As the American box-office continued to hold on to the spot of the second most popular entertainment avenue it seemed that next year one might see more of the same: numerous motion pictures that continue where previous parts left off, as well as some big box-office bombs.
While Pakistan has already seen the release of Underworld: Blood Wars, the new continuation of the Kate Beckinsale’s gun-trotting, leather-clad vampire, the movie will come out in the US on January 6, 2017. In fact, the month may well be called “monster month” as Milla Jovovich’s Alice finally takes down the Umbrella corporation (and of course, the infected zombies) in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Between the two women, January sees the release of M. Night Shyamalan's Split starring James McAvoy as a different kind of monster – a man with multiple split personalities, who kidnaps a young woman – and then aids in her escape. Then Liam Neeson voices a monster in A Monster Calls, and animation director Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots) directs the live-action Monster Trucks, starring Lucas Till where squishy, tentacle, kid-friendly monsters live inside car chassis.
XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (Vin Diesel with Deepika Padukone) and Jamie Foxx’s actioner Sleepless round off the month that was once primarily reserved for Award season fodder. The Comedian, starring Robert De Niro and Danny DeVito, directed by Taylor Hackford, and The Founder starring Michael Keaton in a biopic fill that requirement.
February brings in a TV-movie-ish reset (or maybe expansion) of the horror movie Rings, called Rings. Sequels continue to overrun the month with The Lego Batman Movie, a follow up of the Lego Movie, Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, Keanu Reeves’s John Wick: Chapter 2 and the as-yet-untitled Cloverfield sequel follow-up. One rare exception is Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s colour-coded, epic fantasy The Great Wall with Matt Damon, playing an American who fights off fabled creatures around The Great Wall of China.
By March Hugh Jackman says his final goodbye’s to the X-Men franchise with Logan, a highly-anticipated adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline from the comics. T2 Trainspotting, a long-separated sequel to Transpotting reunites the original cast and director Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor and co. Kong: Skull Island, starring Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, while standalone, forwards the franchise to its ultimate monster-smash with Godzilla a few years down the line, as Disney brings out the live-action version of the Beauty and the Beast, Saban offers a live-action Power Rangers movie, and Guy Ritchie directs the snappy King Arthur: Legends of the Sword. Late in March, we see the long-in-development release of Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johannson, as well as DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby.
Smurfs: The Lost Village finally discards the live-action settings and goes full-animation (a wise move) and Julia Roberts headlines Wonder, about a deformed boy’s efforts to fit into normal everyday life. These two April releases are mere fodder in comparison to the juggernaut that is Fast & Furious 8.
May is where the year turns full-commercial with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ridley Scott directed Alien: Covenant (which looks ho-hum from the trailers), Annabelle 2, The Nut Job 2, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, a far-funnier and fun version of Baywatch with Dwayne Johnson (with Priyanka Chopra and Zack Efron), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – which reunites most of the original cast – and the space-station-board-malignant-alien-life-survival-flick Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.
In June director Patty Jenkins directs Gal Gadot’s solo Wonder Woman outing, whose only real cause for concern would be the still-not-shot World War Z sequel with Brad Pitt and the still-not-confirmed director David Fincher. The Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise also releases on the same date and starts a new shared-monster-universe for Universal where Russell Crowe also stars as Dr. Jekyll. The week after, a very different and realistic looking Cars 3 butts-head with Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, which, inexplicably, sees the return of presumed-dead character played by Colin Firth.
Also out in June, Transformers: The Last Knight (again destined to cross a billion worldwide) feels better as a sequel, while, personally speaking, Despicable Me 3, coming out on the last week, would not cover any new ground (it would still gross a billion).
Spider-Man: Homecoming, under Marvel Studio’s guidance, is an especially enticing entry early July. On its heels is War of the Planet of the Apes, which would most probably kill off the series’ prime ape Caesar (Andy Serkis). A spin-off of 2016’s hit Bad Moms now titled as Bad Dads is listed as an entry, without much detail.
In what would be a tough-week, Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk comes in direct competition with Luc Besson’s space-fest Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, as the month rounds off with Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, who at last brings the long-halted Stephen King novel The Dark Tower to screens with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
August and September are months where big films lower their numbers. Noteworthy entries see Ryan Reynolds as The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the romantic drama Everything, Everything, (where a girl allergic to everything falls for her next door neighbour), It (another long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s horror original), Albert Hughes Ice Age survivalist-actioner The Soultrean, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Flatliners – a horror-remake with Nina Dobrev and Diego Luna (the original cast included Julia Roberts amongst many others), and Tom Cruise starrer American Made, where the actor will play the role of a CIA drug-runner in the Middle East during the 80s; the film also reunites Cruise with director Doug Liman.
The wheel’s rev-up again in October as Blade Runner 2049 (director Dennis Villeneuve, actors Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling), My Little Pony: The Movie, Friday the 13th remake, Liam Neeson’s actioner The Commuter, Insidious: Chapter 4 and Saw: The Legacy hit screens. Also, Dean Devlin (the writer of Independence Day, Stargate, 1998’s Godzilla) directs space-actioner Geostorm – a project I am quite keen to see.
Towards late November, director Joe Wright recounts Winston Churchill’s charge against Hitler in Darkest Hour, as the rest of the month favours traditional hits like Thor: Ragnarok (co-starring The Hulk), Justice League (which seems lighter in comparison to DC’s other films) and Pixar’s take on the Mexican ‘Day Of The Dead’ festival in Coco – whose first images look quite swell.
Lest I forget: director-actor Kenneth Branagh himself suits-up as Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express; the film’s acting ensemble are Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp.
2017, of course, will end with the obligatory Star Wars film (episode VIII this time, with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher). Also on the lot is the reboot of Jumanji – where Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson fills in for Robin Williams (though only as the lead; the film is quite different), Pitch Perfect 3, Blue Sky’s animated take on Ferdinand The Bull (once a popular Disney cartoon short), and The Great Showman starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum – the founder of the famous Ringling Bros. circus.
Also out on the last week of December is Downsizing, director Alexander Payne’s science-fiction comedy-drama, starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris. In the movie, a couple decides to voluntarily have themselves shrunken down; the wife, unfortunately, backs out at the last moment. The genre and the mere premise is a strange concoction for the marvellous director and something worth waiting for.
The year, as you can see, is jam-packed. And we’ve only covered the more known films of the year. Happy viewing! •