Last week, we took a look at a cool hundred movies on the way over the next twelve months that we’re looking forward to, and while some may disappoint, others will surprise and surpass expectations. One of the great pleasures of being a cinema fan is that of discovery; that unknown film that you take a chance on, that blows you away and becomes one of the talking points of the year. Invariably, these discoveries end up coming from the independent and foreign world, and prove to be among the best moments of the cinematic year.
It’s of course, tricky to predict exactly what’ll end up being the highlights of the festival circuit — films like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Artist” were barely on any radars until they screened for the first time. But we’ve delved into the darker recesses of the film calendar to pick out 30 titles that could end up being the best time you have in a movie theater in 2013. Take a look below, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments section.
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
Synopsis: Four years after their crime spree was brought to an end by the authorities, a young couple, Bob and Ruth, are reunited when he escapes from prison.
What You Need To Know: Attracting talent like Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Nate Parker for your first big feature suggests that you might potentially be a big deal, and all the promise that David Lowery has shown over the last few years looks to come to a head with “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” A familiar name on the indie circuit thanks to his debut feature “St. Nick,” and his short “Pioneer” (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011), Lowery’s all over Park City this year, as an editor on “Upstream Color,” and the co-writer of NEXT entry “Pit Stop,” but his 70s-set Texas crime tale is undoubtedly his magnum opus this year. There’s obvious echoes of “Badlands” and “Bonnie & Clyde” here, but it sounds like Lowery has his own take at work here, and he couldn’t ask for a more talented cast. “Pariah” and “Middle Of Nowhere” DoP Bradford Young is shooting the film too, so it should look glorious.
When? Starts screening January 20th at Sundance, and we imagine it’s one of the hot-ticket pick ups at the festival, so a distributor should follow along shortly.
Synopsis: Two French-Canadian con-men team up for a get-rich-quick scheme to sell Christmas trees in New York.
What You Need To Know: It’s now nearly eight year since the first, and last, feature from director Phil Morrison, a comedy and music video veteran whose 2005 film “Junebug” proved to be an acclaimed and terrific family drama, helping launch the career of Amy Adams in the process. All we’ve had to show from the filmmaker since is an episode of HBO’s “Enlightened” in 2011, but last year he finally got rolling on his sophomore feature. Originally titled “Lucky Dog,” the film stars Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti in the lead roles, with the great Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky“) also involved. The script comes from first-timer Melissa James Gibson, while Giamatti also produces, and while it sounds like it might lean more comedic than “Junebug” did, we’re sure Morrison will bring some added depth to the table.
When? Not in the Sundance line-up, surprisingly, so we imagine it’ll turn up at SXSW, or TIFF at the latest.
Synopsis: A young man, rendered mute by the death of his parents as a child, has grown up to become a musical prodigy, but a chance meeting with a herbologist helps him come to terms with his old memories.
What You Need To Know: The track record of animated filmmakers moving into live-action is a patchy one; on the plus side, you have Tim Burton and Brad Bird, on the minus, Andrew Stanton and the guy who made “Jonah Hex.” But given that his live-action contribution to anthology picture “Paris Je T’Aime” was one of the highlights of the film, we’re not so worried about the first non-animated feature from Sylvain Chomet, the director of the great “The Triplets Of Belleville” and “The Illusionist.” Starring fast-rising French actor Guillaume Gouix alongside the more familiar Anne Le Ny (“The Intouchables“) and Jean-Claude Dreyfus (“Delicatessen“), the set-up sounds right up Chomet’s street, given his previous work, and we’re excited to see how his distinctive style translates into live-action. He’s not abandoning cartoons forever; he’ll get underway on “Swing Poppa Swing,” a prequel to ‘Belleville,’ later this year.
Release Date: “The Triplets Of Belleville” premiered at Cannes ten years ago, so with the film having wrapped in September, it might well be a good bet for inclusion there.
Synopsis: The captain of a container ship seeks revenge on the businessman who caused the suicide of his sister’s husband, by getting closer to the man’s mistress and her young son.
What You Need To Know: After a prolific burst of activity in the late 00s, with the excellent duo of “35 Shots Of Rum” and “White Material” following back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, things have been mostly quiet from the great African-born, French-based helmer Claire Denis, with only a short film, “To The Devil,” coming in 2011. But the filmmaker got before cameras on her latest film, “Les salauds” (translated as “The Bastards“) last August, wrapping up in October. Headlined by Vincent Lindon (“Vendredi Soir“), Chiara Mastrioanni (“A Christmas Tale“) and Lola Creton (“Goodbye First Love,” “Something In The Air“), it sounds like something of a change of pace for the director, with more of a thriller feel, without the post-colonial theme often present in her work. But that said, it’s early days, and we’re sure Denis’ distinctive touch will be present nonetheless.
Release Date: Denis’ a serious favorite at Venice, so that would be the obvious bet, but don’t discount a return to Cannes for the first time since 2001’s “Trouble Every Day.”
Synopsis: After being threatened during confession, a good-nature priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.
What You Need To Know: A couple of years back, John Michael McDonagh came out from behind the shadow of his Oscar-winning brother Martin (“In Bruges,” “Seven Psychopaths“) to make a hugely impressive debut feature himself, in the shape of “The Guard,” an enjoyably transgressive, darkly funny comedy featuring a titanic performance from Brendan Gleeson. The writer-director and actor are reteaming again for this, which promises to be a change of pace to some degree; as McDonagh told Empire Magazine this month, “We’re trying to go the opposite way. [Brendan]’s one of the few decent characters — and everyone else is a prick.” Sounding like a Gaelic take on Thomas Vinterberg‘s excellent “The Hunt,” McDonagh’s assembled a who’s who of Irish talent, with Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Brendan’s son Domhnall Gleeson and Dylan Moran all on board, with Jim Jarmusch favorite Isaach De Bankole and Marie-Josee Croze (“Tell No One,” “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly“) also involved.
Release Date: TIFF is probably the best bet, but if they hope to emulate the smash success of “The Guard” when it came out in Ireland in the summer of 2011, it may be unveiled earlier.
“Can A Song Save Your Life?”
Synopsis: An aspiring singer-songwriter new to New York forms a bond with a record producer and his young daughter.
What You Need To Know: Marking the return of “Once” director John Carney (who actually has made two Irish movies in the seven years since, “Zonad” and “The Rafters,” neither of which were seen by literally anybody), it doesn’t see the Irish writer/director move too far from the music-infused love story of his breakthrough. But everything’s on a bigger scale; instead of Dublin, it’s Manhattan, instead of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, it’s Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. This may cause some to prickle against it, but if Carney can bring the same heartfelt quality, and true understanding of the genre, that we won’t be complaining. Judd Apatow, in a rare excursion away from full-on comedy, produces, while the cast also includes Hailee Steinfeld (as Ruffalo’s daughter), Catherine Keener, James Corden, and cameos from musical figures like Mos Def, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine.
Release Date: TIFF seems most likely, Tribeca (given the NYC setting) or SXSW (given the music leanings) could also make sense.
“Camille Claudel, 1915”
Synopsis: The sculptor Camille Claudel, confined to an asylum by her family, awaits a visit from her brother.
What You Need To Know: With a reputation as one of the most ‘difficult’ European auteurs out there, Bruno Dumont on the surface appears to have gone a little more mainstream for his latest film; working with a major star for the first time, in the shape of Juliette Binoche, and taking on that most formulaic of genres, the biopic — in this case, Camille Claudel, a sculptor who was institutionalized with schizophrenia in her 40s, where she stayed for over thirty years, never to sculpt again. Of course, when you think about the subject matter — and the particular approach that Dumont seems to be going for — we’re sure this’ll be anything but a traditional biographical take. We’re sure it won’t be much fun to watch, but the combination of Binoche and the director is an enormously exciting one, particularly given the potency of the role.
Release Date: Cannes feels like a shoo-in.
Synopsis: To care for her disabled son, an aging actress agrees to sell her likeness to a movie studio, to be used by whoever they like.
What You Need To Know: Another long-running fixture of this list that will hopefully finally arrive in 2013, “The Congress” is the sophomore feature from Ari Folman, the Israeli helmer who broke out with 2008’s acclaimed documentary/animation hybrid “Waltz With Bashir.” Folman’s sticking with a similar visual approach here for his fiction debut, an adaptation of a short story by Stainslaw Lem (“Solaris“), which mixes about 70 minutes of live action footage with 50 minutes of animation. He’s attracted an impressive cast here, with Robin Wright in the lead role, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston, Frances Fisher and Harvey Keitel among the others. Leaked footage suggests it’s going to be something of a mindfuck, and we we’d want nothing less from it.
Release Date: “Waltz With Bashir” premiered at Cannes in 2008, so we could well see him back on the Croisette in 2013.
Synopsis: In a hotel in 1980, a group of computer programmers try to create the ultimate computer chess program.
What You Need To Know: Probably one of the most talented directors to be part of that dreadful m-word American film movement (m*mbl*c*re), Andrew Bujalski has been sorely missed since we last saw him in 2009 with the fantastic and criminally underseen “Beeswax.” Thankfully his new film, a period piece if you will, not only succeeded in its crowd-sourcing endeavor but completed shooting late in 2011, and will premiere at Sundance in just over a week. While the “Funny Ha Ha” filmmaker has shied away from big names (“Dazed and Confused” actor Wiley Wiggins is the biggest name involved), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing — instead, the PortaPak digital cameras of the era will be used. It sounds like an interesting prospect and quite a bizarre world, especially considering how far we’ve come technologically since then. Smartly, Bujalski has insisted that he will not include any wink-wink 1980s references, but his camera will be watching these characters like a hawk and there will be plenty of humor despite the lack of Suncoast Video references.
When? Premieres in Park City on January 21st, hopefully a distributor will follow along soon.
“The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: His” & “The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Hers”
Synopsis: Two companion-piece films that examine the dissolution of a marriage after the wife decides to go back to college, shown from the perspective of both parties in the two distinct films.
What You Need To Know: Ambition in a first feature is almost always something to be lauded, and Ned Benson (who was behind short films “The Westerner” and “Yes“) certainly has it in spades here. The logline might sound familiar — “Blue Valentine” by way of “Gone Girl,” but the execution is pretty unusual, in that Benson has made two separate films, showing the story from the perspective of both the husband (James McAvoy, who replaced Joel Edgerton in the role) and the wife (Jessica Chastain, who starred in Benson’s “The Traveler”). You couldn’t ask for a more talented duo than these two, and the supporting cast is pretty much outstanding too, with Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, Jess Weixler, Viola Davis, William Hurt, Nina Arianda and, in a rare English-language turn, Isabelle Huppert. It’s possible that it’s all some kind of a gimmick, and it’ll be difficult to pull off in practice, but with this much talent involved, there’s every chance that it could work.
When? Cannes is a possibility — the conceit is bound to attract festival attention — but TIFF may be a better bet.
“Don Jon’s Addiction”
Synopsis: A Casanova figure sets out to find a more fulfilling sex life, but learns some life lessons along the way.
What You Need To Know: Almost every major star tries to step behind the camera at some point, to varying effect — some turn out Clint Eastwood or Ben Affleck, others closer to Johnny Depp (whose “The Brave” hardly got any kind of release). Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t hanging around — he’s barely turned 30, but the “Looper” star, who’s been sponsoring all kinds of interesting creative work through his hitRECord projects, is making his feature writing/directing debut at Sundance this year. Seemingly a light, comic take on “Shame,” the idea of casting yourself as a sex addict opposite Scarlett Johansson might seem like a vanity project, but there’s plenty of other promising talent involved, including Julianne Moore, Rob Brown and, of all people, Tony Danza. It’s one of those projects that could go either way, but given Gordon-Levitt’s pretty great choice in projects in general, we’ve got faith that he’ll come up with something interesting when he’s in charge.
Release Date: Premieres Jan 18th in Park City, and we imagine it’ll have a distributor within hours.
Synopsis: A young woman is hired to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists, only to fall in with their inscrutable leader and their cause.
What You Need To Know: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij re-team after last year’s fascinating genre-bender “Sound Of My Voice,” with Marling handling co-writing and starring duties once again. With that picture, and 2011’s “Another Earth,” Marling’s announced herself as a major voice in genre filmmaking, but for her follow-up with Batmanglij, it looks like they’ve opted for a more expansive, unsettling experience, with urban political statements cross-bred with an escalating sense of doom. All accounts are that “The East” is going to boldly toe the line between the group’s dangerous beliefs and the horrible aftermath of their actions, with Marling at the center of a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Patricia Clarkson.
Release Date: It premieres January 20th at Sundance. Fox Searchlight produced the picture, so they’ll be releasing it later in the year.
“A Field In England”
Synopsis: During the English Civil War, a group of deserters search for hidden treasure in a mushroom field.
What You Need To Know: America (and much of the rest of the world) hasn’t yet had a chance to see Ben Wheatley‘s outstanding “Sightseers” yet, but the director’s long-since wrapped on his fourth feature, a partially-improvised period piece filmed in only a couple of weeks. Collaborating with both old friends (Michael Smiley from “Kill List,” Richard Glover from “Sightseers“) and U.K. comedy mainstays (Julian Barratt from “The Mighty Boosh,” Reece Shearsmith of “The League of Gentleman“), this promises some of the same pagan horror leanings of Wheatley’s earlier films, but with a period setting reminiscent of the classic “Witchfinder General,” and a trippier feel that should be enhanced by a mix of black-and-white and color photography, and lenses that Wheatley made from scratch. If you ask us, the director’s one of the most promising filmmakers out there right now, and hopefully his unbroken run of brilliance will continue here.
Release Date: The film’s pretty much done, so we imagine that, if his previous work is anything to go by, SXSW or a return trip to Cannes would make sense.
Synopsis: An aspiring musician joins an eccentric band led by the mysterious Frank of the title.
What You Need To Know: Michael Fassbender might be one of the most in-demand actors around, but for all the blockbuster offers he has, he’s not forgetting his roots, and started filming last week on this Irish-made project, inspired by the late Manchester comedian/musician Frank Sidebottom, who became an icon for performing with a papier-mache cartoon head. Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart are also namechecked as jumping-off points for the script, by “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” writer Peter Straughan and journalist Jon Ronson (whose book “The Men Who Stared At Goats” inspired Straughan’s script of the same name), and the cast couldn’t be more exciting; rising star Domhnall Gleeson takes the lead, with Fassbender as the titular Frank, and Scoot McNairy and Maggie Gyllenhaal also involved. Perhaps most exciting of all is director Lenny Abrahamson; the Irish filmmaker’s excellent work to date, in “Adam & Paul,” “Garage” and “What Richard Did,” have won him praise at home, but haven’t yet made his name on the world circuit. Could this be the film to change that? We suspect so…
Release Date: Just started filming, so a TIFF premiere seems entirely feasible, or maybe London if it’s not ready in time.
“Get A Job”
Synopsis: A college graduate and his friends desperately try to find work post-graduation in the worst economy in living memory.
What You Need To Know: Like Phil Morrison (see above), Dylan Kidd was a promising indie filmmaker who’s been M.I.A for the best part of a decade; he turned a lot of heads with debut “Roger Dodger,” but follow-up “P.S.” died on the vine on the festival circuit (though if you ask us, it’s very underrated). Kidd’s barely been heard from since, but managed to get his third feature before cameras last summer. Clearly, it’s timely subject matter, and Kidd couldn’t have assembled a better cast; rising star Miles Teller (“Rabbit Hole,” “The Spectacular Now“) takes the lead, with Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jay Pharoah, Brandon T. Jackson, John Cho, Marcia Gay Harden, Nicholas Braun, John C. McGinley, Marc Maron and Jorge Garcia among those involved. It could end up being a slightly navel-gazing twentysomething flick, but we trust Kidd’s sensibilities enough to think that he’s going to come up with a more interesting take on the material.
Release Date: SXSW could be possible, TIFF is more likely.
“God Help The Girl”
Synopsis: Set over one long summer in Glasgow, Eve falls into a friendship with a pair of musicians.
What You Need To Know: Featuring/namechecking seminal Scottish band Belle and Sebastian has become something close to a cliche in the indie world in recent years (see “Juno,” “(500) Days Of Summer,” etc.). So it makes sense that the band’s frontman Stuart Murdoch might want to get involved in actually making movies. And so he has; a Kickstarter campaign culminating in the start of filming, last summer, of “God Help The Girl,” based on his 2009 concept album of 60s girl group tunes. Starring the talented rising trio of Emily Browning (“Sucker Punch“), who replaced Elle Fanning late in the game, Olly Alexander (“Enter The Void“) and Hannah Murray (“Skins,” “Game Of Thrones“), it’s a full-on musical at an indie pricetag, which is an intriguing enough prospect on its own. And while Murdoch might be an unproven talent behind the camera, he’s got some pretty serious behind-the-scenes backing, most notably big-time Hollywood producer Barry Mendel (“Rushmore,” “Munich“). A cult hit waiting to happen?
Release Date: SXSW would be the obvious choice, but Murdoch may hang on for a home-crowd premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in February or the Edinburgh Film Festival in June.
“I Used To Be Darker”
Synopsis: A pregnant Northern Irish woman runs away to relatives in Baltimore, only to discover that her aunt is on the verge of getting divorced.
What You Need To Know: Matthew Porterfield‘s “Putty Hill” became something of a critical hit when it premiered in Berlin three years ago, and kept it up when it was released in the U.S. in 2011 (it placed highly on one of our writers’ top ten lists at the time). Keeping up his momentum, Porterfield got rolling on his crowd-funded follow-up late last summer, which reunites him with much of the same creative team, with musicians Ned Oldham and Kim Taylor, and newcomers Hannah Gross and Deragh Campbell leading the cast. Hopefully we can expect the same realistic, truthful approach, and the same picturesque Baltimore locations, but with a musical leaning that some have compared to “Once.”
When? Sundance, with the first screening coming on January 19th.
Synopsis: The true story of the titular Picard, a Blackfeet Plains Indian who begins suffering bizarre symptoms after returning from World War II, and is treated by psychoanalyst Georges Devereux.
What You Need To Know: Earlier in the year, we were discussing what happened to French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin; his 2008 film “A Christmas Tale” was something of a Playlist favorite, but he’d scarcely been heard of since that film was released. Well, only a day or two later, Desplechin resurfaced, with the news that he was making his second English-language film (after 2000’s “Esther Kahn“) on “Jimmy Picard,” a long-gestating adaptation of Georges Devereux‘s 1951 book “Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.” Uniting the director’s ‘Christmas Tale’ star Mathieu Amalric with Benicio Del Toro, who’s been searching for a really good showcase since “Che,” the film promises a detailed look at both 1940s-era psychoanalysis, and Native American culture, and while some may rise eyebrows at the casting of Del Toro in such a role, we’re just glad he’s got some worthwhile work again after too many films like “The Wolfman” and “Savages.” Anyway, Desplechin’s skillset seems well-suited to this one, and we’re looking forward to a good deal.
When: “A Christmas Tale” was in competition at Cannes, so this might well follow in its footsteps.
“Kill Your Darlings”
Synopsis: Young Allen Ginsberg arrives at Columbia University, and immediately makes friends with Lucien Carr, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, planting the seeds for what would become the Beat movement. But their lives are shattered when an older man in love with Carr is found dead.
What You Need To Know: “On The Road” made a decent fist at adapting the Beat classic last year without ever feeling truly inspired. Will an attempt at going back to the early days of some of the movement’s key figures be more successful? First time writer-director John Krokidas has the benefit of a doozy of true-crime story here, and he’s certainly assembled an interesting cast, with Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, Ben Foster as Burroughs, Jack Huston as Kerouac, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr and Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker (with Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyra Sedgwick also featuring). There’s the risk that it could come across as a sort of Beat Muppet Babies, or “On The Road: First Class.” But there’s a good story here, and a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera, so we’re definitely feeling optimistic.
When: First screens at Sundance on January 18th, likely to be a hot ticket for distributors.
“The Look Of Love”
Synopsis: Biopic of Paul Raymond, the pornographer who, thanks to canny investment, became one of Britain’s richest men, and the self-styled “King Of Soho.”
What You Need To Know: We’re on record as being big Michael Winterbottom fans, but even we struggled a little bit with his last theatrical release, “Trishna.” 2013 brings two films from the director, and while we’re looking forward to “Everyday” too, it’s “The Look of Love” that really has our attention. Over a decade on from “24 Hour Party People,” one of the best British films of the 00s, Winterbottom reteams with star Steve Coogan for the fourth time for a film that seems to be a sort of spiritual sibling to the earlier film. Digging into seedy London of the 1960s and on rather than Manchester in the 1970s, it promises to be as stylistically playful, but darker in tone. “Control” writer Matt Greenhaigh penned the script, and the cast is strong too, with Anna Friel, Imogen Poots and Tamsin Egerton as the women in his life, with comic talent like Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Sarah Solemani and Chris Addison also cropping up. We haven’t looked forward to a Winterbottom film as much in years.
Release Date: January 19th in Park City, March 8th in the U.K., and hopefully later in the year when a U.S. distributor arrives.
”The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman”
Synopsis: Traveling abroad, Charlie Countryman falls for a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in Nigel, her violent, charismatic ex. As her dark past increasingly envelops him, Charlie resolves to win her heart, or die trying.
What You Need To Know: Swedish-born first-time feature-length filmmaker Fredrik Bond might be an unknown in the film world, but he has accumulated numerous awards throughout the course of his successful career as a commercial director including one at Cannes. The two leads are Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, and the excellent supporting cast features Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint, Vincent D’Onofrio, James Buckley, Aubrey Plaza and Melissa Leo. Written by Matt Drake (who also wrote “Project X“), the music is by Christophe Beck and Dead Mono with songs by Moby and more, so at the very least the picture should have some good tunes in it. And it’s being sheperded by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, the producers behind “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Ruby Sparks,” and Alexander Payne‘s upcoming film, “Nebraska” so you know they at least have good taste.
When? Premieres Jan 21st at Sundance. With a cast like this one, it could end up being one of the bigger films that gets hotly bid after.
Synopsis: Details of the story remain under wraps thus far, thought it is being described as a “social thriller.”
What You Need To Know: Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi‘s previous films had all received strong accolades in the past, but it wasn’t until 2011’s gripping morality drama “A Separation” that he landed firmly on the international map scoring a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film gave him enough cachet to land Marion Cotillard as the lead of his next movie, “The Past.” While she had to drop out, Farhad perhaps got the next best thing as a replacement, “The Artist” star and Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo. Co-starring alongside her is “A Prophet” star Tahar Rahim and that’s a pretty choice duo. Shot in Paris, it’s Farhadi’s first French-language film too.
When? Memento International says delivery is expected spring 2013. Maybe a Cannes bow?
Synopsis: Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives at odds with each other and the women they left behind.
What You Need To Know: You kind of never know what director David Gordon Green is going to do next. Just when he appeared to be the heir apparent to Terrence Malick with lyrical, poetic indie films, the filmmaker pivoted to comedy and even became part of the Judd Apatow gang when he helmed “Pineapple Express.” Three silly comedies later, Green was supposed to take on a remake of “Suspiria,” but quietly, while no one was looking, shot and completed “Prince Avalanche,” a remake of the Icelandic film “Either Way,” in Texas last year. A two-hander, the picture stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch (who Green almost worked with together years ago on a shuttered project called “Bully“), with no else listed in the cast other 77-year-old character actor Lance LeGault. Said to be a meditative character study, this may be the “getting back to his roots” movie that many have been asking for. And to give it some appropriate mood, the score has been written by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, Green’s longtime music collaborator from the indie folk band Ola Podrida.
When? It premieres at Sundance on January 20th.
Synopsis: In North Carolina during the great depression, a young couple attempt to set up a timber empire at any cost.
What You Need To Know: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence became a golden screen couple at the end of 2012 with “Silver Linings Playbook,” but long before that film was unveiled, they’d already wrapped on another collaboration, one that promises to be at the opposite end of the scale; an adaptation of Ron Rash‘s much-acclaimed 2009 novel. More “There Will Be Blood” (with a dash of “Macbeth“) than ‘Silver Linings,’ it’s a one-time Darren Aronofsky project that eventually saw Susanne Bier step in to direct, and promises to cast Cooper and Lawrence (who head a cast that also includes Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik and rising star Sam Reid) in an entirely different light from what we’ve seen them in before. We’ve heard nothing but great things about the source material, so the promise is there for an American classic, but whether Bier, who’s become increasingly middlebrow as her career goes on, is the right person for the job remains to be seen. Still, seeing Lawrence and Cooper on screen again will be worth the price of admission alone.
When? The film’s basically done, but Bier’s never been a big favorite at Cannes, so we reckon we won’t see it until Venice or TIFF.
“They Came Together”
Synopsis: A small business owner is about to lose her shop to a major corporate development.
What You Need To Know: After helming such comedy touchstones as “The State,” “Stella,” “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Role Models” and more, it’s almost a shock the name Wainy isn’t to Wain, what Apatowian is to Judd Apatow. That is to say David Wain needs more love and recognition. While 2012’s “Wanderlust,” was an underrated February comedy, we’re not quite sure the presence of Jennifer Aniston was the right fit. Wain seems to be on more Wain-y ground this time out, on the low-budget “They Came Together.” Written by Wain and longtime collaborator Michael Showalter (also of “Stella” fame), the cast stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, with an excellent supporting cast that features Cobie Smulders, Michael Shannon, Melanie Lynskey, Ed Helms, ‘Wet Hot’ alum Christopher Meloni, “New Girl” breakout Max Greenfield, and more. With the small vs. corporate business owner dynamic, it’s been rumored that the film is a satire of romantic comedies like “You’ve Got Mail,” but we’ll have to see if that actually pans out.
When? The film isn’t turning up at Sundance, so other possibilities could be SXSW or the Toronto International Film Festival. Fingers crossed.
Synopsis: A massage therapist is unable to do her job when she suddenly develops an aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”
What You Need To Know: Writer/director Lynn Shelton is practically a mainstay at Sundance and with good reason. She’s been lumped into the loose and fast mumblecore movement with organic, naturalistic comedies like “Humpday,” but she’s also matured well-beyond that delineation with the observational exploration of family and lovers in the insightful, sharp and keen, “Your Sister’s Sister.” Her ‘Sister’ actress Rosemarie DeWitt takes the lead here, with recognizable neurotic character actor Josh Pais as her brother and Scoot McNairy as her boyfriend, while the solid indie cast is rounded out by Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Ron Livingston. On paper, this one has everything going for it and Shelton is on a roll.
When? Starts screening January 19th at Sundance and we would assume distribution won’t be far behind. Perhaps IFC, who took her last film?
Synopsis: Three young teen boys try to claim their freedom by building a house in the woods.
What You Need To Know: One of the most impressive short films of the last few years was “Successful Alcoholics,” a sort of shorter, funnier, better version of “Smashed,” which starred T.J. Miller and Lizzy Caplan, among others. The film was a big hit at Sundance in 2010, and three years on, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is back in Park City with his first feature. Based on a script by Craig Galletta that finished high on the 2009 Black List, we’re expecting, from the logline, an offbeat combination of “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Son Of Rambow” and “Where The Wild Things Are” (we may yet be way off…), and while the film has a trio of newcomers in the lead roles, there’s some ace comic talent in the supporting cast, including “Community” actress Alison Brie, and “Parks and Rec” duo Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as some of the boys’ parents. We’ve been tipping Vogt-Roberts for big things for a while, and we think this has a good chance of being one of the breakout hits of the festival.
Release Date: Screens January 19th at Sundance.
“Untitled Nicole Holofcener Project”
Synopsis: A divorcee is empowered by a new friend to go after a potential love interest, only to discover that he’s the ex-husband of her new pal.
What You Need To Know: Look up ‘terminally underrated’ in the dictionary of directors, and you’re likely to find Nicole Holofcener there. The filmmaker’s been behind smart, grown-up comedies like “Walking and Talking,” “Lovely & Amazing” and, most recently, “Please Give,” but she’s never gotten the respect she deserves from critics or audiences. It’s been three years since her last film (she dropped out of helming “50/50,” and has mostly been working in TV, on the likes of “Enlightened” and “Parks and Recreation,” but Fox Searchlight have backed this promising-sounding new comedy, starring Julia-Louis Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Holofcener-regular Catherine Keener, with Toni Colette and Ben Falcone among the supporting cast. Whether it cracks the mainstream in the way that’s eluded her so far remains to be seen, but we’ll be lining up the first weekend regardless.
Release Date: TIFF is the best bet, but Tribeca might be plausible too.
Synopsis: A young woman is drugged by a thief, and is drawn to another person who, like her, is fixated on the life-cycle of a microscopic creature. Or something…
What You Need To Know: Nine years back, Shane Carruth made a hell of a debut at Sundance with the micro-budgeted time travel picture “Primer,” an fearsomely impenetrable, ingeniously clever little film that’s become a cult hit over the years. Now, after a false start or two (he was working on a script called “A Topiary“ for a while), Carruth is back in Park City, and for many, it’s the most anticipated film of the festival. Another unclassifiable, firmly original science fiction tale, footage and synopses released so far isn’t giving much away, but it looks like his filmmaking has taken a big step forward, and the film seems to have a relationship-y core to it that might make it more accessible to the more casual fan. Might being the operative word; we’re sure it’ll be, at heart, another complex, mind-bending headfuck, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Carruth himself stars, alongside actress Amy Seimetz (“You’re Next,” “Tiny Furniture“).
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance on the 21st, and Carruth seems to be self-releasing it in some way on April 5th.
“Venus In Fur”
Synopsis: The writer-director of a new stage play about sado-masochism desperately seaches for a leading lady, only to find an actress who’s more than a match for him.
What You Need To Know: While last film “Carnage” was only a moderate success, Roman Polanski‘s following the template of that film by adapting another Broadway success to screen. In some ways, however, “Venus In Fur” is almost the inverse; while “Carnage” was based on the English-translation of Yasmina Reza‘s French-language “The God of Carnage,” this sees Polanski translate David Ives’ Tony-nominated play, which starred Hugh Dancy and Nina Arianda on Broadway in 2011, into French — the first time since “Knife in the Water” a half-century film ago he’s made a film that’s at least partly in English. He’s switching the cast up as well, with Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner going before his lens for the first time since “The Ninth Gate” nearly 15 years ago, and French arthouse heartthrob Louis Garrel (“The Dreamers“) playing the director. The power-plays of the source material certainly seem like a good fit for Polanski, but hopefully he manages to make something a little more cinematic than the rather straightforward adaptation of “Carnage.”
When: The film wrapped a while back; Cannes or Venice would seem the most likely bets.
Also Worth Keeping An Eye On: We’re going to talk more about the Sundance movies in the ten days or so before the festival kicks off, but “The Spectacular Now,” “A.C.O.D,’ “Lovelace,” “The Way Way Back,” “Crystal Fairy,” “In A World…” “Blue Caprice,” “The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete,” “Concussion,” “In Fear,” “Magic Magic,” “The Rambler” and “Two Mothers” are among the movies that are on our radar right now.
Later in the year, Zoe Kazan stars in supernatural romance “In Your Eyes,” written by a little-known figure called Joss Whedon, while Sam Rockwell gets two potential showcases in cop thriller “A Single Shot” and the noirish “Better Living Through Chemistry,” with Michelle Monaghan and Judi Dench. Joe Swanberg‘s going to make a play for the mainstream with “Drinking Buddies,” starring Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, while Noah Baumbach hasn’t yet released “Frances Ha,” but he’s said to be working on another project with muse Greta Gerwig, as yet untitled.
“In Search Of A Midnight Kiss” director Alex Holdridge returns with “Meet Me In Montenegro,” starring “Homeland“‘s Rupert Friend and “True Blood” actress Deborah Ann Woll, while the ever-busy James Franco has a pair of literary adaptations he’s directed on the way; Cormac McCarthy‘s “Child Of God,” starring Tim Blake Nelson, and the ambitious stab at Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” Michael Pitt’s also moving behind the camera, producing and writing period piece “You Can’t Win.”
Across the pond, Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots and Toni Collette play suicidal strangers in the adaptation of Nick Hornby‘s “A Long Way Down,” while the excellent Amma Assante belatedly follows up debut “A Way of Life” with intriguing period piece “Belle,” starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Tom Wilkinson and Sarah Gadon. Joanna Hogg is also back, reteaming with Tom Hiddleston for a third time for her Untitled London Project, while Ben Whishaw headlines Hong Khaou‘s “Lilting.” And we’re intrigued by wartime tale “Closer To The Moon,” with Mark Strong, Vera Farmiga and Harry Lloyd, and to a lesser extent by “The Railway Man,” with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. “Drive” writer Hossein Amini will also make his directorial debut with Patricia Highsmith adaptation “The Two Faces Of January,” starring the excellent trio of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.
Internationally speaking, there’s a pair of starry biopics in the works, with Antonio Banderas playing Picasso in “33 Dias,” and Diego Luna directing and starring as “Chavez.” Jean-Luc Godard goes 3D with “Goodbye To Language,” while Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns with the sci-fi tinged “The Day Of The Real Perfect Plesiosaur,” and we may finally see Hou Hsiao-Hien‘s “The Assassin,” which finally shot at the end of last year. Christophe Gans also returns, with a big-budget version of “Beauty & The Beast” starring Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, while Catherine Breillat and Isabelle Huppert team on “Abus de faiblesse,” and Ulrich Seidl wraps up his trilogy with “Paradise: Hope” in Berlin. — Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Gabe Toro, Christopher Bell