Metro Weekly

Film: Spring Arts Preview 2017

From Alien to Spider-Man, we have all the films you need to know about

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Whether it’s CGI-heavy action, tense thrillers, jumpy horrors, raunchy comedies or slow-burn dramas that draw you to the cinema, 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for film. Sequels are, of course, a dime a dozen, from banner films like Guardians of the Galaxy 2 — sure to compete for the title of the year’s biggest film — to profit-makers like Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s also a number of remakes/reboots on offer, from the thoroughly welcome — Beauty and the Beast — to the puzzlingly pointless — Baywatch, CHiPS, The Mummy.

Horror fans are also well-catered for, with Alien: Covenant taking the franchise back to its claustrophobic roots, Life aping the original Alien‘s successful formula, The Belko Experiment serving rat race gore, and It Comes at Night providing tense indie fare. Amidst the usual comedies and animated films, there’s also a glut of true-life drama — The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Lost City of Z, Dunkirk — and some truly original offerings, such as Anne Hathaway being connected to a giant Kaiju in Colossal. With that in mind, here’s every film you need to know about in Spring/Summer 2017.

MARCH

Kong: Skull Island — Anyone who saw 2005’s King Kong might notice something different in the supersized ape’s latest outing. Aware that in 2020 Kong will battle Godzilla, Legendary Pictures and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts have bulked him up from Peter Jackson’s paltry 25 feet to well over 100 feet tall. It was that, or Godzilla vs. Kong would be five minutes long — the 350 foot nuclear lizard would crush Kong like a bug. (3/10)

The Ottoman Lieutenant — This looks… fine? The Ottoman Lieutenant follows a young American nurse (Hera Hilmar) who vows to deliver supplies to a remote Turkish hospital at the outset of World War I. If you can ignore the Turkish funding and subsequent lack of any real mention of the 1915 Armenian genocide, this will probably be a reasonably satisfying period melodrama. (3/10)

Personal Shopper — Fans of Kristen Stewart — or great performances in general, if critical buzz is anything to go by — should take note of Olivier Assayas’ psychological thriller, about a woman who spends time in the home of her dead brother in an attempt to contact him. Reviews have been mixed and the tone apparently shifts between drama and horror, but Stewart continues to prove biting her lip in Twilight wasn’t the extent of her acting abilities. (3/10)

Beauty and the Beast — Currently mired in boycotts over an apparent gay moment and needless criticism of Emma Watson having breasts and being unashamed of that fact on a Vanity Fair cover, Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast looks to be a splendid, sumptuous and faithful remake. Plus, with the incredibly handsome Dan Stevens as Beast, disappointment will be minimal when he transforms back into the human prince (everyone prefers animated Beast to his human form, right?). (3/17)

T2 Trainspotting — Danny Boyle’s cult comedy-drama Trainspotting gets a sequel 20 years later. And, surprisingly, the wait was apparently worth it, if early reviews are anything to go by. (3/17)

The Belko Experiment — What happens if you lock 80 blue collar workers in an office and tell them it’s kill or be killed? See Greg McLean’s gory horror film and find out. (3/17)

Power Rangers — Any child of the late ’80s and early ’90s remembers the TV show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: over the top, utterly camp, incredibly kitsch, and a little racist (the African American character was the black Power Ranger, the character with Vietnamese ancestry the yellow Ranger). Will this big budget reboot — which stars Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa — return Power Rangers to its former glory? More importantly, will it help sell millions of dollars worth of merchandise? (3/24)

Life — Online media has been flooded with articles asking if sci-fi horror Life is just Alien by another name. We won’t pass judgement, but the plot — a group of scientists (including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds) are trapped on the International Space Station with an organism from Mars that gains intelligence, mass, and murderous tendencies with alarming speed — certainly shares similarities with Ridley Scott’s classic. (3/24)

CHIPS — Do we really need this? It’s nice that Dax Shepard — writer, director and co-star — can give himself work and there’s a strong cast including Michael Peña, Kristen Bell (Shephard’s wife) and Vincent D’Onofrio, but this adaptation of the ’70s TV series just looks really, really bad. (3/24)

Wilson — If you’re a fan of Daniel Clowes’ eponymous graphic novel or of watching Woody Harrelson drop F-bombs with a goofy grin, this is the film for you. Early reviews suggest that’s about the extent of this comedy’s appeal. (3/24)

Ghost in the Shell — Is anyone really shocked that Hollywood took an internationally successful Japanese Manga and cast a white actor in the lead role? Apparently so, as choosing Scarlett Johansson to play The Major (original character name Major Motoko Kusanagi) caused widespread outrage for the obvious whitewashing. If that weren’t enough, house music producer Steve Aoki is now being heavily criticized for “desecrating” the Ghost in the Shell TV show’s theme tune in his remix for the film. It’s fine, though, as the film has box office bomb written all over it. (3/31)

The Boss Baby — Alec Baldwin is the voice of a briefcase-carrying, fully coherent baby, who teams up with his older brother to stop the owner of a puppy business that threatens to destabilize the balance of love in the world. We’re not completely sold on DreamWorks’ latest animated tale, but Baldwin’s voice acting alone should be worth the price of entry. (3/31)

The Zookeeper’s Wife — An incredible true story, based on Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book. Jessica Chastain is Antonina Żabińska who, together with her husband (Johan Heldenbergh), helped save hundreds of Polish Jews from the Nazis by sheltering them in Warsaw Zoo. Daniel Brühl once again plays the villain as a German officer determined to uncover the Żabińskas’ secret. (3/31)

APRIL

Going in Style — What happens when you put three Oscar winners in front of the camera and Zach Braff behind it? A surprisingly fun heist comedy, apparently. Michael Caine (no stranger to heists), Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are three men sick of banks ruining their pensions, mortgages, and other people’s lives. Yes, there is the dreaded “old people trying to use a smartphone” scene, but everything else looks pretty enjoyable. A remake of Martin Brest’s 1979 hit starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. (4/07)

The Case for Christ — For LGBTQ people facing increasing religious intolerance from conservatives, anything Christ-related is a tough sell. Based on Lee Strobel’s 1998 book, it follows an alleged atheist journalist’s attempts to disprove his wife’s Christianity. Spoiler: He becomes a Christian. (4/07)

Colossal — Can a film about a giant Kaiju destroying Seoul be a comedy? Yes, as long as the monster in question is somehow linked to down on her luck Anne Hathaway. Critics say her performance as a woman coming to terms with her place in the world (and making the Kaiju dance to the bemusement/horror of South Koreans) is the main reason to see Colossal. (4/07)

GiftedMatilda without the magic and horrible parents. Chris Evans is Frank Adler, a single guy trying to give his child prodigy niece (Mckenna Grace) a normal life in the wake of her mother’s death. When granny (Evelyn Adler) rolls into town and tries to force him to send her to a school for the gifted, a custody battle ensues in director Marc Webb’s drama. (4/12)

The Fate of the Furious — The eighth film in the Fast and the Furious franchise is proof that guns and cars trump story, directing, scriptwriting, acting, cinematography, common sense, good taste…. (4/14)

Unforgettable — This Katherine Heigl-led thriller, about a mentally unstable woman exacting revenge on her ex-husband and his new wife, looks to be the opposite of its title. (4/21)

Born in China — Disneynature’s latest sumptuous documentary, releasing a day before Earth Day, celebrates the many animals that call China home. Expect breathtaking scenery, an overdose of cuteness (a panda bear and her growing cub? Yes please), and a reminder of just how extraordinary the animal kingdom is. (4/21)

The Lost City of Z — In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett led an expedition into the Amazon rainforest to find “Z,” his name for the remains of the mythical city of El Dorado. Jack Gray’s films is based on David Grann’s eponymous book and stars Charlie Hunnam as the ill-fated Fawcett. Critics are already praising the gorgeous scenery and emotional resonance, so this is definitely one to watch. (4/21)

The Circle — Particularly timely, given the ongoing battle between privacy rights and the need for everyone to apparently overshare everything about their life, The Circle follows a young tech worker at a large internet corporation that is working to make 24/7 surveillance of every human a reality. Emma Watson is the worker in question, in a cast that includes Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan and Bill Paxton, in his final film. Based on Dave Eggers’ eponymous novel. (4/28)

How to Be a Latin Lover — We’ll reserve judgement until it’s released, but this comedy looks to be heavy on stereotypes and pretty shallow. Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) married for money 25 years ago, but now finds his 80-year-old wife intolerable. No matter, she’s cheating on him and promptly kicks him out of the house, leaving him to move in with his sister, Salma Hayek, as he tries to find a new wealthy woman to leech off — such as billionaire Celeste (Raquel Welch). (4/28)

Sleight — Critics are enjoying writer/director J.D. Dillard’s feature debut, about an incredibly smart young street magician (Jacob Latimore) who uses a secret device to make objects “float.” Forced to engage in illegal activities to keep a roof over his and his young sister’s heads, he eventually gets in too deep and must use his smarts to save everything he cares about. Dulé Hill and Seychelle Gabriel co-star. (4/28)

MAY

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Guardians of the Galaxy was a much needed breath of fresh air when it exploded into Marvel’s increasingly crowded cinematic universe in 2014. Rich with comedy, characterization, great performances from its leads, and an incredible soundtrack, it was a deserved hit — both critically and commercially. But now, the difficult second album, as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) return to continue traveling the cosmos, fighting bad guys, and trying to find out more about Quill’s parents. This is going to be one of the year’s biggest films, but we’ll have to wait and see if it can match the franchise’s incredible first outing. (5/05)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword — $102 million. That’s how much Warner Bros. has spent on a film that has bomb written all over it. An “epic adventure drama” focused on the young King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) who drew the sword Excalibur from the stone, the evil villain (Jude Law) who subsequently stole his crown, and the accountants who will ask what on earth Warner Bros. was thinking when they commissioned this Guy Ritchie-helmed film, the first in a planned series about the King Arthur legend. Watch Disney’s Sword in the Stone or John Boorman’s lustrous 1981 classic Excalibur, featuring Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart, instead. (5/12)

Snatched — Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, and the producers of The Heat and Spy? Color us intrigued. Hawn and Schumer are mother and daughter on a vacation to South America when — predictably — everything goes wrong. If Hawn and Schumer nail the chemistry and the script, which Schumer co-wrote, sustains itself like her 2015 hit Trainwreck, this could be great. (5/12)

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant — Our chests are bursting with excitement (sorry) for Ridley Scott’s sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, the next (and presumably final) installment in the series of Alien prequels. Come for the tense, horrific thrills, as a crew travels to a remote planet to form a new human settlement. Stay for the fact that the movie features the franchise’s first gay characters, a couple played by Nathaniel Dean and Demián Bichir. Oh, and also stay for all of the inevitable running down hallways from a giant, unstoppable, murderous alien. (5/19)

Annabelle 2 — If Alien isn’t quite enough for one weekend, David F. Sandberg’s supernatural horror — a sequel to 2014’s surprise hit and the fourth film in the Conjuring series — is here to give you more doll-related scares. Will it get better reviews than the mixed ones that met its predecessor? The producers won’t care, as long as this sequel also makes 42 times its original budget at the box office. (5/19)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul — Apparently enough people watched the first three films in this series to generate a small profit. Not enough for the main cast to stick around for a fourth film, mind you, so there’s an entirely new group of actors on board to… ummm… write diaries? We have no idea what these films are about. (5/19)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — While there’s debate about what exactly the trailer means when it states “The Final Adventure Begins,” the tone is undeniably intriguing. It seems to be a darker affair than the recent, silly sequels, which is something we’re very much on board with. Javier Bardem stars as Captain Armando Salazar, a powerful and merciless ghost pirate who stalks Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow across the seas. If Disney gets this right, it could breathe new life into the franchise. (5/26)

Baywatch — Another case of “Who needed this?” Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron lead the cast in an action-comedy based on the eponymous TV series. Expect callbacks and references, slow-motion running, red swimsuits, and a general sense of having wasted money on your cinema ticket. (5/19)

JUNE

Wonder Woman — DC has proven that it can churn out a shitty superhero movie and millions will pay to see it, and despite critics slating Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, no one is expecting Wonder Woman to magically turn things around for the better. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman has never had her backstory explored in a standalone film before and this could be a unique opportunity for DC to give women a strong, independent counterpart to Superman and Batman. However, even with Gal Gadot in the title role and Monster director Patty Jenkins at the helm, expectations remain low — especially after a letter from a disgruntled employee suggested it was going to be as big of a mess as other recent DC films. (6/02)

The Mummy — No. No to all of this Tom Cruise-starring, unnecessarily rebooted mess. (6/09)

It Comes at Night — Trey Edward Shults’ horror gives little away in both its description and its teaser, beyond a family seeking refuge in their home from an unnatural threat terrorizing the world. When another family arrives and asks for help, things start to get tense. And scary. Production company A24 has a good track record of backing high-quality small films, including 2015 horror The Witch and the Oscar-winning dramas Room and Moonlight. (6/09)

The Hero — Sam Elliott stars as an aging movie star trying to overcome failing health and a lifetime of regrets in Brett Haley’s drama. Critics have been mixed, but Elliott seemingly gives a strong performance — aided by his “smoky, whiskey-soaked baritone,” as The Hollywood Reporter put it. (6/09)

Cars 3 — Pixar’s least critically successful franchise offers its third outing, after the previous two films racked up almost a billion dollars at the box office. This time, Lightning McQueen struggles to overcome the dreadful reviews and nonsensical storyline of the second film. (6/16)

Rough Night — Described as The Hangover meets Weekend at Bernie’s, not much is known about writer/director Lucia Aniello’s R-rated comedy. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Kate McKinnon as members of a bachelorette party that takes a dramatic turn for the worst (e.g. killing a male stripper), Aniello’s script was considered one of the top unproduced scripts in Hollywood in 2015. (6/23)

The Book of Henry — Naomi Watts leads this drama about a single mother raising two sons, one of whom is a precocious genius — Henry (Jaeden Lieberher). After developing a crush on Christina, his neighbor, he devises a plan to save her from her overbearing father. His mother uncovers his plan and, because this is film, helps him put it into action, rather than just alerting social services. (6/16)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Transformers: The Last Knight — Michael Bay returns to once again prove that talent isn’t necessary when you have skilled CGI artists and copious amounts of explosions. It’ll make a billion dollars, they’ll commission a sixth film, and no lessons will be learned. (6/23)

The Beguiled — Sofia Coppola’s drama is based on the 1971 film of the same name, itself based on the novel A Painted Devil. Set during the Civil War, it focuses on an all-girls boarding school in rural Mississippi. After a handsome, wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) is rescued and allowed to recuperate, the women of the house start to get increasingly jealous of one another as their attraction for the soldier grows. Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning all star. (6/23)

Despicable Me 3 — If this third outing can serve up the same mix of likable characters, amusing action, and copious minions that sustained the first two, we’ll be happy. (6/30)

The House — Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell are two parents unsure of how they’ll pay for their daughter’s college tuition. The solution? Start an underground casino in their house! Andrew J. Cohen’s comedy looks like dumb fun — perfect for summer escapism. (6/30)

JULY

Spider-Man: Homecoming — Yes, we know, it’s yet another reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. But if you need a reason to sit through the third introduction to Peter Parker in just 15 years, it’s Tom Holland. His Spidey was one of the standout moments of Captain America: Civil War and we’re intrigued to see what Holland can do with the role that Maguire and Garfield haven’t already accomplished. Sony retained ownership of the franchise, but Marvel has had a heavier hand in the production of this Spider-Man, so expect Iron Man to appear and a faithful adherence to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (7/07)

War for the Planet of the Apes — The rebooted Planet of the Apes series has been both a commercial and critical success, aided in part by its pioneering effects work in rendering the simian stars. There’s no reason to suspect this third outing will completely drop the ball, as the apes, led by Caesar, go to war with the humans. (7/14)

My Cousin Rachel — If you prefer period drama to high-gloss, CGI-heavy action, My Cousin Rachel is here to whisk you away to 19th-century Cornwall in England. Based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Philip (Sam Claflin) falls in love with his cousin, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), while those around him convince him that she only has her own interests at heart. (7/14)

Dunkirk — Christopher Nolan tackles one of the most pivotal moments of the Second World War, as thousands of Allied troops were rescued from Dunkirk, France, while surrounded by the German Army. Tom Hardy, Mary Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy are all on board, in what looks set to be a thrilling, emotional, true-life drama. (7/21)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — Based on the multi-million selling French comic Valérian and Laureline, Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), two special operatives tasked with maintaining order in the universe. Naturally, order is not maintained, as intergalactic city Alpha — with residents from every corner of the universe — descending into chaos when unseen forces threaten the very existence of the human race. (7/21)

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Girls Trip — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish lead this R-rated comedy about four friends reuniting for a trip to New Orleans’ Essence Festival. Expect sex, swearing, alcohol, handsome men, and pretty much all the other good things in life. (7/21)

The Dark Tower — Based on Stephen King’s series of novels, this sci-fi fantasy western horror not only spans all of the genres, but also all of the directors. Originally attached to J.J. Abrams, then Ron Howard, it’s Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) who will bring to life the story of a young boy (Tom Taylor) who discovers the mysterious dimension of Mid-World. There, he teams up with frontiersman knight Roland (Idris Elba) to reach the “Dark Tower” before evil sorcerer the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). No footage has yet been released, which is a little concerning, but there’s a rich vein of material to mine here if Arcel gets it right. (7/28)

Atomic Blonde — Charlize Theron is a femme-fatale spy in 1989 Berlin, sent to investigate a murder and recover a list of double agents. Theron bought the rights to Antony Johnston’s graphic novel The Coldest City and reportedly trained four-to-five hours a day to ensure she could convince as a brawling badass. Reviews will start to come in shortly — the film premieres at SXSW on March 12 — and we can’t wait to see if it’s as enjoyable as it sounds. (7/28)

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.