Watch ‘em or weep
2012 wasn’t exactly the best year for movies. Sure, there was the brilliantly-executed, Quentin Tarantino blockbuster Django Unchained and David O. Russell’s romantic-dramedy Silver Linings Playbook – both of which are nominated for Academy Awards. But 2012 was also the year of The Three Stooges and the Adam Sandler-led That’s My Boy (with a special appearance by Vanilla Ice as himself).
2013 has had a rough start with Movie 43, which – for some reason – made a goal out of packing more high-profile celebrities and poop jokes into a single movie than anything else I have ever seen. But we’re still holding out hope that 2013 has a little more potential than that. These are some of the movies we’re excited for.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance festival, Fruitvale is based on the true story of Oscar Grant – an unarmed African-American man – who was gunned down by police in Oakland, California in 2009. The film chronicles the last day of his life and stars Michael B. Jordan, who played Steve in last year’s positively-received Chronicle, as Oscar Grant and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (one of the film’s producers) as Grant’s mother.
The film, which resonated strongly with the Sundance crowd (it also won the Audience Award), sold to The Weinstein Company for $2.5 million. So many people of color are attached to the project – a rarity in Hollywood. And it’s a story that needs to be told. This is one that I am really looking forward to, especially given Jordan’s phenomenal performance in Friday Night Lights as Vince Howard. He’s definitely an actor to look out for.
Byzantium is about a mother-daughter vampire duo starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan. Director Neil Jordan is probably best recognized for creating the Showtime series The Borgias and directing the 1994 Interview with a Vampire - starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Byzantium looks closer to the Anne Rice book-turned-movie than any of the newer vampire movies that have come out in recent years. Yes, I’m talking Twilight franchise.
The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann last worked with Leonardo DiCaprio in the cult favorite Romeo + Juliet, which came out in 1996. The Great Gatsby, assigned reading in most high school English classes, is their next big project together. It was initially due to be released last year, but got pushed up to May of this year. It looks glitzier, more theatrical than the book but that’s not a bad thing – not in the least. The costumes and set design look amazing. DiCaprio is sure to deliver a knockout performance as Jay Gatsby. The question is whether this movie will finally launch him towards that long-deserved Oscar or be another notch on the List of Snubs. (I’m still disappointed that he wasn’t nominated for his performance in Django Unchained.)
Man of Steel
If superheroes were an ice cream flavor, I think we can all agree that Superman would be vanilla – pure and simple. No sprinkles, no nothing. Just plain, old vanilla. I was never a fan of the all-American, goody two-shoes Clark Kent, whose chosen method of concealing his superhero identity were a pair of eyeglasses. (Really?!) So when I heard that they were doing another Superman movie – especially after the failure of the 2006 Superman Returns movie starring Brandon Routh – I wasn’t exactly impressed. I’ve been waiting for a proper Wonder Woman movie for forever, but nobody seems interested in doing the Amazon princess justice.
Instead, studios keep revisiting the same superheroes over and over again, The Amazing Spider-Man reboot being the latest example. Whether you liked the Andrew Garfield-led version or not, and regardless of the fact that Sony was forced into production in order to keep their rights to the Spider-Man movies, rehashing the same superheroes over and over again gets boring. We’ve seen it all before. Show us something different. (And I’m not talking about the Ant-Man movie.) One thing movies haven’t been able to do, however, is to make Clark Kent an interesting character. And if Zack Snyder can manage that – the way Christopher Nolan revitalized Batman in his The Dark Knight trilogy -, then that’s something I’m interested in watching.
Man of Steel premieres June 14.
From director Guillermo del Toro comes the action-packed, science-fiction movie Pacific Rim. The movie is as much of a tribute to those “epic” monster movies like Godzilla as it is an “epic” monster movie itself. Del Toro’s original project was an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, but when that didn’t fall through because of budget restraints, he focused instead on directing, writing, and producing Pacific Rim. The cast includes Charlie Hunnam, his Sons of Anarchy co-star Ron Perlman, Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, and Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Pacific Rim premieres July 12.
Back in high school, I had a class called “Theory of Knowledge”. To this day, I couldn’t really tell what exactly we were supposed to be learning in that class, but it did have a lot of randomly philosophical elements to it. One of them was imagining who we would pick to survive on a desert island. We got a list of characters with certain helpful and not-so-helpful occupations (rather than having them assigned to students like in this movie) and we had to choose who got to live and who got to die. Our rendition of this premise wasn’t nearly as melodramatic as The Philosophers promises to be.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about this movie, and the premise doesn’t do a lot for me, but I’m pretty curious to see how this movie combines its philosophy and how it’ll work logistically. It will be interesting to see how the lack of any real drama (as far as I know, all the action elements are being imagined by the students while they’re sitting in class) will come together with the acting and writing. Also, it’s pretty funny to imagine these kids sitting around in their classroom, saying what’s happening. “Oh, no! Johnny’s been shot!” screams Claire, collapsing to the floor on top of his body. Meanwhile, Johnny pops an eye open and looks around à la every Civil War reenactment ever.
I love me some Ellen Page and I don’t dislike Alexander Skarsgard. The wild card for me when it comes to this movie is Brit Marling. I wanted to see The Sound of My Voice, but I still haven’t gotten around to it. I have seen Another Earth, though. That movie was… I still don’t know how I feel about that movie. I’m interested to find out if Marling’s work (this new film was co-written by her) was just a fluke the first time around,or if there’s actually something (I really don’t know what, she’s a great big mystery to me) to her work.
That’s to say nothing of the plot itself, which features an anarchist organization that Marling’s character infiltrates. She begins to seemingly fall under their spell and question her beliefs. The organization seems suitably creepy from the trailer, thanks to some intense voiceover work by Page, and while I’m not sold on Marling as an investigator of any sort I’m still curious to see how everything works out.
Star Trek Into Darkness
Ah, the Star Trek franchise. I don’t know very much about you. Your original series was a laughably long time before I was born, and your sequel/prequel series have always felt a little hokey to me. However, I do have some passing knowledge. Not enough to figure out on my own that your entire universe was ret-conned in the last movie, though. I will forever question my competency as a human being after that, but you know what? Life moves on, and so does the modern-day Star Trek move franchise.
While I didn’t have much to say about the first one, other than that it was mostly fluff (very well-executed fluff), I enjoyed it. The second helping seems like it’s trying to copy The Dark Knight a little, but what the hell isn’t trying to copy that nowadays? Then I saw the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness and I found myself more excited than I expected to be. Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic that the second will succeed based on what I’ve heard so far. The same players are back, along with a few new, fun-sounding additions, so what could go wrong? Right?
Star Trek Into Darkness premieres May 15.
Before Sunrise was good, but Before Sunset lands somewhere near the top on my list of favorite movies. Something about the real-time setup and the partially improvised dialogue clicked for me, and I fell in love with that movie. I can’t help but be excited for a sequel to one of my favorite series. Plus, the reviews that have come out of Sundance, where the film premiered earlier this year, have done nothing but add to my excitement.
Also, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), the lovebirds at the center of the dialogue-packed trilogy, are going to Greece this time around. While the scenery in the background shots of the first two was great – one of the reasons the movies felt special to me in the first place – there’s something about Greece that adds an extra level of anticipation for me. Maybe I just need to travel more.
Park Chan-wook is perhaps most well-known for his Vengeance trilogy, and is making his debut in the American filmmaking industry with Stoker - starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode. I’ve only seen the first of the Vengeance trilogy – the earliest of them, entitled Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance – but I was blown away by Chan-wook’s directing abilities.
His style is quite unique, and I’m intrigued to see how it will translate in an American film. The story itself follows Wasikowska as she struggles in the wake of her father’s recent death, her mother’s emotional instability, and her suspicious (and downright frightening) uncle moving in with them. A clip of Nicole Kidman, who plays Wasikowska’s mother, was recently released and I found her performance to be absolutely chilling. Many people are calling Stoker the female Hamlet, and if that’s true, then I am totally here for that.
Stoker is due for limited release in theaters on March 1.
This is the End
Apocalyptic stories have been pretty popular, especially in recent years. For whatever reason, people are really into watching zombies, aliens, and meteors (oh my!) decimate huge chunks of the Earth’s population – perhaps so they can take notes on what not to do during the end of the world. And now that the most recent “threat” of The Great Apocalypse of 12/21/2012 has passed, it’s safe to laugh about the fact that as skeptical as we all pretended to be, an itty bitty part of us considered the possibility that it might actually not be a hoax.
Enter This Is The End, which stars Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson, and more. In the movie, the actors play themselves, caught up in the struggle to survive as their world crumbles and burns around them… but not without being really fucking hilarious while doing so. I may or may not have cackled out loud at the above trailer, even after my third viewing. I’m very much looking forward to this one, if only for the hilarity and snarky references to each actor’s resume.
This Is The End premieres June 14.
Kill Your Darlings
The last movie that I saw Daniel Radcliffe in that wasn’t Harry Potter and the Something of Something was the horror movie The Woman In Black. That was a huge, huuuge disappointment. His latest project, however, has been pretty successful from what I’ve heard. Besides Radcliffe, the Kill Your Darlings cast includes Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C. Hall, and Dane DeHaan, and follows the stories of well-known poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs as the murder of a friend pulls them together. I don’t really know that much about the plot or storyline beyond who the principal players are and what the main premise is, which gives the film a great air of mystery to it that will probably let me appreciate it even more when I finally see it.
Blue Caprice is an independent film based on the true events of the infamous Beltway sniper attacks of 2002. It premiered at Sundance last month to mostly positive reception. The movie is from the point-of-view of the two killers, pictured above. The story itself is a harrowing one, as the attacks were perpetrated by two men - one of them a minor -in a blue Chevrolet Caprice. The killers left behind a trail of bodies from Washington DC to Virginia.
The film stars Isaiah Washington, most known for his role as Dr. Burke on Grey’s Anatomy, and Tequan Richmond, who played the part of Ray Charles Jr. in the 2004 film Ray. Though I’m not entirely familiar with Richmond, I do remember Washington’s performance in Grey’s favorably and have great faith in his acting skills. I also find it an interesting choice to portray the story from the eyes of the attackers, and if done well, this film has the potential to be extremely thought-provoking.
What movies are you looking forward to this year? Comment below.