The Notable Films of 2012: Volume Four

By Garth Franklin Thursday January 5th 2012 11:07AM

In this fourth volume I look at films that include a more grounded take on GI Joe, Baz Luhrmann's attempt at adapting the classic American novel, Liam Neeson beating the crap out of wolves, fairy tale kiddies becoming gun-wielding adults,

There's also Charlie Sheen's first post-'Men' leading role, the Greek Gods living as modern Manhattan roommates, the return of James Patterson's hero Alex Cross, a new dimension for Michael Myers, a truly ambitious sci-fi epic, and two of the biggest literary adaptations of the year - one with dwarves, the other a teen death match…


G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Opens: June 29th 2012
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson
Director: Jon Chu

Analysis: Ninjas sword fighting while hanging from ropes along the sides of a sheer cliff. That's the money shot of the better than expected first trailer for this follow-up to 2009's pretty awful "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra". It also shows that even with a change of tone - the goofy campiness hasn't been left too far behind.

Stephen Sommers' 2009 first film was like much of the director's work - overstuffed with characters and ridiculous in the extreme, a CG-fuelled kiddie movie of cartoonish violence and even sillier performances. "Team America" without the satire is what some called it, most acknowledged it bore very little relation to the actual G .I. Joe toy and cartoon franchise.

'Rise' managed to gross $300 million worldwide but on a costly budget of $175 million, meaning when Paramount announced a sequel many were surprised such an endeavour was being undertaken. Out is Stuart Beattie as writer, replaced by "Zombieland" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Also gone is Sommers, with "Step Up" series director Jon Chu taking over the helm.

What can be seen is something a bit more grounded in reality than the previous film - less about Saharan secret bases and super CG submersibles, and more about straight forward action. The plot is fairly routine and recalls the recent "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" - the G.I. Joes are framed as traitors and are all seemingly wiped out. The few that remain must stop Cobra from taking control of nuclear missiles and launching them at various cities.

The cast has undergone a shake-up with only five actors from the first film - Channing Tatum, Lee Byung-hun, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo and Jonathan Pryce - reprising their roles here. Instead both The Rock and Bruce Willis have been enlisted, the latter playing the original Joe himself - General Joe Colton. Will it be enough? We'll find out on the July 4th holiday weekend.


A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III
Opens: 2012
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Katheryn Winnick, Patricia Arquette
Director: Roman Coppola

Analysis: It's interesting how timing works out. Ten years ago Roman Coppola's debut film "CQ" opened to solid reviews but little box-office and quietly disappeared. Now back with his second feature, this one is guaranteed not to suffer the same unfortunate fate.

Even with a high profile cast, the sad fact is the attention is being paid due to one man - Charlie Sheen. Not only does this mark his first major onscreen role since leaving "Two and a Half Men" and the subsequent tabloid meltdown, the story seems to mirror aspects of his life right now.

In 'Swan', Sheen plays a graphic designer irresistible to women who slinks into a spiral of self-doubt and depression after being dumped. If it works, Sheen might just have a good kick start on the comeback trail - while some frown upon his ego and personality, the man still has a massive fan base which will likely come out in force for this. Add in a raft of impressive cameos, even some of the Sheen-haters might take a look as well.


Opens: 2012
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Keri Russell, David Duchovny, Ty Burrell, Justin Kirk
Director: Christopher Neil

Analysis: Set to premiere at Sundance, this $18 million indie comedy adaptation of the Mark Jude Poirier novel is one of the more higher profile entries there. Helmer Neil optioned the rights eight years ago and has worked with the author on the adaptation since then in between regular work as an acting and dialect coach on many tentpole films.

The coming-of-age story follows a 15-year-old kid (Graham Phillips) from Tucson about to head off to an East Coast prep school to connect with his estranged father (Burrell). This means leaving behind those who raised him - his flaky new age mother (Farmiga) and a father figure known as 'Goat Man' (Duchovny).

Shot in the same Tucson neighborhoods in which the story takes place, most will be waiting to hear the word out of the festival to see if the film has any legs.


God Bless America
Opens: 2012
Cast: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brook Smith, Rich McDonald
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Analysis: Comedian and "Police Academy" regular Bobcat Goldthwait surprised the heck out of everyone with the pitch black humour of his last film "World’s Greatest Dad". Now he's back with an equally dark and subversive little indie comedy about an unemployed and terminally ill man who, with the help of a teenage girl, sets out to kill the cruel and repulsive members of society - from brattish reality star to shock jocks. Think an updated and lower-rent "Natural Born Killers".

Screened at Toronto last year, reviews were generally quite positive - calling it funny even if it drops into the odd bit of melodrama or, ironically, takes its own central message far too seriously. Magnet Releasing has picked up the U.S. distribution rights for release later this year.


Gods Behaving Badly
Opens: 2012
Cast: Christopher Walken, Alicia Silverstone, Oliver Platt, Sharon Stone, Edie Falco
Director: Marc Turtletaub

Analysis: "Percy Jackson: A Romantic Comedy"? Sounds like it with this film adaptation of Marie Phillips' comedic novel which sets up the premise that the Greek Gods are alive, dysfunctional and living in a brownstone in modern London (which will be changed to New York City for this film). It's there that a young couple (Silverstone and Ebon Moss-Bachrach) encounter them and soon both their budding relationship and the world as we know it threatens to crumble.

The book scored a lot of praise for its comedy - the gods portrayed as seedy, down on their luck has beens. An impressive cast are set to play the Olympian pantheon including Christopher Walken (Zeus), John Turturro (Hades), Sharon Stone (Aphrodite), Oliver Platt (Apollo), Edie Falco (Artemis), Phylicia Rashad (Demeter), Nelsan Ellis (Dionysus), Gideon Glick (Eros), Henry Zebrowski (Hermes) and Rosie Perez (Persephone).

As a premise it's quite promising, and actually would be better suited for a sitcom than a one-off film. The question now is if debut director Marc Turtletaub has the chops to keep the edge and humour or if it will be toned down in order to appeal to more regular rom-com fans? Here's hoping it's a no in the latter case.


Opens: February 24th 2012
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Sebastian Stan, Emily Wickersham
Director: Heitor Dhalia

Analysis: Scribe Allison Burnett ("Fame," "Resurrection the Champ") penned the forgettable Diane Lane-led online-themed serial killer thriller "Untraceable" which started off on decent footing before devolving quickly into genre cliche.

Four years later she's penned the script for this $28 million kidnap thriller which looks a little stronger in both casting and premise, but one would hardly be surprised if it doesn't suffer the same sort of problems.

Dhalia ("Adrift," "Drained") helms the story which follows Jill, a young woman whose sister has disappeared. Jill believes it's the work of a serial killer who kidnapped her two years ago and has returned, so she sets out to once again face her abductor. Throw in the police chasing her because they think she's crazy and you know the killer is either going to be her and she doesn't know it, or it's the good looking boyfriend/cop (ie. Stan or Bentley).

Thankfully there appears to be no silly gimmick to make this too embarrassing like Lindsay Lohan as amputated psychic horny stripper twins in "I Know Who Killed Me" or the Bruce Willis and Halle Berry AOL IM sexting antics of "Perfect Stranger". Direct-to-video fare with a better cast (namely Stan and Carpenter) than it probably deserves.


Opens: March 30th 2012
Cast: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy
Director: Michael Dowse

Analysis: This ice hockey comedy made headlines when actor Seann William Scott dropped out of Kevin Smith's rival (and now defunct) comedy due to scheduling conflicts, instead opting to tackle this similar sounding film which was set to shoot several months earlier.

The story follows a bouncer who is an outcast in his brainy family and soon finds himself a new gig - he's hired as an ice hockey enforcer, a player whose role it is to protect his teammates and act as a deterrent by hitting or fighting opposing players who take liberties with them.

Michael Dowse ("It's All Gone Pete Tong, Fubar") helms from a script co-written by "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" writer Evan Goldberg and the film's lead star and producer Jay Baruchel. Baruchel is a hockey nut and the pair went through twenty script drafts before it was ready and Dowse came onboard. Yet apparently there's quite a bit of improv in use as well.

Screened in Toronto last year, reviews were generally good and called the film surprisingly violent (a LOT of blood and broken teeth) while boasting a warm and strong performance from Scott. However the tonal blending of often crass and vulgar comedy, hard-tilt action, and even a sentimental heart proved difficult for some - while the budget limitations are said to be apparent. Still, fans of the sport may have a "Slap Shot" heir apparent.


Opens: 2012
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse
Director: Jon Wright

Analysis: A fun low-budget Irish indie sci-fi monster movie set on an island off the coast, this is pure creature feature - think "Waking Ned Devine" meets "Deep Rising" with eccentric characters, lewd jokes, dead whales, decapitated fishermen and Lovecraftian squid monsters.

"Prince of Persia" star Coyle plays a small town alcoholic cop who joins forces with his straight-laced colleague (Bradley) in a battle to protect the local community from the "tentacled, fang-jawed, barb-tongued creatures' from the deep known as Grabbers".

The only survivor was someone whose blood alcohol level was so high he was literally toxic to the creatures, so the entire village has to get as pissed as possible to survive the night, except for Coyle's character who'll have to be sober for the first time in years.

The cast is mostly unknowns aside from that sexy hunk and much loved "Being Human" and "Little Dorrit" favourite Russell Tovey. The Sundance Film Festival obviously liked the look of it as well, scheduling it for the Park City at Midnight section.


The Grandmasters
Opens: 2012
Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen, Julian Cheung
Director: Wong Kar Wai

Analysis: It took nearly a decade to get going, and well over a year to complete but finally the latest work from acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai ("In the Mood for Love," "Chungking Express") is arriving a full five years on since his previous effort "My Blueberry Nights".

This $25 million Mandarin-language biopic of Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and master of Bruce Lee, began shooting back in December 2009. However Wong's attention to even the tiniest detail meant it has stopped and started again numerous times with the delays frustrating many. Yuen Woo-ping is handling the fighting and choreography, an odd choice for the material some would say.

One factor not working in its favour is the over exposure of Yip Man himself in rival projects which managed to make it through production and into cinemas while this take was stuck in development hell. In the past four years there's been both "Ip Man" and "Ip Man 2" which starred Donnie Yen, not to mention the unrelated "The Legend is Born - Ip Man" with Dennis To - all three exploring different times in the man's life. It's confusing to casual viewers in regards to which version is which, so much so one wonders how many will think this is either a copycat of the franchise or even an "Ip Man 3".

A teaser trailer released back in the Summer begged comparisons to "The Matrix Revolutions" with Leung in a street being drenched in rain while kicking and fighting his way through countless opponents. No specific release date has been set anywhere, but one expects a festival launch sometime this year - maybe even Cannes.


Opens: 2012
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Analysis: There were real struggles to get this 3D epic sci-fi action survival thriller off the ground with numerous casting changes, financial issues and behind-the-scenes kerfuffles. Finally after much back and forth, filming got underway on a project that even James Cameron was too scared to touch because it was so ambitious and frankly insane. The challenges however haven't fazed "Children of Men" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" director Alfonso Cuaron.

At last report the story follows two astronauts who are the sole survivors when debris destroys their space station. Their only chance of survival is to reach rescue before they run out of air. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, with the astronaut having to essentially hopscotch from satellites to vessels to floating debris - all the time facing hazards of all sorts.

It's an intense experience, little to no dialogue and essentially a one person feature for much of its runtime. Recently it was revealed that Cuaron is trying to be as realistic as possible with the film, so much so that the actors won't be donning any kind of make-up in the film which should prove interesting. I can't wait to see what he's come up with.


Great Expectations
Opens: 2012
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Irvine, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Mike Newell

Analysis: The umpteenth adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic boasts a strong cast of English thesps with young pouty "War Horse" lead Irvine playing the new Pip, Fiennes as the escaped convict Magwitch, and Carter as the reclusive Miss Havisham.

For those who've never read or seen the story, it follows an orphan named Pip who falls for the adopted daughter of a wealthy spinster and becomes a distinguished gentleman of society thanks to an anonymous benefactor.

The big question of course is what new elements will "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" director Mike Newell and writer David Nicholls ("One Day") bring to this version to make it stand out.

Many have struggled to adapt Dickens in contemporary times, but it was 2005's BBC series take on "Bleak House" which succeeded in an unexpected way. That production kept the setting but stripped it of the author's trademark sentimentality - resulting in a dark, gripping soap opera of a kind that made the material seem fresh.

From the first few photos it seems Newell is adopting a similar approach with a decidedly more Victorian-era gothic take on the material - Carter's Miss Havisham looks like her "Sweeney Todd" character in a bridal dress for example. Shooting should be about wrapped on the film which'll lhit late in the year. The project is one of two versions out in 2012, the other being a BBC mini-series with Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby.


The Great Gatsby
Opens: December 25th 2012
Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Analysis: In several ways "Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo + Juliet" director Baz Luhrmann is both the best and worst choice to tackle this $126 million 3D film adaptation of the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, a book many consider one of the greatest novels ever written.

On the one hand the story frequently displays the irresponsible lifestyle of wealthy people and the excesses of the roaring 20's - lavish gaudiness he'll be fine at portraying. Tobey Maguire is a decent choice as Nick Carroway, both the observer and the nexus between the main characters of his cousin Daisy (Mulligan), his neighbour the wealthy Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), and Daisy's abusive husband Tom (Edgerton).

On the other hand though you have one of the most theme-rich novels of the 20th century, one stuffed with symbolism, theme and allegory - a work dense and literary enough that none of the three previous cinematic adaptations ever did it anything close to justice.

With Luhrmann, and his co-writer Craig Pearce, one worries that any subtlety to be had will be chucked out the window. The book's portrayal of both the disillusionment of Nick and the theme of the overall disintegration of the American dream have to be handled deftly - I hope Baz is up to the task but after 2008's often laughable "Australia" I fear the result.

Despite the book's Long Island setting this was shot entirely in Sydney with an all Aussie crew and cast aside from a few key roles like the main trio. Warners has this currently scheduled for a Christmas release meaning they're likely aiming for some awards consideration. Give it time, we'll see.


Great Hope Springs
Opens: December 14th 2012
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Jean Smart, Ben Rappaport
Director: David Frankel

Analysis: While David Frankel's recent birdwatching comedy "The Big Year" was one of the biggest flops of 2011, there's certainly more hope for this film which is being called a "drama with surprising comedy".

Streep and Jones play a couple who feel their three decade long marriage is getting stale. After reading a self-help book by a therapist (Carell), they head to his residence in a quaint seaside Maine town for a combination vacation and extended therapy session.

Should the film turn out well the trio will no doubt be up for some awards consideration. Certainly this teaming is an exciting one, but a lot will depend upon whether "Tell Me You Love Me" and "Everwood" writer Vanessa Taylor's script can live up to the quality of its cast.


The Grey
Opens: January 27th 2012
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Frank Grillo
Director: Joe Carnahan

Analysis: A stripped down survival thriller, "The Grey" marks a welcome change of pace for "Smokin' Aces' and "The A-Team" director Carnahan. Gone is the over the top bravado, instead we have a gritty and bleak piece which ticks off all the action requirements but throws in some solid 'characters pushed to extreme' drama to boot.

The story follows a group of oil-rig roughnecks who become stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. They're soon forced to survive using little more than their wits and will against merciless weather, injury, and a vicious pack of rogue wolves hunting them.

Liam Neeson brings his now trademark gravitas to the role of a man who has already had a rough lot in life before the accident and has now become the unofficial leader of this group of survivors.

Adding more to proceedings is the subplot of Neeson's character desperately trying to get back to his wife. With the untimely passing of Neeson's real life wife Natasha Richardson not long before this was filmed, it is said the actor used his grief to help fuel his performance in select scenes.


Halloween 3D
Opens: October 26th 2012
Cast: Unknown
Director: Patrick Lussier

Analysis: Beyond a release date and Lussier's commitment, this entire project is essentially a pipe dream. Dimension has set a release date for this Halloween and with horror films the turnaround time is fast enough they could cast and shoot the project to make that date. It would however mean starting soon and there is no sign of it actually happening. Sorry Michael Myers fans, The Shape won't be coming out of the screen at you anytime soon it would seem.


Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Opens: 2012
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears
Director: Tommy Wirkola

Analysis: Norwegian filmmaker Wirkola had a cult success in 2009 with the Nazi zombie horror comedy "Dead Snow". Now he's been employed to bring a similar comic tone to this $60 million action fantasy adventure which essentially serves as a pseudo-sequel to the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Here the siblings are now grown adults who've become expert witch-killing bounty hunters. The pair are hired to rid a small town of an evil sorceress living nearby who plans to sacrifice the local children, while at the same time dealing with a brutal Sheriff who has taken control of the town to conduct his own witch hunt.

Wirkola has previously said in interviews that it's definitely an R-rated film due to the blood and gore, but primarily it's an action movie with horror elements including some outright mean witches. While it is a fantastical setting, the characters will have some relatively modern props like pump-action shotguns.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are producing so there should be some laughs in store. Previously slated for March, the project was recently pushed back until sometime in the Fall. Hopefully audiences won't be burned out on fairy tale movies by that point.


Opens: January 20th 2012
Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Analysis: Originally titled "Knockout", this marks a change of pace for Soderbergh with a throwback to two of best sub-genres in 70's cinema - exploitation and espionage films. Good word of mouth is already spreading from press screenings last month, calling it a strong gritty action thriller with believable and realistic fighting. The best description remains one I heard a year back - "as if Alfred Hitchock made a Pam Grier movie".

Lem Dobbs ("Dark City," "The Score," "The Limey") penned the story about a double crossed freelance covert operative who must use her abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those who betrayed her.

Italian-American mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano is the lead and can kick the ass of her male counterparts, which consists of some pretty famous names including those above plus Channing Tatum and Bill Paxton.

Question is can she hold her own on the acting front? The brief glimpses from the trailer show she's actually not that bad. Unfortunately the story isn't anything new, another cheap Bourne knock-off treading over familiar territory. Should still be more fun than most films dumped in January.


He Loves Me
Opens: 2012
Cast: Paul Dano, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Deborah Ann Woll, Steve Coogan
Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Analysis: 'Loves' marks the long awaited return of "Little Miss Sunshine" co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with their first feature since that 2006 indie drama broke out and became a mainstream critical and commercial success.

Actress Zoe Kazan, Dano's real life girlfriend, has penned the script about a young successful novelist struggling with writer's block who is told to write about the woman he thinks will love him. He creates Ruby, a character which he manages to will into existence and is completely flummoxed by his words having become a living, breathing person sitting in his apartment.

The cast is excellent, the story is quite cute and the buzz already high. Fox Searchlight is already set to distribute the film and are likely lining it up as an awards contender, but the film isn't screening at Sundance this year where many expected it would pop up first. Instead expect it sometime later in the year.


Here Comes the Boom
Opens: October 12th 2012
Cast: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann, Reggie Lee
Director: Frank Coraci

Analysis: Kevin James somehow continues to receive employment, mostly because his films make a hell of a lot of money despite the intense critical drubbing they receive. This year's annual comedy effort from him and his "Zookeeper" director Frank Coraci has James playing a high school biology teacher who moonlights as a mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to save the school's music program. From that description you're either onboard for this already or not.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Opens: December 14th 2012
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans
Director: Peter Jackson

Analysis: Easily one of the year's biggest cinematic events, Peter Jackson returns to the world of Tolkien with this first of a two film adaptation of the 'Rings' prequel book "The Hobbit". Like the book, this will have a lighter and more humorous tone to it as it shows a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) setting off on a quest to the Lonely Mountain with a company of dwarves - played by various well regarded British TV actors like James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Graham McTavish and Ken Stott in heavy make-up.

Much of the "The Lord of the Rings" behind-the-scenes crew is back, as are some familiar faces in both major roles (McKellen, Serkis, Weaving) and minor ones (Blanchett, Bloom, Wood, Holm, Lee), combined with some fresh faces that are also quite familiar like Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, former "Doctor Who" star Sylvester McCoy, and even the national treasures that are Stephen Fry and Barry Humphries. The film had a rough start with changes of directors, union disputes, script issues and more but things finally got underway earlier this year with a big swath of filming already in the can.

Questions remain over the nature of this project. Splitting "The Hobbit" over two films means a lot of ancillary material is being incorporated to not only fill out the tale but bridge it with the 'Rings' trilogy. Some have speculated the first film will essentially be a straightforward 'Hobbit' adaptation with the second its own feature, the more likely scenario is a straightforward single story in two parts.

Then there's the actual shooting. Not only is it being shot with the RED Epic digital cameras in 3D, Jackson is filming at a 48 frames per second rate - double that of the industry standard since the 1920's. The recent first trailer for the project shows a startlingly consistent film - McKellen, Wood, Holm, and the world around them barely seeming to have aged a day. Certainly one of the surer bets of the year, the question is whether the film can live up to the high standard the filmmaker set himself ten years ago with the original trilogy.


Hotel Transylvania 3D
Opens: September 21st 2012
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Miley Cyrus, Kevin James, Fran Drescher
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Analysis: "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Samurai Jack" creator Genndy Tartakovsky makes his feature directing debut on this 3D CG animated family horror comedy set at a five-star Romanian resort for the world's monsters. It's there the hotel's owner Dracula (Adam Sandler) tries stopping his teenage daughter (Miley Cyrus) falling for a curious young man (Andy Samberg) who has just checked in.

Tartakovsky is actually about the fourth person to be attached to direct the project since it began development over five years ago. Once onboard though he got into production with a hell of a major cast voicing some famous classic monsters. On the list are Kevin James as Frankenstein, Cee Lo Green as a Mummy, Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon as married werewolves, David Spade as the Invisible Man, and David Koechner as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Sony Animation is coming off the under performing "Arthur Christmas" which sadly failed to find much of an audience despite strong reviews. However with both this and "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" in March, it looks like they've got winners that should definitely find some love at the box-office.


House at the End of The Street
Opens: April 20th 2012
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Jonathan Malen
Director: Mark Tonderai

Analysis: Tonderai made a name for himself with the BIFA nominated Duel-esque thriller "Hush", and now he's back with this $7 million Ottawa-shot indie romantic thriller which got picked up by Relativity for release this April.

The story follows a mother and daughter who move to a new town and find themselves living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When the daughter befriends the surviving son, she learns the story is far from over.

The project marks the first script from "Breakdown" and "U-571" writer/director Jonathan Mostow in twelve years, his co-scribe David Loucka however is coming off the odious "Dream House" so the end product could go either way.


How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Opens: 2012
Cast: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Johnny Yong Bosch, Bob Gunton, Dean Norris
Director: Adrian Grunberg

Analysis: Shot in Mexico right before the Gibson phone recording scandal in mid-2010, 'Summer' quickly joined "The Beaver" in release limbo with a big question mark in regards to if it would ever see the light of day. 'Beaver' lucked out with Summit releasing the film last year to solid reviews but dismal box-office, something those involved in 'Summer' are no doubt concerned by.

The story follows a career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities who is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a nine-year-old boy. The tone looks to be gritty and a good fit for the actor who also wrote the script - his third writing effort after "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto".

Gibson didn't direct though, this time frequent assistant director Adrian Grunberg ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," "Edge of Darkness," "Jarhead") makes his debut in the big chair. Gibson's own Icon Productions will distribute the film itself but haven't set a specific date. There's also talk of a title change to the more fun sounding "Get the Gringo" in some territories.


The Hunger Games
Opens: March 23rd 2012
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz
Director: Gary Ross

Analysis: With "Harry Potter" over and the "Twilight" franchise wrapping up, many studios have been trying to develop franchises based on other successful young adult literary series in an effort to emulate that level of success. None however have come closer to potentially reaching that goal than this first of a proposed trilogy based on the novels by Suzanne Collins.

Already dubbed the most anticipated film of next year amongst women in several polls, where 'Hunger' could surprise is that it has far more cross over appeal with men than the "Twilight" saga. There's no frigid virgins and vegan vampires trying to channel Lord Byron here.

Instead we have a moderately grounded science fiction action story which plays like a mashup of "Battle Royale" and "The Running Man". In this what remains of North America has now been split into twelve districts and every year a teenage boy & girl are chosen from each district to risk their lives in a ruthless competition for survival - 24 go in, but only one can come out.

With a costly $100 million budget, this is a big risk for Lionsgate but one that's expected to pay off big time for them, so much so they've already set a late 2013 release date for the sequel. There's a solid cast and crew involved and while a very early teaser was a dud, the first proper trailer launched a few months ago and surprised the hell out of lot of people with just how good it actually looked (and they were essentially only scenes from the first act). Easily the biggest film of this Spring.


Hunter Killer
Opens: December 21st 2012
Cast: Gerard Butler, Sam Worthington
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Analysis: First Pierre Morel ("Taken") then Phil Noyce ("Salt") were set to helm this adaptation of Don Keith and George Wallace's unpublished novel "Firing Point". Instead Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "King Arthur") has ultimately taken over direction on the project which will begin filming shortly ahead of a planned Christmas release through Relativity Media.

Described as a "Black Hawk Down"-style feature, the story has Gerard Butler playing an untested American submarine captain who teams with a group of U.S. Navy Seals to rescue the Russian president who has been kidnapped by a renegade admiral attempting a coup.

Noyce was a good fit considering his work on two of the Jack Ryan films. With Fuqua onboard however I'd expect less politics and storyline and more in the way of gritty action and flashy visuals. No-one else is attached at present aside from Butler and Sam Worthington (who isn't confirmed). I somehow get the sneaking suspicion though this will be one of those movies pushed back into sometime in 2013.


Hyde Park on Hudson
Opens: 2012
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Coleman, Samuel West
Director: Roger Michell

Analysis: An adaptation of Richard Nelson's radio play and set in June 1939, the big draw of Roger Michell's film adaptation is what will likely be a potential awards-calibre performance from Bill Murray playing U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The story itself follows the love affair between the married FDR and his distant cousin Margaret 'Daisy' Suckley. Here the action is set on a weekend in 1939 when King George VI and then Princess Elizabeth visited upstate New York.

In reality the exact nature of FDR and Daisy's relationship has never been confirmed, but there is considerable evidence it was more than just friendship. The film is expected to stick close to the radio play, while the casting is top notch - especially the great talents of Linney and Williams as the other parts of this love triangle.


I, Alex Cross
Opens: 2012
Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Jean Reno
Director: Rob Cohen

Analysis: 1997's "Kiss the Girls", a film adaptation of the James Patterson book, remains a quite strong feature in spite of its embrace of genre cliches. Strong lead performances anchor the story of a woman (Ashley Judd) who escaped the clutches of a serial killer named Casanova and helps forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) track him down. It was a profitable success for Paramount, enough that Freeman returned to play Cross again in the less well-received "Along Came a Spider" in 2001.

Fifteen years on since 'Girls' and a decision has been made to restart the franchise over at Summit, this time utilising the twelfth book in the series "Cross". In this outing, the character is now retired from the FBI but is drawn back in to find a killer, only to learn it may be the same man responsible for the murder of his wife twelve years ago.

Originally David Twohy was slated to direct with Idris Elba starring as Cross. Instead the producers have opted for curious choices - action tentpole director Rob Cohen and playwright/actor Tyler Perry in the titular role. While Perry's name will draw its own audience, it also brings with it some baggage - especially with critics - while fans of the book character aren't likely to be as pleased as they were with Freeman. A project which has a lot to prove, can it work?

The Complete Notable Films of 2012 Guide

Volume One: 2 Days in New York, 21 Jump Street, 47 Ronin, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Act of Valor, The Amazing Spider-Man, American Reunion, Amour, The Angel's Share, Anna Karenina, The Apparition, Arbitrage, Argo, The Avengers, A.W.O.L., Bachelorette, Bait 3D, Battleship, Beauty and the Beast in 3D, Being Flynn, Bel Ami, Beneath the Darkness, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big House

Volume Two: Big Miracle, The Big Wedding, Blackbird, Black Rock, The Bourne Legacy, Brave, Bullet to the Head, The Bully Project, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Casa de mi Padre, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Chimpanzee, Chronicle, Cloud Atlas, Cogan's Trade, The Cold Light of Day, The Company You Keep, Contraband, Cosmopolis, The Dark Knight Rises, Dark Shadows, Decoding Annie Parker, The Deep Blue Sea, The Devil Inside

Volume Three: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, The Dictator, Disconnect, The Divide, Django Unchained, Dog Fight, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Dredd, Drift, The End, The End of Love, The English Teacher, The Expendables 2, A Few Best Men, Finding Nemo in 3D, The Five-Year Engagement, Flight, Footnote, For a Good Time Call…, Foxfire, Frankenweenie, The Frozen Ground, Fun Size, Gambit, Gangster Squad, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Volume Four: G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III, Goats, God Bless America, Gods Behaving Badly, Gone, Goon, Grabbers, The Grandmasters, Gravity, Great Expectations, Great Hope Springs, The Great Gatsby, The Grey, Halloween 3D, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Haywire, He Loves Me, Here Comes the Boom, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hotel Transylvania 3D, House at the End of The Street, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, The Hunger Games, Hunter Killer, Hyde Park on Hudson, I Alex Cross

Volume Five: I Hate You Dad, Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D, Imogene, The Impossible, In Darkness, Inside Llewyn Davis, Intruders, Iron Sky, Jack and Diane, Jack the Giant Killer, Jeff Who Lives At Home, John Carter, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Joyful Noise, Juan of the Dead, Killer Joe, The Lady, Laurence Anyways, Lay the Favorite, Learning to Fly, Les Miserables, Liberal Arts, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Longest Week, Long Time Gone

Volume Six: Looper, Love and Bruises, The Lucky One, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Magic Mike, Man on a Ledge, The Man with the Iron Fists, The Master, Mental, Men in Black 3, Mirror Mirror, Moonrise Kingdom, The Moth Diaries, Movie 43, MS One: Maximum Security, Mud, My Mother's Curse, Neighborhood Watch, Nero Fiddled, No One Lives, Not Suitable for Children, Nurse 3D, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Of Men and Mavericks, On the Ice, On the Road, One for the Money

Volume Seven: Only God Forgives, Outrun, The Paperboy, ParaNorman, Parental Guidance, Parker, Perfect Sense, Phantom, Piranha 3DD, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Place Beyond the Pines, Playing the Field, The Possession, Post Tenebras Lux, Premium Rush, Price Check, Project X, Prometheus, The Raid, The Raven, Red Dawn, Red Hook Summer, Red Lights, Red Tails, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Resident Evil: Retribution

Volume Eight: Return, Rise of the Guardians, Robot and Frank, Rock of Ages, Rust and Bone, Safe, Safe House, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Sapphires, Satellite Boy, Savages, Searching for Sugar Man, The Secret World of Arrietty, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Seeking Justice, Seven Psychopaths, Shadow Dancer, Side by Side, Silent House, The Silver Linings Playbook, Sinister, Skyfall, Smashed, Snow White and the Huntsman, Something in the Air, Song for Marion

Volume Nine: Sparkle, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 3D, Step Up 4ever, Stoker, Straight A's, The Surrogate, The Sweeney, Syrup, Taken 2, Take this Waltz, Ted, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, Thanks for Sharing, Think Like a Man, This is Forty, This Means War, A Thousand Words, The Three Stooges, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Titanic in 3D, Total Recall, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two, Under the Skin, Underworld Awakening, Untitled Bin Laden Project

Volume Ten: Untitled David Chase Movie, Untitled Ramin Bahrani Film, Untitled Terrence Malick Project, Upside Down, V/H/S, The Vow, Wanderlust, Warm Bodies, Welcome to the Punch, Welcome to People, The Wettest County, What Maisie Knew, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Wish You Were Here, The Woman in Black, The Woman in the Fifth, The Words, Words with Gods, World War Z, Wrath of the Titans, Wreck-It Ralph, Wuthering Heights, Your Sister's Sister