As we look forward into a new year fresh with hope and optimism, entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a look at ten movies worth checking out in 2017.

10. John Wick Chapter 2 — directed by Chad Stahelski (February)

The original John Wick was a surprising, ultraviolent breath of fresh air, starring a world-weary Keanu Reeves and a whole lot of disposable Russian gangsters.

The sequel features an extensive cast including Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Peter Stormare and Laurence Fishburn, most of whom are likely to die in violent and inventive ways.

Much like the upcoming Fate of the Furious, John Wick Chapter 2 has no pretensions of being high art and embraces its pulp roots. Reeves is enjoying something of a career renaissance off the back of his performance in the first film, and there is no reason that John Wick couldn’t be turned into a more hardcore version of the Bourne series.

9. Blade Runner 2049 — directed by Denis Villeneuve (October 6th)

Produced by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford alongside hunks-du-jour Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto, Blade Runner 2049 is a direct sequel to the 1982 classic. While this mere 35 year gap is dwarfed by the 63 years between Bambi films, it still feels like a long time between drinks.

While the specifics of the plot have been kept under wraps, we know that Gosling plays a Blade Runner named Officer K in an even more messed up, dystopian future. Director Villeneuve has proven a deft hand with thrillers including Prisoners and Sicario but it remains to be seen whether he can handle something with the scope of Blade Runner.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 — directed by James Gunn (May)

The first Guardians of the Galaxy film had the luxury of low expectations. Starring a bunch of unknown, C-list comic book characters including a talking raccoon and an animated tree, the movie had the potential to be all kinds of awful. Fortunately, it seems Marvel studios are unable to put a foot wrong, and the movie turned out to be a thrilling action flick with an overdose of charm courtesy of star Chris Pratt and the aforementioned Rocket Raccoon/Groot combo.

Three years after the success of the first movie (grossing over $770 million globally), expectations are significantly higher for the sequel. The entire cast of the first film returns and adds heavyweights Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell to the fold, the latter playing Star-Lords father, the cosmic entity known as Ego The Living Planet. And also Baby Groot. Bring it on.

7. The Lego Batman Movie — directed by Chris McKay (February)

The original Lego Movie was a surprise hit, making almost half a billion dollars at the global box office. A good chunk of this success could be attributed to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who managed to capture the endless creative possibilities of Lego while still telling an entertaining and vaguely coherent story (are you listening, Pixels?). Alongside stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Ferrell, a character who only had minutes of screen time stole the movie — Will Arnett’s Batman.

Now joined by youthful ward Robin (played with pantless zeal by Michael Cera), loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and Batgirl (Rosario Dawson), the Dark Knight must face a diabolical trio of foes; Joker (Zack Galifianakis), Two-Face (Billy-Dee Williams) and Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate). With Ben Affleck’s Batman solo flick rumoured for 2018 the battle is on for best Batman of the new millennium!

6. Star Wars Episode VIII — directed by Rian Johnson (December)

This movie could be two hours of Daisy Ridley reading poetry and it would still make a billion dollars at the box office. With prequel/side story Rogue One pulling in over $920 million to date it seems that the Disney-owned franchise can do no wrong, and as a result plan to release a new Star Wars universe movie every December from now until the end of time…

Almost 12 months out from release we have almost no details of the plot beyond the fact that Luke Skywalker returns and Han Solo doesn’t, along with the slightly worrying suggestion that Disney will simply CG characters that are no longer around. While this wasn’t too offensive (depending on who you ask) with Christopher Lee’s General Tarkin in Rogue One, I’m really hoping that director Rian Johnson realizes that replacing Carrie Fisher with a cartoon character is not a good idea….

5. Alien: Covenant — directed by Ridley Scott

Less of a sequel to the much-derided Prometheus and more of an attempt to give the tired Alien franchise a new lease on life, Covenant sees the return of Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace, two talented actors who came out of Prometheus looking vaguely embarrassed but generally okay. Joining Fassbender and Rapace this time around are Katherine Waterston, James Franco and Guy Pearce as the bad guy, because that’s what Guy Pearce plays these days.

While Ridley Scott couldn’t be convinced to return to the director’s chair for Blade Runner 2049, the 79 year old director is having another crack at the universe he created 37 years ago. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, as Scott’s directorial output has been patchy since 2001’s Black Hawk Down, with 2015’s The Martian standing head and shoulders above dreck like Exodus: Gods & Kings and A Good Year.

4. Dunkirk — directed by Christopher Nolan (July)

Directed by Christopher Nolan and filmed on location in France, Dunkirk tells the story of the Allied evacuation known as Operation Dynamo, where over 300,000 soldiers from Britain, France, Canada and Belgium were saved from certain death at the hands of the surrounding German army. Who would you cast in such an important historical film? Why the pretty bloke from One Direction, of course!

Starring Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy along with Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh and Oscar winner Mark Rylance, Dunkirk looks set to be a big, important war movie in the tradition of Saving Private Ryan. As directed by Nolan the film should be visually spectacular, but one has to wonder how much more can be added to the WW2 narrative that hasn’t been said before…  

3. Spider-Man: Homecoming — directed by Jon Watts (July)

You all know Spider-Man, right? The wall-crawling, web-slinging superhero was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in 1962, and since then has become one of the key heroes of the Marvel Universe. The character first appeared on TV in 1969, but didn’t make the leap to the big screen until 2002 with the vaguely wet Tobey Maguire in the lead role. Maguire wore the tights through one great and one awful sequel, then was dumped for the younger Andrew Garfield for a couple of underwhelming Amazing Spider-Man flicks in 2012 and 2014.

A deal between Sony and Marvel pictures cleared the way for the return of Spider-Man to the larger Marvel cinematic universe, and the character was re-introduced in the excellent Captain America: Civil War. Now played by young Brit Tom Holland, the character was note-perfect for the first time, from the New York accent to the mid-battle wisecracks. It will be interesting to see what novice director Jon Watts brings to the table, although the addition of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man is an almost guaranteed recipe for success.

2. Logan — directed by James Mangold (March 3rd)

While the Wolverine film series has been a mixed bag at best, this purported final installment is loosely based on the critically acclaimed Old Man Logan storyline. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the comic series told the story of the broken man Logan had become after the death of the X-Men, disavowing violence and settling down with his wife and daughter. Of course, when the redneck mutant offspring of the Hulk come calling, things can only go bad… 

Seemingly dropping the vaguely racist Hulk-spawn in favour of the more sympathetic X-23/surrogate daughter storyline, the movie’s bleached, washed-out aesthetic perfectly fits the broken man that Logan has become. Director James Mangold is responsible for quality movies such as Cop Land, Walk The Line and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, so fingers crossed that he can end the Hugh Jackman chapter of the Wolverine saga on a high note.

1. Wonder Woman — directed by Patty Jenkins (June)

Created in 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman was a founding member of the iconic Justice League, has remained a feminist icon since her creation, and was briefly made UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls before a bunch of killjoys protested and had her dropped. In the comic book universe, Wonder Woman has also recently been revealed as being bisexual, which makes perfect sense considering she spent hundreds of years on an island with no men.

Defying the lazy critic’s cliché insult of “model slash actress”, Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman was the best thing about last year’s ultra-dark Batman vs Superman. She brought light and humour to a movie desperately lacking in both and seemed like a genuine badass as she took on CGI poop-creature Doomsday. It will take a lot for many to think of anyone else but Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, but 2017 might be the year that it happens …

IA subscribers may listen to entertainment editor John Turnbull discuss movies, music and conspiracy theories with managing editor Dave Donovan in the latest members only Independent Australia podcast HERE.

Like what you read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee, you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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