"Ex Machina," "Carol," "Jane Got a Gun" and "Knight of Cups"
Various "Ex Machina," "Carol," "Jane Got a Gun" and "Knight of Cups"

"45 Years"
Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
Release Date: TBD; February premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival
Why We're Excited: It's been four years since Andrew Haigh blew us away with his SXSW award-winning love story "Weekend." He's since helped launch the HBO show "Looking," which is also fantastic, so anticipation is high for his follow-up feature "45 Years" to deliver. The filmmaker is tackling a very different type of story in "45 Years," by adapting a short story by poet David Constantine about a long-married couple's relationship that's put under severe stress by the discovery of the body of the husband's long lost first love. With Charlotte Rampling headlining his cast, Haigh is in good hands. This has the makings of something special.

"A Hologram for the King"
Director: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Skeritt, Sarita Choudhury
Release Date: TBD

Why We're Excited: After two back-to-back films in which he played characters from real-life, in "A Hologram for the King," Tom Hanks will, in a change of pace, inhabit an entirely fictional character 
— which is a welcome challenge for audiences and critics alike. The actor pairs up with Tom Tykwer, who directed him in "Cloud Atlas," to play a washed-up salesman in the upcoming film adaptation of the Dave Eggers' novel of the same name. Hanks' character travels to Saudi Arabia to try and lock an IT contract for a new business complex being built in the desert.

"Call Me Lucky"
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Barry Crimmins, David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Margaret Cho, Tom Kenny
Release Date: TBD; January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival

Why We're Excited: Although stand-up comedian Bobcat Goldthwait has transitioned into directing with features such as "World's Greatest Dad" and last year's underrated horror flick "Willow Creek," he has yet to lose his biting knack for acerbic black comedy and satire, which bodes well for his upcoming Barry Crimmins documentary. Crimmins, a longtime friend of the director, was a titan of the stand-up scene in 1980's Boston thanks to his politically charged routines, and he founded the Ding-Ho comedy club in Cambridge in 1979, launching the careers of Dennis Leary, Steve Sweeney, Lenny Clarke and more in the process. Following Crimmins at events in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, Goldthwait's documentary explores the left-wing comic inside and out, while allowing comedy favorites like Patton Oswalt and Margaret Cho to sing his praises. If anyone can get to the core of this Boston comedy legend, it's Goldthwait, so count us very much intrigued.

Killer Films "Carol"

Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara
Release Date: TBD
Why We're Excited: The involvement of Todd Haynes or Cate Blanchett in anything warrants a must-see status, but for them to come together again nine years after "I'm Not There" for a 1950s-set lesbian drama co-starring Rooney Mara as Blanchett's love interest? It's almost too much for us to handle. Based on the 1952 novel "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith (whose books "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley" also resulted in fantastic queer-interest films — the latter notably also starring Cate Blanchett), the film follows Therese (Mara), a young New York department store clerk who falls for Carol (Blanchett), an older, married woman.

"Dark Places"
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz
Release Date: TBD; January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival

Why We're Excited: Gillian Flynn turned her novel "Gone Girl" into a fantastic screenplay and, with the help of David Fincher, into a hit of a movie. Though Flynn isn't the screenwriter on this one, we're excited enough just to see another of her novels turned into a film. This one follows a woman who survived the brutal murder of her entire family as a child and has to revisit the memories because of a secret society obsessed with solving old crimes. 

"Digging for Fire"
Director: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Jenny Slate, Orlando Bloom, Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Brie Larsen
Release Date: TBD; January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival

Why We're Excited: That star-studded cast is enough to excite us, but add to that the fact that Swanberg co-wrote the script with Jake Johnson and we can barely contain our enthusiasm. The relationship drama about what happens when a husband (Johnson) and wife (DeWitt) discover a bone and a gun sounds darkly hilarious. And to top it all off, the film, which will premiere at Sundance, was shot by Ben Richardson (DP of the gorgeous "Beasts of the Southern Wild") on 35mm. Consider us curious.

Director: Rick Alverson
Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz, Lotte Verbeek
Release Date:  TBD; January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival

Why We're Excited: "The Comedy," Rick Alverson's provocative 2012 portrait of a bored, privileged Brooklynite, was one of the more memorably divisive Sundance Film Festival premieres. Its fans and detractors both had strong reactions to the abhorrent protagonist (Tim Heidecker), whose unruly antics Alverson portrayed in a series of unnerving vignettes. Now Alverson is back with a reportedly even more challenging character study revolving around an aging comedian (Turkington) attempting to revive his career with a series of shows in the middle of the desert. Alverson's ability to probe the depths of American losers reached some remarkable extremes with "The Comedy," but here's hoping "Entertainment" goes even further as the director continues to push beyond his audiences' comfort zones. Bring it on.

Ex Machina
A24 "Ex Machina"

"Ex Machina"
Director: Alex Garland  
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac
Release Date: April 10
Why We're Excited: Because we're really, really aching for some excellent sci-fi and Garland has the ability to give it to us, having written "28 Days Later," "Sunshine" and "Never Let Me Go." The story involves a young coder (Gleeson) who participates in an experiment involving a new brand of artificial intelligence. Before Isaac and Gleeson hit screen in the upcoming "Star Wars" sequel, here's the potential for them to grab us in some sci-fi with an earthly touch. 

Far From The Madding Crowd
"Far From the Madding Crowd"

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaerts
Release Date: May 1

Why We're Excited: "A Celebration" director Thomas Vinterberg made quite the comeback at Cannes a couple years back with "The Hunt," and he follows it up with this promising adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 19th century classic headlined by the ever-reliable Carey Mulligan as a woman who inherits a large farm and becomes romantically entangled with three men (Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts). Vinterberg has proven adept at drawing out career best performances from his cast (Mads Mikkelsen took home top acting honors at Cannes for his showstopping turn in "The Hunt"), so signs point to this being a heated character study.

Director: Peter Sollett
Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon, Luke Grimes
Release Date: TBD

Why We're Excited: Julianne Moore once again embodies a woman with a terminal illness, but this time she’s surrounded by a rock-solid supporting cast. The story, which follows Moore’s character through a struggle to secure pension benefits, is based on an Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name. Sollett, who previously directed "Raising Victor Vargas" and "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist," should be able to bring some light-hearted subtlety to heavy subject matter.