Stephen King

31 Days of Halloween: Review: ‘Gerald’s Game’ another excellent Stephen King adaptation

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Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star in Netflix’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game.”

Leave it to Stephen King to find a way to make handcuffs in the bedroom not sexy.

That’s the case with his smaller known tale of matrimonial terror, Gerald’s Game. Obviously the 1992 novel has been around a while, but for most of its existence many have considered it unfilmable. Well thanks to Netflix, that’s now a concern of the past.

As of September 29th, the fearless streaming service has released their adaptation of King’s novel. Now King isn’t known for grounded storytelling; rather, he’s adored for his disturbed characters and darkly twisted imagination. On those fronts, Gerald’s Game is a true winner.

The setup is simple yet unsettling. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) attempt to save their troubled marriage with a weekend getaway at a reclusive lake house. That’s where Gerald handcuffs his wife to the bed as a freaky approach to spicing up their limp romance.

In vintage King methodology, Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies before un-cuffing Jessie from the headboard (of course he couldn’t use fuzzy cuffs because those break too easy). It’s a nightmarish scenario that immediately had me contemplating what I’d do in the same situation, heaven forbid.

Almost immediately (and often in eye-rolling fashion) the odds start building against Jessie. A starving, feral dog wanders into the lake house via a door the couple inexplicably leaves open and begins feasting on her husband’s corpse. She’s also frequented by a tall, gangly vision of a man who may or may not be a hallucination brought on by Jessie’s intensifying dehydration and mania.

Most of Gerald’s Game centers around Jessie speaking to herself in the bed. To be more accurate, she’s speaking to aspects of herself represented by ghostly manifestations of herself and Gerald.

With so few characters populating its story, Gerald’s Game rides or dies with its lead performances and thankfully Gugino and Greenwood came to play (see what I did there?). Both commit to the various versions of their characters and the way the two volley philosophies of life and death back and forth is so hypnotic that it alone sustains most of the film’s near-two hour runtime.

Gerald’s Game is at its most disturbing when it’s exploring Jessie’s traumatizing past via artsy flashbacks. This is also when the film is at its most compelling as Jessie is forced to finally acknowledge and confront her deepest, darkest secrets. At times Mike Flanagan’s (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) film feels more like a brooding coming of age movie than a straight horror thriller.

🎃🎃🎃 1/2 (out of four)


Director: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greendwood

Rated: TV-MA

Year: 2017

Did you all get a chance to check out Gerald’s Game on Netflix? If so, what did you think? Is it worth the hype? Let me know in the comments below!

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Review: Eerie “IT” will chill your bones and warm your heart

Director: Andy Muschiettie

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Fin Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard 

Year: 2017

Rating: R

IT is arguably one of Stephen King’s most involved and inscrutable works. The book significantly ties into King’s greater literary universe and explores abstract concepts that aren’t always easy to visualize or interpret, especially if you are unfamiliar with many of the author’s other stories.

That in combination with some of the more– ahem– avant-garde material in the novel might explain the lack of attempts at a big screen adaptation since King first published IT back in 1986.

Thankfully, Director Andy Muschiettie (Mama) and his screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman accessibly scale back the more confounding, cosmic elements of King’s terrifying tale to focus in on the coming-of-age story at its core. And why not? It’s the strongest, most relatable aspect of the book and so too of the new film.

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Bill Skarsgard as IT, aka Pennywise

By now I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with the iconic scene that sets everything into motion. It’s a rainy autumn afternoon in the small, fictional town of Derry, Maine. A young, sickly boy named Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) sends his baby brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) outside to play with a nifty paper boat. Almost immediately, the S.S. Georgie (as it’s christened) is swallowed up by a storm drain.

Just then, what should appear from the dark, damp abyss but a jovial, dancing clown (Bill Skarsgard). Calling himself Pennywise and claiming to be a friend, the gleaming anomaly offers Georgie his boat back. Paying no attention to the drool running from the clown’s mouth or the accompanying dead-eyed stare, Georgie reaches into the drain and– well– let’s just say Pennywise ain’t exactly runnin’ a charity here.

Sadly, Georgie is just the latest in a long line of children who’ve recently gone missing in Derry. And things might have stayed that way too. You see, nobody in Derry is too keen on actually investigating these disappearances. None of the adults anyways.

Holding out hope that his younger brother is still alive, Bill employs the aid of his closest friends (they call themselves the Losers Club) to investigate the Barrens, a local tract of muddy land where the nearby river meets the city sewage. Here the Losers hunt for George; instead, they discover they’re the ones being hunted.

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One by one, the Losers have their own traumatizing run-in with Pennywise wherein IT terrorizes them by taking the form of their greatest fears. Among these malicious manifestations are a deformed nun; an oozing leper; and the crispy, headless corpse of a dead child. Though we only catch brief glimpses of them, each shape is vividly repulsing and impossible to un-see. That’s the genius of Muschiettie’s approach.

However, the ultimate success or failure of IT hinges on its casting, which is why I’m enthusiastic to report that Muschiettie and company have positively nailed the casting and all the way around too.

Bill Skarsgard is an impressive follow-up to Tim Curry, who had an iconic turn as Pennywise during the IT miniseries back in 1990. Though his performance isn’t as flamboyant as Curry’s, Skarsgard still captures the whimsical spirit of the child-eating clown.

While you may buy a ticket to see Skarsgard as IT, you will walk away remembering the Losers. Spending time with the central group of kids here is a joy and even though there are seven of them, each is allotted a healthy dose of screen time; not just to explain their individual encounters with Pennywise, but also to explore the deeper (and oftentimes scarier) conflicts in their lives.

The chemistry among the young cast is infectious. It’s difficult to resist their shared charm but easy to believe that these kids would actually be friends in real life. Though their story seems otherworldly at times, their earnestness with each other and the audience feels very grounded. Ultimately, I felt scared when they felt scared and happy when they felt happy because I cared.

Grade: A

IT is setting fire to a number of box office records. That means plenty of people are heading out to see it, which means there ought to be plenty of opinions. How did you enjoy IT? Did you opt not to go because you hate clowns? Hit me up in the comments below! I want to know!

IT: Video Review

HIYA, GEORGIE. The highly anticipated big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved IT novel is finally here! Check out our video review below!

What did you all think of IT? Let us know in the comments below!

Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ flimsily stands atop solid foundation

Hollywood has been looking to Stephen King for adaptable source material for decades now. Some projects have become classic works of cinema, such as The Shawshank Redemption or The Shining. Others have been cast aside and forgotten like many of the restless spirits in King’s works.

Despite widely varying results, there is an obvious hunger for seeing King’s nightmarish imagination play out on the silver screen. Still, many have opted out of adapting The Dark Tower series, which is largely considered King’s magnum opus.

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Fast forward to 2017. Not only do we have a live-action retelling of Stephen King’s iconic novel, but it features two of the biggest stars on the planet in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. And while the collision of so much talent may seem like the cosmic workings of a greater power (a turtle, perhaps?), I’m afraid this iteration of The Dark Tower is doomed to the limbo of forgotten Stephen King movies.

That isn’t to say The Dark Tower is an outright mess. It isn’t. It’s actually pretty fun throughout thanks to occasional flashes of inspired world building and a strong outing by Elba as the heralded gunslinger, the last in a long line of badass cowboys who guard The Dark Tower from forces that would do it harm.

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Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black is one of those forces. He’s a powerful sorcerer who causes people to stop breathing or hate their own mother (no, really) by simply waving his hand. However, the Man in Black does more damage to the actual movie he’s in than anything.

Whereas the gunslinger seeks revenge for the death of those closest to him, no such motivation is given to the Man in Black. He wants to raise The Dark Tower and destroy the universe because he’s evil and that’s the type of thing evil characters in these types of stories do. It comes off as if no attention was spared to his development. Not even the Academy Award winning  McConaughey sparks any excitement from the one note writing. He delivers each eye-rolling line with spectacular boredom.

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But the Man in Black is only one convention inside an overly conventional film. Oozing from the mind of Stephen King, The Dark Tower movie should at least feel like a singular experience. Nobody tells the types of stories he tells and his creative influences are felt even during the most lackluster of his adaptations.

I knew where this movie was headed the moment Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) had his doodling pad ripped from his hands by the school bully, right down to the laughable final showdown. And I was right. You don’t have to possess any Shine to be able to predict each next step in this fantastical journey.

Grade: C+

What did you all think about The Dark Tower? Did you have fun with it? And what did you think about Matthew McConaughey in this role? Let us know in the comments section below!

20 Movies to get hyped for down the back half of 2017

Believe it or not, we are already halfway through 2017! So far we’ve seen some truly great flicks and though the summer movie season has been off to a sluggish start, things will definitely pick up down the back half of the year. To help mentally prepare you for the coming greatness, we’ve assembled a brief look forward to our most anticipated movies of these last six months!

JULY

1.) Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Totes obvi, right? Not only will Spider-Man: Homecoming be one of the biggest films of the summer (if not, the biggest), but it’s also one of our most anticipated and for some good reasons. First off, it’s the third cinematic interpretation we’ve had of the character since Sam Raimi’s original back in 2002 and after the bump in the road that was The Amazing Spider-Man films, it’ll be interesting to see how audiences respond to yet another reboot. Then there’s the casting of Tom Holland. We got a taste of his take on the Web Head in Captain America: Civil War and, needless to say, we want more. Plus who doesn’t want to see Spidey swinging around with Ironman on the big screen?!

Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters July 7th.

2.) War for the Planet of the Apes

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes took audiences and critics by surprise with how good it actually turned out and then Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was even better. These films somehow have us rooting against our own race! Motion capture guru Andy Serkis owns the role of Cesar and gives arguably his best performances in these films. ‘Dawn’ Director Matt Reeves returns to helm this third entry in the reboot and if it’s anywhere near as good as the previous film, this trilogy belongs in the discussion as one of the all-time great movie trilogies ever.

War for the Planet of the Apes will ravage a theater near you July 14th.

3.) Atomic Blonde

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Before Deadpool 2, Director David Leitch (also co-director of the first John Wick) is taking on another comic book property: Atomic Blonde. Leitch shoots some of the most exciting action today and his choreography is brutal so casting is important. So when you don’t have someone as hard working as Keanu Reeves in front of the lens, it’s important to secure equally committed talent. Charlize Theron fits that bill perfectly, having completely changed her model appearance (and winning an Oscar) for Monster (directed by Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins). Slap some supporting talent like James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella on the side and we’ve got one of our most anticipated movies remaining.

Atomic Blonde busts into theaters July 28th.

AUGUST

1.) Detroit

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Kathryn Bigelow is the only female to ever win Best Director at the Academy Awards. She did so back in 2008 with The Hurt Locker (which went on to win Best Picture that year). Her subsequent film, Zero Dark Thirty, was also nominated for Best Picture in 2012. Bigelow continues her streak of hard-hitting reenactments with Detroit, based on the city’s infamous string of tragic protests in the late 60s. A powerful true story with immense talent behind the camera deserves equal talent in front of the camera and that’s just what we’re getting. John Krasinski, Will Poulter, John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, and Jason Mitchell all headline this tremendous cast.

Detroit hits theaters August 4th.

2.) Logan Lucky

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Steven Soderbergh  (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich) hasn’t made a movie since 2013’s Side Effects. After mid-ranged film budgets seemingly went extinct in Hollywood, Soderbergh declared his retirement from directing. Naturally, his resurgence alone is reason enough to include his next project on this list. Imagine our excitement then when we found out who’s in it: Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, and Hilary Swank. As if that weren’t enough, they’re going to try robbing $14 million from the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race! You don’t have to steal from me, Soderbergh. Just take my money now.

Logan Lucky steals into theaters August 18th.

3.) Death Note

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Thanks to Ghost in the Shell, moviegoers shudder when “anime” and “live-action” are used in the same sentence. Couple that with the fact that, outside Beasts of No Nation, Netflix hasn’t exactly been hitting it out of the park as far as their original films are concerned (their television on the other hand… So good!). Those two things considered, we understand if you’re not high on Adam Wingard’s upcoming Death Note reimagining. We, however, maintain optimism that the man who brought us You’re Next, The Guest, and the underappreciated Blair Witch sequel, will do the hit anime justice. Because, if he doesn’t, that’ll put a damper on Kong vs. Godzilla.

Death Note falls into your Netflix queue August 25th.

SEPTEMBER

1.) IT

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In the 90’s, Stephen King’s cherished novel was made into a television miniseries starring Tim Curry as the iconic killer clown. Now, over twenty years later, the scaring source material is finally receiving its big screen dues, only this time Bill Skarsgard is dawning the red and white makeup. And while Mama wasn’t one of our favorite horror movies of 2013, it’s a solid step above par. As long as Director Andrés Muschietti can nail the tone and let his young, talented cast take care of the rest, IT could become a Halloween staple. Not to mention the first trailer broke the YouTube record for most views in a single day. Clearly we’re not the only ones hyped.

IT crawls into a theater near you September 8th.

2.) Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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Director Matthew Vaughn first sent up the superhero genre with Kickass, based on the little-known comic centered around a group of kids who come together dressed as superheroes to fight crime. After making more of a traditional superhero flick in X-Men: First Class, Vaughn set his sights on similarly small ‘Kingsman. Now we’re getting the sequel. Not only is Kingsman: The Golden Circle reuniting Vaughn with beloved cast members from the first film, but it’s also introducing the likes of Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore as the villain. If those names alone don’t get your blood pumping, nothing will.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle explodes into theaters September 22nd.

3.) American Made

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American Made has intrigued us ever since we learned that Tom Cruise was attached to star as real life U.S. commercial pilot-turned-drug-smuggler-turned-DEA-informant Barry Seal. It’s an insane story and one definitely worthy of the silver screen treatment and Cruise’s talents. Not long after, Doug Liman joined to direct. Liman previously directed Cruise in the understated sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow and also directed The Bourne Identity as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith. So something like American Made seems right in his wheelhouse. Adding to the hype was the equally bonkers trailer that dropped today which perfectly encapsulates the insanity of this high-stakes dramedy.

American Made flies into theaters September 29th.

OCTOBER

1.) Blade Runner 2049

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For sheer quantity, October is our most anticipated month remaining and it starts off with the much-desired sequel to the sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Imaginatively titled, Blade Runner 2049 brings back Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) as executive producer and Hampton Fancher as screenwriter. The the main attractions, however, are Ryan Gosling as the star and Director Denis Villeneuve, who is currently blazing one of the hottest streaks in Hollywood with Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. Then there’s the cinematography. Blade Runner has a specific visual style so it only makes sense to once again pair Villeneuve with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redeption, No Country for Old Men), who was previously lit both Prisoners and Sicario. This film is bringing back all the right people and tossing in some of the freshest talent around. We can’t wait to see the result.

Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters October 6th.

2.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Martin McDonagh is one of the most talented storytellers in Hollywood today. The writer-director’s films, much like Quentin Tarantino’s, bear a distinctive, auteurist style that similarly infuses hyper violence with dark, edgy humor and center on quirky, crime-based narratives. McDonagh also casts his films well. In the case of ‘Three Billboards,’ Frances McDormand stars as a mother who wages an all-out war against the local police after months of failing to make any headway in the case of her daughter’s murder. The equally charismatic Woody Harrelson co-stars as the chief of the aforementioned police force and Sam Rockwell as his second-in-command. In a market saturated by established IP’s, McDonagh is a force of originality and a breath of fresh air.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starts playing in theaters October 13th.

3.) Mother!

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The Hollywood marketing machine has a tendency to overshare footage from upcoming films. Whether through multiple trailers, television spots, posters, prologues, early behind the scenes, studios want to make sure you know exactly what you’re in for ahead of time. This has become so much the norm that films like Mother! almost seem revolutionary. We know almost nothing about it (although the film is still a few months out so there’s still plenty of time to ruin it). All we have to go off are a few tasty nuggets of info. The first comes in the form of the darkly alluring poster (see right). Next is that the film will tell the story of a couple whose “relationship is tested” after “uninvited guests” arrive, “disrupting their tranquil existence” and that it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. We also know that it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) who intends for his film to be a psychological thriller, a genre he has proven skilled in. It’s not a lot to go off but if you ask us, it’s more than enough to secure our tickets.

Mother! makes birth in theaters October 13th.

4.) God Particle

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Last year saw the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the surprise second film in the Cloverfield universe which re-ignited the franchise. Originally, a third film was scheduled for release less than a year later in February of this year. It was pushed back, however, to October and has found its way onto our list. 10 Cloverfield Lane, though taking place in the universe of the first film, distinguished itself by taking the approach of a slow-burning psychological thriller. Some deft direction as well as an unnerving performance by John Goodman elevated it above our expectations. J.J. Abrams returns to produce God Particle, which also sets its self a part by taking place aboard a space station while the live-in astronauts fight for survival with reality warping around them. The fresh faced Julius Onah will direct the established talents of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, and David Oyelowo. We’re can’t wait to see if and how Onah takes advantage of this hard-core science fiction idea.

God Particle lands in theaters October 17th.

5.) Saw: Legacy

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We know how dopey this looks. Saw is (no pun indented) a dead franchise that hasn’t put out a good film in a very long time. But we still have nightmares about Billy the puppet and deep down we’ve been yearning for the days where Halloween meant another Saw movie! Maybe we’re just suckers for the genre. Or, maybe, we’re just excited to see brothers Peter and Michael Spierig (Daybreakers, Predestination) take a shot at the series. Their films don’t always hit like they’re supposed to but the duo always bring their A game in terms of creativity and originality. Hopefully they’re the spark that revives R-rated slashers at the box office!

Saw: Legacy starts playing games October 27th.

NOVEMBER

1.) Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok is not only our most anticipated movie down the back half of 2017 but it’s our most anticipated movie of the year, period. It looks to be taking galactic elements from the establish MCU mythos and mixing them in with bits and pieces of Planet Hulk, which is some of the most fun you can have reading a comic book. Then you get a guy like Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) to direct and spin it with his unique brand of humor. The addition of Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett as the villain are two brilliant cherries on top. We haven’t even mentioned the fact we’re going to see Doctor Strange interact with Thor and Hulk on the big screen! It’s as if though rock n roll itself materialized into a deliciously kickass comic book romp!

Thor: Ragnarok rocks into theaters November 3rd.

2.) Justice League

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Admittedly, we were not fans of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, or Suicide Squad (see our in-depth thoughts and ranking of the DCEU films here). But Wonder Woman blew past our expectations (catch our review here). In light of recent success, we’re more willing to give Justice League a chance. Besides, the casting of our main heroes thus far has been pitch perfect and we can’t wait to see Jason Momoa’s take on Aquaman. Hopefully this film does well and the DC Extended Universe expands further into some of their deeper-cut mythology so we can see some of it come to life on the silver screen. Isn’t that every geek’s dream?

Justice League swoops into theaters November 17th.

3.) Coco

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In Pixar we trust. It’s that simple. Their films eventually wind up on everybody’s “most anticipated movies” list of whatever year. They’re that good. And even after taking a dump with Cars 2, the studio has consistently proven they know how to effectively tell an emotionally compelling story capable of reaching the hearts of viewers of all ages (who among us hasn’t cried watching a Pixar film?). And despite the increase in sequels the studio has put out over the last few years, they’ve still shown with films as recent as Inside Out that they want to expands viewers’ imaginations with creative, original material. Such is the case with Coco and we can’t wait to have our minds blown.

Coco starts playing its tune November 22nd.

DECEMBER

1.) The Shape of Water

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Guillermo del Toro is a filmmaker who isn’t afraid of taking risks and as a powerhouse of imagination, he’s made a career out of doing just that. Of course risk opens the door to potential missteps as much as it does to success. Del Toro has had his fair share of both. However, from what we know so far, The Shape of Water is (pun intended) shaping up to be one of the filmmaker’s most exciting endeavors yet. Star Doug Jones (who is also featured prominently in del Toro’s two Hellboy flicks) described the film as a Cold War-era romance between the last creature of a near-extinct [aquatic?] race (Jones) and a woman (Sally Hawkins) who discovers him held captive inside a secret, American laboratory. Also featuring one of our favorites in Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water could be the throwback to del Toro’s days of Pan’s Labyrinth that, I think we can all agree, we’ve been waiting for.

The Shape of Water takes shape December 8th.

2.) The Disaster Artist

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Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is widely considered the worst movie ever made (if you’ve been fortunate or misfortunate enough to see it, then you probably understand why). A decade after its release, Actor Greg Sestero wrote a book chronicling both Wiseau’s embarrassing failure through the system as well as Sestero’s own experiences on set.  From all accounts, it’s a hilarious, riveting read. Thankfully, Director and Star James Franco knows we don’t like to read, so he’s turning the book into a movie and we can’t imagine a more perfect fit for this material. And get a load of the cast: James Franco, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Alison Brie, Bryan Cranston, Kristen Bell, Dave Franco, Sharon Stone, Adam Scott, and Seth Rogen. Need we say more?

The Disaster Artist will attempt to be a movie December 8th.

3.) Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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We started this list with an obvious pick and that’s how we’re going to end it too. Let’s be honest, the next episode in the Star Wars saga would make this list no matter who was behind the camera. That said, we feel especially safe knowing that it’s Rian Johnson. The man has proven he knows good storytelling, having written and directed films like Brick and Looper. He’s also directed some of the best episodes that Breaking Bad had to offer. Then of course there’s the stress-inducing levels of anticipation moviegoers have for finding out about Ray’s lineage. And let’s not forget we’ll finally get to hear Luke Skywalker talk for the first time in nearly 35 years. What’s he been up to, I wonder?

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi sparks its saber December 15th.

That’s our list of the most anticipated movies remaining this year! What do you all think? And what movies are you most looking forward to? Drop into the comments section below and let us know!