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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Primary summer 2017

2017 Summer Movie Preview: 25 Films We're Excited About

Before we are deep into July and debating whether we really needed that "final" "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, it's time to look at what is to come during the whole summer movie season, which essentially starts tonight once "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" starts blasting "Mr. Blue Sky" in a multiplex near you. Taking a long look at this schedule, the number of noteworthy huge movies and smaller ones is definitively fantastic, leaving promise for a busy summer in the multiplex, at the arthouse or even on Netflix. 

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Below is a list of our 25 most anticipated new releases from the season (some of which we have seen), of which picking only 25 was by no means an easy choice (try it yourself, it's hard). All release dates and levels of curiosity are subject to change. Enjoy! 

25. “Spider-Man: Homecoming" - The prospect of yet another Spider-Man iteration would be daunting if this movie didn’t look like it had a few things going for it, like a charismatic new Peter Parker (Tom Holland, who I’ve been rooting for since “The Impossible”) and director Jon Watts, who previously did "Cop Car," which distinctly trafficked in innocence and danger. Holland’s introduction in “Captain America: Civil War” was also a success in my eyes, and a young version of this character we all know very well could be, well, refreshing. The film also stars Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Zendaya, Martin Starr and more. (July 7) 

24. "The House" - It’s been since December 2015 that Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell have been the leads in a studio comedy (Poehler's “Sisters” and Ferrell's “Daddy’s Home,” respectively). That’s part of the charm of this comedy from “Neighbors” co-writer Andrew J. Cohen, which brings Poehler and Farrell together as parents who start an illegal casino in their basement. The supporting cast includes Allison Tolman, Jason Mantzoukas, Rob Huebel and more. (June 30) 

23. "The Mummy" - Universal has figured out how to get me to care about a movie in their own MCU (Monsters Cinematic Universe): Throw in Tom Cruise, who comes with the guarantee to be a one-man “Fast & Furious” stunt team, and cast the very funny Jake Johnson to play his sidekick. The action and horror that this movie’s trailer offers will be an added bonus, especially if director Alex Kurtzman can make them sing. Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis and Courtney B. Vance also star. (June 9) 

22. “The Big Sick” - What’s there not to already love about “The Big Sick”? That it stars Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the story with his wife Emily Gordon, about their relationship? That it’s directed by Michael Showalter (“Hello, My Name is Doris”) and produced by Judd Apatow? Or that everyone I talked to at Sundance adored this romantic comedy? I can’t wait to see what the fuss is about, especially if it makes for one of the sweetest moviegoing experiences of the season. Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano and more also star. 

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21. "Detroit" - For her first film since "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow takes her inclination for tense true stories to Detroit for this tale about a police raid that occurred during the 12th Street Riot. Mark Boal returns as her screenwriter, including a cast that features the likes of John Boyega, John Krasinski, Samira Wiley, Will Poulter, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, Tyler James Williams, Jason Mitchell and more. (August 4) 

20. "All Eyez on Me" - How long has a Tupac movie been in the works? Five years, a decade? After the success of last year’s NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” comes this take on the legacy of Tupac Shakur, which boasts a lead with a huge resemblance to the real figure. But as we know with the Notorious BIG film “Notorious,” that attention to detail doesn’t always yield a great film. Still, the direction of Benny Boom has me very intrigued. (June 16)

19. “Baywatch” - I was watching “The Fate of the Furious” with my friend Kevin a few Saturday nights ago, and he said to me during the “Baywatch” trailer (and I’m paraphrasing): “I want to direct a movie like this someday. Just violence and sex and trash.” Indeed, this update to the famous series could fill our apparent need for more of that, but with the charisma of Dwayne Johnson and the freedom of R-rated comedy. Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass and Kelly Rohrbach also star. (May 25) 

18. "Wonder Woman" - I’m with everyone saying that this movie has been strangely under-promoted, given that it comes out in less than a month. Still, I’m holding out hope against that discouraging sign, and the fact that this one comes with a “Story by Zack Snyder” credit, that this will be good. I’ll take great, but even just a good “Wonder Woman” movie would be an excellent start for a character who should have been a prominent franchise figure in the DC Comics movie universe long ago. Gal Gadot stars as the iconic superhero, joined by the likes of David Thewlis, Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen. (June 2) 

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17. "The Little Hours" - The latest from “Joshy” writer/director Jeff Baena is set at a nunnery in the middle ages, but it also very well could be indie film’s answer to “Baywatch” (presuming “Baywatch” is even half as funny as “The Little Hours”). Boasting a massive cast including Alison Brie, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Adam Pally and more, “The Little Hours” was one of the funniest films I saw at Sundance and could be a special treat for your summer. (Whispers: Chicagoans will get to see the film on May 12 when it has its city premiere at the Chicago Critics Film Festival). (June 30) 

16. "Atomic Blonde" There's little that needs to be said about "Atomic Blonde" other than that it puts Charlize Theron in another action role (after "The Fate of the Furious" left us high and dry"). It's also worth mentioning that this movie is directed by the co-director of "John Wick," David Leitch. Whatever this genre movie turns out to be, there's plenty going for it that could make it a stand-out, especially if it proves to be one of the most solid action entries of the summer. (July 28) 

15. "Brigsby Bear" - SNL cast member Kyle Mooney is about to have his breakthrough once his film "Brigsby Bear" comes to wider audiences, after premiering to great reception at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. With his original screenplay about a young man (Mooney) and the TV show made just for him, the very funny and very sweet "Brigsby Bear" could be the injection of pure creativity that a blockbuster-loaded summer needs. Also, Mark Hamill has a truly incredible supporting part that will make you rethink his acting potential, even decades after his career started. (TBD) 

14. "Everything, Everything" Amandla Stenberg is due to breakout as a star (and if you didn't see her in "As You Are," you should), and teen romance "Everything, Everything" could be the project that finally makes that happen. As she plays a woman who is allergic to everything but still falls in love with the boy next door, she'll be under the direction of rising filmmaker Stella Meghie, of SXSW 2016 film "Jean and the Joneses." This project might look very "Fault in Our Stars"-esque, but there's plenty of charisma that could make this much more than that. (May 19) 

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13. “Polaroid" - A late, dear friend of mine was an assistant to Dr. Edwin Land when he invited the Polaroid camera. I have no idea if my buddy Joe would be amused or horrified that the camera is now the center of a horror movie, but I’m curious myself as to what could be so deadly about a great piece of technology. Especially as the camera enters a point of—eek!—vintage. (August 25) 

12. "Chasing Coral" - There have been many documentaries that talk about global warming, but only a special few can make the emotional impact that “Chasing Coral" does. You’ll see what I mean when you watch this hilarious, heartbreaking film via Netflix starring July 14. I called it a “landmark film for activism” back at Sundance and I stand by that—this is a doc where you end up caring about the people on-screen and their passion just as much the state of the coral reef. (July 14) 

11. “Fun Mom Dinner" - I have been looking forward to "Fun Mom Dinner" since I first heard about it, especially given its cast of reliably hilarious people: Katie Aselton, Toni Colette, Molly Shannon, Bridget Everett, Adam Scott, Paul Rudd, David Wain and more. It seems like eons ago when this played at Sundance, but I'm stoked this is coming to Netflix. Alethea Jones makes her directional debut, working from a script by Julie Yaeger Rudd. (August 4) 

10. “The Bad Batch" - Now this is how you make a sophomore feature: After receiving acclaim for "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour used her larger budget and cast to make a dystopian love story that takes place in a cannibal community. The film has been a hit since it premiered at Venice and played Toronto last year, and very well could continue that with a wider audience. The cast includes Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi and Emily O'Brien. (June 23) 

9. “Girls Trip" - For all of the ensemble R-rated comedies this summer, "Girls Trip" has me the most excited, if for the "Set It Off" reunion with Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah, or that Kenya Barris ("Blackish") has a story writing credit with three other women (Karen McCullah, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja). Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish join Latifah and Smith as a quartet of friends who experience title frivolity down in New Orleans. (July 21) 

8. “Lemon" - This is going to be one of the more divisive comedies of the year, but always one of its best. A movie that caused the most walkouts I saw at any Sundance 2017 screening, "Lemon" boasts both a weird sense of humor (about a guy whose life is falling apart) and a big heart; Brett Gelman stars in the movie and co-wrote it with his extremely talented wife Janicza Bravo, in part about their relationship and their work as emerging artists in LA. A film that can be challenging just as much as it is hilarious, "Lemon" deserves a wide audience to see how it makes each individual audience member feel. The movie features the likes of Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Nia Long, Gillian Jacobs, Rhea Perlman, Fred Melamed, Megan Mullally and more. (August 18) 

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7. “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail" A new Steve James film is as big to the world of documentaries as a "Transformers" movie to multiplexes. That's no different with "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail," which documents the single financial institution that was criminally indicted after the 2008 mortgage crisis. (May 19) 

6. “A Ghost Story" - A lot of great films passed through Sundance this past year, but hands down one of the most clamored was David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” (read Brian Tallerico's rave here). I’ve only received bits and pieces about why it’s so great—its original screenplay, its unique aspect ratio, and Rooney Mara eats pie for five minutes?—and I’m eager to check this one out ASAP. (Whispers again: Chicago residents will get their chance when it plays the Chicago Critics Film Festival on May 18) (July 7) 

5. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” - There aren’t enough Luc Besson blockbusters in the world, whether you’re a super-fan of the French filmmaking titan or not. That will thankfully be slightly remedied when “The Fifth Element” director gives us “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” based on the comic book by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières. The cast includes the likes of Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman and Herbie Hancock. When it comes to nutty blockbusters, this is bound to beat "The Fate of the Furious" at its own game. (July 21)

4. “Dunkirk" - Writer/director Christopher Nolan has become a household name not just for his influence on genre but the unique, confident angles in which he approaches storytelling. This facet could very well prove to be vital with his latest epic, “Dunkirk,” about Allied soldiers being surrounded during WWII. He’ll be throwing his massive scope into the mix (making an IMAX viewing a must-see) and even star power, using the likes of Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles. (July 21)

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3. "The Beguiled" - Of all the films in the world to remake, "The Beguiled” (originally directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood) wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list. But this is where trust in writer/director Sofia Coppola takes over—you know that her take on the story of a Civil War soldier (now played by Colin Farrell), being taken in by a house of women, will be fascinating at the very, very least. Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst and also star. (June 30)

2. "Whose Streets?" - This is one film I saw back in January that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. It's a movie that collects the various experiences from people who were in Ferguson, MO after Mike Brown was killed, and gives them a collective voice that shows what two-minute news segment footage never could. "Whose Streets?" is a truly incredible documentary and I can't wait for more people to see it, especially as it proves to be exactly the type of movie that America needs right now. (August 11) 

1. "Logan Lucky" - What does it take to get avowed film retiree Steven Soderbergh back into the game? Well, we won't know for sure until "Logan Lucky" comes out in August, but given its defining factors we can guess what: an ensemble cast (including Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Katherine Waterston, Channing Tatum, Hilary Swank, Riley Keough, Seth McFarlane, Katie Holmes, Dwight Yoakam, Macon Blair), an original screenplay and a heist that takes place during an event as massive as a NASCAR race. Consider our interests at their highest, especially if this is the script that could bring a titan like Soderbergh back to making movies. If it takes a whole summer to get to Soderbergh back on the silver screen, I'll take it. (August 18) 


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