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Thursday November 23rd 2017

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Fall Movie Preview

By Daniel Barnes

Some movies are so universally craved that it seems redundant to include them on a list of most anticipated films. This Christmas, there is one film that will undoubtedly unite every moviegoer in the galaxy. The follow-up to the 2015 sensation that incorporated familiar faces into a new cinematic universe, this film doesn’t need any extra promotion, as rabid fans of the franchise will eagerly watch and re-watch it, dissecting every background detail for references and clues. Therefore, film critic Daniel Barnes did not include “Daddy’s Home 2” on his list of the most anticipated films of the rest of 2017 (for good measure, he also left off “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).

Mother! (Sept. 15)
Jennifer Lawrence’s last two awards season vehicles (the joyless “Joy” and the passable “Passengers”) were drippy duds, and the pitilessness and severity of Darren Aronofsky might be the cure. Back in “Black Swan” psychological horror mode after dabbling in Biblical epics with “Noah,” Aronofsky wrote and directed this story of a woman whose domestic life gets unsettled by unexpected houseguests.

The Florida Project (Oct. 10)
Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” was one of the left-field surprises of 2015, an energetic and empathetic look at transsexual prostitutes on the streets of Los Angeles. It was Baker’s fifth feature film, but marked a commercial breakthrough for the low-budget filmmaker, and now familiar faces like Willem Dafoe and Caleb Landry Jones show up in this candy-colored follow-up about mischievous children.

Wonderstruck (Oct. 20)
When the rigid perfectionist Martin Scorsese wanted to warm up and make his first film about children, he turned to Brian Selznick’s “Hugo” for source material. And now that the rigid perfectionist Todd Haynes (“Carol”) is ready to do the same, back we go to Selznick, who adapts his own book about a generations-spanning mystery.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Nov. 3)
Some foreign-born directors are never able to find their footing in English-language efforts, but something about the singularly impudent sadism of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos made for an effortless Americanization in last year’s “The Lobster.” More confusing animal imagery comes our way with “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which is a revenge story about a surgeon (Colin Farrell), his wife (Nicole Kidman) and the disturbed young man that they befriend.

Last Flag Flying (Nov. 3)
If you told me that my list of the most anticipated films of the fall would include a spiritual sequel to “The Last Detail” starring Bryan Cranston as ‘Badass’ Buddinsky and Steve Carell as Larry Meadows (Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid, respectively, in Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic), I would have scoffed, but director Richard Linklater makes one do strange things.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Nov. 10)
The first film from English writer-director Martin McDonagh since 2012′s ridiculously underrated “Seven Psychopaths,” and only the second since his 2008 debut “In Bruges,” “Three Billboards…” is a bloody, hyper-literate, mid-western crime comedy about idiot cops and philosophical lawbreakers. And if that’s not Coen Brothers-esque enough for you, the film also stars Frances McDormand as a grieving mother battling with the local police department.

The Shape of Water (Dec. 8)
The last time that Guillermo del Toro tried to mingle horror and romance, we got 2015′s murky and overheated “Crimson Peak,” so it’s a little disappointing that he sprinted right back to that well with “The Shape of Water.” But with del Toro, there is always the tantalizing possibility of another Pan’s Labyrinth, so fingers crossed that this 1960s-set love story between a mute janitor and an amphibious lab experiment fulfills that promise.

Downsizing (Dec. 22)
Alexander Payne’s first movie since “Nebraska” in 2013, and the first fantastical premise from a filmmaker best known for his sharp sociological observations. Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon play a couple who elect to get shrunk to four inches in height, allowing them to reduce waste and live a more lavish lifestyle. No trailer exists as of press time, so we’ll have to trust that Payne will find a way to make that annoyingly high-concept premise work.

The Post  (Dec. 22)
While 70-year-old Steven Spielberg prepares this story about the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers for an awards season push, he is also deep into post-production on “Ready Player One,” a sci-fi action thriller slated for a March 2018 release, deep into pre-production on the historical biopic “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” and he has a producer credit on over a dozen upcoming releases.  Buried lede: you are lazy.

Phantom Thread (Dec. 25)
Details are still sketchy about Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest effort, his first film since “Inherent Vice” in 2014, but here’s what we know: Daniel Day-Lewis stars; Anderson writes, directs and serves as his own cinematographer; Jonny Greenwood composes the music; it’s set in the London fashion industry in the 1950s.  Sold!

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Daniel’s Top 5 Films of 2017 (So Far)

1) Your Name.
In a year filled with films that successfully cohabited honest humanity with the supernatural, this animated teenage symphony to God from Japanese director Makoto Shinkai rises above them all. Restless yet wise, the film plays like a Studio Ghibli version of an emotionally loaded, metaphysical mind-scrambler like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “Donnie Darko.”

2) Good Time
Robert Pattinson has made some bold choices in recent years, preferring to work with outsider directors instead of cashing in on his fame, but he continued to exude a low-energy indifference until his startlingly brilliant turn in Josh and Benny Safdie’s outrageous urban nightmare.

3) Personal Shopper
Sign that we’re living in the last days, No. 7,830,268: the two best lead performances of the year so far were delivered by the stars of the “Twilight” franchise (cue: locusts). Kristen Stewart re-teams with “Clouds of Sils Maria” writer-director Olivier Assayas for this entrancing and unsettling story of a medium trying to connect with her recently deceased twin brother.

4) A Ghost Story
The most literal ghost movie of 2017, but also the most unexpectedly challenging, as director David Lowery conjures supernatural clichés (including spirits in white sheets with holes for eyes) only to rewire them into this Linklater-meets-Kubrick story of the timelessness of grief.

5) Get Out
As the darkest recesses of white privilege and hate continue to strut their stuff on the national stage, Jordan Peele’s smart, funny and stylish Black Lives Matter horror movie only grows more pungently cathartic.