A Hijacking
"A Hijacking"
Synopsis: Docu-drama following the hijacking of a Norwegian freight boat by Somalian pirates, and the lengthy negotiations to free them.
Verdict: Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks have their own Somalian hostage drama on the way with "Captain Phillips," which arrives in October, but they have a tough task at hand topping this low-budget Norwegian/Danish co-production, from Tobias Lindholm, the co-writer of "The Hunt" (see below), and one of the writers on cult TV show "Borgen." We called it "one of the very best pictures of the whole festival" when we caught it in Venice, saying that it was "meticulously researched, and adhering to absolute realism," adding up to "an incredibly tense experience." With a "titanic" performance from lead Pilou Asbaek, and one of remarkable restraint and control from Soren Malling, it was "an absorbing, highly moving film that's lingered heavily on the mind," and should become a little sleeper hit when it hits U.S. theaters.
Grade: A
Release Date: Magnolia have North American rights, but haven't yet set a date -- we imagine they'll aim for the late spring or early summer, to buy it some lead time from the Greengrass picture.  

The Hunt Mads Mikkelsen
"The Hunt"
Synopsis: A schoolteacher is falsely accused of child abuse, causing him to become a pariah in his small community.
Verdict: Thomas Vinterberg's comeback movie has divided the Playlist staff; one senior staff member walked out of the film at Cannes (where it won Mads Mikkelsen the Best Actor prize), three others put it on their year-end top 10 lists. But it was Jessica Kiang who got the official review at Karlovy Vary last year, and it was pretty much a rave, calling it "one of the most brililantly unsettling, tension-laden films we've seen in a long time." Mikkelsen's Cannes award was entirely justified; "every moment of inaction on his part feels totally honest." Jess acknowledges that "if the film were not put together with such skill, it might feel exploitative of the audience." But she also says that there are "just enough glimpses of warmth and humanity amid the bleakness to keep it compelling, rather than depressing."
Grade: A-
Release Date: Magnolia Pictures will release it some time in May, though an exact date hasn't yet been set.

Like Someone In Love 1
"Like Someone In Love"
Synopsis: The Japan-set tale of the relationship between a student, who works as a prostitute on the side, and her elderly professor/client.
Verdict: Any nervousness as to whether Abbas Kiarostami's brilliance would continue when he started making films outside his native Iran was swiftly quashed when "Certified Copy" premiered at Cannes in 2010 – the film was rapturously received and became a fixture on Top 10 lists in 2011. The Japan-set "Like Someone In Love" was billed as something of a companion piece, but Kevin Jagernauth found diminishing returns when he reviewed it in Cannes last year. The film "toys with ideas of image and identity, but unfortunately 'Like Someone In Love' lacks the intellectual depth and forward momentum of 'Certified Copy'... there are only so many scenes of characters driving around in a car we can take." Perhaps most crucially, none of the Japanese actors (mostly unknowns) are a match for the leads of the earlier film; "here, the actors more often than not seem as if they're reading from a textbook, never moving past Kiarostami's cerebral, soulless dialogue to take it to another level." Ultimately, Kevin found it "enigmatic and dull to a maddening degree," with the great Iranian filmmaker "spinning the wheels," but maybe his hardcore fans will find more to enjoy here.
Grade: C-
Release Date: February 15th

Matthew McConaughey Mud
Synopsis: A fugitive prisoner enlists the help of a pair of young boys to help him reunite with his love.
Verdict: Already one to watch after "Shotgun Stories," Jeff Nichols confirmed he was one of the most exciting young filmmakers in the U.S with 2011's powerful "Take Shelter." He was swiftly back again, teaming with man-of-the-moment Matthew McConaughey for coming-of-age drama "Mud." The film mostly went down well at Cannes, but our man on the Croisette Simon Abrams wasn't wildly impressed. Calling it "more easy-going or more bloated than Nichols's previous films," he added that it "just isn't as well-conceived or even that theoretically rewarding." While the cast is solid, including McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Reese Witherspoon and a "sorely wasted" Michael Shannon, the film ultimately proved unmoving, "because it doesn't aspire to be anything other than a competent anti-fairy tale in which the paint-by-number morals are enforced by equally obvious main protagonists."
Grade: C
Release Date: TBD; Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have the rights, and we imagine they'll be putting it out in the summer.

Pablo Larrain's 'No' Starring Gael Garcia Bernal
Synopsis: An ad man in Chile in the 1980s is enlisted to head up the campaign to get rid of dictator General Pinochet in an upcoming referendum.
Verdict: Unsurprisingly for an election year, last year saw a host of politically-themed pictures, from "Argo" to "Lincoln" to "Zero Dark Thirty." But one film that deserves to stand with all of those is finally seeing the light of day in 2013, having knocked James Rocchi's socks off at Cannes last year. Pablo Larrain's Gael Garcia Bernal-starring "No" is, according to James, "exciting, funny, moving... superbly shot, full of human characters" and "one of the breakout films of Cannes." The central performance, from Bernal, "is superb, and gives the film a human heart," and ultimately, the film (shot on 80s-era VHS format) is "extraordinarily well-made, superbly acted, funny, human, warm, principled and, yes, as enthrallingly entertaining as it is fiercely moral and intelligent."
Grade: A
Release Date: February 15th

Rachel McAdams Passion
Synopsis: A talented ad agency creative clashes with her manipulative, seductive, control-hungry boss and plots a murderous revenge after said mentor steals her idea.
What You Need To Know: A remake of Alain Corneau's "Love Crime" it’s no surprise that this Hitchcock-ian psycho-melodrama appealed to the Hitchcock-obsessed filmmaker Brian DePalma. Starring the alluring pair of Noomi Rapace as the up-and-comer and Rachel McAdams as her cunning manager, "Passion" is wickedly delicious -- a tale of two black widow spiders tangling and the vicious fallout. And yet it's also typically a problematic late-era DePalma in that it’s often ridiculously over the top to almost deafening levels. His devotees will squeal with glee at some of its outrageousness. Other civilians may not be so charitable. Here's our review from the Venice film festival.
Grade: C+
Release Date: Entertainment One acquired the film for a TBD 2013 release.

A Place Beyond The Pines
"A Place Beyond The Pines"
Synopsis: A motorcycle rider commits a crime to support his child. A policeman targets him because of the incident and the two men become locked on a tense collision course which will have a devastating impact on both of their families in the years following.
What You Need To Know: Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to “Blue Valentine” is equally searing and bruising, but an entirely different film experience to its predecessor this time, exploring the consequences of action, fate and the legacies that our fathers pass down to us. Ryan Gosling stars as the criminal, Bradley Cooper as the cop, but the picture is also a tryptich that spans time, and features commanding performances by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen as well. Our review out of TIFF (where it was our correspondent's favorite film of the festival) said that all the film's disparate elements "build tremendously into a film that feels like it has shades of classic Italian melodramas put through the lens of a distinctly American film," adding up to " a film of big ideas and vision," which sees Cianfrance "place himself in the canon of great, contemporary American filmmakers." So yeah, time to get excited.
Grade: A
Release Date: March, 29 2013 (limited)