I Am DB

March 23, 2012

Twenty Films I’m Looking Forward to in 2012

Filed under: Movies — DB @ 11:22 am
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A list like this one would seem most fitting for delivery at the beginning of the year, but I tend to wait until the Oscars are over and we can focus completely on looking ahead. Besides, rarely is there a movie released in the first few months of a given year that would land on anyone’s “most anticipated” list. In fact, today’s release of The Hunger Games is probably the first movie of 2012 that lots of people have been legitimately excited about. But this is just the beginning of what could potentially be an outstanding year for movies. It’s not just that so many great directors have new films coming out this year, but that those films hold such promise, be it from the pairing of certain directors and certain actors, or the match of director to material, or both…there’s potential for some seriously awesome cinema this year, including many projects that have been long-gestating and will finally see the light of day…or the dark of a theater, as it were.

Plenty of surprises surely await, but looking at what I know is coming down the pike, here are some I’m especially pumped about.

21. (Bonus)
UNTITLED TERRENCE MALICK MOVIE
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, Rachel Weisz, Barry Pepper, Amanda Peet, Michael Sheen, Jessica Chastain, Olga Kurylenko
Release Date: Unknown

Terrence Malick seems to be making up for lost time. The director, known for long gaps between projects, was already deep into production on this film when The Tree of Life was released last year. And his next two projects after this one have already been announced, complete with titles and even principal casting. Pre-production is said to be underway on the first of them, meaning it’s reasonable to assume that this movie – which still lacks a title – will be finished this year. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will be distributed this year. We’ve been here before; The Tree of Life made my list of most anticipated for three consecutive years before it finally came out. So I’m hedging my bets and sliding this in at a ranking of #21, just in case it does appear by year’s end. Little is known about the film, other than it being a contemporary romantic drama concerning a man and his relationships with a European lover and a woman from his hometown in Oklahoma. Expect to see a lot of wheat blowing gently in the wind, accompanied by whispered voiceover of Affleck pondering the deep mysteries of love.

20.
HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Colman
Release Date: December

We all know that Sean Penn is an amazing actor, but no way should he have won an Oscar for Mystic River over Bill Murray for Lost in Translation. Ever since that defeat, I’ve been hoping Murray would have another shot at the gold. This might be it. He plays President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a story set during a 1939 weekend visit to upstate New York by the King and Queen of England. The movie is said to concern a romance between FDR and his distant cousin and close confidant Margaret Suckley (Linney). I don’t know what tone the film is going for, though I’d guess it will be a light drama with refined comic overtones. Really, I’m just excited about the potential of a great lead role for Murray. Added bonus: the movie reunites him with Olivia Williams, who played his love interest in Rushmore and appears here as Eleanor Roosevelt. Rushmore…another movie for which Murray deserved Oscar attention (he wasn’t nominated). Even if this part puts him back in the race, his competition may be too stiff to overcome (as we’ll see further down the list). But if the movie and the role is good, his performance will be a reward in itself.

19.
SKYFALL

Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Helen McRory
Release Date: November 9

I like the James Bond movies, but I’ve never been a hard-core devotee of the franchise. I’ve only seen eight of the official 22 movies, and most of those are from the later years. But I dug the re-launch of the series that was Casino Royale, and liked the direction they were moving in with a less conventional choice for Bond in Daniel Craig (though I’m told by friends that Craig is much closer to the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels than any actor who’s played him previously). Quantum of Solace was less satisfying, but still I’ve been eager to see what was in store for 007. Complicated legal entanglements involving MGM, the studio holding the rights to the series, have held up the next installment, but now Bond is finally coming back. And in this year of great directors, it’s really because of Sam Mendes’ involvement that the movie cracks my top 20. Re-teaming with Craig, whom he directed in Road to Perdition, it will be fun to see what Mendes brings to the table. (One thing we know he brings is Greatest Living Cinematographer Roger Deakins, which means that whatever happens, this will probably be the best looking Bond movie ever.)

18.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Harris Yulin, Ben Mendolsohn
Release Date: TBA

One of 2010’s best films was the brutally realistic and blisteringly acted Blue Valentine, and now its writer/director Derek Cianfrance re-teams with one of its stars, Ryan Gosling. The plot synopsis on the web describes it as the story of “a motorcycle stunt rider (Gosling), who considers committing a crime in order to provide for his wife and child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician (Cooper).” Sounds like a more plot-driven movie than Blue Valentine, and who knows if Cianfrance can recapture the raw intimacy of that film…or if he even aims to try. Either way, I’m eager to see the results. Besides, Ryan Gosling seems to be good at playing stunt drivers. So there’s that.

17.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS
Director:
Martin McDonagh
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Gabourey Sidibe, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits, Kevin Corrigan, Zeljko Ivanek
Release Date: November 2

I really enjoyed McDonagh’s feature debut, In Bruges, as well as his Oscar winning short film Six Shooter. His newest sounds like a similarly offbeat crime-comedy, with Farrell playing a screenwriter who gets mixed up in a friend’s dognapping scheme, both of them running afoul of a crazy gangster whose prized Shi Tzu is targeted. McDonagh’s work strikes a Tarantino-like balance of humor and violence, but he has a voice all his own, and here he’s got a quartet of leads – Farrell, Harrelson, Rockwell and Walken – that somehow seemed destined to star in a violent comedy about gangsters, petty criminals and dog-snatchers. In fact, I’m sort of amazed it took this long.

16.
LAWLESS

Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Noah Taylor, Jason Clarke
Release Date: August 31

There’s been positive buzz around this Depression-era drama – adapted by musician/screenwriter Nick Cave from the much more colorfully named novel The Wettest County in the World – about bootlegging brothers in Virginia clashing with corrupt local authorities who want a taste of their action. I don’t know a lot about it, but I have a good feeling. The premise sounds interesting, the cast looks great and director John Hillcoat has impressed with gritty, somber dramas The Proposition and The Road. I feel like he’s poised for a breakthrough, and this could be it.

15.
ARGO
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Titus Welliver, Richard Kind, Tate Donovan, Adrienne Barbeau
Release Date: September 14

When Ben Affleck turned to directing, people were skeptical. He silenced those skeptics rather easily with Gone Baby Gone, and reaffirmed his talent behind the camera with The Town. Both movies earned Oscar nominations for members of their ensembles, and it’s believed that The Town probably came close to a Best Picture nomination. For his third trip behind the camera, Affleck dramatizes a real-life incident from the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in which the U.S. and Canada teamed up to rescue six U.S. diplomats being held at their embassy in Iran. Their plan? Claiming the diplomats were actually members of a film crew scouting Iranian locations for a science fiction film. It’s been nice to watch Affleck prove his mettle as a filmmaker after a string of bad movies as an actor, and Argo is shaping up to be another feather in his cap.

14.
GANGSTER SQUAD
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Mireille Enos, Frank Grillo
Release Date: October 12

After directing Zombieland, one of my favorite films of 2009, and last year’s 30 Minutes or Less, Ruben Fleischer is moving into less comedic territory with this movie, based on the true story of cops who were tasked with curbing the influence of East Coast mobsters in the City of Angels – particularly Mickey Cohen, who attained a strong foothold. (Cohen’s story was the jumping off point for 1997’s phenomenal L.A. Confidential.) Fleischer has enticed a tremendous cast to join him, which hopefully suggests that he’s got the chops to handle this kind of material. The era is proving to be a popular one; Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont is heading into production on a TV pilot for TNT called L.A. Noir, which focuses on the same period and some of the same characters. Here, the squad includes Brolin and Gosling, while Penn will play Cohen and Nolte will take on the era’s controversial police chief, William Parker.

13.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Chris Pratt, David Paymer, Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Kevin Hart, Jim Piddock, Mimi Kennedy
Release Date: April 27

Jason Segel’s 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a pleasant surprise, and showed that the actor – who also wrote the film – had learned well from his mentor Judd Apatow. Now Segel re-teams with Marshall director Nicholas Stoller, and the two of them share writing duties (as they did on last year’s The Muppets) on a new comedy about a couple’s impending marriage after a prolonged betrothal. I haven’t seen any trailers, but I’m counting on these guys and their reliable cast to deliver a sharp, humane comedy.

12.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY
Director: Andrew Dominik
Cast: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard, Garrett Dillahunt, Ben Mendohlson, Vincent Curatola
Release Date: September 21

Formerly titled Cogan’s Trade (further demonstrating, along with the above-listed Lawless, that Hollywood will always go with a generic, flavorless title over one with a dash of individuality), this crime drama reunites Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik, who previously collaborated on the masterful The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. But unlike that moody, patient Western, their latest is a present-day story involving a mob enforcer investigating a poker game heist. I’m not expecting anything as striking as Jesse James, but that movie is enough to make this one well worth getting excited about. Throw in James Gandolfini, who I happen to think should be featured in every movie ever made anywhere, and my hopes are high.

11.
GRAVITY
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Release Date: November

My many Oscar ramblings at the time made it clear that I was less than onboard with Sandra Bullock’s Oscar nomination and ultimate win in 2009 for The Blind Side. But I’ve always liked Bullock and thought she was an actress worthy of better movies than most of the ones she appeared in, so I hoped that her Oscar might at least lead her toward better material. Her first post-win role in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was a step in the right direction. Now she’s got a project that could really be something special. Bullock and Clooney play a scientist and astronaut, respectively, who find themselves stranded in space after an accident on their vessel, cut-off from communication with Earth and running out of time and oxygen. In fact, if what I’ve read is accurate, the incident leaves them tethered to each other and floating outside their ship. So…the movie will pretty much be two actors in spacesuits dangling in the vastness of space. It’s a challenging set-up, but Cuarón has the chops to pull it off. He’s a director responsible for films both narratively and visually rich – including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This one sounds pretty fascinating.

10.
LOOPER
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Garret Dillahunt, Tracie Thoms
Release Date: September 28

What would happen if you took 12 Monkeys, Timecop and Minority Report and tossed them into a blender? Other than destroying your blender, I’m not sure. But based on the minimal plot description I’ve seen, the result might be Looper. Coming from Johnson, the writer/director behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom, it could have a decidedly less mainstream vibe than any of the ingredients I mentioned (though admittedly, 12 Monkeys is pretty far out there for a studio-backed movie). Anyway, I don’t know if or to what degree any of those movies will indeed prove forebears to Looper. All I know is Johnson is an original filmmaking voice who earned my loyalty with Brick, and his newest effort involves time travel, which always peaks my interest.

9.
THIS IS FORTY
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Lena Dunham, Chris O’Dowd
Release Date: December 21

Among the great supporting characters in Apatow’s Knocked Up were Debbie and Pete (Mann and Rudd), the frequently squabbling sister and brother-in-law of Katherine Heigl’s Alison. Now they’re reprising their roles and taking center stage as Apatow turns his astute and hilarious lens on the joys and struggles of raising a family. Debbie and Pete’s kids will once again be played by Apatow and Mann’s real-life daughters, and while neither Heigl nor Seth Rogen is expected to appear, Jason Segel – who played Rogen’s buddy with a thing for Debbie – will be on hand. Apatow’s last directorial outing was Funny People, which I didn’t love as much as Knocked Up or The 40 Year Old Virgin, but the man is a comic god. The movie’s title is subject to change, but my anticipation is not.

8.
BRAVE
Director: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Cast: (Voices) Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
Release Date: June 22

The latest from Pixar was titled The Bear and the Bow in an earlier incarnation, but apparently its Scottish highlands setting required that the word “brave” be somewhere in the title (think about it), so they just went with that and called it a day. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a dark-ish fairy tale involving Princess Meridia, a skillful archer who feels stifled in her parents’ court and whose desire for adventure leads her to a foolish decision that inadvertently endangers the kingdom. This is Pixar’s 13th film, and its first built around a female protagonist. Surely Disney executives are sweating that one, concerned that little boys won’t be interested in a movie about a girl…even though Disney’s Tangled grossed over $200 million. No matter. In Pixar We Trust.

7.
GAME OF THRONES
Wait…sorry.  That’s a TV show…

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A mark of how promising this year is: the remaining movies are all pretty much in my top three. Unfortunately, there’s seven of them, and bad as I am at math, I’m not that bad. But these are the ones I’m really, really, really dying to see…

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7.
MOONRISE KINGDOM
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel
Release Date: May 25

Wes Anderson’s latest, co-written with Roman Coppola, is set in the 1960’s and tells the story of a boy and girl who fall in love at summer camp and run away together, sending their parents, the police, the camp staff and pretty much the whole community into a frenzy. Doesn’t really matter to me what it’s about, though. It had me at “Wes Anderson.” The director’s regular collaborators Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are on hand, and I’m loving the new crew of actors joining him for the first time. The trailer promises his usual quirky whimsy, and I like the idea of a story built around two younger protagonists.

6.
LINCOLN
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes,
James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jared Harris, S. Epatha Merkerson, Walton Goggins, Lee Pace, David Oyelowo, Gregory Itzin, Gloria Rueben
Release Date: November or December

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that Steven Spielberg is one of the great directors of all time, and Daniel Day-Lewis one of the great actors of all time. That these two should come together to tell a story of one of the great American presidents of all time is cause for cinematic celebration.

For the last who knows how many years, Spielberg’s slate of potential projects has included a movie about Abraham Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize winning tome Team of Rivals. With his Schindler’s List star Liam Neeson attached to play the 16th President, it seemed just a matter of time before the director would get around to it. But after years with no movement, Neeson bowed out of the project in 2010, feeling he’d grown too old to play Lincoln if the movie still got made. Just a few months later, Lincoln was announced as a go project with Daniel Day-Lewis onboard. This movie was always full of promise, but with all due respect to Neeson – who I’ve got nothin’ but love for – Day-Lewis’ involvement is a game-changer. This combination of story, director, lead actor, supporting cast, source material and screenwriters (including John Logan and Tony Kushner) makes this movie something to salivate over. I’d be happy with Day-Lewis doing a one-man show, but seriously, did you look at that list of actors Spielberg has assembled? With so many notable names, some will probably appear briefly as mere window dressing, but those are going to be some super nice windows. The most interesting piece of casting is Sally Field, who will play Mary Todd Lincoln. Field has spent the last several years working mostly in television, but she is, remember, a two-time Best Actress Oscar winner. It will be nice to see her with such a plum big-screen role, especially playing opposite fellow two-time winner Day-Lewis. (Field will also be seen as Aunt May in this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man).

The film will not be a birth-to-death style biopic, but where exactly it will focus remains unclear. Spielberg has said it will cover the last four months of Lincoln’s life, yet news articles appeared long after that comment and stated the film will depict his rise to politics and his role in the Civil War.

5.
THE MASTER
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern
Release Date: TBA

Wes is not the only gifted Anderson who’s back in the game this year. With Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson showed a dazzling skill with juggling ensemble casts in a way that did his hero and friend Robert Altman proud. Yet There Will Be Blood showed that he could just as easily build a film around a single dynamic character. The Master will probably fall somewhere in between. Details are vague, but the film is apparently set in the 1950’s and casts Hoffman as an L. Ron Hubbard-like figure named Lancaster Dodd, who starts a religious movement that grows into something cult-like. Adams will play his wife, while Phoenix’s role is said to be that of a drifter who is initially seduced by the charismatic Dodd and becomes a close confidant before growing disillusioned. The Scientology angle may prove a lightning rod, but I expect a filmmaker like PTA is less interested in making a thinly-veiled takedown of an easy-target than he is in psychologically exploring a figure who could create such a movement and possess the magnetism to attract a following. Just imagine what an actor like Hoffman will do with a role like that. Should the Academy go ahead and engrave his name on the Oscar for Best Actor right now? I might say yes, if not for the Daniel Day-Lewis factor.

4.
PROMETHEUS
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Patrick Wilson, Rafe Spall
Release Date: June 8

Alien. Blade Runner. Two of the best science-fiction films ever, both directed by Ridley Scott. In the years since Blade Runner‘s 1982 release, Scott has worked in a variety of genres and made films of varying quality. This year, he will return to sci-fi for the first time since that double-whammy. Adding to the intrigue surrounding Prometheus – indeed, one reason anticipation is so high for the movie – is the mystery of its connection to Alien. From the time the project was announced, there have been vague statements from Scott and some of his cast members saying that the movie “shares a DNA” with that 1979 masterpiece. Just how connected the two movies would be remained a mystery, though Scott has long expressed an interest in exploring the origins of the “space jockey,” the enormous mummified creature discovered in the derelict craft in Alien. Could Prometheus be that exploration, making it a sort of unofficial prequel to Scott’s early classic? The first teaser for the film hit theaters in December, and the answer seems to be “Hells yeah!”

The Alien franchise went sadly downhill after James Cameron’s epic follow-up to Scott’s original, but what’s exciting about Prometheus is that it appears to be a stand-alone story that will also serve to set-up the events in Alien. The script was developed in such a way that it could have worked with or without the Alien connection. But while Scott is still being coy in interviews, any Alien fan can see from the teaser that Prometheus will revisit some hallowed ground. Scott has even said that H.R. Giger – who designed the original Alien creature – did a little work for him on the new film. Alien and Aliens are two of my all-time favorites, so of course I can’t wait to see what Scott has up his sleeve. He recently gave an interview in which he said he’d had so much fun making the movie that he’s already mulling ideas for a sequel…which kinda blows your mind since the obvious sequel to this movie will probably wind up being Alien…which he already made! Whoa. The viral marketing campaign is underway by now, and includes this intriguing piece of promotion: a clip of Guy Pearce’s character speaking at a TED conference in the year 2023. The most hard-core of Alien franchise fans will note the significance of the character’s last name. New trailers and additional viral videos were released just last weekend, but I’m cutting myself off. I suspect that the less I know going into this one, the more satisfied I’ll be.

3.
DJANGO UNCHAINED
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Don Johnson, Anthony LaPaglia, RZA, Sacha Baron Cohen and possibly Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Release Date: December 25

When last at bat, Quentin Tarantino audaciously re-wrote American history with the celebrated Inglourious Basterds. His next film is said to pay homage to Sergio Leone and the spaghetti western, while provocatively examining race relations. Foxx will play the title role of Django, a freed slave who comes under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter (Waltz) and then enlists his mentor’s aide in liberating his wife from wicked plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). I’m always excited to see what Tarantino has in store, but what feels especially promising about his latest is the casting of DiCaprio as the film’s chief bad guy, described by those who’ve read the lengthy script as a vicious and sadistic character who dominates the second half of the movie. This will be a complete departure for Leo, who has never tackled pure, unbridled villainy. Few stars of his stature – true A-listers, of which there really aren’t many left – are willing to take such creative risks. (Will Smith was initially offered the title role, but reportedly turned it down because it didn’t fit with his image. And that was for the hero’s part.) You know Tarantino can come up with some pretty sick shit, and I love the idea of DiCaprio playing in those waters. If the role is as dynamic as word of mouth suggests, we could be looking at a Best Supporting Actor frontrunner. But that would just be the cherry on top of what looks to be another Tarantino tour-de-force. Given the movie’s Christmas Day release date, I’m just hoping the Mayans are wrong about the world ending on December 21.

2.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Nestor Carbonell
Release Date: July 20

Where do you go after The Dark Knight? Sure, the ending of the 2008 sequel sets up a starting point, but how do you compete with a movie so spectacular and a villain so brilliant as Heath Ledger’s Joker? That film probably can’t be topped, but if anyone can match it, I believe Christopher Nolan can. His final Batman film will pick up eight years later, and evidence around the internet suggests that the director will bring the story back around to the League of Shadows, the organization in Batman Begins headed by the now deceased Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson). The central villain this time is the masked muscleman Bane (Hardy), who does have a connection in the comic books to Ghul and could perhaps be the new agent of destruction attempting to bring down Gotham City. But who really knows what surprises Nolan has in store. This is the conclusion of his trilogy, so all that seems certain is that he will try to deliver riveting action supporting a strong story that will bring his take on the iconic character to a rousing finale.

1.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Evangeline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Billy Connolly
Release Date: December 14

Given my favorite film of the last decade,  Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth naturally lands my number one spot. (And unless this film is somehow a massive fail, the second installment is safely atop my list of next year’s most anticipated as well.) It’s hard to believe that at this time ten years ago, the first Lord of the Rings film was fresh off four Oscar wins and still going strong in theaters, with the promise of The Two Towers already peaking fans’ excitement. An Unexpected Journey is an apt title for this film, given its complicated history; Hollywood politics are arguably a fiercer enemy than Smaug. MGM held the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, but the studio’s ongoing bankruptcy issues kept the film stuck in development hell. It was only a matter of time before things worked out, so Guillermo del Toro came aboard to direct the film and serve as co-writer with the original trilogy’s Oscar-winning scribes Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens. Jackson would serve as producer and creative godfather. Pre-production began with a great deal of design work, but the years dragged on and the rights remained ensnared. After two years of waiting, del Toro reluctantly abandoned the project to pursue a growing slate of other opportunities. Fans waited eagerly to see who would step in to direct, and before long Jackson committed to make the films himself. Few filmmakers other than del Toro would have been worthy – and in possession of the right style –  to succeed Jackson, but who are we kidding? We all wanted Jackson to do the movies himself. Production is well underway, with a number of cast members from the original trilogy returning in small roles (though Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is once again a major character) and Martin Freeman assuming the role of a younger Bilbo Baggins from Ian Holm (who will still appear in a bookending sequence). The first trailer was revealed in December, and it shows that Jackson had no trouble slipping comfortably back into the world of hobbits, dwarves, wizards, elves and men.

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So there you have it. New movies from Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Ridley Scott, Judd Apatow, Sam Mendes, Alfonso Cuarón…and not just that those guys have new movies on the way, but new movies full of such potential. Scott and Spielberg wouldn’t automatically make my list if their films weren’t as likely to kick ass as their 2012 entries are. And then we have the younger directors on the rise: Rian Johnson, Derek Cianfrance, Ben Affleck, Martin McDonagh. Plenty of other great (or at least once-great) filmmakers have movies on the way too, and even if their films weren’t as exciting to me as the 20 listed above, it should be noted that we’ll see new work from Ang Lee, David O. Russell, Joe Wright, Curtis Hanson, Steven Soderbergh, Tim Burton, Woody Allen (of course), the Wachowski’s, Lee Daniels, David Chase (creator of The Sopranos, making his feature debut), Baz Luhrman, David Cronenberg, Oliver Stone and Kathryn Bigelow…though her ambitious movie about Seal Team Six just started production recently. I’m not convinced it will make its December 19 release date.

And who knows what smaller gems await? Sundance darlings and as-yet-unseen indies that might play the fall festival circuit on their way to late year, award-baiting release dates. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but right now 2012 is lookin’ real good.

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4 Comments »

  1. Nice trailer for The Hobbit. I like Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. What a difference from seeing him as an awkward porn stand-in in Love Actually! lol Thanks for the recs Burnce! I already shared it on Facebook.

    Comment by Denise — March 24, 2012 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

    • And if someone decides to make a porn parody of The Hobbit, Freeman can star in that too. Bilbo Baggins is just a few letters away from being changed into a great porn name.

      Comment by DB — March 24, 2012 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

      • haha I guess I set you up for that one.

        Comment by Denise — March 24, 2012 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  2. Wait a second, there’s a movie coming out with Ryan Gosling AND Bradley Cooper? They might as well call it Two Really Handsome Guys Who My Wife Likes More Than Me. We just saw Drive, Ides of March, and Crazy Stupid Love basically back-to-back-to-back and then my wife saw Blue Valentine – now it’s all I can do to keep her from drooling at the mere mention of Gosling (and now The Notebook somehow appeared in my netflix queue…lord help me).

    Comment by David Z. — March 28, 2012 @ 12:11 pm | Reply


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