10. Why We’re Killing Gunther – Having recently rewatched and thoroughly relished the incongruously hilarious mash-up ‘Kindergarten Cop’, I’m chomping at the bit to see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to commedia del arte. The premise is ripe for a Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movie with bungling assassins trying in vain to eliminate the most lionized hit man on the globe. I expect SNL alum Taran Killam to give Arnold a hip starring vehicle that will be raunchily funny and action-packed.
9. Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin’s eloquently labyrinthian dialogue is a top-tier vineyard wine. It is to be swirled around the mouth and savored. In his directorial debut, I imagine Sorkin will give Jessica Chastain the showcase that the glib Miss Sloane failed to do. Sorkin can be stagebound in his dialogue via A Few Good Men and this highly volatile memoir about an Olympic skier who establishes an international poker game could be a very sly caper movie. The scenes between Chastain and the FBI agents investigating her will crackle with vitriolic prose. Earmark this for a best screenplay nomination by the year’s terminus.
8. Blade Runner 2049– While I’m skeptical about Denis Villeneuve definitively answering the tantalizing question about Deckard’s possible replicant status, I can’t deny that his track record has been pretty spotless until now (save for the masturbatory pretension of ‘Enemy’). My hope is the film stays close to the roots of the original with less emphasis on rain-soaked chases and more reliance on the cerebral dreaminess and existentialism of the Philip K. Dick novel. Early prediction- with his ageless visage and blemish-less complexion, Jared Leto will be a renegade replicant and Dave Bautista will be his brawny accomplice.
7. The Snowman– Based on a best-seller that sprinkles clues along the trail, The Snowman signals Tomas Alfredson’s return to the literary, atmospheric dread of ‘Let the Right One In’. Alfredson gave that film a bone-chilling aura and the wintry Norwegian landscape of this adaptation should be within his repertoire. At one point, Martin Scorsese was attached to direct this which validates its merits. This film will not be for the faint of heart. Viscera and gore will be on ample display during this pulse-pounding murder mystery.
6. Stephen King’s It– Lest we forget how hamstrung and padded the original TV miniseries was, it’s an example of frittered opportunity (outside of Tim Curry’s tour-de-force performance). With a cast of newcomers and a liberation from network censors, this incarnation of It has already bristled my spine based on the indelibly creepy pictures of Bill Skarsgard’s elongated cranium in Renaissance garb and menacing Private Pyle glances. I do however wonder if the film will reinstate the taboo bonding scene of the boys communally having intercourse with their female friend before a showdown with Pennywise.
5. American Made– After the monumental critical acclaim of Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise collaborates with Doug Liman again for this gritty true story about a TWA pilot who moonlighted as a drug smuggler in the 1980’s. Cruise has taken a hiatus from kitchen-sink dramas for action blockbusters lately so it should be refreshing to see him back in stationary, non-jogging acting mode and in a MTV-era period setting where he can sport his signature ‘Risky Business’ Ray-Ban sunglasses. Also the film should be an illuminating snapshot of the Reagan administration shortly after the Iran-Contra imbroglio.
4. War for the Planet of the Apes- Andy Serkis has solidified himself as not just a mottled performer in a suit; he gives breadth to his mo-cap counterparts. Caesar is easily one of the best protagonists in the last few years and I’m highly anticipating how Matt Reeves continues this bleak, unremittingly dark franchise into a trilogy capper where the underappreciated Woody Harrelson is the foe against the primates. Epic pyrotechnics aside, this could be the Apocalypse Now of the seasoned franchise. Moreover, NAVY Seal frog men in camouflages versus rampaging apes sounds like an untapped set piece.
3. You Were Never Really Here- This is the biggest asterisk on the list as I was undoubtedly shaken to the core by Lynne Ramsey’s previous film ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ and a logline that insinuates an ides of March for a war veteran attempting to save a girl from a trafficking ring, automatically carries a moribund tone. With that in mind and one of my favorite chameleons in the lead (Joaquin Phoenix at his most disheleved), I think this could be a haunting thriller and reverberating statement on the savior mentality of embedded soldiers once they’re stateside. This could be one of those sleepers that flies under the radar but pulverizes the audience with the biggest impact.
2. The Professor and the Madman- Role reversals and cast-against-type movies typically peak cinephiles’ interests due to sheer curiosity. But when the actors in question are inimitable Sean Penn and Mel Gibson as the titular duo with Gibson as the less rabid of the two, eyebrows raise. The subject matter is quite unorthodox about the assembly of the first edition of the Oxford dictionary. Being a wordsmith myself, I find this to be a fertile topic to rummage through. With Hacksaw Ridge lending more credibility to Gibson in the director’s chair, perhaps this will resurrect his on-screen alter-ego as well.
1. Logan – Old Man Logan is considered among comic book fans to be the Holy Grail of the Wolverine saga and this adaptation of the source material should give Hugh Jackman a properly brooding, intimately white-knuckle swan song for his X-Men role. The images thus far has shown an elegiac, world-weary, post-apocalyptic chamber piece that is a stark contrast to the escapist fare of most superhero movies. It’s rare that a tentpole movie such as this feels as hermetically self-contained and the stakes feel reasonably high on a character-driven level. Also, if Deadpool can be lauded for anything, it paved the way for this capstone to the Wolverine storyline to be more adult-oriented and more of a grounded testosterone tearjerker.
Power Rangers- This revival of the kitschy guilty pleasure from my youth is strip-mined of the show’s flamboyant costumes (for tactile armor) and campy charm for a solemn superhero origin story.
Smurfs: The Lost Village- Just because it no longer has a live-action element doesn’t mean this still doesn’t look like a simpering, insipid animated movie for kids who are too sophisticated to enjoy it’s nonexistent delights.
Untitled Saw Film- Why is this being rebooted already? Also, the torture porn genre is deceased. Why try in vain to bring it back?