Anne Thompson and TOH! writers Matt Brennan, Bill Desowitz, Beth Hanna, Maggie Lange, Matt Mueller and Sophia Savage share the movies they are most looking forward to in 2013.
It's always disheartening to recognize that the surplus of strong year-end movies inevitably gives way to the prospect of movies that look downright awful. Here we go again with sequels –from "Cloudy with Meatballs 2, "Despicable Me 2" and "Smurfs 2" to another "Hobbit" movie, a postponed "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "A Good Day to Die Hard," "Hangover III," and "Iron Man 3" directed by Shane Black. And why do I have queasy feelings about Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel"? I wish he was directing "300: Rise of an Empire" instead of Noam Murro (!!??).
Among the 2013 non-sequels, I have trepidation about "World War Z," which had its share of problems and reshoots, but at least Marc Forster and Brad Pitt are capable of delivering quality; Gore Verbinski's out-of-control "The Lone Ranger," which looks like a self-indulgent wank and has Disney brass mighty nervous; Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (there's a reason Warners took it out of the Oscar season), and "Hansel and Gretel: Witchhunters (the trailer is dreadful), which reminds me that I like Jeremy Renner too much to see him throwing a promising career away on pixelated action fare. (Yes, one has to balance fuck-you money with career cred.)
Of the ones that might actually be good, I am hopeful about:
Inside Llewyn Davis (TBD): The Coen brothers are back with this period piece set in the 60s Village music scene. Produced by Scott Rudin. I bet it shows up at Cannes.
"Oblivion" (April 12) : Even though Joseph Kosinski of "TRON: Legacy" directed this Universal sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise, it's shot by Claudio Miranda ("Life of Pi") and I have a hunch its vision of a dying Earth could be visually riveting.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" (May 17) – J.J. Abrams pulled off a major feat rebooting "Star Trek"–with considerable help from screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Four years means they took the time to do a good job.
"Pacific Rim" (July 12). While I am among the many who wish that Guillermo del Toro had stuck it out and directed just two "Hobbit" movies, after a four year hiatus he's back with a must-see big-budget epic about giant robots vs. giant monsters.
"Elysium" (August 9) – "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp brings us yet another dystopian tale starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. But this could be the best of the lot.
"Prisoners" (September 20): Smart Canadian Dennis Villeneuve (Oscar-nominated "Incendies") directed this Warners crime thriller with a strong ensemble: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard.
"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" (October 4): Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are back with this long-awaited sequel from Dimension starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King and Jamie Chung.
"Gravity" (October 18): I adored Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian mood piece "Children of Men," and while he probably spent too much on this outer space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the audience may still come out ahead even if Warners doesn't. (At least this studio does take chances.)
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (November 22): I enjoyed the first film but worry that new director Francis Lawrence is not of the caliber of Gary Ross. But the Suzanne Collins novel grows in stature with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), so I'm betting he won't fuck it up.
"Saving Mr. Banks" (December 20): I have a hunch I am not the only "Mary Poppins" fan looking forward to this behind-the-scenes story about the power struggle between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and writer P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to get the classic musical made. The BBC and Ruby Films are producing this; John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") directs from a script by Sue Smith and Kelly Marcel ("Fifty Shades of Grey"). Distributor Disney is giving it a prime holiday award season berth.
"Jack Ryan"(December 25): Paramount and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura have finally revved up a new Jack Ryan sequel, written by David Koepp, and starring Chris Pine as a younger iteration of the Tom Clancy character much like Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck; he was also played by the older Harrison Ford. "Thor" director Kenneth Branagh is another reason for feeling optimistic.
"To the Wonder" | April 12
Though the advance word has been mixed, to say the least — it currently merits a mere 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, if you go in for that sort of thing — I'm most excited for Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." I'm interested to see how the iconoclastic director develops the commandingly beautiful stream-of-consciousness he pioneered, with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, in "The Tree of Life." Even more, Malick's output for decades was a notorious trickle, and there's no guarantee his recent productivity is the new normal. I'm happy to enjoy the prolific output of one of our greatest living directors while it lasts.
"Labor Day" (2013)
Jason Reitman's latest is a marvelous parable set in the early '80s about a depressed single mom (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-old son, who pick up a wounded stranger (Josh Brolin) who turns out to be an escaped convict.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" (March 8)
Sam Raimi's invested as much passion in this Oz origin story with James Franco as he did with "Spider-Man," and the trailer looks auspicious in its sense of wonder and beauty.
"The Croods" (March 22)
DreamWorks has a trio of animated features next year but the most intriguing is this comedy/adventure from Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon") and Kirk DeMicco about civilization's first modern family trying to "adapt or die" as the Earth grows through some serious growing pains.
"The Great Gatsby" (May 10)
Baz Lurhmann does F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age masterpiece in 3-D as only he can, with DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Here's hoping he's found the right cinematic alchemy.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" (May 17)
J.J. Abrams now owns "Star Trek" and his sequel looks like a great step forward in taking us where no one has gone before while honoring the roots of Gene Rodenberry's vision.
"Man of Steel" (June 14)
Zack Snyder reboots Superman with Henry Cavill in a post-modern existential crisis. It's a far cry from Richard Donner's beloved rendition, and it's long overdue.
"Elysium" (August 9)
Neill Blomkamp follows up his terrific "District 9" with an even more ambitious sci-fi adventure about polarized societies split between overpopulated Earth and a luxurious space station, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster as combatants.
"Gravity" (October 18)
Alfonso Cuarón's 3-D claustrophobic space adventure with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney has been getting great advance buzz, especially for its bravura opening in a 17-minute take.
"Frozen" (November 27)
Disney's on a roll and this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" looks like it'll turn the fairy tale on its head (helmed by animated vet Chris Buck and the studio's first female director, Jennifer Lee, fresh from co-writing "Wreck-It Ralph").
"Side Effects" (February 8) and "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (2013)
Rooney Mara proved her dedicated, spikey acting chops in David Fincher's underrated "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" in 2011, and I've been avid to see more of what she can do. Luckily for me, Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects" and David Lowery's debut feature "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" hit the screen this year; the former a thriller focused on a young woman's deleterious breakdown following her husband's release from prison, the latter an outlaw Western co-starring Casey Affleck and Ben Foster.
"To the Wonder" (April 12)
Divided, even scathing reviews out of Venice and Toronto can't quell my excitement for Terrence Malick's latest — especially after the American and French trailer debuts of the film, which offered a sense of Malick's tried-and-true visual lyricism, and his move toward ever more avant-garde forms of storytelling.
"Before Midnight" (2013)
Richard Linklater's first two "Before" installments capture the beauty of two souls connecting, while offering a realistic look at the difficulties of relationships and life's inevitable disappointments. I have high hopes for this new third film, which finds a middle-aged Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) in Greece.
"Side Effects" (February 8)
Though I prefer the original name ("The Bitter Pill") to its current moniker, I'm looking forward to seeing Rooney Mara in Soderbergh's upcoming thriller, written by screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. His work with Soderbergh on 2011's "Contagion" was amazing and haunting — and I've got similar expectations for this one.
"The Great Gatsby" (May 10)
I bet that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" will be so extravagant, glamorous, and sparkling that my eyeballs will pop. Also, his anachronistic and rocking soundtrack choices have hooked me in the trailers.
"This is the End" (June 14)
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, this movie stars Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Michael Cera, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Rihanna — all as themselves. This wild card revolves around a house party at James Franco's home.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (November 22)
Because of Jennifer Lawrence.
"I'm So Excited" (March in Spain)
"Pedro Almodovar's belated return to outright comedy marks the first time he's worked with Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz on the same project.
"Gravity" (October 18)
Alfonso Cuaron's science-fiction/astronaut drama "Gravity" with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. I've been hearing good/intriguing buzz about it!
"Lowlife"/"The Nightingale" (2013)
James Gray ("Two Lovers," "We Own The Night") returns with go-to leading man Joaquin Phoenix and–as if that wasn't enough to get me excited–Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner are also on board. Set in 1920s New York City, Cotillard stars as an immigrant who is tricked into working in the world of burlesque until a magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being kept on Ellis island. ThePlaylist saw some early footage at Telluride.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" (March 29, 2013)
Derek Cianfrance arrived with the heartbreaking "Blue Valentine" in 2010, and he also returns with his leading man Ryan Gosling for "The Place Beyond the Pines." After debuting at Toronto, the film received excellent reviews and the new trailer has me even more excited. Gosling is joined by Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne in what looks to be and is touted as a deeper investigation of masculinity and other themes brushed upon in "Blue Valentine." There's also an air of mystery and word of a major plot twist, which certainly doesn't temper our impatience to see it.
"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His" and "Hers" (2013)
Ned Benson directs Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in a "His" and "Hers" pair of films about the crumbling relationship of a married couple in New York. Chastain has been everywhere since her breakout year in 2011 and this season's controversial Oscar hopeful "Zero Dark Thirty," but McAvoy's face has been more of a rarity on the screen. Last year he only starred in "X-Men: First Class," though he also voiced the titular characters in "Gnomeo & Juliet" and "Arthur Christmas."