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5 January 2017updated 14 Sep 2021 2:44pm

The films not to miss in 2017

From long-awaited sequels to blockbusters, indie wonders and black comedies — here are the pick of this year's new releases.

By Ryan Gilbey

Well, it’s that time of the year again when I write “Well, it’s that time of the year again to look ahead to some of the new movies opening in the UK in the next 12 months.” As usual, January and February are stuffed full of awards season hopefuls. This year, these include the musical La La Land, which I’ll be reviewing in next week’s NS, and Manchester By the Sea, a tale of grief and guilt that is the exact antithesis of La La Land in terms of mood (both open on 13 Jan). Also hoping for trophies and trinkets are Jackie (20 Jan), in which Natalie Portman plays JFK’s widow, and Moonlight (17 Feb), the lyrical story of a young, gay, African-American boy growing up in Miami. Look out for Cameraperson, in which the documentary cinematographer Kristin Johnson assembles a touching visual memoir using odds and ends from films she has shot. That opens on 27 January, as does the belated sequel T2 Trainspotting, which reunites the cast and crew of Danny Boyle’s 1996 original. The German comedy Toni Erdmann (3 Feb), about the comically fraught relationship between a woman and her prankster father, took home the five top prizes at the recent European Film Awards.

After the first few months of 2017, release dates tend to be fully confirmed only for studio blockbusters, which bagsy their berths many months and even years before opening. A case in point is the Fast & Furious series: not only is the eighth instalment opening in April (with Helen Mirren a surprise addition to the cast) but parts nine and ten are already booked into the schedule — for 2019 and 2021 respectively, in case you want to leave some space free in your diary. Or book a holiday.

Later in the year, though, I’m looking forward greatly to Under the Silver Lake, a kidnapping thriller starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough (who was so impressive as the gangmaster in American Honey); it’s written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, who made the chilling It Follows, and he has had the good sense to retain the services of that film’s composer, Disasterpeace. Armando Iannucci is back with his second comedy, The Death of Stalin, with a killer cast including Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Palin. The Snowman is a stylish-looking thriller starring Michael Fassbender and adapted by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One InTinker Tailor Soldier Spy) from the Jo Nesbø novel. Another Swedish director, Ruben Östlund, returns with The Square, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West and concerns a museum installation space where only good things can happen. Knowing this director’s sensibility, the film should become a talking point in the vein of his previous, provocative black comedies Play and Force Majeure

Let’s hope for good things also from Stephen Frears’s Victoria and Abdul, with Judi Dench as Queen Victoria (for a second time: she first played the part 20 years ago in Mrs Brown) in the story of the monarch’s relationship with an Indian clerk (Ali Fazal). The screenplay is by Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot. The Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan follows his Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep with Le poirier sauvage, while Pawel Pawlikowski, director of the highly-regarded Ida, offers the tale of a Polish love affair in Cold War. Other notable filmmakers returning this year include Lynne Ramsay with You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a war veteran rescuing women from sex traffickers; Aki Kaurismäki with a droll new comedy-drama, The Other Side of Hope; Todd Haynes with the children’s fantasy Wonderstruck; and Lucretia Martel with Zama, her long-awaited follow-up to the extraordinary psychological drama The Headless Woman

New Terrence Malick movies were once a cause for breathless anticipation. After the double non-whammy of To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, audiences may well be wary of Song to Song, formerly known as Weightless, though the cast-list is dazzling: Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara and Benicio del Toro. There is, naturally, a new Woody Allen film, as yet untitled; this one stars Kate Winslet, who was originally lined up as the star of Allen’s Match Point before dropping out at the eleventh hour and leaving the part open for Scarlett Johansson. And who could not be excited by the prospect of another oddball fantasy from Yorgos Lanthimos, director of Dogtooth and The Lobster? His latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. Intentionally blank faces and affectless line readings are to be expected.

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Michael Haneke is reunited with Isabelle Huppert in Happy End — what’s the betting that the title is ironic? — and the brilliant, scrupulous Andrey Zvyagintsev follows Leviathan, arguably his best film to date, with Loveless, about the search for a vanished child.

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I’m looking forward also to Get Out, a racially-charged horror film from the production company Blumhouse. And who wants A Cure For Wellness? The trailer for this outlandish thriller suggests that the director Gore Verbinski has climbed Jacob’s Ladder all the way to Shutter Island via Shock Corridor. But Verbinski has a good track record in unusual product (Mousehunt, Rango). When he isn’t directing Pirates of the Caribbean films, that is.

Talking of which — there’s a new one of those, directed this time by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (who made Kon-Tiki). Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales docks in May, the same month as Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant. The good news about this Prometheus sequel/ Alien prequel (delete according to preference) is that the Fass is back. (In other words, Michael Fassbender, easily the best thing about Prometheus, is still in the cast.) Blockbuster fans will be sated in April by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and in July by Wonder WomanWorld War Z 2, War for the Planet of the Apes, a Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise (who also turns up in August in the larky, Catch Me If You Can-style adventure American Made) and Transformers 5. There is also Christopher Nolan’s war movie Dunkirk, with Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and — look away now, Zayn fans — Harry Styles.

October brings the tantalising prospect of Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in Blade Runner 2049 while it’s just under 12 months until we feel the Force in time once more in Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec). But I don’t mind saying that the sequel I’m most excited about is Paddington 2, which should be with us in November. Can you bear the wait?