In this sixth volume I look at films that include a young assassin targeting his older self, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, the return of the "Madagascar" animals, an all-star male stripper comedy, Russell Crowe in a kung fu movie, Paul Thomas Anderson's skewering of Scientology, and the return of the Men in Black.
There's also a Bollywood meets pop culture-gag laden take on Snow White, Guy Pearce essentially playing Snake Plissken in space, Woody Allen's latest effort, Luke Evans becoming a bad ass killer, a nurse who moonlights as a serial killer, an Alaskan-set mystery, and a film based on the most famous book of the Beat Generation.
Opens: September 28th 2012
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels
Director: Rian Johnson
Analysis: Johnson has scored a lot of love in the critical community due to his first two quite strong if occasionally over-praised features. "Brick" was a film noir tale, complete with that overcooked language of 30's pulp detective novels, done in a contemporary high school setting with students. It's a one trick idea but he milked it well, and all on a budget of next to nothing.
His followup, the caper film "The Brothers Bloom" was a fizzer, a well cast but often messy film which tried too hard to be quirky and ultimately came off boorish. Here though he has pulled together something with real potential, a time-twisting dark sci-fi tale with a great hook.
Gordon-Levitt plays a contract killer who works for the mob of the future. After their deaths, he disposes of corpses by sending them three decades back into the past - leaving no trace of them in his time and a body that can't be identified in the past. Things take a twist when he realises his next target is a future version of himself.
"Inception" parallels will no doubt be made as they were with another recent sci-fi effort from a new filmmaking wunderkid - Duncan Jones' "Source Code". While that film stumbled in its last act, Johnson's feature will hopefully avoid such problems as the helmer has demonstrated a better ability to be playful with his subject matter. One of the highlights of the Fall.
Love and Bruises
Opens: September 28th 2012
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Corinne Yam, Jalil Lespert, Sifan Shao
Director: Lou Ye
Analysis: This €4 million French-language project marks the latest venture from controversial Chinese director Lou Ye ("Spring Fever," "Summer Palace," "Purple Butterfly") who was banned twice from making films in his native China. It's also one of the first roles for "A Prophet" star Tahar Rahim after that acclaimed work launched the French-Algerian actor onto the international stage.
An adaptation of the banned autobiography of Jie Liu-Falin, the story follows a young teacher from Beijing who recently arrived in Paris. She drifts between former lovers and recent French acquaintances until she begins an intense love affair with young worker possessed by an insatiable desire for her body.
Premiering on the festival circuit last year, this tale of obsessive love between two almost polar opposite personalities scored good reviews which called it difficult to watch due to its visceral intensity and brutal sex. Yet it was also knocked for being something of a shallow affair - the sex is shot above the waist, and the reasons why this broken woman keeps going back to such a destructive relationship are never truly explored.
Still it's an honest film showcasing how some relationships really are built only upon the intensely physical, even if it is not good for either of the participants. Shot with handheld cinematography, audiences should warm to this more than Lou's other work for much of the past decade.
The Lucky One
Opens: April 20th 2012
Cast: Zac Efron, Blythe Danner, Taylor Schilling, Adam LeFevre, Joe Chrest
Director: Scott Hicks
Analysis: This marks the seventh of author Nicholas Sparks' sixteen books to have been adapted with an eighth, "Safe Haven", also coming out this year. From "The Notebook" and "A Walk to Remember," to "The Last Song" and "Dear John", most of his books and corresponding films follow the same pattern - old fashioned morality tales about an intense love affair that's usually cut short by some kind of family secret or tragedy involving a death. It's textbook bittersweet romance that may be cliche, but often has more heart and honesty than most painfully bad cookie cutter rom-coms.
Here Efron plays a Marine who returns to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman (Schilling) he believes was his good luck charm during the war. He discovers that she's a divorced mother with a son and soon the pair begin an all-consuming love affair. However, he hasn't told her about the photo and the secret ultimately threatens their lives.
Efron has shed his metrosexual stylings with a buzz cut, no make-up and a few extra pounds on him to play a marine - as a result the 23-year-old actor actually does look much more manly now and certainly closer to his age. Yet the character himself is several years older, and his casting has been the biggest point of contention about the project on social networking sites and online discussion forums. Australian director Scott Hicks ("Shine," "No Reservations") is a solid director though so should help make this one of the better Sparks-related films.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Opens: June 8th 2012
Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Frances McDormand
Director: Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon
Analysis: Dreamworks' most unnecessary franchise returns for a third outing with the four former zoo animals still trying to return to New York and ending up stranded in Monte Carlo. From there they join a travelling circus which moves around several European cities, along the way helping the other creatures in the circus rediscover their passion for performing.
The surprise draw here is that the script this time has been penned by Noam Baumbach, yes the writer of "The Life Acquatic with Steve Zissou", "The Squid and the Whale" and "Greenberg". Jeffrey Katzenberg obviously saw the acclaim Baumbach's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" adaptation received and wanted a piece of that action.
Even so, what new elements can he bring? One difference is that the new setting means there's a lot more interaction with humans this time around including the voice of Frances McDormand as an over enthusiastic animal control officer. The setting also allows for some classic Bond-inspired antics with the penguins, and some fun changes of locale including Monaco, Rome, the French Alps and London.
There are three major new animal characters - a Russian tiger, an Italian jaguar and a sea lion - but the voices haven't been announced as yet. The previous two films raked in $532 and $600 million respectively, with the added 3D surcharge this time around it might just hit a new record for the franchise.
Opens: June 29th 2012
Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Analysis: The world of female strippers has had various films in its honour, crowned with the pinnacle of camp that is "Showgirls". Now it is time for the guys to get their due with one of the hunkiest line-ups of beefcake ever assembled on film in Steven Soderbergh's latest project.
The story is loosely based on actor Channing Tatum's experiences as a teenage male stripper in Florida in the late 90's where he was mentored by the titular Mike. In the film, Tatum will take on the role of Mike with "I Am Number Four" star Alex Pettyfer playing the part of 'The Kid' which is essentially Tatum at a young age.
What's fun here is that Soderbergh has filled out the thongs, which much of the supporting cast are confirmed to be donning, with some very hunky men. The list includes "White Collar" star Matt Bomer, "True Blood" werewolf Joe Manganiello, "CSI" jock Adam Rodriguez, wrestler Kevin Nash, and finally Matthew McConaughey as an ex-stripper who is now the owner of the club Xquisite. Sadly none of them will go full frontal.
The genre lends itself to comedy and some of Reid Carolin's script lines are real zingers, yet Bomer says that when he was filming he felt like they were almost doing a documentary. Soderbergh's shooting style is often so different from regular comedy that it will result in something either fresh and original, or a film with a disastrously mismatched tone and execution. Even though Warners is releasing it, the movie was filmed and financed independently which meant Soderbergh had essentially no studio interference. Bring on the baby oil.
Man on a Ledge
Opens: January 27th 2012
Cast: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Kyra Sedgwick
Director: Asger Leth
Analysis: Sam Worthington was hanging around New York City rooftops in late 2010. No he wasn't flashing anyone, instead the Aussie hunk was shooting this action thriller as a fugitive threatening to jump to his death. The suicide attempt however is a cover for a diamond heist nearby by which his brother is executing in an attempt to prove the man's innocence. Added to this is a psychologist (the odd casting of Elizabeth Banks) sent to treat the jumper who also has a past history with him.
It's a relatively straight forward premise, but this marks a rare narrative feature from rising documentary filmmaker Asger Leith ("Ghosts of Cité Soleil") who filmed as much of this as possible in a realistic style. These actors weren't hanging out on some two storey balcony in a car park somewhere with green screen for digital extensions - this was all shot about twenty stories up with inflated mats and safety harnesses.
The duo behind the awful "Whiteout", the commendable "Red" and the upcoming "Battleship" adaptation performed a polish on Pablo Fenjves' original script, a re-write which was what enticed most of the cast to climb onboard. The trailer released a few months back is decent enough in that small scale meets high concept thriller way (eg. "Phone Booth"), but seems oddly telemovie in visual style and doesn't look to be near the same level of the best efforts of the genre in recent years like Spike Lee's "Inside Man".
The Man with the Iron Fists
Cast: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Dave Batista, RZA, Rick Yune
Analysis: What sounded like a direct-to-video vanity project for a Wu-Tang Clan founding member has grown into a fully fledged $20 million Hollywood movie shot in Shanghai nearly a year ago. RZA makes his directorial debut on this lifelong dream project of his, an epic film that boasts a decent cast, most notably Russell Crowe in a key role.
The story follows a blacksmith who forges weapons for the inhabitants of a village in 19th century feudal China who are soon forced to defend themselves. Eli Roth co-wrote, co-produced and even co-directed small parts of the film which he says "mixes kung fu with a spaghetti Western mindset and a hip hop influence" which means god knows what.
The other week co-star Jamie Chung revealed that the original cut of the film was four hours long and RZA briefly wanted to turn it into two movies but Roth advised him not to (whew). As a result the film has been whittled down and is now locked at a tight 90 minutes with the music currently being worked on. Hong Kong veteran Corey Yuen ("The Transporter") is directing the action scenes, while Quentin Tarantino is serving as producer on the project which will likely get a late Summer release.
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Rami Malek
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Analysis: Many have been keenly anticipating Paul Thomas Anderson's first effort since his much acclaimed 2007 drama "There Will Be Blood", but they've had to wait a while as development stalled and started again more than once with differing reasons as to the cause.
At $35 million, several studios were suggested to have gotten cold feet about the potential backlash from organised religious groups. At another point Anderson himself wasn't quite ready to shoot in the timeframe given. The project was all but dead until indie financier Megan Ellison stepped in followed by the Weinstein Co. who is distributing.
Reviews of early script drafts had this painted as a skewering of Scientology and creator L. Ron Hubbard's life and early teachings, but said script has since undergone major overhauls so no-one is entirely sure how much of that remains.
The plot now has Hoffman playing a charismatic man who returns after witnessing the horrors of WWII and creates a new religion which pulls in Phoenix's alcoholic sailor who is at first a devout convert and later begins to question the founder's true motives.
The relationship dynamics between religious leaders and their followers and how trauma affects people's outlooks on spirituality are just some of the issues PTA will no doubt explore. Yet with conflicting reports about just what we're in store for and even how he's shooting the film, we're really not going to know until a festival premiere later in the year.
Men in Black 3
Opens: May 25th 2012
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Analysis: Fifteen years since the popular and well-received first film, and ten years since the much more mixed reaction to "Men in Black II", Sony has resurrected this sci-fi comedy franchise and has hit countless difficulties along the way - problems that ended up delaying it by a few years.
The story has Agent J time-travelling back to 1969 where an alien, with its sights set on the younger version of Agent K, poses a threat to the future of both the entire MIB organization and humanity. Most of the challenges behind-the-scenes involved initially getting stars Smith and Jones back onboard, and then fixing up difficulties with the script.
Numerous writers from Etan Cohen to David Koepp to Jeff Nathanson kept struggling with the screenplay - particularly the time travel element of this outing. As a result the film's shooting schedule was split in two with the present day scenes shot in New York in late 2010 to take advantage of tax breaks. The 1969 scenes however saw delays due to the script. Hopefully it was resolved, but it sounds like it was a bitter struggle right up until filming.
At a costly $215 million this is a bit of a gamble for the studio, even with the presence of Smith who remains the one true hit-making star on the planet. The first teaser trailer surprised in just how smoothly it fits in with the rest of the franchise both tonally and aesthetically. Yet it also felt somewhat dated, calling into question just how viable this franchise still is.
Cast: Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox
Director: P.J. Hogan
Analysis: Hogan and Toni Collette reunite almost twenty years on from the film that made both their careers - the Aussie comedy "Muriel's Wedding". Here they both return home for this tale of a local philandering politician named Barry Moochmore (LaPaglia) who commits his wife (Gibney) to a mental hospital after she suffers a nervous breakdown.
Now stuck looking after five teenage daughters he barely knows, he hires a charismatic, hot-tempered and unstable hitchhiker named Shaz (Collette) to be their nanny. She soon proves to be the best thing that's ever happened to the Moochmores - think a demented and contemporary riff on "Mary Poppins".
Universal Australia is releasing the project and have been talking up the film's script which is reportedly based on Hogan’s own personal story. Set around Tweed Heads, the film boasts a strong Aussie supporting cast while the five young girls playing the daughters should yield at least one breakthrough star. Jerry Zucker is producing the film which is expected to be one of the more popular local films of this year.
Opens: March 16th 2012
Cast: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean
Director: Tarsem Singh
Analysis: Much has been written about the rival "Snow White" projects both hitting this year, but thankfully they look so different from each other that fears of them negating each other's appeal seem moot. This one from Relativity Media is the first out of the gate and takes on a much more kid friendly Disney-esque tone - a comedy fantasy replete with self-aware pop culture gags and even some Bollywood musical numbers courtesy of "The Fall" and "Immortals" director Tarsem Singh.
In this version, Roberts plays an enchantress who schemes her way to the throne. When a spirited young orphan (Collins) wins the attention of a charming prince (Hammer), the Queen banishes her to the forest. With the help of several highway robber dwarves, she sets out to take back her realm.
When the first trailer arrived for the bigger budgeted and darker rival 'Snow' project "Snow White and the Huntsman", many were shocked at just how good the almost "Lord of the Rings"-inspired tale look. When the first trailer for "Mirror Mirror" showed up shortly after though, the online reaction was decidedly less encouraging.
Filled mostly with Roberts spouting cheesy one-liners, cheap looking visual effects, big frilly costumes and a family tone akin to a Hallmark movie, it's a film targeted specifically at the Disney Channel set rather than the broader teen and adult appeal of 'Huntsman'. That's all fine but it also means the re-watch value won't likely be very high.
Opens: May 25th 2012
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
Director: Wes Anderson
Analysis: A Wes Anderson film ("Rushmore," The Royal Tenenbaums") always generates a lot of excitement amongst art house film lovers where he's essentially a directing superstar - like Michael Bay but with taste, subtlety and an adult sense of humour. He lands big names but never loses his sense of quirkiness or smarts - making his efforts consistent enough in tone to have a signature, but different enough that each stands out from the other.
This time he's doing a 1960's set story about a pair of young lovers (one a boy scout) who flee their New England island town, prompting a local search party led by the Sheriff and the girl's parents to find them. It sounds fairly mundane on paper, but judging by the very Anderson-esque first trailer it's filled with all his usual wacky characters and situations.
Certainly he's assembled a hell of an impressive cast for it including those above plus Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban. Anderson also co-wrote the script with Roman Coppola before shooting the project on Rhode Island early last Summer. Focus is releasing the project for Memorial Day weekend, giving adults who're after something with more depth a nice bit of counter programming to bite into.
The Moth Diaries
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole, Sarah Gadon, Scott Speedman
Director: Mary Harron
Analysis: An Irish-Canadian horror film based on a novel by Rachel Klein, this marks the return of "American Psycho" and "I Shot Andy Warhol" director Mary Harron with a vehicle designed to cash in on the teen female vampire fanbase already being milked by the likes of "Twilight" and "The Vampire Diaries".
The story is set in a boarding school where new arrival Ernessa (Cole) comes between two best friends Rebecca (Bolger) and Lucy (Gadon). As Lucy falls under Ernessa's spell, Rebecca begins to believe Ernessa is a vampire.
Reviews from both Venice and Toronto were not kind, calling it a vulgarly obvious mix of Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" and Dario Argento’s "Phenomena". "The Tudors" star Bolger scored good notices, and the oddly ethereal looking Cole seems well cast as a vamp.
Harron was targeted for the most criticism though, such as bringing up numerous interesting threads and then dropping them, or making the supernatural elements obvious when something more psychological and dubious in nature would've been a better fit.
Still, it's the kind of film that has cult hit stamped all over it, so much so that IFC has picked it up for distribution and will likely get good play out of it on the home video circuit after a limited theatrical run.
Opens: April 13th 2012
Cast: Too Many To Name
Director: Too Many To Name
Analysis: A huge number of big stars have come together for this R-rated anthology comedy made up of short stand alone segments (ala "Kentucky Fried Movie") held together by a unifying storyline. Said storyline follows two teen stoners and their younger geek brother trying to find the most banned movie in the world on the Internet, but each time they get close someone tries to stop them.
One sketch has Gerard Butler as a perverse and foul-mouthed leprechaun kidnapped by Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott who want to steal his pot of gold. Another has Halle Berry as a career driven woman set up to take the fall for corporate embezzlement by a sexy college friend.
The most anticipated is "Robin's Big Speed Date", a follow-up to the 2006 comedy short "Robin's Big Date" in which Batman's sidekick Robin (Justin Long) tries to go on a date without The Bat-Man (Sam Rockwell) tagging along and ruining the evening. Long will reprise his role with Jason Sudeikis taking over as Batman not to mention several stars as the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and The Penguin.
Other cast members include Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Jimmy Bennett, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Bobby Cannavale, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, John Hodgman, Hugh Jackman, Aasif Mandvi, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Tony Shalhoub, Emma Stone, Uma Thurman, Patrick Warburton, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet. The list of directors who contributed sketches is also impressive including Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Brett Ratner.
MS One: Maximum Security
Opens: April 20th 2012
Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Lennie James, Vincent Reagan
Director: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Analysis: Think "Escape from New York" set in space, this $30 million French/American sci-fi thriller features Guy Pearce as the cynical badass offered freedom in exchange for rescuing the President's daughter from a space prison which has been over run by the inmates.
EuropaCorp and French producer Luc Besson regularly churns out at least one or two straight-up English-language action films a year. Sometimes they take off like "Taken" and the "Transporter" series. Other times you get fizzers like last year's "Colmbiana" and "From Paris with Love".
Originally titled "Lock-out", an R-rating is expected for the Belgrade-shot piece which should deliver some decent thrills. It also marks a welcome return of a much healthier looking Pearce to the action genre in a role made to be hammed up - something he's obviously relishing in the early trailers released for this so far.
FilmDistrict is opening the film in the quiet pre-Summer period in late April so it probably won't earn much, but it's the kind of film made for a specific demographic (young male sci-fi lovers) and should deliver the goods despite the genericness of the premise.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Tye Sheridan
Director: Jeff Nichols
Analysis: The next film from "Shotgun Stories" and "Take Shelter" director Nichols keeps McConaughey on an impressive acting streak of late that began with "The Lincoln Lawyer" and continues with "Killer Joe" opening this year.
Here he stars in the story of an unlikely friendship between a fugitive (McConaughey) and two teenage boys who help him escape and reunite with his lost love (Witherspoon).
There's a lot more to the story however, and she isn't exactly what the teens expect, in fact when she shows up the small Arkansas town finds itself besieged by a line of hunters in tow seeking revenge.
The tone is described as a "romantic fairytale" with shadings of "Stand By Me", many are keenly anticipating the result which will likely premiere later in the year at a festival.
My Mother's Curse
Opens: November 2nd 2012
Cast: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Adam Scott, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Hanks
Director: Anne Fletcher
Analysis: Though she's popped up in short appearances in the 'Fockers' franchise, this marks Barbra Streisand's first starring role since "The Mirror has Two Faces" in 1996. Here she teams with comedian Seth Rogen who plays her inventor son. The pair head out on a cross country road trip as he tries to flog his new product and also reunite with a lost love.
Talk has labelled this a straight up comedy with both having ulterior motives for the car trip which will no doubt lead to assorted shenanigans. Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal") is directing from a script by Dan Fogelman ("Cars"), and with both stars combined in a relatable premise, it should score a decent opening and nice reviews.
Opens: July 27th 2012
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Analysis: A Stiller/Vaughn teaming is usually something worth keeping an eye on, but the real star of 'Watch' will no doubt be Richard Ayoade. Best known as the scene stealing nerd du jour 'Moss' on UK sitcom "The I.T. Crowd" and more recently as the filmmaker behind the acclaimed "Submarine", Ayoade takes one of the supporting roles originally marked for Chris Tucker who thankfully opted out.
The trio, and Jonah Hill, play a group of suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch group as a cover to allow them time to bond and escape from their families. When the group stumbles upon an alien plot that threatens the existence of the entire world, they are forced to confront it.
It's a decent concept made more interesting by the employing of "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who came onboard to perform a complete overhaul of Jared Stern's script. Sterns' PG-13 light sci-fi comedy stylings have now been replaced by an R-rated film with decidedly adult humour - not something you see in a lot of sci-fi comedies.
Schaffer began shooting the film back in October around various parts of Georgia. With its July 27th opening date, this will benefit from those audiences already burned out or not interested in seeing "The Dark Knight Rises". It's a cute idea that should perform well enough for the studio to be satisfied.
Cast: Woody Allen, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz
Director: Woody Allen
Analysis: Having done films in London, Barcelona, Paris, Allen moves on to Rome in his continuing European-based film series which has revitalised his career both critically and commercially. It began with acclaim for 2005's "Match Point", went on to an Oscar win for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" in 2008, and more recently had his most successful film at the box office in the United States so far with last year's "Midnight in Paris".
'Nero' marks Allen's his first acting role since his turn in his second UK-based effort "Scoop" in 2006. This one focuses on four vignettes - a husband and wife (Allen & Judy Davis) who travel to Rome and meet the family of the Italian man their daughter is going to marry; a man (Roberto Benigni) who gets mistaken for a movie star; a Californian architect (Baldwin) visiting Rome with friends; and two newlyweds (Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi) who visit some relatives but end up getting lost in the city.
Some thought the film was linked to Giovanni Boccaccio's "The Decameron" since the film was originally titled "The Bop Decameron" but Allen insists there is no connection. He has assembled an impressive mix of European and American talent for this feature which will be more of a straight up comedy than the romantic fantasy of 'Paris'. Sony Classics is slating this for a Summer release to try and match the box-office success of 'Paris'.
No One Lives
Cast: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar, Beau Knapp
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Analysis: While much fuss has been made about the rise of Henry Cavill this past year, even more interesting has been the ascendancy of his fellow "Immortals" cohort and my personal pin-up man of 2011 - Luke Evans. The 32-year-old Welshman was a stage actor throughout his twenties, but hasn't really been out of work for the last three years with roles in no less than twelve films including "The Hobbit" next year.
This one however is something of a real test of both his abilities and box-office potential - not a supporting part in a familiar franchise but a leading man, and more importantly a quite dark anti-hero character, front and center in an original property from the relatively small WWE Studios.
The story follows a gang of ruthless highway killers who kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country. They soon discover that things aren't what they seem - the man they've taken (Evans) turns out to be far more lethal than any of them.
Filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura has gotten a lot of love for the under seen and deliciously insane Clive Barker adaptation "Midnight Meat Train" so many are keen on check out whether his next Hollywood effort will be just as out there. Here's hoping.
Not Suitable for Children
Opens: July 27th 2012
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic
Director: Peter Templeman
Analysis: When not shooting "True Blood", Aussie hunk Ryan Kwanten has been jetting back home to shoot various indie features there including the 2010 contemporary western "Red Hill" and last year's superhero spoof "Griff the Invisible".
He's back again for this Sydney-shot rom-com about a young guy in the inner city suburb of Redfern who discovers he has only a month before he becomes infertile. He soon begins a desperate search to find someone to have his baby before it’s too late.
Scribe Michael Lucas, who deftly handles similar themes with the often highly amusing Aussie drama "Offspring", penned the script. Oscar-nominated short filmmaker Peter Templeman ("The Saviour") makes his feature film debut here on this likely raunchy but ultimately sweet comedy which was four years in development.
The time however has allowed for a good cast of local talent to be assembled including "Spirited" scene stealer and one-time Lisbeth Salander candidate Sarah Snook, and "Burning Man" actress Bojana Novakovic. While the ambitious 'Griff' sadly failed to make much of an impression either locally or overseas, there's higher hopes for Kwanten's work here.
Cast: Paz de La Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Corbin Bleu, Boris Kodjoe, Neal McDonough
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Analysis: A pretty generic sounding 3D horror comedy from Lionsgate began its marketing campaign on the right foot with the release of an eye-popping and much talked about poster featuring "Boardwalk Empire" star Paz de La Huerta completely naked and covered in blood from the neck down. Suddenly a film no-one had heard of was, briefly, a movie everyone was asking about.
Of course buzz only lasts so long and talk has already died down in regards to this Doug Aarniokoski-directed effort. The story follows a nurse (de La Huerta) who moonlights as a kind of avenging black widow - using her sex appeal to lure philanderers to gruesome demises. Throw in a young blond fellow nurse ("30 Rock" star Bowden) and her paramedic boyfriend (Bleu) who become entangled in the nurse's grim actions, and you have all the tedium of a direct-to-video "Dexter" rip-off.
Much of the film is said to be inspired by the photography of Lionsgate's chief marketing officer Tim Palen, which makes one wonder what kind of bacchanals go on in the offices at Lionsgate when they're not making Tyler Perry movies. Shot in Toronto last year, no word on when this is getting a specific release though an early Fall dump seems likely.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Opens: August 15th 2012
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dianne Wiest
Director: Peter Hedges
Analysis: A strange looking family fantasy drama from Disney that novelist & musician Ahmet Zappa originated as an idea, this first came to many's attention with the release of a very early teaser trailer back in August - a full year out from release.
The story follows a childless and infertile couple who bury all their wishes and hopes for a baby in a box in their backyard. The next day they awaken to find a ten-year-old child on their doorstep, one who isn't all he appears to be and claims to be theirs.
Considering the pain and anguish some couples have to go through to have a child, a film with a trivial and "'Benjamin Button' but younger-skewing" approach like this almost comes off as vaguely insulting. Yet there's obviously something here, something strong enough to attract a good cast and for Disney to schedule this far ahead and push forward this prominently. Could be pleasant enough if you can buy the central premise.
Of Men and Mavericks
Opens: October 26th 2012
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Leven Rambin, Abigail Spencer
Director: Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted
Analysis: A biopic of American surfing legend Jay Moriarty which Walden Media and Fox 2000 are producing, this marks the return of "L.A. Confidential" and "Wonder Boys" director Curtis Hanson who last filmed 2007's fairly terrible "Lucky You".
Here he tackles the story of a young Santa Cruz surfer who famously conquered a stretch of treacherous Northern California waves, but later perished in a free-diving accident in the Maldives one day before he was to turn twenty-three. Butler plays Rick 'Frosty' Hesson, a fellow surfing legend and mentor character to the young man - not to mention the box-office pull for this film.
The production has already earned something of a reputation for minor disruptions. Butler was hospitalised briefly after being injured during a surfing stunt in mid-December. Added to that is Hanson experiencing complications from heart surgery, which left him incapable of finishing the production.
As a result Michael Apted ("The World is Not Enough") stepped in to take over as director on the last two weeks of shooting. Hanson is expected to fully recover, though how much involvement he'll have in the post-production phase isn't publicly known. With an October date being targeted though, there's enough time to iron out various issues.
On the Ice
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Frank Qutuq Irelan, Adamina Kerr, John Miller, Josiah Patkotak
Director: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Analysis: Shot entirely on location in Barrow, Alaska, this indie thriller from first-time filmmaker MacLean takes advantage of its location by telling a suspenseful tale in an isolated icy town where the sun never sets.
The story follows two teenage boys who have grown up like brothers in this tight-knit locale but are now on different paths - Qalli is about to head to college, Aivaaq just found out his girlfriend is pregnant.
When Qalli comes across Aivaaq fighting and then killing a classmate, the pair try to make it look like an accident. Qalli's father, the head of the local search & rescue team, doesn't buy it though. Cue various plot twists which reportedly unfold in a logical manner and sometimes make key use of the local geography to tell its often noir-ish story.
Reviews from festival debuts late last year complimented the various cast members and the straightforward appeal of this genre effort which showcases a community rarely seen on film. Some though were more mixed or simply not as engrossed with its structure. The film is scoring a limited release in not just New York and Los Angeles but also Fairbanks and Anchorage next month.
On the Road
Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams
Director: Walter Salles
Analysis: The term 'long gestating' film takes on a whole new meaning with this adaptation of the definitive novel of the Beat Generation. For over five decades now there's been talk of a film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's autobiographical book about his time spent traveling America in the 1940's with his friend Neal Cassady. Kerouac wanted to play his literary counterpart Sal Paradise himself alongside Marlon Brando as the Cassady-inspired Dean Moriarty back in the late 50's when the book first came out.
It wasn't until six years ago that Francis Ford Coppola, who attempted to adapt it himself and failed, convinced Brazilian director Walter Salles to direct and this $25 million production got underway at last. In preparation, Salles shot a documentary taking the same road trip as Sal Paradise and speaking to other Beat poets who knew Kerouac.
Using much of the same crew who shot "The Motorcycle Diaries", filming got underway in August in Montreal with the cast undergoing a month-long "beatnik boot camp" where they all learned about the Beat Generation. Shooting also took place in New Orleans, San Francisco, Calgary, Arizona, Mexico and Argentina with minimal crew members on hand to lend an almost documentary feel to the proceedings.
Reviews of the script have been raves and Salles will certainly bring his A-game to the material. The only question now is will this stand up to the scrutiny that comes when any film is adapted from a beloved novel that's considered one of the defining works of a generation.
One for the Money
Opens: January 27th 2012
Cast: Katherine Heigl, John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata, Jason O'Mara, Debbie Reynolds
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Analysis: If there's a saving grace to this Katherine Heigl rom-com it's the source material - Janet Evanovich's bestselling Stephanie Plum series. Evanovich had only modest success as a romance novelist and decided to try her hand at doing a mystery with an unemployed and newly divorced woman becoming a bounty hunter.
The result was the award-winning 1994 novel on which this is based, while the lead character has gone on to become a literary powerhouse and features in sixteen novels, four novellas, and one short story. Thus the hope is the scripting here is better than Heigl's usual efforts, certainly the studio has taken its time with the property as they've been sitting on it for almost fifteen years and have big plans for this to be a possible franchise for them.
Fans of the books have been very vocal about their dislike of the film's casting for many of the key roles. Despite the large fan base, we've seen potential franchises like these crash and burn before thanks to bad casting or inept filmmaking. The trailer unfortunately seems only to confirm this assumption despite showing initial promise. Once O'Mara's love interest shows up in the preview - it's all downhill from there.
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