February 2017 Movie Preview
We’re coming to the end of awards-season and 2017 is starting to come into its own. Soon we will no longer have confusion as to what constitutes a 2016 movie or a 2017 movie. But that time is not quite there as we still have a few more Oscar contenders sprinkled in amongst the first heavy-hitters of the year. Without further ado, let’s dive right into February 2017.
February 3rd 2017
Cast your mind back to 2013 and it would seem that Matthew McConaughey was on top of the world. He’d recently had a career renaissance (a “McConaissance” if you will) with breakout roles in ‘Mud‘, ‘Magic Mike‘, ‘Tropic Thunder‘ and ‘The Lincoln Lawyer‘ and in 2013 he had a meme-worthy role in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ and won the Oscar for “Best Actor” with ‘Dallas Buyers Club‘. But since then, apart from bagging the lead role in ‘Interstellar‘ he’s mainly settled for directing and starring in Lincoln Car commercials and doing voiceover work in ‘Kubo and the Two Strings‘ and ‘Sing‘ and also starring in failed awards contenders ‘Sea of Trees‘ and ‘Free State of Jones‘.
However, ‘Gold‘ does not look set to re-correct his career trajectory. Despite being distributed by the Weinstein Company, it’s been terribly marketed and hasn’t racked up any awards traction. Which is a bit of a shame, because ‘Gold‘ (a heavily dramatised re-telling of the Bre-X mining scandal) has a very talented cast and an intriguing marketing campaign. Reviews have been tepid and this feels like an awards-hopeful/’The Wolf of Wall Street‘ rip-off that just never came together. At least McConaughey has ‘The Dark Tower‘ in 2017.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter –
It’s safe to say that not since ‘Saw‘ has a horror franchise gone so ridiculously off the rails yet remained so oddly consistence as the “Resident Evil” series (which is strange since the RE franchise is 2 years older than the ‘Saw‘ franchise). Starting in 2002 and spanning now-six films, this series has been an oddly passionate endeavour from director Paul W.S. Anderson to showcase how hot his wife Milla Jovovich is. It’s an admirable endeavour, but the films as a result of it have been less than stellar. In fact, with the previous five films I don’t think there’s a single good one to be found.
That’s not to say there aren’t good moments and that they don’t have their fans, but they’re so far removed from the horror genre and the video game series that they’re based off that they feel incredibly disposable. And it seems that Sony feels the same way by slapping on “The Final Chapter” to the title, which roughly means we have five more films set in space to get through. Still, if this is the last effort of the franchise then I’m sure fans will be happy, the nay-sayers will continue to nay-say and hopefully the cast and crew can move onto bigger and better things.
Under normal circumstances in this preview I’d probably spend these two paragraphs talking about the history of the “Ring/Ringu” franchise in preparation for this sequel/reboot. However, this film comes with exceptional circumstances in that it wrapped production in the Summer of 2015. Originally pegged for a November 2015 release, the film was pulled from the release schedule at the last minute and moved to April 2016. A month and a half before THAT release date, it was delayed to October 2016 to take the place of Paramount Pictures’ now-finished “Paranormal Activity” franchise but was booted out of the prime Halloween slot and delayed to now.
That troubled production should be sending alarm bells ringing and it’s a shame for Spanish director F. Javier Gutiérrez who is making his first big mainstream horror film. Reviews have been terrible, the trailers haven’t impressed and it looks like it’s not even remotely going to do the original 1998 Japanese Horror or the 2002 American remake or its 2005 sequel (and there’s your brief history).
February 10th 2017
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk –
Much like ‘Gold‘, ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk‘ is another movie that was aiming for Oscar potential but has entirely come up short. Based off the 2012 Ben Fountain novel of the same name, ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk‘ stars newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn, a 19 year old soldier who has fought in the Middle-East and is labelled a hero after rescuing his wounded Sergeant (played by Vin Diesel) in the middle of a firefight. He’s made to headline a victory tour which culminates in a Thanksgiving Halftime Show during a Dallas Cowboys Football game, but he’s conflicted on being celebrated for the worst day of his life.
It’s a great concept with plenty of drama to mine and director Ang Lee has produced some brilliant work (sans ‘Life of Pi‘ which was pretty pants). There are even screenings of the film showing it at 120-frames per second which, while ludicrous to me, is something I’d like to check out. But it’s not gained much awards-traction, the reviews have been pretty mediocre and even the 120-fps gimmick has been heavily criticised. It might make for interesting counter-programming, but this might be a halftime show worth skipping.
Much like ‘Manchester By The Sea‘ last month, ‘Fences‘ is a highly acclaimed Oscar-contender that is an “actor’s movie”. Directed by Denzel Washington and based off the August Wilson play of the same name, ‘Fences‘ is a slice-of-life drama about an African-American family living in Pittsburgh in the 1950s. August Wilson is also credited for writing the screenplay as he was able to complete it before his death in 2005. It’s good timing on Paramount Pictures’ part as the #OscarSoWhite backlash last year as forced the academy to cast their net further for nominations resulting in ‘Fences‘ receiving four; Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
‘Fences‘ is a film that I’m looking forward to seeing, but one that I’m not especially hyped about, mainly because it’s an “actor’s movie” and I don’t get too jazzed up about those pre-release (not saying those types of movies are bad, but I prefer films with as a more complete package as opposed to a feature-length showreel). We’ve got two great leads with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, a strong central premise and the trailers have been incredibly effective. Also, expect Viola Davis to walk away with that “Best Supporting Actress” trophy.
Fifty Shades Darker –
Oh hell no…
As many of you already know, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ was easily the worst movie I saw in 2015 as well as one of the most depressing movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. The only solace in watching such a terrible, irresponsible and dreadful piece of filmmaking is that most of the creative people who worked on it hated it just as much as I did. In the wake of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ breaking box-office records in the face of a critical mauling, director Sam Taylor-Johnson left the project, screenwriter Kelly Marcel left and for months Universal Pictures couldn’t find anyone willing to direct the follow-up; ‘Fifty Shades Darker‘. It was actually pretty gratifying knowing that multiple directors refused to touch the project.
But the show goes on and we have director James Foley and author E.L. James’ husband Niall Leonard wrote the screenplay. This sequel looks terrible, it’s clear the lead actors have no interest being a part of the franchise, reviews have actually been WORSE than the first (holy shit, what are we in for?) and the box-office is already down quite significantly from the first. Let’s hope this franchise ends quickly, already.
The Space Between Us –
Now this film’s history is hugely disappointing. As you can see from the above poster, ‘The Space Between Us‘ was pegged for a late-Summer 2016 release date. Originally it was July before being pushed to August and then it was pushed to December 21st, then December 16th and now February 2017. Despite a rather weak (though not terrible) initial trailer I was optimistic for ‘The Space Between Us‘ because it’s a wholly original film, being distributed by STX Entertainment (who have made great original content recently like ‘The Gift‘ and ‘Bad Moms‘) and the premise resonated with me.
Asa Butterfield plays a teenage boy who was born in space and several questions are raised about whether or not he’ll be able to survive on earth when he gets back. That’s a topic that mankind will have to genuinely address one day and we’ve got a talented cast including Butterfield, Gary Oldman, Britt Robertson, Carla Gugino and B.D. Wong. However, the reviews have been terrible and it seems like director Peter Chelsom is unable to break his recent terrible streak of films. I’m genuinely disappointed about what I’m hearing but my fingers are firmly crossed that there will be merit to be found here.
The LEGO Batman Movie –
I’m one of those guys who, in 2012 when production started on ‘The LEGO Movie‘, was incredibly sceptical of the feature-length toy commercial. However, not only did it turn out to be an awesome animated movie but it was one of the best films that 2014 had to offer, hands-down. In fact, it was a legitimate news story when it was snubbed for “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars because not only should it have been nominated but it should have WON. One of the stand-out characters of ‘The LEGO Movie‘ was Batman, voiced by Will Arnett. Essentially a walking-talking “eff-you!” to recent grim n’ gritty 90s trends of the character, he frequently stole the show, but can he work as a character in his own movie?
Well, obviously the answer is yes because Batman has sustained a movie multiple times and has had massive staying power as a character since his creation in the late-1930s. Boasting a terrific marketing campaign and a stellar voice cast including Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, Michael Cera as Robin and Zack Galifianakis as the Joker, ‘The LEGO Batman Movie‘ is easily one of my most anticipated movies of 2017, let alone February. Let’s see this iconic hero get deconstructed in a fun yet compelling way.
February 17th 2017
The Founder –
In a similar situation to ‘Gold‘, ‘The Founder‘ was another Oscar-hopeful under the arm of the Weinstein Company but despite great talent and a great concept it has crossed the finish-line empty handed. ‘The Founder‘ tells the story of the founding of McDonalds, or rather the theft of McDonalds. The fast-food chain was created by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch respectively) in the 1940s and in the 1950s Ray Kroc (here played by Michael Keaton) encouraged the brothers to franchise the operation and he ultimately stole the business right out from under them.
It’s a terrific story to portray on film and after the success of ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)‘ and ‘Spotlight‘ it was thought that this could be the one-two-three-knockout for Keaton to FINALLY get an Academy Award. But it’s had such little presense on the awards-circuit when compared to previous Weinstein productions that it feels mismanaged, unlike the McDonalds chain. The film looks awesome, although critics have been lukewarm on it but I’m still looking forward to seeing ‘The Founder‘. Maybe there’s a reason the Oscars weren’t fawning all over it.
The Great Wall –
The premise of ‘The Great Wall‘ is pretty clear-cut. The action-fantasy movie posits that the Great Wall of China was built in order to keep out giant monsters and Matt Damon along with the Song Dynasty-era Chinese Army have to fight them off. Sounds like a fun premise for an action film. However, what’s FAAAAR more interesting than the film’s premise is the social/cultural circumstances that inform its creation.
With China accounting for a massive amount of international box-office revenue, Hollywood has made many attempts to pander to that region when making tentpole blockbusters. Films like ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction‘, ‘Iron Man 3‘, ‘Terminator Genisys‘, ‘Warcraft: The Beginning‘ and more have taken extra steps to profit from this increasing revenue-stream and ‘The Great Wall‘ marks the first huge attempt in modern cinema for the Western and Eastern Movie industries to collaborate and it’s down to ‘Hero‘ and ‘House of Flying Daggers‘ director Zhang Yimou to lead the charge. It’s not been that well reviewed, but it made back its production-budget in China alone so, financially, this experiment has been a success.
Hidden Figures –
It’s unlikely that ‘Hidden Figures‘ will walk away with many Oscars this month despite being nominated for three (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress) however, it will be able to metaphorically walk away from the ceremony with its head held high as the movie that could. It took almost everyone by surprise thanks to a modest marketing campaign and being based on a relatively obscure true story without much spectacle. It’s a film about mathematics and science, yet it’s managed to become a huge commercial success and is the highest grossing movie in U.S. history that is led by African American woman (the previous record-holder was ‘Sister Act‘ in 1992).
‘Hidden Figures‘ is set in the early 1960s when racial segregation was still common-place in America. It follows the African American women working within NASA on the calculations that put America ahead in the space-race. The film is led by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons pulling supporting duty. Director Theodore Melfi’s last movie ‘St. Vincent‘ hardly made any waves but with ‘Hidden Figures‘ he’s made a name for himself for directing one of 2016/17’s most notable dark-horses.
John Wick: Chapter 2 –
The original ‘John Wick‘ in 2014 was mainly a side-project for almost everyone involved. It received very little marketing, it was directed by a duo of stunt-men and it could have been mistaken for almost any other revenge-action film. But when it was finally released it became a relatively notable sleeper-hit making four-times its production budget at the box-office, garnering huge critical acclaim and put the then-49 year old Keanu Reeves back on the map as an action-star.
And I have yet to watch it…
Don’t worry, I WILL be watching ‘John Wick‘ this month to prepare for ‘John Wick: Chapter 2‘ and I really don’t have an excuse for not watching it before now. But I’m looking forward to this double-feature and while the trailers for this second instalment haven’t wowed me, the critical praise has been huge and I’m pumped.
Here’s another Oscar contender, but this time we have a front-runner. Last year after the #OscarSoWhite controversy, it seems the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made a concerted effort to look at more diverse films and for a while the front-runner was ‘Birth of a Nation‘. However, a series of allegations made against its director dismantled its chances at further awards-success. The replacement (for last of a better term) “black movie” has become ‘Moonlight‘, netting eight nominations; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.
‘Moonlight‘ (based off the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney) tells the story of a young black boy living in Miami and chronicles his young-adult life. Instead of going for a ‘Boyhood‘ approach, director Barry Jenkins cast three separate actors to play the character at different points of his life. And hopefully, unlike ‘Boyhood‘, Jenkins will actually have a point to make with ‘Moonlight‘. Reviews have been glowing, its Oscar-chances are high, this is a safe-bet this February.
February 23rd 2017
Patriots Day –
In 2012 when director Peter Berg made ‘Battleship‘ for Universal Pictures he did so under the condition that he could direct ‘Lone Survivor‘ starring Mark Wahlberg. ‘Battleship‘ was a flop but ‘Lone Survivor‘ was a sleeper hit. He’s decided to follow up that success with a compelling true story based on a recent event starring Mark Wahlberg as an all-American hero who rose to the occasion when the need required. All capped off with a gripping and sombre marketing campaign. I’m talking of course about ‘Deepwater Horizon‘.
Oh yeah, and I guess ‘Patriots Day‘ exists as well.
Using almost identical trailers to ‘Deepwater Horizon‘, ‘Patriots Day‘ re-tells the recent Boston Marathon Bombings through the eyes of those who experienced it, and also Mark Wahlberg as a fictional guy who somehow sees absolutely everything. Honestly, nothing about this film has me intrigued or excited to see it. I may have been burned out on this type of story after ‘Deepwater Horizon‘ and while the reviews have been good, they’ve been pretty poor by critics who I normally follow/trust. Who knows, this could be good, but I’m not rushing to see ‘Patriots Day‘.
February 24th 2017
A Cure For Wellness –
Coming from “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy director gore Verbinski and ‘Revolutionary Road‘ screenwriter Justin Haythe is one of 2017’s most interesting looking original films. ‘A Cure For Wellness‘ follows Dane DeHaan as a young employee sent to a mysterious “wellness centre” to retrieve the company’s C.E.O. The result is…trippy and disturbing and insane.
This film looks awesome.
The mixed reviews have kinda taken the wind out of my anticipation-sails but I’m still pretty excited to see what insane concepts like this look like with a mid-tiered budget. It’ll also be good to see Verbinski break out of his recent rut of trying to recreate the success of “POTC” which is a shadow that will likely loom over his career for a while. Either way, ‘A Cure For Wellness‘ looks like insane counter-programming and I’m morbidly curious.
And that ends a varied February 2017. Lots of different films covering a range of genres, prestige, quality and scope. In no particular order my most anticipated films of the month are;
- ‘The LEGO Batman Movie‘
- ‘The Founder‘
- ‘Hidden Figures‘
What are you all looking forward to this February? Are there any other releases that I missed that you can’t wait to see? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!
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Posted: 15th Feb 17