The year is almost at a close (and my what a year it’s been), which means it’s time to turn our attention to 2013 and the movies that are coming out just around the corner. However, before Moviefone delves into the bigger releases (“Man of Steel,” “Iron Man 3,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”), we wanted to focus our attention on a few lesser-known projects. Some of these films we’ve already had the opportunity to see, and in the interest of giving you a heads-up, we’re here to share our thoughts about five great flicks to look forward to in the new year.

(Also worth noting: we were going to write about “Room 237,” the brilliant documentary about the hidden mysteries and supposed conspiracies located deep within Stanley Kubrick’s immortal horror classic “The Shining.” We decided against it because the film received an awards — and top ten list — qualifying run in December. Still, when it comes out for real, we’ll be talking about it a lot more.)


  • ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ (Derek Cianfrance)

    <strong>Release Date:</strong> March 29th Derek Cianfrance’s debut feature was “Blue Valentine,” a brilliant, heartbreaking, boldly told drama about a young couple whose relationship falters. For his follow-up, he has decided to tackle the crime genre. Of course, this being Cianfrance, the emphasis is on character. In “The Place Beyond the Pines,” he reteams with his “Blue Valentine” lead Ryan Gosling as a motorcycle stunt driver on the traveling carnival circuit, who realizes that he’s fathered a child with a one-night stand (played by the perennially underappreciated Eva Mendes). In order to take care of that child, Gosling’s character decides to start robbing banks (with the help of the ever-slimy Ben Mendelsohn). In a parallel story, a small town cop (Bradley Cooper) becomes an unexpected hero and parlays that newfound attention into newfound political goals. It would ruin some of the surprise of “The Place Beyond the Pines” to tell you how those two storylines intersect, but they do, in some pretty profound and affecting ways. If “Blue Valentine” was Cianfrance’s pure debut album, then “Place Beyond the Pines” is his sophomore record — the one that has some more money behind it and is embellished with a bunch of orchestral sections and children’s choirs and the like. It’s messier, for sure, but just as dazzling.

  • ‘Sparrows Dance’ (Noah Buschel)

    <strong>Release Date: </strong>TBD I’m not even positive that “Sparrows Dance” is going to get a theatrical release in 2013, but I’m fairly certain it will, after it played several high profile festivals (winning the Best Narrative Feature prize at the Austin Film Fest). A teacup-sized treasure, “Sparrows Dance” is the tale of an agoraphobic woman (Marin Ireland from “Homeland”) who unexpectedly falls in love with a plumber (Paul Sparks from “Boardwalk Empire”). The whole thing takes place in her lower Manhattan apartment. While that might sound obnoxiously twee and indie, it’s not — it’s an exhilarating little flick, easily one of the best movies I saw this year. It was also filmed in squared-off 4:3, which is more mesmerizing than anything in 48 frames-per-second. There’s a moment when the two leads (both astounding) are dancing as the camera pulls back to reveal the lights and inner workings of the set. It’s a beautiful sequence. Hopefully it will receive a nice little push; it would be a shame if it spent another year on the festival circuit. This is a movie to treasure, forever.

  • ‘Frances Ha’ (Noah Baumbach)

    <strong>Release Date:</strong> May 17th Word leaked out shortly before the Toronto International Film Festival that Noah Baumbach, a director who perfected mumblecore before the term was even invented, had written and directed a “secret” little black-and-white movie, which starred his new girlfriend Greta Gerwig and took place primarily in New York. It had the makings of an experimental doodle, one that could have been cute but nothing more. Those that have seen “Frances Ha,” though, can attest to its singular power — a seemingly endless supply of charm and its unexpected emotional punch. Gerwig stars as Frances, a girl nearing 30 in the Big Apple, who wants to be a dancer but instead teaches ballet to little kids. She is a mess, continually in need of getting her act together, bouncing between friends and lovers and never making it totally work. Again, this sounds like the kind of movie that could make your eyes roll into the back of your head based on the amount of cuteness, but it really is an affecting, gorgeously shot (in digital black-and-white), wildly exuberant little movie (it’s equal parts French New Wave and vintage Woody Allen). Walking away from “Frances Ha,” you can’t help but smile.

  • ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ (Peter Strickland)

    <strong>Release Date:</strong> TBD Profoundly weird and unsettling, “Berberian Sound Studio” is the tale of a British sound artist named Gilderoy (played by Toby Jones), who is invited by an Italian film company to score a new horror film called “The Equestrian Vortex” (amazing). Once there, things become increasingly strange and dangerous. Is Gilderoy seeing things? Is he letting the film overtake his psyche? Or does his own psychological unraveling just happen to coincide with the making of the film? These are the questions (and more!) presented by “Berberian Sound Studio” which, if it wasn’t saddled with such an unfortunately awful title, would probably already have American distribution by now. It seems like the kind of movie destined to be picked up by IFC Midnight or Magnet Films, one that requires multiple viewings and should assert itself as a new cult classic, aided by its kicky electro soundtrack by Broadcast and its widespread critical approval (Sight & Sound placed it at No. 5 on its Top 10 list of 2012). Saying anything more about the film would ruin the fun, but it’s a movie you can’t help but think about endlessly. (Here’s hoping the British Blu-ray is region free!)

  • ‘Passion’ (Brian De Palma)

    <strong>Release Date:</strong> Spring It is somewhat worrisome that Entertainment One, the same company that botched the release of David Cronenberg’s brilliant “Cosmopolis” this past summer, is again tackling the new movie of a genre great. But hey, that’s what happens with a film as divisive as “Passion,” the new erotic thriller by the man who singlehandedly kept the genre going for much of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Based loosely on a French film called “Love Crime,” “Passion” stars Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams as marketing gurus who become embroiled in a twisted game of deceit and murder. While not as gratifying, in either the intellectual or base sense as his earlier masterworks, “Passion” does feel like a return to form of sorts for De Palma, especially after his tragically miscalculated Iraq War screed “Redacted.” Most who chose to dismiss “Passion” did so under the conceit that De Palma had made the film with a straight face, when it seems to me (and other fans of the flick) that there was clearly a wink and a nudge involved. You’ll be able to sort it out for yourself soon enough.

Earlier on Moviefone: