Now that we’ve officially put a bow on 2016 around these parts, between the year-end Top 10 and podcast (be sure to check them both out!), it’s time to officially start caring about the impending movies of 2017 full time. And this month seems actually kind of promising, as February goes, so maybe a little optimism about that year is even warranted. Movie-wise, at least.
So, they still technically have two days to movie Rings again (it’s been shuffling around since 2015, and was pulled from the October 2016 schedule less than five weeks out), but let’s go ahead and be optimistic, and suppose that it’s definitely for sure coming out on time. So whatever do we have to look forward to? A generic possession movie that completely misses the point of The Ring in each and every way, it would seem, on top of the usual “decade-later sequel” concerns. But the bar for horror in 2017 has already been lowered so far that it frankly won’t take very much to be at least passably watchable.
And on the subject of movies that were abruptly ripped from the schedule, The Space Between Us, which was initially being positioned as counter-programming to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, bless its little heart, before being scooped up and dropped in a wintry grave. I cannot help but suspect that it will be a waste of a hell of a hook (boy born on Mars attempts to survive in Earth’s gravity) on a paint-by-numbers YA romantic story. The kind whose plot beats down to the last couple of scenes are already obvious just from the trailer. But wasting good plot hooks will happen, it does nobody good to pout over it.
I am legitimately excited for all three of this weekend’s wide releases, though in one case it could not possibly be any more ironic. That case being Fifty Shades Darker, the second in the trilogy adapting E.L. James’s Twilight-themed porn for the movies. I was powerfully let down by Fifty Shades of Grey back in 2015, which fought hard to become somehow competent in the face of James’s disastrous prose, and which was as a result good enough to be boring. But this time around, James’s husband in around to write the screenplay, which I hope means we get a little more authorial oversight and thus a bit more batshit awfulness. Basically, I really want everyone to try less hard this time (especially Dakota Johnson, who managed to salvage her character enough to be completely unmemorable, rather than intensely humiliating, like Jamie Dornan managed, and I hope shall manage again).
As far as the actually good-looking movies, one of them is John Wick: Chapter 2, and of course all the usual sequel caveats apply: the original John Wick was marvelous precisely because it was so unexpected, and capturing lightning in a bottle twice is the hardest thing in the world, and history is littered with drab sequels to great originals. For every Crank: High Voltage, there are a dozen Die Hard 2: Die Harders. The presence of the original writer and director is a comfort, but I’m very much of the “hope for the best, expect the worst” mentality with this one.
No such caveats for The Lego Batman Movie: this spin-off of the wonderful 2013 The Lego Movie, with an ad campaign promising that Warner Bros. is allowing the filmmakers a huge amount of rope to hang the studio’s cash cow Batman pictures, is by an outlandish margin the superhero movie I’m most looking forward to out of all the superhero movies currently on the books (which is a ridiculous number), and that is that.
I get the whole whitewashing thing with making Matt Damon the savior of China in The Great Wall, but if the Chinese production company working with the great Chinese director to make a film primarily for a Chinese audience wants Damon to be their lead, I don’t think it’s mine to criticise. No, for me the great big problem is that it looks terrible from the trailers, with supremely bad CGI and tin-eared performances. I trust Zhang Yimou and all, but I would rather not have to trust him with this.
Just a couple of weeks past one follow-up to The Ring, we get another, sort of: director Gore Verbinski returns to horror with A Cure for Wellness, which appears to be a sort of “trapped in the asylum”/medical thriller thing. The atmosphere looks pretty impressive from the trailer, I like the cast, and overall I’d say HOLY SHIT 146 MINUTES? What sort of florid madness is this? It’s an asylum thriller, you should be able to clock that shit in at an hour and a half, tops. Anyway, I’m still looking forward to it, basically.
Last up, Fist Fight, in which Charlie Day is a neurotic teacher who gets into a fist fight with fellow teacher Ice Cube, who is, near as I can tell, playing the same tough snarling role he’s been coasting on for a while. This looks like the kind of thing you spot on Netflix three years later and have some vague sense that you watched once, but never in fact did.
So Get Out looks like a fascinating thing. Jordan Peele, noted to date solely for comedy, writes and directs a horror film about an African-American man uncovering a terrifying conspiracy in the community where his white girlfriend’s parents live; it looks for all the world like a race-themed Stepford Wives. And that’s actually a pretty damn cool idea, if I say so myself. The trailer promises some fairly trite scares, but it should at least be interesting, and that’s not so common for horror.
The other two releases look like utter crap: Collide, in which a guy has to work for the bad guys who are holding his girlfriend hostage, and only the cast (including, disappointingly, both Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins) suggests anything more than a direct-to-video Taken clone. And then over here is Rock Dog – I just realised right this instant the title is a riff on “rock god”, and now I’m even a little angrier – an animated film that has managed to wrangle some not-nobodies like Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Mae Whitman, and Sam Elliott, as a character named Fleetwood Yak, into an animated feature whose technology appears to be at approximately the “well-heeled community college game design course” level. It looks so fucking hideous that I kind of want to go right away just to hate watch it, and also to see if Norm of the North‘s reign as the ugliest wide-release cartoon of the 2010s actually manages to end after just one year.