Having put 2012 to rest with a Top 15 list, it’s time to look forward through the New Year and pick out the most exciting films on offer. Frankly, the year is so crammed with potential greatness that this list could have easily been twice as long. Not every film listed is a sure thing, but these are the ones I’m most eager to sit down for.
Check out the bottom of the piece for a more exhaustive rundown of the year’s potential. With that, let’s dive in…
15. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (dir. Peter Jackson)
Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the overly-digital, kids-story-thin remake of Fellowship that An Unexpected Journey turned out to be, but Peter Jackson still sells Middle Earth as a place in which I like to spend time. I have fingers crossed that all of the additional material Jackson is shoving into the sequels will add a little density to affairs. [December 13th]
Key Good Omen: Fuck a pale orc- dragons and necromancers will certainly up the stakes.
14. The Great Gatsby (dr. Baz Luhrmann)
The dangers of taking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s examination of the American dream and post-WWI nouveau riche and turning it into a lavish studio spectacle are obvious. Still, DiCaprio cuts too compelling of a Gatsby and Luhrmann has too strong of a knack for period extravagance to not give this a shot. A recently announced score from Jay-Z, the elaborate 3D… disaster or success, it’s going to be big. [May 10th]
Key Good Omen: It remains to be seen how Mulligan, Maguire and the rest will shape up, but there’s almost no chance DiCaprio’s performance alone won’t be worth the time.
13. Oldboy (dir. Spike Lee)
It gets frustrating to see Hollywood treat a great foreign film as nothing more than a corpse to be skinned and worn by an English-speaking production, but, frankly, the Oldboy remake in particular has never not been interesting. I would have seen it as a Spielberg production starring Tom Hanks of all people, and I’ll definitely see it when Spike Lee goes studio and pulls the awesome Josh Brolin in with him. [October 11th]
Key Good Omen: Considering Oldboy is itself a South Korean adaptation of a Japanese manga, there’s nothing wrong with another approach to the material, especially with a new distinctive vision behind it.
12. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (dir. Adam McKay)
This is a toss-up if there’s ever been one, with the potential for crushing disappointment or sublime comedic glory. Going back to the well on this one is dangerous, but Ferrell, McKay and company have been passionate about it for too long to not look past the skepticism. [December 20th]
Key Good Omen: A return of all the key guys to mix with a new generation of comedic talents.
11. This Is The End (dirs. James Franco, Evan Goldberg)
If a dozen A-list comedian are going to shit-talk and improv insults for an hour and a half in a movie, all the better that they just do it as themselves. All the meta-shit-talking would leave me skeptical, but the trailer is just flat out hilarious. So here we are! [June 14th]
Key Good Omen: There’s a huge batch of comedians in this loose network, but this particular roster appears to be finely tuned. And more Craig Robinson is always a good thing.
10. Side Effects (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
We actually have two movies coming from Soderbergh this year but –for the time being at least– this will be the last feature film we can expect from the master filmmaker. Any effort from the director is automatically going to rank high among a year’s releases, but his teaming up with Scott Z. Burns to make a glassy sexual thriller is especially exciting. It’s already looking great. [February 8th]
Key Good Omen: Soderbergh’s working with a great cast, including the lovely, talented Rooney Mara and his recent muse and proven leading man, Channing Tatum.
9. Man Of Steel (dir. Zach Snyder)
The big question here is whether or not this apparent shift in Snyder’s style is an artifical change, or a legitimate evolution of his filmmaking. Malick jokes aside, the key will be seeing how he handles the interpersonal stuff and how the poetic flourishes will affect the action sequences. The few spectacle shots in the trailers look epic, with still no speed ramping in sight. Aside from the Snyder factor, a reboot of Superman that ignores the existence of any other film is just what the character needs. An origin? Maybe we don’t need that, but I’m willing to swallow it to see the character get where he has long needed to be on the screen. [June 14th]
Key Good Omens: Michael Shannon as a villain is all I need to hear. Might Zod end up being a classic heavy once again?
8. Her (dir. Spike Jonze)
There’s not much info out there about this film yet, but Joaquin Phoenix has well proven he’s returned to acting as a force and he’s in good hands with Jonze. The story concerns a man who falls in love with an operating system specially tailored to his needs- a perfectly weird little setup for a Jonze film. [TBA]
Key Good Omen: A much shorter length of time between Jonze films! I’m not down with waiting another seven years after Where The Wild Things Are for another one, even if he has kept busy with videos and cool shorts.
7. Only God Forgives (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)
Even avoiding spoilers concerning the twisted plot behind Only God Forgives, it sounds like a nasty tale of gangsters, underground fighting, and all the ugly violence that entails. Gosling sure has looked rough in the set pictures. [March 28th]
Key Good Omen: The partnership of Refn and Gosling resulted in one of the best movies of 2011, so there’s plenty of cause to be excited for another round.
6. Pain & Gain (dir. Michael Bay)
This film is based off of a truly atrocious series of events, but the darkly comedic, clearly simplified version of the story looks amazing. Swollen (puffy) Mark Wahlberg is a great choice to partner with the as-ripped-as-ever, but seemingly lily-livered character from Dwayne Johnson. The tone of the trailer and the rap-video cinematography aimed at 90s Miami are already a blast in the trailer. [April 26th]
Key Good Omen: Michael Bay unleashing his undeniable talents on something other than robots.
5. The World’s End (dir. Edgar Wright)
Here comes the end of the Cornetto/Blood & Ice Cream trilogy, and the mysterious story of an apocalyptic pub crawl sounds like a perfect way to do it. I don’t know what to expect from this film (other than funny shit and bloody shit), but I’m happy Edgar and co. are squeezing it in before the director gets sucked up into the Marvel universe. [October 25th]
Key Good Omen: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright get along well enough as solo entities, but at the end of the day, they don’t get any better than they do together.
4. Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth)
Awaited by fans of Primer for nearing a decade now, Upstream Color will be Shane Carruth’s follow up to his singular microbudget time-travel film. Even with two trailers it’s unclear what exactly this film is all about, but that’s how I prefer it anyway. It looks crisp, intimate, and just a little bent towards science fiction. [April 5th]
Key Good Omens: The odd ambiguity of the trailer is intriguing, but this is all pedigree-based excitement until it unspools (or buzz from Sundance starts up).
3. Pacific Rim (dir. Guillermo Del Toro)
LOOK AT THAT ROBOT PUNCH THAT GIANT MONSTER IN HIS DUMB FUCKING FACE. [July 11th]
Key Good Omens: Guillermo Del Toro with a budget.
2. Twelve Years A Slave (dir. Steve McQueen)
There’s not many filmmakers out there getting as raw with their films as Steven McQueen. So far his difficult, emotionally trying films have fixated on very specific, limited-scale stories, but this tale of a man kidnapped from the north and forced into slavery suggests a broadening of scope for the director. With Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Michael K. Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Quvenzhané Wallis and Brad Pitt involved, McQueen will certainly have all the talent he needs. [TBA]
Key Good Omen: The match of director and material- an incredible eye meeting an important subject.
1. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
No contest. In a year that has become silly with large-scale cosmic science fiction, one truly stands out. Rumors surrounding the film involve groundbreaking effects and extended single-shot sequences- exciting stuff in the hands of the man behind Children Of Men. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in the story of an astronaut who survives a catastrophic accident in space. Even if it’s not a cinema altering masterpiece, odds are this will end up one of the most exciting movies of the year. [TBA]
Key Good Omen: Another one well over half-a-decade coming, this will be following up one of the absolute best films of the last decade. Unmissable.
While those 15 are the films that particularly excite me, 2013 promises to be a year crammed full of potential. Here is a look at the rest of the coming year’s landscape of releases…
I Declare War / Violet & Daisy / Antiviral
I’ve seen all three of the films above and I can tell you they’re ones you should seek out. I Declare War was one of the biggest blasts I experienced in a theater last year, with its child warfare and earnest exploration of growing up. Violet & Daisy is a small, weirdo crime movie with great performances from Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledell, and James Gandolfini. Antiviral might be the most satisfyingly gross and off-putting film you’ll see all year.
The Action Pack
The Grandmaster / Gangster Squad / Fast Six / Riddick / Bullet To The Head / R.I.P.D. / The Hunger Games 2 / Jack Ryan / The Last Stand / Snitch
Two long-delayed genre action films, a follow up to a shockingly great car chase franchise, the resurrection of a fun, weirdo space opera, more old man action, and a paranormal investigation film pairing Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges? These should all be a lot of fun, and one or two might even turn out to be special. I’m skeptical on the Hunger Games sequel, but Francis Lawrence could turn it around. Paramount put a lot of work into Jack Ryan– delaying production for rewrites and avoiding a rush. That could be dark horse greatness. And maybe Jee-woon Kim knocked his American debut out of the park and has made a tongue-in-cheek Schwarzenegger action classic? Also, The Rock in anything action.
Comic Book Sequels And Sequels And Sequels
Thor 2 / Iron Man 3 / The Wolverine
Kick Ass 2 / 300: Rise Of An Empire / Sin City 2
Naturally there are plenty of big comic book sequels hitting this year, but this might be a particularly great pack. In fact, Tony Stark and Logan might just have the talent behind them to bounce back after their last disappointing outings.
The Sci-fi Consortium
Elysium / Oblivion / Ender’s Game / Star Trek Into Darkness / After Earth
Gravity is just the tip of the iceberg- there are metric shit ton of big scifi movies coming this year. I’ve got a lot of faith in Blompkamp to do something great, a fair amount of trust in JJ Abrams to do something fun, and I actually have a little hope for Shayamalan to do something competent again. “Fool me once” and all that make me skeptical of Kosinski’s Oblivion, but it looks great so far.
The Indie Follow-Ups
Mud / The Place Beyond The Pines
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine and Jeff Nichols Take Shelter both shoved their directors right under the indie spotlight, and now both have follow ups coming up. Ryan Gosling-vehicle Place Beyond the Pines already has great buzz, and the Matthew McConaughey back-country story Mud is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Saving Mr. Banks / 42 / Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. The trailer for the latter looks great already, and the pedigree of the former is more than enough to flag it as an interesting project. Tom Hanks is on the biopic game twice though, working with Paul Greengrass on the bio of a Somali pirate hostage survivor.
The Funny Stuff
To-Do List / Warm Bodies / Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 / Last Vegas / Secret Life Of Walter Mitty / The Hangover III
An Aubrey Plaza indie sex comedy and a zombie romance actually look to be two of the year’s strongest comedy prospects. The first Cloudy film is beloved, so a second gets the benefit of the doubt for now. Last Vegas could go either way, but Freeman, Kline, DeNiro, and Douglas might be fun if it’s not totally Old Dogs hacky bullshit. Ben Stiller’s whimsical dramedy is still an unknown factor, but worth keeping an eye out for. And, of course, the juggernaut comedy trio returns again this year – will they shake things up enough this time to matter?
The Reliable Masters
Trance / Inside Llewyn Davis / Knight Of Cups / To The Wonder / Nymphomaniac
Danny Boyle and the Coen Brothers both have contributions to the year’s slate. I don’t expect I need to explain the significance of that. Terrence Malick has two films that will (most likely?) drop this year, and Lars Von Trier is going pornographic with his big ensemble sex film. Honestly, any of these could have be tossed into the main list above.
The Big Budget Tossups
World War Z / The Lone Ranger / 47 Ronin / Oz: The Great & Powerful / G.I. Joe 2
Save for Oz, these are all massive studio project with budget problems, reshoots, and all manner of issue plaguing them. That said, each has at least some chance of being a worthwhile action film. It will be fun to see which, if any of them, turn out well.
The Scary Stuff
Evil Dead / Carrie / Texas Chainsaw 3D / You’re Next / Mama / Lords Of Salem
I’m not much of an authority on horror, but between the three major remakes/sequels, a long-shelved but buzzed-about indie title, and another Spanish-language horror original shepherded by Del Toro, there are strong prospects. Each has an interesting component or two in its favor at the very least, with Carrie especially catching my eye. I couldn’t be more excited to check out Rob Zombie’s controversial new creepfest, and it’s another one that would be on the top 15 list above had I recalled that it was finally coming!