The Fall and Winter 2017 holiday season is upon us and brings with it Marvel/DC Comics adaptations, a Star Wars movie, and an original Pixar film, among other end of year goodies. Hollywood’s Fall started with a bang thanks to the runaway critical and commercial success of IT, though things have cooled off a bit at the box office since then. Looking forward to the final two months of the year, 2017 aims to end on a high note by unleashing one final wave of anticipated tentpole releases and buzzed-about awards season contenders.
Many of the most talked-about Oscar hopefuls will be playing in a limited theatrical release throughout this December (see The Shape of Water, Molly’s Game, and so forth), before going into wide release next January. Since these movies won’t be widely available to audiences until 2018 rolls around, our preview for the final two months of 2017 will focus on those films that are going to be playing in theaters around the country during that frame. Our list includes not only some of the biggest tentpoles of the year in general, but also some options that the whole family can enjoy, and even some titles specifically geared towards adults.
Here are our 10 Films to Check Out Over the Fall and Winter Holidays in 2017.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3rd)
Just like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kicked off the summer, the fall/winter holiday season shifts into high gear with the release of another Marvel Studios film – Thor: Ragnarok. The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hales from director Taika Waititi, the New Zealand filmmaker previously best known for quirky comedies like What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Ragnarok picks up with the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) as he seeks to protect the Nine Realms from the apocalypse brought upon by the Goddess of Death herself, Hela (Cate Blanchett). Joining Thor on his latest adventure is his Avengers teammate Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his frenemy/brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and a new ally in the warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).
Neither of the previous two Thor movies are typically ranked among the best MCU films, nor are they among the most popular with audiences. Early reviews for Ragnarok paint a different picture, suggesting that Waititi’s 1980s-inspired cosmic buddy adventure is a proper crowd-pleaser and that Marvel Studios will go three-for-three on the big screen this year.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 10)
Sandwiched between the release of Marvel and DC’s latest superhero movies is a film about another sort of superhero (check that, super-sleuth) altogether. That would be Agatha Christie’s iconic detective Hercule Poirot, brought to life here by Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express: an adaptation of Christie’s novel that Branagh also directed.
The premise for Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is simple enough: someone is killed on the eponymous train in the midst of a long journey and Poirot must figure out who did it. Problem is, it turns out there’s more than one shifty passenger aboard the Orient Express and they’re willing to kill again, if it means covering up their tracks in the process.
With classic source material and a cast overflowing with big name talent (Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Penélope Cruz, and so forth), Murder on the Orient Express may offer a nice change of pace from November’s blockbuster releases. To be honest, the film is probably worth seeing just for Branagh’s gigantic silver mustache alone.
Wonder (November 17)
Those not in the mood to watch DC’s biggest superheroes team up on the big screen (more on them shortly) mid-November may find the perfect piece of counter programming in Wonder. Based on R.J. Palacio’s best-selling 2012 novel of the same name, Wonder was brought to the big screen under the watchful eye of The Perks of Being a Wallflower author/filmmaker Stephen Chbosky, in the director’s chair.
Room‘s Jacob Tremblay stars in Wonder as August “Auggie” Pullman, a young boy born with noticeable facial differences; who, upon reaching fifth grade age, attends a regular elementary school for the first time. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson costar in the film as Auggie’s parents, while Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) and Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs also play key supporting roles in the story.
Chbosky, who was also a cowriter on Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, hasn’t directed a film since Perks of Being a Wallflower hit theaters five years ago. As his long waited followup, Wonder could prove to be another stirring coming of age narrative from Chbosky and further demonstrate that youngster Tremblay is one to watch for, as he continues to grow up himself.
Justice League (November 17)
Whereas Thor: Ragnarok teams up two major superheroes (Thor and The Incredible Hulk), this November’s Justice League brings together at least six famous DC characters (Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman) – possibly seven, if you believe those persistent Green Lantern rumors. Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder is back at the helm here, with Avengers filmmaker Joss Whedon having also contributed to the script and overseen the film’s reshoots.
The setup for Justice League is pretty straightforward: in the wake of Superman’s death in Batman V Superman, the villainous Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has decided now is the prime time to try and conquer Earth. It thus falls to Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to assemble a team of super-powered individuals to stop that from happening.
Wonder Woman was a bonafide success (read: a hit by all measures) for the DC shared movie universe earlier this year, thus begging the question: can Justice League keep that momentum going? Based on the film’s marketing and early buzz from test screenings, the answer does indeed appear to be “yes” – and a pretty entertaining, genuinely epic one at that.
Coco (November 22)
Adding some welcome diversity to the larger world of Pixar animation (on both sides of the camera), the upcoming Coco is the second feature-length film release this year from the studio (after Cars 3). First-time helmer Adrian Molina cowrote the film and shared directing responsibilities with Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich (who delivers his long-awaited Toy Story 3 followup here).
Coco tells the tale of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who yearns to sing and play guitar despite his family’s long-standing ban on performing music. Fate intervenes when Miguel is magically whisked away into the Land of the Dead during the Dia de los Muertos holiday, allowing him to meet his long-dead ancestors and unravel the secrets surrounding his family’s history.
Early reviews for Coco have been largely positive and praised the film for being another excellent addition to Pixar’s larger body of original work. Since two years have now passed since the studio’s last original animated offering (2015’s The Good Dinosaur), Coco stands to serve as a nice reminder to audiences of what made them fall in love with the animation studio in the first place.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (November 22)
Movies about the stories behind the creation of famous literary characters has become something of a theme this fall, thanks to films like Professor Marston and the Wonder Women and Goodbye Christopher Robin. That trend continues with The Man Who Invented Christmas, a whimsical blending of fact and fiction that is based on Les Standiford’s book of the same name.
Dan Stevens plays Charle Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas, which explores how real life events/people inspired Dickens to create the character of Ebenezer Scrooge; as well as the festive story of his redemption that is A Christmas Carol. The great Christopher Plummer costars in the film as the miserly Mr. Scrooge, as he exists in Mr. Dickens’ imagination.
Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), The Man Who Invented Christmas could make for a charming affair that the whole family can enjoy. It probably won’t be the most insightful study of a literary classic to hit the big screen this year, but it may well prove to be as enjoyable as some of the better retellings of A Christmas Carol out there.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15)
Star Wars is back on the big screen this December with Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Looper helmsman Rian Johnson is at the helm of the next chapter in the cosmic epic saga; picking up right where J.J. Abrams left things two years ago with Episode VII: The Force Awakens, for what promises to be the Empire Strikes Back of the new Star Wars trilogy, porgs and all.
The Last Jedi follows Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she seeks guidance in the ways of The Force from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), in the process discovering why the Jedi Master has remained in exile for all these years. Meanwhile, Finn (John Boyega) goes undercover on a vital mission with franchise newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), as the galactic war between the Resistance and First Order rages on.
If there’s one must-see movie event this fall/winter, The Last Jedi would be it and with good reason. Between The Force Awakens and last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Star Wars live-action film series is going as strong as ever right now. The Last Jedi looks to keep that momentum going too and may well prove to be one of the best Star Wars adventures yet (who knows, maybe the best one).
Ferdinand (December 15)
John Cena continues to make a name for himself as a movie actor, between roles in this year’s military thriller The Wall and comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2, as well as next year’s Bumblebee movie spinoff. He’s also branching out into the world of animation with December’s Ferdinand, the latest animated offering from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation (Ice Age, The Peanuts Movie).
Adapted from the 1936 book The Story of Ferdinand, the movie Ferdinand features Cena as the voice of its namesake: a bull who would much rather spend his days smelling flowers than fighting matadors in the ring. Joining Cena as members of the film’s cast are such names as Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson, and Bobby Cannavale, among others.
Ferdinand will have to face off with Star Wars: The Last Jedi during its opening weekend, but there may be hope for Cena’s animated adventure yet. Back in 2016, Illumination’s Sing took off during the winter holidays, providing some irreverent cartoon fun and holding its own against the bigger releases of the season. Perhaps Ferdinand will follow in its footsteps this year?
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (December 20)
Having already saved the world in The Fate of the Furious and gotten down with his raunchy side in Baywatch, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is back for his third offering this year with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The film reunites The Rock with his Central Intelligence costar Kevin Hart, pairing the duo up with Jack Black and Karen Gillan for a zany jungle adventure together.
Welcome to the Jungle is a quasi-sequel/reboot to the 1995 Jumanji movie and revolves around four teenagers who are sucked into the magic world of Jumanji – now a retro video game, rather than a board game. Johnson, Hart, Black, and Gillan play the youngsters’ in-game avatars, who must figure out how to “win” at Jumanji if they ever want to make it back to the real world alive.
In a way, Welcome to the Jungle feels as much like a spiritual followup to The Rock’s family adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (a modest hit back in 2012) as it does a Jumanji reboot/sequel. 1990s nostalgia will no doubt help to fuel interest in the film, but for kids the prospect of a romp through the wild with The Rock might be all the encouragement they need.
All the Money in the World (December 22)
Ridley Scott has never been a director content to stick with one or two genres; nor has he been inclined to take much of a break between movies. The filmmaker released Alien: Covenant this past spring, but already has another film ready to hit theaters this December. That would be All the Money in the World, a drama/thriller based on the real-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) in 1973.
Michelle Williams stars in All the Money in the World as John Paul Getty III’s mother, Gail Harris, who must find a way to save her son when his billionaire grandfather refuses to pay the kidnappers’ ransom. Mark Wahlberg costars as the Getty family’s “special agent” who aids Gail in his quest, while Kevin Spacey puts on a heavy amount of prosthetics in order to portray the 81-year old Jean Paul Getty himself.
Scott has a tendency to be hit or miss with critics/audiences nowadays, delivering an Exodus: Gods and Kings for every The Martian that he releases in theaters. All the Money in the World has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Scott’s American Gangster from ten years, offering a solid true story inspired dramatic thriller that gains traction at the box office (and maybe on the awards circuit too).
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