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