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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

25 Films to look forward to in 2013

While 2012 was a wonderful year at the cinema, giving us one of our strongest Best Picture lineups in years, two of the most successful tentpoles of all-time, and some really neat underappreciated films that tickled a few different areas of the ol cortex, from both within the states and abroad; 2013 looks to continue some of last year's trends.

We're already almost out of January, and to see it's been less than an impressive slate of films is being...kind, to say the least. Having already seen, and been somewhat disappointed by Soderbergh's Side Effects, what's next? In approximate release date order (obviously subject to change) we have:

56 Up - dir. Michael Apted - February 8th (Atlanta)
This is the next entry in the most fascinating film documentary experiment of all time. Since they were at Age 7, Apted has checked in with his subjects who come from different backgrounds and walks of life in England (as well as those who have immigrated to the US or Australia) every 7 years. They're now 56. If you have not seen this film series, I can't stress enough how inventive, touching, and worth your time it is. The newest entry comes to Atlanta on February 8th at Midtown Art Cinema for one week only.

Stoker - dir. Chan-wook Park - March 1st
Chan-wook is a rightfully acclaimed korean film maker who with Old Boy and Thirst made tremendous waves here in the states. His recent Sundance offering, Stoker, starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman, was praised as something worthy of Hitchcock. With an enigmatic premise and what is sure to be another standout Clint Mansell score, I fully expect this to be the fitting kick-off of 2013's film slate.

Trance - dir. Danny Boyle - March 27th (UK, US release TBD)
A Danny Boyle film is always something to be intrigued by, and as this is a reunion between himself and Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge and looks to fit right into some of his genre fare of the past, I'll be awaiting this film's US release date with some level of excitement. I mean, a heist film + hypnotism + Vincent Cassel was all I needed really.

Upstream Color - dir. Shane Carruth - April 5th
I wasn't the biggest fan of Carruth's 2004 debut Primer. The central concept was intriguing enough, but the amateur cast was a pretty big turnoff that made the film a difficult watch. The concept of "a drugged woman is drawn into the life cycle of a microscopic presence and after meeting another undergoing the same phenomenon, they search urgently for a place of safety to recover the fragments of their wrecked lives" sure sounds like it could be mind-blowingly amazing, or something that falls flat on its face. With what looks like a stronger cast on the surface, Carruth will have the opportunity to either prove his fans or critics right.

To the Wonder - dir. Terrence Malick - April 12th
The Tree of Life, a film that took me two viewings to fully appreciate, sent me on a mission to discover the magic of Terrence Malick's work. As such, I'm looking forward to this Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem starring film which centers on a man who reconnects with a woman in his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart. When it debuted in Venice, To the Wonder was met with boos and cheers, I'm not sure I could have a Malick film any other way.

Iron Man 3 - dir. Shane Black - May 3rd
The first Iron Man was a fun, improvised romp that set this whole Marvel cinematic universe thing in motion. Iron Man 2 was painful. With that said, this third film in the series, with new director Shane Black could go either way. I enjoyed his work with Downey in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and even at its worst the Iron Man series has an incredibly engaging lead actor with some pretty unbelievable chemistry with co-star Gwyneth Paltrow. From the outset, it looks like this one will pick up on "The Ten Rings" organization that were major antagonists in the first film and adds Ben Kingsley as their leader, with a dash of Guy Pearce. I hope ol' shellhead gets his mojo back.

Star Trek Into Darkness - dir. JJ Abrams - May 17th
2009's Star Trek was a pleasant surprise and one of the more enjoyable films I had seen in years. It was the first movie in quite a while I had seen twice in theaters on successive days. This sequel, which adds Benedict Cumberbatch as the primary villain, and looks to be JJ Abrams final film in the series before departing for Star Wars is obviously on the very top of my list of films to anticipate. In this one, the Enterprise crew faces an unstoppable force that's attacked Starfleet and left Earth in chaos. No, I have no idea who Cumberbatch is playing, and I can't wait to find out.

Man of Steel - dir. Zack Snyder - June 14th
While Zack Snyder certainly gives one pause, as does a script written by David Goyer, the story was developed in collaboration with Christopher Nolan and his production company Syncopy has been shepherding this film along. It could go terribly wrong, but everything we've been shown so far, from inspired casting (Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon) to the trailers that have been oddly compelling gives me hope that this might be the Superman film we've been hoping to get for years. Snyder has great action chops, and provided the script isn't a total dog, this may be THE film of the summer. I don't have high hopes unfortunately. If it's a success, expect either Justice League or a slew of other DC comic properties to get the green light fairly quickly.

The Wolverine - dir. James Mangold - July 26th
So, the last Wolverine film was terrible, on the other hand this was a script that was good enough that it initially attracted Darren Aronofsky (who later dropped out). This is more curiosity than anything else, as it'll be the first film in Fox's strategy to line up the Marvel properties they own the film rights to in order to create their own little universe. The source material from which the film draws its story is relatively interesting (Logan goes to Japan), and Hugh Jackman is somehow compelling as the title character regardless of how bad the script he's working with is. This is mild interest that could get stronger the more we hear about it. Oh, and it's a direct sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand. Interesting choice to say the least in the run up to Bryan Singer's return to the franchise next year.

Elysium - dir. Neill Blomkamp - August 9th
Neill Blomkamp's follow up to District 9 has an interesting premise that relates to class warfare in the far future, where the rich live in a space station above earth and everyone else lives on whats left of the overpopulated planet. Jodie Foster and Matt Damon star, along with Sharlto Copely, who I so greatly enjoyed in Blomkamp's debut. The script having been written by Blomkamp has promise and it wouldn't surprise if this was one of the big highlights of the year.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - dir. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller - October 4th
The long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite films of 2005 finally arrives this fall. The sequel, which covers another graphic novel in Frank Miller's series, as well as another short story and some original material written by the pair of directors (and William Monahan) is shaping up to be another black and white, noirish, green screen affair. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Josh Brolin, amongst others, join the cast along with the returning Mickey Rourke (in the role that revitalized his career), Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen. I don't care for much of Rodriguez's work, but I think he absolutely nailed it with the previous film. I've been awaiting this sequel for awhile.

Gravity - dir. Alfonso Cuaron - October 4th
Like most people, I loved Children of Men, as well as Y Tu Mama Tambien, and the idea that Cuaron is returning to the former's sci-fi trappings is a huge plus. No one really know what the story is about other than George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play astronauts surviving in a damaged space station. Emmanuel Lubezski is also the DP on this one, so if nothing else, it'll be gorgeous to look at most likely. I'm not sure there's a film more anticipated by us cinephiles, mainly because it's been closely guarded from us as to its details. I expect a divisive reaction.

The World's End - dir. Edgar Wright - October 25th
Wright is, in my opinion, the best comedic director currently working. His films are inventive, outright hilarious, and often a visual feast. The World's End is the final part of his "Blood and Cornetto" trilogy and a spin on the "end of the world" genre of films made "famous" by directors like Roland Emmerich. Any film whose central concept is a pub crawl while humanity comes to an end sounds like the perfect follow-up that I wish we could have gotten post-Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return to lead up the cast. This is an opening nighter for me.

Thor: The Dark World - dir. Alan Taylor - November 8th
I wasn't a big fan of the first Thor at all, finding its earth-bound segments eye-rolling, though I enjoyed Asgardian setting when we got it. Thor is probably my favorite of the Marvel characters though (outside of Daredevil) and he has a very rich history to pull from that can be incredibly cinematic. The script, thankfully written by less than four people this time around and revolving around Dark Elves and Asgardian mythos, has some promise and the villain is being played by Christopher Eccleston, whose presence enhances most films. This'll be Alan Taylor's first major feature film, we'll see how it goes.

The Counselor - dir. Ridley Scott - November 15th
This could be a total mess, on the other hand, Ridley Scott can, every once in a while, pull out a rabbit out of his hat still (Matchstick Men, parts of Prometheus). The cast is pretty exciting even if the premise of "an attorney gets involved in drug trafficking" sounds a bit bland. When said attorney is played by Michael Fassbender, and he's supported by Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz, there is some promise there.

The Fifth Estate - dir. Bill Condon - November 15th
You know it had to happen eventually, but by the end of the year, we'll have our Julian Assange bio-pic of a sorts. Luckily, said master of classified info will be played by Benedict Cumberbatch (who will be a mega-star by the end of the year). He's joined on screen by Daniel Bruhl, one of my favorite parts of Inglorious Basterds, who plays Assange's colleague and close friend in the dawn of Wikileaks. It has the potential to be Bill Condon's Social Network. He'll need it to get the stink of two Twilight films off his back.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - dir. Peter Jackson - December 13th
The next of the Hobbit films, not much to be said here other than, spiders, a big talking dragon, elves, and possibly a war. I enjoyed the previous film a fairly good deal, and am looking forward to this next one. I may be pretty tired of middle earth by the end of it though.

The Monuments Men - dir. George Clooney - December 18th
I'm one of those guys that really dug The Ides of March, Clooney's previous film, for its intrigue and compelling performances. I have no idea what this movie is about except that it details an Allied project in World War II to protect culturally historic artifacts before they're destroyed by Hitler. It stars Clooney, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. I've enjoyed most of his films so far, other than Leatherheads, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another successful venture.

Anchorman: The Legend Continues - dir. Adam McKay - December 20th
Anyone who knows me know that I have a ridiculous love of Anchorman, one of the few comedies of the Apatow-era that simply gets better every time I watch it. I know nothing about this sequel except that the entire cast is back, and that's all I need. I can't wait.

Films with release dates to be determined

Twelve Years A Slave - dir. Steve McQueen
An adaptation of the auto-biography of the same name, Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a man kidnapped and sold into slavery on a Louisiana plantation. The film tracks his journey to return home to his family. McQueen has made two phenomenal films so far in Hunger and Shame, and he reunites with Michael Fassbender here for a third time along with great actors like Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch (again??), and Paul Giamatti, amongst others. Shame was my #2 film of 2011, I am totally sold on McQueen.

Before Midnight - dir. Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater's third film in his "Before" series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy was met with raves at Sundance, and it may be my most anticipated movie of the entire slate. I have a tremendous love of the previous two films, especially Before Sunrise. In an attempt to stay as unspoiled about the film as I can, all I know is that it takes place nine years after the conclusion of Before Sunrise. I understand it may be the best of the entire trilogy.

Only God Forgives - dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Refn. Ryan Gosling. Music by Cliff Martinez. It was the recipe that grabbed me by the balls for Drive, and will hopefully repeat itself here. There are those that are calling this Refn's version of Fight Club, Refn calls it a Western fairytale taking place in Bangkok, and Gosling calls it the "strangest thing I've ever read". Sold!

Inside Llewyn Davis - dir. The Coen Bros.
Speaking of Drive, Oscar Issac and Carey Mulligan star in the next Coen Bros. film about a folk musician navigating the scene of 1960's New York. The first trailer hit this week and I found it interesting enough. I'm hoping this is more A Serious Man-Coens than True Grit-Coens, the latter of which I found fairly average.

The Wolf of Wall Street - dir. Martin Scorsese
The fifth collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese also costars Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill. DiCaprio plays a New York stockbroker who refuses to go along with an investigation into corruption on Wall Street. I'll always give Scorsese a look, he hasn't hit with me since The Departed, but his muscled up style is still one I enjoy even if just for technical merits. He's earned the good will.

Mud - dir. Jeff Nichols
I loved Take Shelter, and if I'm to believe the hype coming out of Sundance, I should love this as well. Matthew McConaughey plays a fugitive that forms a pact with two teenage boys to help him evade bountyhunters and reunite him with his true love. I hear Tye Sheridan, who debuted in Tree of Life, turns quite a performance here. It's on my radar.

There are other films I have a more cautious interest in, like Fruitvale, The Spectacular Now and Pacific Rim, but these are the movies I'm most excited for in 2013. What are yours? Feel free to let me know anything I may have missed.

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