Inside Llewyn Davis
Dir.: Joel and Ethan Coen | distributor tbd | date tbd
Out of the 50 films on this list, this one is the likeliest to get bumped into 2013, but it's too good not to mention here. The Coen brothers have already demonstrated that they could make an entertaining, music-oriented period film (the underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? 69, one of our favorites), so the idea of the pair chronicling the Greenwich Village folk scene during the 1960s sounds like a winner. Inside Llewyn Davis is based on real life musician Dave van Ronk (played by Drive's Oscar Isaac) and his memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street. Throw in a great cast supporting the relatively unknown Isaac—John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham—and the brothers could be back in the Oscar game. The movie doesn't go in front of cameras until February, but a fall festival debut isn't out of the question.
John Carter View trailer
Dir.: Andrew Stanton | Disney | March 9
Taylor Kitsch stars as John Carter, a Confederate captain who wakes up on Mars and finds himself in the middle of another, completely different civil war in this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, the first novel in his 11-volume Barsoom series. The film, originally titled John Carter of Mars, went through reshoots in April, but the results seemed to be worth it as early test screenings have been positive. We're hopeful that Pixar vet Andrew Stanton (WALL-E 94) will have the same success that fellow animation-turned-live-action director Brad Bird had with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol 73.
Dir.: Tom Hooper | Universal | December 7
If 2011 was bereft of major movie musicals, 2012 makes up for it by bringing us a singing Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages, June 1) and this first-time adaptation of one of the most popular stage musicals of all time (based originally, of course, on Victor Hugo's novel). In development for over 20 years, Les Miserables retains its 19th century France setting and stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, who will be joined by Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, and possibly Amanda Seyfried and Sacha Baron Cohen as well. Combine that star power with director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech 88), and not even the rumored addition of Taylor Swift to the cast can dampen the film's Oscar hopes.
Life of Pi
Dir.: Ang Lee | 20th Century Fox | December 21
It's based on a popular book, comes from an acclaimed director, and is well positioned for awards season with a Christmas-week release. But a no-name cast, brutal competition at the cineplex, and a tricky path from page to screen means that Life of Pi could ultimately struggle as much as 2011's holiday-season flop We Bought a Zoo (a more than apt comparison given that Pi, too, features a zookeeper and his surprise menagerie). Yann Martel's fantasy adventure novel about a young boy who survives the sinking of a freighter by sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger won numerous awards, and filmmakers from Alfonso Cuarón to M. Night Shyamalan have sought to direct the film adaptation. Ultimately, however, that job fell to Ang Lee (Taking Woodstock 55, Brokeback Mountain 87), who has opted to film the story in 3D (it will also screen in IMAX 3D), working from a script by Oscar nominee David Magee (Finding Neverland 67).
Dir.: Steven Spielberg | Touchstone | tbd December
It’s not the only film about Lincoln being released in 2012, but it is the only one directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the bearded 16th President of the United States. The film will not feature Lincoln killing vampires but instead will be based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Spielberg has revealed that the film will focus on the last four months of Lincoln’s life instead of trying to encompass his whole presidency. The strong supporting cast includes Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens.
Dir.: Rian Johnson | FilmDistrict | September 28
In a year with several potential sci-fi standouts (Prometheus, Gravity), it could be the lesser-known Looper that turns out to be the most provocative of the pack. Writer-director Rian Johnson is known for a pair of highly stylized indie crime films (Brick 72, The Brothers Bloom 55), but here he moves on to a new genre and a larger budget for a thought-provoking, action-filled time-travel tale about a present-day mob hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who kills people sent back in time from the future, only to hesitate when one of those targets turns out to be his older self (Bruce Willis). Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels also star, and Shane Carruth, the director of the time travel cult classic Primer 68, consulted on the visual design. Time travel stories are always tricky to pull off (we're partial to another Willis film, 12 Monkeys), but positive buzz has been building around Looper for the past year (including some recent, well-received test screenings), and the worst-case scenario is that it'll be an interesting failure.
Dir.: Steven Soderbergh | Warner Bros. | June 29
Director Steven Soderbergh will continue his prolific ways in 2012 with the release of the Gina Carano-led action thriller Haywire on January 20 followed by the male stripper story Magic Mike this summer. (And that doesn't even count the second-unit footage he shot for Hunger Games.) Starring Channing Tatum (who also appears in Haywire) and inspired by Tatum's real-life job as a stripper when he was 19, Magic Mike looks at the mentor relationship between Tatum’s Mike and Alex Pettyfer’s character, The Kid. Tatum insists that the film is meant to be a fun look at the world of male strippers, but if that doesn’t interest you, there's always the opportunity to see Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello shirtless ... again.
Dir.: Paul Thomas Anderson | The Weinstein Co. | tbd fall
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson returns five (!) years after his the award-winning There Will Be Blood 92 with another epic drama that will almost certainly court controversy. Given his past critical success, the title could certainly refer to the director himself, but The Master is reportedly a thinly veiled dramatization of the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (who, of course, also gave the world this gem). Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a returning World War II vet who creates a religion (known as “The Cause”) with his partner, played by Joaquin Phoenix in his first role since his fake documentary I’m Still Here. Hoffman (who previously worked with Anderson on Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love) and Phoenix are also joined by Laura Dern and Amy Adams, and Anderson has once again recruited Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to score the film. There's no way we're missing this one.
Men in Black 3 View trailer
Dir.: Barry Sonnenfeld | Columbia | May 25
In a belated third installment of this incredibly successful franchise (the first two combined to gross over $1 billion at the box office, though it has been a decade since the previous movie), Will Smith’s Agent J travels back to the 1960s to thwart a plot to kill his partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Josh Brolin plays the '60s version of Agent K, and Emma Thompson and Alice Eve join the cast as the old and young Agent O. While the expensive production began without a script (for tax purposes) and lost an actor due to delays (Alec Baldwin), the story was eventually worked out with the help of writer David Koepp. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, who also helmed Men in Black 71 and Men in Black II 49, shot the film in 3D, and Sony is planning a 3D IMAX release as well.
Dir.: Wes Anderson | Focus | May 25
Wes Anderson returns with his first live-action movie since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited 67 and his first full-length feature since 2009’s animated Fantastic Mr. Fox 83. Moonrise Kingdom, written by Anderson and his Darjeeling collaborator Roman Coppola (CQ), is about a modest New England town whose inhabitants must join forces to search for two missing young lovers. Set in the 1960s, the film is a rare period piece for Anderson (those vintage needle drops he's son fond of will feel right at home) and will feature two newcomers (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) as the young runaways. The remaining cast is filled with recognizable names, however: Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Frances McDormand. And Anderson fans will be happy to hear that Rushmore stars Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray are also on board.
Dir.: Woody Allen | Sony Pictures Classics | tbd
Woody Allen’s late-career resurgence peaked last year when Midnight in Paris 81 became his highest-grossing film and garnered almost universal critical praise. So what does Allen do as a follow-up? He goes to another beautiful European city—Rome—puts together another great cast including himself (appearing on screen for the first time since 2006's Scoop 48), Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Jessie Eisenberg, and Alison Pill, and writes four unconnected comedic vignettes. He titles the film The Bop Decameron, but then changes it to Nero Fiddled because no one knows what The Decameron is. But how many people know who Nero is and why he fiddled? The legend (most likely erroneous) claims that Nero, the Roman Emperor from 54-68, fiddled while Rome burned. Just another year in the filmmaking life of Woody Allen.
Only God Forgives
Dir.: Nicolas Winding Refn | FilmDistrict | date tbd
Metacritic users recently named Nicolas Winding Refn's first major American film Drive 79 the best movie of 2011, and critics weren't far behind in recognizing the stylish crime drama as one of the year's best films. So the news that the director is reuniting in 2012 with his Drive star Ryan Gosling certainly has us intrigued. Only God Forgives marks Winding Refn's return to writing (which he had done on every one of his films before Drive) in addition to directing, and the result—a Bangkok-set revenge tale involving drug smuggling and Muay Thai boxing—is a story that Gosling has described as "the strangest thing I've ever read." In a world of remakes, sequels, and formulaic storylines, "strange" is welcome, indeed. The only worry is that the film—which begins shooting this month—will not be finished in time for a 2012 release.
Dir.: Ridley Scott | 20th Century Fox | June 8
It’s exciting when a major director returns to a genre in which he produced two all-time classics (Alien and Blade Runner) 30 years prior. When that filmmaker is Ridley Scott and that new film is rumored to be an Alien prequel, well, movie lovers begin to lose it. His new film Prometheus is not technically an Alien prequel (as of now), but it does possess the DNA of the Alien universe. What does that mean? All it means for the time being is that the title in the teaser trailer reveals itself the same way as in the Alien films. Little else is known except that there will be no xenomorphs (the alien in the previous quadrilogy) in the film. The script has been rewritten by Lost's Damon Lindelof, and the cast includes Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Michael Fassbender (as an android). Will he be more like Ash or Bishop? We’ll have to wait and see.
Dir.: Oliver Stone | Universal | September 28
Some might think that Oliver Stone’s peak as a director was long ago (and others may think he never had a peak), but his 2012 thriller, Savages, has promise, at least on paper, finding the director working in a genre that has allowed him to produce solid work in the past. The film is based on the book of the same name by best-selling crime novelist Don Winslow and centers on two successful Laguna Beach marijuana growers, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, who attract the attention of the Mexican drug cartel. After the cartel kidnaps Ophelia, their sometimes girlfriend, they devise a plan, with the help of a DEA agent played by John Travolta, to rescue her. Blake Lively plays their girlfriend while Salma Hayek is the head of the Mexican cartel, and Benicio del Toro is her main enforcer.
The Silver-Linings Playbook
Dir.: David O. Russell | The Weinstein Co. | November 21
Writer/director David O. Russell makes his speediest return to cinemas yet—a mere two years after his Oscar-winning The Fighter 79—with his adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel about an ex-teacher/mental patient who moves back home with his mother and attempts to make amends with his loved ones. Bradley Cooper plays the lead (replacing the originally planned Mark Wahlberg) and joins a stellar cast that includes Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker (in his first non-Rush Hour movie since the late ’90s), and Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver. We like Russell best in comedy mode, and there’s still a remote chance that Russell’s troubled, unreleased, post-I Heart Huckabees comedy Nailed (starring Jessica Biel) could surface this year if the film somehow gets completed. We guess the silver lining is that we’ll get one David O. Russell movie in 2012 no matter what.
Dir.: Sam Mendes | MGM/Columbia | November 9
The 23rd official James Bond film might have the best credentials of any film in the series. Sam Mendes (American Beauty 86, Revolutionary Road 69) will direct. Roger Deakins will shoot the film. Daniel Craig will return as Bond (I’m sure we all have our favorites, but he’s solid), and the main villain will be played by Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, anyone?). Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney will also appear in undisclosed roles. Naomie Harris and newcomer Bérénice Marlohe are the female leads, and Q returns (after a two-film absence) in the form of the much younger Ben Wishaw. Few plot details are available, but we do know that it centers on long-buried secrets involving Judi Dench’s M. Die-hard Bond fans have another thing to look forward to this fall: a massive 50th anniversary Blu-ray box set containing all 22 Bond films to date, with over 100 hours of bonus content (including plenty of new extras).
Take This Waltz
Dir.: Sarah Polley | Magnolia | date tbd
Actress Sarah Polley made her directorial debut in 2007 with the impressive Away from Her 88, and her belated sophomore effort Take This Waltz already made a splash on the festival circuit last fall. Much of the praise has been directed at star Michelle Williams, who plays Margo, a married woman whose eyes begin to wander, landing on her neighbor Daniel, whom she happens to meet while on a work trip. Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, and Sarah Silverman also star in a film that walks a fine line between humor and drama, and though some critics felt it too quirky for its own good, many admired Polley's insightful observational skills. Expect the film to finally arrive in American theaters this summer, while Polley moves on to her next project: an adaptation of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.
Dir.: Seth MacFarlane | Universal | July 13
There's no guarantee that this will turn out well. But how can you not be curious about the first live-action feature film from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane? Especially when that film is a raunchy R-rated comedy about a middle-aged man who is still dealing with the repercussions of a wish he made as a young boy (which then came true): that his teddy bear would come to life. MacFarlane himself voices the cursing, smoking bear (which is motion-capture animated), while Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, and Joel McHale star. Will MacFarlane's rapid-fire, pop culture-referencing humor translate well to live action and a bigger venue? Probably not, but here's hoping it does.
This Is Forty
Dir.: Judd Apatow | Universal | December 21
Writer/director Judd Apatow is returning to cinemas after 2009’s somewhat disappointing Funny People 60 with his first sequel. This Is Forty, a follow-up to his 2007 hit Knocked Up 85, shifts the focus from that film’s lead characters of Ben (Seth Rogen) and Alison (Katherine Heigl) to Alison’s sister Debbie (Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann), her husband Pete (Paul Rudd), and their two kids Charlotte and Sadie (played by Iris and Maude Apatow). It’s not completely a family affair, as Charlyne Yi and Jason Segel reprise their roles from the first film; also joining the cast are Albert Brooks, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, and Bridesmaids co-stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd. We especially like the scheduling: Even if the new film is only so-so, it'll still be far better than what has passed for comedy over the past few Decembers.
Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie Red-band trailer
Dir.: Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim | Magnet | March 2
The stars of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, are bringing their peculiar (if you are unacquainted, we use that word as an understatement) comedic stylings to the big screen for the first time. Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie will attempt to take the antics of their 15-minute Adult Swim series and expand them into a feature-length opus with appearances by show vets Zach Galifianakis, Will Forte, Will Ferrell, and Jeff Goldblum. Even cooler are appearances by villainous character-actor VIPs Robert Loggia (Scarface, Lost Highway), William Atherton (Real Genius, Ghostbusters, Die Hard) and Ray Wise (Robocop, Twin Peaks) as well an ’80s-esque shopping mall setting that recalls VHS classic Chopping Mall. The film arrives in theaters in March after premiering at Sundance, but will be available via video on demand starting January 27th. Shrim!
Dir.: Len Wiseman | Columbia | August 3
It’s a tough task to remake a film beloved by fans, especially one that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was directed by Paul Verhoeven, but that is exactly what director Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard 69) and star Colin Farrell have signed up to do. Based on the Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Verhoeven's original Total Recall 57 took the kernel of the story—a man getting memories implanted in his brain—and then created the Mars section from scratch. While the new film won’t be going to Mars, Farrell has admitted the remake will still be closer in tone to the original film than to Dick’s story, and Wiseman promises there will be a three-breasted woman. (Otherwise, how would you know it's the future?) For fans of two-breasted women, the film stars Kate Beckinsale as Farrell’s wife Lori and Jessica Biel as the resistance fighter Melina. Fans of Breaking Bad will also be excited to see Bryan Cranston play the evil Vilos Cohaagen, portrayed so well in the original by Ronny Cox.
Untitled Kathryn Bigelow project [fka Kill Bin Laden]
Dir.: Kathryn Bigelow | Columbia | December 19
Spoiler alert: American Navy SEALs capture and kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, that was basically the plot of Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker 94 even before such a thing happened in real life last year. Bigelow and returning screenwriter Mark Boal have had to re-tool the story so that it reflects actual events (the original screenplay was about a near-miss Black Ops mission a decade earlier), while Sony has delayed the fall release to December so that it won't affect the presidential election. Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, and Jason Clarke are among the actors confirmed for the thriller, while Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, and Idris Elba could also join the cast. If filming doesn't start soon, hitting that December 19 release date could be an impossible mission in itself.
Untitled David Chase project [fka Twylight Zones]
Dir.: David Chase | Paramount Vantage | October 19
Over the past three decades, Sopranos creator David Chase has worked exclusively in television. But that changes this fall when his first, still-untitled feature film arrives in theaters. Chase wrote and directed this coming-of-age drama set in 1960s New Jersey, which focuses on the teenaged lead singer (John Magaro, of of many relative unknowns in the cast) of a rock band. Sopranos star James Gandolfini stars as the teen's father, who has problems coping with his son's lifestyle, while another Sopranos vet—E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt—handles the music. There's already some Oscar buzz for the film, though audiences will just be glad that the movie doesn't end with a black screen.
The Wettest County
Dir.: John Hillcoat | The Weinstein Co. | August 31
The move last week to a release date of August 31 didn’t bode well for John Hillcoat’s The Wettest County, but Harvey Weinstein quickly went into spin mode while talking to 24 Frames and clarified that their hope is to capitalize on Tom Hardy’s post-Dark Knight popularity and take the film to the Venice Film Festival. Let's hope this is true, because Hillcoat’s last feature The Road 64 never got any marketing push and died a quick box office death, and while his latest film isn’t a post-apocalyptic death march, a story about bootlegging brothers in Depression-era Virginia isn’t an easy sell either. The new movie is again based on a novel (The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant), and it finds the director reuniting with rocker-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave (The Proposition 73). Good reviews and a strong cast including Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska will hopefully lure viewers to the theater.
World War Z
Dir.: Marc Forster | Paramount | December 21
Max Brooks’ acclaimed zombie apocalypse novel World War Z has been adapted into a big-budget Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt. While zombies could not be bigger right now, an adaptation was no sure thing; the book's tricky structure (which instead of featuring a linear narrative took the form of a series of journalistic-style interviews that described individual experiences in the new world inhabited by the undead) means that the film will need to take major liberties with the source material. So who dares to take on such a challenge? The film will be directed by Quantum of Solace helmer Marc Forster and was co-adapted by comic book writer and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. AMC series stars Mireille Enos (The Killing) and James Dale Badge (Rubicon) lend support in what promises to be one the most expensive zombie films ever made. (In other words, the characters won't be stuck on a farm for weeks on end.)
Even more? Why not
Missing the cut only because they are iffy for 2012 (this year is possible, but 2013 is likelier) are Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy, whatever it is Terrence Malick is currently working on (since two films in two years from Malick just doesn't seem possible), Noah Baumbach's While We're Young (likely starring Ben Stiller and Jesse Eisenberg), and a still-untitled, mostly under-wraps political satire that reunites director Spike Jonze with writer Charlie Kaufman. While we'd love to see all of those films as soon as possible, it might be nice to save something back for 2013.
A second Coen brothers film, a remake of the 1966 comedy Gambit (which they wrote but did not direct), should surface this year, as should Joe Wright's take on Anna Karenina, Walter Salles' long-gestating adaptation of On the Road, Martin McDonagh's follow up to In Bruges (Seven Psychopaths), and new films by Robert Redford (The Company You Keep), Michel Gondry (The We & The I) and the duo of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (Imogene, starring Kristin Wiig and Annette Bening). Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance will also return (and reunite with star Ryan Gosling) with the crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines. We've also heard good things about Morgan Spurlock's next documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, which will likely arrive in the spring.
Of the year's two competing Snow White films, the more serious Snow White and the Huntsman (due June 1) has the most potential, though Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror (March 16) looks like it could have some camp value. On the comedy front, the Nicholas Stoller-Jason Segel collab The Five-Year Engagement (April 27) boasts a stellar supporting cast, while the older-skewing Great Hope Springs (December 14) has three strong leads in Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell. We're also looking forward to seeing how Sundance crowds react later this month to the oddball Wrong (from the mad genius behind Rubber), Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, Stephen Frears' Lay the Favorite (starring Bruce Willis), the Rashida Jones/Andy Samberg comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever, and the Kirsten Dunst/Lizzy Caplan comedy Bachelorette, all of which sound promising.
What about our least anticipated film?
Well, Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words opens April 20th. Our page for the film has a handy countdown clock so you know how much time you have left to prepare yourself.
What do you think?
Which movies are you looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments section below.