This year looks to be a fantastic one for movies across multiple genres, and we’re only at the end of January. No doubt more will be added to this “must see” list within the next few months, especially when the Toronto International Film Festival announces its schedule. The films below are listed in order of release dates; where no release date is available, they are listed in alphabetical order.
Director: Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth); Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Based on Michel Faber’s novel, this story of an alien who seduces and murders people in Scotland polarized audiences at TIFF with its unconventional narrative structure, which often indicates a movie well worth watching. (trailer)
Director: Wally Pfister; Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy
Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer tries his hand at directing in this fable about a scientist whose quest to research artificial intelligence is met with resistance by activist groups—and later, his family and colleagues—as he seeks out more and more power. (trailer)
Director: Gareth Edwards (Monsters); Starring: Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe
You can probably tell what this one’s about but the enticing combination of director and cast should make you curious to see if the film will live up to its impressive trailer. Edwards did a lot with an ultra-low budget in the atmospheric, unforgettable Monsters. (trailer)
Director: Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns); Starring: Everyone
Many of the cast members from X-Men: First Class, plus new additions like Peter Dinklage, will star in the long awaited sequel.
Director: Ti West (The House Of The Devil); Starring: Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, A.J. Bowen
The story of journalists who travel to a cult compound to rescue a friend’s sister was partially based on the true story of the Jonestown mass suicide, the largest in US history, which claimed the lives of almost a thousand people.
Director: Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister); Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale
A police officer and a priest trained as an exorcist investigate the demonic possessions plaguing their city. Sinister, despite its flawed ending, delivered genuine, long lasting scares so Derrickson’s newest feature intrigues, as does the inclusion of McHale in the cast of a horror film.
Director: Luc Besson (Leon the Professional, The Fifth Element); Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman
Besson also wrote the screenplay for this film, about a woman living in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule. When the drugs enter her bloodstream, she becomes a superhuman with powers like telekinesis and super intelligence.
Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen); Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo
An updated version of the fantastic TV show from the ’80s, this movie now focuses on a former black ops commando who comes out of hiding to save a young girl. After passing through the hands of several directors, hopefully the combination of Fuqua and Washington will prove dynamic.
Director: David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network); Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
This slowly unraveling mystery of the disappearance of a woman on her wedding day and the subsequent focus on her husband as a suspect is based on the acclaimed novel by Gillian Flynn.
Director: Gary Shore; Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper
Shore’s feature debut tells Dracula’s story using a blend of vampire mythology and the history of Prince Vlad. If you saw Evans in No One Lives, you’ll know he can play cold-blooded and suave in equal measure.
Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception); Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck
Nolan kept the details of the plot a secret for a long time, but his much-anticipated follow up to The Dark Knight Rises looks to be amazing: time travel, alternate dimensions, wormholes. It’s based on the theories of Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist, gravitational physicist, and astrophysicist at Caltech. McConaughey’s career is red hot right now and seeing him return to science fiction (remember Contact?) is exciting. (trailer)
Director: Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead); Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini
From IMDB: ”A crime-drama centered around a lost pit bull, a wannabe scam artist, and a killing.” Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island, wrote the screenplay based on his own short story. Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace being in a movie together is exciting enough, but the on set photos of them cuddling with puppies sells it.
Director: Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie); Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Terence Stamp)
Fans of Burton are hoping that this movie, based on the real-life story of painter Margaret Keane and her legal struggles to wrest authorship of her artwork from her husband, will hearken back to more original narratives like Big Fish. It’s set in the ’50s and ’60s, so it should at least be a visual delight.
Director: Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Mildred Pierce – HBO miniseries); Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Rooney Mara
As the film is still in pre-production, there is little information other than this IMDB summary (“Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman”) and the fact that it’s based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote the novel The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Director: Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money, Safe House); Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman
This film has been adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s thriller of the same name and investigates child murders in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The novel itself is based on real-life serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, known as the Rostov Ripper, who was convicted and executed for 52 murders.
Director: Steven Kostanski (Father’s Day, Manborg); Starring: Udo Kier, Tristan Risk
If you’ve seen any of the films of the Astron-6 collective, you should be excited. The Editor sounds like a blackly comic riff on Berberian Sound Studio: “Once revered as the greatest editor of all time, an editing accident reduced him to a ridiculed amputee. When his co-workers are murdered one after another, the editor is the prime suspect!” This movie was also crowdfunded via IndieGoGo.
Director: Morten Tyldum (Headhunters); Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
If you’ve never heard of Alan Turing, the British WWII cryptographer who cracked Nazi’s Enigma code, this movie will hopefully change that. Turing has often been heralded as the father of modern computers but was also convicted of homosexuality and accepted chemical castration as his sentence. He committed suicide in 1954 but wasn’t granted a posthumous pardon by the British government until 2013.
Director: David Cronenberg (The Fly, Eastern Promises); Starring: John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska
There’s not a whole lot of detail on this film yet, but it takes a satirical look at celebrity-obsessed culture through the lives of the Weiss family, which includes a psychotherapist/self-help author and his overbearing wife and manager, their TV-star son just out of rehab, and their estranged daughter, recently released from a psychiatric hospital.
Director: Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Mother); Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt
The Weinstein Company’s excision of 20 minutes of footage from the North American release of this film caused quite a stir last year, especially after it broke box office records in Korea. It’s based on French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, about a perpetually-running train which houses the remaining members of the world after a global ice age and which eventually engenders a class struggle between the haves and the have-nots. (trailer)
Directors: Justin H. Benson, Aaron Moorhead (Resolution); Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker
As the film is still in production and recently wrapped up shooting in Italy, there is scant information, but if you saw the brilliant, genre-busting Resolution, you can expect more of the same from this talented writer/director/cinematographer duo. Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) and Vinny Curran, who played Chris in Resolution, are also included in the cast.