The Top 10 to Close Out 2017

Halfway through 2017, a Woman, (X-)Man, and Baby have joined the family of film’s very best. Some big movies remain, however, in size, scope, and expectations. Here are the Magic Word’s most-anticipated.

1

Blade Runner 2049

Release Date: October 6

“I want more life….” Replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) might not have gotten his wish, but his movie did. The greatest sci-fi film of all time gets its sequel 35 years later, with Harrison Ford returning as Deckard and Ryan Gosling holstering the new Blade Runner blaster. Upon its debut, “Blade Runner” actually underwhelmed and underperformed. Since then, however, it’s developed more than a cult following, aided by filmmaker Ridley Scott’s far-better “Director’s Cut.” This time Scott is producing, with Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners”) behind the camera for a cast that also includes Jared Leto, Robin Wright, and Dave Bautista. With Villeneuve at the helm, it’s sure to be a beautiful-looking film. But can he replicate the moral mysteries of the first? We’ll find out in “2049.”

UPDATE: The Magic Word on “Blade Runner 2049”

2

Justice League

Release Date: November 17

This is it. This is what Warner Bros. has been waiting for, so much so they hastily crammed Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman together in the badly reviewed “Batman v Superman,” while untactfully teasing Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. With “Justice League,” DC Comics is testing its might versus Marvel’s and its studio’s wildly popular, and lucrative, cinematic universe. Director Zack Snyder also gets his shot at redemption, after being hammered by critics—unfairly and excessively so—for his last two DC Comics contributions (“BvS” and “Man of Steel”). He’ll have some help from Joss Whedon, who took over writing and directing duties after Snyder left the project over a family tragedy. Whedon was responsible for both Marvel “Avengers” movies. With him, and the hugely successful “Wonder Woman” winds behind it, “Justice League” could be the billion-dollar breakthrough DC so desperately wants—and needs.

3

Valerian and the City of a
Thousand Planets

Release Date: July 21

In “The Fifth Element,” director Luc Besson limited his action to one planet (and a galaxy-gliding cruise liner). In “Valerian,” he’s got “a Thousand.” And if the fun, sci-fi fantasy that is “The Fifth Element” is any indication, “Valerian” is going to be green—super green. The French director is adapting the French sci-fi comic series with Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan as its leads and Clive Owen and singer Rihanna in supporting roles. But with relatively smaller stars, the launching of a new property (and a space-opera one at that), and an opening box-office battle against Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” (see below), the domestic draw will likely put Besson’s “Fifth Element”-style film in second. For this series to take off, he’s going to need the entire planet.

UPDATE: My Columbus Alive review of “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

4

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Release Date: December 15

The Force is awake. Now it’s time to put some questions to bed. Who are Rey’s parents? Who is, or are, the “Last Jedi”? Does Luke turn to the Dark Side? Who is Snoke and why was he created with computer graphics instead of more realistic and better-looking makeup and prosthetics? It’s up to “Looper” and “Breaking Bad” writer-director Rian Johnson to answer them, in assuming duties from J.J. Abrams. Johnson also likely will take the series in darker, unexpected, and hopefully more original directions, compared with Abrams, whose playful “Awakens” entry basically cloned the original classic. And with “Jurassic World’s” Colin Trevorrow leading the last installment in the saga series, “The Last Jedi” is Star Wars fans’ best chances at “Empire Strikes Back”-like perfection. Help us, Rian Johnson; you’re our only hope.

5

Dunkirk

Release Date: July 21

It was one of Hitler’s biggest losses. Christopher Nolan is hoping it’s his biggest win. “Dunkirk” is clearly the director’s non-aggressive assault on the Academy. Nolan has a penchant for casting Oscar nominees and winners. Now he wants one. And audiences won’t have to wait long to see if it’s worthy: “Dunkirk” is Nolan’s shortest film since his directorial debut. But it also will be one of his biggest, in that Nolan shot most of the movie with an IMAX camera. “Dunkirk” looks to have the gritty visuals of “Saving Private Ryan” and visceral feel of “The Thin Red Line.” And though Nolan does have his Terrence Malick tendencies, he also has Spielbergian appeal, which will make “Dunkirk” big at both the box office and Oscar ballot box. “There’s no hiding from this….”

UPDATE: The Magic Word on “Dunkirk.”

6

War for the Planet of the Apes

Release Date: July 14

“Rise” was a pleasant surprise. “Dawn” rose above “Rise.” Can “War” really offer even more? Matt Reeves returns to direct his second, and likely last, “Apes” before moving on to another cinematic species: “The Batman.” Woody Harrelson is the antagonist to ape, the next human trying to end their evolution, while Andy Serkis again plays Caesar, in what should certainly earn him an Oscar nomination for yet another, masterful motion-capture performance. And though that Oscar nod could prove controversial, one should be awarded based on what’s seen in the trailer alone: Weta Digital’s visual effects. It’s the best in the business. And if “War” is just as good, it could very well be remembered—in competition with “Star Wars Episodes IV-VI,” the “Toy Story” trio, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman series—as the greatest trilogy of all time.

UPDATE: The Magic Word on “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

7

Logan Lucky

Release Date: August 18

Trade Las Vegas, Nevada for Concord, North Carolina; George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon for Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig; 11, 12, and 13 for (the Coca-Cola) 600. That’s “Logan Lucky.” Steven Soderbergh started the breakout—from his own retirement—to make what essentially looks like another one of his “Ocean’s” movies. But that’s not a complaint. It looks like a blast, worth the price of entry for Craig’s sassily salty Joe Bang alone.

8

It

Release Date: September 8

“It” almost lost it. “True Detective” director Cary Joji Fukunaga was adapting the Stephen King novel into two movies when he departed the project over story-related creative differences with the studio. “Mama” maker Andrés Muschietti took over, supposedly still envisioning “It” as a two-movie tale, with relative newcomer Bill Skarsgård playing creepy clown Pennywise. Overcoming all its early scares, “It” now could be the hit horror film of the year.

UPDATE: The Magic Word on “It”

9

Murder on the Orient Express

Release Date: November 22

A welcome remake. Not based on a comic book or bygone box-office bonanza, but rather the Agatha Christie crime classic. First adapted by Oscar-nominated director Sydney Lumet in 1974, Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh is tackling this next train ride. And he’s bringing along some friends from the Academy: Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer. A period piece. A murder mystery. Get a ticket to ride.

10

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Release Date: September 22

Its spy-sleeper of a predecessor made nearly half-a-billion dollars worldwide on a budget of just $81 million. Of course writer-director Matthew Vaughn couldn’t pass up this “Golden” opportunity to continue his know-no-boundaries Bond. Taron Egerton suits up again as Eggsy, with Mark Strong returning as Merlin and Colin Firth (somehow) reprising Harry. Newcomers include Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, and even Elton John. If Vaughn’s other fantastical, fast-paced action films are any indication, this “Circle” will surely be full of life.

UPDATE: The Magic Word on “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

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