In which I shamelessly cheat by doubling-up on some choices.
This movie scares me. Jackie Robinson is not only one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game, but he’s one of the most important figures of the civil rights era. His story has all the right elements to make a truly phenomenal biopic, but there’s something second-rate looking about this film. Grumpy Guts himself, Harrison Ford, stars as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers executive who signed Robinson, and Chadwick Boseman (The Express) stars as Jackie Robinson, but the dialogue is cheesy and schmaltzy, exactly the wrong tone for a story as dramatic as Robinson’s. You really don’t need to heighten anything when it comes to this one.
I really loved John Michael McDonagh’s debut film, The Guard in 2011. Re-teaming with The Guard star Brendon Gleeson, and bringing Chris O’Dowd and Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan and Anna Karenina breakout) along, McDonagh’s new movie is about a kindly priest who has to deal with basically the worst parishioners ever. I’m way into Irish comedies and McDonagh is proving to be every bit as interesting as his brother, Martin (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths).
From the mind of Nick Frost (Attack the Block, Hot Fuzz) and starring Frost, Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and Rashida Jones, Cuban Fury is being billed as a “salsa dance revenge flick”.
A SALSA DANCE REVENGE FLICK.
David O. Russell Abscam project
Though it’s not yet in production I’m 90% sure David O. Russell will get this done in time for a 2013 release. Not only does he work fast, but Russell is riding a win streak after back-to-back Oscar nominees with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, so financing and distribution shouldn’t be a problem. Plus he’s already got a script and a dream cast compromised of Russell veterans Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, and new-to-the-troupe Jeremy Renner. Based on the 1970’s FBI sting spearheaded by a conman and an unhinged agent, the Abscam operation ended up tanking a US congressman. It’s got all the makings of a now-standard Russell dramedy.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His & Hers
The sheer conceit of this! First time features writer/director Ned Benson has two whole films, one from his POV and one from hers, cataloguing a New York couple’s relationship. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy star as the couple, but I’m way more fascinated by how this is going to work in theatrical release than by the cast or plot. Do they marathon the two films together? Release one then the other a few weeks later? And who gets to go first—him or her?
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo made a movie together. And Mark Ruffalo looks like this:
But it’s based on the story of a rich nutcase who sponsored, then killed, an Olympic wrestler. (I shouldn’t be so cavalier—the guy had schizophrenia for real.)
Wong Kar-Wai’s long-awaited martial arts epic is FINALLY arriving. It’s been a Malick-esque process getting this to screen. The Grandmaster is the story of Ip Man, the kung fu master who trained Bruce Lee. Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang costar.
Alexandre Aja has distinguished himself as one of the more interesting writer/directors on the horror scene, and I’m intrigued by the early looks at his adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel about a man who loses his girlfriend then wakes up one day having sprouted a pair of small horns. Horns stars Daniel Radcliffe, who is certainly making some interesting post-Potter choices.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers latest effort centers on the 1960’s New York folk scene and stars Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan, which is enough to get me interested, despite the presence of that twat Justin Timberlake.
Iron Man 3/Thor: The Dark World
I’m hoping that a new director (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s Shane Black, who also collaborated on the script) can goose the Iron Man franchise back in line with the first Iron Man and Tony Stark’s appearance in The Avengers, and make up for the let down of Iron Man 2. They certainly have rich material–#3 is going to take on Tony’s darkest days in the Extremis story arc. As for Thor 2, #1 was the weakest entry into the pre-Avengers canon, so I’m curious to see how the continued world building in Asgard goes, as well what precisely Loki’s character arc is going to be. Also, both movies will be dealing with the fallout from the events of The Avengers, especially Iron Man 3, and it’ll be interesting to see how the characters evolve as Avengers.
James Gray (The Yard, We Own the Night) is an American writer and director who has found more appreciation and commercial consideration in Europe, particularly France, than he has at home. That seems poised to change in 2013, though, with Lowlife, the story of an immigrant woman in early 20th century America (Marion Cotillard) who gets tricked into prostitution by a scuzzbucket (Gray’s muse, Joaquin Phoenix), at least until a magician—yes, a magician—shows up to save her. Jeremy Renner returns to his character actor roots as the magician after his two-year foray into action movies, and The Weinstein Company already picked this up in 2012 and held it for the 2013 award season. An early film market teaser showed moody, evocative street scenes but there’s really no telling how it’ll turn out. I find Gray hit or miss, narratively.
Man of Steel
I just want to see if it works. Superman, like Captain America, is inherently boring—there’s no question he will always do the right thing and he’s virtually indestructible to boot—but Clark Kent’s Earth dad suggesting it might be better to let busloads of kids die in order to protect his secret is certainly an interesting and new take on the usually salt-of-the-Earth Kents. Also, I want to see if Zach Snyder can direct something that doesn’t play like a hyped-up teenaged boy’s rape fantasy (see also: Sucker Punch, 300, Watchmen).
The Monuments Men
George Clooney gets back behind the camera in another true-life story, this time about a group of art historians who worked to save priceless stolen art from being destroyed by Hitler at the end of World War II. The cast is loaded—Clooney stars along with Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray and John Goodman—but Robert Edsel’s book of the same name (from which Clooney and his producing partner, Grant Heslov, drew their script) is a fascinating read, and this should be a plum bit of award bait come next winter.
Now You See Me/The Double
Jesse Eisenberg has a pair of interesting comedies this year, starting with summer’s Now You See Me, about a gang of magicians (seriously, 2013 is The Year of the Illusionist) who commit heists during their shows and then give the cash to their audiences. It’s a high concept vehicle, to be sure, but it costars Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent and the rising Dave Franco, who is, at the point, the Better Franco. The Double is also high-concept—a man goes insane after discovering his doppelganger—but its real interest lies with its director. Richard Ayoade, best known as Moss from Britain’s The IT Crowd (the show that launched Chris O’Dowd), proved a capable director with 2011’s charming Submarine. I’m intrigued to see where Ayoade goes next as a filmmaker, and also to see if The Double is a better vehicle for his comedic talents than The Watch proved to be.
Only God Forgives/The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling appeared in no films in 2012. Seems hard to believe, given how ubiquitous he is these days, doesn’t it? But he didn’t actually have a new film last year. 2013, though, sees The Gos reunited with the two directors who have pulled his best work out of him recently, Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance and Drive’s Nicolas Windig Refn. First up is Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, which co-stars Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, and later this year we’ll get Refn’s Forgives, which has a new, intense teaser. They both look really solid, but I preferred Drive to Valentine, so I’m a wee bit more into Forgives than Pines.
The plot of these movies is actually irrelevant. What’s more interesting is that they both represent much-admired Korean filmmakers moving into Hollywood work. Snowpiercer comes from Joon-ho Bong and is his first English-language work (though there will still be some subtitles, as it’s adapted from a French graphic novel). It’s a sci-fi concept about a post-apocalyptic future (courtesy global warming) in which the remaining fragments of humanity live on a train. I know it sounds dumb but it stars the unlikely match-up of Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans, and Bong is a very stylish director with a solid sense of pace and tension. Snowpiercer should be a pretty cool movie, at the very least.
Stoker is a Southern Gothic drama and is Chan-wook Park’s directorial effort (he produced Snowpiercer) from Wentworth Miller’s script (yes, Prisonbreak’s Wentworth Miller) about a girl who is drawn to the mysterious uncle who arrives in the wake of her father’s death. It’s got a top-notch cast with Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, but I’m curious to see how Park—best known for his ultra-violent “Vengeance Trilogy”—handles the slower and subtler paces of a family drama. One thing is for sure, though—Park is a master composer of shots, so Stoker will be gorgeous viewing.
Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m actually not into this at all right now, because of JJ Abrams’ obnoxious marketing campaign of SUPER BIG SECRETS, but from what little we have seen, Benedict Cumberbatch looks to have the makings of a righteous villain. I’m into that.
Trance/Welcome to the Punch/Filth
James McAvoy was the hottest thing coming out of Britain in 2007/2008, but then he had to step back from his career, and though he didn’t stop working all together he slowed way down for a couple years and lost significant momentum. One agent told me The Fassbender should thank McAvoy every day for taking a step to the right and opening up a path for him to break out in 2011, by which time McAvoy was expected to be THE leading young British talent. McAvoy is coming back, though, putting together the kind of breakout year he missed out on initially with not only the aforementioned Eleanor Rigby but a trio of interesting films. First up is Eran Creevy’s Hong Kong stylish Welcome to the Punch, with Danny Boyle’s heisty Trance due later and Bruce Robertson’s Filth expected to place as end-year award bait. McAvoy is in a unique position among his peers, and I’m curious to see how this of-a-sorts-comeback plays out.
Filmmaker Steve McQueen and his muse, Michael Fassbender, re-team for the third time, following 2011’s soul-crushing Shame with this true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man kidnapped in New York and sold into slavery. This should be an acting mammoth, with four of my best actors (Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup, The Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano) starring, along with Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Garrett Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy and Brad Pitt. Beasts of the Southern Wild was overrated, but newbie actors Dwight Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis were impressive, and they make their second appearances in this film. It sounds depressing as hell, and with McQueen behind the camera it’s sure to be a methodical dismantling of humanity, but it has the right ingredients to be one of the best of the year.
The World’s End
Edgar Wright closes out his “Cornetto Trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz having come before) with the story of a group of friends on a pub crawl as the apocalypse unfolds. It stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as Cornetto bit players Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine promoted to larger roles. Do you really need anything more?
A little less interesting in 2013
A Winter’s Tale, About Time, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, Behind the Candelabra, The Counselor, Elysium/Pacific Rim, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Kick Ass: Balls to the Wall, Nebraska, Only Lovers Left Alive, Out of the Furnance, Rush, Saving Mr. Banks, Warm Bodies
Most dreaded film of 2013
World War Z
Ugh. It’s going to suck.