and most eagerly awaited next chapters.
Vin Diesel growls and grimaces in xXx 3: The Return Of Zander Cage (January), then puts his pedal to the metal in The Fate Of The Furious (April).
Keanu Reeves continues his renaissance as a wily hit man in John Wick: Chapter 2 (February), Tom Hiddleston encounters a hulking ape in Kong: Skull Island (March), and Johnny Depp is all at sea in the swashbuckling yarn, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (May).
The war between the Autobots and Decepticons reaches a crescendo in Transformers: The Last Knight (June), conflict rages between the species in War For The Planet Of The Apes (July).
Taron Egerton puts his politically incorrect spy training into practice in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September), director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) goes back to the future for Blade Runner 2049 (October), an accident-prone bear searches for his marmalade sandwiches in Paddington 2 (November), and Mark Hamill utters his first lines of dialogue as an aged Luke Skywalker in the as-yet-unsubtitled Star Wars: Episode VIII (December).
A year of sequels concludes on a high note with the aca-mazing return of the Bardon Bellas in Pitch Perfect 3 (December) and a new Jumanji (December) replete with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and a poignant tribute to Robin Williams.
And The Winner Is...
A few likely contenders for Academy Awards glory on Sunday, February 26 have already flexed their muscles including the cryptic sci-fi thriller Arrival, starring Amy Adams, David Mackenzie’s nail-biting crime drama Hell Or High Water, featuring a scene-stealing Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood’s impeccably crafted Sully with Tom Hanks as the eponymous pilot who guided his stricken commercial flight onto the Hudson River, and the hysterical Florence Foster Jenkins, boasting a perfect comic duet between Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
Most of the frontrunners for the major prizes are yet to show their hand on this side of the Atlantic.
The three favourites for Best Picture are Damien Chazelle’s gorgeously romantic musical La La Land (January), which should reap the most Oscar nominations and earn deserving nods for fleet-footed leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Kenneth Lonergan’s gut-wrenching portrait of grief, Manchester By The Sea (January), blessed with stellar performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and 19-year-old rising star Lucas Hedges; and Barry Jenkins’ exquisite coming of age drama Moonlight (February), which chronicles three chapters in the life of a black man wrestling with his sexuality.
Expect supporting acting nominations for Mahershala Ali and an almost unrecognisable Naomie Harris as a crack-addicted mother.
There will be multiple nominations too for the heart-breaking true life drama Lion (January) starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson’s incendiary war opus Hacksaw Ridge (January) headlining Andrew Garfield as a real-life conscientious objector, who served courageously in the Second World War without firing a single shot, and Jeff Nichols’ haunting interracial romance Loving (February), which pairs the luminous Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.
Denzel Washington’s third film behind the camera, Fences (February), based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, is an acting tour-de-force for the director and Viola Davis, and the feel-great comedy Hidden Figures (February) salutes the invaluable contribution of three African-American women, who propelled NASA back into the Space Race.
Girls On Film...
Additionally, in the closely contested acting categories, Natalie Portman is spellbinding as Jackie Onassis in the aftermath of President John F Kennedy’s assassination in Pablo Larrain’s unconventional biopic Jackie (January).
Annette Bening is a delight as a free-spirited divorcee in Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical valentine to motherhood, 20th Century Women (February), newcomer Lily Gladstone merits inclusion in the Best Supporting Actress category for her heartbreaking portrayal of a lovestruck ranch hand in Kelly Reichardt’s tender drama Certain Women (March), and French national treasure Isabelle Huppert is in blistering form as a rape victim who becomes empowered by her horrific ordeal, in Paul Verhoeven’s provocative Elle (March).
The well-regarded documentary Cameraperson (January) champions the power of film to capture everyday life, and when it comes to the foreign language film contenders, Maren Ade’s epic 162-minute comic masterpiece Toni Erdmann (February) should sweep all before it.
However, it faces competition from Xavier Dolan’s divisive drama It’s Only The End Of The World (February), Asghar Farhadi’s suspenseful character study The Salesman (March), Claude Barras’ delightful animation My Life As A Courgette (May), and the morbidly funny Swedish comedy drama A Man Called Ove (June) based on the bestseller by Fredrik Backman.
The Final Cut...
A few sparks of originality promise to set the big screen ablaze in 2017, bolstered by performances from Hollywood A-listers and the directorial brio of some of the most visionary filmmakers working today.
James McAvoy plays a creepy kidnapper with 23 distinct personalities in Split (January) written and directed by M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), cute critters seek fame and fortune in the computer-animated musical Sing (January), east meets west as Matt Damon faces legions of snarling beasties in Zhang Yimou’s spectacular action adventure The Great Wall (February), and the third film in the Cloverfield franchise, God Particle (February), pits a team of astronauts on an international space station in a deadly race against time.
Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife (Gillian Anderson) witness the 1947 partition of India in Viceroy’s House (March) directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), an inquisitive company executive (Dane DeHaan) unearths dark secrets at a health spa in A Cure For Wellness (March).
Director Guy Ritchie reimagines the story of Excalibur - lock, stock and two smoking cannons - in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (March), and an extra-terrestrial entity terrorises a space station populated by Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in Life (March).
Also, British director Ben Wheatley orchestrates a full-blooded shoot-out in Free Fire (March).
Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer play mother and daughter in the rip-snorting comedy Snatched (May), director Christopher Nolan documents the evacuation of Allied soldiers from French beaches in 1940 in Dunkirk (July), which features the film acting debut of Harry Styles, and Tom Cruise plays a real-life airline pilot, who turned to drug smuggling, in the biographical drama American Made (August).
Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason trade serves as tennis greats at the height of their powers in Borg/McEnroe (August), firefighters face a deadly Arizona blaze in the true story of Granite Mountain (September) and Gerald Butler flashes his action man credentials as he faces ecological disaster in Geostorm (October).
Liam Neeson stumbles into a deadly conspirator on a packed train in The Commuter (October), and the computer animation wizards at Pixar compose the story of a shoemaker’s son with a forbidden passion for music in their love letter to Mexican culture, Coco (December). Prepare for dancing in the aisles.