1. Fast 8 – April 14
If we’re being perfectly honest, there is no reason to call any Fast and Furious movie a “must see.” Yet, we always wind up at the theater all the same, watching what Dom and the “Family” get up to next. And, hey, this time they’re doing battle against Charlize Theron. Interested, yet?
Fast 8 has recruited Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray to trace the next adventure, which will see Vin Diesel lead the familiar Toretto family, plus Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs, to the Big Apple in order to do battle with Theron’s Cipher, a villainess involved in espionage who will be likely as subtle in her machinations as her name. Apparently, much of this will have to do with exploring more of Kurt Russell’s character, Mr. Nobody.
Oh and they actually, and finally, got Helen Mirren a role in these films… Yeah, for better or worse, we want to see it too!
2. Free Fire – April 21
Sometimes, deals just go sideways. In most industries, that means walking away disgruntled and disappointed. In some, it could also mean litigation. But in the high-stakes world of 1970s gun-running, it just equates to a ludicrous 90 minutes of shootouts and standoffs. At least, that is the angle taken by Free Fire, the new cheeky actioner from co-writer and director Ben Wheatley (A Field in England, High-Rise, Doctor Who).
In Wheatley’s movie, a warehouse deal between two disreputable organizations goes from bad to worse, and everyone who survives the early blood baths must break down into factions. Among those participants are Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, and Sharlto Copley. Also, word out of TIFF and the London Film Festival is that it’s a blast.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5
It seems a long time ago now that Marvel and director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was regarded as a big risk (see also: Doctor Strange). But gleeful reviews and equally gleeful box office returns launched the Marvel cinematic universe into space, and we’re returning there next May to see what they’ve all been up to.
As well as key returnees – Gunn, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan – there’s a sizeable new signing in the form of Kurt Russell. He’s believed to be playing Star Lord’s father, and that’s part of the story that’s set to underpin the new movie… especially since Russell will play, well, um… a living planet?
With talk already ongoing about a Guardians of the Galaxy 3, the cosmic adventures of Marvel characters are set to continue long after this one. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is rightfully one of the most eagerly awaited Marvel movies on its roster.
4. Alien: Covenant – May 19
By now, you may have seen the teaser poster for Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott’s sequel to 2012’s Prometheus – and, by extension, prequel to 1979’s Alien. Along with the word “Run”, it shows a familiar face looming out of an inky black background: a toothsome, drooling xenomorph. For any Alien fans who were a little disappointed with Prometheus‘ somewhat kitsch space operatics, it’s a tantalizing suggestion: that the series is returning to its sci-fi horror roots.
At the time of writing, a first trailer has yet to emerge, but we’ve got a half-decent handle on the plot: a new crew of explorers – including Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride – head to a distant planet, where the erstwhile android David (Michael Fassbender) has been up to no good. The place looks like a lush paradise, but there are nasty, Giger-esque creatures waiting in the wings. Yeah, we can all guess what happens next, but we’ve also heard that Covenant will answer some of the questions left over from Prometheus, so we’re intrigued to see how this new Alien will mesh with everything that came before.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7
In some respects, Marvel’s already done the hard bit: Tom Holland’s introduction as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War was widely regarded as one of the film’s highlights. So the studio can at least rest assured that it has that piece of the puzzle safely in place. The broader question is whether this new webslinger movie, the first collaboration between Marvel and Sony, and the big-budget debut of Cop Car director Jon Watts, can succeed where the most recent Spider-Man movies faltered.
Our hope? That Homecoming avoids the mistakes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which heaped its basket with so many villains and plotlines that it often felt more like a series of trailers than a coherent movie. The word that Homecoming will be as much a high-school comedy-drama as a superhero flick is a great sign though, and with Michael Keaton starring as the feathered nemesis Vulture, this could well prove to be the return to form Spider-Man deserves.
6. War for the Planet of the Apes – July 14
The reinvention of the Planet of the Apes franchise has been one of the happiest surprises to come out of blockbusters during the last decade. Whereas so many other big budget studio efforts are now preoccupied with capes and heroism, the Apes movies are their usual, subversive sci-fi selves. And after Matt Reeves came aboard to direct 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in particular, the franchise just seems to be getting smarter and more challenging.
Thus enter War for the Planet of the Apes, the follow-up to that effort from three years ago, and one that includes a script co-written by Reeves too (unlike the previous one). Andy Serkis is back in the motion-capture suit as Caesar, but unlike the previous films, War offers a chance for the commanding Ape to live up to his ancient Roman namesake. Indeed, when we interviewed Reeves, Serkis, and producer Dylan Clark in October 2016, they exclusively told us about how they viewed War as the culmination of a Biblical Epic’s journey for Caesar. We’ve seen him grow from child and rebel in the first film to an almost messiah like being in this latest effort.
We also know from their warnings that Caesar will go to a dark place in the film. After losing many apes in his war with an adversary simply called “the Colonel” (Woody Harrelson), Caesar will continue to be haunted by his dead friend Koba. He might even possibly conclude Koba was right. We have also seen extensive footage from the film, which includes the most visual homages to the 1968 original Planet of the Apes film, suggesting this one might explain how humans are finally, and permanently, supplanted by apes as the dominant species on the Earth. The picture also has some grisly Apocalypse Now visuals, and a plot that might do Alec Guinness’ work as the proud captive in Bridge on the River Kwai proud.
7. Dunkirk – July 21
Really, all we should have to say about why this is already at the very top of your must see list is that it’s written and directed by Christopher Nolan. But if you simply need us to go on, please know that Dunkirk is a 70mm World War II epic that recreates the terrible tension and suspense of one of the largest evacuations in world history (and in a context most Americans sadly are oblivious to).
Little is currently revealed about the plot, but anyone with a passing knowledge of WWII can already ascertain this will be set during the infamous evacuation of the Northern port city in France where the British moved 338,226 Allied soldiers, by any seaworthy vessel available, out of the reach of the Nazis’ grasp within eight days following the Fall of France to Axis Powers.
The film also seems to be taking a page out of the visceral cinematic epics of yesteryear that most inspired Nolan by casting a sea of familiar faces in its ranks, including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and James D’Arcy. Also, as the young men whose journey will be tracked during the crisis, Nolan has cast Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles… yes, that Harry Styles.
Of special note as well is the fact that while the film will include a mixture of IMAX and non-IMAX photography (like Interstellar and the last two Dark Knight pictures), Dunkirk will also be shot in traditional 65mm for the non-IMAX scenes. Quite clearly, Nolan intends this to be his most visually immersive and grandiose epic to date.
8. The Dark Tower – July 28
While many consider The Stand—which is also getting the blockbuster movie treatment down the road—to be Stephen King’s magnum opus, there’s no denying that his eight-book maxiseries, The Dark Tower, beats that “little” novel in scope. The series encompasses much of the early King mythos and ties them all together in one journey to the titular Dark Tower, which is the center of all creation—at least when it comes to King’s multiverse of horrors. At the epicenter of this journey is Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last gunslinger on a dying world, who is not only on his way to the Tower, but is also giving chase to the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey).
This is King like you’ve never watched him before, a story that delves in high fantasy and old spaghetti Westerns. The Dark Tower movie has been a long time coming, and there’s a lot of love behind the project. Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) is directing from a script written by himself, Akiva Goldsman, and Anders Thomas Jensen. And while early set photos show that these filmmakers are following the look and feel of the books pretty closely, we know that some of the events in the film have been remixed to incorporate the first three books in the series. So we’re bound to get some surprises on our way to the Tower. Hopefully good surprises too.
9. Justice League – November 17
The pressure’s on now, Zack. Following the scathing responses to DC’s two big movies of 2016—Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad—this is a movie where director Zack Snyder really needs to deliver. It’s the one that brings together Batman, Superman, Aquaman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and more, and Snyder has already been making noises about how lessons have been learned from the relentless darkness of his Batman v Superman movie. He told us as much when we visited the Justice League set back in June!
Originally set up as the first of two movies, Justice League: Part Two has disappeared from the schedules, leaving this one to pick make cohesive sense of the DC Extended Universe and provide a springboard for what’s supposed to come next. Warner Bros. needs this one to work, and it’d be fair to say there’s plenty riding on it.
10. Star Wars: Episode VIII – December 15
A less bold studio might have gone with a safe pair of hands when it comes to writing and directing Star Wars: Episode VIII, so it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker like Rian Johnson handed the keys to the (former) Lucas-verse. At present, we know little of where the follow-up to The Force Awakens will go, other than it stars much of the previous film’s cast, including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Mark Hamill, while various interviews with those returning actors have hinted at a darker direction for the story.
In many respects, Johnson has a tough task ahead of him with Episode VIII; The Force Awakens relied heavily on resurrecting the icons from the original trilogy—Han Solo, the Millennium Falcon, and so on—but its sequel arguably needs to move things forward if this new series of movies is going to develop its own distinctive voice. Here’s hoping that Johnson’s indie sensibility (see Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper) will add a touch of the unexpected to this firmly re-established space opera.