The year 2016 is finally behind us. And though it seems foolish to suggest — or even hope — that the new year will treat us better, cautious optimism seems the most reasonable approach. The movies will once again provide a temporary escape from whatever ills reality inflicts upon us; here are 10 to look forward to.
If last summer’s multiplex offerings taught us anything, it’s that getting excited about sequels, remakes, and other tentpole fare invites disappointment. Ridley Scott has had a hand in two movies this year that, fingers crossed, could prove exceptions. The first is a bridge between Prometheus and the original Alien, whose singular mood no sequel nor imitator has ever been able to fully recapture.
The Bad Batch
Ana Lily Amirpour made a name for herself with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. By all accounts her sophomore effort has upped the ante. The Bad Batch has been described as a post-apocalyptic curio that’s equal parts Mad Max and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If that alone doesn’t pique your interest, you may have more refined taste than I do.
Blade Runner 2049
Ridley Scott didn’t direct this sequel-come-lately to his sci-fi classic, passing the reins to Sicario and Arrival helmer Denis Villeneuve. What little we’ve seen of it suggests that the Quebecois’ vision is in keeping with the original film, adding Ryan Gosling and a slew of others as it expands the Replicant mythos and offers us another glimpse of a near-future Los Angeles in which all moments will be lost like tears in rain.
Here’s a rarity: a low-key indie about a thirtysomething dude returning to his hometown that isn’t the slightest bit twee or enervating. An insightful take on strained friendships and the divide between how we think of ourselves and how the people we grew up with do, Kristopher Avedisian’s debut unfolds over one day rich in incident and mood. Avedisian plays the title character, a well-meaning manchild you’ll develop a soft spot for — even if you can only handle him in small doses.
Might 2017 be the year of worthwhile sci-fi at the multiplex? If even two of these three high-profile offerings land, we’ll be in better shape than usual. Daniel Espinosa doesn’t have the track record of either Scott or Villeneuve, but he does have a strong ensemble cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson and an original (if seemingly derivative) script to work with. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station discover what could be the first real evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth — and, as dictated by the genre, everything goes downhill from there.
The Lost City of Z
Though it’s yet to find the audience it deserves, James Gray’s The Immigrant is one of the best, most moving films of the last several years. (It’s also on Netflix, so do yourself a favor and watch it.) His follow-up dramatizes the real-life quest of a British explorer to find a lost ancient city in the Amazon in the 1920s — and the subsequent efforts to find him after he goes missing.
During a scene in which Kristen Stewart sits in the dark staring at nothing in Olivier Assayas’ newest film, I literally thought to myself, “This is why I go to the movies.” The oft-underrated Stewart stars as both a personal shopper and spiritualist, meaning she tries on expensive clothes in Paris and wanders through creaky old houses in search of ghosts.
Asghar Farhadi ranks among the foremost dramatists in the world, and though The Past didn’t quite live up to A Separation, his latest is said to be another standout. Winner of two awards at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this Death of a Salesman–inspired story sounds like a neorealist yarn that few others could unspool with such skill.
For years, Bruno Dumont was one of the world’s most reliably pessimistic auteurs. Films like Twentynine Palms and Hors Satan evinced such a bleak worldview that his three-and-a-half-hour miniseries/film L’il Quinquin hardly seemed to have been made by the same filmmaker. If early word is to be believed, Slack Bay is another darkly funny tale that once again mines the absurdity of existence for laughs rather than despondent sighs. Fun!
Terrence Malick has become considerably more prolific in recent years, but a new movie by the poetically minded auteur is always welcome. Details are characteristically scarce about his latest, which stars Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, and Michael Fassbender, among others, which is just as well: Malick has the rare ability to surprise even his most ardent admirers with each new work.
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