90. “The Lovers”
Director: Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”)
Cast: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Tyler Ross, Eric Satterberg
Synopsis: A married couple planning a divorce fall in love with each other again.
What You Need To Know: Having already established themselves as the hipster distributor of choice in the last few years, A24 moved into actually producing movies in 2016, and it couldn’t have gone much better — “Moonlight,” the first film they financed from the group up, was the best-reviewed movie of the year and looks to be on course for a heap of Oscar nominations, quite a feat given its lack of marquee names. It’s surely bolstered their confidence in terms of financing films themselves, and one of the beneficiaries of that is “The Lovers,” the latest from director Azazel Jacobs, who made the undervalued John C. Reilly-starring indie “Terri” a few years back. This looks to be their contribution to the late-in-life romance genre that’s been successful of late with films like “Hello My Name Is Doris,” but we’re expecting something with a little more edge. Especially given the two lead players — Tracy Letts, who’s become an in-demand character actor recently, and Debra Winger, who’s not been seen so much recently but is always superb when she does turn up (as in “Rachel Getting Married,” for instance).
Release Date: Wrapped in September, so should be ready for the fall festivals.
89. “Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets”
Director: Luc Besson (“The Professional”)
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevigne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, John Goodman
Synopsis: Two space cops are sent to the universe’s biggest, most diverse city on a secret mission.
What You Need To Know: After nearly two decades in what felt like the directorial wilderness, instead seemingly focusing his energy on writing and producing movies where Liam Neeson punches people, Luc Besson made an impressive comeback to the blockbuster world with “Lucy,” a relatively modest, completely mad sci-fi film that shocked everyone by making half a billion dollars worldwide. But now Besson’s aiming even bigger, returning to grand-scale sci-fi for one of the most expensive independent movies ever made, an adaptation of a well-loved French sci-fi comic. It’s about as big a gamble as you could make, but the fun recent trailer suggests it could pay off, with an energy closer to a mash-up of “Avatar,” “Star Wars,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and Besson’s own “The Fifth Element” rather than, say, “Jupiter Ascending.” Could be a trainwreck, but we’re definitely rooting for Besson to come through with this one.
Release Date: July 21st
Director: Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Synopsis: The crew of the International Space Station find a sample that might be the first proof of extra-terrestrial life.
What You Need To Know: After the success of “Gravity” and “The Martian,” the semi-realistic space movie has become a big draw again after years in the wilderness, and we’re starting to see the fruits of that this year, with at least two major movies in their vein (after “Passengers” at Christmas, too). “Life” is the bigger budgeted and the starriest of the two, reteaming Ryan Reynolds with his “Deadpool” writers, and Daniel Espinosa, dodging director’s jail mainly because not a single human being appeared to actually see “Child 44,” at the helm. Gyllenhaal and the fast-rising Ferguson join Reynolds in the cast, so we’re definitely interested, though we have to confess that we found the trailer awfully familiar. Hopefully there’s some inventiveness and thoughtfulness being held back at this stage of the marketing.
Release Date: March 24th
87. “Wonder Woman”
Director: Patty Jenkins (“Monster”)
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen
Synopsis: Amazonian princess Diana leaves the island of Themyscira in an attempt to end the First World War.
What You Need To Know: As with many things in life, it might have to be women that save the DC Movie Universe. “Man Of Steel” was a divisive start, but Warner Bros. really shit the bed with their superhero efforts in 2016, with “Batman V. Superman” and “Suicide Squad” being not just disappointing but actively toxic. Our hopes aren’t high for “Justice League” at this point (you won’t see it on this list), but we still have some faith that “Wonder Woman” could be a good’un. Yes, Zack Snyder co-wrote the script, but the talented Patty Jenkins is the woman in charge, and early footage, while having a bit of a whiff of an early 00s superhero pic, has at least been distinctive and impressive looking. The character’s an iconic hero who’s never had a great showcase on the big screen, but if Jenkins can pull it off, then a lot’ll be forgiven with the DC Movieverse.
Release Date: June 2nd
86. “Based On A True Story”
Director: Roman Polanski (“Chinatown”)
Cast: Eva Green, Emmanuelle Seigner
Synopsis: A writer is put in danger by an obsessive woman
What You Need To Know: As well as once sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, Roman Polanski is also a filmmaker, though it’s been a while since he made anything really good — “The Ghost Writer” was beloved by some but we found it pretty turgid, “Carnage” never escaped its stage roots, and “Venus In Fur” was pretty awful and disappeared basically without a trace. The director, who once sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, has been away for four years, but he returns in 2017 with this adaptation of a novel by author Delphine de Vignan, which stars his partner Emmanuelle Seigner and the great Eva Green. It’s the kind of psychological thriller that Polanski, who once sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, does best, and intriguingly he’s teamed up with non sex-criminal Olivier Assayas, who co-wrote the script with the convicted statutory rapist.
Release Date: Filmed in November, so probably not at Cannes
85. “Battle Of The Sexes”
Director: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”)
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman
Synopsis: The true story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and sexist former tennis player Bobby Riggs.
What You Need To Know: The odd semi-exception aside (we’re especially fond of recent Andy Samberg/Kit Harington HBO mockumentary “Seven Days In Hell”), tennis is not a sport that’s usually worked especially well on the big screen for some reason. But the makers of “Battle Of The Sexes” hopes to change that in 2017 by documenting the legendary match/publicity stunt that came about when 1940s star Bobby Riggs claimed that women were so inferior at tennis that he could beat the best female player even at the age of 55, causing Billie Jean King to stand up and give him the spanking he deserved. A one-time Danny Boyle project (he’s still producing, with his “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy penning the script), it’s now in the hands of Dayton & Faris, only the second film from the duo after breaking out with “Little Miss Sunshine” a decade ago. The theme should certainly resonate in Trump’s America: hopefully the execution will too.
Release Date: None yet, but likely in the summer or fall.
84. “The Dinner”
Director: Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”)
Cast: Chloe Sevigny, Rebecca Hall, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, Steve Coogan
Synopsis: Two families meet for dinner to discuss what to do about their children, who have committed a horrific crime.
What You Need To Know: There are few filmmakers more unsung today than Oren Moverman. His three features to date, in “The Messenger,” “Rampart” and “Time Out Of Mind” have all been strikingly distinct and very good indeed, and his script work on films like “Love & Mercy” equally so, but outside of these walls, we feel like he’s not discussed that much in cinephile circles. Nevertheless, we’re always going to be receptive to his work, and his new one sounds positively facsinating. Based on a best-selling novel by Herman Koch, and originally scripted by Moverman for Cate Blanchett to direct until she fell away and he took over, it sounds a little like “Carnage” on the surface, but promises something much darker, examining wealth, privilege and justice with an extremely promising cast.
Release Date: Shot last January, so could well be headed for Sundance and/or Berlin.
83. “Mary Shelley”
Director: Haifaa al-Mansour (“Wadjda”)
Cast: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams
Synopsis: The story of the love affair between Mary Shelley and Percy Bysse Shelley, and how it inspired her to write the classic “Frankenstein.”
What You Need To Know: Even if her first film had been awful, Haifaa al-Mansour would have made history as Saudi Arabia’s first female director. But her debut “Wadjda” wasn’t awful, it was tremendous, and put her on the map immediately as a serious talent to watch. Five years on, her follow-up will finally arrive, and it sees her stick with a female-centered story, albeit a British period drama about a couple of famous literary figures, and the creation of one of fiction’s most famous monsters. Penned by Australian writer Emma Jensen and Irish playwright Conor McPherson, this won out over a number of developing Mary Shelley biopics, and has a strong cast of young stars, led by the always terrific Elle Fanning in the lead role.
Release Date: Shot early in 2016, so Berlin could be a possibility.
Director: Lisa Langseth (“Pure” )
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling, Adrian Lester
Synopsis: Two feuding sisters reunite to take a journey through Europe together
What You Need To Know: She’s now an Oscar-winner, blockbuster star and Lara Croft, but Alicia Vikander owes a huge debt in getting her start to director Lisa Langseth, whose 2009 debut “Pure” launched Vikander onto the international stage. The two later reteamed for the equally good “Hotel,” and now Vikander’s returning the favor, headlining Langseth’s English-language debut alongside Eva Green. It’s a family drama of a sort, but knowing Langseth’s previous work, it should be an uncommonly finely honed and sensitively directed one, and we’d basically walk through fire to see Vikander and Green on screen together, so this could be one of the gems of 2017.
Release Date: Filmed over the summer – Venice or TIFF could be a good bet.
81. “Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter”
Director: Jody Hill (“Observe & Report”)
Cast: Josh Brolin, Danny McBride, Scoot McNairy, Rory Scovel, Montana Jordan
Synopsis: A father takes his son on a hunting trip hoping to bond with him, but his boy is completely uninterested.
What You Need To Know: They’re HBO staples thanks to “Eastbound & Down” and more recently “Vice Principals,” but director Jody Hill and Danny McBride haven’t teamed for a movie since their micro-budget breakthrough “The Foot Fist Way” (McBride had a brief cameo in Hill’s controversial and divisive “Observe & Report,” but Seth Rogen took the lead there). So the news that they’ve cowritten this new movie is good, though McBride will take a backseat to Josh Brolin, who has the lead role. It’s hard to get a read on the tone of the film — could this be a trip into more serious fare (Scott Rudin, who usually deals with upmarket Oscar-y fare, is producing) another taboo-busting, uneasy comedy, or something akin to a U.S. “Hunt For The Wilderpeople?” Any way around, we’re intrigued, even if we’re destined to spend the whole year mixing it up with Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” (see below).
Release Date: It wrapped early last year, so a Sundance bow might be in the cards.