Friday, March 3, 2017

2017: A Year for Fans and Flops

     Every year begins with a degree of anticipation as far as entertainment is concerned. 2017 promises a plethora of sequels, reboots, and installments to some of cinema's most recognizable franchises; a year for fans. Comic-Con type fans, lifelong zealot-style fans, nerds, and sentimentalists. Below are a few of this year's most highly-anticipated movies for the aforementioned group.

     Since I'm a few weeks late to this party, I won't bother with what's already come out. But from here forward, get ready for....


Kicking off the month is the highly anticipated Logan; a movie that promises to take what's left of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and leave everything on the field. Knowing that this would be his last time as Wolverine, Jackman voluntarily took a paycut to ensure that Logan could be rated R, and that everything he's always wanted to unleash with the character can finally come to fruition in this superhero swan song. Jackman has been the one constant in a franchise that has reinvented itself around him, and now, he takes his final bow. Expect hearts to be ripped out, both literally and figuratively, as Logan and Xavier come to terms with the most challenging journey of all: age.

Unconnected to any previous occurrences of the character or story, we'll get Kong: Skull Island. This adaptation, being neither sequel nor prequel to anything else Kong, looks like a fabulously bold and possibly outrageous cocktail of King Kong, King Solomon's Mines, and Apocalypse Now, with a touch of Jurassic Park. Judging by the choppers on the promos, I'd say it's a safe bet that beauty won't be killing the beast...

Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, the month of March will also be bringing us Hermoine! The Musical. It's being marketed as a reboot of some Disney animated classic from the 90's, but don't be fooled. Emma Watson stars as a book-loving girl-next-door type surrounded by magic and living in an enchanted castle.

Also rising from the relics of the 90's is Power Rangers; a movie I mention for the sole purpose of validating some of my readers, who have already declared that their undying love for this (sadly) unforgotten series will land them in theater seats on opening day.

If you have a thing for the Fast and Furious franchise, April is for you. But I'm skipping right to May for....

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2! Prediction: Baby Groot will overtake the Minions as a marketing and meme favorite. Other reasons to see this movie: vintage music and another dose of the campy but pristinely executed sci-fi that made the first movie so unconventional and enjoyable. Guardians hits the rare balance of succeeding in its complete avoidance of taking itself at all seriously, yet not making itself a spoof. Marvel has had a decent enough track record with sequels, so it's a more than fair chance that Vol. 2 will be worth seeing.

The survivors of Prometheus return for Alien: Covenant, the second of a new trilogy from the Alien universe. I should probably see Prometheus sometime. I like Alien, and I like a good sci-fi thriller, so logically this would be something I should check out. Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about large-scale stories and beautiful story-telling (Gladiator, The Martian), so even with all the inevitable screeching, screaming, running, and gut-spilling, chances are that it will at least be well-made.

Next up is Disney's confession that they just can't let it go: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. For those who've lost count, this is the fifth installment to the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow. Don't get me wrong: Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the most unique and memorable characters brought to cinema in modern history, but Disney ran the risk of overdoing it back when they made the second Pirates movie in 2006. There's always a chance that they turn things around this time after the fiasco On Stranger Tides (the fourth movie), but so far nothing looks very original. How many undead enemies can one rum-loving captain have anyway? All the same, it was very nice of Disney to bring back the character Will Turner, giving Orlando Bloom a (surely much-needed) job. Johnny Depp too actually...

Next up, the month of June!

One of the season's more highly anticipated movies will be Wonder Woman. DC Comics has a lot riding on this particular movie to reignite the interest in the upcoming Justice League, and they've done their absolute best to make sure that they get props for presenting the first female superhero movie of the modern wave. At first glance, Wonder Woman looks vaguely like Captain America, placing a timeless character in a vintage setting to drive a certain sentimental heroism into the tone. Wonder Woman also looks like it has real creative and artistic potential, but early reviews have already pointed out that it suffers from most of the same issues that harpooned Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Speculating a bit though, it's hard to believe that Wonder Woman has any surprises to offer. We already know that Diana will meet Superman and Batman in Dawn of Justice many decades later, but it's a safe bet that her love interest Steve Trevor won't be so lucky. At the very least, he'll be Wonder Woman's Peggy Carter (Captain America). Suffice to say this doesn't hold much interest for me, but those who are looking forward to it take it very seriously indeed.

Reigniting the monster universe will be Mission Impossible: Ancient Foes, otherwise known as The Mummy. This is definitely not a remake of the Indiana Jones-style Brendan Fraser piece from the late 90's. Instead, we'll get Tom Cruise-- the go-to man for all "Action Hero Wanted" ads, which is just as well since he does a good job. This new re-imagining of the old story looks to be a potentially intriguing blend of The Ring meets the DaVinci Code. Like previous releases of movies involving mummies, it is just as likely to be enjoyable and fun as it is to be really terrible; its current potential to be worthwhile is exactly 50/50.

Transformers: The Last Knight-- PLEASE be truly the last and save me from seeing another grievous trailer. Wahlberg, save yourself!

Despicable Me 3-- move over, Minions; Groot is in town!

Let the fireworks pop and the burning summer heat bear down, July is bringing you...

Not the first, not the second, the THIRD adaptation of the web-slinging adolescent superhero Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming! We had Tobey Maguire for three movies, we had Andrew Garfield for two movies, and now we get an all new young and fresh Tom Holland. This newcomer was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, and now he gets his own movie. This adaptation is already looking significantly different than previous presentations of Spider-Man, and tying Tony Stark into it certainly gives it a boost. Most shocking of all though, is Michael Keaton, a man known for Batman and Birdman, taking a really unexpected turn to play a character here called The Vulture. That's range for you right there.

This may be the final installment to Caesar's legend: War for the Planet of the Apes. I don't want to make assumptions or spoil anything with speculation, but I'm just guessing that humans aren't going to win this one; it's called Planet of the Apes after all. The first of this rebooted franchise (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) vaguely referenced a lost Mars probe called the Icarus. This sets up the 1970's Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston and his band of astronauts crash on a strange planet after an interminable amount of time in cyrosleep. Although War for the Planet of the Apes may not play out this way, I envision the following ending to this reboot: the war has ended and apes are the undisputed dominant species. The camera pans to a faraway deserted terrain, where a spacecraft called Icarus has crashed to the ground. Three astronauts climb uncertainly out of the vessel and wonder fearfully to one another what has happened and where they are. They walk away from the spacecraft, oblivious to the silhouette of a toppled Statue of Liberty subtly piercing over the land behind them.

The later summer and most of the fall will offer a break to the franchise pieces and fan-driven reboots, but once we hit November, things will start getting interesting again with....

Thor: Ragnarok. We already know from a post-credits scene that we can expect to see Dr. Strange pop up in this one, making the dreams come true of all the fans who have longed to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston onscreen together. Oh yeah, Thor is in it too. At some point we can surmise that he figured out that his brother Loki tricked him (surprise, surprise), and has been ruling Asgard posing as Odin. Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neal, and Karl Urban also star, which is interesting at the very least. Apparently the Hulk will also make some sort of appearance, so the two Avengers who weren't invited to Civil War are making their own adventures I suppose.

Also in the season of thankfulness will come Justice League; a movie that a handful will be supremely thankful for, leaving the rest of us to be thankful that December is coming. Personally, I thought Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was woeful, so giving Zach Snyder another chance to make a wandering, moody, and brooding attempt at superheroes in the style of film noir is just way off my radar. I will say though, I didn't think there was any possible way to make Aquaman look remotely cool, so I've clearly been wrong before.

Finally, Merry Christmas all ye loyal nerds! Happy Holidays all ye faithful! The time has come to unwrap your gift,

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Who are Rey's parents? Who is/are the last Jedi? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Such are some of the burning questions raised by The Force Awakens, and now comes the highly-anticipated second installment to the great saga-- well, eighth installment if you want to get really technical. The Empire Strikes Back has been widely hailed as one of the greatest sequels in movie history, and since The Force Awakens walked the footsteps of A New Hope very closely, my hopes for The Last Jedi are extremely high. I want to see more of John Boyega's Finn, learn more of Luke Skywalker's life these many years since The Return of the Jedi, watch Rey discover her own past, and see Kylo Ren wrestle with the haunting reality of his choices. We're guaranteed more of the mysterious Snoke and the staunch General Hux, as well as more of the bouncing BB-8. The galaxy far, far away is calling....

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