My favourite part of the movie calendar is without doubt the autumn and winter season. The summer blockbusters are a thing of the past and almost everything that comes out is more concerned with tickling your brain as well as your eyes. Of course there are also the simple pleasures of going along to the cinema on a cold, wet Sunday afternoon with someone you love (or at least like). It’s a feeling that the summer can never replicate no matter how much of a washout it turns out to be.
The word that comes to mind looking at the list below is (if you’ll forgive me) balls. You have the usual big blockbusters of the season (Skyfall, Resident Evil, The Hobbit) but then almost everything below it in terms of budget and buzz is extremely risky looking. I think that Looper is actually going to surprise a hell of a lot of people considering that it has a high concept plot but will be presented in a quirky, non-conformist way that will cross over to the mainstream. This is also true of The Master, Wreck It Ralph and Rise of the Guardians which have all the pedigree of a mainstream hit but all the ingredients of something outside of the norm. Cloud Atlas may well be the most risky project green lit since The Fountain and hopefully the intelligent people that made Inception a hit will come out for it in droves.
So will our multiplexes be packed this season or will they be a wasteland between Bond and Hobbits? We will see…
Directed by: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt.
Rian Johnson’s follow up to The Brothers Bloom is a time travel tale that has Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman in a world where time travel tech is illegal and is used by the mob in the future to send targets back to the past for disposal. He finds himself on the run (in a way) when his next target is his future self played by Bruce Willis sent back from the future. The film already has tremendous buzz from those who have seen it who claim that Johnson’s clever scripting has made its way unharmed into a time travel thriller which really delivers. The makeup job on Gordon-Levitt to make him look like Willis is also… creepy.
Released: 28th September
Resident Evil: Retribution
Directed by: Paul W.S Anderson. Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez.
This is the fifth Resident Evil film but feels like it’s the ninth. It picks up after the part reboot of the fourth movie by the original director Anderson, will be in 3D and will no doubt be entirely in slow motion. The story this time finds Jovovich’s Alice taking the fight to the evil Umbrella Corporation with former franchise alumni Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez returning to the apocalyptic 3D landscape.
Released: 28th September
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, Christopher Lee and Martin Short
Oh Tim Burton, after the awful Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland, Burton is actually doing something that seems less obvious and more in keeping with why we all loved him in the first place. Frankenweenie is a stop motion full length animated film of the short that Burton previously made in his early days. The plot revolves around a young man obsessed with horror films who brings back his recently deceased beloved dog using methods employed by the classic horror films he loves so much. Could be great but could go over the heads of many of this generations kids who only know Burton from Alice and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Released: 17th October
Directed by: Scott Derrickson. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and James Ransone
Another film with massive early buzz is Sinister, the new horror film from the director of the visually interesting but not much else; The Exorcism of Emily Rose. This finds a man literally ‘finding footage’ in the attic of his new home which reveals the family who previously lived there were haunted by some kind of demon. The trailer is great and gives off a real Insidious kind of vibe so should scare up some good business.
Released: 5th October
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
On the surface you probably shouldn’t care about this except that it is reportedly based on the life of science fiction writer L.Ron Hubbard who founded Scientology based on some really out there concepts. The enigmatic trailers haven’t revealed much thus far except that Paul Thomas Anderson’s style is present and correct. Will the film delve into the science fiction elements that could be present in the story? Or will this be all about the performances and characters? Either way it’s going to be fascinating and probably controversial if your name is Tom Cruise.
Released: 9th November
Directed by: Ti West, Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Glenn McQuaid Starring: Calvin Reader, Lane Hughes and Adam Wingard.
Take some of the directors of some of the most interesting horror films of recent years, give them each the ‘found footage’ format and sit back and watch the results. This is the premise behind the ‘found footage’ horror anthology that has each directed a different segment with a wraparound story. Early word on this is stunning and it could reinvigorate both the ‘found footage’ and ‘horror anthology’ sub genres.
Released: 24th January 2013
Paranormal Activity 4
Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring: Katie Featherstone and Brady Allen
Despite Paranormal Activity 3 actually being pretty good and a fitting end to the franchise, the film made enough money to guarantee another instalment so this autumn the directors of the third film return with the fourth. Not much is known about the plot apart from the fact that it takes place after the previous three films, oh and original star Katie Featherstone is in it so she probably crops up in her demonically possessed form somewhere. This could go either way right now.
Released: 19th October
Directed by: Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon.
The return of the Wachowski brothers and Tom Tykwer is a massive cause for celebration, further rejoice because this looks like the most daring, provocative film of the year. Based on David Mitchell’s sprawling, centuries spanning novel, this finds an act of kindness ripple across the centuries with different actors playing different incarnations of characters before finally sparking a revolution in the future. The five minute trailer released recently was nothing short of breath taking and instantly became my most anticipated film for the remainder of the year.
Released: January TBC
Wreck it Ralph
Directed by: Rich Moore. Starring: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch
Disney’s holiday season animated film is something that will appeal to those nostalgic for their days playing the 8 bit consoles they were raised by. Wreck It Ralph is a Donkey Kong like character from a popular arcade game who along with other video game villains, feels misunderstood by the internal world presented within the games in the movie. Ralph longs to be a hero and unleashes a whole heap of trouble after sneaking into a first person shooter along the lines of the Halo franchise. It features recognisable iconic characters from a whole heap of other games which will make people chuckle, but will it actually be any good? Or another nostalgic misfire?
Released: 15th February
Branded (aka The Mad Cow)
Directed by: Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn. Starring: Leelee Sobieski, Jeffery Tambor, Ed Stoppard and Max Von Sydow.
The mind frying trailer for this US and Russia co-production has been doing the rounds for a while and it looks like the offspring of David Cronenberg, John Carpenter and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. The plot concerns an advertising exec who uncovers a conspiracy to control the population with corporate branding. The question of whether or not this will get a decent UK release remains in the balance, it will get a decent sized VOD and theatrical run in September stateside so if this becomes a word of mouth cult film like some have predicted, hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for a decent release here.
Directed by: Sam Mendes. Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Judi Dench.
It’s been a long time coming but finally this Autumn James Bond will return in Skyfall. Four years since the mixed reception that greeted Quantum of Solace and an appearance at the Olympic opening ceremony have put the anticipation at an all-time high for this one. Thankfully despite the claims from the producers and Craig that they wanted to put the ‘fun’ back in Bond, it doesn’t look like Sam Mendes has abandoned the gritty aesthetic that helped make Casino Royale such a surprise. The plot remains fairly secret but does involve M’s past, a fatal mission and MI6 coming under attack. Javier Bardem plays the villain, which I think you’ll agree is the best thing to happen to a bond film in a while even if he does look fairly weird in a blonde wig.
Released: 26th October
The Man with the Iron Fists
Directed by: RZA. Starring: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, RZA, Dave Bautista and Pam Grier
Based on a screenplay written by Eli Roth and RZA, this feels like the film that former Wu Tang Clan man RZA has been building towards for a while. After scoring Tarantino’s Kill Bill and being involved with anime Afro Samurai, RZA takes the directorial reigns for this tale set in feudal china where a blacksmith must defend the small village he lives in from bandits. The first cut of the film was four hours long and has somehow been edited down to a mere 90 minutes and judging by the trailer this could be a great slice of live action anime and may even get Russell Crowe back in our good books.
Released: 16th November
Rise of the Guardians
Directed by: Peter Ramsey. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher
Based on the book by William Joyce, Rise of the Guardians looks likely to continue DreamWorks Animation’s recent track record of improving quality. This tells the story of childhood figures Santa Claus, Jack Frost, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy teaming up to take on an evil spirit intending to take over the world. You can feel creative consultant Guillermo Del Toro’s fingers all over this one and the trailer seems to have a weight and a sense of scale to it that has been absent from DreamWorks’ previous films. Between this and Wreck It Ralph, it seems like the season is a good time to be an animation fan.
Released: 30th November
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by: Peter Jackson. Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian Mckellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage and Luke Evans.
The wind may have gone out of our sails recently due to the fact that Peter Jackson has decided to turn this 300 page book into another epic trilogy. This leads us to believe that either a) this is really tedious and dragged out or b) this is the first step in a larger expanded story beyond Tolkien’s original text. Either way the return to middle earth will be a welcome one even if it is in a slightly less dark more family friendly way. Jackson seems to have lost none of his skill in this universe judging by the footage seen thus far and for those worried about the whole 48 frames per second farrago, it seems as though this may only be in select screens after all. Probably the one to beat this Christmas although whether it will equal Rings’ Oscar glory remains to be seen.
Released: 14th December
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Di Caprio.
This may not exactly be Starburst material but a new Tarantino film is always a cause for celebration purely for the fact that he mixes and matches genres so easily and is a master of all of them. Django Unchained is his take on the Western (or in this case Southern) and finds Jamie Foxx’s freed slave becoming a bounty hunter and going after Leonardo Di Caprio’s evil plantation owner for revenge. This is reportedly loaded with the same stylish ultra-violence that Tarantino became known for and should be another masterpiece from the director.
Released: 18th January
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
Directed by: John Luessenhop. Starring: Alexander Daddario, Tania Raymonde and Bill Moseley
Considering the fanbase and the fact that 3D was all the rage in the genre for a bit, it’s surprising that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is only now going 3D. This project is currently a bit of a mystery, it doesn’t look like it takes place in the new continuity established by the remakes in 2003 and 2006 and the cast list features lots of faces from the old franchise like Bill Moseley, Marilyn Burns and Gunnar Hansen. The screenplay however is by Adam Marcus, the man who made what many consider the finest movie in the franchise with Jason Goes to Hell and is also writing the upcoming Cabin Fever reboot. Director Luessenhop made the excretion that was Takers and the January release slot doesn’t inspire confidence but we will see…
Released: 4th January 2013
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Peter Stormare.
This film’s release date was moved by Paramount early in 2012 until one year later and alarm bells went off. It seems as though the film may have just not been finished as they have recently tested both an R rated cut and a PG13 cut. The R Rated and gore drenched cut won out and will be the one released in cinemas. This should still come out in time to capitalise on the fairy tale fad as well as Renner’s popularity after The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy.
Released: 15th March 2013
Directed by: Jonathan Levine. Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich
Another film with a shifting release date. Despite being saddled with a pretty well liked book and a unique premise with a zombie falling in love with the girlfriend of one of his victims, the imagery we have seen from this so far sadly evokes Twilight. I still have faith in 50/50 director Jonathan Levine who is still one of the most interesting directors to emerge from the indie scene in recent years. Although we also said that about Catherine Hardwicke and David Slade once. This may be possibly the most difficult film to market that’s coming out shortly. A decaying corpse isn’t exactly sexy is it?
Released: 8th February 2013
Directed by: Richard LaGravenese. Starring: Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis.
Early next year another young adult book series will get the film treatment with a possible franchise in the offing. This time it’s the Caster Chronicles series in which a young man uncovers secrets with regards to his family and magic and the struggle between good and evil. There is a romance, there is magic yadda yadda, there is an audience starved of Twilight and Harry Potter films by the time this comes out. Richard LaGravanese has a fairly heavy track record with some acclaimed films as both a writer and director so we should be able to take this fairly seriously.
Released: 13th February
Directed by: Stuart Beattie. Directed by: Aaron Eckhardt, Yvonne Strahovski and Bill Nighy.
Writer Stuart Beattie continues his directorial career after Tomorrow, When the War Began with this film which has a higher than high concept. Based on a comic book (of course) this finds Frankenstein’s monster as a private detective who finds himself in a battle between good and evil immortals. Kind of like Constantine mixed with Underworld hopefully with more of the former and not too much of the latter.
Released: 22nd February
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp. Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley
If you saw District 9 then Elysium is no doubt your most anticipated title of the new year. Footage from the film recently shown at San Diego Comic Con blew people’s minds and it looks like another solid genre entry from director Neill Blomkamp. Set in the year 2159 Elysium takes place in a world where the super-rich live in an orbiting space station whilst the other 99% live on an overcrowded and polluted Earth. Matt Damon plays a guy who must go on a deadly mission on the ground to get up to Elysium for life saving surgery. It’s going to be violent, politically astute and above all one hell of a fun sci-fi ride.
Released: 1st March
OZ: The Great and Powerful
Directed by: Sam Raimi. Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Wiliams and Rachel Weisz
A prequel to The Wizard of Oz going back to L. Frank Baum’s original books with nary a singing munchkin in sight seems like a major box office win in this post Alice in Wonderland world. Most of us would be ready to dismiss this sight unseen and the first poster released did few favours in terms of separating it from Alice. Then the trailer arrived and although it’s colourful, there seems to be some darkness to the film which Sam Raimi has brought with him as well as a tone of fun that was missing from Alice in Wonderland which was all about the Tim Burton aesthetic. It’s worth remembering that Return to Oz in 1985 was a box office dud, will this meet the same fate or will it end up being a big hit?
Released: 8th March
Jack the Giant Killer
Directed by: Bryan Singer. Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Ewen McGregor and Stanley Tucci
Another film with Nicholas Hoult that has been victim of a shifting release date. To be fair though Jack the Giant Killer shifted its June 2012 release date fairly early on and March isn’t exactly a ‘dump month’ like January or September. Although there was one negative test screening report leaked, it’s more than likely this needed time to finish the epic effects depicting the conflict between humans and giants in this re-telling of the Jack and The Beanstalk fairy tale. The first trailer released hasn’t blown anyone’s mind so far but the extra post production time should mean a solid, satisfying if unremarkable final product. Remember that before Superman Returns we all anticipated Bryan Singer directed films with much excitement.
Released: 20th March