BY BILLY SUTER
FILMS featuring Sigourney Weaver, Sylvester Stallone, Will Smith, Demi Lovato and Denzel Washington are among a rich mix of fun, varied fare headed for cinemas in 2017.
Weaver fans can catch her in A Monster Calls, scheduled for a January 13 release, which has been described as a visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona, who gave us The Impossible.
Based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel of the same title, the movie centres on a 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), who attempts to deal with the illness of his mother (Felicity Jones) and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss and faith.
Directed by JA Bayonne, A Monster Calls also features Liam Neeson.
A new version of Friday The 13th, this one directed by Marcus Nispel, is set for release on, natch, January 13.
Searching for his missing sister, Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki) heads up to the eerie woods of legendary Crystal Lake, where he stumbles on the creaky remains of rotting old cabins behind moss-covered trees.
And that’s not the only thing lying in wait under the brush. Against the advice of police and cautions from the locals, Clay pursues what few leads he has in the search for his missing sister, Whitney (Amanda Righetti), with the help of Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), a young woman he meets among a group of college kids up for an all-thrills weekend.
But they are all about to find much more than they bargained for.
Little do they know, they’ve entered the domain of an infamous killer who haunts Crystal Lake, armed with a razor-sharp machete
Collateral Beauty, set to open on January 6, sees Will Smith playing a successful New York ad executive who suffers a personal tragedy and retreats from life. His friends then devise a drastic plan to reach him before he loses everything.
Pushing him to the very edge, they force him to confront the truth in surprising and profoundly human ways.
From Oscar-winning director David Frankel, this thought-provoking drama explores how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of beauty, and how the constants of love, time and death interlock in a life fully lived.
The film has a great ensemble cast that includes Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Kate Winslet and Edward Norton.
Charming, scheduled to open on January 20, is an animated film that explores the untold stories of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty who discover they are all engaged to the same Prince Charming.
Under the spell of a wicked Queen, Prince Charming, led by the heroine Lenore, must go on an epic journey to find his true, true love.
Directed by Ross Venokur, the film features the voices of Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne, Ashley Tisdale and Wilmer Valderrama.
Animal Crackers, a new animated film scheduled for release on April 26, also sounds like fun. It follows a family whose life is turned upside down when they inherit a rundown circus and a mysterious box.
It’s a box of Animal Crackers, which magically change the person who eats them into the animal they have eaten – including monkeys, giraffes, lions, tigers and bears.
They must save the circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.
The movie features the voices of Sylvester Stallone, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellen and Danny DeVito.
Also worth keeping an eye out for is Birth of a Nation, scheduled for cinemas from January 20, which stars and is directed by Nate Parker.
Set against the antebellum South, it focuses on Nat Turner (Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves.
As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom. Directed by Nate Parker.
Don’ miss The Last Face, set to open on January 27. It’s the tale of a director of an international aid agency in Africa (Charlize Theron), who meets a relief aid doctor (Javier Bardem) amidst a political/social revolution. Together they then face tough choices surrounding humanitarianism and life through civil unrest.
Set against the devastating backdrop of war-torn Liberia, Miguel and Wren must find a way to keep their relationship alive in extraordinarily difficult conditions. They must battle their mutual passion for the value of life matched by the intensity of their diametrically opposed opinions on how best to solve the conflict that surrounds them.
Directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Sean Penn, The Last Face also stars Jared Harris and celebrated French actors Jean Reno and Adele Exarchopoulos.
Fences, scheduled for a February 7 release, tells of an African American father struggling with race relations in the US while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.
Directed by and starring Denzel Washington, the movie also features Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, Stephen Henderson, Saniyya Sidney and Jovan Adepo.
Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey are sure to want to rush off to see the first two sequels, the first of which, Fifty Shades Darker, is scheduled to hit cinemas on February 10.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, the second and third chapters based on the worldwide bestselling phenomenon.
Expanding upon the events set in motion in Fifty Shades of Grey, which has grossed more than $560 million globally, the films will again become the motion-picture events for Valentine’s Day 2017 and 2018.
Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, alongside E L James, the creator of the series, also return to produce. James Foley directs both films.
Ghost in the Shell, on the big screen from March 31, is based on the internationally acclaimed sci-fi property, and follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
Directed by Rupert Sanders, the film stars Scarlett Johannson, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Beat Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbæk, Kaori Momoi, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara and Tuwanda Manyimo.
Opening on March 17 is God Particle, in which a shocking discovery forces a team of astronauts aboard a space station to fight for survival while their reality has been altered
Directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel, the movie stars Doug Jung, Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, David Oyelowo, Aksel Hennie and John Ortiz.
Also watch for The Great Wall, due on screen from February 17, which is directed by Zhang Yimou. It tells the story of an elite force making a last stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.
Set in 15th century China, The Great Wall is about British warriors who happen upon the hurried construction of the massive wall. As night falls, the warriors realise that the haste in building the wall isn’t just to keep out the Mongols – there is something inhuman and more dangerous.
The film’s cast includes Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Jing Tian, Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Lin Gengxin and Zheng Kai.
Justin Bieber fans should keep an eye out for Killing Hasselhoff, due on April 7. It centres on a struggling nightclub owner in debt to a loan shark, who sets out to win his long-running celebrity death pool by offing his chosen celebrity: David Hasselhoff.
Directed by Darren Grant, the film also features David Hasselhoff, Ken Jeong, Justin Bieber, Carlos Panavega, Hulk Hogan, Jon Lovitz and Scott Mescudi
Finally, note that Rock Dog, an animated film directed by Ash Brannon, featuring the voices of J K Simmons, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, Mae Whitman and Sam Elliott , is due to open on March 3.
When a radio falls from the sky into the hands of a wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff, he leaves home to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician, setting into motion a series of completely unexpected events.