It’s 2013 now, and while many of us (myself included) are longingly looking back at what was for all intents a quite strong year for films that was 2012, we have an entire new year of films to look forward to. 2012 will be a tough year to top, but there are quite a few young gun directors coming out with new projects this year that could potentially tip the scales. Many of the films I have highlighted below come from this new generation of visionary filmmakers, and some come from established auteurs. It should be noted that you won’t see anything like Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek Into Darkness, Oz: The Great and Powerful, the next Hobbit film or the like, because we know these are all coming, and none of them are going to catch us by surprise. Hopefully some of these will.
Gangster Squad (January 11)
Gangster Squad has become infamous for being unfortunately caught up in the aftermath of the Aurora Colorado theater shooting due to a scene in the film (partially included in the trailer) that involves a group of men shooting up a movie theater with Tommy guns. Originally, the film was to be recut removing the scene, but this led to the necessity of reshoots, as the scene was a key part of the plot. Because of this, the film was bumped from the dead zone that is an early September release to the dead zone that is a mid-January release (and on the same weekend Zero Dark Thirty goes national, to boot). It seems like the edits will remain in place and the theater scene will be forever banished to the realm of DVD extras. This is a shame, as I quite enjoyed director Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland (I did not see 30 Minutes or Less), and I hope this doesn’t negatively affect the film or its potential for success. The cast is big (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte) and the trailers are flashy, offering a notable color palette (and an impeccably chosen Jay Z tune) that makes this 1940’s Los Angeles pop. It also marks the beginning of the Year of Gosling (more on that later), and has the potential to be a nice early year sleeper that can spice up the season where movies go to die.
Warm Bodies (February 1)
I had no clue this film existed before I saw the trailer in front of The Hobbit. This zombie comedy is Jonathan Levine’s follow-up to the wonderful 50/50, and features Nicholas Hoult (he of the UK Skins and X-Men: First Class) as a sort of high functioning zombie living in a world where zombies have taken over but aren’t the same sort of shambling dead we’ve become accustomed to with The Walking Dead and other zombie fare. The trailer is excellent, and sets up the world quite well. Essentially, the power of love appears to be giving these zombies a sort of renewed sentience, and the expected hijinks ensue. Hoult is joined by Rob Corddry, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton (from Crazy Stupid Love) and some guy named John Malkovich. I am excited for this one purely for the trailer, but it looks solid.
Stoker (March 1)
Speaking of films that relentlessly hooked me based on the trailer, we have Stoker. This is the first English language film from Oldboy director Chan-wook Park, and stars Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode (Ozymandias from Watchmen) in a horror/suspense tale about a mysterious uncle who arrives on the scene after the death of a family’s father, only to unleash all kinds of both psychological and abject horror. The trailer is honestly one of the most effective I’ve seen in quite some time; from the opening lines spat by Nicole Kidman, the trailer gives us the tone of a Norman Rockwell painting gone terribly wrong. The international trailer, while not as good, is certainly a lot more incesty (certainly the first time I’ve had to use that word), and has less abject menace, but both seem to indicate the potential for a singular film experience. Add in a Clint Mansell score and you’ve got a recipe for success.
The Place Beyond the Pines (March 29)
Film two of the Year of Gosling, The Place Beyond the Pines sees Ryan Gosling reteam with his Blue Valentines director Derek Cianfrance for a film about the lengths a man will go to in order to provide for his family, which in this case puts him on a collision course with a police officer who has political aspirations played by Bradley Cooper. Considering Blue Valentine was one of my favorite films of 2010 (it should be noted as an aside that Blue Valentine was recently added to Netflix Instant Streaming. I found it when browsing the Romance section. This is an incredibly cruel gesture from Netflix, and I can just imagine the poor souls who fire up Blue Valentine hoping to see a romantic Ryan Gosling film along the lines of The Notebook…), I am eager to see Cianfrance’s follow-up. The trailer, while not the best trailer I’ve ever seen, is quite intriguing, and this should be a good way to lead up to the summer blockbuster season.
Much Ado About Nothing (June 7)
It makes perfect sense that Joss Whedon would follow The Avengers, the third highest grossing film of all time with a small black and white adaptation of the Shakespeare play shot at his house over two weeks in 2011. It stars a murderer’s row of Whedon alums (Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Reed Diamond, Tom Lenk, Sean Maher, etc.), but most importantly represents the reuniting of Fred and Wesley (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) from Angel in the starring roles. Arguably the best part of the production so far is the last line of Whedon’s press release announcing its existence (“The film should be completed by early spring and headed for the festival circuit, because it is fancy.”). I haven’t seen a frame, let alone a trailer, but that doesn’t matter. It will be brilliant because it is Joss, but I am deeply intrigued to see if his newfound Avengers clout affects its success positively or negatively.
Elysium (August 9)
Matt Damon with a shaved head holding a rather intimidating rifle with the word “CHEMRAID” written on the side. That’s all we’ve seen so far from Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s first film since his surprise hit and Oscar nominated District 9. The story concerns a polarized world consisting of the well-to-do living on a space station while the poor languish on the Earth below. Damon is joined by Jodie Foster, William Fichtner and Sharlto Copley, and considering the strength of Blomkamp’s last science fiction-meets-immigration law film, there is no reason not to believe this will be great.
Gravity (October 18)
Alfonso Cuaron hasn’t directed a film since 2006’s aggressively brilliant Children of Men, so any new film from him would be something to celebrate regardless of subject matter. The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space trying to return to Earth as their air slowly runs out. We’ve heard word that the film will take place in real time, which is a device that isn’t used enough these days. We’ve seen even less of this than we’ve seen of Elysium or Much Ado About Nothing, but that doesn’t matter. Cuaron has not proved us wrong yet.
The World’s End (October 25)
Edgar Wright returns to the British side of the pond and reunites with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (plus Martin Freeman, because what’s a British film without Martin Freeman these days?) for his next film, a tale about five friends reuniting later in their lives to recreate an epic pub crawl terminating at a pub called The World’s End. We know that Edgar Wright is up to no good, and after skewering zombie films (Shaun of the Dead), buddy cop films (Hot Fuzz), and superheroes/indie romance/Canadians (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World), it seems likely that Mr. Wright is turning his eye toward disaster movies for his next project. This is exciting, and with the looming Marvel juggernaut Ant Man on the horizon, it’ll be nice to see Wright get back to what made him in the first place.
Twelve Years a Slave (Fall: US Release TBD)
Any time Steve McQueen (the director of Michael Fassbender vehicles Hunger and Shame) releases a film, I will take notice. When the film has a cast like this one, it goes beyond simple anticipation to a sort of agony, where days that occur before this film is released seem to be some kind of cruel joke. In addition to McQueen’s muse Fassbender, the film also stars Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Scoot McNairy (a man quickly making a name for himself after strong performances in Killing Them Softly and Argo last year) and the father-daughter team from Beasts of the Southern Wild, Dwight Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis, among others. It literally does not matter what this film is about (for those not already sold, it concerns a New York man kidnapped and sold into slavery during the mid-1800s). It just needs to be released. Like now.
Only God Forgives (US Release TBD)
Chronologically the final film of the Year of Gosling, this time Mr. Gosling reteams with his Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn for a film about underground Thai boxing. It’s made waves partially for the Drive connection, but mostly for its poster, consisting of a black and white picture of Gosling whose face has seen better days. Like Twelve Years a Slave, this should be gold purely based on the pedigree of its young up and coming director, and while it doesn’t have the same overwhelming caliber of established actors in the cast, I expect big things.