Director: Steve McQueen
British director Steve McQueen first gained serious critical acclaim in 2007 for his tense prison drama "Hunger," which he followed up with the 2011 drama "Shame," an unnerving portrait of sex addiction. Here, he adapts Solomon Northup's remarkable account of being kidnapped and sold into slavery for a dozen years in the middle of the 19th century. The material is inherently suspenseful and harrowing, since Northup provides a detailed account of slavery's brutal nature in the Deep South. But it's Fassbender's penchant for creating disquieting atmosphere that's well positioned to make this spectacular survival tale come to life and possibly provide one of the more accurate recreations of slavery life in America. (Take that, "Django Unchained.") It also could provide a bigger showcase for Ejiofor, a great underrated character actor. [Eric Kohn]
"Under The Skin"
Director: Jonathan Glazer
“Sexy Beast” director Jonathan Glazer has kept up waiting for far too long since his last film “Birth” in 2003, yet “Under Your Skin” seems like it will satiate with its bizarre story. Based on Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name the film follows Scarlett Johansson as an alien sent to Earth to pick up careless hitchhikers to feed her alien population back home. Not much else is known of the film, but creepy alien abductions in Scotland and Glazer’s long absence from screens make it a hopeful contender for Cannes. [Erin Whitney]
"Venus in Fur"
Director: Roman Polanski
Though we know Roman Polanski isn't crossing the pond to catch shows on Broadway, his last two films have come from the Great White Way. Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage," the source of Polanski's last film "Carnage" (2011) was, of course, a French play before it debuted on Broadway in 2009. This time, Polanski has adapted "Venus in Fur," the two-person play from playwright David Ives, which debuted on Broadway in 2011. The film, shot in French, focuses on a man who is directing an adaptation of "Venus in Furs," written by Austrian writer Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (from whose name the term "masochism" comes). After seeing a series of lackluster actresses audition for the lead role, the director finds the perfect woman. Once she auditions, though, she's in control. The film will star Mathieu Amalric and Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner [Bryce J. Renninger]
"The Young and Prodigious Spivet"
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
It’s been awhile since we’ve been invited into the vivid, eccentric mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, loved for films such as “Amelie,” “A Very Long Engagement,” and “Delicatessen.” The latest from the French director, “The Young and Prodigious Spivet,” appears to have just the right amount of quirky oddity, following a 12-year-old Montana mapmaker who hitchhikes by freight train to accept an award in Washington D.C. Based on Reif Larson’s book “The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet,” the 3D film stars newcomer Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, and Robert Maillet. While it may not be completed in time to make our Cannes wish come true, we can bet that Jeunet’s vision in 3D is something not to be missed. [Erin Whitney]
"The Zero Theorem"
Director: Terry Gilliam
Well, the cast is chock full of interesting actors (Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon and Melanie Laurent, among others), and Gilliam is a master of the cinematic bizarre, so this story of a computer hacker trying to discover the reason for human existence while dealing with the constant obstacles thrown in his way should at least engage the mind. But really, the nature of “Zero Theorem,” from first-time screenwriter and university professor Pat Rushin, remains a total mystery. Gilliam may have a spotty record with audiences, but curiosity about that mystery and how it unfolds is its biggest selling point. It finished shooting in December.