Each winter gives way to spring, to hope eternal, to new movies and TV shows to watch while ignoring the fresh flowers and summer breezes and changing foliage of the unforgiving outdoors. And looking at the upcoming season's release schedule, there’s no reason to think that 2017 won’t deliver wonders for our eyes and ears. From old favorites (HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Universal’s “The Fate of the Furious”) to shiny new confections (Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” the CW’s “Riverdale”), the year to come does what all new years do: dangle promise before us, daring us to reach for it.
Here are the movies and television shows that the L.A. Times’ Calendar staff are most excited to see in 2017. We don’t know if any of them will be any good, but we can’t wait to find out.
(Reminder: Release and premiere dates subject to change.)
Below are the films opening theatrically through April 21. Release dates and other details, as compiled by Kevin Crust, are subject to change. Sadly, “Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies” (Jan. 13) and “My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea” (2017 TBA) fall outside of this window
Alone in Berlin
After their son is killed in World War II, a middle-aged German couple become activists spreading an anti-Nazi message across the city via postcards. With Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Brühl. Written and directed by Vincent Perez, based on the novel "Every Man Dies Alone" by Hans Fallada. IFC Films
Antarctica: Ice and Sky
French glaciologist Claude Lorius, whose work provided evidence of man-made global climate change, is profiled in this documentary. Directed by Luc Jacquet. Music Box Films
A overly trusting law student allows a violent couple to play on his suspicions that his stepfather arranged the car crash that left his mother in a coma. With Tye Sheridan, Stephen Moyer, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley. Written and directed by Christopher Smith. Magnet Releasing
Michael Keaton stars as McDonald's impresario Ray Kroc, who turned a Southern California burger joint into a billion-dollar business. With Nick Offerman, Linda Cardellini. Written by Robert D. Siegel. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Weinstein Co.
The Red Turtle
Stranded on an island with turtles, crabs and birds, a man experiences the milestones of being human in this silent animated film. Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit. Sony Pictures Classics
A man with 23 distinct personalties struggles with an emerging 24th that threatens to dominate the others. With James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Universal Pictures
A carefree filmmaker becomes a single father after he is seduced by a bohemian shepherdess. With Damien Bonnard, India Hair, Raphäel Thiéry. Written and directed by Alain Guiraudie. Strand Releasing
Trespass Against Us
The patriarch of a British crime family stops at nothing to keep his son in line when he begins thinking of another way of life for his own family. With Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshall, Killian Scott, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris. Written by Alastair Siddons. Directed by Adam Smith. A24
Three foreigners each find love with a Greek in this triptych set against the socio-economic turmoil of contemporary Greece. With J. K. Simmons, Christopher Papakaliatis (as Christoforos Papakaliatis), Andrea Osvárt. Written and Directed by Christopher Papakaliatis. Cinema Libre Studio
XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel returns for his third outing as a former extreme sports star turned government agent embroiled in a global conspiracy. With Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson. Written by F. Scott Frazier, based on characters created by Rich Wilkes. Directed by D.J. Caruso. Paramount Pictures
Also: The Axe Murders of Villisca Horror. IFC Midnight … Bakery in Brooklyn Comedy. Gravitas Ventures … Doobious Sources Comedy. Gravitas Ventures … My Father, Die Thriller. FilmRise … Sailor Moon the Movie R Animated. Eleven Arts …Saving Banksy Documentary. Parade Deck Films
A Dog's Purpose
The meaning of life is explored through one pooch and his humans. With Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad. Written by W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky; based on the novel by Cameron. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Universal Pictures
Michael Murphy portrays an elderly Roman Catholic priest whose life is shaken by a disturbing visit from the past. With Suzanne Clement. Written and directed by Terrance Odette. Breaking Glass Pictures
Matthew McConaughey plays a prospector who teams with a geologist to hunt for treasure in the untamed jungles of Indonesia. With Bryce Dallas Howard. Written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman. Directed by Stephen Gaghan. TWC - Dimension
I Am Michael
James Franco stars in this story of the gay rights activist Michael Glatze, who had a religious awakening, renounced his former life and became a Christian pastor. With Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts. Written and directed by Justin Kelly, based on a New York Times article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. Brainstorm Media
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The sixth and culminating episode in the action-horror franchise once again stars Milla Jovovich as the zombie-slaying Alice, returning to the Hive, where it all began. With Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts. Written and Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Screen Gems
Forced to change apartments, a young Iranian couple in Tehran find their lives upended by violence linked to a previous tenant. With Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. Amazon Studios / Cohen Media Group
Strike a Pose
A documentary look at seven male dancers, six gay, one straight, who were part of Madonna's 1990 "Truth or Dare" tour. Featuring Luis Camacho, Oliver Crumes III, Salim "Slam" Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Sue Trupin, Carlton Wilborn. Directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. Bond/360
Also: Get the Girl Comedy. Vertical Entertainment … Kung Fu Yoga Action comedy with Jackie Chan. Well Go USA … Lost in Florence Romantic drama. Orion Pictures … Midsummer in Newtown Documentary. Participant Media / Vulcan Productions … Paris 05:59 Romantic drama. Wolfe Releasing … Sophie and the Rising Sun Drama with Julianne Nicholson and Margo Martindale. Monterey Media … The Sunshine Makers Documentary. FilmRise …They Call Us Monsters Documentary. Matson Films
Jude Law knows what you’re thinking.
An HBO series called “The Young Pope,” starring one of Hollywood’s most dashing leading men in the title role?
“Everyone was expecting, with me in the part and the name, oh, it’s going to be choir boys and prostitutes at the Vatican,” said Law, relaxing in his hotel suite on a bright afternoon in November. Instead, the most scandalous thing about Law’s character, a youthful but arch-conservative American pontiff, born Lenny Belardo, is his penchant for chain-smoking and guzzling Cherry Coke Zero.
Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the 10-episode limited series defies easy categorization, even if its seemingly straightforward title has already inspired a popular Twitter meme. Dreamlike and methodically paced, “The Young Pope” is more interested in Big Questions of belief and the allure of tyranny than behind-the-scenes intrigue.
Though it is (relatively) light on the nudity and beheadings, the series is classic HBO — filmed on location in Italy, with sumptuous production values and A-list talent (Diane Keaton co-stars as Sister Mary, one of Lenny’s closest confidantes).
“The Young Pope” is Law’s first foray into series television in nearly two decades. While it’s become increasingly fashionable for movie stars of his stature to dabble in the small screen, the actor, 44, claims he’s agnostic about the medium and was more drawn to the opportunity to work with Sorrentino.
“There was a humanity, a wit, an ability to take quite personal stories and somehow elevate them to being global,” said Law of Sorrentino films including “Youth” and the Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty.”
Dressed in harem-style sweatpants and a cashmere hoodie, Law comes off as a bit of an aesthete; even his leisure wear makes a statement. He trusted himself in the hands of Sorrentino, a filmmaker with a flair for surreal imagery — “The Young Pope” opens with a dream sequence of a naked baby crawling on a pile of dolls— that can seem puzzling to the actors trying to bring it to life.
“It’s a director's medium and you’re there to be a color on the palette,” he said. “If you trust them enough, you know that it will make sense in its entirety.”
In turn, Sorrentino says he was looking for a performer who could capture the “juxtaposition between childishness and virility, innocence and power” that characterizes Lenny, who is elected by cardinals who foolishly expect him to be their “telegenic puppet.”
Instead Lenny wields his power mercilessly, ushering in a new era of conservatism and dogmatism at the Vatican. He dresses down an elderly nun for greeting him with a kiss and takes the name Pius XIII, a callback to a more traditional era in the church.
Though he was not raised in a particular religion, Law takes an a la carte approach to belief, “gathering what I see as personally affecting from all faiths.”
“And like every other teenager, I dabbled with a bit of Buddhism,” he added.
To prepare for “The Young Pope,” the actor read papal diaries and church histories and was even granted a tour of parts of the Vatican. He was impressed by the presence of seemingly mundane facilities — a bank, a laundry, a pharmacy where “hemorrhoid cream sells very well,” he says with a laugh.
But ultimately it was more useful to focus on Lenny’s humanity rather than the institution he represents. He and Sorrentino, who describes Law as “an additional screenwriter,” spent a great deal of time discussing Lenny’s childhood and its effect on his faith.
Abandoned by his hippie parents, Lenny was raised by nuns in an orphanage, never feeling loved and believing that God would fill the void. Sister Mary is a kind of surrogate stage mother to Lenny — the Mama Rose to his Gypsy, Law jokes. (Keaton, he says, referred to him as “your eminence” throughout the production.) The actor’s parents were both adopted and, while they grew up in much different circumstances than Lenny, “I had an emotional attachment to what it is like to be an orphan,” he said.
Lenny is the opposite of the current Pope Francis, whose modesty and inclusive tone have endeared him to many. And this is quite by design, said Sorrentino, who was interested in exploring how the church might respond to Francis in the future. “In the Vatican too, like in other states, an alternation between progressiveness and conservatism is plausible.”
Lenny immediately orders a ban on photographs and merchandise bearing his image — not out of humility but because he wants to make himself as “unreachable as a rock star,” as mysterious as Daft Punk, Banksy or Stanley Kubrick. He delivers his first address at night, under the cover of darkness, so that no one can see his face.
Asked whether he sympathizes with Lenny’s basic assumption — that an air of mystery can be beneficial to an artist — Law replies with an enthusiastic “hell yes.”
Some of my greatest regrets are not being guided as a young actor. No one tells you you don’t have to do the photos. You look back and you think … why did I let all that stuff in?
“Some of my greatest regrets are not being guided as a young actor. No one tells you you don’t have to do the photos. You look back and you think … why did I let all that stuff in? But also why did I give all that stuff away?”
At times, “that stuff” has also been taken from Law, whose personal life has been the subject of almost relentless tabloid scrutiny since “The Talented Mr. Ripley” catapulted him to fame 17 years ago, most notably in the hacking of his voicemail by reporters at the News of the World.
And yet despite all this, Law is refreshingly unguarded, meeting in his hotel room without a publicist present. Gracious and polite, he pauses frequently to consider the questions he’s asked in a way that seems thoughtful rather than circumspect.
Although he calls the media scrutiny “deeply exhausting,” he’s never considered walking away from acting — at least not seriously. “Since people have been hunting and eating and cohabiting, we’ve also told each other stories. It’s a beautiful aspect of our communities. Why stop that?”
Law says he’s guided by a creative restlessness rather than any overarching career plan. He recalls the excitement of seeing John Gielgud in Peter Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books.” “Here was this 80-something-year-old man performing naked and still putting himself out there. I just thought, what a career. Still doing stuff that probably scares the life out of you.”
While Sorrentino is currently writing a potential second season of “The Young Pope,” Law is coy about his possible return. For now, he’s focused on other projects, including a stage version of Luchino Visconti’s “Obsession,” directed by Tony-winning Ivo van Hove, at the Barbican in London this spring.
“I’m curious,” he says. “That’s my religion.”
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A sad clown story that's actually about a sad clown, and the first great series of 2016, returns for a second season. Zach Galifianakis (co-creator with Louis C.K. and director Jonathan Krisel) takes the dual role of antagonistic twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets, with Emmy winner Louie Anderson as their mother, Christine. Season 1 ended with Chip, the clown, hopping a freight train out of Bakersfield — "It's OK, I'm a hobo," he tells the railroad bulls who discover and deal with him — as Dale began some sort of relationship with Chip's sole friend, Martha (the exquisitely deadpan Martha Kelly). Now Chip is on the road, less angry, but even sadder. "I went to France to study to become a clown," he tells a pack of young travelers whose path he crosses, "but I don't think clowns are needed as much since the world has become so clownish." The show can be difficult to watch, not because the characters are horrible or cringe-worthy, but because they so desire love and so don't know how to get it, or how to recognize it when it comes their way. As before, Anderson is something beyond brilliant. Making tender a role that could easily become grotesque, he is completely alive as Christine. There isn't a line that comes from his mouth that doesn't seem to have been born in the moment he speaks it.
On paper, the concept sounds a bit mad: What if the freckled-faced teens of the wholesome “Archie” comics were wrapped up in a seedy murder mystery? And yet the CW’s “Riverdale,” which premieres Jan. 26, is arguably one of the most anticipated new series of 2017.
Ever since “Riverdale’s” pilot debut at San Diego Comic-Con last summer, fans have been buzzing about this “Twin Peaks” meets “Dawson’s Creek” drama.
Gone are the cartoonish glances and cross-hatched sideburns, the new Archie — as embodied by K.J. Apa — is ripped.
In fact, everyone in Riverdale — “The town with pep!” — has changed. Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) pops Adderall, Veronica Lodge’s (Camila Mendes) family is in ruins, Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel) is no longer a senior citizen but a “Lolita”-sunglasses-wearing cougar and. oh yeah, Archie’s dad is Luke Perry.
We always try to tell a story that works both as an ‘Archie’ story and as a noir, David Lynch-ian kind of story.
The plot picks up after the suspicious death of a Riverdale High student and teeters between teen drama and murder mystery for the rest of the season. “We always try to tell a story that works both as an ‘Archie’ story and as a noir, David Lynch-ian kind of story,” said Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, series creator and executive producer.
Aguirre-Sacasa’s eclectic work history laid the groundwork for the unique series. As a playwright, he wrote the book for Duncan Sheik’s musical adaptation of “American Psycho.” He's also worked on several TV series including “Big Love,” “Looking” and “Glee” and, after 11 years writing comic books, he was named the chief creative officer for ”Archie” Comics.
Despite “Riverdale’s” new moody aesthetic of fog-filled streets (even Pop’s Chok’lit Shoppe is shrouded in mist), Aguirre-Sacasa insists that the central themes of the series will always return to those of the “Archie” comics he grew up reading.
“Our show is not that different from the core of ‘Archie’ from the 1940s or the 1950s. Archie, in the comics, was a good kid who always tried to do his best, frequently screwed up, made things worse before he made them better, and then learned a lesson. The Archie on our show is actually like that as well. He is basically a good kid but he's in much more adult situations than he ever was in the comic book. He’s wrestling with that, but his essence is still the same.”
The same holds true for Betty and Veronica, he said, noting that the former is still the “perfect girl next door” who gets good grades and wants to be a cheerleader. “What we’re exploring is, what is the cost of being perfect?”
Executive producer Greg Berlanti, who oversees the CW comic book adaptations of “Arrow” and “The Flash,” can trace his “Archie” influences all they way back to his days working on “Dawson’s Creek.”
“This is one of the few instances where I’m working on something where it is actually [one of] the roots of the comic-book love triangle,” Berlanti said. “The original Dawson-Joey-Pacey was Betty-Archie-Veronica.”
But no matter how timeless the central themes may be — and despite the addition of the first openly gay character from the “Archie” comics in Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) — the producers felt that the source material still needed an update for modern audiences.
“A lot of these comic books were written in a time where the bulk of people reading them and writing them were white,” Berlanti said. “That’s not the world we live in anymore. We were cognizant about changing the ethnicity and updating the characters to make sure we didn’t want to look at a poster of ‘Riverdale’ with just all white people on it.”
Veronica Lodge is now played by Latino actress Mendes and local Riverdale band Josie and the Pussycats is an all-black trio led by Ashleigh Murray, and yes they will play pep rallies that go full tilt “Friday Night Lights.”
The relationship between Betty and Veronica has also received tweaking. While the central love triangle remains intact, “Riverdale” has turned the trope slightly askew, refocusing more on the friendship between the two women and not their desire for Archie.
“I’m not interested in stories about girls fighting with each other,” says executive producer Sarah Schechter. “That, to me, feels really antiquated and it’s certainly not helpful. It doesn’t feel real to the depth of my relationship with other women as a woman. We were never interested in making them frenemies. They’re both complicated women.”
Not all characters were destined for a total overhaul. Archie is still very much a red-head, a fact that Apa is reminded of every two weeks when his hair is bleached down and re-dyed, “The first time I did it, I was sitting in the salon for about 10 hours.” Apa says. “I remember staring at myself and thinking, ‘I’m going to be bald by the time we finish this.’”
Even though the actor hails from New Zealand, Apa believes “Riverdale” has global appeal, with the great unifier being, once again, surviving high school. “[Archie’s] figuring out, through trial and error, his relationships with people, with Betty and Veronica, with girls, with his career choice. Is it music or his football? And he just wants to find his passion and he wants to follow it. I think people can relate to that, a lot of people went through the same thing in high school. I know I did,” he says.
But the show is not aimed just at teens, with the adult population sprinkled with faces that will be familiar to parents including Madchen Amick (“Twin Peaks”) as Betty’s harridan mom, Skeet Ulrich (“Scream”) as leader of Riverdale’s criminal element and Molly Ringwald as Archie’s mother.
“I think there’s a reason why ‘Riverdale’ plays really well to adults, because we were all teenagers, and I think we all still feel a little bit of that: ‘Who are we and how do we define ourselves and what’s important to us?’ It’s an ongoing process,” explains Schechter. “A part of you is a teenager forever.”
A "bio series" focused on Zelda Sayre, later Fitzgerald, of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Fitzgeralds — the Fitzgerald many have found the more compelling of the two.
Adapted by the team of Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich ("The Killing") from Therese Anne Fowler's historical novel, the series is unusually convincing both for an American period piece and for a biopic, that most treacherous of dramatic forms.
Christina Ricci, the former Wednesday Addams, may not be the first actress you'd imagine to play the belle of 1918 Montgomery, Ala. — physically, she doesn't resemble Zelda at all — but she has spirit to burn, a fierce intelligence and in her mid-30s is both completely credible as a rule-bending, skinny-dipping, cigarette-smoking, party-loving teenager and not too young to play the character through the rest of her short, fabulous, finally circumscribed life.
The series promises to take the couple from their meeting in Montgomery to the New York high life into which Scott's early success catapulted them — to expatriate Paris and on into a world that eventually had no use for them; for now, the first season is all young love, first novel and heady days. With Christina Bennett Lind as Zelda's childhood pal Tallulah Bankhead; David Strathairn, always a bonus, as the exasperated Judge Sayre; and David Hoflin as the eventual author of "This Side of Paradise," "The Great Gatsby," "Tender Is the Night" and "The Last Tycoon," which also is being adapted as an Amazon series.
In times of social and political uncertainty, one man often is referenced by cable news pundits, community advocates and college students: writer and activist James Baldwin. Seen as a literary solace for many, Baldwin authored seminal works, including the much-cited “The Fire Next Time,” “Giovanni’s Room” and “Notes of a Native Son.”
Like blueprints on how to navigate and de-center white supremacy, racism and prejudice, Baldwin’s words, to some, pave the way to the future. Director Raoul Peck’s critically acclaimed documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” follows in this same vein.
The film relies solely on the words of Baldwin’s unfinished novel, “Remember This House,” an attempt to tell the story of race in modern America through the lives and assassinations of three of his friends: Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, it has no talking heads, instead using archival footage, sound and smart editing to drive its point.
Can Fox’s iconic “24” survive a 25th hour?
That’s one of the most intriguing questions facing viewers at the start of the new year when Fox reboots “24” with “24: Legacy,” which puts a whole new spin on the premise of a thriller playing out in real time.
The “24” brand has been off the air since the 2014 finale of the limited series “24: Live Another Day.”
Back is the explosive opening title, the “events unfold in real time” introduction, the on-screen running clock and the breakneck pace.
Not back is Kiefer Sutherland, the heart and soul of the series with his portrayal of Jack Bauer, the world-weary spy who had to save the world several times from enemy forces. (Sutherland is now trying to run the country as a lower-level Cabinet member who is unexpectedly promoted to president of the United States in ABC’s “Designated Survivor,” which is in the midst of its first season.)
This version of “24”, which debuts Feb. 5 following the Super Bowl, stars Corey Hawkins, best known for playing Heath on “The Walking Dead” and Dr. Dre in the film “Straight Outta Compton.” Hawkins plays Eric Carter, an Army Ranger and the leader of a raid on a Middle Eastern terrorist cell. Now, the survivors of that cell are out to track Carter and his fellow warriors in an effort to secure a weapon stolen during the raid that will unleash an attack on America.
Fox is taking a huge risk with “24: Legacy,” replacing a veteran star like Sutherland with a relatively unknown African American actor. No other characters from the original series — at least in the first few episodes — are present (they couldn’t even bring back Chloe?). Though there will be a few familiar faces, including Miranda Otto and Benjamin Bratt, the supporting cast is largely new — and culturally diverse.
Still, many of the elements that helped make “24” a hit — car and foot chases; double- and triple-crosses — are front and center.
It will be interesting to see whether the show’s devoted fans will keep it ticking beyond this season.
Sam Duvet and Tim Cramblin are admen, but with none of the style, savvy or skills of Don Draper and Roger Sterling. The old friends and Detroit locals, played by real-life old friends and Detroit locals Sam Richardson (“Veep”) and Tim Robinson (“Saturday Night Live”), are advertising execs of the low-budget variety – full of small ideas and big aspirations.
Cramblin Advertising was once respected for its weighty accounts with Delta and Budweiser, but since the low-achieving Tim took it over from his father (who went insane), the firm now specializes in late-night TV ads for local hot tub kings, children’s furniture outlets and shady accident attorneys.
The two strive to regain the agency’s past glory by landing their first big account with Chrysler, but somehow their campaign ideas (“Jesus Chrysler, What a Car!”) keep missing the mark. The 10-episode weekly series follows the duo’s quest to land a big one, even if the two awkward buddies with “Loser” practically printed across their out-of-date Gap polo shirts have no idea how to get there.
Co-created and written by Richardson and Robinson, “Detroiters” also features guest spots by Keegan-Michael Key, Michael Che, Steve Higgins and Malcolm Jamal-Warner, among others. The show’s executive producer, Jason Sudeikis, also costars here as the hard-to-please Chrysler VP. The absurdly funny chemistry between him, Richardson and Robertson, and the show’s clever references to the Motor City’s culture and scenery, make the series a unique and wonderfully quirky ride through advertising’s not-so-sexy underbelly.
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose
No one expected much from the first “John Wick.” Looking at the cast list and synopsis, it seemed as if it could’ve been the kind of action-thriller that airs at 11 Sunday night on some basic-cable network: Keanu Reeves plays the shadowy title figure, who kicks off a revenge spree after Russian thugs kill his dog.
And, yes, that is pretty much what “John Wick” is. It is also the kind of grindhouse, exploitation fun that Hollywood doesn’t make any more, executed with style and verve by directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch — themselves stuntmen, fight choreographers and second-unit directors making the leap to the big chair. “John Wick” made $86 million worldwide off an estimated $20-million budget. With that kind of math, you get a sequel.
This time around, it doesn’t seem that a puppy needs to die in order to prompt Wick — again played by Reeves like a world-weary Neo, able to work ballistic miracles with a gun in his hand — to commit mayhem. And anyone who grew up on the action cinema of the ’80s and ’90s is already in line for popcorn.
After a divisive political season, it can be a comfort to return to a series that offers a riveting, sumptuously filmed reminder of the one unifying issue we can agree on: the beauty and wonders of the natural world. The first edition of the series, in 2006, helped usher in the HD era, and the sequel continues that legacy by going one better as the first BBC production filmed in 4K resolution — assuming you’re one of those early adopters. Having already aired in the U.K., the series (again narrated by Richard Attenborough) earned strong numbers with an average of more than 10 million viewers per night. It features jarringly intimate looks at locales that include “Islands,” “Mountains,” “Grasslands” and, intriguingly, “Cities.” Can zoomed-in looks at animals and their potentially endangered habitats heal the political divides of 2017? Probably not, but no program this year is going to look as stunning in the effort.
If you thought the “Real Housewives” of Bravo took drama and passive aggression to new, petty heights, think again. HBO’s upcoming limited series “Big Little Lies” takes the histrionics to a murderous level.
The seven-episode series follows three mothers of grade-schoolers in an elite community. The dark underbelly of parenthood comes into focus as those seemingly “perfect lives unravel to the point of murder,” according to the official release. The series, which is based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel, stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley — uh, “True Detective” who?
Like the book, the miniseries will have its share of humor amid all the dark drama. The trailer for the series includes a snarky jab from Witherspoon’s character to another mother about, well, another mother. “She’s not a nanny, she’s a mom. She’s just young, like you used to be.” But unlike the book, the TV adaptation will be set in wealthy Monterey, Calif., not an Australian suburb. All seven episodes are directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (“Wild,” “Dallas Buyers Club”) from scripts by David E. Kelley. Witherspoon, Kidman and Kelley, who have been shopping the project since fall 2014, will also serve as executive producers. Rounding out the cast are Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper and Jeffrey Nordling.
The story of the “Million Dollar Quartet” — the nickname given to the formidable foursome of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins — has been told in both book and musical form. Now the tale is coming to TV via CMT and an eight-episode series that traces the rise of the famed label of the title, its genius producer Sam Phillips and the four disparate, but complementary musicians
“Sun Records,” executive produced by Leslie Greif and Gil Grant, is based on the Tony-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” and arrives shortly after the 60th anniversary of the legendary one-off recording session featuring the four men.
Among those stepping into some very big, and in at least one case blue suede shoes, are Elvis impersonator Drake Milligan as Presley, Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill”) as Phillips, Billy Gardell (“Mike & Molly”) as famed Presley manager Colonel Tom Parker, Kevin Fonteyne (“Masters of Sex”) as Cash, British actor Christian Lees as Lewis and Dustin Ingram as Perkins.
Set in Memphis against the backdrop of the changing political and social climate and racial tensions, the series’ main focus is Phillips and the early days of rock ’n’ roll and R&B and the country and blues music with which those genres intersected. Among the other famous names woven into the story are Ike Turner, Jimmy Swaggart, Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow.
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Keith Stanfield
Comedy star Jordan Peele (“Key and Peele,” “Keanu”) makes the leap to horror — and goes behind the camera — with this Blumhouse thriller with a frighteningly resonant premise: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African American man, and his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) pay a weekend visit to her family in the suburbs, where he discovers insidious shenanigans targeting the black residents of her very idyllic, very Caucasian hometown.
The first-time helmer Peele (who also wrote the screenplay) updates the simmering suburban paranoia of “The Stepford Wives” into a 21st century nightmare in which micro-aggressions are murder on more than just your nerves — and all too familiar in today’s still-divided America. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford costar as the parents whose discomfort over their daughter’s new romance might just belie something more sinister, while up-and-comer Keith Stanfield (“Selma,” “Straight Outta Compton”) makes an appearance as a fellow visitor with a smile on his face and panic in his eyes.
Peele’s genre debut comes loaded with social commentary and opens during Black History Month — and judging from the reaction to its sharply entertaining first trailer, could spark a new subgenre of close-to-home horror thrusting interracial and class tensions into the pop culture conversation.
Director: James Mangold.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook
The “X-Men” movie universe has been, since its 2000 inception, one of great change. In the process of charting the evolution of Marvel’s merry mutants, directors like Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner and Matthew Vaughan have come and gone (and in the case of Singer, come back). Characters who seemed perfectly cast — like Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen as his friend/nemesis Magneto — have been recast (enter James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively).
But the one constant has been Jackman’s Wolverine — the mutant with a spotty memory and unbreakable claws. For 17 years, Jackman has held down the center of the X-Men world, until now. After “Logan,” Jackman will hang up his claws.
So it’s fitting that “Logan” — Wolverine’s real name — looks to be something of an “Unforgiven” with superpowers. A one-last-ride story that finds an aging Logan looking after a young mutant (Dafne Keen) who might be his clone.
This will be the third standalone Wolverine movie, after 2009’s not-at-all-good “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and 2013’s much better swords-and-samurais adventure “The Wolverine.” Maybe the third time is, indeed, the charm.
Ryan Murphy has probably done more than anyone in Hollywood to bring the anthology series into vogue.
In 2017, he will build on the success of “American Horror Story” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” with “Feud.”
The first season will dramatize the notorious, if somewhat misunderstood, rivalry between screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Based partially on the script “Best Actress” by Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam, the eight-episode “Feud” will go behind the scenes of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” the 1962 film that both women hoped would revive their flagging careers but which ultimately became a camp classic. Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, much to Crawford’s irritation.
Future seasons of the planned anthology will explore other epic personal grudges.
“Feud” is poised to burnish Murphy’s reputation as a latter-day George Cukor, a storyteller known for showcasing female performers. The series will reunite him with several favorites, including Jessica Lange, who will follow in Faye Dunaway’s footsteps by portraying Crawford (though it remains to be seen if she’ll reach the over-the-top heights of “Mommie Dearest.”)
Murphy regulars Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates will play two other classic stars, Geraldine Page and Joan Blondell. New to the Murphy oeuvre is Susan Sarandon, who, in a bit of note-perfect casting, will appear as Davis.
Much like “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which used the most sensational murder trial of the ’90s to examine still-relevant themes of police corruption, gender, race and celebrity, “Feud” likely will go beyond the catfights and expose enduring truths about women, aging and Hollywood.
Like its central characters, FX’s “The Americans” has always lived dangerously. The couple at the heart of the show, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, are undercover KGB agents posing as an ordinary American suburban husband and wife, so fans of the show are rooting for protagonists who, at their best, are anti-American and, at their worst, want to bring the country down. The show also has situations that could be considered a little too convenient. Stan Beeman, their closest friend — and neighbor — is an FBI agent targeting Russian spies and for the most part has little suspicion of the true identifies of the nice couple across the street.
But such shortfalls have been overcome by the electric chemistry and performances of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, a vivid sense of its period setting in the ’80s and its suspenseful stories and plot lines that also put the Jennings at the brink of danger and being discovered — and what that would mean for their likable family. Even more importantly, the regularly roller-coaster family dynamic brings a clearly identifiable element to the proceedings — there are marital woes, bratty teens and steamy sex on both sides of the Cold War.
Though critically acclaimed, “The Americans” has existed mainly as a ratings sleeper since its premiere in 2013, but emerged as a true contender in its fourth season, earning both Emmy and Golden Globe recognition. The show has maintained a steady sense of urgency and excitement even as the stakes are raised for the Jennings. The confession by the couple to their inquisitive daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) of their true identity — and Paige’s betrayal of her parents by telling her church pastor that her parents are Russian spies — could have been disastrous for the show’s momentum (see the second and third seasons of “Homeland”), but instead has taken the drama to another crackling level. The Jennnings’ fascination and growing affection for the American way of life brings another layer that makes the drama even more complex. Can’t wait for the new season.
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Josh Gad
Let’s be real. A live-action “Beauty and the Beast” with full-on musical soliloquies is a bold idea. But the thought of Emma Watson as Belle running up a hill belting out, “I want adventure in the great wild somewhere,” hits right in that sweet nostalgia spot, hard.
There is absolutely no way a live-action film about singing household objects and a young woman falling in love with what appears to be the human form of Black Phillip from “The Witch” should work, and yet we’re curious. Deadly curious.
The chances of finding one member of this office sitting front row full-on cry-singing through “Bonjour” one minute and then uncomfortably squinting at Dan Stevens’ interpretation of the Beast is very high. Why? Because the cast reads like it came straight out of the Internet’s dream journal.
Watson and Stevens play the leads while Ewan McGregor was cast as the candlestick, Lumiere; Ian McKellen is the clock, Cogsworth; and Emma Thompson is the teakettle, Mrs. Potts. Early standouts Luke Evans as the egomaniacal villain Gaston and his lackey Le Fou, played by Josh Gad, already have been creating plenty of buzz after the two started singing from their Instagram accounts.
It feels like Disney has been ramping up to this feature film for years, first with the song-free live adaptation of “Cinderella” in 2015 followed by Jon Favreau’s “Jungle Book,” which trotted out a few familiar tunes from the animated classic. But this “Beauty and the Beast” adaptation feels less like another artist’s interpretation and more like an homage to the past.
There are a lot of emotional chips riding on this flick. Nail it, and the fans will love you forever. Fail, and they’ll accuse you of destroying their childhood, yet again.
It wasn’t long after “Trainspotting” came out in 1996 that the movie began to epitomize an era.
Directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge (from a book by Irvine Welsh), the film captured the growing consumerism, heroin-chic and Cool Britannia of the time. There were numerous memorable scenes (upside-down babies, heinous bar bathrooms), kinetic edits, indelible monologues (Choose Life! Colonized by Wankers!) and that raw uptempo soundtrack. As it followed the exploits of Renton, Sick Boy and other on-the-margin types in Edinburgh, Scotland, “Trainspotting” took on landmark status.
The film, of course, also launched the careers of Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller -- not to mention Boyle, years ahead of “Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours” and his reputation for slick sizzle.
So why, two decades later, are Boyle and Hodge returning with a sequel, “T2: Trainspotting,” out March 17? Isn’t it like that awkward high-school reunion, everyone looking a little different, no one truly wanting to be here? The Times talked with Hodge and Boyle to get answers.
JOHN HODGE, WRITER
You had a script years ago, based on Welsh’s 2002 sequel, “Porno.” How did that become this?
Hodge: I did write a script about 10 years ago. It wasn’t very good. See, there are two “Trainspottings” — there’s Irvine’s book and there’s our movie. At first, they were just slightly different. But over the years, that difference expands. And the new script might have been too close to the novel. It didn’t seem to flow from our “Trainspotting.” Some of it, I think, was the porn industry — in 2002, you could still make money from it. It felt like time had overtaken the novel.
What made you decide to try again?
I think the biggest reason was that Danny reached out to the four actors and said, in principal, “If John writes a script, would you do it?” And they all said yes — they all had to say yes. And then the pressure was on.
How do you make that gang grow up when the whole point of the first movie is that they don’t want to grow up? How did you deal with that?
I don’t want to give away too much but I think that was the challenge and the appeal. What are these guys like 20 years on? Like all of us, we change a lot over 20 years, but bits of us remain the same. I think the fact that so much time had passed also liberates the movie. If it was just five years later, we’d just expect more of the same — they’re just going to rob a casino in Monaco. Now, people expect things to be different, for a lot of life to be lived.
The world has changed a lot too — that consumer culture at hyper-speed has gotten even faster. And, of course, technology has entered the picture. I think we saw an opportunity there — to show how consumer culture has been inflated and employment is less secure and corporations even more powerful. This movie has become more topical since 1996. It’s become more topical since we started writing it.
DANNY BOYLE, DIRECTOR
Did you ever think you’d be making any sequel, let alone to “Trainspotting”?
I can’t say I did. Even when we were talking about it. But one of the big reasons is I’d just run into people and hear the way they talk about characters. They still remember their names. When does that happen? I can’t remember Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s name in “Passengers,” and I saw that yesterday.
That active filmmaking style you used then was so unique. Now it’s commonplace. How do you match that? Or do you not even try?
That’s the tension. If the soundtrack and the style don’t live up to what you had then, it will disappoint people. But it’s also 20 years later, and the boys are not running around like they used to.
John said this all began when you reached out to the four actors. Was that a tough call to make — “Hey, remember this thing that made your careers? Come and try to top that.”
[Laughs] Actually, I think they were all fine in theory. In practice, I knew if the script didn’t deal with them equally, like the first one, they wouldn’t do it. So then we had to come up with a movie that did that and also wasn’t…bad. Then there’s the prism of aging, which is terrifying for a lot of us but really terrifying for actors. You remember them frozen in time and suddenly they’re in the present.
Which is also part of the appeal — we get to not only imagine how characters turned out but also actually see that in front of us.
When we first started making this film, I thought the subject was time. And that the reason we didn’t make it 10 years ago is because the actors didn’t look like they’d aged enough. Or I wasn’t old enough. [Boyle recently turned 60.] And I realized after making this film it isn’t about time — it’s about masculinity, about disappointed masculinity. When we made the first film, everyone said it was about drugs, and I said it was about friendship. But I realize now it was really about boyhood. And this is about manhood.
It’s funny you use the word “boyhood.” I can’t help feeling there’s something Richard Linklater-ish about this. Like “Boyhood” or even the “Before” films, we get to check in to see how characters have — or haven’t — matured.
Movies have this weird Hollywoodizing effect, this glamorizing effect, even gritty films like “Trainspotting.” It makes people desirable by freezing them. And if you’re lucky, as we were, you get a chance to unfreeze them — sometimes literally, even, by dropping pieces of the first movie in. You get the past and present simultaneously. And that’s a rare, powerful thing.
Fox’s “Shots Fired” is almost certain to prompt debate and discussion behind its provocative premise, which reflects some of the most explosive headlines of the day — the shooting of unarmed African American men by white police officers.
In the central story line of the 10-hour drama, the topic is given a surprising twist: The victim is a young white man and the shooter is an African American police officer. The shooting in a small town in North Carolina puts the community on edge. But the atmosphere becomes even more charged when the spotlight switches to the neglected murder of an African American teen, which reopens wounds that threaten to tear the town apart.
The series comes from the powerhouse couple of Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) and Reggie Rock Bythewood (“Notorious”), who said in a statement that they were inspired by questions raised by their young son following the George Zimmerman trial in which Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. They hoped to create a project that would address “the policing of African Americans, our broken criminal justice system, and race-relations that would also ask difficult questions and spark real conversation and change.”
Giving the limited series more force is the cast, which includes Sanaa Lathan (“Love & Basketball”), Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) and Oscar winners Helen Hunt and Richard Dreyfuss.
It may struggle to escape the shadow of the dragon-sized dramas of schedule-mate “Game of Thrones” this year, but this series, co-created by Mike Judge, continues to offer sharp satire of the odd personalities and absurd economics of the tech industry. Last season saw Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) company Pied Piper spiral through various stages of assured success and disaster while trying to launch its platform. And its inability to be understood by non-engineers resulted in the company being nearly swallowed by the Google-esque Hooli before being rescued by Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) and Big Head (Josh Brener).
For the fourth season, Pied Piper has pivoted to video thanks to an effort by Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) that holds some promising possibilities in the changing dynamics between the programmers, particularly with regard to the dryly amoral Gilfoyle (Martin Starr). Like the area it skewers, the show still tilts primarily male, and there’s a chance it could become even more so as Suzanne Cryer’s investment firm has pulled out, which would leave Amanda Crew’s Monica as the show’s biggest female character. However, now that she's working closer with Pied Piper than ever with last season’s finale, there’s still lots of potential for this start-up to pay off.