In all honesty, I cannot say that I am as optimistic about the films slated for release in 2013 as I was for 2012. The cinemas will be full of more prequels and sequels than ever. Apparently, the argument about whether to pump so much money into franchise films is over. The only remaining disagreement seems to be over title conventions - should the powers-that-be go with the traditional numbering (Iron Man 3, The Hangover III), the colon (Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Mad Max: Fury Road, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Thor: The Dark World), a combination of the two (Kick Ass 2: Balls to the Wall), or neither (Monsters University, Star Trek Into the Future, The Wolverine)? (Personally, my highest hopes lie with the prequel to one of the most loved films ever made – Oz, The Great and Terrible.)
That said, high and low expectations about a whole year of movies are rarely met. So without further ado, the following are my top 10 most anticipated films of 2013 (in alphabetical order) …
The Counselor (directed by Ridley Scott; written by Cormac McCarthy; starring Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Michael Fassbender). In my honest opinion, there are just too many movies and TV shows about lawyers. It’s really just not that glamorous a job. But I am willing to set aside my jaded bias for this tale of a lawyer who finds himself in over his head with the drug trafficking business. Ridley Scott reunites with Michael Fassbender, whose performance in last summer’s Prometheus was one of the undisputed high points of the divisive film. And Cormac McCarthy, whose novels have been the creative fodder for an impressive range filmmakers (No Country for Old Men (2007), The Road (2009), offers his first original screenplay.
Evil Dead (directed by Fede Alvarez; written by Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Sam Raimi, and Rodo Sayagues; and starring Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez). In a genre teeming with inferior knockoffs to The Blair Witch Project (1999), the pendulum needs to swing back toward the visually visceral. And with the studios going nuts with the remakes/reboots in 2013 (including reboot #2 of the Superman franchise, Carrie, Oldboy, The Lone Ranger, and possibly, Robocop), the one that caught my eye is this retelling of one of the most notorious independent cult horror films ever made. Original star Bruce Campbell and original director Sam Raimi (who has since moved on to more traditional fare) are serving as producers for the feature film debut of director Fede Alvarez. Twenty-five years ago, when my friends and I first viewed the The Evil Dead (1981), we reveled in the bizarre and campy effects, which may well have been a matter of necessity. But we also wondered aloud how truly disturbing the film could have been without the buffer of humor and with a decent budget. From the buzz building around a red band trailer, I think we might finally have an answer – for better or for worse.
Gravity (directed by Alfonso Cuarón; written by Alfonso Cuarón, Jonas Cuarón, and Rodrigo Garcia; and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney). “The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter.” Anticipation is at an all-time high for director Alfonso Cuarón’s long-awaited follow-up to Children of Men (2006). This film has been in production for a while, and the rumor-mill has been churning for a couple of years. Will Sandra Bullock be able to carry a one-woman show in the same way Sam Rockwell did in Moon (2009)? After an original release date of November 2012, we will have to wait until November 2013 for the answers.
The Great Gatsby (directed by Baz Luhrman; adapted for the screen by Baz Lurhman and Craig Pearce; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, and Joel Edgerton). It is usually a bad sign when a film spends as much time in post-production as this fifth film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. With a preview that appeared in theaters last May featuring a soundtrack by Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Jack White, it seemed like direct Baz Luhrmann was offering unconventional modern take on a revered classic, as he did with Romeo + Juliet (1996). But apparently, someone asked him to go back to the drawing board, as the release date was pushed from December 2012 to May 2013. And although The Great Gatsby features one of my favorite actresses (Carey Mulligan), it was also shot in 3D. I am not a big fan of 3D, but when I heard director Christopher Nolan (also not a fan of 3D) praising the footage he had seen of The Great Gatsby, I was sold.
Inside Llewyn Davis (written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen; and starring Justin Timberlak, John Goodman, and Carey Mulligan). The Coen brothers reunite with John Goodman (Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998)) for a film described by imdb as “singer-songwriter navigates New York’s folk music scene during the 1960s.” Will it be a comedy, a drama, or simply defy such conventions? Who knows. What we do know is that with the Coen brothers, we can expect the unexpected.
Nymphomaniac (written and directed by Lars Von Trier; starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, and Willem Dafoe). From the imagination of writer/director/provocateur Lars Von Trier: “A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.” When Shia “The Beef” was cast last summer, he indicated he was up for anything. It all tends to make you say “hmmm.” That said, if I had read the premise of von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) before going into the theater, I probably would have passed. As it turns out, it was one of my favorite films of that year. And as it turns out, von Trier’s last film, Melancholia, was my favorite film of 2011.
Only God Forgives (written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; and starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas). Perhaps expectations for director Refn’s follow-up to Drive (2011) may be summed up best by this fake fan poster. Suffice to say, Refn pulls no punches when it comes to stylized violence. Of this revenge-thriller set in Bangkok, Refn has said, “From the beginning, I had the idea of a thriller produced as a western, all in the Far East, and with a modern cowboy hero.” The rumor is that we should also expect a dash of mommy issues.
Snow Piercer (directed by Bong Joon-ho; adapted by Kelly Masterson; and starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, and Song Kang-ho). You know we are in a depression when you have such an abundance of post-apocalyptic/empty Earth films. To be sure, Oblivion (the new Tom Cruise vehicle), Elysium (the sophomore effort by District 9 director Neil Blomkamp), Ender’s Game (the next sci-fi trilogy featuring Harrison Ford), and After Earth (director M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent bid for re-respectability) will all garner more fanfare than South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s (mostly) English-language debut - an adaptation of the French novel (Le Transperceneige) about a train occupied by the last survivors on Earth. But with a track record of three great films in a row (Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), Mother (2009)) and one of the most interesting ensembles of actors in years, this could be the sleeper sci-fi hit of the year.
Twelve Years a Slave (directed by Steve McQueen; adapted for the screen by John Ridley and Steve McQueen; and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, and Benedict Cumberbatch). For this list, I have to go with my own known quantities. In this case, the strength of the two prior collaborations between director Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender – Hunger (2009) and Shame (2011) – means that I will be eagerly this adaptation of a memoir of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped, sold into slavery, kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before the Civil War.
The World’s End (directed by Edgar Wright; written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright; starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman). If you simply told me that the Wright/Pegg/Frost collaborations Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) were but the first two installments of a thematic trilogy (the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”), then I would definitely be in the theater for the third. As if the plot really matters, the word on the street is that the movie centers around an attempt by a group of friends to reenact a pub crawl 20 years later which ultimately becomes a struggle for the future of humanity.
BONUS – The Most Interesting Film of 2013 That Almost Was: Frank or Frances. From the mind of Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Synecdoche, New York (2008)): An auteur director (Steve Carrell) faces off against his nemesis - an angry blogger (Jack Black) - with a supporting which that would have included Kevin Kline and Elizabeth Banks. And it would have been a musical-comedy. If anyone has an extra $10 million to meet the budget and get the project out of turnaround, please contact Mr. Kaufman immediately.