10. Wind River (Jan 21/TBD)
Taylor Sheridan has been responsible for two movies that have made it into my year-end lists each of the past two years, Sicario and Hell or High Water. He has written the sequel to Sicario, and with Wind River, which he also wrote, he steps into the directors chair for the first time. The film is about an FBI agent that teams with a town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation and it features Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Martin Sensmeier, and Jon Bernthal. Based on Sicario and Hell or High Water, I’m very interested in anything Sheridan is making.
9. The Death of Stalin (TBD)
Director Armando Iannucci is a brilliant comedic director, especially of political satire. In the Loop remains one of the funniest movies I have seen. He created The Thick of It for British TV and then Veep for HBO. This comedy is an adaptation of a graphic novel about the last days of Stalin and the chaos surrounding the aftermath of his death. Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, and Michael Palin are just some of the cast.
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (TBD)
The Lobster was my favorite film of 2016. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is right up there with some of the most esteemed directors out there because his films are so singular, unique, and distinctive. This follow-up stars Colin Farrell again, Nicole Kidman, and Alicia Silverstone. The plot synopsis doesn’t give much away, only a teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family takes an unexpected turn. I assume that something weird and unsettling and likely disturbing will transpire.
7. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct 6)
Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film is a foundational text for modern sci-fi. This sequel has long been rumored, and is finally coming to fruition this year. Ridley Scott is only producing, with Denis Villeneuve, one of my favorites, directing. Ryan Gosling portrays a new blade runner who discovers a secret that leads to him searching for Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard who disappeared 30 years ago. The film also features Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, and Mackenzie Davis.
6. Alien: Covenant (May 19)
Back to back Ridley Scott. Alien remains one of my favorite films of all time. I had high expectations for Prometheus, and it was slightly disappointing. My expectations are still pretty high for this one, clearly. This sequel to Prometheus brings back Michael Fassbender’s David and Noomi Rapace in some capacity, but the cast also includes Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Callie Hernandez, Danny McBride, Damien Bechir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, and Jussie Smollett. Looks like Fassbender could be playing two android roles, as David and Walter. The plot has the crew of a ship called Covenant travelling across the galaxy to a distant planet, only to find a dark, dangerous world instead of the paradise they were expecting. The planet’s sole inhabitant is David, the android from Prometheus.
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (TBD)
Another favorite director of mine, Martin McDonagh, is making this darkly comedic crime drama. After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, the mother of the victim makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle is only exacerbated. Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Frances McDormand, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, John Hawkes, and Abbie Cornish are featured in the cast.
4. Dunkirk (July 21)
“I will see whatever this director makes” is pretty much to be assumed starting with the last film. Here, it’s Christopher Nolan, making a war film about the evacuation of British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France during World War II, a story I’m not entirely familiar with, but what could have been a disaster for the British military turned into a moment of triumph. It stars Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, and Harry Styles. Nolan is appointment, blockbuster viewing.
3. Annihilation (TBD)
The director this time around is Alex Garland, who made the fascinating sci-fi thriller Ex Machina in 2015. In this thriller, a biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply. This film is an adaptation of a novel by Jeff VanderMeer and stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez.
2. Untitled PT Anderson Project (TBD)
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the premiere directors working today. Nearly everything he makes is interesting and top notch and a masterpiece. He is the directorial equivalent of a five-tool baseball player, arguably the most complete director working right now, with no real weaknesses in his “game.” This latest feature is supposed to be set in the London fashion world in the 1950s. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, who earned an Oscar the last time he collaborated with Anderson in There Will Be Blood. Nothing else is known about it, not even other cast members. This does make me wonder if it will even be released in 2017, but if it’s listed I have to rank it.
1. Star Wars: Episode VIII (Dec 15)
This is no big surprise. I love the Star Wars franchise. I thought J.J. Abrams did a masterful job re-launching the franchise with The Force Awakens. Most importantly, I got the distinct impression that the job for Abrams was as much about setting the table for Episode VIII and Episode IX as it was telling the story of Episode VII, which is why I was so forgiving about the story essentially being a rehash of A New Hope. As excited as I was for The Force Awakens, I am even more excited and dying with anticipation for Episode VIII because not only is it a Star Wars movie, but it is being directed by Rian Johnson, someone I’ve been invested in as a director from very early on. Brick was a modern masterpiece in my mind, The Brothers Bloom was also high quality, and Looper is one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade so far. So I was over the moon to find out Rian Johnson was directing Episode VIII. A film in my most beloved franchise being made by someone who might be my favorite current directors? It nonsense, of course, but it feels like this movie is being made for me personally. I can’t think of anything in movies approaching this for me in 2017.