“A Most Wanted Man”
Synopsis: A Chechen Muslim illegally emigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught up in the international war on terror.
What You Need To Know: After "The Constant Gardener" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" rekindled Hollywood's love for the spy and international intrigue genre via John le Carré, the author’s work has become all the rage once more in Tinseltown (the adaptations in development are myriad). And the next to arrive will be “A Most Wanted Man,” which, while a much more modern vision of le Carre’s espionage milieu, still sounds like a morally complex crackler, and it sure looks great, according to the trailer (which has been pulled by Lionsgate for now, but will hopefully be re-upped soon). But what has it as a towering no. 13 on our Most Anticipated Films of 2013 list is that it's directed by rock-photographer-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn, who has made two essential works so far, "Control" and "The American," the latter of which was one of the most introspective and haunted assassin movies in forever. And then there's his cast, which is terrific: Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, "Rush" star Daniel Brühl and terrific German star Nina Hoss.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: Very, very good. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions already have the rights, so the film isn’t schlepping for distribution, and this cast and director have it entirely in their power to deliver something exceptional. In fact, we’re expecting nothing less, though to be honest, it’s a film that probably doesn’t even need whatever Sundance buzz it gets to have us drooling.
Synopsis: Inspired by the cult character Frank Sidebottom, the cardboard-headed alter ego of musician Chris Sievey, the film follows a Jon, new recruit to a band fronted by the mysterious titular Frank, as he struggles to fit in with their odd sensibility and the band wrestles with mounting creative tension.
What You Need To Know: This comic concoction comes from director Lenny Abrahamson, who previously helmed the hard-hitting but deftly handled drama “What Richard Did” earlier this year. He’s got a strong cast, including Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy, and the music is expected to be a highlight. Peter Straughan (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) and Jon Ronson (“Men Who Stare At Goats”) have penned the screenplay. Sidebottom became something of a cult sensation in the U.K., holding court on radio, television and in concert until Sievey’s death in 2010, but he is only a start point for this tale which is set in the present and is less a biography than an irreverent tribute to Sievey’s story, and the creative process in general. The question of course is… are we gonna get to see Fassbender’s face at all?
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: Very good. With a cast this strong, a rising director making his Sundance debut and a defiantly uncategorizable, offbeat logline, we think this will definitely be one of the most talked-about premieres in Sundance, in spite, or perhaps because of, the decision to take Michael Fassbender’s beautiful head and hide it in papier mache or whatever. It is our 47th Most Anticipated Film of the Year, and we’re really rooting for this one to burst out of the gate.
"Cold In July"
Synopsis: In a small Texas town, a man kills a burglar, only to fear for his family when the dead man's father comes seeking revenge.
What You Need To Know: Director Jim Mickle took a big step between his breakthrough feature, the fun but disposable horror "Stake Land," and last year's Sundance film "We Are What We Are," a rare example of a remake that can stand up to the original, and one of the best-reviewed horror films in recent memory (it even played Cannes!). Only a year on, he's back in Park City, stepping away from horror for this '70s-style action-drama, based on a cult novel by Joe Lansdale. The vibe seems to be muscular, kick-ass noir, of the kind that Charles Bronson might once have starred in, and the cast is certainly intriguing: Michael C. Hall, in his first post-"Dexter" role, squaring off against Sam Shepard, with Don Johnson and Vinessa Shaw as welcome support.
Sundance Prospects: Probably too genre-y to make an awards impact, but this could be a major target for genre homes like Magnet, Radius or even someone like Lionsgate.
Synopsis: When his stepson is killed in a construction accident, Mickey tries to move on, but when a journalist starts to uncover the truth behind the death, things get much, much worse...
What You Need To Know: Aside from a few tiny indies and a couple of small roles in blockbusters like "Iron Man 2," "Mad Men" star John Slattery has mostly stayed away from the movies, preferring to focus on tv directing (he's been behind some of the best recent episodes of the series that made his name). Now, his feature directorial debut arrives with this blue-collar drama, based on the novel by Peter Dexter ("The Paperboy"), and you couldn't ask for a better cast than the one he's assembled: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christina Hendricks take the lead roles, with John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Marsan, Caleb Landry Jones and Domenick Lombardozzi also in the cast. The streets of Park City are laid with the remains of badly-reviewed directorial debuts by actors, but this feels like it could be something special.
Sundance Prospects: Will depend on the reviews, but with this cast, it would be very surprising if distribution didn't follow soon after.
Synopsis: A family grieving over the death of their son in Afghanistan are confronted by a mysterious stranger who says he knew their son. But is he who he says he is? And if not, what does he want?
What You Need To Know: Between his solo directorial efforts "A Horrible Way To Die" and "You're Next," and his crucial role in the burgeoning "V/H/S" franchise, director Adam Wingard has marked himself out as one of the most exciting horror filmmakers around. But he's taken a left turn for his latest, a twisty action-thriller that will hopefully capitalize on the chops he showed with his underrated and underseen slasher movie from last year. "Downton Abbey" star Dan Stevens is the unlikely choice for the title role, while "At Any Price" breakout Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley, Joel David Moore, Leland Orser and Lance Reddick are in support.
Sundance Prospects: Premiering in the Midnight section, so likely to be more of a genre affair than an awards magnet. Again, though, this might well turn out to be a smart buy, though hopefully whoever takes it won't hold on to it for as long as Lionsgate did "You're Next."