"Queen of the Desert"
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robert Pattinson, Jude Law
Release date: Nothing yet.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Just because he was recently seen onscreen as the villain in "Jack Reacher" doesn't mean Herzog has sold out. Every since "Rescue Dawn," the kooky Bavarian filmmaker has entered a compelling new stage with the narrative side of his filmmaking career, delivering bizarre, discursive dramas (can anyone really explain "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?") with the same loony poetry that often spills out of Herzog's mouth (that iguana bit in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" was something else). Herzog's new movie looks like a consolidation of his life as an adventurous documentarian and oddball fiction work: The movie stars Watts as legendary explorer Gertrude Bell and Pattinson as "Lawrence of Arabia" author T.E. Lawrence. Herzog tends to bring out the maniacal side of his actors, which means this could be a thrill ride in more ways than one. [Eric Kohn]
Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Christoph Waltz and Michael Douglas
Distributor: None yet (supported by Participant Media project)
Release Date: In pre-production.
Why Might It Be a Must See: After stunning audiences in yet another Tarantino flick, Christoph Waltz will become Mikhail Gorbachev to Michael Douglas' Ronald Reagan (!). The film tracks the 1986 Reykjavik summit that sought to smooth the relationship between the still cold world leaders. [Bryce J. Renninger]
Director: Ti West
Cast: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kate Lyn Sheil
Release date: Nothing yet, but it could wind up at SXSW if finished in time.
Why Might It Be a Must See: With his debut feature "The Roost," Ti West quickly established himself as a promising new filmmaking talent in the horror genre with a style both reverential to intelligent scares of the past and willing to push the genre in inventive new directions. That potential was confirmed with subsequent projects like "The House of the Devil" and "The Innkeepers," but it was "The Roost" that brought West to the attention of torture porn auteur Eli Roth, who championed West to studios. Now the two have teamed up again, with Roth "presenting" West's latest film, the details of which have remained a secret. But West, known for his perfectionist approach, always manages to deliver something worth talking about.
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: First off, there’s the reunion of Lawrence and Cooper, who had tremendous chemistry in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and may very well walk away with awards to show for it in February. Fans will be very eager to see them on screen together again, even if it’s in the vastly different mode of “Serena,” a dark and violent period piece based on the Ron Rash novel about a couple that moves to woodsy North Carolina in 1929 to build a lumber empire and devolves into suspicion, heartbreak and revenge in the process. The Danish Bier has yet to break through with American audiences, but she nabbed the best foreign-language film Oscar in 2010 for “In a Better World.” So the elements of this film — given its period deep-South setting — may feel incongruous, but they’re also what make the prospect intriguing. [Jay A. Fernandez]