By Richard Roeper
LET’S TAKE A LOOK at my 17 most hotly anticipated movies of 2017. (You should have seen how many I listed in 1999! Just messin’ with ya.)
• Live by Night. Ben Affleck has directed three of my favorite films of this century: Gone, Baby, Gone, The Town and Argo. Now he directs this adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane (who wrote the aforementioned Gone, Baby, Gone as well as Mystic River) about the son of a Boston police captain who becomes a notorious gangster in 1920s and 1930s Florida. The supporting cast includes Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Elle Fanning.
• The Founder. This was supposed to come out way LAST year, but I still have high hopes for a winner. The versatile Michael Keaton stars in a biopic about Ray Kroc and his acquisition of a certain fast-food restaurant from the McDonald brothers.
• Gold. Matthew McConaughey, going all awards-y with a slight paunch and bad suits and an unspeakably terrible disappearing-hairline look, stars as a down-on-his-luck businessman who teams up with a geologist (Edgar Ramirez, so good as Roberto Duran in Hands of Stone) to prospect gold in the jungles of Indonesia. What could possibly go right?
• The Great Wall. Matt Damon stars in an epic centered on the building of the Great Wall of China. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the talented craftsman behind one of my favorite films of the 2000s: the astonishingly beautiful and thrilling House of Flying Daggers.
• T2 Trainspotting. Am I looking forward to sequels such as XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, Pitch Perfect 3, Saw: Legacy, Cars 3 and Fifty Shades Darker?
If you go Big Picture Perspective and say, “Hey, pal, you’re still getting paid to see movies for free,” then sure, I’m REALLY looking forward to Vin Diesel in that ridiculous wooly fur coat and more talking cars and another installment of those Fifty Shades stiffs torturing each other — and us.
But when we’re talking about the cast (Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle) and the director (Danny Boyle) of Trainspotting returning in a 20-years-later sequel, now we’re trafficking in genuinely can’t-wait-to-see-this-one territory.
• Life. When will we learn to stop poking around in the outer space of the future? Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson star in a chiller of a thriller about a space station crew exploring whether there’s life on Mars.
• The Zookeeper’s Wife. If I were casting a movie and I wasn’t told what the script was about, but the lead was a woman 30 to 45 years old, I’d go with Jessica Chastain. The Zookeeper’s Wife is based on the true story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, who literally hid humans and animals in cages in the Warsaw Zoo during World War II.
• Snatched. Road trip mother-daughter comedy with the inspired pairing of Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer.
• Alien: Covenant. I know I was in the minority with my rave of Prometheus, but I recently re-watched it and I’m sticking to my guns. There’s a lot of good stuff in there! The great Ridley Scott returns to direct the sequel to Prometheus, which he now acknowledges is part of a prequel series to the Alien films.
• Dunkirk. One of the world’s best directors, Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar), leaves behind the world of superheroes and sci-fi puzzles of the mind to tell the story of the Battle of Dunkirk, in which Allied forces were surrounded by the German army. Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance topline the all-star cast.
• The Dark Tower. From the boundless imagination and bottomless well of cinematic material that is Stephen King. Word is this is actually positioned as a sequel to King’s series of novels about a post-apocalyptic gunfighter. Starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
• Baby Driver. Writer-director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is a cult favorite and deservedly so. Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey star in the story of a professional getaway driver who falls in love — and the movie is reportedly choreographed to the music Elgort plays to drown out the constant ringing in his ears due to tinnitus.
• Blade Runner 2049. All you have to do is watch director Denis Villeneuve’s previous works, including the wondrous and ethereal and beautiful Arrival and the criminally underseen crime thriller classic Sicario, to have full confidence we’re in good hands for this sequel, which stars Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright — and yes, Harrison Ford.
• Justice League. Takes place months after the events of Batman v. Superman, which was hated by many but not by me. Starring Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) and Amy Adams (Lois Lane/Lois Lane).
• Star Wars: Episode VIII. Predictions you can bank on: When this movie comes out, it will do $150 million domestic in its opening weekend; the reviews will be mostly positive, but at least one prominent critic will say it’s the worst Star Wars movie ever, and there will be some sort of mini-dustup about the casting, the allegedly insensitive exclusion of some group or another and/or some political commentary that was or was not intentional.
• Okja. Ahn Seo-hyun is a young girl who risks her life to stop an all-powerful corporation from taking away her best friend, who just happens to be an enormous creature. Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins and Paul Dano also star.
• Suburbicon. Director George Clooney and his longtime collaborating buddies the Coen brothers (who wrote the script) team up for a satirical comedy/mystery set in the 1950s. Gotta love the cast: Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac. — Chicago Sun-Times/UniversalUClick