I am not, and never have been, anything remotely close to what you could call a sports expert or even a moderate sports fan. Over the years, I’ve passed up countless parties that involved watching pretty much every American sport you can imagine (except for the winter X Games. Those are pretty awesome) and given up trying to act like I know the first thing about them whenever someone asks me who my favorite team/player/etc. is.
There is one event, though, that never ceases to get me excited and chanting “yeah, sports ball!!”. Judging by the image above, you should know which one I’m talking about.
The Super Bowl, at least in recent years, has become a touchstone of American culture, bringing together the worlds of sports, film, entertainment and consumerism. Nowhere else will you see a live football game put back to back with new trailers for hugely anticipated movies, multi million dollar advertisements for beer or Doritos and a halftime show that crams an entire concert’s worth of flash and pyrotechnics into an eight minute performance.
As soon as the game stops and the commercials begin, I’m immediately glued to the television, wondering what sort of surprises will be thrown my way next. 2017 is shaping up to be an incredible year for film and, thankfully, a step up from 2016’s painful lack of quality blockbusters. The 51st Super Bowl dropped a few trailers we were expecting and a few we weren’t so for your viewing pleasure, here are the biggest ones revealed during the big game!!
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
At World’s End really wasn’t that bad of a film. Sure, it couldn’t match up to the timeless quality of Black Pearl but none of us expected future films in the Pirates series to be able to compete. Still, despite its’ outlandishness and occasional CGI excess, it was a decent conclusion to one of the greatest action/adventure trilogies since Indiana Jones. Too bad it didn’t stay a ‘conclusion’ for long. 2011’s On Stranger Tides happened and I bet even the most ardent Pirates fan was thinking ‘is this really necessary?’.
The series was running out of steam but still made over $1 billion worldwide so guess what? That somehow justified yet another one. After seeing the first teaser for Dead Men Tell No Tales, I was shocked at how poorly executed and unexciting it was. There was no indication that this could revive the long running series and all I could muster was an exhausted ‘ugh’. Now that the first proper trailer has been released, though, my feelings have changed… a little.
We finally get our first look at Barbossa, Jack Sparrow(!) and Will Turner(!!) and rumors have been floating around that Keira Knightley just might pop in for a cameo at some point. The vibe is noticeably darker this time around with undead birds, armies of ghost pirates, fiery sea battles and an ever present sense of death and destruction. Playing Johnny Cash’s ‘Ain’t No Grave’ in the background probably helps with that too.
To be honest, I’ll be stunned if this film matched even Dead Man’s Chest in quality but directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg could pull a fast one on us. Only three months remain until we see if Pirates can raise itself from the dead.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Baby Groot. Literally the only thing Marvel fans can focus on right now since his adorable face was featured in a previous Guardians Vol. 2 trailer is Baby Groot. With how well the first film pulled off such a strange mix of humor, action, loveable characters and subtle maturity, there was no doubt that they’d be able to include a character this cute without him becoming too cheesy or over the top. Who knew they’d pull it off this well, though.
The massive success of the first Guardians has also placed an immense amount of pressure behind the upcoming Vol. 2 to either deliver something of the same quality or better yet, blow it out of the water. Director James Gunn has hinted the film would really dig into our main characters and more of Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and yes, Groot, is a glorious thing. They’re more interesting than the Avengers if you ask me.
Even though this new teaser doesn’t really give us much we haven’t seen before, there are a few funny quips such as Rocket’s “he says welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy. Only he didn’t use frickin” in response to Yondu not understanding Groot and Mantis repeating what we’ve all been saying for months now: “ohhh, he’s so cute!”. Also, including Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ was a brilliant choice.
Two things are certain at this point: this film will be hysterically funny and it’ll be a really, really good time. We’ll all be happy if it’s just as good as the first Guardians but I know I’m not the only one hoping Vol. 2 goes the extra mile.
A Cure for Wellness
Now here’s a film that screams everything except ‘blockbuster’. First revealed in the fall of 2016, the Gore Verbinski directed psychological thriller follows Mr. Lockhart, played by Dane DeHaan, an executive who has been sent on a mission to pick up his company’s CEO from a remote, mysterious “wellness center” high and away in the Swiss Alps. Taking a page from Shutter Island, there’s a lot more happening in this facility than Lockhart realizes.
The first trailer dropped us right in the middle of a monochromatic, brooding and twisted world of exquisitely artful cinematography and production, creeping darkness that oozes through every frame and some of the strangest, most shocking imagery to be hurled at us since some of Robert Eggers’ or Tim Burton’s more recent work. Best of all, it still isn’t clear exactly where the film will take us, even though it’s due to be released just over a week and a half from now.
This new 30-second teaser doesn’t introduce us to anything new but rather compacts everything we’ve seen before into a fast paced blast of scenes and moods and we get some disturbing narration that includes the line “accept the diagnosis and you will see it’s wonderful here“. Clearly this film will be going places not often visited by others in the genre (much like the journey of Mr. Lockhart, visiting this remote area) and at this point, it’ll either be an insane, tense blast or letdown that emphasizes style over substance.
Here’s hoping for the former.
Transformers: The Last Knight
They’re still making these movies?? *sigh* This is one inevitability of modern Hollywood. Like Pirates, if you launch a film franchise that continues to bring in billions of dollars after each installment, even if their reviews keep plummeting deeper and deeper into mediocrity, the studio will keep giving you the green light to pump out more and more until you’ve beaten that dead horse beyond recognition.
Michael Bay has claimed The Last Knight would be his last turn as director of the franchise but we’ve heard this same rhetoric before so who knows if he’ll truly step away from Transformers for good after this fifth installment. 2014’s Age of Extinciton garnered even lower reviews’ than the truly awful Revenge of the Fallen so his departure would certainly be welcome.
Knight looks to be even wilder than the four films before it with an evil Optimus Prime (or is it Nemesis Prime?), what looks like Unicron devouring the moon, Anthony Hopkins, King Arthur, District 9-like scenes of anti-Transformers propaganda, Independence Day: Resurgence levels of planetary destruction and Mark Wahlberg all happening at once. Who bloody knows how they’ll fit those pieces together in any sort of coherent way but you have to admit, it looks cool.
Knight could be the film that finally swings the pendulum back and delivers something as good as the first film but after the mental exhaustion of slogging through three horribly tedious films after, it might be too little too late. We’ll see.
Ghost in the Shell
‘Whitewashing’ and all of the controversies surrounding this apparently really prevalent issue have reached a fever pitch in recent years with films like Pan and The Great Wall being blasted for not featuring more cast members of international backgrounds (even though they explained Matt Damon’s place in Wall. You can’t reason with these SJW people. It’s like talking to a brick wall that won’t stop screaming at you.). None of these have received the amount of backlash that Ghost in the Shell has, though.
Based off of, but not a reboot of the culturally transformative 1995 anime film, Ghost follows a character known only as the Major as her task force Section 9 battles hackers and digital terrorists. At first, fans of the original freaked over the announcement of a major, live action film but went ballistic when Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role. Complains of “why isn’t she asian??” could be heard echoing from the deepest pits of Tumblr and Twitter and drew massive amounts of attention to the film.
The Japanese have always had a fascination with people from Europe and American and considered them beautiful, thus explaining why so many characters in anime don’t exactly look Asian but hey, that’s not important. In order for this film to sell to an American audience, you have to pitch a name to them that they’re familiar with and will spend their money to see. But nah, that isn’t important either.
From the first trailer, we were drawn into a beautifully shot and unbelievably well realized world that echoes the 1995 films in almost every shot but also keeps itself grounded with the aesthetics of modern Japan and China. Terrifying cyborgs, stylish slow motion scenes that aren’t cliched, incredible costume design and CGI (it’s unnerving how real it looks when part of the Major’s face is removed) and the jaw dropping inclusion of the original film’s iconic song have, at the very least, made me extremely curious.
Ghost in the Shell has a lot riding on it but the simple fact that the crew have intentionally tried to give it a fresh look and feel compared to most modern sci-fi/action films has given me hope. It’s uncertain if it’ll be another philosophical slow burn like the original or Blade Runner but there’s no doubt it’ll be an experience. Keep your fingers crossed that it will be a great one.
The Fate of the Furious
It’s funny that every installment of the Furious series heavily touts cars, racing and stunts as if they’re a major elements of the movies when, over the years, they’ve become more and more about guns, explosions, hand to hand combat and some of the most ridiculous, over the top sequences you could possibly imagine (dropping cars from a plane? Not big enough. Having cars smash through a window a hundred stories up and fly into the building next to it? Still not big enough).
The Fast and the Furious 6 pushed the craziest parts of the series to 11 and you’d be forgiven if you thought someone had handed directorial duties to an ADHD, Mountain Dew fueled, video game addicted preteen. These films aren’t concerned whatsoever with telling a story full of thought provoking questions and emotional, heart tugging moments and are more content with simply being two hours of speaker blastingly loud, ludicrous and outrageously antics.
The one serious moment it had to address, though, was the death of lead actor Paul Walker. His character Brian O’Conner was a key part of both the cast and the story & Fast 6 managed to handle the task of respectfully sending the character off and respecting his legacy. Where does the series go from here? Judging by the first trailer, apparently they’re taking a 180 since Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is revealed to be a traitor and spy in disguise… or is he?
Whatever’s really going on under the hood, giving the Rock a heftier role and adding in Charlize Theron and Jason Statham as major characters indicates The Fate of the Furious (is there anyone out there who doesn’t facepalm when they hear that title?) will be even more action heavy than previous films and scenes of a freaking submarine chasing the main cast hint that we might just see the series’ craziest sequences yet.
Everyone’s excited for Guardians Vol. 2 but I’d be willing to wager that the most highly anticipated superhero film not just of 2017 but in recent years is the upcoming Logan. Since this is officially the last time we’ll ever see Hugh Jackman take up the claws and play the iconic, sneering character, anticipation has been pushed into overdrive over how Marvel will wrap up his story after first being introduced in X-Men way back in 2000.
X-Men Origins and The Wolverine were both misfires that didn’t seem to know how to handle Wolverine’s personality, arc, powers etc. so there’s understandably been some hesitation over if we’ll finally get a film deserving of the Wolverine name. After 20th Century Fox announced the film would be rated R for brutal violence, it’s been apparent that they’re taking this very, very seriously, and thankfully so.
Logan takes place in 2029 in a post apocalyptic era where most of the mutant population has died off and the character has hid himself away, addicted to alcohol and struggling with the steady loss of his healing powers. An ailing Professor X and mysterious young girl known as X-23, who just happens to have powers like Logan, come into his life and he realizes his decades long mission hasn’t ended just yet.
Death and finality loomed heavily over the first trailer and the movie will be going deep into issues of morality, existentialism, life, death and family. Just as the first X-Men transformed the superhero film genre, Logan has the potential to do it again if it is indeed the unflinching, savage, heart wrenching and profound film it’s been hinting towards in the various teasers that have been released, such as this one.
It’ll be hard to say goodbye to Jackman and I’ll probably be shedding a few tears since I’ve been an enormous fan of his since 2000 but all we can hope is that Logan will be a finale for the ages and a fitting end to the character.
Stranger Things Season 2
Holy s***!!! Of all the things I’d expected to see during the Super Bowl, this is the absolute last trailer I think many of us expected. The first season of Stranger Things became an outright cultural phenomenon, drawing from the works of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and more to create a living, breathing homage to the 80’s that also stood apart as its’ own unique experience, following a group of kids and their families caught in the middle of unexplained supernatural events.
The series didn’t overdo any of its’ self referential elements, instead distilling what made so many of the 80’s films and stories so charming and entertaining into an 8-episode season that featured a young girl with superhero-like powers, an alternate dimension full of terrifying creatures, a boy ripped from our world who tries to call for help from beyond and a suspicious government agency that has its’ hands far deeper in these matters than anyone could have guessed.
It was an incredible, refreshing thrill ride that ended all too quickly and teasing the second season now is pretty cruel since we have another eight and a half months to wait until it’s released on Netflix. We do get a few interesting glimpses into what could be happening next for the cast, though. At the end of ‘The Upside Down’, Will was returned to our world but appeared to have gained supernatural powers of his own and now it looks like he’ll be having visions of doomsday and War of the Worlds-size invaders.
Whether or not these are real foresights or just figments of his active imagination will likely be part of season two’s narrative and we see flashes of Eleven, Jim Hopper and what looks like some of the organizations’ members watching… something from a wall of surveillance screens. All that’s certain is that we’ll be thrown into an even bigger world of mysteries, dangers and thrilling stories. If only we didn’t have to wait so long to see said stories.