20. Elysium (Neill Blomkamp; Aug. 9th)
Synopsis: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Ever since seeing his short film Alive in Joburg at a film festival years ago, Neil Blomkamp has been on my personal radar for quite some time as a filmmaker, pushing the medium beyond its bounds. In 2009 he adapted that short film into the sci-fi cult hit District 9, garnering global praise from around the world. Now, with a $120 million dollar budget and marquee movie stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster at the helm, Blomkamp is paving his way further into blockbuster territory and he’s doing so in a bold way that is uniquely true to his style. Elysium looks to be one of the most compelling and mind bending sci-fi films to watch out for in 2013. – Raffi A.
19. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch; TBD)
Synopsis: A story centered on two vampires who have been in love for centuries.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Yeah, The Limits of Control was a failure, but it’s the sort of misfire only a great artist could make. Now, though, it’s time to get back on the horse, and Jim Jarmusch’s answer is… vampires. While the most tired of all horror staples (next to zombies) is nothing to salivate over, we’re also talking about a director who’s never 100% indebted to the surface of his own concept. That so many of his great films have familiar material on their periphery is just another reason to keep fingers crossed. – Nick N.
18. Her (Spike Jonze; TBD)
Synopsis: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly-purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: In the blink of an eye, more than three years have passed since Spike Jonze released his last film. Amidst his small, esoteric filmography of an introverts emotional journey, this one sounds to most strongly resemble Being John Malkovich — but, with Joaquin Phoenix instead of John Cusack, so we’re already on better ground. While its high-concept premise could be a little worrisome in other hands, Her is, instead, with the sort of people who can make it one of 2013’s most intriguing offers. – Nick N.
17. The Counselor (Ridley Scott; TBD)
Synopsis: A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: It’s all in the names. Arguably the hottest actor (in more ways than one) of the past few years, Michael Fassbender, is starring, with support from Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, and Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris — certainly one of the best casts in recent memory. Perhaps more importantly, the script was penned by Cormac McCarthy, one of the great American novelist and author of, among many other things, The Road and No Country For Old Men, both adapted into acclaimed films but the latter in particular being an Oscar-Winning effort by the Coen Brothers that many see as their best work and as one of the best films of the 2000s. His first effort written directly for the screen will certainly be interesting on that alone, but the plot—about a lawyer who gets mixed up in drug dealing trying to earn extra money—suggests the themes of good vs. evil and moral corruption that hangs over his literature. Ridley Scott has a reputation as being inconsistent but also as more than capable of great movie-making, and the deck is stacked in his favor for this one. – Forrest C.
16. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth; April 5th)
Synopsis: A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Easily the biggest surprise among the Sundance Film Festival 2013 line-up, few knew that Shane Carruth had finally completed his follow-up to 2004’s mindbending time-travel film Primer. Judging from the first few teasers, the helmer has expanded his visual scope, but still retaining a confounding structure that leaves us evermore intrigued. While it’s set to debut at Park City soon, audiences won’t have to wait long as a spring theatrical bow is in store. – Jordan R.
15. Venus In Fur (Roman Polanski; TBD)
Synopsis: An actress attempts to convince a director how she’s perfect for a role in his upcoming production.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Coming off the grossly underappreciated Carnage, Roman Polanski is continuing with the “few actors, small space” approach on Venus in Fur. The stage-y approach, a common complaint about his last film — but precisely what made that film such an invigorating formal exercise — is getting spiced up with some of the classic Polanski sexual psychology. – Nick N.
14. Jane Got a Gun (Lynne Ramsay; TBD)
Synopsis: A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: It’s nice to see Lynn Ramsay working faster nowadays. The nearly ten-year gap between Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk About Kevin was too wide, and after the acclaim of the latter, she’s getting projects off the ground quicker than ever. Thankfully one of those is Jane Got a Gun, an intriguing western starring Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, and Joel Edgerton. With production set in a few months, hopefully we’ll see this one by year’s end. – Jack G.
13. Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier; TBD)
Synopsis: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Lars von Trier is making a porn — well sort of, but not quite. In some ways one could argue that he is the cinematic equivalent to pornography, attracting unwanted attention and not always for the right reasons. Never one to shy from controversy, the director announced his intentions to make a pornographic film during a press conference for Melancholia, while simultaneously making a Nazi joke that resulted in him being banned from the Cannes film festival. However disturbed he might be personally, there’s no denying his raw power as a provocateur and it’s not shameful to indulge in that kind of cinematic mania. Featuring a solid ensemble of old and new faces to the Von Trier family including Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater and Charlotte Gainsbourg as the titular character, Nymphomaniac seems a likely candidate for most shocking film of the year, but also most interesting. – Raffi A.
12. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn; TBD – Potential Cannes Premiere)
Synopsis: A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: As the first footage recently arrived for Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling‘s Drive follow-up, our anticipation has rightfully continued. Moving from the streets of Los Angeles to the Thailand boxing underground, this spiritual successor still seems to share many similarities, including a passive anti-hero, distinct style and lots (and lots) of violence. – Jordan R.
11. The World’s End (Edgar Wright; Oct. 25th)
Synopsis: Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.
Why We’re Looking Forward To It: Despite loving Scott Pilgrim vs. the World more than several members of my own family, The World’s End is what I’ve wanted Edgar Wright to make since 2007. The expectations are almost too high: He’s not only completing a trilogy started by the prior decade’s two best comedies, but his growth as a formal stylist since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead is much more vast than nine years would suggest. I’m not so sure about the provided plot synopsis — something about it sounds a little too divergent from Shaun or Hot Fuzz — but as soon as a quick summary for one of this generation’s most gifted cinematic voices tempers enthusiasm, I’ll beg you to shoot me in the goddamn head. – Nick N.
Latest posts from The Film Stage