By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 8, 2013 at 12:01PM
Synopsis: A couple heads off on a caravan holiday together, but an accidental death soon sets off murderous impulses in both of them.
Verdict: After his gore-strewn, dark-as-night horror breakthrough "Kill List," British director Ben Wheatley took something of a left-turn into comedic territory, albeit comedy as bloody and black as its predecessor. Happily, "Sightseers" (penned by its stars, comedians Alice Lowe and Steve Oram) was just as much, if not more of, a triumph, as James Rocchi found for us at Cannes last summer. Proving that Wheatley "has an intrinsic and intelligent grasp of the key of strong storytelling, regardless of genre: Make people wonder what's going to happen next," and that "he's also a superb technician," the film is outrageously funny, but never one-joke, thanks "in no small part to the smarts and sly comedy of Lowe and Oram's script and performances." The film (already a sleeper hit in the U.K) "isn't just a pitch-black comedy made with skill, will and brains; it's also another demonstration that Wheatley is, to use an all-too-appropriate phrase, going places."
Release Date: TBD: IFC have the date, and it should be sometime in the early part of the year.
Synopsis: A recent college grad flees to Paris after his long-term relationship dissolves, and he becomes involved with a prostitute. But is he all that he seems?
Verdict: Having been the talk of Sundance in 2011 with "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Antonio Campos ("Afterschool") and Sean Durkin swapped roles, the former taking the director's chair, the latter producing, for their follow-up a year later, creating something that was one of our most anticipated in Park City last year. Starring Brady Corbet ("Mysterious Skin") in a performance that William Goss, who reviewed the film for us, called "Darkly rich... distinctly unnerving in crafting an eventually hollow facade out of this nice, young, very lost man," the film features, to a lesser extent, the same Haneke influence as "Afterschool." But that's not all that it offers; it's a character study revolving around "psychological instability fueled by a combination of corroded trust, sexual curiosity and youthful naivite," which ends up spiralling into a "noir-tinged, noose-tightening ordeal."
Release Date: TBD: IFC picked it up out of Sundance, but nearly a year on from release, is still to set a date for release.
Synopsis: A group of bohemian students in suburban Paris in the early 1970s ride the spirit of post-May'68 revolution across Europe.
Verdict: After a more politically-minded picture with his multi-part epic "Carlos," Olivier Assayas returned to the revolutionary '70s for a personal, autobiographical picture in "Something in the Air." And when we caught it at Venice, we mostly found it to be another success from one of our favorite working directors. "Structurally wonderfully loose," and looking "gorgeous in a sun-dappled kinda way," the filmmakers' work is as expert as ever, particularly when it comes to the way we see "Assayas' surrogate evolving into the germ of a filmmaker." And when it comes to the politics, "Assayas is detailed both in his depiction of the issues, and in the way that the left of the 1970s became increasingly disillusioned with communism." There is a slight issue with some of the supporting cast; Assayas seems to have cast as much for look as anything else, and many of the actors "struggle to make much of an impression, falling into a kind of bland prettiness." But despite the underdeveloped characters, it's still a beautiful and rich bit of autobiography.
Release Date: Again, IFC has the rights, but haven't yet set a release date.
Synopsis: Hungry for adventure, four bored college girls land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation. They soon find themselves bailed out by a rapper, drug and arms dealer who will give them a spring break experience they will never forget.
What You Need To Know: In the hands of an average joe, “Spring Breakers” could just be a dramatic reading of "Girls Gone Wild." In the hands of gonzo auteur Harmony Korine, this bizarre and magical film becomes something entirely different. The film's led by a career-best performance from James Franco as the drug dealer Alien, backed up by the unlikely and usually wholesome quartet of Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Heather Morris. Our review from Venice said the picture is like a sleazy music video, a film that's slightly more conventional for Korine and a future cult favorite.
Release Date: Annapurna Pictures and A24 will release the picture in anticipation of spring break (naturally), sometime in March.
Synopsis: Director Sarah Polley examines the nature of "truth" by creating a documentary about her family as seen through the eyes of her parents, siblings, family friends and outsiders.
What You Need To Know: Described by some as a feature-length documentary of a fascinating story you might listen to on NPR's "This American Life," while that's true, that's only the half of it. Creating a "Rashomon" effect by interviewing several people within the universe of the Polley family about one specific event in their history, the filmmaker creates an engrossing story about perception, memory and vantage point that reminds the viewer: your experience of an event may not be the same as someone else's who also experienced it. Blending found footage, interviews, docudrama recreations and more, Polley constructs an absorbing investigation into her family's past that blurs the lines between fact and fiction. How much did we like it? Well, it made two of our top 10 lists, and you can read our Venice review here.
Release Date: May 17 via Roadside Attractions
Synopsis: The relationship between an American man and European woman falls apart.
What You Need To Know: Terrence Malick's "To The Wonder" got an unusually hostile reaction for one of the filmmaker's works, and there's part of us that can see why. Ben Affleck stars, but barely utters a word. Rachel McAdams was touted as one of the leads, but she’s apparently in it for less than 10 minutes. Olga Kurylenko turns out to be the real lead (at least the lead shaped in the editing room once Malick was done). Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper all had supporting roles, but they were cut from the final edit. But our review out of Venice didn't feel too cheated on the movie star count, finding it "a more coherent, deeply felt and satisfying film" than "The Tree Of Life," to which it's something of a companion piece. It's indulgent in places, for sure, but it's "also a film of real, searing feeling," and it's even "unexpectedly sexy in places." It's certain to continue to divide people, but we found it "a beautiful, heartfelt and raw piece of work."
Release Date: April 12, 2013
Also Reviewed: Of course, those are far from the only films we saw in 2012 that should make it to screens in 2013. From SXSW, we caught Jonas Akerlund's "Small Apartments" (D) which hits DVD in February, and is probably worth passing on, as well as graffiti romance "Gimme The Loot" (C-), which opens March 22nd. Lucy Mulloy's "Una Noche" (A-) was one of the highlights of Tribeca, although it's still in search of a distributor, bafflingly. Cannes, meanwhile, brought Brandon Cronenberg's "Antiviral" (B-), which IFC Midnight will put out later in the year, the Chris O'Dowd-starring crowd-pleaser "The Sapphires" (C+), which the Weinstein Company have high hopes for, and Carlos Reygadas' "Post Tenebras Lux" (C+), which Strand Releasing are putting out on May 1st.
In Venice, we caught Michael Shannon in "The Iceman" (C), which opens May 3rd, Riz Ahmed in Mira Nair's disappointing "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (D+), coming on April 24th, and Golden Lion winner "Pieta" (C+), coming from Drafthouse Films later in the year. Our UK correspondent also saw the disappointing Coen Brothers-penned "Gambit" (D), with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz; CBS Films will put it out later in the year.
And then, as ever, TIFF was a review bonanza, including Israel/Palestine doc "The Gatekeepers" (B+, Feb 20th), Robert Redford's 'The Company You Keep" (C-, April 5th), Kristen Wiig in "Girl Most Likely" (B-, July 19th), Rob Zombie's "The Lords Of Salem" (B+, April 26th), Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave in "Unfinished Song" (C, TBD), Cate Shortland's "Lore" (B-, TBD), Mike Newell's all-star "Great Expectations" (B, TBD), Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow in "Thanks For Sharing" (C-, TBD), Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" (A-, June 21st), Colin Firth as "Arthur Newman" (D, TBD), Jeff Buckley biopic "Greetings From Tim Buckley" (C+, TBD) and Neil Jordan's "Byzantium" (C-, TBD) .