In this fourth volume I look at a remake of an early 80s horror classic, a remake of a famed caper film, a second outing with the soldiers of the G.I. Joe division, the third chapter in the "Evangelion" cinematic saga, a fifth round of action for John McClane, a sixth trip behind the wheel for Dominic Toretto, and the umpteenth adaptation of Charles Dickens' greatest work.
There's also Channing Tatum in a wrestling singlet, a gangster movie with all the trimmings, several dark and twisted tales from the UK, several strange takes on young girls coming of age, both the latest feature and a re-release of an acclaimed classic from Japanese animators Studio Ghibli, and an Aussie filmmaker reinterpreting of one of the great American novels.
The Europa Report
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo, Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca
Director: Sebastián Cordero
Analysis: The most mysterious of next year's science-fiction films is this effort from Ecuadorian filmmaker Sebastián Cordero ("Ratas, Ratones, Rateros," "Crónicas"). The story involves six astronauts who go on a private mission to Jupiter's fourth moon, Europa, in search of extraterrestrial life. Shot in Brooklyn in late 2011, the cast is a mixture of international talent including Sharlto Copley ("District 9"), Michael Nyqvist ("Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol") and Christian Camargo ("Dexter"). "Battlestar Galactica" composer Bear McCreary is also onboard to do the score.
That's all that's really known about the film so far. No specific release date is set, even though viral marketing has begun. A teaser trailer released a few months ago showcased some great imagery - a real classic science-fiction feel akin to films like the underrated "2010: The Year We Make Contact" which also dealt with signs of life on Europa. However, the trailer was also frustratingly short and vague, not letting us in on the tone or the story beyond what we already knew. Still, the secrecy is to its advantage right now as it has gotten people talking.
Opens: April 12th 2013
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Director: Fede Alvarez
Analysis: Just over twenty years since "Army of Darkness" hit cinemas, the "Evil Dead" franchise finally returns to screen albeit in a very different form. After a decade of discussion about a fourth film, years of confusion over the franchise's fate, and months of hassle over a lawsuit from rivals trying to cash in on the brand - things finally became clear in 2011. It was then when director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell revealed they had seemingly given up on a fourth film with Campbell's Ash character.
Instead, they had finally settled on a script they all approved of for a remake of the original 1981 low-budget classic. Raimi and Rodo Sayagues penned this version, while Diablo Cody came in to give it a final polish. The story involves a group of teenagers who go to a cabin in the woods and find a mysterious book that unwittingly summons up dormant demons living in the nearby woods. Initially cast as the lead character, Lily Collins had to drop out and was ultimately replaced by "Suburgatory" star Jane Levy.
The original "Evil Dead" set out with a serious tone in mind, but became better known for it elements of unintentionally comedic and over-the-top gore. Said elements became the focus of the much more outright comedic sequels. The biggest change with the remake, aside from a much larger budget of $14 million, is that the tone is quite different. Under Raimi's guidance as producer, acclaimed Uruguayan short film director Fede Alvarez came onboard to direct. The result is a film that plays it very serious and very dark.
While the visual look is akin to today's torture porn horror features, reports from the set and footage of the final product indicate the production is keeping many of the key scenes that made the original so memorable. From the tree rape to the possessed hand, the difference here is the gore is much more icky and realistic. Alvarez made it a point to use only practical effects on the film, especially in terms of the key elements. The result seems to work though as fans of the series brought the house down at the film's Comic Con presentation this year in San Diego. On chat boards and Twitter, a lot have expressed an eagerness to check it out rather than treating it with the usual scepticism that most horror remakes receive.
Opens: May 24th 2013
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans
Director: Justin Lin
Analysis: Who would have thought it? By the fifth entry in a film series, the audience knows what to expect and those in charge aren't keen to shake things up lest they chip away at their fan base. That's why 2011's "Fast Five" came as quite a shock with its fresh and fun approach. The filmmakers essentially dumped the "Point Break"-lite storylines and niche underground street racing elements. Instead, they opted for a wide-appealing action-toned ensemble heist film with an international flavour. They also kept the elements that worked such as the key cast members, the flash cars, and the unintentional undercurrent of machismo meets homoeroticism.
This fifth film's grander locales, the ambitious and more practical set pieces, and some key casting additions all clicked beautifully - resulting in easily the most profitable film of the franchise with $626 million worldwide. It also scored many of the best reviews of the series, revitalising a brand that was seen as tired and over. As a result, both a sixth and seventh film in the series quickly went into development after those involved realised they would need more than one movie to tie up the storylines and characters.
A seventh film is a while off though, plans to shoot it back-to-back dumped shortly after they were first suggested, and "Fast Six" is being developed as its own beast. Story details are scarce, but it is certain that this will revolve around the group of characters from the last one re-assembling for another heist - this time in Europe. Dwayne Johnson's memorably macho Agent Luke Hobbs is also coming back, though the colder climate means we'll miss the light sweaty sheen he seemed to sport throughout F5.
Also back for this outing is Michelle Rodriguez's Letty, seemingly killed in the fourth film and revealed to be alive in the last one. Johnson's character gets a new agent in the form of MMA fighter Gina Carano who impressed with her debut performance this year in "Haywire." There's also "The Raid" actor Joe Taslim as a "cold-blooded killer who fights using martial arts and parkour."
If "Fast Five" lacked in one area it was the villain. While Johnson was a blast, Joaquim de Almeida's Brazilian drug lord and his anonymous henchmen were a bit of a wash. The filmmakers have instead come up with a different angle this time - a rival team attempting to pull off the same robbery. Well-groomed Welshman Luke Evans heads this group, the actor replacing the once linked Jason Statham. Shot in London, Los Angeles, Tenerife and Glasgow - this entry hits Memorial Day weekend and is expected to be one of Summer's box-office juggernauts.
A Field in England
Cast: Julian Barratt, Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith, Peter Ferdinando, Ryan Pope
Director: Ben Wheatley
Analysis: One filmmaker who has outright exploded onto the scene this year is Ben Wheatley. While his 2009 debut film "Down Terrace" scored him plenty of notice, his 2011 hitman drama meets crazy "Wicker Man" cult tale "Kill List" became an acclaimed cult hit by the time it opened internationally earlier this year. Boasting a chilling atmosphere of dread and excellent performances, it is a stunning work that has easily made my 'Best Films of 2012' list.
Wheatley followed that up with the darkly comic "Sightseers" the other month which has already nabbed awards and strong reviews as well. For his 2013 effort, the filmmaker delivers a psychedelic horror yarn set during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The action follows a group of deserters who flee a battle. They soon encounter a treasure-hunting alchemist, and a patch of strange mushrooms - after which things take a turn for the decidedly weird.
Shot in black-and-white and filmed in the space of just two weeks on a field in Surrey, the film is currently in post ahead of a late 2013 release. Despite the dark sounding premise, there will likely be humorous elements as well as Wheatley is employing various British TV comedy talents in supporting roles. Wheatley jokes that "there's quite a lot of penises in it, and quite a lot of muskets." Sounds like plenty of cocks and cocking for everyone - fantastic.
Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan
Director: Jon S. Baird
Analysis: Jon S. Baird ("Cass") adapts "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh's controversial "Filth" for the big screen, with actor James McAvoy no doubt relishing the chance to play a bipolar bigoted junkie Edinburgh cop. The character is an utterly despicable prick, a sexually abusive misogynist who would be the absolute worst kind of co-worker. It's an odd leading character, but that's the nature of the surreal black comedy within the book itself - the kind where a tapeworm living inside the main character gets its own monologue.
Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan and a ton of other great British actors all pop up for roles in the film which starts out dealing with a murder, and ultimately becomes a complicated storyline about ex-wives and the cop's own past. It's an ambitious film and a highly secretive one which was shot early 2012 and is still awaiting a concrete release date. McAvoy's performance will likely draw high praise, the question is if the rest of the film around him will either be a piece of inspired genius or an eccentric outright failure.
Cast: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Bennett Miller
Analysis: "Capote" director Bennett Miller, and that film's scribes E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, re-team for this true crime drama. Steve Carell has been cast as John du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical fortune and a paranoid schizophrenic who built a wrestling gym called Team Foxcatcher on his Pennsylvania estate so that the U.S. Olympic team could train. In 1996, he shot and killed his close friend, gold medal-winning wrestler David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), at the training centre.
After the murder, du Pont locked himself in his mansion for two days while he negotiated with police on the telephone. A motive for the crime was never established, and du Pont himself died in 2010 in a Pennsylvania prison at the age of 72. Also onboard are Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller as Schultz's brother and wife respectively. Tatum has said that the film is the single most challenging acting role of his career so far.
Currently shooting in Pennsylvania, photos leaked from the set are surprising. While Tatum looks much like he always has, Ruffalo sports an interesting half-bald hairdo. Carell meanwhile has lost a bunch of weight and greyed his hair, becoming almost recognisable in the process. Boasting a stellar supporting cast and Miller's track record, this looks like it could be a potential awards contender next year.
Cast: Katie Coseni, Ali Liebert, Claire Mazerolle, David Patrick Green, Kent Nolan
Director: Laurent Cantet
Analysis: Previously adapted into a 1996 film that marked one of the earliest roles for Angelina Jolie, Joyce Carol Oates’ novel "Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang" follows five young girls who form their own 'gang' celebrating female pride. They start by carrying out what is initially basic pranks and mild vandalism, but it soon escalates to assault, car theft and ultimately kidnapping.
The earlier film made numerous changes to the book including swapping the setting from 1950s upstate New York to the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. The timeline was compressed from years to weeks, the girls come from nicer homes, and the stunts they pull are fairly tame. This version marks "The Class" director Cantet’s English language debut and sticks closer to the source material including keeping the original 50's NYC setting and the darker tone.
The cast are all unknowns, not even the supporting roles are filled out with any familiar names, so it all depends upon a strong script, direction and solid performances. Unfortunately reviews out of Toronto this past Fall were mixed at best. The acting has been slammed as inconsistent, the 143 minute runtime as needlessly excessive, and the tone as forced and inert. Though it has been picked up for distribution in Europe, it's still trying to find a home in the United States.
From Up On Poppy Hill
Opens: March 15th 2013
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Analysis: Studio Ghibli's latest feature, and the highest-grossing Japanese film of 2011 with a $56 million haul, finally comes to the United States and other western territories in early 2013. Much like "Only Yesterday" or "Ocean Waves," this is a smaller and quieter work from Ghibli with a real world setting and a youth-oriented focus. While this year's 'Arrietty' lovingly wallowed in the rich details of its 'world in miniature,' this one is all about recreating a simpler period in time.
Set in 1963 Yokohama in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics the following year, the story follows a high school girl living in a boarding house. She and a boy who works for the newspaper club decide to clean up the school's dilapidated 'Latin Quarter' clubhouse. Unfortunately the school's chairman intends to demolish the building and they must try to persuade him to change his mind.
Based on a 1980s manga, the helmer is Goro Miyazaki who is the son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki who co-founded the studio. Goro's first directorial effort, "Tales from Earthsea," is generally considered the worst film to have come out of the Japanese animation studio so far. Thankfully 'Poppy Hill' has received a more impressive reception, but the few early non-Japanese publication reviews from film festival screenings are still calling it mid-range Ghibli at best.
Pacing issues and awkwardly forced moments seem to be the most common criticisms, but all praise the film's atmosphere and historical period recreation. Also, a run-of-the-mill Ghibli film is still better than 90% of the other animated efforts on the market. The 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami almost stopped the film's production in its tracks, but Miyazaki and his animators pressed on, claiming it was their responsibility to do so. Despite the problems, they met their target date.
Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are producing this North American audio dub which includes such voice talents as Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson, Chris Noth, Isabelle Fuhrman, Emily Osment, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks and Aubrey Plaza amongst others.
Opens: November 27th 2013
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Analysis: They made a fortune off of his "The Little Mermaid," now Disney Pictures is tackling the Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" in this 3D CG animated musical fantasy-comedy that will open in time for Thanksgiving 2013. Kristen Bell voices the twelfth Disney Princess, Anna the Ice Princess. When Anna is cursed by her estranged sister, the cold-hearted Snow Queen Elsa (Menzel), her only hope of reversing it is to survive a perilous, but thrilling journey across an icy and unforgiving landscape.
Joining her is the rugged, thrill-seeking outdoorsman Kristoff (Groff), his one-antlered reindeer and a hapless snowman. She must conquer the elements and battle an army of frozen sinister warriors if she ever hopes to melt the Queen's frozen heart. All three are expected to sing and speak in their roles, with the original songs provided by Broadway's Robert Lopez ("Avenue Q") and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
The Frozen Ground
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Radha Mitchell, 50 Cent
Director: Scott Walker
Analysis: On paper this $27 million thriller has a strong premise. The true story centers on the early 80's investigation of Robert Hansen (Cusack), a respected family man who systematically abducted some two dozen women and flew them into the Alaskan wilderness where he released and then hunted them.
The film will follow the case and the investigations of an Alaskan State Trooper (Cage) who, with the help of one of Hansen's victims who escaped (Hudgens), sets out to bring the man to justice. Shot in and around Anchorage, the stark scenery combined with the fact that this actually happened makes for a compelling tale. Yet newcomer Walker's script has received some mixed reviews.
The casting of the likes of Cage, Hudgens and 50 Cent brings all sorts of baggage, and producer Emmett Furla Films have so far released various disappointing thrillers. Cage's record in this genre of late - "Seeking Justice," "Trespass," and "Stolen" - has been terrible, even with decent casts involved in each. A leaked and then pulled early promo trailer showed good footage, but did the film no favors with some god awful editing. The delay of this from December to an unspecified early 2013 date is also not a good sign, but I hope it will surprise.
Cast: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci
Director: Michael Hoffman
Analysis: A remake of the classic 1966 crime caper film with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, this new version comes from the pen of the Coen Brothers. Opting not to direct, several helmers were attached in recent years until "The Last Station," "Soapdish," and "Promised Land" director Michael Hoffman was locked down and shooting took place in 2011.
The original starred Caine as a cat burglar who uses the help of a Hong Kong showgirl (MacLaine) to steal a priceless antique from the world's richest man (Herbert Lom), and everything that can go wrong does. This new take replaces them with Firth as a British art curator and Diaz as a Texas rodeo queen who team to sell off a fake Monet painting to England's richest man (Alan Rickman).
Producer Mike Lobell has been trying to get the film made for over a decade. The Coens' script was long considered one of the great unproduced scripts circling Hollywood since it was first penned back in 2003. On the flip side, their last attempt to adapt a classic British caper film was "The Ladykillers" which is often considered the worst film the duo has ever made.
Will this be a repeat? Opening in the UK last month, the film got slammed by critics for having no actual laughs, despite the often puerile jokes. Recurring comments include the leads having no chemistry, half-hearted performances all around, and frequent failed attempts to play out very dated broad farce and screwball comedy to no effect. Already at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, this looks to be dead on arrival.
Opens: January 11th 2013
Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Analysis: An impressively cast ensemble true story crime drama, Fleischer's film follows a secret "off the record" police task force in the 1940s and 50s as they try to keep the east coast mob from moving into Los Angeles. In particular, high-profile gangster Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen (Penn) who was a member of the so-called "Jewish Mafia."
Joining the actor names mentioned above in supporting roles are the likes of Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Troy Garity. Former L.A. cop and novelist Will Beall penned the script which "Zombieland" helmer Fleischer directs. Fleischer says he aims to make an iconic gangster movie that uses the L.A. setting as a key element of the action.
Considering Fleischer's career has been made on mostly action comedies, many were wondering how he would go handling both dramatic and period elements. The first trailers came out and the surprise was mostly about the glossy sheen on display - it's a stylised and flashy piece which plays up the period elements and look - think a more glamorous and less complicated "L.A. Confidential." Fleischer admitted they took some liberties with the true story aspect which is ultimately about the Penn/Brolin face-off for the future of Los Angeles.
Things changed in July though in the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. The key set piece of the movie involved mob goons shooting submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen of Grauman's Chinese Theater. The scene was featured prominently in the trailer, a trailer that was quickly yanked from release. The sequence is crucial to the story though, which caused the studio to call in everyone for a week of reshoots which shifted the setting of the gunfight to L.A.'s Chinatown district.
This pushed the film back from its original early Fall bow to a January release date. Costing a fairly high $75 million, the studio now faces another problem in the form of a media re-examining the influence of violent movies in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. As the first major movie release of the year, this has become an unexpected gamble for the studio. A carefully considered campaign has to be in place as things move forward, and hopefully the film itself will be strong enough that people will consider it on its own merit.
Opens: February 1st 2013
Cast: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri
Director: Dror Moreh
Analysis: Dror Moreh's acclaimed documentary explores Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service - the domestic counterpart to its more well-known external intelligence branch the Mossad. Inspired by Errol Morris’s Oscar-winning documentary "The Fog of War," which extensively interviewed famed U.S. Defense secretary Robert McNamara, Moreh decided to try something similar and even more ambitious. His goal was to get at least several of the former heads of Shin Bet to appear on camera and discuss their work.
The surprise is that he was able to land six of them to participate, including Yuval Diskin who was in charge of the organisation at the time of the interview. Assembled in a loose chronological order, the film consists of seven segments which cover key events such as the agency's rise to prominence during the Six Day War, the "300 bus" incident, the assassinations of Yahya Ayyash and Yitzhak Rabin, and the peace process in the wake of the Oslo Accords and during the Second Intifada.
Issues of torture, collateral damage and the morality of targeted assassinations are also delved into, and result in some surprisingly personal confessions from these former giants of what remains a highly secretive organisation. It took three years to produce the final film which assembles interview footage, archival footage and CG animated recreations. The result drew unanimous raves from critics at the various film festivals it played at during the Fall. Sony Classics are now giving it a limited theatrical bow in early February.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Opens: March 29th 2013
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson
Director: Jon Chu
Analysis: Stephen Sommers' 2009 franchise launcher "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" was like much of the director's work - overstuffed with characters and ridiculous in the extreme. It was a CG-fuelled kiddie movie of cartoonish violence and sillier performances that bore very little relation to the actual G.I. Joe toy and cartoon franchise. Grossing $300 million worldwide on a costly budget of $175 million, Paramount's announcement of a sequel surprised many.
"Zombieland" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the script, "Step Up" series director Jon Chu took over the helm, and the cast underwent a big shake-up with only five actors from the first film - Channing Tatum, Lee Byung-hun, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo and Jonathan Pryce - reprising their roles here. Instead, both The Rock and Bruce Willis have been enlisted with the latter playing the original Joe himself - General Joe Colton.
What can be seen is something a bit more grounded in reality than the previous film - less about Saharan secret bases and super CG submersibles, and more about straightforward action.
The plot is fairly routine - the G.I. Joes are framed as traitors and are all seemingly wiped out. The few that remain must stop Cobra from taking control of nuclear missiles and launching them at various cities. Even so, there's still a goofy appeal here with sequences such as ninjas sword fighting whilst hanging from ropes along the sides of a sheer cliff.
The film made major headlines back in May when, one month before its scheduled release, it was pushed back a whopping nine months. Officially the delay was to both add 3D and boost the international marketing campaign. Unofficially, word was that test screenings for the film did not go so well. Some extensive reshoots were done to work back in Channing Tatum's character who originally died quite early on in the film. Between the time of shooting and the time of release, Tatum's star had soared and he suddenly became a big asset.
It is expected he will now take on a more substantial role in the final product. With a budget hovering at around $185 million, this is a big gamble for Paramount. Ultimately though they did the right thing, giving the film necessary breathing room instead of letting it become a casualty at this year's overcrowded Summer box-office. How the final product will fare we'll have to wait and see, but for now I've considerably more anticipation for this sequel than I had for anything I saw in the lead up to the first film.
Girl Most Likely
Opens: July 19th 2013
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annette Benning, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Analysis: Many of us suspected it would only be a matter of time before former SNL star Kristen Wiig broke out and made it big - in 2011 she did just that with the success of "Bridesmaids". Now she's been able to translate that success into making this passion project which she's been keen to do for some time. She's also managed to convince Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who helmed HBO's "Cinema Verite," to come onboard and direct it.
Previously titled "Imogene," Wiig plays a modestly successful New York playwright who stages a fake suicide attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately this leads to her being put into the custody of her estranged and gambling-addicted mother (Benning) to try and shake some sense back into her. Thrown into the mix is her outright odd brother (Chris Fitzgerald), a hunky tenant (Darren Criss), and her mom’s new boyfriend who claims to be a CIA agent (Matt Dillon).
Reviews out of Toronto were mixed with a lot of praise for the performances, especially Wiig giving a low-key and subtle take, that overcome the deficiencies of Michelle Morgan's script. Described as sitcom-esque and contrived, with jokes revolving around the differences between New Jersey and New York residents, reactions varied considerably depending upon how the reviewers felt about the actors. All had issues with the story and dramatic turn of the third act, the degree to which they complained though varied considerably.
A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III
Opens: February 8th 2013
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Katheryn Winnick, Patricia Arquette
Director: Roman Coppola
Analysis: It's interesting how timing works out. Ten years ago Roman Coppola's debut film "CQ" opened to solid reviews and little box-office, meaning that it quietly disappeared. Now, back with his second feature, this one is guaranteed not to suffer the same unfair fate. Even with a high profile cast though, the sad fact is that attention is being paid due to its leading man - Charlie Sheen. Not only does this mark his first major onscreen role since leaving "Two and a Half Men" and the subsequent tabloid meltdown, the story seems to mirror aspects of his life.
In 'Swan,' Sheen plays a successful 1970s graphic designer who is irresistible to women. He soon slinks into a spiral of self-doubt and depression after being dumped, and must turn his life around. If it works, this could put Sheen firmly back on the comeback trail. While some frown upon his ego and personality, the man still has a major fan base which will likely come out in force for this. Add in a raft of impressive cameos, even some of the Sheen-haters might take a look as well.
Screened at the Rome Film Festival, reviews were actually pretty good, with plenty of praise for the period recreation and the film's production values. The full on fantasy scenes, infantile and sexualised dreams that the character becomes a part of to escape his despair, sound like fun. Script issues however, namely the lack of both a solid story and the title character's development, were cited as the film's major drawbacks.
Gods Behaving Badly
Cast: Christopher Walken, Alicia Silverstone, Oliver Platt, Sharon Stone, Edie Falco
Director: Marc Turtletaub
Analysis: "Percy Jackson: A Romantic Comedy"? Sounds like it with this film adaptation of Marie Phillips' comedic novel which sets up the premise that the Greek Gods are alive, dysfunctional and living in a brownstone in modern London (which will be changed to New York City for this film). It's there that a young couple (Silverstone and Ebon Moss-Bachrach) encounter them and soon their budding relationship, and the world as we know it, threatens to crumble.
The book scored a lot of praise for its comedy - the gods portrayed as seedy, down on their luck has-beens. An impressive cast are set to play the Olympian pantheon including Christopher Walken (Zeus), John Turturro (Hades), Sharon Stone (Aphrodite), Oliver Platt (Apollo), Edie Falco (Artemis), Phylicia Rashad (Demeter), Nelsan Ellis (Dionysus), Gideon Glick (Eros), Henry Zebrowski (Hermes) and Rosie Perez (Persephone).
As a premise it's quite promising, and actually would be better suited for a sitcom rather than a one-off film. The question now is if debut director Marc Turtletaub has the chops to keep the edge and humor or if it will be toned down in order to appeal to more regular rom-com fans. Whatever the case, the film has seen some delays as it was shot in Summer 2011, and then underwent reshoots a few months ago. Independently funded, it's only expected to get a limited release sometime early in 2013.
A Good Day to Die Hard
Opens: February 14th 2013
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Sebastian Koch, Amaury Nolasco
Director: John Moore
Analysis: After twelve years of dormancy, 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard" revived the franchise. The lack of director John McTiernan, lack of Bruce Willis' hair, the toning down of the violence to PG-13 levels, and some CG assisted athleticism gave the film a different feel to those that had come before. Still, the critics liked it, and the worldwide box-office was solid with a $383.5 million haul. Good enough that Fox soon began work on a fifth entry in the series.
With the fourth film introducing us to a now adult Lucy McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it seemed logical that the fifth one would incorporate John's son Jack as a young adult. At the same time, there was talk that the action would be set outside the United States for the first time, allowing the fish-out-of-water comedy of seeing John McClane living up to the stereotype of the worst kind of tourist - loud, bombastic, arrogant and ignorant of the culture around him.
Lo and behold, the speculation was right with the plot revealed to involve John McClane heading to Moscow to find his wayward son. Turns out Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist by a Russian crime boss. Young Aussie actor Jai Courtney, seen in small roles in Starz' "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" and more recently "Jack Reacher," beat out more well-known names to play the younger McClane.
He's a solid choice, with more concern likely to be focused on the film's writer Skip Woods ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Swordfish") and director John Moore ("Max Payne," "Behind Enemy Lines"). While judgement is still out on the quality, the first trailers certainly impressed with the scale. From scenes of massive destruction including multiple car bomb explosions, to a helicopter gun ship soaring over a cityscape - it all looks quite flash.
Though there's an over reliance on CG, there's also a welcome return of the irreverence of the series that was sorely missed in the last film. In fact, the shot of a villain (Cole Hauser) using a carrot like an orchestra conductor's wand has become something of an internet sensation - go figure. Is this the end? Willis said he'd be open to do a sixth film, but that would be the final outing of John McClane. In the meantime, let's hope 'Good Day' proves as much fun as the other odd-numbered entries in this series.
Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen, Julian Cheung
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Analysis: AT LAST it's here. It took nearly a decade to get going, and years to complete, but the latest work from acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai ("In the Mood for Love," "Chungking Express") is finally arriving a full six years after his previous effort "My Blueberry Nights".
This $25 million Mandarin-language biopic of Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and master of the legendary Bruce Lee, began shooting back in December 2009. However, Wong's attention to even the tiniest detail meant it has stopped and started again numerous times with the delays frustrating many. Yuen Woo-ping is handling the fighting and choreography, an odd choice for the material some would say.
One factor not working in its favor is the over exposure of Yip Man himself in rival projects which managed to make it through production and into cinemas while this take was stuck in development hell. In the past four years there's been both "Ip Man" and "Ip Man 2" which starred Donnie Yen, not to mention the unrelated "The Legend is Born - Ip Man" with Dennis To - all three exploring different times in the man's life. It's confusing to casual viewers in regard to which version is which, so much so one wonders how many will think this is either a copycat of the franchise or even an "Ip Man 3".
Trailers so far have shown some startling and wondrous imagery, fantastical shot compositions with luscious use of slow motion and a more physical sense than we've come to expect from the filmmaker. The movie will have its world premiere on January 8th in China, ahead of an international festival debut mid-February at Berlinale.
Cast: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishé, Dee Wallace, Allen Leech
Director: Eugenio Mira
Analysis: "'Speed' at a piano" is the basic premise for this high-concept psychological thriller from "The Birthday" and "Agnosia" director Eugenio Mira. Despite being in English and starring both Elijah Wood and John Cusack, this is actually a Spanish production (from the producers of "Buried") that was shot in both Chicago and Alicante this Fall. The concept itself is one of those simple ones that makes you wish you had thought of it.
Wood plays a famed concert pianist, a virtuoso who was forced into early retirement because of crippling stage fright. Five years later he returns to the stage for a comeback performance. Moments before he begins to play, he discovers a note written on his music sheet - he must not stop playing, if he does both he and his wife will be killed. Somehow he has to find a way to alert someone to his predicament and save two lives - all whilst stuck in the one place giving a performance.
Opens: October 18th 2013
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Analysis: There were real struggles to get this 3D epic sci-fi action survival thriller off the ground with numerous casting changes, financial issues and behind-the-scenes kerfuffles. Finally, after much back and forth, filming got under way on a project that even James Cameron was too scared to touch because it was so ambitious and frankly insane. The challenges, however, haven't fazed "Children of Men" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" director Alfonso Cuaron.
The story follows brilliant medical engineer (Bullock) on her first shuttle mission, along with a veteran astronaut (Clooney). The pair are the sole survivors when debris destroys their space station. Their only chance of survival is to reach rescue before they run out of air. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, with one left alone and having to essentially hopscotch from satellites to vessels to floating debris - all the time facing hazards of all sorts.
It's an intense experience, little to no dialogue and essentially a one person feature for much of its runtime. Cuaron is trying to be as realistic as possible with the film, so much so that the actors won't be donning any kind of make-up which should prove interesting. In fact, the only live-action element we see for almost the entire film is the actor's faces in their fishbowl helmets.
The majority of the movie is completely CG animated, which has reportedly allowed for Cuaron to do some pretty astonishing things in terms of filmmaking (such as some REALLY long single takes). At least one of the effects houses that worked on the film called it the hardest project they have ever undertaken. Due to the amount of post-production on this, there's been some real confusion as to when we will see it. Those few who have seen it at test screenings have been reportedly quite startled and amazed. However, it's going to be a tricky project to market.
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Mike Newell
Analysis: This god-knows-what adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic boasts a strong cast of English actors with young pouty "War Horse" lead Irvine playing the new Pip, Fiennes as the escaped convict Magwitch, and Carter as the reclusive Miss Havisham.
For those who have never read or seen the story, it follows an orphan named Pip who falls for the adopted daughter of a wealthy spinster. He soon becomes a distinguished gentleman of society thanks to an anonymous benefactor. The big question of course is what new elements will "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" director Mike Newell and writer David Nicholls ("One Day") bring to this version to make it stand out.
Many have struggled to adapt Dickens in contemporary times, but it was 2005's BBC series take on "Bleak House" which succeeded in an unexpected way. That production kept the setting, but stripped it of the author's trademark sentimentality - resulting in a dark, gripping soap opera of a kind that made the material seem fresh. This adaptation's key point of difference is the focus on the love story between Pip (Irvine) and Estella (Holliday Grainger).
Hitting the UK the other month, shortly after a new BBC mini-series version with Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby arrived on small screens, reviews haven't been great. While some have praised the performances and called it easily accessible, others label it as a superfluous version that doesn't bring anything new. In fact, it's claimed that it extracts some of the meat and humor from the story. We'll see for ourselves when it opens internationally early in 2013.
The Great Gatsby
Opens: May 11th 2013
Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Analysis: Here you have one of the most thematically dense novels of the 20th century, one stuffed with symbolism and allegory - a work so literary that none of the three previous cinematic adaptations ever did it anything close to justice. Yet the person to crack it this time is Baz Luhrmann, a filmmaker who is essentially all surface and a devout believer of the "more is more" approach?
Granted, in some ways the "Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo + Juliet" director is perfect for the material. With his meticulous attention to detail in regards to costumes, make-up, art direction, production design and score, his films are visual and auditory feasts brimming over with spectacular sets, sumptuous clothes, anachronistic music and lavish indulgences.
That's combined with a story showcasing the spectacle of America's roaring 20's, and the indulgent excesses of the wealthy and their hangers on. It was one the single greatest time periods for fashion and design, giving the flapper dresses and art deco architecture a more contemporary and immediate energy is what he'll be great at.
More concerning is whether he and co-writer Craig Pearce can adapt the material without chucking all the subtlety out the window. Portraying the disillusionment of Nick, the hollowness of high society, and the overall disintegration of the American dream is a tricky and demanding task for even the most disciplined of filmmakers. Will Baz be able to curb his operatic excesses to deliver a meaningful take on the material?
The trailers released thus far answered that question loud and clear. Rather than trying a different and more grounded approach, Luhrmann has doubled down on his strengths to deliver a highly stylised and melodramatic take with awkward line deliveries and a lot of green screen. It has drawn comparisons to "Sucker Punch" of all things, yet it's also oddly compelling and I have found myself re-watching them a lot more than I expected.
Mulligan and Edgerton in particular look well-suited for the project (Maguire not so much), and one has to consider that an 'out there' approach like this might have more success adapting Fitzgerald's novel than the failed straightforward adaptations thus far. Over budget, over time and over produced, it's certainly a film with commercial rather than critical ambitions which explains its half-year delay from this Christmas to early Summer. Some will call it a fresh spin on a classic and others a pile of glittering garbage, I can't wait to see which side of the line I fall.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
The third of four films released in the "Rebuild of Evangelion" tetralogy, this is where Hideaki Anno's cinematic remake of his classic mid-90's TV anime series really starts to take a different direction to its small screen counterpart. Last we saw, Shinji and Rei were still frozen in the impaled Unit-01 while Tokyo-3 and Geofront were abandoned. The third film picks up the action much further down the line and has been getting an interesting mix of reviews. From all reports it's the most ambitious of the three films, in a few ways it sounds like it may have over-reached. The film gets a limited theatrical run in the United States early in the year ahead of a disc release mid-year.
Everything Will Be Fine
Originally aiming to be wrapped by now for a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in March, filmmaker Wim Wenders' next project won't actually even begin shooting in Montreal until February. As a result a late 2013 release is the earliest we'll likely see the Sarah Polley-led film which deals with a man who, driving aimlessly after a trivial domestic quarrel, accidentally hits and kills a child. It then shows his life over the next twelve years and how it destroys him. The project, penned by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, is Wenders' first narrative feature since 2008.
Actor John Turturro jumps back into writing & directing with this recently wrapped indie comedy in which he decides to become a professional male prostitute as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend Murray (Woody Allen). With Murray as his "manager," the duo quickly find themselves caught up in this unexpected business. At the same time, they try to keep at bay the suspicions of the Hasidic Jewish community in which they live. Their clientele will include characters played by the impressive likes of Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis and Sharon Stone. Allen reportedly rewrote and edited sections of the script so it'll be interesting to see what kind of tone this will set.
Fellini Black and White
Another film in pre-production to begin shooting very early 2013 for a potential end of year festival run is Henry Bromell‘s indie biopic of legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini. The story is set in Los Angeles in March 1957 and deals with the 48 hours that Fellini went missing right before attending the Oscars where his film "Nights of Cabiria" was nominated. Wagner Moura will play the director, also onboard is Nina Arianda as his wife, William H. Macy as his publicist, Terrence Howard as a jazz musician, Abbie Cornish as the veterinarian Fellini briefly falls for, and Peter Dinklage as the vet's husband.
After a strong debut with his 2007 "cop with tinnitus" thriller "Noise," Australian filmmaker Matthew Saville returns to the big screen for another project centered around a troubled law enforcer. This time out it's Joel Edgerton in the lead as a decorated Sydney police officer who lies about a running a cyclist off the road after having a celebratory drink with his fellow officers. Edgerton penned the script for the project which also stars Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George and Jai Courtney. Having just finished shooting, I'd expect a release in Australia later this year and maybe a festival premiere in the Fall.
Fill the Void
Israel's official foreign language entry for this year's Oscars, Rama Burshtein’s directorial debut failed to make its way into the final round of voting. Nevertheless the film had a great run of success on the Fall film festival circuit where Sony Pictures Classics acquired it for North American distribution. I expect they'll give this the same treatment they gave to last year's Israeli Oscar nominee "Footnote." The story itself centers on a young Orthodox Hasidic girl whose family is struck by tragedy when her older sister dies in childbirth just as the young girl is about to be married. When her older sister's husband is pressured to remarry, her mother makes a shocking proposal - will the young girl now be forced to raise her nephew as her own?
Short film director Ryan Coogler ventures into features with this indie drama that sports an impressive cast and Forest Whitaker as a producer. Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, Chad Michael Murray, Kevin Durand, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz star in the true story tale of the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant. Grant was a Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. The film was a success story of the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab program, and so is understandably scheduled to have its world premiere in Park City next month.
Get a Job
"Rodger Dodger" and "P.S." director Dylan Kidd has roped in an impressive cast for this comedy about a recent college graduate, his friends, and their attempts to secure employment in Los Angeles. This seems them having to lower their expectations about life as they enter the real world during a recession. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie, John Cho, Miles Teller, Marcia Gay Harden, John C. McGinley, Nicholas Braun, Jorge Garcia, Brandon T. Jackson and Bruce Davison all star in the film which wrapped a few months ago. No word on a release as yet, but a festival premiere mid-year sounds the likeliest possibility.
No, not a remake of the Steve McQueen classic. Rather, this is a fairly ordinary looking thriller from director Courtney Solomon ("An American Haunting," "Captivity") in which Ethan Hawke plays a burned out race car driver whose wife is kidnapped. His only hope to save her is to follow the orders of the mysterious voice (Jon Voight) who is watching his movements through cameras mounted on the car he's driving. His only ally is a young hacker (Selena Gomez). Warners is essentially dumping the film in theatres at the end of August, and so far there's been nothing shown from it that could generate any real interest.
Ginger and Rosa
"Orlando" director Sally Potter returns to helm this 1960s coming-of-age tale which opened in the UK this past October and hits internationally early in 2013. American Elle Fanning and Australian Alice Englert star as young British teenagers who grow up fast as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms in the background. Things take a morally tricky turn when the underage Rosa falls for Ginger’s writer dad (Alessandro Nivola). An impressive supporting cast play mentor or parental figures here including Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt. Decent, but restrained reviews in the British press praised the two girls. They were more mixed on some of the adults, and many mentioned problems of pacing, self-consciousness and indulgence on Potter's part.
Girls Against Boys
A brutal indie revenge movie in which naïve college student Shae (Danielle Panabaker), preyed on by a number of men, teams up with her bartender co-worker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) to get revenge. Their graphic murder spree doesn't just include their attackers, but soon any man unlucky enough to cross their path. When Lu’s truly sadistic side starts to emerge, Shae finds herself struggling to survive. Michael Stahl-David ("Cloverfield") is one of the victims in the film which became something of a SXSW favorite back in March for its more psychological character-driven approach than other films of this type. Anchor Bay picked up the film, which is getting a limited bow on February 1st.
Drafthouse Films is releasing this "High and Low"-esque thriller from filmmaker Ron Morales about a Filipino politician's chauffeur named Marlon (Arnold Reyes) who gets no respect from his boss. One day a kidnapper pulls the car over and demands Marlon act as a go-between if either he or the politician want to see their daughters again. Marlon himself is soon the prime suspect in the eyes of the cops. Playing the Asian film festival circuit over the Fall, reviews were pretty good and called it a surprisingly relentless thriller with a message about the way justice is treated in this economically unequal world. Expect a limited theatrical and VOD release.
The Grand Seduction
Currently shooting, Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch star in this English-language remake of the Quebec movie hit "La Grand Seduction" (aka. "Seducing Dr. Lewis"). The original's writer/director Ken Scott was originally slated to direct it, but opted instead to direct a remake of his more recent comedy "Starbuck" at Dreamworks. As a result, actor turned filmmaker Don McKellar ("Last Night") took over the helm with "Goon" scribes Scott and Michael Dowse penning the script. Gleeson will play a resident in a tiny fishing village where the locals are promised a new factory to boost the economy. The only condition? They have to get a doctor to take up a full-time residency on the island. The villagers soon devise a scheme to convince a young doctor (Kitsch) to become a local.
Grave of the Fireflies
Last month GKids acquired the North American theatrical rights to Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli's 1988 animated classic "Grave of the Fireflies". To celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, the distributor is planning a limited theatrical re-release in the United States. The story deals with the devastation of Japan during the final months of WWII as seen through the eyes of two children. It is considered by many film critics and historians as one of the single greatest and most powerful war films ever made. Certainly there is not much else like it - an adult film about children that, despite its animated form, is deeply affecting and incredibly emotional.
The Green Blade Rises
Best known for his work in different capacities on three different Terrence Malick films, AJ Edwards makes his directorial debut on this project which Malick is producing. The film is described as the "untold story" of the early years of Abraham Lincoln's life. From his abandonment by his father in the harsh winter wilderness, to a tragedy that marked him forever, and the two women who guided him into becoming one of the most influential U.S. Presidents in history. It's presently not known who is playing the role of Lincoln himself, but Diane Kruger, Jason Clarke, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley all have key roles as family members or mentor figures. Shot in October in just a few weeks, it's likely headed for a Fall festival run.
The Complete Notable Films of 2013 Guide
Volume One: 2 Guns, 21 and Over, 33 dias, 42, 47 Ronin, 300: Rise of An Empire, 7500, The ABC's of Death, About Last Night, About Time, Admission, A.C.O.D., Adult World, After Earth, Afternoon Delight, Aftershock, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, All Is Lost, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Angry Little God, Are We Officially Dating?, As I Lay Dying, Ass Backwards, At Any Price, August: Osage County, Austenland, Backmask, Baggage Claim, Bailout: The Age of Greed, Battle of the Year, Beautiful Creatures, Before Midnight, Belle, The Best Offer
Volume Two: Better Living Through Chemistry, Beyond The Hills, Big Sur, The Big Wedding, Black Dog Red Dog, The Black Marks, Bling Ring, Blood Ties, The Brass Teapot, Breathe In, Broken City, Bullet to the Head, The Butler, Byzantium, Can a Song Save Your Life?, The Canyons, Captain Phillips, Carol, Carrie, A Case of You, Cavalry, CBGB, Chavez, Child of God, Chinese Zodiac, Closed Circuit, Closer to the Moon, Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers, C.O.G., The Colony, Come Out and Play, The Company You Keep, The Congress, Concussion
Volume Three: The Counselor, The Coup, The Croods, Crystal Fairy, Dallas Buyers Club, Dark Blood, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, Decoding Annie Parker, The Deep, Delivery Man, Despicable Me 2, Devil’s Knot, The Devil's Rapture, Diana, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His & Hers, Disconnect, Dom Hemingway, Don Jon's Addiction, Dorothy of Oz, The Double, Drift, Drinking Buddies, Driven, The East, Eden, Elsa and Fred, Elysium, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, Emperor, Empire State, Empires of the Deep, Ender's Game, The English Teacher, Epic, Errors of the Human Body, Escape From Planet Earth
Volume Four: The Europa Report, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, Everything Will Be Fine, Evil Dead, Fading Gigolo, Fast Six, Fellini Black and White, Felony, A Field in England, Fill the Void, Filth, Foxcatcher, Foxfire, Frozen, Fruitvale, The Frozen Ground, Gambit, Gangster Squad, The Gatekeepers, Get a Job, Getaway, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger and Rosa, Girls Against Boys, Girl Most Likely, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Gods Behaving Badly, A Good Day to Die Hard, Graceland, The Grandmaster, Grand Piano, The Grand Seduction, Grave of the Fireflies, Gravity, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, The Green Blade Rises