So, what is there to look forward to in the way of small budget - independent films for 2017? Here are a list of 40 plus possible films currently not on anyone’s noticeable radar that could be anything from good to great this year. The ones highlighted in blue have my personal keen interest.
=============================================================================The Great Wall (February 17)
The Great Wall is a 2016 epic historical fiction action-adventure monster film directed by Zhang Yimou and written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. Matt Damon starring.
Get Out (February 24)
Finally, Jordan Peele has made a black horror movie that’s true to black fears: Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (February 24)
The filmmaking debut of actor Macon Blair, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore has a captivating premise: A woman is burglarized, then decides to take the investigation into her own hands. Even better, the woman is played by Melanie Lynskey, an actor capable of plumbing any sort of pathos you ask her to. Throw in Elijah Wood as her neighbor and co-investigator and you’ve got a potential highlight of this year’s Sundance slate, and a few weeks later, your Netflix queue.
Logan (March 3)
Fortunes have been mixed for the solo outings of the furriest fellow on the X-Men’s roster. Hugh Jackman has played Canadian super-curmudgeon Wolverine since 2000, mostly in ensemble pictures, but he got the spotlight in 2009’s execrable X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s mostly good The Wolverine. Jackman’s strapping on the claws one last time in director James Mangold’s Logan, set in a dystopian future where mutants are dying out and our hero finds himself pulled in for one last job. Early buzz from the geek community is wildly positive, largely because of Logan’s surprisingly somber, Johnny Cash–scored first trailer.
T2: Trainspotting (March 3)
A sequel that reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast twenty years later? Sure, that too. First there was an opportunity......then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance
Song to Song (March 17)
Formerly known as Weightless, Song to Song marks the fourth feature since 2011 for Terrence Malick, who made just five movies in the three decades between 1973 and 2005. The film follows a pair of romances in the Austin music scene, with a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, and Michael Fassbender. In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Mara) and BV (Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.
Wilson (March 24)
Harrelson plays the title role in this adaptation of Daniel Clowes’s 2010 graphic novella of the same name. It follows the travails of a chatty asshole named Wilson as he goes on a rocky and obsessive journey to revisit his past, reuniting with his former wife (Laura Dern) as they undertake an ill-fated quest to retrieve their daughter.
Ghost in the Shell (March 31)
The Major (Scarlett Johansson), a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, leads an elite task force known as Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic's advancements in cyber technology.
The Lost City of Z (April 14)
James Gray is one of our most unsung directors, and also among our unluckiest: His last film, The Immigrant, marked his second (reported) time falling victim to Harvey Weinstein’s whims, and the excellent Two Lovers had the unfortunate fate of being overshadowed by Joaquin Phoenix’s brief “retirement” from acting. But Gray threw his lot in with Amazon this time, and the security and freedom of a deep-pocketed streaming service means that Lost City of Z, adapted from the David Grann book of the same name and starring Charlie Hunnam as British explorer Percy Fawcett, should come untrammeled and unadulterated.
Rock That Body (June 16)
This comedy about a bachelorette party gone wildly wrong has a great cast — Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, and Ilana Glazer — and it's the rare studio comedy starring women that has a female director, too: Broad City standout Lucia Aniello, who co-scripted. Five friends from college, Jess, Pippa, Alice, Frankie and Blair, reunite when they rent a beach house in Miami for a wild bachelorette weekend that goes completely off the rails when a male stripper turns up dead.
The Beguiled (June 23)
While The Beguiled is technically a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie, you can rest assured that it’ll look completely new through the eyes of Sofia Coppola. In addition to the intriguing story — a Union soldier shacks up at an all-girls school during the Civil War, and romance and betrayal predictably follow — Coppola’s movie also has an all-star cast, including Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Colin Farrell.
Dunkirk (July 21)
Wars are not won by evacuations, but the summer box office might be. For his latest film, Christopher Nolan turns his attention to the Battle of Dunkirk, which saw thousands of British troops rescued from certain death in the early days of World War II. By the looks of the film’s trailer, the director’s swapped his usual mind-bending conceits for rah-rah patriotism: With its cavalcade of stars (Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles) and stiff-upper-lip attitude, Dunkirk seems like one of the few films on this list that could have conceivably come out in 1957.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
In the 28th century, special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) maintain order throughout the universe for the government of the human territories. Under orders from their commander (Clive Owen), the duo embark on a mission to Alpha, an intergalactic city where diverse species share their technology and resources for the betterment of all. The ever-expanding metropolis is also home to sinister forces that jeopardize the future of mankind.
The Dark Tower (July 28)
After a decade of failed attempts to adapt Stephen King’s genre-defying eight-book cycle known as The Dark Tower, Hollywood has finally gotten a film version off the ground. In a perfect bit of casting, with Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, King’s most famous villain, a charming, utterly malevolent sorcerer who will do battle with a noble cowboy-knight from another plane of reality, played by Idris Elba; if the books are any indication, their tussle will be cosmically baroque.
Baby Driver (August 11)
Talented getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his criminal lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a mob boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.
It (September 8)
Is this Stranger Things season 1.5? Because actor Finn Wolfhard (little Mike Wheeler in the Netflix series) leading a group of children who are all being pursued by a malevolent force that takes the shape of a heinous clown sounds … like a very strange kind of thing. Which is to say, this is the perfect time — and the perfect kid — to bring it back.
Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)
On films like Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival, Denis Villeneuve has proven himself a master of stylish mid-budget genre pictures. Now he's moving up to the big leagues, directing Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in the mysterious, long-gestating sequel to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
Logan Lucky (October 13)
Steven Soderbergh made headlines a few years ago by announcing he was done with theatrical features, but the break was apparently temporary: This fall, he's returning to cinemas with Logan Lucky, a NASCAR heist comedy starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and a bleach-blonde Daniel Craig. It looks just silly enough to shake the cobwebs out.
God Particle (October 27)
This is the latest mystery project from the J.J. Abrams empire, and it’s being billed as the third installment in the Cloverfield series. 10 Cloverfield Lane made a great bottle movie out of the original’s alien-invasion conceit, and God Particle is moving the premise to space with a group of astronauts — including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang, Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd, and David Oyelowo — who make a “shocking discovery.”
Red Sparrow (November 10)
This sexy spy tale about a Russian woman getting involved with a CIA operative will be the fourth collaboration between Hollywood’s two Lawrence’s: Francis, the director, and Jennifer, the actress. For the first time since 2011, J. Law is free of any X-Men and Hunger Games entanglements, and this movie will hopefully be a better start for her post-franchise era than Passengers was.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 22)
Kenneth Branagh has directed himself as Henry V, Benedick, and Hamlet, but all of that was just leading up to this: In the role of a lifetime, the dashing Shakespearean thespian will transform himself into Agatha Christie’s diminutive Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. And just like in the classic 1974 version of Orient Express, Branagh’s assembled an all-star cast, including Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Michael Peña, Daisy Ridley, and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr., with Johnny Depp as the unlucky victim. Whodunnit?
Annihilation is a screen adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s acclaimed sci-fi–horror novel, and the less you know about the plot before diving in, the better. Suffice it to say that you’ll get to see Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac in a movie about an ill-fated expedition into a place called Area X. One of the virtues of the novel is how much terror it inspires with a near-total dearth of bombast, which suggests that the film could become a taut sci-fi–horror mash-up in the vein of Alien and The Thing..
Call Me by Your Name (TBD)
A Bigger Splash director Luca Guadagnino is the perfect set up for this adaptation of the acclaimed, racy book by André Aciman: He'll bring sun and sex to the story of a love affair between Armie Hammer and the much younger Timothée Chalamet in 1980s Italy.
The Death of Stalin (TBD)
This new one follows the scramble in the Kremlin to fill the power vacuum left by, as you might’ve guessed, the death of Stalin, and with a cast that includes Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor, it should be a very funny scramble indeed.
The Discovery (TBD)
The Discovery has the kind of premise you wish you’d thought of, taking place in a world where the existence of an afterlife has been scientifically proven. Within that endlessly interesting concept, Charlie McDowell’s second feature — following his sci-fi relationship movie The One I Love — follows a romance between Jason Segel and Rooney Mara, and throws in Robert Redford for good measure. Netflix wants 2017 to be the year it becomes a movie powerhouse, and The Discovery could play a part in that.
The Glass Castle (TBD)
Aside from being a terrific film, Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 was an oddly prescient introduction to bright young actors like Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, and John Gallagher Jr. His follow-up, The Glass Castle, adapted from Jeannette Walls’s memoir, reunites him with Larson and adds Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson to the mix. A young girl is raised in a dysfunctional family constantly on the run from the FBI while living in poverty.
Golden Exits (TBD)
In this indie ensemble from Listen Up Philip’s Alex Ross Perry, two New York families are thrown into upheaval by the arrival of a young foreign girl. The film stars Emily Browning, Ad-Rock, Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman, and Chloë Sevigny, which hints that this will probably be the most Brooklyn movie of the year.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (TBD)
This story is about two ordinary teenage boys who go to a party and gradually have their eyes opened to the wonder and terror of the cosmos. The cast — Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, and the stage-honed Alex Sharp — is solid, though the big question here is how the hell you expand a short story whose charm lies largely in its tightness into a sprawling feature. Luckily, Mitchell is not one to shrink from a challenge.
Ingrid Goes West (TBD)
Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, a lonely follower who decides to move to Los Angeles and live her life in Taylor’s (Elizabeth Olsen) perfectly filtered shadow. What begins as a lesson in social media self-esteem escalates into a dark tale of stalking. There’s a solid chance this will be the Sundanciest movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
It Comes at Night (TBD)
A father will stop at nothing to protect his wife and son from a malevolent, mysterious ghost.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (TBD)
While The Lobster introduced most people to the twisted charms of Yorgos Lanthimos, he’s been an indie-film standout since Dogtooth, the Greek director’s bravura 2009 Cannes award winner. But with his new post-Lobster profile, The Killing of a Sacred Deer comes with the highest expectations of Lanthimos’s career to date. Fortunately, it also reteams the director with Lobster star Colin Farrell, playing a surgeon whose life comes apart.
Lady Bird (TBD)
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut stars Saoirse Ronan as a Northern California teen in her final year of high school, struggling to appreciate her hometown while being desperate to leave it. Gerwig has described it as a love letter to Sacramento, which the universe could certainly use more of.
The Lovers (TBD)
A comedy about a breakup turned makeup seems simple enough, but in the capable hands of Doll & Em director Azazel Jacobs and A24, this modern marriage story — which stars Tracy Letts and Debra Winger as spouses who find themselves becoming smitten as they’re trying to split up — seems like something worth paying attention to.
Molly’s Game (TBD)
Jessica Chastain is the real deal in this Hollywood poker drama Molly’s Game as a former Olympian skier who ends up running the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the world for eight years.
Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer marked his English-language debut, and it was a fruitful one, with the film turning into a crossover hit after a difficult release process. For his next project, Okja, the South Korean filmmaker co-wrote a script with journalist Jon Ronson about a girl trying to prevent a corporation from kidnapping her best friend, a large animal named Okja. The intriguing premise comes with a great cast, including Snowpiercer standout Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Stephen Yeun, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, and a number of Korean actors
Chance the Rapper turns Chance the Actor in this mystery-comedy about a killing spree that targets delivery boys. Written by the rapper’s frequent music-video director Austin Vesely, the film stars Chance as a werewolf with a motorbike. Vesely has said he was inspired by both Magnolia and George Saunders’s CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.
The sexy noir thriller details the story of two hit-men as they embark on a borderline suicide mission.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (TBD)
Martin McDonagh is one of the few who can compete with the Coen Brothers in the dark-comedy department, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sounds like it could be his best, most Coen-y effort yet: Frances McDormand plays a mother who takes the investigation of her daughter’s murder into her own hands, and Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are the two cops who complicate matters.
Under the Silver Lake (TBD)
David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to It Follows casts Andrew Garfield as a man plunged into mystery and murder on the east side of Los Angeles. They shot a bunch of this movie on the street outside a Vulture editor’s house last month — it looks super creepy!
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie (TBD)
Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day-Lewis. Pretty frocks. That's all we need to know to buy a ticket to this mystery drama about mid-century fashion, and though we tried to do some detective work to discover who the film might be about, ultimately, all we know is that Anderson will deliver something singular.
Vox Lux (TBD)
An artful story of a child misbehaving in World War I France, with a grandeur and menace straight out of Stanley Kubrick.
While Paul Dano may not have proven himself yet as a director, he still managed to cast Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as the married couple at the center of this film. That should help. Set in 1960, a boy watches his parents’ marriage fall apart after they move to Montana, and his mother falls in love with another man.
Wind River (TBD)
Taylor Sheridan’s rise as a screenwriter feels like it happened overnight: Last year, he had Sicario, directed by the great Denis Villeneuve, and this year he wrote Hell or High Water, helmed by up-and-comer David Mackenzie. But for his next trick, Sheridan’s going to direct his own work. Wind River stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a hunter and an FBI agent looking for the perpetrators of a murder on a Native American reservation. Sheridan’s scripts have been dynamite in the hands of other people; if he proves the same aptitude for them himself, he could become one of our most exciting new filmmakers.