Director: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston
Release date: None yet, but it seems likely to make its U.S. bow at SXSW.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Swanberg's prolific output has been gaining momentum of late as the filmmaker enters a more mature stage beyond his ramshackle mumblecore roots and more firmly rooted in genre and stronger production values. His collaboration here with name actors signifies his burgeoning popularity even as he remains tied to an improvisational approach. The story, about a possible romance between two employees at a Chicago brewery, sounds like just the sort of basic premise that Swanberg could use to construct a charming, perceptive look at ordinary people rendered fascinating through the director attentiveness to behavior. [Eric Kohn]
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen and Patrick Heusinger
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: May 17
Why Might It Be A Must See: Greta Gerwig gives her most appealing performance yet in Noah Baumbach’s seemingly effortless black-and-white comedy that, yes, does share a lot of similarities to Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show “Girls.” Centered on the bumbling life of Frances (Gerwig), a struggling post-modern dancer living and loving in the Big Apple, “Frances Ha” doesn’t tell a story, so much as force you to get to know the protagonist. As written by both Baumbach and Gerwig, Frances is a hot mess, but an endearing, awkward and hilarious one. [Nigel M. Smith]
"I'm So Excited"
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Javier Cámara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Raúl Arévalo, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Suárez, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: Debuts in Spain on March 8th (which suggests its not heading to Cannes), but US audiences will have to wait until November
Why Might It Be a Must See: How could you not be so excited for Pedro Almodovar's new film? A narrative is set almost entirely on an airplane, it reteams Almodovar with Javier Cámara ("Talk To Her"), Cecilia Roth ("All About My Mother"), Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas (though the latter two in cameo roles) and judging from the trailer it looks a campy return to Almodovar's delightfully comic roots. [Peter Knegt]
Directors: Mike Attie and Meghan O'Hara
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: "In Country" is starting post-production now, with a 2013 festival debut planned.
Why Might It Be a Must See: First-time feature filmmaking team Mike Attie and Meghan O'Hara won the pitch contest at last year's Camden International Film Festival, and have subsequently turned heads with their sensitive and probing depiction of Vietnam War re-enactors in Oregon. [Bryce J. Renninger]
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Adam Driver, Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Alex Karpovsky
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: Plainly put, Coen Brothers films are always must-sees, even when they don’t work. But this latest, about a musician wading into the folk music world of 1960s New York City, promises a killer soundtrack and the kind of specific period setting that the Coens usually make great use of (“A Serious Man,” “True Grit,” “Miller’s Crossing”). Its casting mix is appealing, too, with Mulligan (who sang a wicked “New York, New York” in “Shame”) and Timberlake providing musical power, regular Coens player Goodman anchoring the story and rising talents Driver, Hedlund, Isaac and Karpovsky bringing fresh blood to the brothers’ cinematic universe. [Jay A. Fernandez]
"The Lords of Salem"
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Dee Wallace, Meg Goster, and Suzanne Vos.
Distributor: Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: Not yet announced. Likely a Halloween opening.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Rob Zombie impressed many (ourselves included) with his grisly and demented sophomore effort, "The Devil's Rejects," only to betray many admirers of that film with his tepid stab at the "Halloween" franchise. After helming the 2009 sequel to that reboot, new film "The Lords of Salem" (which world premiered in Toronto last year in the Midnight Madness section) finds Zombie back in non-remake mode with a gonzo tale that proves the musician turned filmmaker has lost none of his mojo. A melding of Zombie's heavy metal background and horror sensibilities, "Lords" centers on a radio station DJ (Zombie's wife Sheri Moon Zombie) tormented by nightmares and hallucinations involving a coven of Salem witches (and one sadistic-looking baby), after listening to a sinister sounding vinyl record sent to her office. [Nigel M. Smith]
Director: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Bobby Canavale, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, Demi Moore, Eric Roberts, Robert Patrick, Wes Bentley, Sharon Stone and Juno Temple
Distributor: Millenium Films
Release Date: Not yet announced. It's premiering at Sundance so it will likely open soon after.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Amanda Seyfried seems set to prove she's an actress to contend with in the upcoming indie biopic "Lovelace," in which she plays Linda Lovelace, the pornographic movie actress and star of "Deep Throat," the hard-core cultural sensation, who led an abused and troubled life. Best known as the actress with the voice of an angel (put to good use in "Mamma Mia!" and "Les Miserables"), Seyfried hasn't had a chance to show off her lead-worthy dramatic chops in a film worth seeing ("Chloe" and last year's dud "Gone" were DOA). With the "HOWL" directing duo of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman at the helm and a great cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard as Lovelace's domineering husband, chances are this will be worth your time. [Nigel M. Smith]
"The Man Who Sold the World"
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Alicia Vikander, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens
Release Date: Unknown, perhaps by end of 2013.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Condon's WikiLeaks fiilm, based on two journalistic titles that track the relationship between Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (David Leigh and Luke Harding's "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy" and Domscheit-Berg's own "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website") is eagerly anticipated to say the least. Condon's unpredictable style (this is the man that gave us both "Dreamgirls," "Gods and Monsters," and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" Parts 1 & 2) will have to deal with the very sensitive political perspectives that will inevitably color individual perspectives of the film. Condon's is not the only film about the subject. Documentarian Alex Gibney's own WikiLeaks film -- which profiles Assange and Private Bradley Manning debuts at this month's Sundance Film Festival, and "Underground: The Julian Assange Story" debuted at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. As the film world confronts all these representations of the story, these films will all vie for a definitive telling of the WikiLeaks story primed for the history books. [Bryce J. Renninger]