Friday, February 1, 2013

Most Anticipated Films of 2013 – Part 1: Blockbusters


Title: Elysium
Release: August 9
Genre: Sci-Fi Action Drama
Plot: The year is 2159. Earth is ruined. The wealthy live on a space station called Elysium while the rest of humanity toils away below on Earth, forced to stay there by harsh anti-immigration laws that preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. Backed into a corner, an ex-con, Max, agrees to take on a difficult mission to find a way into Elysium, one that could bring equality to the people of Earth.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Why It’s Anticipated: Neill Blomkamp became one of the most hyped directors in the sci-fi genre after his first feature District 9. He was attached to a Halo movie (based on the X-Box game) until that project fell apart, but now fans finally get to see a new film from him. Blomkamp is again working with his District 9 collaborators actor Sharlto Copley, cinematographer Trent Opaloch, and production designer Philip Ivy again (though, Peter Jackson is not involved on the production side this time).
Editor’s Thoughts: Elysium was initially scheduled to debut in March but was pushed back to August. Why is not completely clear, but here are two thoughts: 1) March is overcrowded with big releases like Jack the Giant Slayer, Oz the Great and Powerful, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and The Host so maybe Sony wanted to place this in a different spot on their calendar and August is the month that District 9 opened in and succeeded. Or 2) the film is not as good as Sony was hoping so they moved it to August where summer blockbuster-like movies go to die (like Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy last year). Reviews of the script by online critics (take that as you will) have not been overwhelmingly positive. I am inclined to think it is more the former than the latter.
Trailer (if available): Here

Title: Gravity
Release: October 4
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Plot: Two astronauts are the lone inhabitants of a space shuttle. However, after a piece of debris crashes into them leaving them adrift and alone, they desperately try to get back home to Earth.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Main Cast:  Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Why It’s Anticipated: Alfonso Cuaron is one of the great directors we have today. He is coming off of two big critical and commercial successes in Hollywood with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (arguably the best of the series) and Children of Men (to go with his two excellent Mexican films Love in the Time of Hysteria and Y Tu Mama Tambien). Gravity has also been hyped after Cuaron screened an early cut for a small audience last year to strongly postive buzz – talk of twenty minute fluid single takes where a buzz among those who saw the cut. Also, having Sandra Bullock and George Clooney will help bring in average filmgoers, which will help the box office (which is good, as if cool films like this do well then Hollywood will make more original content from great directors and not just the same generic nonsense).
Editor’s Thoughts:  Gravity was initially scheduled for release in November of last year (and was one of my most anticipated of 2012), but Warner Bros. decided to push it back because the holiday season became overcrowded. Then, they thought briefly about releasing it in early 2013 (like March), but they like the film and think it has awards potential, which is why it now has the October release date. Another thing to be excited about is that Cuaron is working again with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Their work together on Children of Men is incredible, and this is supposed to feature amazing long-takes. This is the film I am most excited to see in 2013.
Trailer (if available): Here

Release: December 13
Genre: Adventure Fantasy
Plot: Part two of The Hobbit Trilogy finds Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves continuing their journey to get the Dwarves’ home back from the vicious dragon Smaug.
Director: Peter Jackson
Why It’s Anticipated: An Unexpected Journey was one of the biggest films of 2012, so it stands to reason that The Desolation of Smaug will be equally as big. Plus, this film should be more action-packed as it will drive deeper into the meat of the story’s drama (which was sort of the problem with part one). Another great aspect of this film is that Benedict Cumberbatch is voicing Smaug.
Editor’s Thoughts: It will be interesting to see if Peter Jackson releases this film with both the high frame-rate and regular versions. I was interested, but never got around to seeing An Unexpected Journey in high frame-rate 3D so I cannot speak to it from personal experience. However, most people who did see that version felt that the high frame-rate ruined the movie (#HobbitVomit was trending on Twitter). So, will Jackson stick to his guns and try to win people over or will he give in to the criticism? I did enjoy An Unexpected Journey (even with its pacing issues) and am very much looking forward to part two, because I think it will be much better as there will be more organically story driven action and drama (instead of action scenes being overly long, artificially extended because the story does not have that much action for a big blockbuster).
Trailer (if available): Here

Title: Iron Man 3
Release: May 3
Genre: Action Adventure Thriller
Plot: After attack is waged on Tony Stark, taking a huge personal toll, he sets off to find those responsible. His quest leads him to China where he faces his most powerful enemy yet, The Mandarin. Tony also wrestles with the question that haunts him: “Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?”
Director: Shane Black
Why It’s Anticipated:  The Avengers was the biggest film of 2012, and Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were relatively well-received by critics and loved by fans (well, more Iron Man than its sequel). Iron 3 kicks off Phase II of Marvel’s Avengers’ film series, and it looks like a fantastic movie rising to the challenge that Joss Whedon set with The Avengers (which is easily the best film in the series so far).
Editor’s Thoughts: While I cannot know this for sure, I suspect that Robert Downey Jr. brought writer-director Shane Black in to make this film, as they have a strong relationship (Black directed Downey Jr. in his film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which helped resurrect Downey Jr.’s career leading to him being cast as Tony Stark), after Jon Favreau stepped down.  Black is one of the best action writers in Hollywood (he wrote Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight before making his directorial debut and writing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).  Iron Man 3 is only his second film as a director, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was brilliant so I have nothing but faith in his abilities. I would go further as to say that I am more excited for Iron Man 3 because Black is doing it. The film also boasts an impressive cast of new actors to the series including: Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, and James Badge Dale. In all likeliness, it is between this film, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Man of Steel for best summer film.
Trailer (if available): Here

Release: December 25
Genre: Action Thriller, Drama
Plot: Rebooting the Jack Ryan series (again), this adventure finds the young CIA analyst uncovering a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy via terrorist attack.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Main Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh
Why It’s Anticipated: Jack Ryan is Paramount Pictures’ Christmas blockbuster. The Tom Clancy Jack Ryan series has been a fan favorite since its first incantation in 1990 with The Hunt for Red October, only to be followed up with Harrison Ford’s (as Jack Ryan)very entertaining two films with director Phillip Noyce: Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Likely, this will be Paramount’s attempt to create another James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne like franchise and this will probably feature more action than past Jack Ryan films (but will also hopefully feature Ryan playing detective as well like the past films).
Editor’s Thoughts: The first reboot of the series, The Sum of All Fears, came too close to 9/11 and was just too much at the time. Paramount seems to have put together a good team for this rejuvenation (of a franchise I liked a lot in the 1990s). Kenneth Branagh did a good job with Thor and is otherwise a good filmmaker; it is also fantastic that he is playing the villain. The studio turned to Chris Pine as their new Jack Ryan. He is great in the Star Trek reboot, bringing a lot of swagger and energy, and should be a great Ryan. Keira Knightley brings a higher level of talent to the role of Ryan’s wife than past incarnations, so maybe she will be more involved in the drama as well. And, Kevin Costner is a really good choice to play Ryan’s mentor, as it is a role he does well. All in all, it is the cast, director, and my past nostalgia for the 1990s Jack Ryan adventures that have me very interested and excited to see how this turns out.
Trailer (if available): Here

Title: Man of Steel
Release: June 14
Genre: Action Adventure Drama
Plot: A retelling of the Superman origin story. Clark Kent is an alien infant raised on Earth. He grows up hiding his superhuman abilities. When his adopted world is threatened, he must decide if he should reveal his abilities to protect Earth.
Director: Zack Snyder
Why It’s Anticipated: Superman is maybe the biggest and best known comic book character. Plus, the creative team that reimagined Batman starting with Batman Begins (David Goyer and Christopher Nolan – who’s latest film, The Dark Knight Rises, was one of the best of 2012) is now taking on Clark Kent, which should have you very excited. Goyer and Nolan will probably ground the character in a more realistic character driven environment (as realistic as an alien who fights crime can be) with characters who will emotionally resonate with the audience. While Marvel and Disney want to make really fun comic book movies, Warner Bros (with Goyer and Nolan, et al.) want to continue to make comic book films (with great action) that also appeal as satisfying dramas (like The Dark Knight Trilogy).
Editor’s Thoughts: Zack Snyder makes a lot of sense as the director for a Superman movie. He has a great grasp of wonderful cinematic visuals, and his style, which seems to get in the way of his storytelling sometimes, will likely be reined in Nolan (who is producing). Snyder has an overall strong filmography as a director. Dawn of the Dead was a good debut, and 300 showcased his ability to pull off stunning visuals. While Watchman was good, it suffered from overindulgence in Snyder’s style. Sucker Punch on the other hand was completely derailed by Snyder’s style over story and content. Based on the Man of Steel trailers, it appears that Snyder has given the film strong (if not iconic) visuals but has put the story first, which is great news for the film. It looks like it is going to be very good (another piece of good news: Nolan has brought in his frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer to score the film). I also really like the casting of Henry Cavill as Clark Kent. I think he will make a fantastic Superman (and Michael Shannon is going to be a great villain – he was born to be a comic book villain).
Trailer (if available): Here

Title: Pacific Rim
Release: July 12
Genre: Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Plot: Massive aliens attack Earth, threatening the very survival of the human race. In an effort to fight back, giant robots piloted by humans are used to wage the battle for Earth.
Why It’s Anticipated: Enormous mechanized warriors fighting huge alien monsters, what is not awesome about that? It is like Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (only Mechagodzilla is good and piloted by humans to stop Godzilla – and there are lots of both).  This should be a highly entertaining huge action film.
Editor’s Thoughts: For the fans of Guillermo del Toro, this holds a whole different level of excitement and anticipation. He is responsible for some good stuff (the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth), especially when it comes to creating creatures.  Pacific Rim also has a great cast – who is not excited to hear the crazy stuff Charlie Day gets to spout off? Whether this is just a big fun summer movie or something that transcends the blockbuster genre (like say The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises) remains to be seen, but certainly this is something to get hyped for if you like blockbuster action films.
Trailer (if available): Here

Release: May 17
Genre: Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Plot: The crew of the Enterprise is called back to Earth, however when they arrive they find that a seemingly unstoppable force has devastated Starfleet and left the planet in chaos. Captain Kirk and his crew are tasked with going on a manhunt to bring the responsible man to justice.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Why It’s Anticipated: Despite hardcore Star Trek fans having issues with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, it brought the cherished sci-fi world to the masses of movie-goers and they loved it (as did critics). Star Trek Into Darkness looks to be an even bigger adventure. Chances are if you liked the first film you are going to really like this one too.
Editor’s Thoughts: J.J. Abrams is one of the best action-film directors in Hollywood right now. His films have a frenetic pace – always moving forward and packed with action. Yet, he still is able to develop great characters. Plus, they are extremely fun and entertaining. Star Trek into Darkness is his fourth feature film (following Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, and Super 8). I am also interested and excited to see Benedict Cumberbatch play the film’s main villain. I think he is going to be fantastic (2013 very well could be his breakthrough year, as he is starring in an impressive list of films: August: Osage County, Twelve Years a Slave, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and this).
Trailer (if available): Here

Release: June 14
Genre: Action Comedy
Plot: A bunch of friends go to a party at James Franco’s house, and then the apocalypse happens and they have to deal with it.
Director: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Main Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Danny McBride, and Jonah Hill
Why It’s Anticipated: The film features a ton of funny and otherwise great people on top of the film’s very funny stars in supporting and cameo roles, like: Jason Segel, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, and Mindy Kaling (among others). Plus, the writing team of Rogen and Goldberg is responsible for Superbad and Pineapple Express (and Rogen wrote on Undeclared and Da Ali G Show, while Goldberg also wrote on Da Ali G Show and co-wrote the criminally under seen Hockey comedy Goon with Jay Baruchel), so generally their stuff is funny and very entertaining. Basically, this has most of today’s best film comedians all together in a crazy action-horror-comedy premise – how is it not going to be awesome?
Editor’s Thoughts: Based on the short Jay & Seth versus the Apocalypse, this has the potential to be an amazing comedy, and certainly the best of the year. But, it is so ambitious that it reminds me of Your Highness (which I thought was going to be brilliant and hysterical but it was ultimately disappointing), so this could just as easily fall apart as be fantastic. That is what happens when you go big – either it works and is great, or it does not and falls flat, but at least it has the potential to be great. Most comedies now are just boring, tired narratives reusing ‘it’ jokes from past films. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Jason Segel, Paull Rudd, and Jay Baruchel are making the best comedies right now, so having them all in the same film playing themselves should be a lot of fun (and it helps that they are all real life friends and have wonderful chemistry, which is paramount in comedy). Plus, the premise sounds like a riot (I mean, there is a shot of Emma Watson with an ax in the teaser, so…).
Trailer (if available): Here

Release: November 8
Genre: Action Adventure Fantasy
Plot: After the events of The Avengers, an ancient race of Dark Elves threatens to throw the universe back into darkness – that is, unless Thor can stop them.
Director: Alan Taylor
Why It’s Anticipated: Thor outperformed the expectations that Marvel had for it, and now after the huge success of The Avengers this new Thor adventure has many fans very excited (though, this is well below Iron Man 3). Marvel is also bringing back almost the entire cast of the first film. The Avengers essentially made all the Marvel Phase II films must-sees.
Editor’s Thoughts: With director Kenneth Branagh not returning, Marvel decided to make an interesting and timely choice for his replacement in Alan Taylor. He is one of the major creative forces behind HBO’s Game of Thrones, directing six of the twenty episodes in seasons one (2) and two (4) and serving as a co-executive producer for all of season two. While Branagh gave Thor a fantasy feel, Marvel wants Taylor to give Thor a much more gritty realistic feel, though still keeping some fantasy aspects – basically they want it to feel and look like Game of Thrones. I think it probably will work out very well for them. Christopher Yost is also one of the film’s writers, which is a great thing too given the material.
Trailer (if available): Here

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