Synopsis: A masseuse, also a divorcée and single parent, finally finds a man she likes only to discover he’s the ex-wife of her new friend.
What You Need To Know: While it’s another, likely tender and funny dramedy from observant humanist Nicole Holofcener, first and foremost it’s the penultimate screen appearance by the great James Gandolfini who passed away early this year unexpectedly. His untimely death will probably give the film an extra boost, but it shouldn’t really need it in a perfect world. Holofcener’s films ("Lovely & Amazing," "Walking And Talking") are always a soulful mix of comedy, drama and tragedy (relative personal tragedy anyhow) and are always a welcome breath of fresh air each year that they arrive. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late Gandolfini, the movie also co-stars Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, Ben Falcone (Melissa McCarthy’s husband), Toby Huss, Eve Hewson, Michaela Watkins and Tavi Gevinson. Holofcener’s last film “Please Give” ended up on many of our year-end lists in 2009, so while we’re not expecting “big things” exactly — that’s hard to say about small scale dramas about regular people — we are, as usual, excited and grateful that we live in a world where, despite all the tentpole tendencies, there’s still a very viable space for Holofcener to make movies.
Synopsis: An aging New York bookseller recommends a down-on-his-luck friend for a "menage" and soon find himself acting as a pimp to the middle-aged neophyte hustler.
What You Need To Know: We're not going to pretend we have any particularly high aspirations for this one aside from it hopefully being an enjoyable, entertaining comedy, but the presence of Woody Allen in a so-rare-it's-endangered acting-only role certainly has piqued our interest in the John Turturro-directed and -starring story. It's not just the veteran director's presence that gives it the feel of a Woody Allen premise — there's clearly a fond, romanced view of New York throughout; it's a largely Jewish setting; and it features a cavalcade of improbably attractive women lining up as Turturro's clients — Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis among others. And if that doesn't get you going then the Manhattan penthouse porn that the trailer hints at probably should. If the lines Allen delivers as the money-oriented "manager" don't feel quite as sharp or witty as the ones he might have written, overall the impression we get from early peeks is of a warmhearted, glossy comedy about late-life love, the battle of the sexes and the fragility of the male ego. Sometimes that can be enough.
Synopsis: Based on the novel by Emile Zola, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage embarks on a passionate affair with her husband's best friend, with tragic consequences for all concerned.
What You Need To Know: With the clock rapidly running down on the possible use of the words "unfairly overlooked" and "underrated" as descriptors for Oscar Isaac, in advance of the release of his star-making turn in the Coens' "Inside Llewyn Davis," we get another chance to sample his talents in "Therese," in which he co-stars alongside the terrific Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the titular heroine. Corset-y period dramas of repression and oppression are not normally our go-to bag but aside from the leads, who we'd queue to see read an old-timey phone book, the film's setting is much grimier and more sordid than the drawing room/china teacup variety of period drama (in keeping with the naturalism and class setting of Zola's novel) and gives the advance look we've had an impressively distinctive look and feel. And with Jessica Lange, Tom Felton and Matt Lucas rounding out the eclectic cast, and first-time feature director Charlie Stratton at the helm, we're optimistic that this film may deliver a fresher, realer take on an often stuffy genre.
“Can A Song Save Your Life?"
Synopsis: An aspiring singer-songwriter new to New York forms a bond with a record producer and his young daughter.
What You Need To Know: Whether "Once" director John Carney can bottle lightning a second time out is the question that hangs over his next musically-leaning tale (Carney's two other movies in the intervening years were "Zonad" and "The Rafters," neither of which went anywhere at all really). Because it really does feel like "Once...Again!," albeit on a bigger scale; instead of Dublin, it's Manhattan, instead of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, it's Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley (in a role originally earmarked for Scarlett Johannson). We're hoping Carney can bring the same heartfelt quality and true understanding of the genre to this bigger, higher-profile canvas that will come with a weight of expectation he hasn't really had to contend with before. Helping him step up is producer Judd Apatow, in a rare excursion away from full-on comedy, and a solid supporting cast includes Hailee Steinfeld (as Ruffalo's daughter), Catherine Keener and James Corden. Adam Levine also makes a bid for acting cred, while the film will have cameos from musical figures like Mos Def and Cee Lo Green.
Synopsis: A young girl tricks a quiet caregiver into falling for her estranged father, but the caregiver mines previously unimagined resourcefulness and criminality in her bid to get the unwitting object of her newfound desire to notice her.
What You Need To Know: Based on the Alice Munro short story collection "Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage," director Liza Johnson's feature follow-up to the solid, well-received "Return" (starring Linda Cardinelli) is a multi-stranded tale featuring a mouthwatering cast. Starring Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Christine Lahti, Nick Nolte, Hailee Steinfeld (for the second time on this list — see "Can a Song Save Your Life?"), Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sami Gayle, it's the kind of lineup which can't but pique our interest, especially with Pearce and Wiig front-and-center, both of whom we have oceans of time for (and we're especially rooting for Wiig, whose post-"Bridesmaids" output hasn't really done her justice so far). While a film based on a short story collection might ordinarily give us pause in terms of whether it can really hang together in a coherent whole, the stories in Munro's book are all already interconnected so we're hopeful that it won't be as much of an issue. Certainly if the script and the cast can capture even a fraction of the humanism and insight of the original tales then the film will be onto a very good thing indeed. First look pics here.