By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 6, 2014 at 1:14PM
70. "The Duke of Burgundy"
Synopsis: An amateur butterfly expert experiences "wayward desires," causing relationship troubles.
What You Need To Know: While his excellent debut "Katalin Varga" went mostly unnoticed, British director Peter Strickland made more of his splash with his excellent arthouse giallo homage "Berberian Sound Studio." For his follow-up, he's teamed with fellow Brit Ben Wheatley, who's producing the new film, which is described as a "dark melodrama." "Berberian Sound Studio" actress Chiara D'Anna has the lead role, while Danish actress Sidse Babette Knudsen, best known as the lead of cult TV drama "Borgen," also features.
Why It's Anticipated: With his first two films, Strickland established himself as one of the most original new voices in independent film. This looks less genre-inflected than 'Berberian,' but there's no reason to expect anything that isn't very special here, especially with Wheatley also on board to lend a helping hand. It's exciting to see "Borgen" star Knudsen getting a big-screen breakthrough, and if nothing else, you can expect some exemplary sound design.
Release Date: Could surface as early as Cannes, though TIFF may be the better bet. IFC Films have the U.S. rights.
69. “True Story”
Synopsis: Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) is a journalist for the New York Times whose world is rocked when he discovers a murderer named Christian Longo (James Franco) has been living in Mexico under his identity. When Longo is brought back to the U.S., the only person he’ll tell his story to is Finkel.
What You Need to Know: Despite names like Jonah Hill and James Franco starring and Brad Pitt producing, there’s been zero build-up for “True Story.” The movie was announced back in 2012, and a year later casting has slowly firmed up with the recent addition of Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”) joining as Hill’s character’s girlfriend. With Hill proving his "Moneyball" turn wasn't a fluke with another range-expanding performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street," now might be the time to start getting some buzz around this despite the relatively inexperienced background of theater director Rupert Goold (his only screen credit is the Ben Whishaw-starring adaptation of “Richard II” for television).
Why Is It Anticipated: The story is utterly insane and it’s recommended you read Finkel’s novel of the same name, despite its authenticity coming under fire after publication. The real Longo murdered his family, allegedly under the belief he couldn’t provide the life they deserved, and after fleeing to Mexico he lived under the name Michael Finkel. Franco as Longo sounds fantastic, especially considering how deep the actor gets into his evil roles (“Spring Breakers” and “Homefront” are recent examples). Hill continues to grow as a solid actor and this could cement him as a lead in dramatic fare. If the script gives even an ounce of the real story this is based on, it could be a serious awards contender especially if it comes up against a similar true-crime story with “Foxcatcher.”
Release Date: The film is in post-production, so look for it on the festival circuit.
68. “The Gambler”
Synopsis: A literature professor with a gambling problem runs afoul of gangsters.
What You Need To Know: It’s a remake of the deeply overlooked 1974 film of the same name starring James Caan and Lauren Hutton and based off the autobiographical (and yet fictionalized) life of screenwriter James Toback. It's a terrific underseen movie that’s ripe for a remake.
Why Is It Anticipated: For one the story is great, a dark morality drama that's not unlike "Michael Clayton" or "The Insider," and the talent is exceptional. Rupert Wyatt (the unexpectedly good “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) will be at the helm, "The Departed" screenwriter William Monahan wrote the screenplay and the picture is slated to star Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson and Jessica Lange. After the smash box-office success/surprise of ‘Rise,’ Wyatt could have gotten any gig he wanted. And while he toyed with the idea of the sequel, he got out and chose this instead.
Release Date: TBD and considering it hasn’t shot yet, there’s some debate whether the picture will be ready this year. Fingers crossed.
67. "God Help the Girl"
Synopsis: Eve is a catastrophe—low on self-esteem but high on fantasy, especially when it comes to music. Over the course of one Glasgow summer, she meets two similarly rootless souls: posh Cass and fastidious James, and together they form a group.
What You Need To Know: Not many indie musicians have turned to filmmaking, but there's something about the storytelling in the music of Scottish tweecore favorites Belle And Sebastian that's always made Stuart Murdoch seem like he could do the job well. In the works for a few years now, "God Help The Girl," based on Murdoch's concept album from a few years back, is a full-blown musical, set in Murdoch's home of Glasgow, produced by Barry Mendel ("Rushmore"), funded in part through Kickstarter, and starring Emily Browning ("Sucker Punch"), Hannah Murray ("Game of Thrones") and Olly Alexander ("Enter the Void").
Why It's Anticipated: We love a good musical here at The Playlist, and we love it even more when someone ambitiously tackles the genre as their feature debut with a musical. As such, there's a lot of curiosity value to seeing how "God Help the Girl" turns out, but we're confident that this might work out, especially as we know that the songs are already out there, and already good. It could still be a mess, but Murdoch's had some top-flight technical support, and has a strong central trio in the leads, so we're optimistic about this.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance, and hopefully a full release will follow not long after that.
66. "Ex Machina"
Synopsis: A young coder of the world's largest Internet company wins an exclusive competition, only to arrive at the private mountain retreat to discover that he'll interact with an artificial intelligence housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.
What You Need To Know: Alex Garland has been the screenwriter behind some of the smartest and most notable genre films of the last decade or so, including "28 Days Later," "Sunshine," "Never Let Me Go" and "Dredd," and it seems like he's sticking to similar territory for his directorial debut, which brushes against the same kind of zeitgeist-y AI/singularity-related territory seen in "Her" and "Transcendence." This seems to be more of a chamber character piece, and Garland's assembled some damn fine actors for the film: Domhnall Gleeson is the young programmer, Oscar Isaac is the reclusive CEO, and Alicia Vikander, assisted by some CGI, is the robot.
Why It's Anticipated: We don't love any of Garland's work unreservedly (he has a problem with endings in particular), but there's always been something fascinating about the way he plays with genre, and the chance to get something unfiltered from him about such a fascinating subject, is a very promising one. He's got some heavyweight backers too, with Danny Boyle regular Andrew Macdonald and the legendary Scott Rudin both producing, while the excellent Rob Hardy ("The Forgiveness Of Blood," "The Invisible Woman") shot the film. More importantly than anything however, is the cast: Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander have been among the standout breakout stars of the last few years, and something that teams them in such close proximity is something to be welcomed.
Release Date: Unknown, but TIFF is probably a good bet.
65. "Slow West"
Synopsis: At the end of the 19th century, a 17-year-old boy travels across the American Frontier with a mysterious traveler in search of the woman he loves.
What You Need To Know: Every star reaches a point where their name means enough that they can serve as a producer and get passion projects set up, and that time has come for Michael Fassbender. He's been developing this ambitious western with director and former Beta Band member John Maclean for a few years now, with the pair previously collaborating on the BAFTA-winning short "Pitch Black Heist." Their latest was shot in New Zealand late last year, with Kodi Smit-McPhee in the lead role and Ben Mendelsohn in support.
Why It's Anticipated: Fassbender has shown pretty good taste in selecting his projects, so the idea of something that he's self-generated is one that hopefully bodes well. "Pitch Black Heist" showed that Maclean has some real directorial chops, too, and we like that he's moving into features with a western, which is hardly the hippest of genres for a first-time filmmaker. Plus the cast is great: Smit-McPhee's been hugely impressive in the likes of "The Road" and "Let Me In," and Mendelsohn's always a welcome presence, especially if he gets to square off against Fassbender.
Release Date: Started filming in October, so should be ready in time for the fall festivals.
64. “The Trip to Italy”
Synopsis: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise the meta version of their anti-friendship from the original, Britain-bound “The Trip” and this time journey to six different restaurants dotted around Italy.
What You Need To Know: Michael Winterbottom’s original “The Trip” aired as an episodic TV show in Britain while in the U.S. it was abridged into feature film format. No doubt the sparring duo will be exchanging similar thoughts on life, celebrity and aging along the way in this followup, and hopefully competing some more in their impersonations of Roger Moore, Michael Caine et al.
Why Is It Anticipated: There’s something so deliciously moreish about “The Trip” that it has become standard hangover fare in Playlist Towers, a hilarious, off-kilter, weird hybrid of road movie, gastronomic tour and entertainingly bitter skewering of the clashing egos of the two men at its heart. And so we’re delighted that more is on the way, and assume the further-from-home Italian setting will only work to throw Brydon and Coogan more uncomfortably close together, this time in spectacular, sun-dappled locations.
Release Date: A Sundance bow is planned for the 115-minute film version, and the television version will air in the U.K. next year, though no date firmed up yet.
Synopsis: A young man begins work as a freelance crime journalist in L.A.
What You Need To Know: As far as directorial debuts, "Michael Clayton" was one of the best of the last decade, marking director Tony Gilroy as a definite filmmaker to watch. As such, we've got our eyes locked on "Nightcrawler," the first movie by Tony's younger brother Dan, a screenwriter in his own right (credits include "The Fall" and "The Bourne Legacy"). Jake Gyllenhaal, who's been going from strength to strength recently thanks to things like "Prisoners" and "Enemy," takes the lead here with Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo in support, while "Michael Clayton" and "There Will Be Blood" cinematographer Robert Elswit is the DoP.
Why It's Anticipated: Dan Gilroy's credits aren't as dazzling as his brother's, but there's enough there to get excited about this, especially with a premise, that while is mostly under wraps, sounds like it could be dark, pulpy fun, shining a light on a world that's not often been seen on screen. But the main reason we're pumped for this is Gyllenhaal, who's been consistently excellent of late, and should have a role to really get his teeth into here (he even put himself in hospital while shooting the film, so he sounds pretty committed). It's good to see the hugely talented Riz Ahmed from "Four Lions" get a big American role too.
Release Date: TIFF seems likely.
62. "The New Girlfriend"
Synopsis: A young woman becomes depressed after her best friend dies, but finds new strength after discovering a secret about the dead woman's husband.
What You Need To Know: Francois Ozon is among France's best filmmakers and has been on a prolific and successful run of late with "In The House" being followed swiftly by "Jeune Et Jolie." Ozon's not slacking either: he's already moved on to this thriller/melodrama, based on a short story by Ruth Rendell (whose books also inspired Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie" and Almodovar's "Live Flesh"). Anais Demoustier takes the lead role, with the great Romain Duris ("The Beat That My Heart Skipped," "Populaire") also starring.
Why It's Anticipated: We don't love everything of Ozon's, but he's a consistently fascinating director, whose can tackle a variety of genres and interests while remaining instantly recognizable. "In The House" in particular was one of his best films in some time, and he seems like a good fit for Rendell's work. We're also excited to see him team up with Duris, who for a decade now has proven himself to be one of France's most exciting actors.
Release Date: Filming didn't start until late last year, so Cannes might be a stretch. Venice or TIFF are probably better bets.
61. “The Imitation Game"
Synopsis: The true story of English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code during World War II.
What You Need To Know: The life of Alan Turing is a fascinating, desperately sad one that, while it's well-known (his cyanide-laced apple suicide inspired the logo for Apple), has surprisingly never been brought to the screen. But Graham Moore's script for "The Imitation Game" topped the Black List in 2011 and has had a huge amount of talent circling it since, with Leonardo DiCaprio and David Yates among those linked to it. In the end, it was "Headhunters" director Morten Tyldum who was the man in charge, with Benedict Cumberbatch seemingly perfectly cast as Turing. He's joined by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Mark Strong and Charles Dance for a project that looks to focus both on Turing's codebreaking years and his homosexuality.
Why It's Anticipated: Again, Turing's story is positively bursting with drama, and if its Black List placement is anything to go by, Graham Moore's script tells it very nicely indeed. Tyldum made a very impressive breakthrough with "Headhunters," and will hopefully bring the same mix of style and substance here, while this'll hopefully provide Cumberbatch with the showcase that "The Fifth Estate" spectacularly failed to be. There's a strong supporting cast in place too, and some top behind-the-scenes talent as well: Clint Mansell is scoring the film, and "Argo" editor William Goldenberg is cutting the flick.
Release Date: Another one that's likely heading to TIFF, ahead of an awards season bow.