2017 Tribeca Film Festival: 23 Can't-Miss Movie Premieres, Talks and Gala Events

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Every year, celebrities, filmmakers, journalists and movie fans flock to the Tribeca neighborhood in lower Manhattan for the Tribeca Film Festival, an illustrious celebration of film and television that features some of the most exciting projects and panel discussions of any media festival in the country.

Founded by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in 2001, shortly after the attacks of 9/11, the festival has helped revitalize the city and remind both filmmakers and fans alike of New York City’s valued place in film and TV while becoming a welcoming community for voices and perspectives from all over the world. “It’s also a fabric of our city. So whether or not it’s a film from Israel or Palestine or something for kids, our festival was about community and it still is,” Rosenthal tells ET. “It’s about bringing community together.” 

The 2017 festival, which runs April 19-30, continues to expand beyond film and TV with a focus on VR and gaming. “There’s great storytelling happening,” Rosenthal says of mediums that go beyond a typical viewing experience. She confirms their unwavering interest in curating an ambitious lineup that will not only showcase the city, but run during President Donald Trump’s administration’s 100th day as well as Earth Day: “The fact is, we’re curious.” 

With so much happening -- from movie premieres to high-profile talks and anticipated reunions -- ET has rounded up a quick guide of the things you won’t want to miss at this year’s festival. 

MUST SEE MOVIES
1. Aardvark

Starring: Zachary Quinto, Jenny Slate, Jon Hamm (Dir. Brian Shoaf)

What It's About: A mentally ill man named Josh (Zachary Quinto) begins to fall in love, but he doesn't know if the person he's falling for is real or just an hallucination. To complicate matters, his new therapist, Emily, (Jenny Slate) becomes infatuated with his more famous brother, Craig,  (Jon Hamm), with whom Josh has a very complicated relationship.

Why We Want to See It: This could be another great addition to the wonderful mentally-confused-romantic-dramedy genre, alongside Lars and the Real Girl and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

2. Flower

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Tim Heidecker (Dir. Max Winkler)

What It's About: A sexually adventurous teenager (Deutch) forms an unconventional friendship with her mentally unstable step-brother in this dark coming-of-age comedy.

Why We Want to See It: Aside from the obviously awesome cast, Flower was featured on the 2012 Blacklist, alongside Whiplash and Hell or High Water.

3. Buster’s Mal Heart

Starring: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil, Lin Shaye (Dir. Sarah Adina Smith)

What It's About: A conspiracy-obsessed mountain man (Malek) finds himself on the run from authorities, and hides in vacant summer homes during the harsh winters to survive. Meanwhile, he begins to have visions of impossible things that turn out to be real.

Why We Want to See It: You don’t get the opportunity to see too many surreal action mystery thrillers, as it’s not a genre routinely explored, so this could prove to be a one-of-a-kind experience. Additionally, no one plays paranoid weirdo better than the Mr. Robot star.

4. Chuck

Starring: Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Rapaport, Ron Perlman and Pooch Hall (Dir. Philippe Falardeau)

What It's About: In 1975, heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner (Schreiber) entered the ring with heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (Hall), and lasted 15 rounds with the icon, even knocking him down once in the ninth. Wepner’s life story was the inspiration for the 1976 film Rocky.

Why We Want to See It: After watching Schreiber bust heads in the criminally underappreciated hockey comedy Goon (2011) and on the Showtime series Ray Donovan, the star is the absolute perfect fit to play Wepner. Add in his real-life ex-wife (and still close friend) Watts, and you’ve got some potent on-screen chemistry.

5. The Clapper

Starring: Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Tracy Morgan, Leah Remini, Adam Levine and Alan Thicke (Dir. Dito Montiel)

What It's About: Eddie Krumble (Helms) is a professional audience clapper for infomercials, who one day gets a shot at his 15 minutes of fame with an appearance on a late night talk show, but the exposure costs him his job and his burgeoning relationship with a young gas station attendant (Seyfried).

Why We Want to See It: The story of a sad sack who falls on some tough luck feels almost tailor made to fit Helms’ comedy wheelhouse, and it could be another grand slam if it allows him to bring some of his well-cultivated darkness to the role. Additionally, this marks the final film role for Thicke, who died of a heart attack in December.

6. Literally, Right Before Aaron

Starring: Justin Long, Cobie Smulders, John Cho, Kristen Schaal, Leah Thompson and Luis Guzman (Dir. Ryan Eggold)

What It's About: A young man (Long) is reeling from a painful breakup with his ex-girlfriend (Smulders), and his world is thrown into even greater disarray when his ex invites him to her upcoming wedding, which he agrees to attend in order to try and figure out what went wrong in their relationship.

Why We Want to See It: Once again, you can’t go wrong with a cast like this. Additionally, this comedy that explores the universal questions of “what could have been?” is based on a short film Eggold shot in 2011, which means he’s been crafting this feature version in his head for some time, perfecting the script.

7. Rock’n Roll

Starring: Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet (Dir. Guillaume Canet)

What It's About: Real-life sweethearts Canet and Cotillard play satirical versions of themselves in this French comedy. One day, Canet is told by a young co-star that he’s getting getting old and isn’t cool anymore, so the 44-year-old actor sets out to prove her wrong and falls into increasingly ridiculous hijinks, dragging his girlfriend, Cotillard, into his pseudo midlife crisis.

Why We Want to See It: It’s always entertaining when actors play comical versions of themselves, but this story of a celeb couple struggling to navigate the pitfalls of living life in the limelight is a real challenge Canet and Cotillard have had to face in recent years, and it’s fascinating to will be fascinating to see how their onscreen personas compare to them in real life.

8. Sweet Virginia

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Rosemarie DeWitt, Imogen Poots, Odessa Young, Christopher Abbott (Dir. Jamie Dagg)

What It's About: This tense neo-Western follows a secretive motel owner with some dark secrets (Bernthal) who unwittingly befriends a hitman (Abbot) who is responsible for a number of violent, high-profile killings in their small Alaskan town.

Why We Want to See It:  If you’re not immediately sold when you hear the words “neo-Western,” we just really don’t know what’s wrong with you.

9. The Trip to Spain

Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon (Dir. Michael Winterbottom)

What It's About: The celebrated British comics take a culinary road trip through Spain, dining on local dishes while having fun annoying each other and philosophizing on life and coming to terms with being middle-aged.

Why We Want to See It: This is the third installment in Winterbottom’s Trip series, following 2011’s The Trip and 2014’s The Trip to Italy, which were both utterly hilarious and enjoyable, so expectations are high for their third food-based adventure.

10. Dog Years

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Ariel Winter, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase (Dir. Adam Rifkin)

What It's About: While Vic Edwards (Reynolds) was once one of the hottest leading men in Hollywood, the old star is forced to acknowledge his quickly fading star power and reassess his life after he gets an invitation to receive a lifetime achievement award.

Why We Want to See It: Burt Reynolds playing a meta version of himself in a dark comedy alongside is enough to be fascinating on its own. However, it also marks Ariel Winter’s first real mature role after years of starring on Modern Family and voicing cartoon characters, and that should be interesting whether it turns out to be great or a total train wreck.

11. Pilgrimage

Starring: Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage, Stanley Weber (Dir. Brendan Muldowney)

What It's About: A cadre of 13th century Irish monks are tasked with transporting their land's holiest relic to Rome, but first they must traverse a deadly countryside filled with violent marauders and warring clans. The pilgrimage teaches one of their youngest members some brutal lessons about the savagery and self-delusion of man.

Why We Want to See It: Tom Holland -- aka Marvel's Spider-Man -- plays a young monk who has to fight his way through the horrors of the Middle Ages! The only way that could be cooler is if he somehow got to actually play Spider-Man doing that exact same thing.

12. A Thousand Junkies

What It's About: When three heroin addicts get stood up by their dealer, they embark on a journey across Los Angeles looking for another hookup, all the while devising increasingly reckless and dangerous plans for how to get their drugs, which lead them down some dangerous paths.

Why We Want to See It: The film is described as "a drug movie that struggles to find any drugs, and a road movie that drives in circles." Also, this is a dark, absurdist drug comedy written and directed by the screenwriter of Cool Runnings, Little Giants and Snow Dogs. If that doesn't sound like a bizarre adventure, nothing does.

13. Devil's Gate

Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Schull, Shawn Ashmore, Bridget Regan, Jonathan Frakes (Dir. Clay Staub)

What It's About: No-nonsense FBI agent Daria Francis (Schull) is sent to the small, rural town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota, to investigate the disappearance of a mother and her young son. While their prime suspect is the husband (Ventimiglia), the agent's world is shaken when she becomes trapped in the basement of his farmhouse and must face down inexplicable terrors as horrifying mysteries unfolds.

Why We Want to See It: A lot of mainstream horror has become stale and predictable, but this claustrophobic horror/sci-fi thriller sounds like it could present a fresh and original story, which is only heightened by the fact that it apparently takes place in a 24-hour period of time, heightening the stress and tension. Who couldn't use a fresh take on the creepy, small-town farm basement thriller?

CAN'T MISS TALKS
14. Jon Favreau with Scarlett Johansson

The Jungle Book director will be sitting down the Ghost in the Shell star to delve into his array of celebrated directorial efforts and his success with helming both big-budget blockbusters and indie, art house darlings.

15. Noah Baumbach with Dustin Hoffman

Baumbach, director of The Squid and the Whale will be opening up about his acclaimed body of work with two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman. 

16. Bruce Springsteen with Tom Hanks

The iconic American rocker will sit down with his friend, Oscar winner Tom Hanks, to discuss Springsteen's celebrated 40-year career in the music business and what he envisions for his future.

17. Barbra Streisand with Robert Rodriguez

The music superstar is opening up about her unparalleled career -- as an actress, singer, director, producer and author over the last 50 years -- with acclaimed filmmaker and Sin City director Robert Rodriguez.

EPIC EVENTS
18. The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II

Celebrate the iconic Godfather saga's 45th anniversary with a double header screening of the first two films in the trilogy. After the movie, director Francis Ford Coppola will join stars Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and Robert De Niro for a candid discussion about the legendary film series.

19. Aladdin

Commemorate Aladdin's 25th anniversary with at a screening of the beloved Disney classic, which will be preceded by a performance by Brad Kane -- who provided the singing voice of Aladdin -- of a celebrated song off the film's iconic soundtrack.

20. Reservoir Dogs

Another film celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year is Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs. The verbose director is providing a 35mm pristine print from his personal archive for the screening, and he will join the cast for a panel discussion after the film. This is a must for any Tarantino fan headed to the festival.

21. Casual – Season 3 World Premiere

After this exclusive season 3 premiere of Hulu’s hit dramedy -- which follows the life of a divorcee and single mother (Michaela Watkins) who lives with her younger brother (Tommy Dewey) and her  teenage daughter (Tara Lynne Barr) -- the show’s cast and creators (Zander Lehmann, Liz Tigelaar, Helen Estabrook) will sit down for a moderated panel discussion.

22. I Am Heath Ledger – World Premiere

Check out an exclusive screening of this hotly anticipated SpikeTV documentary series which celebrates the life of the late Oscar winner through interviews with friends and family and even home movies, while reflecting on his career with examples of some of his greatest performances. 

23. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Season 3 World Premiere

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock – who co-created the beloved Netflix comedy – will join Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane for a moderated conversation about the series, following the special premiere screening.