Synopsis: Kate and Charlie, a hard-partying, borderline alcoholic married couple, have their relationship tested when Kate decides to get sober.
Our Verdict: On the surface, "Smashed" seems to have a fairly similar premise to Playlist favorite short film "Successful Alcoholics," but where that film ended with one of the central couple giving up the bottle, that seems to be the starting point for its feature-length cousin, which comes from James Ponsoldt, who directed Nick Nolte-starrer "Off the Black," and co-writer Susan Burke ("Important Things With Demetri Martin"). And they've certainly assembled an enticing cast, with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Megan Mullally, and Nick Offerman (aka RON FUCKING SWANSON) supporting the two leads, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul. And the film turned out extremely well, according to James Rocchi, who saw the film at its Sundance premiere, particularly with regard to its young leads. The former gets to "show dark rot underneath" her usual charms, while Paul is "loving, gentle, lightly hammered [and] in a very different key" to his work on "Breaking Bad." But they're not the only thing that the film has to offer as Offerman gives "a performance that in a just world would be an Oscar contender," while the "editing is particularly adept" and "the script has a sense of humor, but also a sense of honor." Read James' full A-grade review here.
When? Hits TIFF before rolling out on October 12th.
Synopsis: An aging rock star sets out to find the Nazi concentration camp guard who tortured his late father.
Our Verdict: Entire movies have been shot and released since "This Must Be the Place" premiered at Cannes back in May 2011. Hell, at least two "Paranormal Activity" movies emerged from nothingness in that time. And one suspects it's down to the hostile reaction that Paolo Sorrentino's follow up to "Il Divo" got at the festival, the film passing into history as that year's equivalent to past Cannes disasters like "Southland Tales." In fact, James Rocchi didn't hate it when he saw it on the Croisette back in the day, he found that "there are laughs... purely intentional ones, and they're minor but appreciated." And it wasn't "nearly as bad as one might fear, or alternately, one might hope." But Sean Penn's Robert Smith-esque central performance was "needlessly showy," and the film has a "slow, stately pace that feels dawsling." Not an all-time trainwreck, then, but far from a success. Read James' full review here.
When? November 2nd.
Synopsis: A pair of vandals break into a house to retrieve a video tape, only to be confronted by a whole host of VHS tapes, each of which tells a horrifying story.
Our Verdict: We've made no secret of believing that the found footage is increasingly played out, but it seems that it found a new lease of life in "V/H/S," which also successfully gave a jolt to the heart of another unfashionable genre, the horror anthology, when it premiered at Sundance way back in January. The film sees six filmmakers from the indie horror side of the spectrum -- Adam Wingard ("You're Next"), David Bruckner ("The Signal"), Ti West ("The Innkeepers"), Glenn McQuaid ("I Sell The Dead"), collective Radio Silence and mumblecore enfant terrible Joe Swanberg -- each tackling a segment, with stories that go from a webcam haunting to a sex tape with unfortunate consequences. And for the most part, according to William Goss, who saw the film for us in Park City, it works; there's "a good sense of playfulness around concepts and conceits generally exploited to lure in the gullible masses for the sake of a single opening weekend." And without an obvious weak link among the sections, the film "delivers the thrills and chills craftily and with a better batting average than usual." Read his full review here.
When? Actually skipping the fall festivals, principally because it'll be available on iTunes from August 31st before coming to theaters October 5th.
Synopsis: A documentary following the West Memphis Three, Arkansas teenagers who were convicted of the 1994 murders of three children.
Our Verdict: "Lord of the Rings" helmer Peter Jackson has taken a particular interest in the West Memphis Three since the start of his career, helping to fund their defense and now producing this documentary about the case by Amy Berg, director of the Oscar-nominated "Deliver Us From Evil." There were plenty of questions to be raised in advance here. Would another doc, on top of three "Paradise Lost" films from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, prove superfluous? Not according to William Goss, who saw the film at Sundance. While "the noble involvement of famous faces threatens to skew the film closer to back-patting terrritory," for the most part it's "an exhausting and exhaustive chronicle of justice" with "the fundamental grip of a well-structured mystery." Read the full review here.
When? Hits TIFF before rolling out on December 25th.
Synopsis: Based on Leo Tolstoy's classic novel, “Anna Karenina” focuses on the titular heroine (Keira Knightley) who has an affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) who wants her to leave her stable husband Karenin (Jude Law).
Our Verdict: Given that they were the team that produced "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement," most thought they knew what to expect when Joe Wright and Keira Knightley reunited for "Anna Karenina." Another lush period piece with handsome production values and a fine cast. And they weren't necessarily wrong, from the looks of trailers and such, but they also probably weren't expecting the exact approach that Wright took. Clearly freed up by his pop-art gem "Hanna," Wright has set his take on Tolstoy's tragic romance inside a dilapidated Russian theater, which can be transformed into an ice rink, a train station and everything in between. Now, we're in a tricky situation. A Playlister might have seen the film, but is under heavy embargo for another week or two. But the word seems to be that the film will... divide audiences, and inspire an awful lot of debate. Check back soon for the full verdict.
When? The film opens September 7th in the U.K. and screens the same day at TIFF before opening in limited release in the U.S. on November 9th.
And below, you can find links to films that we've seen at festivals and are playing one or both of TIFF or NYFF, but don't (yet) have firm U.S. release dates.