A new year waits, like a blank page, like fresh snow fully of unspoiled promise of a whole new cycle of movies ready to come and surprise us, delight us, move us- hang on, the first wide release of 2017 is an Underworld. Well, fuck all that shit.
Aye indeed, the first wide release of 2017 is an Underworld: specifically Underworld: Blood Wars, which purports to be the finale of a series that has lain quite happily dormant for five whole years at this point, and that despite never once missing out its every-three-years release pattern. My relationship to this franchise is special: every time one comes out, I manage to suppose that I have liked all of the previous ones, and will thus like this one. In fact, I have never liked an Underworld, and I have fully hated at least the last two. But this one has an added enticement, in the form of Kate Beckinsale coming off of her career-best performance in Love & Friendship. Do you know what this means? It means I am extra-excited for Underworld: Blood Wars. Somebody please shoot me in the damn face.
We have as well a brace of limited-release films making their wider bows: A Monsters Calls, and Hidden Figures, though as neither one involves werewolves firing guns at vampires, I am not sure why anybody would care.
There’s something that’s just uniquely adorable about the two-years-delayed Monster Trucks, a movie about a truck, with a monster in it. They’ve confirmed that the concept was dreamed up by some executive’s small child; I presume an epic-sized sugar rush was driving it. The trailer looks so happy in the most dimwitted, hapless way, and I swear you can just feel Lucas Till’s flop sweat, coming right off the screen. Unless this one is an enormous surprise, I think we’ll have Worst Film of 2017 sewn up real early.
The rest of the new stuff looks bad, but too colorless to reach the panoramic heights of “alien hides in the engine block of a pick-up, fights oil drillers”. We have the expected wintertime garbage horror in The Bye Bye Man, which looks for all the world like a re-skinned Sinister, and with a title that will be more humiliating to speak in front of a ticket seller than the world’s most vulgar porno. And also Sleepless, with Jamie Foxx versus corrupt cops, the kind of thing that you forgot you saw in the middle of watching it.
More platform releases going wide: Live by Night and Patriots Day, so you can program an all-Boston double feature of Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg; and also Martin Scorsese’s Catholics-in-Japan epic Silence, which is the first movie whose named I’ve typed that I’m meaningfully excited to see. Also, on a solely personal note, Elle will at long last hit Madison, Wisconsin, and I will accordingly be able to button up my best of 2016 list.
So M. Night Shyamalan finally pulled of his tailspin with The Visit back in 2015, and so I would ordinarily be ready to look forward to his next thing with, well not enthusiasm, but at least some measure of hope. But along comes Split, and it is really just powerful hard to keep an open mind about a movie whose big shock scare appears to be “isn’t it TERRIFYING when bald men wear dresses?”
And yet, what else are we supposed to do? The alternatives are the long-awaited-by-nobody xXx: Return of Xander Cage, with Vin Diesel returning to the forgotten spy franchise 12 years after it was feebly put to pasture. Fast & Furious this ain’t. Hell, it ain’t even Riddick. I am confident that xXx fans must in some capacity exist, but I have never met one in all my days.
Lastly, there’s one of those Religious Right message pictures, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, and it breaks my heart to imagine that this has a chance at being the film’s best new release.
A couple of more things making their wide expansion: The Founder, and 20th Century Women, and I do believe this marks the end of the platforming Oscarbait. Leaving us with nothing else to talk about but The Red Turtle, which is not going wide, not now nor ever, but as the (for right now) final film with animation by Studio Ghibli – but not a Studio Ghibli film – it’s surely worth the effort to find it.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter marks the second horror franchise that has been dormant for five years to get a series finale in one month; but this series, at least, has been capable of generating some trashy pleasure along the way. I’m kind of excited. I’m definitely doing a series re-watch, and might even write about it, if I’m feeling feisty.
The rest of what we’ve got: the bluntly-named Bastards, which does not appear to be a remake of the Claire Denis film, but is instead a dumb comedy with Owen Wilson and Ed Helms. There’s also an action-adventure thing called Gold, which is also, technically, a 2016 limited release, but not as far as I can tell, one that actually opened in 2016. Last, and I am pretty certain least, Lasse Hallström directs A Dog’s Purpose, which is neither a decade-later return to the characters of his international breakthrough My Life as a Dog, nor even a sequel to his weirdly-ensconced-on-the-IMDb-Top-250 Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Rather, it is a tale of dog reincarnation, whose concept pretty unambiguously promises that we’re going to watch dogs die onscreen nonstop for two hours. Oh what fun.