Friday, January 18, 2013

Most Anticipated Films of 2013

For the fourth year in a row, I am devoting an entry in my movie blog to upcoming releases that I'm particularly excited to see in the year ahead. As always, when I look back at the previous year's column, it's embarrassing to see projects I once looked forward to, but that turned out to both critical and commercial washouts—and not only that, they weren't very good! Hard to believe that only a year ago, I thought I might actually enjoy The Woman in Black, The Hunger Games, The Cabin in the Woods or Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Each of these had the promise of being entertaining, if not culturally significant, but none of them was exceptional in any way. Meanwhile, why had I failed to anticipate truly worth movies such as Life of Pi, Your Sister's Sister, Silent House, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, End of Watch and Compliance? Why weren't those titles on last year's list? (To my credit, at least I was never excited to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

Last year, I singled out 20 films I was eager to see in 2012 (with an additional 19 relegated to the "Also on My Radar" section. This time out, there are so many films I'm eager to see (44 at last count, with an additional 15 "On My Radar") that it might have been simpler to just list the movies I'm not excited about—i.e., anything involving zombies or that contains any combination of the following words: Hunger, Games, Fast, Furious, Night, Museum, Hobbit, Smurfs, Anchorman, Tyler or Perry.

Since there are so many titles this year, I've divided them up into genre-specific categories. I don't know why there are so many more movies I'm psyched to see in 2013 as compared to 2012; perhaps it's because I did a much more thorough job of researching upcoming releases. One thing is for sure, though: I know from experience that many of these titles will ultimately garner lukewarm reviews, nullifying my interest level in a way that ultimately led to my snubbing Safe House, The Cold Light of Day, Dark Shadows and The Odd Life of Timothy Green in 2012.

Sequels continue to spew out of Hollywood in record numbers, which should come as a surprise to nobody—if a movie's a hit, might as well keep the franchise going. Even when the franchise has died (Star Trek, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), people always seem to be down for a reboot, which is what's going to happen with Superman this year. And so, I kick off the 2013 list with the spinoffs, remakes and follow-ups that keep the studios in the black...

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D—A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; little does she know that an encounter with a chainsaw-wielding killer is part of the reward. Reboot/sequel to the 1974 horror classic. To prepare for this 3D gorefest, the first movie I watched in 2013 is the 2006 prequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. No joke. (Jan. 4) UPDATE: Saw it, nothing to write home about.

OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL—A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him. With James Franco as Oz; also starring Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff. Prequel to The Wizard of Oz, presumably; this will have to suffice until somebody does a film version of Wicked. Are they even working on that yet? Come on. It's a no-brainer! (March 8)

CARRIE—A sheltered high school girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) unleashes her newly developed telekinetic powers after she is pushed too far by her peers. Remake of the 1976 Stephen King thriller. (March 15)

MACHETE KILLS—The U.S. government recruits Machete (Danny Trejo) to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space. Sequel to the 2010 action movie. With Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Hudgens—there's four reasons to see the movie right there! (April 11)

IRON MAN 3—Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) uses his ingenuity to fight those who destroyed his private world and soon goes up against his most powerful enemy yet: the Mandarin. Second sequel to the 2008 comic-book adaptation. (May 3)

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS—After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. Will he be Khan? Or Gary Mitchell? One thing's for sure: He's played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Sequel to the 2009 franchise reboot. With Zachary Quinto and the irresistible Zoe Saldana. (May 17)

KICK-ASS 2—The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Sequel to the 2010 comic-book adaptation. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz. (June 28)

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR—The town's most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more reviled inhabitants. Long-awaited sequel to the 2005 Frank Miller graphic-novel adaptation, again directed by Robert Rodriguez. With Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba. (Oct. 4)

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5—I'm going to go out on a limb and conjecture that this will be about people living in a haunted house who record videos of the ghosts. The fourth sequel to the 2007 smash, and almost certainly not the last. (Oct. 25)

THOR: THE DARK WORLD—Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith who threatens to plunge the universe into darkness. Sequel to the 2011 comic-book adaptation Thor, as well as 2012's The Avengers. With Natalie Portman. (Nov. 8)

MAMA—Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for five years.... but how alone were they? From executive producer Guillermo del Toro. (Jan. 18)

THE ABCs OF DEATH—A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty. Love those anthology flicks!
(Feb. 28)

THE HOST—A parasitic alien soul is injected into the body of Melanie Stryder. Instead of carrying out her race's mission of taking over the Earth, "Wanda" (as she comes to be called) forms a bond with her host and sets out to aid other free humans. Now that Hollywood has finished filming all of her Twilight books, it's time to plunder Stephenie Meyer's only other full-length work. (After this, I assume they'll option the rights to her short story "Hell on Earth." Don't laugh—plenty of movies have been fashioned around short stories by Stephen King, Ian Fleming and many others. William Hurt is the only actor in The Host whom I've heard of. (March 29)

OBLIVION—Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a drone repairman stationed on Earth. Living in and patrolling the skies from thousands of feet above, his soaring existence is brought crashing down when he rescues an attractive female stranger from a downed spacecraft. Based on the graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski, who also directed and co-produced. (April 19)

PACIFIC RIM—When an alien attack threatens the Earth's existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace. Looks like Transformers cross-bred with Cloverfield. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. (July 12)

ELYSIUM—Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster; from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. (Aug. 9)

GRAVITY—Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in space. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. (Oct. 18)

ENDER'S GAME—70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Starring Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley and Abigail "Kit Kittredge" Breslin. From Orson Scott Card's popular novel. (Nov. 1)

7500—Passengers aboard a flight across the Pacific Ocean encounter a supernatural force. Originally slated for release in 2012; starring Jamie Chung, Amy Smart and Leslie Bibb…wow, I want a ticket on that flight! (TBA)

SIDE EFFECTS—Steven Soderbergh directs a prescription-medicine thriller starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Even if the movie blows, you gotta love the poster. (Feb. 8)

SAFE HAVEN—A young woman with a mysterious past (Julianne Hough from 2011's Footloose) lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower (Josh Duhamel) forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her. From Nicholas Sparks's novel; directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and the previous Sparks adaptation of Dear John). (Feb. 14)

STOKER—After India's (Mia Wasikowska) father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him. From acclaimed Korean director Chan-wook Park of Oldboy fame—a film that is currently being remade by Spike Lee (see below). (March 1)

SPRING BREAKERS—Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work. With James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. Supposedly chock full of sex and perversion! (March 5)

DISCONNECT—A drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today's wired world. Starring Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgård and Hope Davis. (April 12)

NOW YOU SEE ME—FBI agents track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. The awesome cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson and Michael Caine. (June 7)

WHITE HOUSE DOWN—A Secret Service agent is tasked with saving the life of the U.S. President after the White House is overtaken by a paramilitary group. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods and Maggie Gyllenhaal. (June 28)

OLDBOY—An everyday man has only five days and limited resources to discover why he was imprisoned in a nondescript room for 15 years without any explanation. Spike Lee directs Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen. (Oct. 11)

NEBRASKA—An aging, booze-addled father (Bruce Dern) makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son (WIll Forte) in order to claim a million dollar Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes prize. Director Alexander Payne's follow-up to The Descendants. (December)

NON-STOP—An air marshall must spring into action aboard an international flight. With Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery (woo-hoo!). (TBA)

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY—The Weston family overcomes certain differences when their alcoholic patriarch goes missing. John Wells directs the adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The all-star cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Chris Cooper. (TBA)

56 UP—Eighth in the remarkable Michael Apted-directed series (beginning with 7 Up) that chronicles the lives of various British people beginning at age 7 and revisited every seven years hence. These aren't kids anymore! (Jan. 14)

MOVIE 43—This all-star anthology comedy film (in the tradition of Kentucky Fried Movie, The Groove Tube and Amazon Women on the Moon) was filmed in 2010, went through some title changes, and is finally being released in January. The amazing cast includes Halle Berry, Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Leslie Bibb, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman, Jack McBrayer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Tony Shalhoub and many more. At least SOME of it has to be funny! (Jan. 25)

THE TO-DO LIST—Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark (Aubrey Plaza) makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall. With Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Clark Gregg. (Feb. 14)

ADMISSION—A Princeton admissions officer (Tina Fey) who is up for a major promotion takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption. With Paul Rudd. (March 8)

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE—Las Vegas, Nevada magician Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) as he attempts to reunite with his former partner Anton Lovecraft (Steve Buscemi) to take on dangerous street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Co-starring Olivia Wilde, Jay Mohr and Alan Arkin. (March 15)

THE BIG WEDDING—A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding. This remake of the 2006 French film Mon Frère se Marie (2006) stars Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams; from Bucket List director Justin Zackham. Pushed back from 2012. (April 26)

ABOUT TIME—As he goes through life, a young man who can travel through time learns his unique gift can't save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. A romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy; from Four Weddings and a Funeral director Richard Curtis. (May 10)

FADING GIGOLO—Fioravante (director John Turturro) decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend, Murray (Woody Allen, in a rare acting-only job). With Murray acting as his "manager", the duo quickly finds themselves caught up in the crosscurrents of love and money. Co-starring Sofia Vergara and Sharon Stone. (TBA)

BLUE JASMINE—With a typical dream cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Emerson, and comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay, Woody Allen will release his 45th directorial effort, said to be a comedy. I know Steven Reule will be lining up for this one! (TBA)

UNTITLED NICOLE HOLOFCENER PROJECT—A divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she's interested in learns he's her new friend's ex-husband. With Catherine Keener, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. From the director who gave us 2010's sublime Please Give. (TBA)

FROZEN—A mountain climber and a young girl named Anna (Kristen Bell) journey through snowy peaks and dangerous cliffs to find the legendary Snow Queen and end the perpetual winter prophecy that has fallen over their kingdom. From Walt Disney Studios. (Nov. 27)

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS 3D—Two brothers wanting to follow in their father's footsteps leads to a showdown in the Arctic North. Live action 3D shoot in Alaska and New Zealand. Inspired by the 1999 BBC TV series. (Dec. 20)

PARKER—A thief with a unique code of professional ethics is double-crossed by his crew and left for dead. Assuming a new disguise and forming an unlikely alliance with a woman on the inside, he looks to hijack the score of the crew's latest heist. With Michael Chiklis and Jennifer Lopez. (Jan. 25)

A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III—Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford Coppola) directs Charlie Sheen, Aubrey Plaza and Bill Murray in a story of how a graphic designer's life slides into despair when his girlfriend breaks up with him. (Feb. 8)

SNITCH—A father (Dwayne Johnson) goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal. (Feb. 22)

DARK SKIES—Otherworldly forces disrupt the lives of the Barrett family (led by Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton). (Feb. 22)

UPSTREAM COLOR—A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. From Primer director Shane Carruth. (March)

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN—A former Secret Service agent works to prevent a terrorist attack on the White House. With Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. (April 5)

AFTER EARTH— After a crash landing, a father and son explore a planet that was evacuated by humans 1,000 years earlier. Second sci-fi actioner from director M. Night Shyamalan (after 2010's The Last Airbender, which I enjoyed). (June 7)

RED 2—Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker and John Malkovich reunite for a sequel to the 2010 comedy-thriller, which I quite enjoyed. Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones are on board this time out as well. (Aug. 2)

YOU'RE NEXT—Home invasion / revenge thriller. (Aug. 23)

GETAWAY—Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) must get behind the wheel and follow the orders of a mysterious man to save his kidnapped wife. (Aug. 30)

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE—After a New York state citizen is kidnapped and sold into brutal slavery, and made to work on a plantation in Louisiana in the 1800s, he desperately struggles to return home to his family. With Michael Fassbender, Brad Bitt, Paul Giamatti and Alfre Woodard; based on the book by Solomon Northup. (Sept. 6)

PRISONERS—A Boston man kidnaps the person he suspects is behind the disappearance of his young daughter and her best friend. With Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. (Sept. 20)

PARANOIA—Adaptation of the Joseph Finder thriller about an entry-level employee at a powerful corporation who finds himself occupying a corner office, but at a dangerous price: he must spy on his boss's old mentor to secure for him a multi-billion dollar advantage. With Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Richard Dreyfuss. (Oct. 4)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS—Real-life story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama cargo ship hijacking by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks plays ship captain Richard Phillips; Catherine Keener is also on board. (Oct. 11)

THE WORLD'S END— Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival. Co-starring Rosamund Pike; director Edgar Wright's follow-up to his brilliant 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Oct. 25)

DON JON'S ADDICTION—The journey of a contemporary, porn-addicted Don Juan-type as he attempts to become less selfish. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who also wrote and directed) and Scarlett Johansson. (TBA)

That's a whole lot of movies to be excited about...and yet, as I do every year, I can't help wondering which movies will be among my favorites in 2013 that I don't know anything about as I type these words. If only I could know in advance which of the films above aren't worth my time, and only stick to the really good ones!

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