Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bangers n' Mash Show Episode 2

So here's the second episode of my podcast-that-actually-isn't. In the second episode of the Bangers n' Mash Show, JD and I discuss the films of Full Moon Entertainment, focusing on the Puppet Master and Subspecies series. Spoilers abound for both franchises.

This episode is also full of laughing, swearing, audio errors, and generally babbling incoherence. I'll do better next time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar 2012: Nominations and Predictions

Oscar season is a lot like Christmas for me. Except instead of unwrapping a bunch of boxes full of mystery and surprise, you get pretty much exactly what you expected because you’ve all ready been through a season full of other award shows. I know the Oscars are stupid. I know they’re meaningless. They don’t reflect the public’s taste in film and they don’t reflect the actual best films that came out last year. I know they are, at best, two and a half hours of Hollywood patting itself on the back and, at worst, a swindle game full of bribery and deceit so shady producer types can buy themselves prestige. I don’t care. I love them anyway. Each year, more and more, I find myself as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to see what’s in the big box.

Last year’s Oscar show was almost unbearably dull and, after a few years of daring and interesting decisions, saw the Academy fall back on boring old formula wins. This year, Oscar seems more determined then usual to celebrate mediocrity. “The Help,” another mediocre, racist, inspirational dramedy about how black people need a sassy white woman to help them out, has a disconcerting number of nominations and seems primed to walk away with at least a few. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” despite being a syrupy nonsense story that ropes one of the worst tragedy in American history into its sob-fest, not to mention damn-near acidic reviews, snagged a few nominations of it’s own. Hell, even “Anonymous,” disaster-movie-maven Roland Emmerich’s bungled attempt to go straight, and “W.E.,” Madonna’s latest shit, managed to snag a nomination each. The Academy seems even more committed to distancing itself from actual critical opinion by sticking “The Tree of Life,” maybe the best reviewed film of the year, with a measly three nominations.

But maybe that’s the way it’s supposes to be? The Academy Members are, after all, a seemingly random selection of Hollywood talent, pulled from past winners and industry veterans. They’re sent hundred of screeners and surely their choices have nothing to do with hype. The Academy Awards is democracy in action, for better or worst. Usually for worst.


For the last two years, the Academy had ten Best Picture nominations for some reason. Seeing as how this didn’t make the show more appealing for young people or anything, this year they went with the strategy of, basically, “We’ll have as many nominations as we want!” They wound up with nine, as if to say, “We want to be different from last year, but not too different.”

There were no surprises in this category, at least no pleasant ones. “The Descendents,” “Hugo,” “Moneyball,” “War Horse,” and “Midnight in Paris” were all movies that found their ways into many a critic’s top ten list. “The Help” seems to be the populist vote this year, even if nobody liked it. Another movie nobody liked was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Despite pissing off New Yorkers with its insensitive handling of a still raw issue, it too managed a nomination.

But none of that matters because “The Artist” is going to win. Very few seem to think it’s a great film, however, most agree that it’s a pretty good film. Moreover, it’s a loving homage to Hollywood’s golden age. And there’s nothing a self-congratulatory ceremony loves more then a movie congratulating the same things they’re congratulating. I suppose the fact that it’s a silent film could possibly damper its chances at success some. It is an election year, after all. I guess “Moneyball” or something could win. But I think this is “The Artist’s” game to loose.

Official Prediction: “The Artist.”


About a month ago, I would have told you that Gary Oldman’s acclaimed, low-key performance in “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy” was a sure-fire pick for Best Actor. But then the Golden Globes happens and America made it clear that the movie with the funny title was just too damn British for them. It’s a shame since it might be the veteran thespian’s only shot at getting a statue any time soon.

The Academy loves George Clooney and his sad-sack turn in “The Descendents’ seems right up their alley. Love for “The Artist” continues here and might mean a win for Jean Dujardin. Seems like Oscar loves to sneak in one or two nominations for some actor or film I’ve never heard of and this year’s surprise selection is Demian Bichir for “A Better Life,” whatever that’s about.

Despite all these fine choices and performances, I suspect America’s overwhelming love for Brad Pitt will probably lead him to gold here. Top-tier categories like this tend to favor crowd-pleasers and Pitt is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser, for reasons that have mostly evaded me. He was definitely going to get nominated and “Tree of Life” was too artsy. Baseball is something more people understand, it seems.

Official Prediction: Brad Pitt for “Moneyball.”

SNUBS: Mainstream critics loved “Drive.” Hell, I even liked it. But I guess even a critically acclaimed movie with a car chase and a head stomping was a car chase and head stomping too many for the Academy. Ryan Gosling was left out in the cold.

Likewise, Michael Fassbender for “Shame” and Michael Shannon for “Take Shelter” were also snubbed. I knew both were long shots but I had hoped Oscar would dislodge its head from its ass long enough to notice these two extraordinary actors. Gritty indies have no place at this ceremony unless the word “Weinstein” is somewhere in their credits.

In a year full of wonderful performances from wonderful actresses, the Academy stuck by their list of old faithfuls. Meryl Streep and Glenn Close both received their umpteenth nominations despite “The Iron Lady” and “Alfred Nobbs” getting lukewarm receptions.

It seemed uncertain that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would receive any nominations, since the material is dark, edgy, and directed by David Fincher. However, this is a movie based on a million-unit selling book series and Lisbeth Salander has quickly become a beloved character. Either way, Rooney Mara is a surprising and welcomed noticed.

Similarly, Michele Williams is an actress I like and is hugely talented. She’s received her thrice nomination for “My Week with Marilyn.” By all accounts, Williams gives a great performance. If she’s ever going to win an Oscar, is going to be for playing the most iconic actress in the world.

But this is the year of celebrating mediocrity. I’m sure Viola Davis has given many fine performances over the years and will continue to but does she really deserve to win over any of the above for a routine piece of shit like “The Help?” The standard set by Sandra Bullock’s ugly, cartoonish, stereotype-ish, Oscar-winning turn in “The Blind Side” says, “Probably.” (I’m never going to forgive you for that, Oscar.)

Official Prediction: Viola Davis in “The Help,” because this show loves to disappoint and infuriate me. Having said that, I’m rooting for Michele Williams in “My Week with Marilyn.”

SNUBS: Elisabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcey May Marlene” is probably the most glaring omission for me, since that was one of my favorite performances of last year. As mentioned above, Oscar has locked out all the indies. Kirsten Dunst in “Melancholia,” Carey Mulligan in “Shame,” Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin," and Adepero Oduye in “Pariah” were all ignored.

Supporting Actor:

Alan Rickman, Donald Sutherland, Steve Martin: 0. Jonah Hill: 1. I don’t care how good “Moneyball” is, that’s just shameful.

Max von Sydow, Kenneth Branagh, and Nick Nolte are all respected actors that have been in the business for a long time. They deserve Oscar nominations. That they’re nominated for forgettable stuff like “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “Warrior” is a bit of a shame. Academy might throw an old-timer like Sydow a bone, but all of these are legacy nominations, as far as I’m concerned. Branagh doubly so since he’s nominated for playing Lawrence Oliver.

“Beginners” is a movie I hadn’t heard much about until Christopher Plummer started picking up awards for it a few months back. Apparently he plays an old man who has a difficult relationship with his son, dies of cancer, and also comes out as gay. Shit, man, this thing couldn’t be Oscar-bait-ier if it was set during the Holocaust.

Like Sydow, Plummer is a seasoned character actor that has done a lot of work over the years. (Also like Sydow, he’s appeared in his fair share of schlock.) Unlike Sydow, I can’t really name a previous, single, stand-out performance. It’ll be Plummer’s night.

Official Prediction: Christopher Plummer for “Beginners.”

SNUBS: Patton Oswalt is having a Snub-Party and you’re invited, Albert Brooks.

Supporting Actress:

I don’t have much to say about this category since it’s populated with movies I don’t give a shit about. They couldn’t have nominated Jessica Chastain for literally anything else she was in this year? Must “The Help” be a double-nominee? And if “Albert Nobbs” was going to get another nomination, I’m surprise it wasn’t for Mia Wasikowska, who continues to do stand-out work in material far beneath her. I’m a big “Gilmore Girls” fan, so it’s cool that Melissa McCarthy got mentioned, though still not cool enough to get me to watch “Bridemaids.”

Basically, since all the other nominations seem to have been chosen solely because those movies were nominated in other, more important categories, Berenice Bojo seems to be the stand-out choice. I’m indifferent.

Official Prediction: Berenice Bojo for “The Artist.”


This is one of the few exciting categories. It’s full of respected, award-hoarding directors that have actually made a couple of good movies in the past. I think it’s fair to say that Woody Allen’s and Scorsese’s prime days are behind them and Alexander Payne has yet to reach them.

So it really comes down to two picks: Terence Malick for “The Tree of Life” and Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist.” Now it’s obvious that Malick is the correct choice. Even if his films are frequently meandering and ponderous, the guy is clearly a visionary. The Oscars should be about celebrating that kind of scope and aspiration. However, the notoriously elusive Malick probably won’t show up anyway and the Best Picture winner usually takes home Best Director too, even if it doesn’t deserve it. (Which it frequently doesn’t.) It wouldn’t be the first time a legendary filmmaker was passed up for some Johnny-come-lately. Having said that, I’d still say the odds are 60/40 in Malick’s favor.

Official Prediction: Terence Malick for “The Tree of Life.” Probably.


The writing nominations are usually a mixture of smaller pictures and lingering nods from the bigger movies destined to win other awards that night. “Artist”-fever could attack this category as well and if Woody Allen’s winning anything, it’ll be for his screenplay. Usually though, the winning space is reserved for a smaller picture. Comedies do better here and many people wet themselves over “Bridesmaids.” Likewise, a complex, foreign drama like “A Separation” has a better shot here then it does elsewhere.

The Based on Previous Material category is a little trickier. The Academy loves Aaron Sorkin but he did just win last year for “The Social Network.” Even Oscar isn’t obtuse enough to give the same guy the same award twice in a row. (Usually.) “Hugo” and “The Descendents” also have their best shot here, since they’ll be obscured by bigger films in other categories. Honestly, I’m still betting on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” though. Maybe I’m just full of it, but it sure seems like it should win something, doesn’t it?

Official Predictions: “A Separation” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

SNUBS: I guess the Diablo Cody backlash stretched much farther and deeper then I anticipated. Not a single nomination for “Young Adult,” not even in the writing category where it seemed a sure-fire choice. Which is a bit of a shame since, from the sounds of it, it’s a much better film then her previous two scripts.


John Williams sure is popular around these parts, ain’t he? He’s got two nominations for the two Spielberg movies he scored this year, “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin,” which was otherwise ignored. The second score is jazzier while the first is pretty much what you’d expect.

I feel like a broken record here, but “The Artist” is the favorite. The movie relies heavily on music and it’s a spirited, old-fashion score. I bet the Academy loves it. Alberto Iglesias’ “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” score is too subtle. Howard Shore’s work on “Hugo” doesn’t really stand out for me.

In an odd move, the Academy only deemed two songs worthy of a Best Original Song nomination. But, ur doin it wrong, Oscar. If any song from “The Muppets” deserved a nomination, it was “Life’s a Happy Song.” Even in a movie about felt puppets, they went with the ballad. “Real in Rio,” from that mostly forgotten cartoon bird movie, is a really shitty song, you shouldn’t listen to it, and it shouldn’t win.

SNUBS: Almost too many to mention. First off, Alan Silvestri’s brilliant score for “Captain America” as well as the show tune “The Star-Spangled Man” easily deserved nods. Considering its leading the nominations, ignoring “Coeur Volant” from “Hugo” doesn’t make much sense, especially since it’s also quite good. It might not be for everybody, but Zooey Deschanel’s original songs for “Winnie the Pooh” fit the material perfectly.

While they dug his work on last year’s “The Social Network,” I guess Trent Reznor winning an Oscar is something they just aren’t going to let happen twice, even if his “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” score was solid. It never had a chance but The Chemical Bros.’ score for “Hanna” was a stand-out for me last year.

Other Film Categories:

The animated film category is a weird mix this year. Neither Pixar’s “Cars 2” (rightfully) nor Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” (regretfully) placed. Instead, two Dreamworks sequel carry the bulk of the weight with “Puss in Boots” and “Kung-Fu Panda 2.” Quirky, smart, theatrical “Rango” seems the likeliest winner, but Oscar might confuse and surprises us by picking one of the two obscure films nominated, “Cats in Paris” and “Chico and Rita,” neither of which I’ve heard anything about.

Foreign film is also a category I need some brushing up on. I can’t tell you anything about the nominations, other then “A Separationsure was loved a lot. I guess that’s my default pick?

Real life events
seems to favor “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” as the winner in Best Documentary, but “Hell and Back Again” was also well received. I know it was mostly a trifle, but I would have liked to have seen a nomination for Errol Morris’ “Tabloid.” “Project Nim” and “Bill Cunningham, New Yorker” were also snubbed despite near universal acclaim.

Naturally, I haven’t seen any of the shorts. (Hopefully, the Alamo Drafthouse will come through this year and screen the Oscar-nominated shorts again.) I won’t say anything else other then I really had hoped “The Ballad of Nessie” would score a nomination. Disney is doing some sterling work in traditional animation even if few people are paying attention.


David Fincher has the best team of editors in the world, so “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” will probably win best Editing, even if “Hugo” is the friendlier option. Scorsese’s latest probably will win in Art Direction, unless “The Artist” continues to sweep. The final “Harry Potter” film has a better shot in the Make-Up department then it does there.

Just like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” making millions and millions of dollars world-wide is inescapable, so is it winning some technical award, probably Sound Mixing. “Drive” has its sole nomination in Sound Editing so that’s its one chance. Even Oscar can’t ignore the fawning over that movie forever. Visual Effects is a much tighter competition. “Harry Potter” and “Transformers” are going to be hard to beat, but people won’t stop talking about the motion capture in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” It’s my choice.

That none of the superhero movies from this previous summer got a single nomination is a major omission. The special effects in “Thor,” just for one, were incredible.

The Tree of Life” is the obvious choice for Cinematography. I can’t imagine even cantankerous old Oscar disagreeing on that one. No, I don’t have an opinion on Costume Design. Ask someone else.


And that’s that. Unlike most years, I’m going to make an effort to watch some of the nominated pictures I haven’t seen yet and post reviews. Like most years, I am live-blogging the show. So on February 26th, watch and gripe along with me! You know you want too! Come on, I can’t face Billy Crystal alone!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Recent Watches: 1/14/12

To Live and Die in L.A.” is a natural evolution of the themes of “The French Connection.” I like William Friedkin. With the exception of the muddled “The Guardian,” I’ve liked-to-loved everything of his I’ve seen. But “The French Connection” didn’t blow me over like it does some many. I found it mostly to be a fairly effective crime thriller with a great lead performance. Even the often touted car chase didn’t excite me that much. I don’t know, maybe I need to rewatch it.

By 1985, the cop genre had become an established part of movie and TV screens. This film is a major deconstruction of many of the reoccurring clichés and tropes of the genre. We have a renegade cop. (actually, a Secret Service agent, but close enough. The same rules apply.) He goes off the rule book, breaks the law in order to go after the criminals, and doesn’t have a good relationship with Da Chief. His old partner, who he respects above all else, is killed three days before retirement, by the main villain of the film, of course. (The dude even fucking says, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”) Our out-of-control cop is partnered up with a by-the-book, straight-laced guy, who is constantly shocked by his partner’s crazy actions.

However, instead of being a likable rogue who strives against authority in order to get the bad guy, Richard Chance is a reckless, gruff, mean-spirited, unlikable asshole. Early on, the character is shown base-diving and the movie makes it clear that his increasingly reckless behavior has more to do with thrill-seeking then righting wrongs. He is cold and emotionless with his girlfriend, a police informant. Midway through the movie, he legitimately breaks the damn law, gets a guy killed, and causes a huge car crash. We then find out that he’s in even deeper shit then we previously thought. The filmmakers and writer seems to agree that Chance is just a dick, considering the shocking plot-twist that happens at the end. Moreover, his partner, who looks all the life like the cliched nervous Jew, is allowed to freak-out, acting like a total nervous wreck throughout the movie’s most intense sequence. This is, of course, the most logical response with being stuck in the backseat of a car driven by a lunatic. The intensity and immorality of the situations he finds himself in has a realistically adverse effect on his psyche. The movie takes the clichés of the genre and extends them to their most brutal, logical conclusion.

In total contrast, the villain of the movie is way more likable then the hero. Willem DaFoe is a very good actor and this movie drawls attention to the fact that he could have been a handsome leading man. At least at this point in time, he was a good-looking guy with a lot of acting chops. However, he’s also got the voice of a slithering, sleazy snake, typecasting him as the bad guy or psychopaths in countless films to come. DaFoe’s Eric Masters is still a pretty bad person, being a counterfeiter, a murderer, and a cold-hearted criminal. But he’s also organized, rational, controlled, and sensible for what he does, contrasting him completely with the increasingly out-of-control Chance. Masters is even romantic and gentle with his girlfriend.

The movie functions fantastically as an action movie as well, albeit an incredibly nihilistic one. Friedkin set out to top the car chase of “The French Connection” and totally succeeds. It’s a long sequence and just keeps going further over-the-top, before climaxing in a great scene that has our “heroes” driving against the grain of busy, freeway traffic. And, boy, is this movie bloody. In non-horror films, shotgun blasts to the face really have this much splatter. There's even some, mostly unexplained, homoerotic tension between Chance and Masters. The two undress in front of each other in a gym, lounge around in just a towel in a steam room, call each other "Beautiful." There's one scene where, I swear to God, the two are about to kiss each other. And mention most go to Wang Chang's snyth score. Now, it mostly just marks the movie as an unintentional period piece of the eighties, but it does work. It certainly better then anything, say, Tangerine Dream would have come up with.

Like all great deconstructions, Friedkin seems to have wanted to put the cop movie out of its misery with a bloody bullet to the head. It didn’t work, of course, but “To Live and Die in LA” stands out as a brilliantly downbeat, gritty piss-take on the classic cop movie formulas.

Friday, January 13, 2012

So I started a podcast... Kinda'.

So I decided to start a podcast. You can mostly blame the guys at Horror Etc. for putting the idea in my head that I can actually do this.

Of course, the big thing that has kept me from starting the podcast all this time is that, A) I have no money for file hosting. And B) I have no idea how to step an RSS feed or anything like that. All of this stuff is more complicated then I can figure out on my own. For now.

So, I just dumped the whole thing into a Youtube video. Presumably, I'll eventually figure out how to actually do this for real.

It's called the Bangers n' Mash Show, by the way. The general focus of the show will be on horror movies, with occasional digressions onto other topics. The focus of the first episode is on the Universal Monsters movies. Please listen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Film Preview

As a nerd, I have a love-hate relationship with anticipation. It’s easy to get excited about an upcoming project, be it a movie, a book, a video game, or whatever. Frequently, when you’re really excited about something, it’s not hard to see the entire film in your head before you even get a trailer. More often then not, the final product in no way lives up to the movie you saw in your head. That initial disappointment is hard to get over and often leads to the most excited film of the upcoming year being your most hated of the next. I call it “The George Lucas Dilemma.” Frequently I find myself more excited for seeing a movie, then the actual movie itself, if that makes any sense.

Having said that, 2012 sure is shaping up to be an exciting year. I’ve manage to put together a very long list of upcoming releases this year I’m looking forward too. The latest entries in beloved franchises, auteur filmmakers returning to beloved previous projects and areas, tantalizing indies starring new and old talent both in front of and behind the camera… There’s certainly a lot of expectations riding on all of this and a bigger chance then ever to be disappointed. But why focus on the negative? Let’s talk about WHY we’re excited for so much the forthcoming year has to offer us!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2012:

1. The Avengers

This is a movie I’ve literally been wanting to see since I was about seven years old. Not only has Marvel been building up for “The Avengers” over the last four years with their series of uniformly pretty good movies, not only was it a massively ambitious undertaking to bring all these stars and budgets together to make it happen, but this is the world’s first superhero team-up movie. The first time we’ve had a group of pre-established superheroes coming together on the big screen. This is a momentous occasion by itself.

Yeah, Joss Whedon writing and directing is a sign of concern. He’s good with ensemble and Whedon’s dialogue is still usually pretty sharp, but his tendency for melodrama and contrived bullshit hasn’t done a lot to endear him to me in recent years. Hopefully, Marvel will keep him on a strong leash. (And I don’t think they’ll let him murder Captain America in the third act or anything. Agent Coulsen on the other hand…) We also still don’t have an official plot description, which is mystifying. But, whatever. “The Avengers” is a once in a life-time nerd movie event.

2. Prometheus

As excited as I am for “The Avengers,” it’s really running neck-and-neck with this one. I adore the original “Alien.” It’s hard to deny the qualities of the Cameron’s sequel and, hell, I even like “Alien 3.” But I generally believed that most of the sequels have strayed from the dark, chilly, sci-fi-gothic tone of the original film. So, Ridley Scott returning to the franchise he helped create is massively exciting.

Of course, Scott and Fox have been ambiguous about how much of an “Alien” prequel this actually is. (Though the trailer makes the connection fairly explicit.) Yet this is somehow more exciting, since it means the movie is reaching for far more ambitious, cosmic levels. The rumors of space gods promise to make the Lovecraftian undertones of the original even stronger, which is exciting in and of itself. The cast is fantastic as well, with newly minted big stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender top-lining.

Really, the only thing here that can even slightly dim my anticipation is the fact that Ridley Scott hasn’t made a really exciting movie in over a decade… And that it’ll probably be rated PG-13.

3. John Carter

There are two reasons this one has me so interested. First off, I’m a sizable fan of the source material. I like a lot of early pulp writing and Edgar Rice Burroughs was often the most imaginative of his contemporaries. Honestly, it’s a bit of a shock that the Barsoom novels have never been adapted for the screen before.

The second reason is that this is Pixar director Andrew Stanton’s live-action debut. That’s right, kids, there’s such a deficit of good directors in mainstream Hollywood that they’ve started recruiting from the best animation house in the industry. Following in Brad Bird’s footsteps, it’ll certainly be interesting to see if the mastery of sci-fi imagery Stanton showed in “WALL-E” will carry over into live-action.

Beyond that, I do have a lot of reservations about this one. The trailer isn’t very good and reminds me way more of “Conan the Barbarian ‘11” then any high profile project should. The mid-spring release date seems to suggest a lack of faith from Disney in what could be a summer tentpole. The supporting cast is top full of Hollywood’s best heavies, including Bryan Cranston, Willem DeFoe, Mark Strong, and Thomas Hyden Church, but lead actor Taylor Kitsch is still unproven in my book. What I’ve seen of Kitsch doesn’t impress me at all, either. So this movie, like “Green Lantern” from last year and many films before that, is the most likely candidate for “Film I get excited for even though it’ll probably be completely mediocre” for this year.

4. Django Unchained

I’m pretty much a Quentin Tarantino apologist at this point. I’ve loved everything he’s done so far. Even “Death Proof,” even “Jackie Brown,” even “Four Rooms.” Yeah, the guy is increasingly consumed by his fetishes these days and I’m not just talking about the foot thing. The guy only makes movies about movies, filled with lots of meandering dialogue scenes, random tonal shifts, and increasingly heavy-handed themes and social commentary. His films are pulp comic book experiences. Love them for what they are. I do.

Anyway, QT finally making a western is a pretty big damn deal. Considering the guy’s obvious love of Sergio Leone and spaghetti westerns, it probably should have happened a lot sooner. And like “Death Proof” was his unique take on the horror genre (in that it totally wasn’t), this is shaping up to be a singular take on the oldest American genre, with its deep South setting and a plot will probably do to slavers and racism what “Inglourious Basterds” did to Nazis and fascism. And the cast is, as you’d expect, incredible. Yeah, I’d rather it star Idris Elba then Jamie Foxx too, but Leonardo DiCaprio playing a by-all-accounts total bastard villain is something to look for too. If it’s anything like Christoph Waltz’ turn in the last film, I suspect Leo might finally win his Oscar for this one. For me, it’s always exciting to see what Tarantino will pull out next from his very deep bag of tricks-stolen-from-other-movies.

5. Cloud Atlas

If you recall, my most anticipated film of last year was the Wachowski Brothers’ “C.N.9.” You might have also noticed that movie totally didn’t get made. I guess the world just wasn’t ready for the sci-fi gay American solider/Iraqi insurgent assassinate George W. Bush love story. Some day.

Instead, the Brothers turned their attention to adapting David Mitchell’s epic sci-fi novel, which I have not read. The story, which involves different generations over six different eras, from 1850 New Zealand to a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, is exactly the kind of wildly ambitious concept I’d exactly expect the Wachowskis to tackle. It’s such an ambitious concept that it’s actually going to take three directors to get made. The “Run Lola Run” guy, Tom Tykwer, will be handling parts of the film as well. The cast is as huge as the story is, including Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, and, groan, Halle Berry. Yes, it will probably be much more low key then any the director’s previous films, (Like I said, I haven’t read the book but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feature lesbians, wire-fu shootouts, or race car fight scenes), but this is still some pretty exciting stuff here.

6. Dark Horse

Todd Solondz’ deeply neurotic tragi-comedies are my sort of thing. His movies tend to be hilarious but only in the darkest, like-suicidal-staring-into-the-abyss, dark way. This latest seems to be deconstructing the “Outsiders fall in love and save each other!” cliché. While the premise might promise a softer, friendlier Solondz, I doubt anyone will make it out of this movie unscathed.

That’s not the only reason I’m looking forward to that. First off, the male end of the romance is an over-weight, adult age, collector of toys. Complete disclosure here: Those words could also describe me. The female end is Selma Blair, reprising her role from Solondz’ highly underrated “Storytelling.” (Second clue that this is going to be a deeply fucked-up love story.) The idea of people being ostracized within their own families is another theme the director has visited before to great success. Maybe more exciting then any of those things is the fact that Christopher Walken is in the movie. Walken and Solondz, a match made in neurotic, twitchy, weirdo heaven. Mia Farrow is cool, too.

7. The Iceman

Michael Shannon really came around this year. After working for years as a recognizable character actor, playing supporting roles in big movies, this year he’s received considerable praise and possible Oscar buzz for “Take Shelter.” He was also cast as the villainous General Zod in the upcoming new Superman movie.

However, this movie has been cooking before any of those and I’ve been a fan of Shannon since “Bug,” another underrated little flick. In this one, Shannon is perfectly cast as infamous mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski. This is exactly the kind of role almost guaranteed to win Shannon the Best Actor Academy Award he so obviously deserves. He’s propped up by a neat supporting cast including Chris Evans, comeback-ready Winona Ryder, and Ray Liotta, who is unsurprisingly playing a crime boss. Really, the only question mark here is director Ariel Vromen, who I’ll admit to not being familiar with at all. Also, that the IMDb list this with a 2013 release date, which seems surprising since filming’s all ready started and this seems likely to be picked up for a 2012 end-of-the-year award season friendly release date.

8. Skyfall

I think I was one of, like, ten people who liked “Quantum of Solace” as much as “Casino Royale.” Basically, I love Daniel Craig’s James Bond and his films have really reignited my fandom of the series in general. It seemed like this movie wasn’t going to get made for a long time but MGM has finally worked out their financial problems and the project is back on track.

Sam Mendes follows in the footsteps of Mark Foster as a director better known for drama chosen to handle the latest movie in this big action franchise. I’m honestly a little disappointed that the movie is dropping the Quantum storyline, which was primed to be the modern equivalent of SPECTRE. (I’m also disappointed that the movie isn’t called “The Property of a Lady.”) However, the newest storyline that promises to explore M’s dark past is pretty interesting. So is the supporting cast, which includes villainous Javier Bardem, Ralph Finnes, and a sexy young Ben Whishaw as the new Q, a character I can’t wait to see incorporated in the gritty, down-to-Earth rebooted series.

9. The Master

I recently converted to the church of Paul Thomas Anderson after finally catching up with “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood” on video, two movies which were as exactly as brilliant as everyone said they were. This is the movie the Church of Scientology doesn’t want you to see! (Well, the other other one anyway.) Being a fictionalized account of L. Ron Hubbard’s rise to infamy, riches, and self-appointed sainthood, that’s not surprising. Scientogists are notoriously cagey when people are actually honest about what a diabolic organization they really are and how big of an asshole its founder was.

The movie had a protracted preproduction. Universal balked at the projected 35 million dollar budget, even though they frequently spend much more then that on movies from much less respected filmmakers. The script, which featured experimental images like a grown woman reverting back to a baby in the womb, themes of incest, polygamy, and graphic sex, was also apparently a factor. Despite all that rushing around, the movie is getting made, kept Philip Seymour Hoffman in the titular role, traded up from Jeremy Renner to Joaquin Phoenix, and added Amy Adams and Laura Dern too. The script has apparently been greatly rewritten, which I hope means it hasn’t lost any of the blatant Hubbard bashing or any of the aforementioned weird stuff. I was really looking forward to that. (Another movie with an IMDb listed 2013 release date, even though it’s all ready wrapped filming and seems like another favorite for this year’s Oscar season.)

10. Parker

So here’s the other movie I’ve placed on my list that’s pretty much guaranteed to not be very good. Once again, my interest and faith in the source material is the main in here for me. Donald Westlake’s gritty Parker character, always written under the pseudonym of Richard Stark, has been adapted to the screen numerous times before, but never under the character’s actual name. (Point Blank and Payback, both fine films, are probably the best known adaptations.) Jason Statham probably isn’t the perfect pick to finally bring Parker to life under his actual name, too young, too pretty. But Statham does well playing remorseless, amoral protagonist. Ruthless career criminal is a character type he’s certainly excelled at before. Adding additional grittiness to the cast is Nick Nolte and Michael Chiklis. The idea of seeing Statham going toe-to-toe with washed up, D-list action star Daniel “Jean Claude Goshdarn” Bernhart has its own trashy appeal as well.

There are a few things that give me pause here. Taylor Hackford, a director best known for “Ray” and “An Officer and a Gentleman,” doesn’t seem like the ideal choice for this kind of film. Jennifer Lopez appears to be playing the love interest, which comes off as bizarre to me. The script has apparently reimagined Parker as having a moral code of some kind, which is total bullshit.

However, the thing that the film most has going for is also its biggest issue of concern. Jason Statham’s films are increasingly samey. He had like four movies come out last year and I honestly don’t think any of them were really worth seeing. I’m worried this film will be just another one of his movies. If the movie is as good and interesting as it could be, it would be just the thing to take Statham off his Segal-like path of playing the same character in direct-to-video films of increasingly diminished quality. And if it sucks, we still have Darwyn Cooke’s excellent comic book adaptation.


Other movies worth discussing from this year:

The Amazing Spider-Man
This series definitely needs a reboot, after Sam Raimi’s films fell into saulky nonsense. I like Andrew Garfield as Peter and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, as well as the slender, agile looking new costume. But do we really need another origin story? The overly moody trailer doesn’t point towards this being the sarcastic, wise-cracking Spidey of the comics that has never really been adapted to the big screen before. And the design for the Lizard is typical Hollywood bullshit.

I think we horror fans have given David Cronenberg a lot of rope when it comes to his recent, non-genre product. And he used all of that rope to cast Robert Pattison in his newest movie. The story certainly shows lots of opportunity for social satire and critique but, short of Pattison sprouting a meat-gun or turning into a fly monster mid-way through, I think I can say this is the first Cronenberg movies I have absolutely zero interest in seeing.

The Dark Knight Rises
I love “Batman Begins” and just about hated “The Dark Knight,” for reasons well documented on other parts of the internet. I’m very cautious about this one, even if it does have Talia al Ghul and Anne Hathaway in a leather catsuit. I’m not a fan of Bane at all and even I think turning him into a mumbley-voiced, pain-gas huffing terrorist is probably too much of an adaptational change. And if Christopher Nolan actually kills Batman, his head is even further up his ass, “Inception”-level 5 style, then I previously thought.

Dark Shadows
This movie couldn’t be Tim Burton-ier if he gave Barnabas Collins scissorhands. Burton’s increasingly workhorse like direction and his insistence of sticking Johnny Depp in a fright wig in everything has made me dismiss most of his more recent project. So why do I have a feeling that this adaptation of the cult supernatural soap opera is going to be pretty badass? Could be because it perfectly fits Burton’s style but he’s dialed down his cartoony visuals from what we’ve seen so far? The fact that, if the movie is anything like the show, it’ll be filled with a lot of classic horror trappings? Or maybe it’s just the awesome cast that actually features people other then Depp and Helena Bonham Carter? For whatever reason, I’m kind of really looking forward to this.

Dracula 3D
You’ve really got to dial back your expectations with Argento these days. His previous experiment with period-set gothic horror was notoriously bungled. The film preview that’s leaked to the internet shows a lot of 3D eye-gouging and Dracula turning into a giant praying mantis. Argento seems to be falling back on his all-to-typical-for-these-days reliance on gore and sex. Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing is cool but Asia Argento as Mina promises another really creepy nude scene. Considering the story, we’ll be lucky to get through this movie without seeing Asia in a(nother) rape scene.

The Expendables 2
I didn’t like the first “Expendables” very much, even though it was the best idea for a movie ever. My main point of complaint? The incoherent, shaky-cam direction that made all of the action scenes impossible to watch. First thing first, Sly fired himself from the director’s chair and hired Simon West. West’s last movie, “The Mechanic,” wasn’t a great film, but it did feature some pretty intense action and perfectly balanced, clear, steady direction. You actually knew who was shooting and/or punching who! The action star dream cast of the first movie has been pumped up further with the addition of personal favorites, Jean Claude Van Damme and motherfucking Chuck Norris, not to mention Bruce Willis and Arnie actually appear to do something in this one.

Alfonso Cuaron is a good filmmaker and his last sci-fi film, “Children of Men,” was actually great. So it’s nice to see him returning to the genre. The story involves a single female astronaut repairing a descending satellite and is essentially a one-woman-show. Pretty cool stuff, right? But any anticipation I had for this one was sunk with two words: Sandra. Bullock. I hate her. A lot. Her presence ruins what was otherwise a sure deal.

No One Lives
Ryuhei Kitamura’s films are usually visually energetic, if not always good. His last American horror film, “Midnight Meat Train,” received a muted reaction from even hardcore horror fans, but I loved it. His newest film has the juicy premise of a pair of criminals kidnapping a teenage girl, only to discover she’s a prolific serial killer. It’s the kind of switch-a-roo premise that reminds me of “Hard Candy,” a movie I adore. Really, the only thing that gives me pause about this one is that WWE, as in the wrestling company, is distributing it. (The same can be said for decent-looking, post-apocalyptic flick, “The Day.”)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
The first two Leatherface movies are stone-cold classics and the rest of the franchise is pretty much uniformly shit. It’s been made clear that nobody but Tobe Hooper really understood Leatherface or his family for the fascinating characters they are. So why bother with another sequel, much less one in gimmicky 3D? Well, first off, the series is out from under the crushing wings of Michael Bay’s Platinum Dune factory. Secondly, the script was apparently good enough to lure Bill Moseley and Gunnar Hensen back, if that’s worth anything. Finally, the storyline involves both a carnival ground and a female protagonist that is supposedly a little twisted herself. Mark me down as cautiously optimistic for this one.

Other upcoming releases I don’t feel like talking about include:

Brave, Bullet to the Head, The Bully Project, Chronicle, Detention of the Dead, Djinn, Don’t Go in the Woods, The East, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Frankenweenie, G. I. Joe: Retaliation, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter, Haywire, The Innkeeper, Intruders, Jack the Giant Killer, Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, John Dies at the End, Killer Joe, Livid, Lock-Out, Lords of Salem, Luna Mesa, Maniac, Men in Black III, Moonrise Kingdom, Nero Fiddled, ParaNorman, Piranha 3DD, The Raven, Secret World of Arrietty, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Silent House, The Tall Man, Terror of Dracula, Violet and Daisy, The We and I, The Wicker Tree, The Woman in Black, World War Z, Wreck-It Ralph

Let’s hope the world doesn’t end so we’re all around to actually see all of those.