Friday, January 4, 2013

My 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

Since I have some time to kill while waiting for the last few 2012 films to open in my area, I figured I’d look forward to the films from 2013. This is probably a slightly different list than many of the others you have read – mostly because I don’t necessarily look forward to the big blockbusters. Sure, I want to see Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Catching Fire or Iron Man 3 as much as anyone, but those types of films aren’t the ones that I look forward to most. The following 25 films are:

25. Pacific Rim (Guillermo Del Toro)
Ok, so you can throw out what I JUST wrote about not looking forward to the blockbusters (there are a couple on this list), because after all Pacific Rim is about giant aliens invading Earth and being fought off by giant robots. Yes, it sounds big, dumb and stupid. But it’s directed by Guillermo Del Toro a great director of sci-fi, fantasy and horror films. No, this is probably not going to be as good as Del Toro’s best films – Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone – but it sure the hell should be better than Transformers.

24. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller)
It’s taken Rodriguez and Miller a hell of a lot longer than anyone anticipated to make the sequel to their 2005 Sin City. That film was ground-breaking in many ways, and contained some great performances and is one of the most visually dazzling films in recent memory. So while Rodriguez has not come close to making a film as good since (and the less said about Frank Miller’s solo directorial effort The Spirit the better). The thing I most excited about – Mickey Rourke is back, despite the obvious problem of him being killed in the first movie (yes, this is a prequel, or at least based on one of the earlier graphic novels).

23. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright is a nerd’s nerd filmmaker. He has turned down many big offers from Hollywood to continue making his own brand film. This will apparently complete his trilogy –the first two being Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – as he reteams with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to make this film about some doofus’ on a pub crawl who somehow become Earth’s only hope for survival. Not sure how or why, but I don’t care. The first two films in this trilogy are absolutely hilarious, so I’m sure this will be good.

22. Lowlife (James Gray)
James Gray can be a great director at times – he’s one of those American directors Europeans seem to love more than his own countrymen. His latest stars Jeremy Renner, Marion Cottillard and Joaquin Phoenix (who is in most of Gray’s films) and is about an immigrant tricked into a life of burlesque, until a magician helps her out. Could be wonderful, could be crap, but with this director and cast, I cannot wait to find out which it is.

21. Stoker (Park Chan-wook)
Park Chan-wook is South Korea’s premiere director of the fucked up. From Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance to Oldboy to Lady Vengeance to Thirst, the man makes some of the most screwed up, violent mind fucks of any director in the world. This is his English language debut – a family vampire film starring Mia Wachowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. The trailer is a killer – and I love the Hitchcock reference of naming Goode “Uncle Charlie”. Foreign filmmakers coming to America have a VERY mixed track record, but I want to find out how he fares.

20. The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann)
Count me as someone who isn’t sure that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel needs the Baz Luhrmann treatment. Yet the cast of this – Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher has me thinking perhaps this could be great. Plus, when they made a more traditional version of the novel, the result was a fine, but somewhat dull film. And besides, Luhrmann is incapable of making a boring film – a bad one, sure, but not a boring one.

19. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)
When this was announced as part of the TIFF lineup, I was sorry I couldn’t fit it into my yearly excursion. The reviews coming out of the festival were extremely mixed, which knocked it down this list a little. Still, this has Ryan Gosling reteaming with Blue Valentine’s writer-director Derek Cianfrance (and that was one of the very best films of 2010) – and I love a good crime drama, so I’m holding off judgement until I see this one.

18. Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola)
Normally a film about celebrity obsessed teenagers robbing the celebrities they are obsessed with would not rank for me on a list like this. Then again, normally a Sofia Coppola film would rank much higher on a list like this – so I split the difference. I actually think this could be a good thing for Coppola. As much as I like her “pretty girls under glass” of her first four films, I think it may do her some good to lighten up. And a cast that includes Leslie Mann, Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga is a good thing.

17. Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
No, this is not a remake of Arthur Penn’s underrated crime movie (but that would be cool – if Kelly Reichardt was making it). This is a movie about three environmentalists (Jessie Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) who plot to blow up a dam. Reichardt has become one of the most interesting indie filmmakers around these days with her last three films – Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff. She has yet to make a mainstream splash – and unless she changes her subtle, low-key style, that’s not going to change. But she’s a critical favorite, and I love her work, so I anticipate anything she does.

16. Elysium (Neil Bloomkamp)
By the time Elysium (which may or not be called Baja Dunes) hits theaters this August, it will have been 4 years since Bloomkamp’s brilliant sci-fi/action debut District 9 hit screens. That’s a long enough wait for people like me who loved his blending of genres with a social message. He’s got a bigger budget – and movie stars – this time around in this movie set in 2159, where the wealthy live in space, and the poor on the nearly destroyed Earth – until Matt Damon comes along to kick ass. It’s always good to have Jodie Foster in a movie, and adding Sharlto Copley, District 9’s leading man, makes this even one I cannot wait to see.

15. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
This time, Jesse and Celine meet up in Greece – 9 years after the end of Before Sunset, where we left the two of them only knowing that Jesse was going to miss his plane home. I may not be as big a fan of these movies as others are (meaning simply that while I love both earlier films, I don’t think they are the absolute masterpieces many do), but I cannot wait to see this ongoing saga between these two would be lovers who can never seem to get it right. Both Hawke and Delphy could use a great movie, and Linklater is coming off one of his best in Bernie, so this should be interesting.

14. Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier)
The only thing we know for sure about the latest von Trier movie is that unlike most of his recent efforts, it won’t be debuting at Cannes, because his comments about Nazis while promoting Melancholia there got he deemed “persona non grata” there. Oh, and that it stars Trier favorite Charlotte Gainsbourg as a Nymphomaniac recounting her story, and will feature actual sex. The supporting cast includes Stellan Skarsgaard, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, Connie Nielsen and Willem Dafoe. As always, Trier is courting controversy, but he does so better than most. A new Trier film is an event.

13. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
It took Payne seven years to follow-up Sideways with The Descendants – and only two to follow that one up, so that’s certainly an improvement. Also refreshing, Payne’s latest features some great actors – but no real movie stars. Bruce Dern gets a plum role (and judging on his one scene cameo in Django Unchained, he’s up for it) as an alcoholic who travels to see his son to claim a Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize. Will Forte plays the son, and the underrated Stacy Keach is also in the film. Not sure what possessed Payne to make this film, but considering he is one of the humanist directors out there right now, I still cannot wait.

12. A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbjin)
Photographer turned filmmaker Anton Corbjin has two very good films under his belt – the musical biopic Control and the subdued hit man film The American. Judging on that later film, he is pretty much perfectly suited to the world of John LeCarre, so his film version of A Most Wanted Man becomes one of my most highly anticipated films of 2013. A great cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe and Barbara star Nina Hoss don’t hurt either.

11. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
Capote and Moneyball director Bennett Miller has been trying to get this movie made for years (hence why it took him so long to follow-up Capote), and it finally hits screens this year. The first choice for the lead role of a paranoid schizophrenic who murders an Olympic athlete was Gary Oldman, but when he wasn’t available they settled on the natural second choice – Steve Carrell. I actually think this will be good for Carrell – he normal guy schtick, why still funny, needs a rest. The rest of the cast – Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum and Vanessa Redgrave sound good as well – good enough anyway for me to overlook the casting of Sienna Miller, who I don’t really like. Moneyball was a director-for-hire job that Miller hit out of the park (sorry for the baseball pun), so this is his return to something he has seen through from the beginning – and I can’t wait.

10. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar Wai)
Wong Kar Wai is a master filmmaker, so I get excited about each and every one of his films. This one sounds like a departure for him though – a biopic of Ip Man – starring Wong favorite Tony Leung – the martial arts trainer. Two other Wong favorites – Zhang Ziyi and Chen Chang – are also in the film. Apparently this is opening in China soon (if it hasn’t already opened by the time I post this), so we should have word about its quality soon. But no matter what, a new Wong film is reason to celebrate.

9. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)
I have no idea what has taken Alfonso Cuaron so long to follow-up his masterpiece – Children of Men (2006) – but I’m just glad the wait it almost over. Once again, Cuaron is going the sci-fi route, this time in the story of two astronauts – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – who must try to get back to earth after debris crashes into their shuttle. The cast is small (only two other names are listed besides the star – both as a voice only), so this looks like we’ll be trapped in the shuttle right alongside these two. Of course, this could turn out to be another Apollo 13 – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but here’s hoping Cuaron has another masterwork up his sleeve.

8. The Counselor (Ridley Scott)
Cormac McCarthy wrote the original screenplay for Ridley Scott’s latest film – about a lawyer who “gets in over his head when he becomes involved with drug trafficking”. That’s all I know of the plot, but since McCarthy is one of my favorite writers – Scott can be a great director when he has a good screenplay – I cannot wait to see this. Oh, and because of the cast that includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris and Rosie Perez (where the hell has she been for the last 15 years?)

7. Her (Spike Jonze)
A new Spike Jonze film is always reason to get excited. Spike Jonze teaming up with Joaquin Phoenix could be too crazy to work, or it could be absolute genius. Phoenix plays a “lonely writer who develops an unlikely relationship with his operating system designed to meet his every need”. That sound’s freaking insane – as does the quality of the supporting cast – Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Samantha Morton. Jonze is 3-for-3 so far, so here’s hoping he can go 4-for-4.

6. August, Osage County (John Wells)
Normally, the new film by veteran TV producer John Wells (who has only directed one film, the average The Company Men) would be nowhere near this list. But the Tracy Letts play on which the movie was based remains my favorite live theater going experience ever – and Letts adapted his own play, which he did brilliantly for Bug and Killer Joe, so perhaps we just have to hope that Wells doesn’t fuck it up. Meryl Streep is given the brilliant matriarch role, and Julia Roberts plays her eldest daughter (it’s too bad they insisted on a movie star for that role, because Amy Morton aka Mrs. Tracy Letts OWNED that role on Broadway). The rest of the cast is also great – Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis (not always great, but perfect for her role), Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Dermont Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Misty Upton and Sam Sheperd is as solid as they come though. I am looking forward to this one greatly – and just hope it does the play justice.

5. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Nicolas Winding Refn’s last film, Drive, fulfilled the promise of his earlier work – the Pusher trilogy, Bronson and Valhalla Rising (the last of which I didn’t like at all, although it was good visually). This time, he reunited with star Ryan Gosling in this tale of “A Bangkok police detective and gangster settle their differences in a Thai boxing match”. With Refn, you know the film will be high on style and violence. The poster is already one of the most disturbing I’ve seen recently.

4. Oldboy (Spike Lee)
Normally, American remakes of foreign films wouldn’t make my list – but this one sounds to fascinating to not include. Spike Lee is a great director – even if it’s been a while since he made a great film – but remaking Park Chan-wook’s Korean shocker could be good for him. As good – the cast with Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olson, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson. It will be interesting to see just how closely this one resembles the original – with its graphic violence and disturbing, mind fuck of an ending, Oldboy didn’t get much of a release when it came out – although it is clearly a cult film. Here’s hoping for a commercial and more importantly an artistic comeback for Spike Lee.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
The latest film from Martin Scorsese is always going to be a big deal to me. He reteams with Leonardo DiCaprio for this tail of greed and corruption on Wall Street in the 1980s – based on the best-selling book, with a screenplay from Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terrence Winter. The supporting cast is intriguing as well – Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze and Jean Dujardin. It really doesn’t matter what the new Scorsese film is about – it will always be one of my most anticipated films of the year.

2. Twelve Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
With just two films – Hunger and Shame – British director Steve McQueen has become one of my favorite filmmakers working right now. This one, a period piece set in the mid-1800s is about a black man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep South. As Django Unchained and Lincoln proved this year, there is still a lot to tell about this period in American history. And the cast is great. Chiwetal Ejifor, Michael Fassbender (obviously), Brad Pitt, Dwight Henry, Quevenzhale Wallis, Paul Dano, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Garret Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy and Alfre Woodard. This one is going to be fascinating.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)
The latest film from the Coen Brothers, who for my money are probably the best filmmakers in the world right now. This one is a look at the folk scene of 1960s New York, with Oscar Isaac in the title role, and a supporting cast including Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, Adam Driver and F. Murray Abraham. Other than that, I really know nothing about the film, and that’s the way I like it with the Coens. Their films rank among the best and most original films of the last three decades, and each time out, they push themselves to do something different. I cannot wait to see this one.

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