Entertainment Movies

2017's most anticipated films from 'The Mummy' to 'Baywatch'

By Bruce Kirkland, Special to Postmedia Network

'Baywatch'

'Baywatch'

Hollywood is known, of course, for following the road more travelled, trying to minimize risk. So it is that some of this year’s “original” movies are really remakes or spinoffs from old television series. That said, there are a few real originals set for release in the next 12 months. Putting them all together, here are 17 big titles for 2017, all of them remakes, originals or TV-inspired.

Live by Night (Jan. 13): Ben Affleck directs himself in a Prohibition era gangster movie. Styling his film in the manner of Barry Levinson’s Bugsy (1991) with Warren Beatty, screenwriter Affleck plumbed another Dennis Lehane novel for his own morally ambiguous tale. The visually splendid canvas he paints is populated with thugs, high-style mobsters and a Cuban contingent led by Zoe Saldana as part of a rum-running family.

The Great Wall (Feb. 17): The financial, artistic and cultural impact of China on Hollywood has never been more prominent. Matt Damon stars as a European warrior-explorer caught in the jaws of a war staged at the Wall. The story is set during the Song Dynasty of 1,000 years ago. Monsters are involved. China’s great master, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero), directs an international ensemble cast. The trailer makes it obvious the movie will be visually fantastic.

Kong: Skull Island (March 10): The King Kong franchise and legacy is being rebooted with a new story set in the 1970s. Tom Hiddleston, playing a former British SAS officer, heads a team exploring a Pacific island, where they cross over into the world of monsters and Kong. Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) is another inexperienced yet promising filmmaker selected for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Beauty and the Beast (March 17): Forget the now-quaint TV series of the 1980s. Bill Condon’s film is a live-action remake of the Walt Disney animation from 1991. The classic French fairy tale from the 1700s will now be a romantic musical starring Emma Watson (the Harry Potter co-star) as Belle and Dan Stevens (from Downton Abbey) as the Beast. Expect big and bold: Condon filmed Dreamgirls and Chicago.

Power Rangers (March 24): The vaunted kids’ franchise is back again, with its first movie version in the new millennium. South African filmmaker Dean Israelite is now in post-production on this effects-driven, live-action thriller starring five youngsters who become the new Power Rangers. That happens when they accidentally come across the ancient Power Coins that give them their powers. Bryon Cranston stars as Zordon, their mentor.

Ghost in the Shell (March 31): Directed by Englishman Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), this is the first live-action version of Masamune Shirow’s legendary manga. While unfairly controversial for the casting — with Scarlett Johansson as The Major — this is an exciting science fiction project. Especially if it matches the quality of the Ghost in the Shell anime films from Mamoru Oshii. Key point to understand: As Oshii once told me, female character in mangas were partly westernized, right from the beginning, for complex cultural reasons in post-WWII Japan. Johansson looks like a living manga character. Let us see what she does on-screen before complaining about her casting!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12): Englishman Guy Ritchie (famous for two Sherlock Holmes movies) goes further back in British history this time. The 5th century Arthurian legend is revisited with Charlie Hunnam as the future king who is inspired by the powers of the sword Excalibur. Ritichie’s film shows how he leads his followers against the mythical warlord Vortigern.

Baywatch (May 19): Everything old is new again. Seth Gordon (Identity Thief) revives the cheesy TV series of the 1990s as a comedy movie. Dwayne Johnson adds muscle, Zac Efron provides the male sex appeal and Alexandra Daddario leads the bikini-clad female contingent.

The Mummy (June 9): Set up as the first instalment of the modern Universal Monsters series, Alex Kurtzman’s movie is a reboot of the popular 1930s franchise that was already revisited several times before. Tom Cruise headlines this fresh version. Algerian actress and hip-hop musician Sofia Boutella is featured as Princess Amunet and, of course, as The Mummy herself. Russell Crowe also appears as Dr. Jekyll.

Dunkirk (July 21): Based on the famous Dunkirk evacuation of 1940 — which Winston Churchill cited as a “miracle of deliverance” — Christopher Nolan’s film dramatizes a WWII event that changed Allied strategies in their struggle against German Nazi tyranny. Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance headline a strong ensemble.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21): Filmed in English by French filmmaker Luc Besson (Nikita, the Fifth Element), this sci-fi adventure was adapted from the French comic book series by Pierre Christin. Dane DeHaan stars as the space traveller Valerian with Cara Delevingne as his Laureline.

The Dark Tower (July 28): This will be a big year for horrormeister Stephen King. For this sci-fi horror project, Danish director Nikolaj Arcel was tasked with following up on King’s Dark Tower novels. The new story is inspired by the novels but set up as a sequel to King’s final book. Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey and youngster Tom Taylor co-star. The boy finds himself in another dimension called Mid-World, where he encounters Elba, as a knight on a quest, and McConaughey, as a sorcerer.

It (Sept. 8): Beware the killer clown phenomenon. Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel finally morphs into a Hollywood movie. Argentine Andrés Muschietti directs Bill Skarsgard as the shape-shifting, evil entity “It” while teen Jaeden Lieberher heads up The Losers’ Club which sits at the heart of a murder mystery.

American Made (Sept. 29): Because Tom Cruise is relentless and refuses to back down, he stars in another big film of 2017. This one is Doug Liman’s true-life biopic of American drug smuggler Barry Seal. He was a former pilot who also became a CIA informer and led Ronald Reagan’s White House into the murky Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s.

Cloverfield Movie (Oct. 27): The third instalment in J.J. Abrams’ Cloverdale franchise was originally titled God Particle. Julius Onah’s outer space thriller stars David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl and Chris O’Dowd.

Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 22): Actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s new version of this enduring mystery story is based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel, not the 1974 and 2001 films. Branagh stars as Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot, while surrounding himself with name actors in support roles. Among them are Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and fresh Star Wars star Daisy Ridley. When filmmaker Branagh calls, everybody answers.

Downsizing (Dec. 22): Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne returns with a surreal fantasy drama about a married couple who decide to shrink themselves down to escape their hectic lives. Unfortunately for the husband, who goes first, his wife decides not to follow. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig co-star in this satire, with Christoph Waltz in a key support role.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

BKirkland@postmedia.com