Honestly, a part of me is surprised we made it to 2013. No, I never seriously believed in the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. The logical part of my brain would point out that there was zero scientific evidence that anything was going to happen. Still, that little, frequently ignored part of my brain that still believes in Bigfoot, Mothman, and ghosts, that always pinches me a little when I don’t forward a chain letter, couldn’t help but wonder. What if there was something to it? I didn’t stop me from paying my bills but there was a slight bit of apprehension. Of course 2013 came. Of course we’re still here.
None of that has much to do with the movies coming out this year. It's just another reason to be glad that the world didn’t end. While 2013 couldn’t hope to live up to the massive amounts of hype riding on 2012’s summer, there is a diverse number of exciting films hitting this year. Let’s be optimistic and look forward to the future.
Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2013:
1. Pacific Rim
Has Guillermo del Toro ever directed a bad movie? Sure, some of his films are better then others. "Pan’s Labyrinth" is doubtlessly a more sophisticated film then “Blade II.” (And “Mimic” wasn’t really his fault…) Wither he is making a deeply personal, foreign language fable or a special effects filled, action-heavy crowd pleaser, the guy delivers.
So that’s reason enough to get excited about “Pacific Rim.” But you know what else this movie has got? Giant robots, which I like a lot, and giant monsters, which I like even more. It’s got giant robots rocket punching giant monsters in the face. Giant monsters that owe just as much to H.P. Lovecraft as they do to Toho. Giant robots piloted by awesome people like Idris Elba, Charlie Day, and, naturally, Ron Perlman. And, holy shit, are those shout-outs to “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Gigantor,” and “Portal?” Looks like “Pacific Rim” has taken almost every thing I love about Japanese sci-fi and mash it all together. Awesome of that magnitude trumps just about everything.
2. The World’s End
I would make the case that Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are the modern equivalent of Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese’s mid-70s/early 80s pairing. Different genres, of course, but the comparison is apt when you consider both teams consistently pumped out excellent films together. Maybe the Wright/Pegg/Frost trio is even more vital, since all three collaborate on the screenplay. “The World’s End,” the last part of their Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy has been cooking for a while and is quite mysterious. While zombie movies and cop flicks are distinct genres with established rules and conventions, the apocalypse genre is a little mistier. This film seems to be just as much about booze and pub-crawling as it is the end of the world. Somehow, the mystery just gets me more excited. If this is even a fraction of the film that “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” were, it’s still going to be great.
3. The Last Stand
Arnold is back, bitches! The nostalgia-driven eighties action revival we’ve been going through for the last few years comes few circle with the undisputed king of the genre returning to leading man roles. Not one, not two, but three!, Arnie-starring vehicles will grace us this year. While “The Tomb,” another team-up with the other king of eighties action, and gritty-crime flick “Ten” are both exciting in their own right, “The Last Stand” lords over the rest for me.
Why? Not only does “The Last Stand” have Arnie making a one man stand against a horde of crooks while sporting an Eastwood-inspired haggard demeanor, it’s also directed by Korean madman Jee-woon Kim, the director of “I Saw the Devil,” one of my favorite films of 2011. Just imagining Schwarzenegger's quipping mixed with Kim’s gore-strewn, hyper-kinetic style has got me super-pumped.
4. Freezing People is Easy
I don’t think I’ve talked about it much here but I like Errol Morris quite a bit. He’s the master of the documentary, in my opinion, with his “interesting person talks directly into the camera” style being deeply involving. The filmmaker attempted to break into fictional films before but this project is not only more exciting, but far more aligned with his comic sensibility. Honestly, the true story about the troubles of starting a cryonics business would probably make an awesome Errol Morris documentary. A screenplay from “Stranger then Fiction’s” Zack Helm and a cast headlined by Paul Rudd and Christopher Walken has this shaping up into a delightfully dead-pan, quirky comedy. This one is a bit of a long-shot, since IMDb still listed it in pre-production and will probably not get made until 2014 but, what the hell, I’m optimistic.
5. Machete Kills
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrantino get compared a lot, mainly because the two are buddies, emerged into the indie world around the same time, and both specialize in exploitation movie throw-backs. The big difference is that Rodriguez is far more prolific, pumping a film out about once a year. (He actually has two coming out this year, this one and the about-three-years-too-late “Sin City” sequel.) This work ethic has led to a much more uneven filmography, with several of Rodriguez’ projects being forgettable at best and downright bad at worse.
However, there’s plenty of reasons to get excited about “Machete Kills.” The first one was pretty entertaining and, unlike some of the director’s other would-be exploitation films, actually struck a decent balance between blood, guts, sex, drugs, nudity, and audacity. Not to mention being the perfect leading man vehicle for the Bronson-esque charm of Danny Trejo. While the wacky plot for the sequel, involving drug lords and satellite technology, might be another case of trying too hard, the cast is hard to ignore: Mel Gibson as an insane bad guy, possibly villainous turns from William Sadler and Cuba Gooding Jr., an Antonio Banderas cameo, Sofia Vergara in leather, additional sex appeal from Amber Heard, all-grown-up Alexa Vega, and the returning Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. Even the addition of Lady Gaga and Charlie Sheen (As the President of the United States of America) are odd-ball enough to add to the overall appeal.
2013 is the year that Korean filmmakers invade Hollywood. Aside from Jee-woon Kim’s “The Last Stand” and Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer, “ discussed below, we have this project from Chan-wook Park. Park is perhaps the most critically beloved of the three filmmakers, with “Oldboy” being an established modern classic.
While the director’s involvement gives me faith, it’s the premise of “Stoker” that gets me excited. Described as a twisted psychological thriller that slides into horror, the film is about a teenage girl (Played by the very talented but generally underutilized Mia Wasikowska) developing an obsession, equal parts sexual and neurotic, with her uncle, all while dealing with her emotionally disturbed mother, played by Nicole Kidman in glassy-eyed crazy-mode. Ah, a film after my own heart. Even the charisma-lacking Wentworth Miller co-writing the screenplay isn’t enough to dampen my buzz for this one.
Speaking of consistently good filmmaker! While Spike Jonze is responsible for some good goddamn movies, his involvement isn’t enough to get me enthusiastic about this one. (Especially after the emotionally-rending but uneven “Where the Wild Things Are”) Once again, it’s the story that really caught my eye: A lonely writer falls in love with his operator system. So wait, writer’s appeal and odd romance? Possibly discussion of gender relations? You could say those things directly appeal to me. Honestly, it’s surprising to see that Jonze penned this one by himself, since the premise is rather Charlie Kaufman-esque. And, hey, the seriously talented cast includes Amy Adams, Jauquen Phoenix, and Rooney Mara.
8. Magic Magic
Definitely the most uncertain item on this list. Last year, “Silent House” was sold to me as “Repulsion” for the twenty-teens. Needless to say it, uh, wasn’t. This, however, might just fit the bill. The story revolves a young girl slowly loosing her grip on sanity while trapped in the Chilean jungle. The leading lady is the talented up-and-comer Juno Temple and Michael Cera, remember Michael Cera?, has a rare, dramatic supporting role. All promotional material definitely seems to be focusing on the fact that this is a horror film, not a thrills-tinged drama.
That is enough to get the film on this list but the project is still a bit of a question mark for me. I’m not familiar with director Sebastian Silva at all. While “The Maid,” which I haven't seen, was critically well-received, he’s still mostly unproven, particularly in the horror genre. So I don’t know how this one will turn out, even if the premise seriously has me hooked.
Vincenzo Natali never exploded, like some of the other indie-horror start-ups of his era. “Cube” is well-known and well-liked, “Cypher” and “Nothing” were mostly ignored, and “Splice,” while I personally thought it was good, received a somewhat chilly critical and public reception. I’m still convinced the guy has it in him to be the next David Cronenberg, the original Canadian horror auteur.
“Haunter” has a damn catchy concept. It’s a ghost story, told from the perspective of the ghost, a switcheroo so obvious and intriguing I’m surprised it’s never been tried before. (Unless it has and I’m just unaware of it.) Similar to Natali, star Abigail Breslin never took off like we expected her too but a dark project like this might be what’s needed to reinvent her career. Of course, Stephen McHattie, another reliable Canadian talent, is also in the cast. All of this sounds good to me.
10. Iron Man 3
It’s not that I’m tired of superhero movies. Obviously I’m not, because I’m a huge nerd. The real reason “Iron Man 3” has placed so low on this list is primarily because I honestly don’t know how Marvel is going to follow “The Avengers.” Not to mention “Iron Man 2” is easily the weakest of the Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr. is also dangerously close to becoming overexposed.
Still, there are two main factors making “Iron Man 3” exciting to me. Mainly, we will finally see Shellhead’s arch-enemy, the Mandarin, on-screen, something we’ve been promised since the end of the first movie. While I have my reservations about the presumably low-tech, magic-less reinvention of the character and the possibly phoned-in performance from the frequently phoned-in Ben Kingsley, it’ll still be awesome to see the two dueling on-screen. Secondly, Shane Black, the man responsible for writing many of the eighties’ awesome-est moments, is directing. White is a perfect fit for the character. The trailer, with its dark tone, promise to challenge its hero like never before, and gravelly-voiced terrorist adversary, seems to intentionally recall “The Dark Knight Rises,” a move I’m still not sure how to interpret. I’ve never been a huge fan of the “Extermis” storyline either, the basis for the film. Basically, I’m hoping this one will be great, even if I’m uncertain it will be.
Other movies worth discussing this year:
Apocalypse movies were big last year, predictably. Following suit, there are several post-apocalyptic flicks coming this year, like “Oblivion,” which I’m uncertain of, and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which I hope will be good even if I’m unsure if George Miller still has in him. And, of course this one, which seems to boil down to Will Smith and Will Smith Jr. surviving in a world where everything is trying to kill them. Decent premise, okay cast, but the most interesting aspect about the trailer?: That M. Night Shymalan’s name is nowhere to be seen. Seeing the once promising, currently completely discredited auteur in work-for-hire mode raises its own questions.
There shouldn’t be any reason to be excited about this second remake/third adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal novel. (Third/fourth if “The Rage: Carrie 2” counts, which it does.) It falls back on the typical remake byline these day of hewing closer to the source material, while similarly modern-ing up the story. Throwing cyber-bullying aspect into "Carrie" is a terrible idea, says I.
Defying all odds, several forces have conspired to make this interesting. Chloe Moretz is the premier young actress currently and Julianne Moore will assuredly ham it up fantastically as Carrie’s mom. More intriguing is that this femme-centric horror story is actually being directed by a woman, promising to bring a new perspective to the material.
Child of God
Jesus Christ. My favorite Cormac McCarthey novel is being adapted by James Franco, an obnoxiously pretentious wanna-be artistese that I care for none at all, no thank you. Franco is naturally forcing himself into the cast but at least he isn’t playing the lead character. That falls to some guy named Scott Haze, an unproven bit player that looks almost as douchey as Franco does. I never would have expected this novel to get filmed, but if it had, there would have been literally dozens of other filmmakers better suited.
Richard Kelly moving into serious character drama territory is a double-edged sword. On the plus, a grounded story could potentially rein in Kelly’s insistence on forcing incoherence, obnoxiously ambiguous cosmic nonsense into otherwise interesting material. It might force him to actually make a movie that makes sense for once. On the negative side, this might be going too far in the opposite direction. The story seems to revolve around politics and a supermarket chain. This sounds really fucking boring and could crush everything interesting and likable about the guy’s work.
In many ways, this is the big sci-fi film of 2013. I liked Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” but, despite an A-list cast including Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, I’m getting a serious case of been-there, done-that with this one. There have been so many stories that have reframed our current economic downturn in science-fiction terms; this one has the rich living in domes in space while the poor suffer on polluted Earth; that it’s hard to get excited. However, an early preview described it as the biggest budget Italian post-apoc, "Mad Max" rip-off ever made, including killer robots, exploding ninja stars, and laser shields. The schlock I can get in to, the social commentary less so.
The horror remake trend has slowed down with the few that slip through being high profile. “Evil Dead” is the most inevitable of these remakes and Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell producing is no guarantee of quality. The premise has been rejiggered to revolve around an alcoholic teen going through detox with her friends in a cabin. I already dislike this as I know the entire first act of the movie will revolve around the girl seeing freaky things and nobody believing her, one of the hackiest, most hateful horror clichés. At least it’ll be gory and R-rated. It’ll also be studio slick and overproduced, with a no-doubt thudding musical score and jump-scares a plenty.
While Pixar’s output in the last two years has been disappointing, Disney has been picking up the slack. Their animated features have been consistently awesome. This long-in-the-making adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” seems to be shaping up into a companion piece to “Tangled.” I’m a big enough animation nerd that another Disney fairy tale gets me hyped. While I would have preferred traditional animation, you know those icy vistas are going to be gorgeous in CGI. And it’s a musical? Fuck yeah, it’s a musical!
It’s sort of cool that Daniel Radcliff is using his post-“Harry Potter” affluence to make dark, intriguing films. He’s certainly not taking the expected path. I don’t know if he is intentionally trying to dispel expectations or if subject matter like Allen Ginsberg and cannibalism are just what interest him. Anyway, Alexandre Aja, who I historically love, is handling this first adaptation of one of Joe "Stephen King Jr." Hill’s novels, which is in-and-of itself cool.
The first “Kick-Ass” is an admitted guilty pleasure of mine. The movie totally undermined its own premise of “superheroes in the real world” by becoming increasingly ridiculous. But Matthew Vaughn’s direction was sure and, hey, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy were awesome. Considering it looked like this wasn’t going to happen for a while, I’m excited this finally came together. Seeing a more developed Chloe back in her trademark role is great. I hope the filmmaker tossed out most of the source material, since the sequel comic was typical Mark Millar trash.
The Last Exorcism Part II
I guess we’ll find out why the last one wasn’t so last after all? The first one was actually extremely good. It seems like this sequel should have been out all ready and I fear it will be overshadowed by all the other Satanic-themed found-footage flicks. Early reports seem to suggest that the found-footage angle was going to be dropped but that apparently didn’t come to be. I do like that it’s going to revolve solely around Ashley Bell, as she is one of the most promising young genre actresses.
Man of Steel
I’m incredibly apprehensive about this. Superman shouldn’t be a hard character to get right on-screen but he is for some reason. It doesn’t help that DC itself is totally clueless on how to handle him. The realistic, cynical approach isn’t right, in my opinion. I’m certainly not looking forward to Zack Snyder’s all-style, no substance direction. Still, the cast is exciting, from the perfect Amy Adams down to Michael Shannon finally arriving as a big screen bad guy. Henry Cavill is still something of a question mark but he at least looks the part. At least the movie will have plenty of action, unlike the previous Superman outing.
How’s this for a premise: Chronicling the love-hate relationship between a man and the demon that lives in his intestines and how it complicates his life. Not that I needed further information to sell me, but the cast features Gillian Jacobs, who is everywhere this year, Patrick Warburton, and Stephen Root. This one nearly made it into my top ten.
Want to bet that Lars von Tiers has made the most depressing porno ever?
Aside from the most prominent of the extreme Korean cinema directors breaking into the English-language market this year, the trademark film of that movement is getting an English-language remake. An “Oldboy” remake has been banded about for a while and widely dreaded by fans that aren’t looking forward to the dark material being forced through the Hollywood, mass-appeal sausage grinder.
I suppose if it’s going to happen, this is the best case scenario. Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlo Quiently are all close-to-perfectly cast in their roles as main character, love interest, and villain. I’m not sure where Samuel L. Jackson will fit in. Spike Lee is certainly an interesting choice for director. He guarantees a gritty aesthetic, which is nice, even if there’s no room in the material for his trademark inflammatory politics. I’m fairly certain the original twist ending, the dramatic crux the entire movie is built upon, will be excised. Here’s hoping it isn’t.
The Profane Exhibit
It’s the trash-cinema version of “V/H/S!” Yep, horror anthologies are a thing now in the indie scene, which is awesome. The movie shares several filmmakers with another horror-anthology, “The ABCs of Death.” Unlike the previously mentioned films, this one has a much more diverse selection of talent in it. On the good side, we have Richard Stanley, Nacho Vigalondo, gore-comedy director Yoshihiro Nishimura, experienced Italian make-up artist Sergio Stivaletti, and motherfucking Coffin Joe! However, the rest of the directors, among them professional hack Ryan Nicholson and, Jesus Christ, Uwe Boll, seem to suggest this will mostly be dreary shock-horror nonsense. Even if it’ll probably be terrible, I’m hopelessly intrigued by this one.
It’s not the odd storyline, revolving around the last survivors of a new ice age riding through the world on an winter-proof train, that interests me. (Unsurprisingly, it’s based off a French comic book.) Instead what caught my eye is the previously mentioned director, Joon-ho Bong, the man responsible for “The Host,” which I liked a lot, and the all-star cast, including Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt.
Star Trek Into Darkness
I don’t know about this one, guys. I should be super-excited, right? I thought J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot was good, even if its flaws have become more apparent in the intervening years. (Like how it has little to do with Roddenberry’s original themes.) Yet I’m having a hard time getting into this one. I’m sick of Benedict Cumberbatch. (Thanks for that, “Sherlock” fan girls.) If he is indeed playing Khan, he’s woefully miscasted and, even if he isn’t, I don’t think he’s strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Chris Pine’s Kirk. The story, about worlds in peril and powerful villains seeking revenge, seems like a rehash of the first one. The trailer goes out of its way to disguise all the elements you actually associate with “Star Trek.” The title is hopelessly awkward. I’m apprehensive. We’ll just have to see.
Thor: The Dark World
The first ‘Thor” was good, even if the character is probably the least interesting of the Avengers. (Barring Hawkeye, of course.) I’m split on the decision to go further into Asgard’s fantasy elements. It’s a natural choice, obviously, and the more time spent away from Earth and in big, special effects filled worlds is probably for the best. On the other hand, elves and wizards aren’t really my thing and I’m disappointed that the series is heading full-steam into fantasy, after the first one went with a more interdimensional tone. Add an undistinguished TV director and a reluctantly returning leading lady and you’ve got a movie I’m obviously going to see but aren’t particularly invested in. (You can say the same thing about "The Wolverine," though I'm even less invested in that one.)
That went on way longer then I expected. Here’s some other shit I want to see but don’t feel like writing fifty words about:
Aftershock, Digging Up the Marrow, The Double, The East, Entity, The Europa Report, G. I. Joe: Retaliation, A Good Day to Die Hard, Gravity, Hatchet III, Hanukkah, The Iceman, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Your Eyes, John Dies at the End, Lords of Salem, The Lone Ranger, Magpie, Maniac, Marfa Girls, Misadventure of the Dunderheads, Monster Butler, Monsters University, Night Moves, No One Lives, Passion, Premature, R.I.P.D., S-VHS, A Single Shot, Teddy Bears, Texas Chainsaw 3D, The Wolf of Wall Street, You’re Next, and The Young and Prodigious Spivet.