By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 2, 2013 at 11:58AM
Synopsis: Based on Michel Faber's novel of the same name, the plot concerns an extraterrestrial in voluptuous female form making her way through rural Scotland.
What You Need To Know: "Sexy Beast" auteur Jonathan Glazer hasn’t made a film since his overlooked 2004 feature "Birth," and “Under The Skin,” some two years in the making, will finally rectify this unfortunate stat. While the synopsis may make it sound like a slightly more highbrow version of Roger Donaldson's "Species," the source material is altogether more existential and satirical, tackling everything from the nature of existence to the ethics of farming. Featuring a creepy and eerie tone, at least what we can tell from the screenplay written years ago, the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead -- a black widow-like alien who lures prey in with her sexual charms -- seems like an inspired choice. Filming began in the fall of 2011, but ambitious post-production effects must have delayed it. Reshoots took place in the fall of 2012, so maybe the picture needed just a bit of fine-tuning.
Release Date: TBD. We’re personally hoping for a Cannes 2013 bow, which hopefully puts Glazer back on the map.
Synopsis: When a cocky con man is caught by a less-than-competent FBI mastermind agent, he agrees to become an informant and help with several other white collar busts.
What You Need To Know: Set in a seedy New York City, this fast-paced drama is an unbelievable, funny story centering around the famous 1980 Abscam sting operation, which used a fake Arab sheik and a host of other cunning tricks to bring down corrupt public officials and members of Congress. The picture features a crazy good cast in Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. Bale plays the con artist, Adams his mistress/partner in crime, Cooper plays the out-of-control federal agent, and at the epicenter of the entire tale is Renner as the passionate and volatile leader of the New Jersey state assembly, who is also the local hero and mayor of impoverished Camden. Russell recently told us it should be hilarious, insane and intense. With his penchant for blending drama, action and comedy so fully realized of late, we're inclined to believe him.
Release Date: Starts shooting in early 2013, and given this cast, material and Russell's recent awards season heat, a release later this year seems likely.
Synopsis: Going behind the scenes of the controversial whistleblowing site and the rift that developed between its founders, Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
What You Need To Know: Bill Condon's work is not the most consistent around; sometimes strong ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey"), sometimes...not ("Dreamgirls," "Twilight: Breaking Dawn"). But now that he's free of his sparkly vampire obligations, he's got some enticing material to work with in the shape of the first of the multiple Julian Assange-related projects that have been in development. The script, penned by former "West Wing" writer Josh Singer, seems like it has a "Social Network" feel to it, and with fast-rising stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl, both set to have breakout years in 2013 with "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Rush," in the leads, there's plenty of reason to want to check this out, especially with Alicia Vikander and Dan Stevens in support too. It's thin ice that they're walking on to be sure, but Condon does his best work with material like this, and we'd certainly turn up to see that cast at work.
Release Date: The film is shooting soon, and we won't be surprised if DreamWorks is planning a big awards push for Cumberbatch (at least), so we'd expect to see it before the year is out.
Synopsis: A once-wealthy woman loses everything and goes to live with her sister in San Francisco, only to encounter a man who may be able to solve her financial problems.
What You Need To Know: Ah, the annual lottery of whether Woody Allen's latest will be the much-vaunted return to form or another near-disaster. The last few years have seen a few of the former ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona," "Midnight In Paris"), and plenty of the latter ("Cassandra's Dream," "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger," "To Rome With Love"), but his first U.S.-set picture since "Whatever Works" (and his first set in the Bay Area) seems to be pretty timely, at least. And as ever, there's an outstanding cast in place, with Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin (now virtually a regular, replacing Bradley Cooper on this) and Sally Hawkins taking the lead roles, with Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Emerson and Andrew Dice Clay joining them. Most exciting of all, it sees the Allen-debut of the director's heir apparent, Louis C.K. As ever, the film, including the title, is top secret, and there's little real indication of whether it'll be a gem or a disappointment. But we always live in hope...
Release Date: TBD: A Cannes premiere has become increasingly standard, but it could always show up elsewhere.
Synopsis: A fantasy story set in 19th Century and present-day Manhattan, revolving around a thief, a dying girl, and a flying white horse.
What You Need To Know: The directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman, the screenwriter/producer behind not-so-good films like “Batman & Robin,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “I Am Legend,” normally you might see a Goldsman project on our least anticipated list. And it is with some trepidation that we include it here, but the cast of Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Matt Bomer and “Downton Abbey” standout Jessica Brown-Findlay, to name a few, is certainly a super intriguing prospect. A lot of talent is surrounding the picture, including DoP Caleb Deschanel and composer Hans Zimmer. If the story sounds a little “Cloud Atlas”-y, that’s because it also has a similar sprawling scope to it. The big difference though it that “A Winter’s Tale” is said be working with reportedly half the budget.
Release Date: TBD. We’ll admit while the film shot in October of 2012 and should be easily finished for 2013, it’s a crowded year and it won’t completely surprise us if the filmmakers wait until the following calendar year to give it its fair due.
“The Wolf Of Wall Street”
Synopsis: A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, the corporate banking world and mob infiltration.
What You Need To Know: This is collaboration number five for Martin Scorsese and his muse Leonardo DiCaprio, but marks his first feature shot digitally. Based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, ‘Wolf’ was written by Terence Winter who made a name for himself on “The Sopranos,” and has since made an even larger footprint for himself by creating “Boardwalk Empire” for HBO (of which Scorsese directed the pilot episode). As usual, the cast is terrific and includes Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, “The Artist” star Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie and even directors Rob Reiner and Spike Jonze in small parts.
Release Date: Fall 2013 via Paramount.
Synopsis: A group of old friends reunite for an epic pub crawl at the dawn of the apocalypse.
What You Need To Know: Director Edgar Wright ends the so-called Cornetto trilogy with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost again placed in a fantastical situation. Though Hollywood has come calling for the multi-talented filmmaker several times in the last few years, he’s remained dedicated to pals Pegg and Frost, as well as the considerable ensemble of “Shaun Of The Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and the television series “Spaced.” There’s a bit of spillover between this and “This Is The End,” perhaps suggesting eccentric comic personalities fascinated with the idea of the apocalypse. But Wright is a filmmaker in the vein of early John Landis in his balance of story and gags, both cheap and elaborate, and it’s extremely difficult to doubt him, particularly with a cast that includes Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike and Paddy Considine and a score by Steven Price (“Attack The Block”).
Release Date: October 25th, a few months after an August bow in the U.K.
Synopsis: Two roommates in their thirties attempt to cope when one of them becomes a sudden millionaire after the death of his father.
What You Need To Know: You may know writer-director Matthew Weiner from the immaculate suits and smoky boardrooms of “Mad Men,” but he’s striking out on his own this time, carrying with him a cast of considerable talent, including Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler. The story deals with the co-dependence between friends and how that disintegrates with the tensions of class and lineage – note how this topic seems fairly similar to another debut film from a famous television impresario who revealed himself to be completely tone deaf to cinematic storytelling. That was “Not Fade Away” from David Chase, and Chase’s “The Sopranos” was a far better show than “Mad Men,” leading one to imagine just exactly how this story could get away from Weiner. That being said, the framework is strong and the central trio more than capable, so it’s hard to not consider Weiner well ahead of the game here.
Release Date: TBD, but TIFF could be a good bet.
Synopsis: A 12-year-old mapmaking enthusiast from an eccentric family goes on an extraordinary cross-country journey after being invited to the Smithsonian Institute.
What You Need To Know: The last time French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie") came to the U.S., it was for "Alien: Resurrection," and as such, that didn't work out well for him, the studio or the audience. But all being well, his second English-language feature, "The Young & Prodigious Spivet," should be a significant step up. Based on Reif Larsen's cult novel "The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet," the film, which seems to be right in Jeunet's quirky wheelhouse, is toplined by young newcomer Kyle Catlett, with Helena Bonham-Carter, Callum Keith Rennie, Kathy Bates and Judy Davis also on board, and marks the Gallic helmer's first time shooting in 3D, which, as with Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee in recent years, is surely worth the price of admission alone. While we, along with most people, weren't especially enamored of his last film, "MicMacs," we're always interested in what Jeunet has to offer, and this could well be a return to form.
Release Date: When announced, it was said they were targeting an October release, so we could well be looking at a premiere at Venice, TIFF or the NYFF.
Synopsis: A computer hacker's goal to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management. This time, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him
What You Need To Know: Director Terry Gilliam’s had it rough in the last decade with a mangled release (“The Brothers Grimm”), a forgotten release (“Tideland”) and a compromised release due to the death of a lead actor (Heath Ledger In “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”). And just as he was seemingly set to tilt at windmills again in “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” Gilliam pivoted and instead found funding and a cast for an old project called “The Zero Theorem.” Starring Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw and Tilda Swinton with appearances by Matt Damon, David Thewlis and Mélanie Thierry, this is a pretty impressive cast for a filmmaker who supposedly can’t ever catch a break.
Release Date: TBD, but perhaps we’ll see it during the fall film festival circuit.
Extra Credit, But 2014 Maybe?:
Synopsis: A comedy following concierge Mr. Gustave, who works in the titular hotel in the Hungarian capital in the 1910s.
What You Need To Know: Wes Anderson hasn't always been that prolific; the last decade saw only three films from the director in "The Life Aquatic," "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." But presumably emboldened by the critical and commercial success of "Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson's getting right behind the camera again, and it's distinctly possible that 2013 will see his second film in two years. And it looks like it'll be a real doozy. Inspired by the 'European Hollywood' of Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder (and with a title seemingly inspired by the 1932 Best Picture winner "Grand Hotel"), the film is toplined by Anderson first-timers Ralph Fiennes (stepping in for Johnny Depp as Mr. Gustave) and Saoirse Ronan, with Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham and Mathieu Amalric making their Wes World debuts, while Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton and Jeff Goldblum all come back for second, third or (in Wilson and Murray's case) sixth helpings. With "Moonrise Kingdom" proving to be the director's best since "Rushmore," expectations couldn't be much higher for this one.
Release Date: Shooting doesn't start until January, so it's possible it may be held for Cannes 2014, but if 'Moonrise' gets some Oscar love, we could see it being prepped for the awards season this fall.
Honorable Mentions: There are a few other films that are a little more under the radar at present, but could turn out to be treats down the line, all being well, and which didn't quite fit on our other lists. Perhaps first among them are a trio of biopics that could be big players come Oscar time. First, there's Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly in "Grace of Monaco," co-starring Tim Roth. Then, "Downfall" director Oliver Hirschbiegel takes on another of history's greatest monsters, Princess Diana (joke!), in "Caught In Flight," starring Naomi Watts as the tragic royal. And finally, and less iconically, there's "Dallas Buyer's Club," starring a dramatically-thinner Matthew McConaughey as an AIDS sufferer, with Jean-Marc Vallee ("C.R.A.Z.Y," "The Young Victoria") at the helm.
Also derived from non-fiction are Mike Newell's "Reykjavik" about the Cold War peace summit, starring Michael Douglas as Reagan and Christoph Waltz as Gorbachev; Ralph Fiennes' Dickens biopic "The Invisible Woman" with Felicity Jones; and Dito Montiel's "Empire State," a heist picture toplining Dwayne Johnson and Chris Hemsworth.
Elsewhere, big stars cropping up in potentially promising pictures include Liam Neeson in "Third Person," from "Crash" director Paul Haggis; James McAvoy and Jamie Bell in Irvine Welsh adaptation "Filth"; Jude Law in Brit-com "Dom Hemingway"; and Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan in rom-com "A Many Splintered Thing." While on the indie side of things, lo-fi horror auteur Ti West is back with "The Sacrament," Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan do the indie romantic comedy thing with "The F Word," and Joel Edgerton makes his debut as a screenwriter with "Felony," also starring Tom Wilkinson. And we're intrigued by "Hateship Friendship," which stars Kristen Wiig, Hailee Steinfeld, Nick Nolte and Guy Pearce, as well as the more imminent Tina Fey/Paul Rudd comedy "Admission."
That's all for now, and yes, we'll have another 50 films of the more escapist variety arriving tomorrow, so stay tuned. Thoughts so far? Sound off below. - Rodrigo Perez, Oliver Lyttelton, Gabe Toro.