By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 7, 2013 at 12:00PM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.