This list can seem trivial but I want to take a second and talk about the impact that movies can make. For some people 2016 was a great year, for others it was a year of disappointment. A trip to the movies can be an opportunity to escape to another world. I don't think we should watch movies with our brains turned off or not have standards for the content that we're consuming, but a chance to see truth, love, human nature and heroism played out before us is not something we should take for granted. I often think of the scene with Sam and Frodo in The Two Towers as a scene of heroism and virtue on display. These trips to escape shouldn't make us deny that the world we live in is still as messy when we leave the movies as it was when we went in but they can remind us that there is something better remaining.
Without further ado, the 9th Annual list of the 10 ten movies I'm looking forward to next year:
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15th)
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7th)
There's been one thing that has been on my "things I hope happen but am not counting on" list for the last several years and it's a chance to have Spider-man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I loved the first 3 Spider-man movies and probably counted Spider-man along with Batman and The Flash as my favorite childhood superheroes growing up but the most recent two Spider-man movies were largely forgettable. Well acted but seemed to lack a reason for existing. Enter 2016 where Spider-man is finally allowed to crossover to the MCU and I'd argue he easily stole the show in Captain America: Civil War. I'm excited to see what they can do with a Peter Parker who feels like he's in high school and one who knows and works with The Avengers.
3. Dunkirk (July 21st)
Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, The Prestige, etc.) Enough said.
Just kidding, Nolan directing is enough for most movies to reach my top 5 and although I'm not the biggest fan of war films, this looks beautifully captured and focuses on a piece of history that I would know about if I'd seen the 1958 film but I haven't so I can go in not knowing exactly what to expect. A Christopher Nolan film is like a painting and in the world of sequels and spin-offs, it's a treat to be able to watch.
4. Beauty and the Beast (March 17th)
This would normally make the list on its own but having Emma Watson (Hermonie from the Harry Potter series), Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Ian McKellen (Gandalf from Lord of the Rings), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequel trilogy) and several others make this a potentially better movie than it has a right to be. There are people who groan every time that Disney announces another live-action version of one of their animated films (they're seriously doing every single one of them) but Cinderella and to an even greater degree Jungle Book were able to come at a familiar story with fresh eyes so I don't think being an adaptation is enough to scare me away from this one.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5th)
I wanted to see the first one on the basis of enjoying the aforementioned MCU (see Spider-man), it looking a little like a Star Wars movie and the fact that it starred Chris Pratt (Andy from Parks and Rec.) While it isn't the style of movie for everybody, I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was and the fact that it was a movie with a talking raccoon and a semi-talking tree. All signs point to this sequel being just as fun this time around.
6. The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10th)
In case it look like the only comic book movies I enjoy are Marvel, DC made the list! Batman was the scene-stealer in The Lego Movie and this movie looks hilarious as well. The Lego Movie blew away expectations by knowing how to not take itself too seriously while at the same time having a story that you actually cared about. This movie may live up to that or it might feel like a little Lego Batman goes a long way but it's worth checking out.
7. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3rd)
Thor might be a character that works better with The Avengers than he does on his own but the first Thor movie introduced a world that is so dramatically different from Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk. Combined with the fact that we finally get to see what The Hulk has been up to since the end of the second Avengers movie and I can say that it'll be worth watching.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26th)
The first POTC was awesome. It was such a huge event that it seemed like you couldn't escape seeing it wherever you went. The 2nd one was a little over-the-top but still fun. The 3rd one seemed like it had a hard time sticking the landing of the trilogy. I seem to remember the 4th one being fun but only saw it the one time I went to the theaters to see it. It's been 6 years since then and I have hope that they can recapture what made the 1st movie so great.
9. Jumanji (December 22nd)
Speaking of a large time gap between movies, the original Jumanji came out in 1995 and starred the late, great Robin Williams, Cubs fan Bonnie Hunt, future Spider-man alumna Kirsten Dunst and David Alan Grier. This time around we've got Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black. I'm biased toward anything connected to Grand Rapids-native Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express is a must-see at Christmas) so I'll give this one a shot as well.
10. Cars 3/Despicable Me 3 (June 16th/30th)
This list ends in a tie. I really enjoyed the first two Despicable Me movies but bad reviews kept me away from the spin-off Minions. The first two Cars movies are probably my least favorite Pixar movies but kids love them. For DM3, Steve Carell as Gru is reason enough to go see it. For Cars 3, at least it has Randy Newman back doing the music...
Movie that I saw in 2016 but is opening nation-wide this Friday (January 6th) that you should not miss:
I had never heard about this movie until the end of 2016 but had a chance to see it at one of the few theaters that released this in 2016 in order to qualify for the award shows. If you love history, space or a combination of the two this movie is for you. We saw this on Christmas and I would put this on the list of "important" films to see. It was an entertaining drama but it told a story that we need to know. If there was one thing that 2016 showed us its that if we desire to get out of our echo chambers and bubbles, it's important to see movies that show us what life is like for people that are not entirely like us. I'm glad that life for everyone is much different now but this movie reminds us that it's important to learn and grow from things that happened in history rather than trying to ignore that they happened.
And since there isn't a Star Wars Episode VIII trailer yet, enjoy this instead: