It’s hard to anticipate the great independent films, your foreign language classics, or just the genuine sleeper hits that come out every year, so my list will naturally highlight more of the blockbusters being released in 2017 that I’m most interested in.

Alien: Covenant        May 19

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Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Carmen Ejogo, Danny McBride

I hear the knocks on this prequel to the original Alien (1979) and sequel to Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise, Prometheus (2012). The trailer is underwhelming. Scott has grown complacent as a filmmaker. Prometheus wasn’t good. I disagree. Ridley Scott has always been slightly mercenary when it comes to making movies. He is still an expert craftsman, and I will always be excited about a new Alien film. In this installment, a ship by the name of Covenant comes upon what they think is an uninhabited paradise. What they find is the franchise’s trademark blend of sci-fi and horror. Michael Fassbender returns to his scene-stealing role as David the android, but, in this film, he will also play Walter, a brand new android. The new androids are consistently one of the best parts of the franchise. Having Fassbender in dual roles is like the filmmakers having their cake and eating it too-the best character from the previous film returns and you still get a new android.

Coco       November 22

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Directed by Lee Unkrich

Voices of Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal

Pixar hasn’t offered much information about this project. They have Cars 3 coming out first this year, and I imagine they want to focus on it, but I’m more interested in their newest original film. It’s been described as a Mexican Day of the Dead mystery with a 12 year old boy as its star. The Day of the Dead should offer the Pixar artists plenty of material to make something incredible. Lee Unkrich’s last effort at Pixar was the fantastic Toy Story 3 (2010).

Get Out               February 24

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Directed by Jordan Peele

Starring Daniel Kaluyaa, Alison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford

Watching the trailer for this film with an audience was a memorable experience for me. My sister and I were the only one laughing in the entire theater. This horror flick, advertised as from the mind behind Key and Peele, follows an interracial couple on a meet-the-parents type weekend. Chris, a black male, hopes to make a good impression on his soon to be white in laws. Weird things start happening, and Chris finds out that black people have been disappearing in this predominantly white neighborhood. It all plays out very seriously, but Peele knows what he is doing. He wants it to be both funny and scary, and based on the trailer, I’ll say he’s succeeded.

Jumanji                December 22

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Directed by Jake Kasdan

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas

The ’90s Jumanji starring Robin Williams was a big part of my childhood. What first comes to mind when I remember that film is how scary it was to me as a kid. So when I see that cast for this reboot, I worry that they are too focused on comedy and will let me down, and children of this generation, in the thrills department. Nevertheless, Hart and The Rock do have great chemistry, and a return to the world of Jumanji is welcome.

Logan             March 3

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Directed by James Mangold

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant

Hugh Jackman claims this will be his last go around in the iconic role as Logan/Wolverine. Jackman is so good in the role, and so many of these X-Men movies have been superior superhero films that it is frustrating that there has yet to be a bonafide great X-Men film. I’m hoping that Logan will be the one. R rated doesn’t mean much to me, but the filmmakers and star are pretty excited about it, so hopefully that means a darker, more mature work as Jackman’s send off.

Murder on the Orient Express         November 22

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Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Lucy Boynton, Penelope Cruz, Willem Defoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer

The Oscar winning, Sidney Lumet version of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel was a wonderful excuse for an all-star cast and stylistic indulgence. I’m hoping this remake follows its lead. A luxurious train trip gets derailed by a confounding murder where everyone is a suspect with a compelling motive. Christie’s most famous creation in Hercule Poirot will this time be played by Branagh (Albert Finney was Oscar nominated for the role in 1974). The all-star cast is already confirmed, and I will eagerly await to see if the film is as fun as its predecessor.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales         May 26

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Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario

People seem to be mostly apathetic to the further adventures of Jack Sparrow. Disney has spent a reported 320 million dollars on this newest project. Depp’s last two monster projects have been financial bombs (The Lone Ranger and Alice Through the Looking Glass). Pirates 5 in many ways appears bound to fail. I, however, am bound to love it, regardless of its success. I enjoy huge blockbusters. Bardem will play the main antagonist out to rid the world of Jack Sparrow, and I will be in theaters to watch it. Possibly by myself.

Spider-Man: Homecoming         July 7

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Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Zendaya

Of the upcoming superhero films, this one looks like the most fun. Spider-Man takes on the Vulture, which sounds kind of lame, but I’ve always found Peter Parker’s struggles more compelling than Spiderman’s, and I like the cast.

Star Wars Episode VIII            December 15

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Directed by Rian Johnson

Starring Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro

Taking a cue from their episode seven advertising campaign, Disney is giving fans nothing about the new Star Wars until they  can carefully ration it out little by little. We don’t even have a subtitle yet. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this film is heavily anticipated, so I’ll briefly talk about what I want from this episode. The classic characters (mainly Han Solo) carry The Force Awakens. New Characters (Poe Dameron and Finn specifically) need to come into their own. I would like more exotic, fresh locations-there was a lot of desert in episode 7. Signature moments-even the much maligned prequel trilogy had Christopher Lee vs. Yoda. Original story line-episode seven was A New Hope retread. That’s fine, but episode 8 cannot be an Empire Strikes Back retread if this trilogy is going to be special.

War for the Planet of the Apes          July 14

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Directed by Matt Reeves

Starring Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a blockbuster masterpiece. Based on the trailer, this sequel looks every bit as brooding and epic. It will never happen, but Andy Serkis has given Oscar worthy performances disguised by motion capture in this series, and Woody Harrelson  joins the fray as a lunatic human adversary. Will the apes finally take control of Earth once and for all?


-Walter Howard





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