Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron; stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney)
What’s it about: Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone–tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
Why you should care: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney may not have been the original A-Team (originally it was going to star Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey Jr.) but this substitution should more than keep the film afloat, even as they drift in space.
Why I care: Its filmmaker, Alfonso Cuaron, directed quite possibly the best installment of the Harry Potter franchise (The Prisoner of Azkaban) and he followed that up with one of the best science-fiction movies of the 2000s (Children of Men). Now he looks to do the same in the 2010s with a film that is said to have several extended shots, including a 17-minute open with no cuts or transitions.
Ender’s Game (dir. Gavin Hood; stars: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld)
What’s it about: In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics, nicknamed “Buggers”) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.
Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
Why you should care: After his breakthrough performance in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Asa Butterfield gets the choice role of Ender Wiggin, a character whose actions inspire fear and respect. Plus the film carries a strong supporting cast that includes Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis and Harrison Ford’s character has an aide played by an actor named Han Soto (no joke).
Why I care: Ender’s Game is my favorite novel of all time. I am worried, however, about Butterfield in the title role as the time span of the novel involves Ender from age six to fifteen.
Pacific Rim (dir. Guillermo del Toro; stars: Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam)
(Watch the first trailer)
What’s it about: When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.
Why you should care: It’s freaking Godzilla-like monsters facing off against robots!
Why I care: Guillermo del Toro hasn’t made a feature since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Most of that has to do with his then-involvement with The Hobbit. Now he’s making a crazy sci-fi hybrid action picture that takes sea monsters and has them square off against robots. Makes Transformers sounds like child’s play by comparison.
The World’s End (dir. Edgar Wright; stars: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost)
What’s it about: 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King (Pegg), a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.
Why you should care: Because you want to see the thrilling conclusion the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (also known as the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy) ends. The previous films in the series include Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Why I care: Edgar Wright’s last film (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) was largely ignored by the viewing public despite being a very fun film. In his own way, Wright is second only to Quentin Tarantino when it comes to paying homage to different genres. Shaun of the Dead was a romantic comedy with zombies and Hot Fuzz proved that Brits can do the buddy cop formula in an Agatha Christie setting. Now The World’s End takes on the apocalypse.
Elysium (dir. Neill Blomkamp, stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley)
What’s it about: In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Foster), a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.
Why you should care: Matt Damon was so excited about working on Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 that he shaved his head! Now everyone remembers what a bloody good time Blomkamp’s first film was, right? And by bloody good I do mean “bloody.”
Why I care: District 9 was one of the best surprises when it was released summer 2009. Continuing to tackle social issues like segregation in a sci-fi setting, Blomkamp has assembled an impressive cast highlighted by Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.
The Counselor (dir. Ridley Scott; stars: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt)
What’s it about: Cormac McCarthy provides his first original screenplay about a lawyer (Fassbender) who dabbles in trafficking drugs only to realize just how dangerous a situation he’s stumbled into.
Why you should care: Because Cormac McCarthy has written an original screenplay. It must be good if it has attracted actors like Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem.
Why I care: As much as I like Ridley Scott’s period epics (Gladiator) and sci-fi classics (Alien, Blade Runner), I also enjoy his low-key stuff like Matchstick Men. The Counselor could be just as good if not better. And I understand that Cameron Diaz has a plum role.
Man of Steel (dir. Zack Snyder; stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe)
(Watch the most recent trailer)
What’s it about: In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time. Clark Kent/Kal-El (Cavill) is a young twentysomething journalist who feels alienated by powers beyond anyone’s imagination. Transported to Earth years ago from Krypton, an advanced alien planet, Clark struggles with the ultimate question – Why am I here? Shaped by the values of his adoptive parents Martha (Diane Lane) and Jonathan Kent (Costner), Clark soon discovers that having super abilities means making very difficult decisions. But when the world needs stability the most, it comes under attack. Will his abilities be used to maintain peace or ultimately used to divide and conquer? Clark must become the hero known as “Superman,” not only to shine as the world’s last beacon of hope but to protect the ones he loves.
Why you should care: It’s Superman Returns – Take Two. The last time Superman returned it was a year after Christopher Nolan’s Batman began. It came and it fizzled. Now that Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is done he helps shepherd Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Let’s hope it lives up to its first two trailers.
Why I care: When it comes to movies about heroes and heroism, Zack Snyder is one of the few filmmakers that understands the mythology. Yes, his films are mostly all flash and style, but he is also the same guy that took a piece of comic literature that was thought to be unfilmable (Watchmen) and make it accessible to a large film-going audience. Hopefully, he can take the most recognizable superhero of all time and make him that much more of a cultural icon.
Iron Man 3 (dir. Shane Black; stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley)
(Watch the first trailer)
What’s it about: The third installment in the successful franchise pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey) against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
Why you should care: Because it’s the first Marvel Studios movie after The Avengers. And because it has Robert Downey Jr. reuniting with the director that was instrumental in his star-making turn as Tony Stark.
Why I care: As a writer, Shane Black defined the template of the buddy cop formula with films like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. Then he made his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an action-comedy that barely made its money back but is now a cult hit. I’m interested to see how Black can advance the Tony Stark/Iron Man character after the events of The Avengers.
The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese; stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey)
What’s it about: The story is based on Jordan Belfort‘s memoir of his days as a hard partying, drug addicted stockbroker who was indicted in 1998 for security fraud and money laundering and served a 22-month federal prison stretch.
Why you should care: It’s the fifth time Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have collaborated on a project together. Their track record speaks for itself.
Why I care: While the story may be from the late ‘90s, the turn of the century has been ripe with economic calamities involving bailouts of banking institutions and talks of going over the fiscal cliff. Martin Scorsese saw what Oliver Stone did on Wall Street now he’s going to play the market with DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues (dir. Adam McKay; stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell)
What’s it about: The continuing on-set adventures of San Diego’s top rated newsman.
Why you should care: You shouldn’t if you don’t care for Will Ferrell or his brand of humor. But from friends I know in news, Anchorman does to news what Caddyshack did for golf courses.
Why I care: I remember seeing Anchorman in theaters and not being too impressed, but it is a film that has grown on me on home video. With the sequel set to arrive around Christmas 2013, the success it has experienced on DVD could net the same success as Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Frankly, I just want to see another mega-size brawl featuring Ron Burgundy and his crew facing off against the local competition.
10 more that I also have on my radar:
Twelve Years a Slave (dir. Steve McQueen)
A man living in New York during the mid-1800s is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south. Steve McQueen, who gave us films about hunger strikes (Hunger) and sex addiction (Shame) turns his attention to slavery. And he’s lined up an impressive cast to tell such a racially-charged subject. Cast includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfred Woodard and Beasts of the Southern Wild stars Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry.
Only God Forgives (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)
English gangster Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his brother Billy are the owners of a Thai boxing club that covers for a lucrative drug smuggling operation. Using the business as a front, they deliver the drugs to London, where their ruthless mother Jenna (Kristin Scott Thomas) sits at the head of a powerful criminal empire. Upon learning that Billy has been murdered, Jenna travels to Bangkok to claim his body, and bury the people responsible for his death. Later, as the death toll rises along with the stakes, an intense conflict leads to a last chance for salvation.
All you need to know is that it is Ryan Gosling reuniting with his Drive director, Nicolas Winding Refn.
Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
In 1995, Richard Linklater directed Before Sunrise, a lovely movie about a young man (Ethan Hawke) and woman (Julie Delpy) that meet on a train, and end up spending one romantic evening together in Vienna. Nine years later they would meet again in France in Before Sunset. Now, another nine years have passed and we meet Jesse and Celine again in Greece.
Linklater probably never intended Before Sunrise to lead to two sequels, but credit to him because these serendipitous turns don’t at all feel forced or clichéd. If anything, it’s a fascinating journey seeing these two characters change with each decade. We’re likely to again see some award-worthy dialogue shared between Hawke and Delpy.
The Monuments Men (dir. George Clooney)
George Clooney directs this WWII drama surrounding a plot to save stolen artwork that the Nazi’s plan to destroy. Clooney always rounds up strong ensembles for his films. This time the cast includes Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, John Goodman, The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett. Wow.
Her (dir. Spike Jonze)
In the not so distant future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user’s every needs. To Theodore’s surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.
Her marks Spike Jonze’s return to the director’s chair after a four-year absence. What are the odds that the working title of the film was “Siri”?
The Place Beyond the Pines (dir. Derek Cianfrance)
(Watch the trailer)
Having played to a strong audience at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Derek Cianfrance’s sophomore effort sees him collaborating again with his Blue Valentine star Ryan Gosling. He plays a drifter who makes a living doing stunt motorcycle riding in a traveling carnival. When he discovers he has an infant son, he decides he wants to make sure he can take care of the child. He meets a mechanic and ex-convict who knows how to rob banks and teaches him how to pull off that crime. His actions cause his life to become intertwined with police officer Avery (Bradley Cooper) who ends up chasing after the fleeing robber after one of his heists.
Focus Features debuted a trailer recently, which we reported, and it again looks like another great character for Gosling and more strong work for Bradley Cooper.
Foxcatcher (dir. Bennett Miller)
Steve Carell stars in this docudrama about John du Pont, the schizophrenic millionaire who infamously shot and killed his friend and Olympic Gold Medal wrestler Dave Schultz before locking himself in his mansion as police officers negotiated his surrender for two days. Miller, who recently gave us Moneyball, collaborates again with Dan Futterman (Capote). While Carell plays his most dramatic character to date, Channing Tatum also stars as Dave Schultz’s brother, Mark. Should be interesting to see how the public takes to seeing Tatum in such a role after his recent string of hits.
Stoker (dir. Park Chan-wook)
After India’s (Mia Wasikowska) father dies, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Park Chan-wook, famous for his Vengeance Trilogy (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance), became a filmmaker after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. So it only makes sense for his English-language debut that he directs a film that takes its inspiration from Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. And here I bet some of you thought the movie was going to be about Bram Stoker.
Labor Day (dir. Jason Reitman)
Depressed single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.
While Jason Reitman’s last feature (Young Adult) may not have delivered on the same level as his films Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air, his latest could be a return to form. With a cast that includes Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, and newcomer Tom Lipinski (looking like Josh Brolin’s younger doppleganger) he’s off to a good start.
Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Coen Brothers)
A singer-songwriter navigates the beatnik world of the American folk scene in Greenwich Village during the 1960s.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Coen brothers don’t make the same movie twice. After offering a more literary rendition of True Grit they turn their attention to music. And joining in on the fun is Drive‘s Carey Mulligan and Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and Garrett Hedlund, the Tron: Legacy actor that belted a good tune in the easy to forget Country Strong.
Tags: Before Midnight, Elysium, Ender's Game, Gravity, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Only God Forgives, Pacific Rim, The Counselor, The Place Beyond the Pines