Friday, December 2, 2016

Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2017: Part 2 (#10-1)

Welcome back to Rhode Island Movie Corner’s two-part list of my Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2017. This is the second half of the list in which I’ll be listing picks #10-1. For picks #20-11, click the following link to be taken to Part 1 of this list. But for now, let’s not waste any more time and get back to it. These are my Top 10 most anticipated films of 2017.

Kicking off the Top 10 is a film that’s shaping up to be an exciting return of one of the cinema’s most iconic creatures to the big screen.

10. KONG: SKULL ISLAND (MARCH 10TH)

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King Kong is easily one of the most iconic creatures in film history. The original King Kong from 1933 is regarded as one of the most classic films of all time. Since then, Kong has appeared in a few other films over the years, including a crossover with Godzilla and a 2005 remake directed by Peter Jackson. But, next year, the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ will be returning to the big-screen in Kong: Skull Island, which is set to connect with 2014’s Godzilla as part of Legendary Pictures’ new monster film series. This will eventually lead to a new Godzilla/King Kong crossover in 2020. But as for Kong: Skull Island, it seems as if that, for now at least, it’s not going to be making any major attempts at connecting with Godzilla. For one thing, it’s set in the 70’s. The first trailer for the film was quite excellent, showcasing the film’s cool art style as well as the fact that this Kong is apparently going to be frigging huge. I mean just look at the final shot in the trailer in which Kong appears in front of a pair of humans. While you can only see his face, he absolutely towers over the two. Obviously, this is to help match up Kong scale-wise with Godzilla, but still, I’m intrigued with this new version of the character, who will be portrayed by Terry Notary via motion-capture. Notary is no stranger to the process, having worked with Andy Serkis, who did the mo-cap for Kong in Peter Jackson’s remake, on the Planet of the Apes films. And speaking of the cast, this film has a MASSIVE ensemble cast; Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton… the list goes on and on.

And then came the second trailer. That trailer impressed me because it finally gave us an idea of what this film was really going to be like. It again establishes the main plot of a group of explorers venturing into an uncharted island in the South Pacific before they come across Kong. But this trailer also shows that Kong (shown in his entirety for the first time in this trailer and still very huge) isn’t the only creature on this island. As the main characters learn from an island ‘resident’, played by John C. Reilly, there are also these ‘devilish’ creatures known as ‘Skullcrawlers’. We also see a few other creatures of varying shapes and sizes, which shows that this will truly be a true ‘creature feature’. Not only that, but it looks as if this Kong film is going to be much different when compared to other films in the series. Namely, I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing this Kong rampaging through New York, climbing up the Empire State Building, and combatting fighter planes until his untimely demise (“Twas beauty killed the beast.”) This is called Kong: Skull Island after all so it looks as if all the action in the film is going to take place on Skull Island. In short, this is shaping up to be an exciting monster flick. I’ll admit that when it comes to King Kong, I’ve only seen the Peter Jackson remake. But I did really like that remake so I am very excited to see this new film and, subsequently, the upcoming crossover involving Kong and Godzilla. And while I’ll admit that I only ‘liked’ the Godzilla remake, I think that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) is going to deliver on this one.

There’s only one animated release in this year’s Top 10 list, and, surprisingly, it isn’t a Disney or Pixar film.

9. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (FEBRUARY 10TH)

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As someone who grew up as a big fan of the LEGO brand, I was excited to see 2014’s The Lego Movie, even though it had been a few years since I had been a regular ‘player’ of LEGOs. And while the idea of a LEGO film may have seemed like nothing more than a soulless cash grab, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller gave it heart, effectively making it one of the best films of that year. And now there will be more LEGO films on the way, starting off with a spin-off that centers on the character that many felt was the biggest standout of The LEGO Movie; Will Arnett’s Batman. Arnett’s take on the Dark Knight takes center stage in The LEGO Batman Movie, directed by Chris McKay, who was the animation director for The LEGO Movie. The trailers for this film have been fantastic, previewing what looks to be another fun LEGO animated film, this time centered around Arnett’s hilarious ‘full of himself’ characterization of Batman. I’m also curious about a report claiming that the film will seemingly incorporate every major onscreen iteration of Batman to date, and by that, I mean hopefully more than just the line from the ‘Wayne Manor’ trailer when Alfred reminds Batman of his previous ‘moods’ (“I have aged phenomenally!”). Newcomers to the cast include Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Michael Cera as Robin, and Rosario Dawson as Batgirl. And who knows? Maybe we’ll even see a cameo from someone from The LEGO Movie. One thing’s for certain, though… after a more serious take on Batman in Batman v Superman, I have the feeling that fans are eager to see a more upbeat take on the iconic superhero.

Two slots ago, we talked about one of the cinema’s most iconic primates, King Kong. But next year will also mark the return of another, and newer, ‘top ape’.

8. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (JULY 14TH)

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After a disastrous remake in 2001, the Planet of the Apes franchise rebounded a decade later with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Featuring some impressive motion-capture work as well as an excellent performance by Andy Serkis in the lead role of ape leader Caesar, it was one of the surprise hits of 2011. Three years later, the franchise took it one step further with the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. A superior sequel in almost every way, the Matt Reeves-directed flick was an emotionally charged sci-fi drama that continued to raise the bar in terms of motion-capture effects. So, with that said, I can only imagine the epic action and visuals that we’re going to get with the next installment, War for the Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves returns to direct and Andy Serkis and most of the series’ mo-cap regulars (Terry Notary, Judy Greer, Karin Konoval, etc.) reprise their roles from the previous film. As for the ‘human’ cast, once again they’ll be bringing in new characters, highlighted this time by Woody Harrelson in what appears to be a villainous role as ‘The Colonel’. In fact, it’s looking like this is shaping up to be a dark sequel. Per the current synopsis, the apes suffer heavy losses and Caesar apparently ends up going to a dark place when he begins to avenge his fellow apes. I mean, simply put, damn! But, then again, the primary subtitle for this film is ‘War’ so I guess that was to be expected. Simply put, it looks as if we’re inching closer and closer to a new ‘adaptation’ of, just simply, Planet of the Apes and I’m 100% confident that those who loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can’t wait to see the next installment of this hit franchise. I know I am!

We’re finally starting to get into the Marvel Cinematic Universe now with my next pick; a film that quite frankly has a lot going for it.

7. THOR: RAGNAROK (NOVEMBER 3RD)

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While Thor has been a vital member of the Avengers, his solo film franchise has unfortunately been, arguably, the least successful sub-franchise of the entire MCU. While the first Thor film did get good marks back when it was first released in 2011, which is good considering that it could’ve easily been a disaster, I rarely hear it brought up in a positive manner nowadays. And as for the sequel, 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, it’s commonly regarded as the weakest installment of the entire MCU. But when it comes to the upcoming third installment, Thor: Ragnarok, I feel that this film could very much redeem the Thor franchise. The Dark World was clearly a prime example of an MCU film that was regulated by the studio’s controversial ‘creative committee’. But now that they’re gone, I think that this new Thor has quite a lot of potential. It’s being directed by Taika Waititi, who directed episodes of the HBO show Flight of the Concords as well as this year’s critically acclaimed adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He is easily one of the most ‘out of left field’ directors that Marvel Studios has ever hired and I’m confident that he is going to bring a lot to this third Thor film. Of course, Chris Hemsworth will be returning as Thor along with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Idris Elba as Heimdall. But this film is also setting up an impressive ensemble cast as well. Cate Blanchett will be playing the main villain, Hela, Tessa Thompson (Creed) will be playing Valkyrie, a new love interest for Thor, Jeff Goldblum will be playing a character known as ‘Grandmaster’, and Karl Urban will be playing an Asgardian warrior named Skurge. But perhaps the most exciting addition to the cast is the return of Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. The film is being described as somewhat of a ‘sci-fi road trip’ story and after all the great interactions between them in the Avengers films, I’m really excited to see Thor and Hulk work off each other in this film. In short, I’m confident that this will redeem the Thor franchise in the eyes of most MCU fans. I mean, the fact that it’s going to be set primarily within the Nine Realms instead of on Earth, a common criticism of the previous films, is a good sign.  

This year’s Captain America: Civil War saw the long-awaited debut of one of Marvel’s most beloved characters in the MCU. And next year, he’ll take on his latest ‘solo adventure’.

6. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (JULY 7TH)

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I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed when it was announced that, due to the new deal between Marvel Studios and Sony, the Amazing Spider-Man franchise wasn’t going to continue. I mean I know that the second Amazing Spider-Man film underperformed both critically and commercially but why couldn’t they just continue the franchise and bring in Kevin Feige and his team to help improve it? Still, I won’t lie when I say that Tom Holland proved to be a fantastic new Spidey in Civil War so I am enthusiastic about the first installment of a new line of Spider-Man films, Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by general newcomer Jon Watts. While the character rights are still owned by Sony, at the same time this new film is basically an official MCU film. Holland will be returning as Peter Parker, of course, along with Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. Even Robert Downey Jr. will be appearing as Tony Stark, which is fitting considering that he was the one who recruited Spider-Man to join his team in Civil War. The film is also boasting a massive ensemble cast that also includes Zendaya, Donald Glover, and Tony Revolori (Zero ‘the Lobby Boy’ in The Grand Budapest Hotel). As for the villains, Michael Keaton makes the jump from DC to Marvel as the Vulture while a few other villains will be appearing as well. With that said, to some, it may seem like the film is once again making the same mistake that hurt both Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2; an overload of villains. But the reason why I’m not worried at this point is simple. I have faith in Marvel Studios and the fact that this will apparently be a ‘John Hughes style’ school comedy excites me as it’s sure to be another unique take on the superhero genre.

Arguably the most famous superheroine of comics finally takes center stage in her own film. Kicking off the Top 5…

5. WONDER WOMAN (JUNE 2ND)

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The first big female-led superhero film of the current age of the superhero genre, Wonder Woman certainly has a lot going for it. It also now has the pressure of trying to be the DCEU’s first generally well-received film after the polarizing reaction to Man of Steel and the generally negative reactions to both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. But I think that this one has a chance, especially because this is basically the first entry in the franchise under the supervision of the DCEU’s ‘Kevin Feige’, Geoff Johns, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay. Gal Gadot will reprise her role from BvS as the Amazon warrior Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman as the film will explore her origins and events of her life before BvS. The film will be set during WWI and while it may seem like a cross between Captain America: The First Avenger and the Thor films, it does provide a unique backdrop for a superhero film. Chris Pine co-stars as Diana’s love interest, Steve Trevor, and based on the two trailers that have been released, it looks like he’ll certainly be more than just ‘the love interest’, while at the same time being sure not to overshadow Wonder Woman in her own film. The film is being directed by Patty Jenkins, who was previously set to direct Thor: The Dark World for Marvel Studios until she dropped out due to creative differences. And quite honestly, I think this film suits her better. And for the record, no, it’s not because it’s Wonder Woman but because I think she’ll get more creative control over this film instead of having to deal with a creative committee. And given the reports on the behind-the-scenes debacles that Zack Snyder and David Ayer went through with BvS and Suicide Squad, respectively, ‘creative control’ is going to be key to this film’s success.

For those who aren’t big fans of Disney’s current trend when it comes to their live-action films, hear me out on this one…

4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (MARCH 17TH)

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Disney’s current trend of live-action reimaginings continues with a new live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, inspired by Disney’s beloved 1991, Best Picture-nominated, animated feature. Obviously, the legacy of the original puts a lot of pressure on this new version, not to mention the backlash from those who aren’t fans of Disney’s current ‘live-action remake’ practice. As for me, as I’ve gone over before in the past, I’m fine with Disney doing live-action versions of their animated classics. It’s not like they’re intended to replace the originals, which seems to me to be the main problem that some Disney fans have with these remakes. This isn’t a case like the original Star Wars trilogy where George Lucas has been withholding the original versions of the films from us in favor of the altered ‘special editions’. The original animated films are still going to be there. Heck, they just released a new Blu-Ray edition of the original film, for crying out loud! And even if some of the remakes do poorly with critics, they don’t hurt the original in any way. If anything, it just makes the originals stronger. At the very least, the films have been solid hits with audiences but recently they’ve been doing well with critics as well. Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella ended up being the first of these ‘live-action remakes’ to be generally well-received by critics, and it even managed to improve upon some aspects of the equally terrific original. It was then followed a year later by Jon Favreau’s adaptation of The Jungle Book, which is easily one of the most well-received films of the year so far (and rightfully so, if I may add). And we even got a third well-received Disney remake just a few months later in the form of Pete’s Dragon, a remake of a rather obscure live-action Disney film from 1977.  

Anyway, apologies for getting off track there for a second. Let’s talk about the new take on Beauty and the Beast. The film is being directed by Bill Condon, who is no stranger to musicals having written the screenplay for 2002’s Best Picture winner Chicago and directing 2006’s Dreamgirls. And yes, the new film will retain the original film’s music courtesy of Alan Menken; ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘Gaston’, and of course the titular track, just to name a few. As for the cast, this film has assembled quite an excellent ensemble. Emma Watson will take on the lead role of Belle, which I think many of us will agree is a perfect choice, while Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars as the Beast. Luke Evans will star as Gaston while Josh Gad takes on another big ‘Disney sidekick’ role as LeFou. As for the Beast’s enchanted staff, Ewan McGregor will be Lumiere, Ian freaking McKellen will be playing Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson will be playing Mrs. Potts. Add in other big names like Kevin Kline (Maurice) and Stanley Tucci (an original character named Cadenza, a harpsichord) and you have a premier ensemble. The first main trailer for the film showed off its impressive and beautiful visual style, and like the previous great Disney remakes, it’s looking like this new film will both respect the original and be its own thing at the same time. As a big fan of the original Beauty and the Beast (my third favorite Disney animated film of all-time, if you remember my recent ‘rankings list’), I’m really looking forward to this one. And after the trio of excellence that was Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon, I’m confident that this will continue the studio’s live-action remake hot streak.

Christopher Nolan’s newest film… need I say more?

3. DUNKIRK (JULY 21ST)

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For his newest film, Christopher Nolan will be taking on a true story with Dunkirk. It will tell the tale of the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’, a moment from World War II in which many Allied soldiers were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, France right in the middle of the Battle of France. This moment in time was even featured in another big film, 2007’s Atonement (Remember that big single-take sequence on the beach? That was Dunkirk.). But, suffice it to say, it’ll be very exciting to see Nolan’s take on the event and the first teaser very much set the stage for what looks to be an intense war film, highlighted by the closing shot in which a bunch of Allied soldiers notice and prepare to brace for an incoming fighter plane attack. Casting-wise, the film features what will surely be the usual excellent Nolan ensemble cast; Tom Hardy, in his third Nolan film after Inception and Dark Knight Rises, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance… Harry Styles? Yeah, apparently Nolan decided to cast one of the members of One Direction in the film. Eh, I don’t mind, I trust Nolan’s judgment. Also, like his previous film, Interstellar, it looks like this will be another film that is going to be a ‘must-see’ in IMAX as it was shot on 65 mm and will be projected on film in the theaters that are still capable of doing so. You do have to give filmmakers like Nolan credit for keeping the art of using film stock alive, especially in an age where most filmmakers nowadays shoot on digital. But aside from that, I’m just excited to see the newest film from one of my favorite directors.

Boy, let me tell you, picking a #1 out of these next two was quite a hard process. But, somehow, I managed to make it happen. And yes, these next two picks will probably be so obvious to anyone who’s been following this blog for some time now. At #2, we have the highly-anticipated follow-up to the biggest film of 2015…

2. STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII (DECEMBER 15TH)

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a genuine success. Obviously, it was the most anticipated film of 2015 for many people but it did run the risk of being a potential disappointment, as was the case with the prequel trilogy when it was first released. Thankfully, though, that did not happen. I mean, sure, you still have people pulling the argument that the film was a ‘remake’ of A New Hope (Which I still argue it isn’t. Can we please let that go?) but for the most part it proved to be a big hit both critically and commercially. So, who wouldn’t be excited for the next installment of this new trilogy? This time, however, we’ll be getting a change in director. It’s sad that we won’t see J.J. Abrams return but, at the same time, I don’t blame him for not wanting to spend the next half-decade or so working solely on these films. Instead, Rian Johnson will be taking over as director for Episode VIII. Johnson’s definitely proven himself to be a premier director in recent years, having helmed 2012’s sci-fi/time travel hit Looper as well as some of the most well-received episodes of Breaking Bad, including the critically acclaimed third-to-last episode, ‘Ozymandias’. With those credentials, one can only imagine what he’s going to bring to the world of Star Wars. And I must say that I like the idea of having different directors for each of the primary installments of the saga; it helps keep things fresh. And Johnson certainly has great material to work with, especially considering how Force Awakens ended. Will we see Rey begin to train with Luke? How will the First Order and, more specifically, Kylo Ren respond after the destruction of Starkiller Base? For now, we don’t know what’s going to happen... and that’s what’s so great about the anticipation for the continuing story of the Star Wars saga.

And finally, my most anticipated film of 2017 is… the return of those ‘bunch of a-holes’…

1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (MAY 5TH)

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Back in 2013 when I did my ‘Most Anticipated Films of 2014’ list, I had listed Guardians of the Galaxy at the #10 spot. Obviously, at that point, we still did not have any real idea of just what to expect from this film. I mean this was a pretty big risk for Marvel Studios at the time in regards to going with a generally unknown team of superheroes and doing a whole film based on them. But, of course, we all know how great it turned out to be in the end. And even after two whole years since its initial release, Guardians of the Galaxy still stands as my favorite MCU film to date thanks to its strong characters, great humor, excellent visuals, and terrific emotional depth. And that is why the upcoming sequel ultimately beats out Star Wars: Episode VIII as my most anticipated film of 2017, though, let me be clear, this was only by a small margin. Writer/director James Gunn returns to direct the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite intergalactic ‘bunch of a-holes’. In this new installment, Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord tries to learn more about the identity of his father. And who is his father, you ask? Why that would be the one and only Kurt Russell in the role of Ego, who in the comics is an actual living planet… yeah, I know that sounds rather weird but need I remind you that this is a franchise with a talking raccoon and a tree creature.

The main cast members of the original film all return to their respective roles; Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot (who will be in a ‘younger’ form in this film after sacrificing himself at the end of the first film), and Bradley Cooper as Rocket. The Guardians will also be getting a few new recruits as well, two of whom are returning characters, Michael Rooker as Yondu and Karen Gillan as Nebula, as well as newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis. It’ll definitely be interesting to see what they bring to the team dynamic, especially considering that Yondu and Nebula played generally antagonistic roles to the team in the first film. And of course, I know we’re all excited to learn what songs will be included on the soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2. So far, we haven’t gotten any concrete reveals in regards to featured songs but based on what was shown at Comic-Con earlier this year, it seems like ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Come A Little Bit Closer’ by Jay and the Americans will probably be featured in the soundtrack. But at the end of the day, I’m just super pumped to see the further adventures of the Guardians. You could only imagine how excited I was when the first trailer was released online this past month. Getting to hear ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ once more, seeing that funny interaction between Star-Lord and Drax at the end, it was just perfect and I look forward to getting ‘hooked on a feeling’ once more with these ragtag team of misfits. One last question, though…


And those are my Top 20 most anticipated films of 2017. Thanks for following along and be sure to sound off in the comments below with your most anticipated films of 2017, especially if they’re films that I didn’t mention here. Because there’s a lot more coming out next year that I haven’t even gone over yet.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2017: Part 1 (#20-11)

Well, folks, since we’re getting closer and closer to the end of the year, I figured that it was a good enough time for me to do my annual ‘Most Anticipated Films of Next Year’ list. I’ll admit that I’m always unsure about when I should post this because some of the films that I discuss in these lists tend to get pushed back a year. Some past examples of this happening to me included my 2014 list, when Tomorrowland was apparently still intended to be released that year, and 2015 when I put Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book as an Honorable Mention… and then it was pushed back to April of this year. Thankfully no instances of rescheduling have happened with any of the films that I put in last year’s list (yet…) but anyway, now it’s time to look ahead to 2017. And let me tell you… there’s quite a lot of exciting new films coming out next year. Heck, 2017’s film lineup is even more exciting than 2016’s lineup. And with that said, yes, as I’ve gone over before, there have been quite a few people on the internet who have been expressing disappointment towards a lot of this year’s film releases… but that’s another story. It’s time to look ahead at 2017 and like last year, I’ve managed to come up with not just a Top 10 but a full Top 20 list of my most anticipated films of 2017. From the newest superhero films to some very intriguing sequels, and yes even some original films are in there, you can bet that I’m excited for many of the films that will be hitting theaters next year. So, without further ado, this is Part 1 of my 2-part list of my Top 20 most anticipated films of 2017. Today I’ll be going over #20-11 but first, here are my Honorable Mentions…

HONORABLE MENTIONS


Instead of giving each of these five films their own heading, I’m just going to rattle them off here quickly. First, there’s the new reboot of Power Rangers (March 24th). Not being a big fan of the Power Rangers franchise, despite technically being part of the generation that grew up with it, I don’t have much personal stake in this new film but I am generally curious as to how it’ll turn out. Will it be able to appeal to both long-time fans and newcomers to the franchise? Next up is the reboot of The Mummy (June 9th), the recently-designated ‘first’ entry in Universal’s new line of monster films. It’s unclear at the moment as to how this planned ‘Cinematic Universe’ will pan out but this new take on The Mummy does sound interesting, especially considering the talent involved, including Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, and Sofia Boutella in the title role. Another reboot that I’m quite intrigued about is Jumanji (December 22nd). For the record, this isn’t a remake of the 1995 film starring Robin Williams but is instead a sequel. I’m genuinely curious as to how it’ll connect with the original and if you ask me, you can’t go wrong with a film that stars people like Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan. Going into the horror genre for a moment, we have Alien: Covenant (May 19th). Ridley Scott returns for another installment of the franchise that he helped start back in 1979 with this sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, which in turn was a prequel to the original Alien. While it will be centering on a new cast that includes the likes of Katherine Waterston and Billy Crudup, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace will be reprising their roles from the previous film. Will this new film answer some of the unanswered questions that people had after watching Prometheus? We’ll just have to wait and see. And finally, there’s The Greatest Showman (December 25th). Hugh Jackman will star as P.T. Barnum, who was a co-founder of what would eventually become the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus. As someone who has many fond memories of going to see this circus as a kid whenever it came to Rhode Island, I’m definitely interested in seeing its origins represented on film. The film will also star Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, and Michelle Williams.

And now we move on to the Top 20 and boy do we have a rather controversial film to start things off at #20.

20. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (JUNE 23RD)

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Yes, folks, you’re reading this right… I’m genuinely looking forward to the fifth entry in the highly maligned live-action Transformers franchise. I’m not afraid to admit that I am a big fan of all four of the previous films in the series. I still argue that the first one is actually really good even after everything that happened with its sequels. And yes, I still like the much critically derided sequels, including the second and fourth films which were some of the worst-reviewed films of their respective years. Sure they’re really nothing more than mindless CGI-heavy action films but I still find them to be really entertaining popcorn flicks nevertheless. So with that in mind, I’m still interested in seeing this franchise continue, which it will do so next year with Transformers: The Last Knight. Michael Bay, of course, returns to direct and this will supposedly be his last Transformers film. Though with that said, he said the exact same thing after the third film and yet he ended up doing a fourth one so who knows? Mark Wahlberg will be returning as Cade Yeager along with Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, both of whom made their series debuts in the fourth film, Age of Extinction. The film will also see Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return to the franchise as Lennox and Epps, who appeared in the original trilogy but were both absent from Age of Extinction. Like I said before, I’m very much well aware that this will probably be just as mindless as the other Transformers films. But with that said, if it is anything like those films, I’m probably going to like it anyway. Plus, I’m just curious about some of the recent reveals surrounding the film, like how it’s apparently going to involve King Arthur and even Nazis. Yes, you read that right… this new Transformers film is going to include King Arthur and Nazis. I won’t lie, folks… at this point, I’m just eagerly curious to see just what the hell they’re going to do with all of this. The only question, though, is this; will those who aren’t fans of the franchise finally get the damn hint and not go see this new film if they don’t like this series that much?  

Thought #20 was controversial? Wait until you see #19.

19. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (MAY 26TH)

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And now we move on to another franchise that hasn’t really fared well critically when it comes to its most recent installments; Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Still, I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to the upcoming fifth installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales. Johnny Depp, of course, returns as the eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow as he tries to find the Trident of Poseidon to combat an old foe, the ghostly pirate Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Geoffrey Rush returns as Hector Barbossa while Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario debut as new characters named Henry and Carina. But perhaps the most interesting development of this new film in terms of its cast will be the return of Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, who was last seen as the new captain of the Flying Dutchman at the end of the third film, At World’s End. Sadly, Keira Knightley won’t be returning alongside him as Elizabeth. So, as I noted before, the recent Pirates films haven’t fared as well critically with both critics and audiences when compared to the first film back in 2003, one of the surprise critical/commercial hits of that year. Basically, the main reason why has been due to the common criticism that the series tends to get really overcomplicated at times with its plots. Will this be the case with the new film? Who knows? But, with a new screenwriter and a new pair of directors in Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, directors of 2012’s Norwegian Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki, perhaps this one will change things up a bit. The recently released first trailer does grab your attention by way of its excellent visuals and rather a dark atmosphere. Ultimately, though, it’s unclear if this will be as big of a box-office hit as the previous Pirates films given that this is the fifth installment of the series. But, at the same time, considering that two of the four films have grossed over a billion, I have the feeling that this one will still be another sizable commercial hit for the franchise.

With the next two films on this list, we have the one-two punch that is Pixar’s next two animated features. The first is the one that’ll be released later in the year but it is still shaping up to be an excellent entry in the studio’s filmography.

18. COCO (NOVEMBER 22ND)

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Of the two Pixar films that are coming out in 2017, I have the feeling that the one that most fans are looking forward to more is the one with an original story. That film is Coco, a story that takes inspiration from Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration. Not much is known about this one yet other than the fact that it’ll revolve around a young boy named Miguel who uncovers a mystery involving his family that’s been unsolved for a century. In the director’s chair is Lee Unkrich, who’s been involved with Pixar since the original Toy Story. He helped co-direct Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo before he was promoted to the position of primary director for 2010’s Toy Story 3, and we all know how that turned out for him. The film grossed over a billion at the box-office, won another Best Animated Feature Oscar for the studio, and was also the third animated film after Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Pixar’s own Up to be nominated for Best Picture. So clearly Pixar’s got one heck of a talented team working on this film, one that is 100% certain to produce some absolutely gorgeous visuals based around Day of the Dead. So, with all of that said, why then is it only at number 18 on this list? Well like I said before, it’s only because we haven’t seen any form of ‘footage’ yet and don’t know much else about it aside from the aforementioned synopsis. After all, we are still more than a year away from its release. Trust me though when I say that I am super excited to see this film, as I’ve always been for Pixar films. It’s just that I’m not one of those folks on the internet who is constantly pressuring the studio to do more original films after they did a few sequels. Speaking of Pixar sequels…

Oh boy, I’m going to get so much flak for putting this above Coco

17. CARS 3 (JUNE 16TH)

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So why is this film, a Pixar sequel, ranked above an original story Pixar film, you ask? Well, like I said before, it’s only because we haven’t seen much from Coco yet. Granted, we haven’t seen much from Cars 3 either (aside from a recently released teaser that I’ll talk about in a bit) but being that it’s the third entry of that franchise and it’s coming out earlier in the year, we do know a bit more about it than we do with Coco at this moment. Anyway, the Cars franchise has been more of a commercial success for Pixar than it has been a critical one. It’s definitely been one of Disney’s biggest franchises in terms of merchandising, having amassed over $10 billion in sales. As for the films, though, critical reception has been a bit more mixed. The first Cars film, at the very least, did fine with critics. Granted it wasn’t as critically acclaimed as the studio’s other films but it still did fairly well at around a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The second film, however… was the company’s first negatively received film. It got to the point where some people treated it like it was a criminal offense. How dare Pixar make an animated film that wasn’t a complete 15/10 masterpiece? I’m not kidding, people actually made that analogy online. And now as a result, whenever a Pixar film doesn’t get at least a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (e.g. Brave, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur), it’s immediately seen as a disappointment. But in Pixar’s defense, from what I’ve heard the second Cars film was a bit rushed because of the pressure to be finished by its planned release date. And while I’ve only seen it once, I remember liking it okay.

So, with that said, I do believe that Cars 3 does have the potential to redeem the film franchise. After Cars 2 took a major detour story-wise by going on a world tour and having a rather random subplot involving secret agents, Cars 3 is set to return to the series’ roots of celebrating small-town Americana. The film is being directed by Brian Fee and while this is his first film as a director, he’s been involved with Pixar, and most importantly the Cars franchise, for quite a long time as a storyboard artist. Many of the main characters of the franchise will no doubt be returning in this film, including main protagonist Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). Per the film’s currently released premise, at this point, McQueen is now a racing veteran who must now contend with a new generation of racers to prove that he’s still one of the best. You can most certainly sense that from the film’s first teaser, which strikes an effective emotional chord by showcasing what will surely be a devastating crash that Lightning is involved in. So, in short, as I stated earlier, the Cars franchise isn’t as well-liked as some of Pixar’s other franchises, especially after Cars 2 was so critically derided. But, also like I said before, I think that this new Cars film does have the potential to at least be an improvement over the previous film, especially since, from a story perspective, it’s going to be more like the first film, which I do think is underrated. And while I do have the feeling that Coco will probably be the better-received of Pixar’s two 2017 releases, I’m still very much looking forward to the continuing adventures of Lightning McQueen and company.

Ride or die…

16. FAST 8 (APRIL 14TH)

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Fast and Furious franchise will soon be releasing its eighth (!) installment. Who’d thought that a franchise that originally started all the way back in 2001 would still be going strong today more than one and a half decades later? Not only that, but this is one of the rare cases in which the sequels increasingly got better and better, namely the ones directed by Justin Lin. Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6 were the first installments of the franchise to perform solidly with critics and both films were huge hits at the box-office. And then there was Furious 7. James Wan took over as director and the film managed to become the first of the franchise to gross over a billion. Though of course, part of that was no doubt due to the film being the send-off of star Paul Walker, who tragically passed away in a car accident before filming was complete. But this series isn’t over yet and now we’ve got Fast 8, which will take Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his crew to New York. Once again they’ll contend with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw as well as a new villain played by Charlize Theron. Once again there’s a change in director but the new director is quite promising; F. Gary Gray, who’s coming off of 2015’s hit biopic Straight Outta Compton. And from what I hear, this new film is going to shift focus in terms of ‘genre’. While the first few Fast and Furious films were simple street-racing stories, Fast Five shifted gears (no pun intended) and became a heist film. But as for this new film, it will apparently be more along the lines of a spy caper. And for the record, yes, you never go into these films for the plot but still, it’s going to be interesting to see what they’re going to do next in terms of action. Pair that with the always excellent camaraderie of the main cast and you’ve got what is sure to be another big hit for the franchise.

The one and only Edgar Wright will have a new film out next year. And it lands the #15 spot on this list.

15. BABY DRIVER (AUGUST 11TH)

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Edgar Wright is a filmmaker who needs no introduction. He’s given us some of the funniest comedies of the past few years, namely his Cornetto Trilogy; 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, 2007’s Hot Fuzz, and 2013’s The World’s End. While all three films are different in terms of genre, with the only real ‘connection’ between them being the appearance of Cornetto ice cream in one way or another, they’re all excellent send-ups of their respective genres; zombie films, buddy cop action films, and sci-fi films. Of course, as we all know he almost directed Ant-Man for Marvel Studios last year but he ended up dropping out due to creative differences. And you know what? I think that it’s actually a good thing that this happened. It allows Wright to have full creative control over his work instead of having to deal with a ‘creative committee’, which was still in effect at Marvel Studios at the time. And this will certainly be the case with his new film, Baby Driver. Described as a crime drama that was apparently inspired by an old music video that Wright made back in 2003 for the band Mint Royale, the film will center around a young, silent getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) as he ends up partaking in a heist gone wrong. The film will also star Lily James as the driver’s girlfriend, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm as members of a gang of bank robbers, and Kevin Spacey as a crime boss. Music will also no doubt play a huge part in the film as the main character Baby is being described as ‘music-obsessed’ and I’m excited to see what kind of soundtrack Wright comes up with for the film. But of course, at the end of the day, the main selling point of the film is the fact that it’ll be another film from the master of ‘visual’ comedy, Edgar Wright.

As Harry Hart once said, “Manners. Maketh. Man”.

14. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (OCTOBER 6TH)

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Matthew Vaughn gave us one of the most entertaining films of 2015 in the form of Kingsman: The Secret Service. Based on the comic series of the same name by Mark Millar about a young delinquent who is recruited into a spy organization, the film was a stylish ode to the classic spy films of the 60’s (e.g. the Bond films) complete with awesome action and a great cast. And next year will see the release of a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Matthew Vaughn returns to direct and the major players of the first film will return to reprise their roles, including Taron Egerton as ‘Eggsy’, Mark Strong as ‘Merlin’, and… Colin Firth as Harry Hart? Yes, despite being (SPOILERS!) killed off by Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine in the previous film, Firth will be back for this film in some as-of-yet unknown form. Did he fake his death? After all, one of the teaser posters (featured above) is an image of a pair of glasses that Hart wore in the first film (with one of the lenses taken out) that are positioned in front of a quote saying that “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” At this point, who knows? Anyway, the film will see Eggsy and co. heading to America, where they’ll be teaming up with their US counterparts, the Statesmen. New additions to the cast include Halle Berry and Channing Tatum as Statesman agents, Jeff Bridges as the head of Statesman, and Julianne Moore as the new main villain. I absolutely loved Kingsman: The Secret Service so you can bet that I’m excited to see another installment of this stylish spy thriller franchise.

My #13 pick is one of the biggest question marks of 2017’s film lineup. However, I’m still rooting for it to succeed despite the odds that are currently against it.

13. JUSTICE LEAGUE (NOVEMBER 17TH)

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I still have hope, folks, which I know is something that’s rather questionable at the moment for many people after DC’s two 2016 releases, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, both performed horribly with critics and were generally polarizing amongst audiences as well. However, I’m confident that their 2017 output will fare much better, especially now that Geoff Johns has taken over control of the franchise. In other words, he’s become DC’s ‘Kevin Feige’ and that will no doubt help the DC Extended Universe moving forward. And sure, Zack Snyder is still back as the director but I have faith in him to succeed with this long-awaited adaptation of DC’s iconic superhero team, the Justice League. The first ‘trailer’ that was released during Comic-Con showed off a different kind of film compared to Batman v Superman. Instead of being a generally serious/dark superhero flick, this new film looks much more light-hearted in tone as primarily seen in some of the interactions between characters, like when Batman and Wonder Woman discuss the former’s rather failed attempt to recruit Aquaman and with Bruce Wayne’s first encounter with Barry Allen AKA The Flash. Newcomers Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller (though I use the term ‘newcomers’ loosely because they both cameoed in BvS) are also shaping up to be excellent new additions to the cast as Aquaman and the Flash, respectively. Granted this change in tone doesn’t mean that this new film is trying to be exactly like the films of Marvel Studios but it certainly looks like the filmmakers are, at the very least, aware of the problems that people had with BvS (the theatrical cut, at least). It may be unclear at the moment if DC will be able to turn their luck around with both this and their other 2017 film (which, spoilers, will be appearing in Part 2 of this list) but I’m still confident that they’ll be able to make it work with Justice League. I may be a bigger fan of the MCU but I genuinely want Justice League to succeed just as much as everyone else.   

One of the most iconic castings of the superhero film genre will be back for one last go in this, my #12 pick.

12. LOGAN (MARCH 3RD)

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Hugh Jackman is Wolverine; no doubt about it. Ever since he was first cast in the original X-Men film back in 2000, he’s become one of the most successful superhero casting choices of all-time. He quickly became the most popular character in the franchise, even if it did come at the occasional expense of other characters’ development, and has appeared in every X-Men film to date, even if it was just for an awesome cameo like in First Class and Apocalypse. But with his next X-Men film and the third Wolverine spin-off, Logan, this will be Jackman’s final turn in the title role. James Mangold returns to direct this film after helming the second spin-off, 2013’s The Wolverine. And just like how that film was based on an iconic Wolverine storyline of the same name from the comics, this one will also be inspired by another big Wolverine-centered storyline, one that I bet a lot of fans have been waiting to see done on the big-screen; Old Man Logan. For those unfamiliar with this storyline from 2008 written by Mark Millar, it’s basically Wolverine’s Dark Knight Returns as it centers on him years into the future. Plus, while the last Wolverine film grappled with going all-out as an R-rated Wolverine film, though ultimately it only did so in the form of the Extended Cut which was released when the film hit home video, by all accounts it appears that this will be the R-rated Wolverine film that fans have been waiting for.

They recently released the first trailer for the film and I must say that it looks fantastic. One of the best things about director James Mangold’s superhero films is that they’re more than just ‘superhero films’. The Wolverine, being set primarily in Japan, featured a lot of great Japanese elements in it. In the case of Logan, it’s clear that he’s going for something out of a western. And you can totally see that in the trailer, especially with the use of a Johnny Cash song, ‘Hurt’, a fitting choice seeing how Mangold directed the Johnny Cash Biopic Walk the Line in 2005. The story, set years in the future where it’s established that something happened to most of the mutant population (possibly because of Wolverine as deduced by the line “Logan, what did you do?”), sees Wolverine and Professor X (again played by Patrick Stewart in what will no doubt be his final turn in the role as well) having to protect a young girl named Laura (known in the comics as Wolverine’s clone, X-23) from a group known as the Reavers. Now despite what I said earlier, it’s becoming clear that this isn’t a direct adaptation of Old Man Logan. But, to be fair, it’s hard to do an adaptation of that now given the appearances of characters who are currently over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, as someone who isn’t a big comic reader, I’m not bothered by this. Really, it’s the overall execution of the film itself that matters the most. And thanks to an international red-band trailer, we can now rest easy knowing that the film will indeed be R-rated and that the filmmakers are truly going ‘all-out’ with this one. But at the end of the day, I must say that this first trailer really delivers in terms of hitting you on an emotional level. And that’s a feeling that I bet a lot of people will have when we go to see this; the last go for one of the greatest leads in the history of the superhero film genre. It’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster.

And closing out the lower half of the Top 20 is the latest film from Ben Affleck. Director Ben Affleck, to be more precise…

11. LIVE BY NIGHT (JANUARY 13TH)

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While Ben Affleck is currently pre-occupied with being the DCEU’s Batman, 2017 will see the release of his latest directorial effort, his first since he won Best Picture for his 2012 film, Argo. Despite having only directed three films to date, Affleck’s proven himself to be one of the top directors in the industry thanks to 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, 2010’s The Town, and Argo. For his newest film, Affleck takes on his second adaptation of a story by author Dennis Lehane after Gone Baby Gone; Live by Night. Affleck stars as Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston police captain who moves to Florida and ends up becoming a gangster. The film also stars Zoe Saldana as Coughlin’s girlfriend, Sienna Miller as his mistress, and Brendan Gleeson as his father along with Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper, and Chris Messina. I should probably note, though, that even though this film’s current wide release date is January 13th, 2017, it will see a limited release this Christmas, effectively qualifying it for this year’s awards circuit. So, technically, that would mean that this is a 2016 film… so why then is it in this ‘Most Anticipated of 2017’ list? Well, simply put, I had first made this list before this film got its limited release date. Plus, I don’t know just yet if I’m going to be able to see this film before the year’s through so for now, it stays on this list. But, regardless of when I see it, it’s safe to say that I am really excited to see Affleck’s next directorial effort.


And that concludes Part 1 of my Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2017 list. Thanks for following along and be sure to come back tomorrow when I post Part 2 and list my Top 10.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Moana (2016) review

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Well, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times in the past few years, Walt Disney Animation Studios is currently in the middle of a major ‘Revival’ period. Following a rather rough start to the 2000’s that was marred by multiple underperforming films, some of which were no doubt affected by interference from studio execs, the studio began to get back on its feet once Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were brought in as its new President and Chief Creative Officer, respectively, in 2006. Since then, the studio has seen plenty of critical and commercial hits, including two billion-dollar-grossing films in the form of 2013’s Frozen and this year’s Zootopia. But Zootopia isn’t the only Walt Disney Animation release of the year as now we have the studio’s 56th animated feature upon us, Moana. It certainly has the pedigree behind it. For one thing, it’s directed by the duo of John Musker and Ron Clements. These two are easily one of the most famous directing duos in the studio’s history. After making their directorial debut as one-half of the directing team behind 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective, they then went on to become the creative force behind not one, not two, but three films of the ‘Disney Renaissance’ era; 1989’s The Little Mermaid, 1992’s Aladdin, and 1997’s Hercules. A few years later, they directed the studio’s highly underrated 2002 effort, Treasure Planet. In 2009, they made their first contribution to the studio’s revival with The Princess and the Frog. And with their latest film, their first computer-animated feature, they once again bring us another highly entertaining animated adventure that features plenty of the great things that one would expect from a Disney Animated film, especially from the ones that these two have worked on.

In the region of Polynesia, a young teenaged girl named Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho) lives with her folks, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) and his wife Sina (Nicole Scherzinger), on Motunui Island. But while her father spends most of his time grooming her into becoming the next chieftain of their village, Moana instead wishes to explore the world beyond the open seas, something that her father forbids her and the other villagers from doing following an incident that he ended up in many years earlier. However, one day, Moana finds that the village’s resources are starting to dwindle. Namely, the coconuts in the area have begun to spoil and the fish have disappeared from their usual shores. Moana then learns from her grandmother Tala (Rachel House) that the island is being affected by a curse that was caused by the stealing of a mythical stone that is known as the ‘heart’ of the island goddess, Te Fiti. This leads Moana into setting out on a journey to return the ‘heart’ to its rightful place, the lost island that Te Fiti had created a millennium ago. Along the way, she ‘recruits’ the assistance of the legendary shape-shifting demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who just so happens to be the one who stole the ‘heart’ in the first place. And so, the two set off on a journey to help Maui regain his fish-hook (which allows him to shapeshift) and return the ‘Heart’ to restore balance to the world and save Moana’s village, all while dealing with various monsters along the way.

Moana is Clements and Musker’s first computer-animated film after all their previous films were traditionally-animated. But with that said, the animation in this film is just as beautiful as the animation that came from their previous films, especially when it comes to sequences that are set on the ocean. I can’t really explain why but there’s just something about water that allows it to translate well into animation, as evident from this and other films like Pixar’s Finding Nemo films. There are even a few instances where some shots have somewhat of a traditionally animated feel to them. And, for the record, no I’m not just talking about the sentient ‘Mini Maui’ tattoo that Maui interacts with constantly. Some frames of animation did feel like they had a real nice ‘painterly’ quality to them, sort of like what Tangled did back in 2010. As for the story, it’s a fun oceanic adventure with a solid emotional core, while also giving us some fun ocean-based action sequences. In fact, one scene involving a group of small coconut-like creatures known as Kakamora may even remind some people of a certain action film that got released last year. But through it all, one can really get a great sense of Polynesian culture. Disney usually does a good job when it comes to portraying other cultures. I mean, okay, admittedly not all the time (e.g. some of the controversial ‘stereotypes’ of early Disney films) but still, the films of theirs that are set within a specific location usually do a decent enough job of reflecting the culture of their locales (e.g. Saludos Amigos/The Three Caballeros, Lilo and Stitch) and this film is easily one of Disney’s best in terms of respectfully representing the culture of its setting. Plus, as with any great Disney musical, the songs that are featured in this film are terrific. What is the best way to describe how they’re great? Simple; they were co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. No further explanation necessary.

A lot of buzz has been going around in regards to the film’s title character, particularly because she is a ‘Disney Princess’ without a love interest. But if you recall my ‘Ranking the Disney Princesses’ post a few weeks ago, you’ll know that ‘romance’ is not something that I usually focus on when it comes to Disney’s princess characters. Instead, I will say that Moana is a charming, adventurous young protagonist with a great personal drive and is ultimately someone who I’d argue is more than just a ‘Disney Princess’. And newcomer Auli’i Cravalho does a fantastic job in the role, especially when it comes to working off Dwayne Johnson. Speaking of which, what else can be said about ‘The Rock’ that hasn’t been said before? He’s one of the most charismatic actors in the business and even though Maui does start off as a rather selfish and egotistical character who’s just out for his own personal gain, he does grow to become more selfless as time goes on. And of course, Johnson’s charisma is on full display here. In short, Moana and Maui are an excellent lead duo. And of course, like any great Disney film, there are quite a few noteworthy side characters here and there, including a dumb rooster named Heihei who happens to be voiced by Disney Animation’s ‘John Ratzenberger’, Alan Tudyk, and a giant crab named Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) who is shown to be a major treasure-hoarder and is the main focal point of an entertaining musical number, ‘Shiny’. Though with that said, this is a case of a Disney film where the focus is more on the main characters, which is great in this case given how well-developed the protagonists are.

Thanks to their newest effort, Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ current hot streak stays strong. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this won’t be the end of it. Under the direction of the duo responsible for some of the most iconic Disney films in recent memory, John Musker and Ron Clements, Moana very much feels like a classic Disney animated film. The animation is terrific, especially considering that this was the first time that Musker and Clements have forayed into computer animation. Through it all, they even managed to implement some traditional animation into the film. The songs, brought to us in part by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda, are excellent. And the main characters Moana and Maui, excellently voiced by Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, respectively, are an excellent lead duo. Put all of this together, along with a solid representation of Polynesian culture, and you have a fun ocean-based animated film with a strong emotional core. And thus, Disney Animation is 2 for 2 this year when it comes to their feature films. However, I’m not going to make any major comparisons between this and Zootopia because they are two very different films. It does, however, showcase the strong variety of Disney Animation’s current output that is, without a doubt, one of the many factors behind the studio’s recent ‘Revival’. Because both are great in their own way; Zootopia as a timely (and I mean really timely) moral message and Moana as a great cultural experience. 


Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

DISNEY MONTH: Ranking All 55 Disney Animated Features (pre-'Moana')


Hello and welcome to the final installment of Disney Month here on Rhode Island Movie Corner, a month dedicated to honoring the prestigious filmography of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve ranked all the current members of the Disney Princess line, listed my Top 5 Favorite Disney Protagonists and Sidekicks, and listed my Top 10 favorites from Disney’s wide array of classic tunes. This was all done in honor of the impending release of Disney Animation’s 56th film, Moana. It comes out today so to cap things off before my inevitable review of the film, I’ll be concluding Disney Month with the biggest list of them all. That’s right; today I’ll be ranking all 55 of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ animated features that were released prior to Moana, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to this year’s Zootopia. Obviously, it was quite a hard process to do a list like this given the fact that I have 55 (!) films to work with here. But, I think that I managed to successfully assemble my own personal list. But of course, with that said, this will very much be one of those cases where you’re guaranteed to not find two lists of this topic that are 100% the same. So, be sure to sound off in the comments below with your own Top 10 favorite Disney Animated films (and even your Top 5 least favorites if you want). Finally, I just want to lay out a quick disclaimer; obviously, this will be a very, very long list. So, with that in mind, I promise that I’ll try to be as quick and concise with this as possible; in other words, I’m not going to go into too much detail about these films given that I’ve already done so in the past. For my full thoughts on these films, just check out my ‘Disney Retrospective’ series via the links provided below. But for now, it’s time to start the countdown!







55. CHICKEN LITTLE

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While I may have liked this as a kid, nowadays I view it as the worst Disney animated film to date. And it’s not because the humor is hit-or-miss or because the animation isn’t very good, but because it has a severe mean streak, effectively making this the only Disney animated film that I can’t, in good faith, recommend to kids.

54. HOME ON THE RANGE

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Unlike Chicken Little, kids will probably enjoy this fine because of its bright and colorful animation and the wacky tone. However, adults won’t get much out of this and it’s sad to know that this was intentionally made that way considering that Disney Animation has always been known to respect both kids and adults.

53. THE BLACK CAULDRON

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This one did have quite the potential, being easily one of the studio’s darkest outings story-wise. But, ultimately, a lot of it ends up falling flat, from the underdeveloped (and possibly truncated) story to the bland characters.

52. THE ARISTOCATS

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While the film as a whole is harmless, there’s barely any plot to speak of. It’s a generally aimless affair.

51. POCAHONTAS

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Despite the solid animation and a decent array of songs, the main characters are bland and the film is rather dull, effectively making it the weakest of the ‘Disney Renaissance’ films. On the bright side, this is the last Disney animated film on this list that I gave a less-than-stellar rating to. So, in short, out of 55 films, I only dislike about 1/10th of them. Obviously, I know that film is subjective and that some of you might dislike some of the next films on this list but still, that’s a pretty great track record for a studio that’s been around for nearly eight decades.

50. DINOSAUR

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While the computer animation is quite impressive for the time, the story is pretty basic. Still, I won’t lie when I say that this gives me a pleasant sense of nostalgia.

49. BROTHER BEAR

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Ultimately this film’s biggest downfall is the severe tonal change that occurs after the main character is turned into a bear. Still, the great first half and the solid character arc that the main character goes through at least keeps it from being one of the absolute worst.

48. SALUDOS AMIGOS

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At just 42 minutes long, this feels more like a bonus feature on a DVD. Still, the content in it is quite good and it does its job at representing the beauty of Latin America in such a short span of time.

47. THE RESCUERS

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The main characters are very likable and the film has an enjoyably over the top villain. However, the film as a whole is rather slow and the bayou setting actually results in some dreary-looking animation.

46. FANTASIA 2000

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The animated segments of this Fantasia sequel are rather hit-or-miss and the celebrity cameos don’t really work that well. Still, the strongest segments (e.g. ‘Rhapsody in Blue’) do stand out.

45. OLIVER AND COMPANY

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Sure, it’s probably one of the simplest Disney animated films in terms of story, especially considering the two Disney animated films that it’s sandwiched between in terms of release dates, but it’s still quite enjoyable as is its unforgettable main song, ‘Why Should I Worry?’

44. THE THREE CABALLEROS

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While it does have more to it than its cultural brother, Saludos Amigos, its non-stop nature may prove to be tiring for some.

43. THE SWORD IN THE STONE

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Some might not like the educational-heavy pace that this film adopts but it’s still a pretty enjoyable take on the legend of King Arthur.

42. MAKE MINE MUSIC

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What could be described as Fantasia but set to contemporary music, Make Mine Music makes up for some of its shorter segments with some memorable stories, including ‘Casey at the Bat’ and ‘The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met’.

41. THE FOX AND THE HOUND

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This tale of ‘best friends turned enemies’ wins you over with the cute friendship that emerges between the title characters and then ends up being quite engaging in terms of how they end up becoming foes.

40. ROBIN HOOD

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While it’s certainly a very simple story, Robin Hood is still an enjoyable romp with funny villains, likable leads, and some zany action.

39. LADY AND THE TRAMP

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While fairly simple in terms of story, Lady and the Tramp still shines thanks to the nice romance that forms between its title characters. And who can forget ‘Bella Notte’?

38. MEET THE ROBINSONS

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It may still be a product of the ‘pre-Lasseter’ era but because this was the first one that John Lasseter was involved with, Meet the Robinsons is an enjoyable sci-fi adventure that honors Walt Disney’s vision of the future while also showing signs of the studio’s forthcoming revitalization.

37. DUMBO

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While Dumbo is certainly one of the simpler Disney films in terms of its story, it’s also full of charm and heart. And who can forget that infamous ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’ sequence?

36. SLEEPING BEAUTY

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While its main romantic duo is rather underwritten, this film still stands as a Disney classic thanks to its beautiful animation, memorable side characters, and unforgettable main villain.

35. WINNIE THE POOH (2011)

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A welcome return for these beloved characters that maintains many of the same great elements of its 1977 predecessor. Really, the only thing holding it back is that it’s a bit short with only two major storylines.

34. ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS

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I like the second half more than I do the first half but there’s no denying that Cruella de Vil is a classic Disney villainess.

33. BOLT

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Often regarded as the film that kick-started Disney’s current Renaissance (or ‘Revival’ as it’s more commonly referred to), Bolt is an enjoyable road trip story with likable main characters and a fun ‘fish out of water’ premise.

32. HERCULES

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The flashy Vegas-esque art style may throw some people off but it still has some fun songs (as well as a great inspirational one), a likable main character, and a hilarious villain in the form of James Woods’ Hades.

31. THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE

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Often regarded as an unofficial ‘Renaissance’ era Disney film, this fun spin on the story of Sherlock Holmes features a great ‘hero-villain’ pairing in the form of Basil and his archenemy Ratigan.

30. HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

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Easily one of Disney’s darkest films to date, and that’s even after the changes that were made to tone down the already dark content of its source material. And while the film itself is a bit uneven in regards to trying to maintain that tone while also being a family film, this is still a very enjoyable entry in the Disney canon, particularly thanks to its main villain, Judge Claude Frollo.

29. TARZAN

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The animation is cool, the main characters are likable, and I’m not afraid to admit that I like the soundtrack done by Phil Collins.

28. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE

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A pretty underrated entry in the Disney canon. It may be a bit uneven and the villains may be rather weak but the main character is likable and the side characters are memorable. Pair that with some great comic-book style animation and you have a fun Disney animated film that tried to be something different.

27. ALICE IN WONDERLAND

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Featuring arguably some of the studio’s greatest animation, Alice in Wonderland is just as zany as its source material.

26. MELODY TIME

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Like Make Mine Music, this is basically just a series of animated shorts set to contemporary music. However, it ultimately ends up being superior to its ‘spiritual predecessor’ due to the fact that while there aren’t as many segments in it, they’re longer and much more memorable as a result.

25. THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD

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An excellent pairing of animated short films, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is zany and full of fun characters while ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ builds up to the dark and atmospheric conclusion with the infamous Headless Horseman.

24. FUN AND FANCY FREE

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Easily my personal favorite of Disney’s line of ‘package films’, Fun and Fancy Free features two highly memorable short films, particularly the Disney version of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. But if you want the best version of that story, check out the version on Netflix narrated by Ludwig von Drake instead of the in-film version narrated by Edgar Bergen.

23. THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER

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The oft-forgotten entry of the ‘Disney Renaissance’, this film takes the positives of its 1977 predecessor but improves upon the animation and pacing to become a superior sequel.

22. MULAN

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With a great title character, fun side characters, and some excellent songs, Mulan is quite a powerhouse and arguably the most underrated entry of the ‘Disney Renaissance’.

21. LILO AND STITCH

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Combining a fun ‘fish out of water’ story with an emotional ‘broken family’ story, it’s easy to see why Lilo and Stitch was probably the most successful Disney film of the ‘post-Renaissance, pre-Lasseter’ era.

20. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG

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After half a decade, Disney returned to traditional animation with this vibrant and colorful New Orleans fairy tale complete with fun and jazzy music and a highly memorable villain.

19. TANGLED

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Some might find the title change from Rapunzel to Tangled to be rather silly but it ultimately does reflect the overall story much better. A great lead duo, some nice songs, and an entertainingly show-y villain help make Tangled a modern-day Disney classic.

18. BIG HERO 6

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The first Disney animated film to utilize the company’s then-newest acquisition, Marvel Comics, Big Hero 6 is basically the animated equivalent of a MCU film. It’s entertaining, has great visuals, and heart.

17. TREASURE PLANET

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Easily the most underrated Disney animated film to date, Treasure Planet is an exciting and unique take on the classic story of Treasure Island that solidly blends science-fiction with its original action-adventure premise.

16. BAMBI

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Very much more than just ‘that film with the emotionally-scarring death of a parent’, Bambi may be a simple coming of age story but it’s handled perfectly.

15. FANTASIA

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The marriage of classical music and classic Disney animation is perfect. Simple as that.

14. THE JUNGLE BOOK

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Contrary to what channels like ‘Screen Junkies’ and ‘CinemaSins’ have recently claimed, this film is a classic. Great characters, toe-tapping songs (not just ‘Bare Necessities’), and some overall nice jungle animation result in a fun adventure.

13. THE LITTLE MERMAID

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The title character may prove to be a bit polarizing depending on who you ask but this film still stands as the film that helped revive Disney Animation by kicking off one of its most iconic eras.

12. WRECK-IT RALPH

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As a gamer, this directly appealed to me with its wide array of video game references. And while some of these references may end up going over the heads of younger audiences, the film will win them over with its great message of ‘being yourself’ and its colorful and creative animation.

11. ZOOTOPIA

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The latest Disney animated flick is great enough as a fun and beautifully-animated buddy cop adventure. But then it goes the extra mile by having its story be based around timely themes and messages through its combating of racism and prejudice.

10. PETER PAN

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Sure, nowadays this film gets a lot of flak for its occasional stereotyping but the villains are fantastic, the main characters are likable, and the film very much succeeds in regards to capturing the imagination of young and old.

9. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

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The original Disney animated classic and still very much one of the all-time best. It may be much simpler in terms of story and characters than subsequent Disney films but of course, if it wasn’t for this film, we wouldn’t have those other ones.

8. CINDERELLA

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I will always argue that the title character is not as passive as some claim and that this film is a classic thanks to great animation, a superb villain, and some great songs.

7. THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH

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Winnie the Pooh is pretty much the definition of childhood and although this is basically just three animated shorts, the lovable characters and innocence of it all very much make this a classic.

6. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE

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Quite possibly the funniest Disney film to date, mostly thanks to its main villainess Yzma and her lackey Kronk.

5. FROZEN

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Yep… this got all the way up to #5 on my list. I know that it’s become popular on the internet to hate on this film for being the big hit that it was but you know what? Because of its great characters, catchy songs, and the strength/heart of its story of two sisters, that success was very much earned.

4. ALADDIN

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Aside from Robin Williams’ iconic turn as the Genie, Aladdin has it all; action, adventure, romance, great music, etc.

3. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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It’s easy to see why this was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. From the great romance between its lead duo to the entertaining villain to the classic array of songs, Beauty and the Beast is a masterpiece.

2. PINOCCHIO

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A charming, but sometimes dark, masterpiece with great lessons for kids. I’d argue that this was Walt Disney’s masterpiece.

1. THE LION KING

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Through it all, though, it is Disney Animation’s 1994 masterpiece that lands the number one spot on my list. This film has it all; great animation, an epic scale, an emotional story, terrific music (both in terms of the songs by Elton John and the score by Hans Zimmer), and classic characters.


And those are my rankings of Disney Animation’s 55 animated features prior to this week’s Moana. Thanks for joining me on this month-long celebration of Disney and be sure to stay tuned because my review for Moana will surely be coming in the next few days.