Features

The Notable Films of 2012: Volume Seven

By Garth Franklin Monday January 16th 2012 12:33AM

In this seventh volume I look at films that include a Thai-set re-teaming of the star and director of "Drive", a mystery-laced re-teaming with the star and director of "Blue Valentine, a stop-motion animated tale of a ghost whispering kid, bigger boobs and more blood in a "Piranha" sequel, and a fun sea-faring shanty from the creators of "Wallace and Gromit".

There's also Ridley Scott's return to the mythology of the "Alien" universe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hunted bike courier, a much acclaimed Indonesian action thriller, Edgar Allan Poe hunting a murderer who has made him his muse, a remake of 80's red scare classic "Red Dawn", and another battle with zombies for Alice.

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Only God Forgives
Opens: 2012
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying, Vithaya Pansringarm
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Analysis: Though he scored acclaim for his work on the "Pusher" trilogy and launching Tom Hardy to stardom with the excellent "Bronson", Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn really broke through this year with "Drive" - an acclaimed throwback crime drama which ended up in the #1 spot on many top ten of the year lists (including my own forthcoming one at the end of the month). As a result he's been linked to and considered for numerous projects.

'Forgives' however is something he'd been planning long before "Drive" exploded and he's stuck to his guns with a shoot on a relatively small budget film ($4.6 million) to get underway next month in South East Asia. Luke Evans was originally set to star here, but his commitments to "The Hobbit" forced him to drop out. Instead Refn's "Drive" star Gosling has stepped in and has already begun a whole bunch of Muay Thai training for the role.

Gosling plays a man living in exile in Bangkok where he runs a Thai boxing club as a front for the family's drugs smuggling operation. When his brother is killed, their mother (Thomas) arrives demanding revenge. His contacts lead him to 'The Angel of Vengeance', a dangerous retired police officer whose death at his hand would cost him more than he could imagine.

Gosling calls the project "the strangest thing I’ve ever read and it’s only going to get stranger". The character was apparently set to be British but with Gosling's casting it's unsure if that's changed - I'd assume either he'll be sporting a British accent or Thomas will be sporting an American one. With filming only about to get underway, the earliest we're likely to see this is late this year.

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Outrun
Opens: August 24th 2012
Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Beau Bridges, Kristin Chenoweth
Director: Dax Shepard, David Palmer

Analysis: Funnyman Shepard serves as star, writer and co-director of this indie comedy road film which essentially no-one had heard about until it was made available at the American Film Market late last year. Open Road Films quickly snapped up the U.S. domestic rights and have already scheduled it for a late Summer release.

The story follows Charlie Bronson (Shepard), an ex-getaway driver stuck in the Witness Protection Program who breaks out of anonymity in order to drive his girlfriend (Bell) cross-country to Los Angeles so she can score her dream job. Along the way they end up being chased by cops (led by Tom Arnold) and his former gang members (led by Bradley Cooper).

There some fun talent in the supporting roles of the various wacky characters the pair meet along the way, including David Koechner, Michael Rosenbaum, Joy Bryant, and Ryan Hansen. Shepard and his real-life fiance Bell should have some good chemistry on screen, whether the film itself though is worth the ride - we'll see.

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The Paperboy
Opens: 2012
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack
Director: Lee Daniels

Analysis: It has taken, on and off, around ten years for this adaptation of Pete Dexter's 1995 novel to get to the screen with both Pedro Almodovar and later Paul Verhoeven failing to get it off the ground. Ultimately it was "Precious" director Lee Daniels who finally managed to make it work though Almodovar remains onboard as producer.

Set around Moat County Florida in the 1960s, the story follows the slacker son of a newspaper editor and publisher who gets pulled into his older, big-city reporter brother’s investigation of a rural sheriff's murder. There's also the question of whether the death-row inmate convicted of it was truly responsible.

Various names including Bradley Cooper, Alex Pettyfer, Sofia Vergara and Tobey Maguire were either linked or offered roles in the film, though ultimately almost every time a name fell through Daniels managed to secure a better and stronger talent for the same role.

Each is quite distinct too, for example Kidman has the interesting role of a woman who writes letters to men on death row. Dexter adapted the script himself and the first poster was an impressive retro style affair. The question is will Daniels achieve the same level of success he had with "Precious"?

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ParaNorman
Opens: August 17th 2012
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman, Jeff Garlin
Director: Sam Fell, Chris Butler

Analysis: The second feature effort from "Coraline" animation studio Laika, this family comedy thriller employs the same style 3D stop-motion animation techniques which the company is now exclusively devoted after folding their CG animation department. One notable absence this time though is "The Nightmare Before Christmas" filmmaker Henry Selick who left the company in 2009.

Instead "The Tale of Despereaux" and "Flushed Away" director Sam Fell is taking the helm of this tale of a small town that falls under siege to ghosts, witches, zombies and other wicked beings. It's up to a misunderstood local boy named Norman, who has the ability to speak with the dead, to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old curse.

Though its late Summer bow seems an odd time to release it, Focus Features has so far handled the early marketing well with a memorable first teaser trailer set to Donovan's classic "Season of the Witch" song. Here's hoping it'll find an audience like "Coraline" did.

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Parental Guidance
Opens: 2012
Cast: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott, Bailee Madison
Director: Andy Fickman

Analysis: Originally called "Us and Them", the draw here is the teaming of Crystal and Midler for a gentle family comedy about the generational gap between the parenting styles of grandparents and their children.

"City Slickers" scribes Lowell Gantz and Babaloo Mandel pen the story of a baseball broadcaster and his estranged wife who have been tasked with caring for their three very 21st century grandchildren as they slowly try to repair their relationship with their daughter.

Andy Fickman ("You Again," "She's The Man") helms the Atlanta-shot film which sounds highly predictable, but this kind of fare usually performs decently despite what the critics say.

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Parker
Opens: October 12th 2012
Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis
Director: Taylor Hackford

Analysis: One of the world's most prodigious novelists of the crime/comic caper genre, Donald E. Westlake penned over a hundred novels in his time under all sorts of pseudonyms like Richard Stark and Alan Marshall. Arguably his most famous character creation however was Parker, a ruthless career criminal with basically no redeeming qualities and a complete willingness to kill to get what he wants.

As such he's a popular character to translate to the big screen with Lee Marvin ("Point Blank"), Chow Yun-Fat ("Full Contact") and Mel Gibson ("Payback") all playing variations of the character based on the first novel in the series "The Hunter".

Now comes "Transporter" star Jason Statham in the role in a film which, much like Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" and Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin", sounds like an original story blending elements from several Parker-centered novels rather than directly adapting one. As a result it's unknown if recurring characters from the series like Claire Carroll and Alan Grofield will make an appearance.

In this $30 million caper, Parker turns down a job offer to pull off a jewel heist and narrowly escapes with his life. He ends up teaming with a female real estate agent to find the target of the heist so they can steal the loot for themselves. "Black Swan" scribe John J. McLaughlin penned the script with Hackford ("Ray," "Devil's Advocate," "Proof of Life") helming so the pedigree looks pretty good.

Statham however seems oddly cast and has also become a bit of a broken record with his various films of late, each so similar to the other that they've become tediously generic. Here's hoping this will be one of the few exceptions with a strong script and better than expected smarts like the under rated "The Bank Job".

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Perfect Sense
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor, Connie Nielsen, Stephen Dillane, Ewen Bremner
Director: David Mackenzie

Analysis: Shot in Glasgow and formerly titled "The Last Word", this British-German co-production comes from Scottish helmer David Mackenzie who previously worked with Ewan on 2003's provocative affair drama "Young Adam". The bleak emotional dramatic tone is maintained here but given an urban setting and sprinkled with a dash of sci-fi.

Award-winning Danish scribe Kim Fupz Aakeson ("Little Soldier," "Hannibal & Jerry") penned the script which deals with a couple falling in love as the world falls victim to a pandemic that causes people to slowly lose their sensory perception. The central idea is a provocative one and taps into a common fear quite well, however MacKenzie keeps the focus on the personal rather than the wider scale of the disaster.

The film premiered at Sundance last year with a decent response, more regular critics in the UK however were much more down on the film. Reviews called it daft, silly and far too earnest with no chemistry between the leads, moments of embarrassing overacting, and a "love is everything" message forced down your throat as clumsily as it was in "Moulin Rouge". The fact that it didn't go theatrical States-side last year and is being quietly shuffled out in early February doesn't bode well.

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Phantom
Opens: 2012
Cast: William Fichtner, David Duchovny, Ed Harris, Lance Henriksen
Director: Todd Robinson

Analysis: An $18 million indie supernatural thriller set entirely onboard a submarine during the Cold War, this was shot late last year in San Diego and Long Beach with "Lonely Hearts” writer/director Todd Robinson penning and directing.

Set during the Cold War against the backdrop of the U.S. Navy staging a massive exercise in the Pacific, Soviet submarine B756 is sent to observe the war game - armed with a single ICBM, a device that renders them invisible to sonar, and an experienced Captain troubled by his past.

When the sub fails to report in, the Russians send their fleet after it. Onboard, the Captain and crew uncover a plot that will destroy humanity and must push themselves to their limits to save not just themselves but the world.

Duchovny, who replaced Andy Garcia in the film, is playing the role of a Soviet special forces team leader. Other cast members include Natasha McElhone, Sean Patrick Flanery, Johnathon Schaech, Derek Magyar and Dagmara Dominczyk. Could go either way so we'll see.

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Piranha 3DD
Opens: 2012
Cast: Ving Rhames, Danielle Panabaker, Christopher Lloyd, Katrina Bowden
Director: John Gulager

Analysis: More teeth, bigger tits. That's the promise of this follow-up to 2010's thoroughly enjoyable 3D creature feature remake. Scoring mostly positive reviews for its unabashed embrace of its goofy concept, "Piranha 3D" proved to be the kind of fun genre movie that "Snakes on a Plane" wanted to be and simply failed at. From Jerry O'Connell's severed penis to the lesbian underwater make out set to Sous le Dome (the British Airways theme), it was gloriously silly fun.

Now however comes the quickie follow-up with the three guys behind the odious "Feast" film series taking over the reigns and planning to take the nudity, gore and sheer over-the-topness to new levels. Shot in just five weeks in North Carolina early last summer, the film was scheduled to hit this past Thanksgiving until it was yanked from the schedule a month out and has yet to be locked back into a release slot.

Then a few weeks ago came the new wrinkle of a video site listing the film as going straight-to-disc in the U.K., a claim the local distributor later denied. The filmmakers quickly responded saying it's still going theatrical and in fact the pulling of the film from the November date in the U.S. was to give them more time to stage more elaborate effects they wanted to do after test screenings went well.

A 30-second teaser trailer released during the Scream Awards late last year remains one of the most talked about previews of 2011 thanks to a David Hasselhoff cameo and the inclusion of a giant pair of bikini'd breasts swinging after the voiceover man proudly proclaims the film contains "Double the D's". It's a film that knows exactly what its target market wants and delivers - the trash lover in me says bring it on.

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The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Opens: March 30th 2012
Cast: Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Martin Freeman, Lenny Henry, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt

Analysis: After two well received but not hugely exciting computer-animated efforts, Aardman Animation return to the stop-motion arena which they made their name with thanks to the "Wallace & Gromit" franchise and 2000's "Chicken Run". They've also picked a highly appealing story based on the first two entries in Gideon Defoe's "The Pirates!" comedic book series which, despite what you may think, is primarily aimed at adults.

This 3D tale follows the vain, self-deluded and mostly incompetent Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew as they attempt to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. Throw in subplots about a hunt for Moby Dick, scientist Charles Darwin, and lots of dry humour laced with irony and wit, and you have a bloody good time for people of all ages.

The cast is glorious. Imelda Staunton as a pirate-hating Queen Victoria, David Tennant as Darwin, Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek as the Pirate Captain's main rivals, Brian Blessed as the Pirate King, Russell Tovey as an albino pirate, the list just goes on and on of great actors voicing colourful and distinct characters.

Though it is primarily stop motion animation, tastefully incorporated computer effects have allowed the creators to do all sorts of things they couldn't do before - namely set extensions and digital mattes which gives the adventure an epic scale. Various trailers for the film have been released over the past few months, each proving highly enjoyable - here's hoping the film lives up to the promise and high standards Aardman has set for themselves.

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The Place Beyond the Pines
Opens: 2012
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta
Director: Derek Cianfrance

Analysis: After the acclaim for their work together in "Blue Valentine" in 2010, it was only a matter of time before Ryan Gosling and filmmaker Derek Cianfrance would re-unite - no-one expected it to come about this quickly though. Rather than a brutally honest love story, here they tackle a more standard crime thriller tale.

The multi-generational story follows a motorcycle stunt rider (Gosling) who sets out to rob banks in order to provide for his newborn child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician (Bradley Cooper). There's a solid supporting cast here including Ben Mendelsohn, Bruce Greenwood, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes.

Shot in Schenectady, New York, the film scored a lot of attention during shooting for Gosling's look which includes bleached blond locks and various tattoos. Others will no doubt make the comparisons to "Drive" considering he plays a stunt driver (albeit of a different kind) in both. Should be good.

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Playing the Field
Opens: December 25th 2012
Cast: Gerard Butler, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid
Director: Gabriele Muccino

Analysis: While the Christmas holiday period is usually stacked with tentpoles and awards fare, there's usually one or two rom-coms that also get squeezed out to cater to those after a date movie. This year it's this story of a washed up guy trying to be a good father while banging the local hot soccer mom brigade.

The $35 million feature, which is currently slated for a worldwide release months before it hits States-side, stars hunky Scot Gerard Butler as a troubled dad and former international athlete trying to make up for missing out on his kid's childhood by coaching his son's small town soccer team.

Things soon get out of hand however when he takes a shine to quite a few of the mothers of the players, women who are bored and seeking escape from the tedium of their suburban lives. Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Judy Greer star as the objects of his affection which makes for quite the lovely line-up.

Robbie Fox ("So I Married an Axe Murderer") penned the script with "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds" director Gabriele Muccino helming this, the latter admitting upfront it is a much lighter and more comedic vehicle than his previous more dramatic work.

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The Possession
Opens: August 31st 2012
Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Madison Davenport, Grant Show
Director: Ole Bornedal

Analysis: The latest Ghost House Pictures effort is a spin on an L.A. Times article about the events surrounding a Dibbuk box, the commonly-used name of a wine cabinet which is supposedly haunted by a Jewish spirit known as a Dybbuk. Essentially the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor sold it a decade ago and since then its become something of a jinx to those who've owned it.

In this film, the story follows a father and his 10-year-old daughter buying the box at a yard sale. She accidentally unleashes the Dybbuk whose only goal is to devour her, so the dad must work with his ex-wife to end the curse. Originally slated for Halloween last year, the film got pushed back several times before finally settling on a late Summer release this year.

Ole Bornedal, who helmed the acclaimed "Deliver Us from Evil" and both the Danish & UK versions of the serial killer thriller "Night Watch", directs this $17.5 million project from "Knowing" and "Boogeyman" co-writer Juliet Snowden and Stiles White.

Originally slapped with an R rating for "violence, terror, and disturbing images", the film has since been cut down to a PG-13. Unlike previous Ghost House films which have been output through Sony, this one is being unleashed by Lionsgate.

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Post Tenebras Lux (Light After Darkness)
Opens: 2012
Cast: Various Non-Professional Actors
Director: Carlos Reygadas

Analysis: Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas won much acclaim for his recent films like "Sangre," "Battle in Heaven" and the often extraordinary "Silent Light". Now he returns with this semi-autobiographical feature which is being shot in Mexico, Britain, Spain, and Belgium - all places where Reygadas has lived.

Talking about it at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010 where he announced the project, he described it as a movie about "feelings, memories, dreams, things I've hoped for, fears, facts of my current life". Consequently it's more an "expressionist painting" than a logical story that follows a line of reasoning. Expect a likely debut at Cannes.

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Premium Rush
Opens: August 24th 2012
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Aaron Tveit
Director: David Koepp

Analysis: Shot mid-2010 and originally scheduled for release this month, this simple high-concept thriller surprised a few when it was pushed back to a late Summer release. No real explanation was given other than this is the kind of film best suited for a January or August slot and "Man on a Ledge" seems to have already had this month staked out for itself.

In this, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a highly adept New York City bicycle messenger who picks up what he thinks is a routine last package for the day from an ex-girlfriend. He has 90 minutes to get it from 28th Street & 6th Ave to 116th Street & Broadway, but suddenly finds himself being pursued by a brutal cop (Michael Shannon) and some others out to kill him.

The combination of bike-based stunts with Levitt & Shannon playing against each other are the draws here. It's a decent small thriller concept but writer/director David Koepp's directing efforts have proven quite mixed in the past so it could go either way. I'd expect a decent little movie worth a rental.

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Price Check
Opens: 2012
Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Cheyenne Jacksonm, Remy Auberjonois
Director: Michael Walker

Analysis: A $2 million indie comedy set to premiere at Sundance, the story follows a former music industry guy now stuck working in the pricing department of a failing supermarket chain to provide for his family.

When his unconventional and enthusiastic new boss takes over the department, he finds himself on the fast track and begins to wonder if this new career is what he wanted all along.

There's a solid little cast here exploring something very common that's not really shown in films outside the indie circuit - namely people in their 20's and 30's who have yet to really figure out let alone find their niche either in life or work. Could be fun.

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Project X
Opens: March 2nd 2012
Cast: Martin Klebba, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Miles Teller, Alexis Knapp, Eddie Hassell
Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Analysis: Said to be a hard R-rated $12 million comedy, this initially quite secretive project sees "Hangover" director Todd Phillips and Joel Silver teaming to produce what is essentially a 'found footage' film that's not a sci-fi or horror effort - rather it's a teen comedy.

The trailer gives up the basic plot line of a geeky guy and his friends planning a house party that'll be big and cool enough to change their social reputations and get them laid. Things soon spiral out of control with cars driving into pools, dogs humping and SWAT teams being called in to handle the crowds.

British video/commercials director Nima Nourizadeh makes his feature directing debut on the project which was shot in Los Angeles in 2010 between Phillips' commitments to "Due Date" and "The Hangover 2". With a cast of entirely unknowns it looks decidedly tedious - yet teenagers will no doubt have some fun with it.

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Prometheus
Opens: June 8th 2012
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce
Director: Ridley Scott

Analysis: Starting out life as an "Alien" prequel, the debate continues to rage as to how much Ridley Scott's third effort in the sci-fi genre has stuck to that initial plan. Scott, scribe Damon Lindelof and the various cast members have all downplayed the link - saying this is a much more thought-provoking stand alone sci-fi story of a spaceship crew discovering the remains of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization responsible for humanity's origin.

Yet the "Alien" connection is there - the story seems to be set in the "Alien" universe with the aforementioned civilization appearing to be the so-called 'space jockey' from Scott's original 1979 effort. The recent spectacular teaser trailer was not only done in the style of the original "Alien" teaser but showed various visual and stylistic links including a crashed ship identical to the one the Nostromo's crew come across on LV-426.

We've been definitively told we won't see the xenomorph creature, but what we are getting here is a return to pure science fiction, something that's not really seen these days when even former champions of the genre like "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" are sticking more to the wider appealing but decidedly less subtle "Star Wars"-esque space opera formula.

The assembled cast is arguably the most interesting ensemble of the year and the visuals are truly exquisite. Scott's first two efforts in the genre - "Alien" and "Blade Runner" - are considered amongst the greatest films ever made. Can this reach that same high standard?

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The Raid
Opens: March 23rd 2012
Cast: Iko Uwais,Ray Sahetapy, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian
Director: Gareth Evans

Analysis: A major critical and audience hit at last year's Toronto Film Festival, this Indonesian action thriller is the second teaming of Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais following on from 2009's well-received but little seen "Merantau".

There won't be such anonymity this time around with international rights to the feature quickly selling out. In fact it's good enough that shortly after Sony Pictures acquired the U.S. distribution rights, they commissioned their Screen Gems subsidiary to get to work on a Hollywood remake.

Set in the heart of Jakarta's slums, a derelict apartment building has become a safe house for the world's most dangerous killers and gangsters - a tenement considered essentially untouchable. An elite team has been tasked with raiding the building to kill the drug lord who runs it, but when the operation goes awry the group must fight their way through the city's worst criminals to survive.

This leads to a hell of a lot of martial arts action involving the Indonesian traditional martial art Pencak Silat which mixes knife work and brutal hand-to-hand combat. Reviews praised the clear geography of the action and long fluid takes of the fighting while still including all sorts of fun camera and visual trickery for other scenes. An Asian action film with arguably the most mainstream crossover potential since "Oldboy" a decade ago.

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The Raven
Opens: March 9th 2012
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Pam Ferris
Director: James McTeigue

Analysis: A great high concept setup kicks off this third feature from Aussie director James McTeigue following on from the great "V for Vendetta" and the disappointing "Ninja Assassin". Here he delivers a "Castle"-esque procedural but with a grim Victorian-era setting.

The story is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the macabre author teams with a detective in pursuit of a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe's stories. TV actor Ben Livingston and writer Hannah Shakespeare penned the script.

Jeremy Renner was originally set to star but dropped out in favor of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", while Ewan McGregor and Joaquin Phoenix were also in talks or attached at one point. In the end we got a more unexpected but interesting combination - the always fun John Cusack as Poe himself and the "rip your clothes off hotness" of Welsh thesp Luke Evans in the secondary lead role of Inspector Fields.

Shot in in Belgrade and Budapest, the first trailer release for the film seemed to rely far too heavily on jump cuts and quick editing rather than letting the central idea speak for itself. There was also a line delivery which seems to give away the killer's identity - something the marketing department really should've caught.

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Red Dawn
Opens: November 2nd 2012
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Director: Dan Bradley

Analysis: One of two Chris Hemsworth-led films to have been stuck on a shelf for years due to MGM's bankruptcy, this $75 million rehash of John Milius' anachronistic 1984 cult hit keeps the basic premise of students finding out their small town has become the foothold for a foreign invasion and so reorganise themselves into a group of guerilla resistance fighters.

With the Cold War long over, said invading army has had to change for this version and throughout filming the Chinese were set to be the bad guys. Then, over concern the lucrative Chinese market would take offense at this, the various flags and insignia in the film are being changed to that of North Korea. Now with the death of Kim Jong Il and that entire country's future in flux, it would seem as if the filmmakers can't win no matter what they do.

2009's very 'Dawn'-esque Australian film "Tomorrow, When the War Began" showed that in spite of its inherent silliness, the concept can still fly so long as the characters rather than the situation itself remain the focus. Yet the continual delays have left many understandably cautious. None of the major studios are touching it, leaving small newcomer FilmDistrict to handle the U.S. distribution rights. Could it ultimately be alright or is this little more than jerk off material for nostalgic fanboys and gun nuts who regard "Wanted" as an intellectual masterpiece?

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Red Hook Summer
Opens: 2012
Cast: Spike Lee, Turron Kofi Alleyne, Samantha Ivers, Limary Agosto, Heather Simms
Director: Spike Lee

Analysis: Lee's first non-documentary effort since "Miracle At St. Anna", 'Hook' also sees the return of Mookie, the Brooklyn pizza delivery worker character Lee himself played in 1989′s "Do the Right Thing".

The story follows a young kid named Flik who finds himself dumped at a Brooklyn housing project for the Summer with a firebrand preacher of a grandfather whom he's never met. His only distraction from the tedium initially is a feisty girl from church. However conflicting agendas in this tight-knit community of larger-than-life characters soon collide, and Flik becomes anything but bored.

Lee penned the script with his 'Miracle' co-scribe James McBride and funded the film with his own money. This was done mainly because various studio projects he was attached to kept failing to get off the ground so he opted for this low-budget quickie as it gave him complete creative control.

The 2hr 15 minute feature is set to debut at Sundance this year where Lee hopes it will land a distributor. Reviews will be interesting but may contain spoilers as Lee has already let slip that there's unexpected twists in the story that'll shock everyone.

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Red Lights
Opens: 2012
Cast: Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones
Director: Rodrigo Cortes

Analysis: After making a name for himself with the high concept low budget "Buried", Rodrigo Cortes takes another crack at the psychological-thriller genre with this tale of sceptics, psychics and the supernatural shot in Spain and Canada. Cortes has previously described the film as being about "how the brain does not give a true picture of reality."

Two paranormal fraud investigators, veteran Dr. Margaret Matheson (Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Murphy), look into legendary psychic Simon Silver (De Niro) who returns after a mysterious thirty year absence to become the world's greatest challenger to orthodox science. As Tom starts becoming obsessed with Silver, some shocking revelations soon occur.

The draw to this fairly mundane story is a strong cast of talented thesps like "Martha Marcy May Marlene" star Elisabeth Olsen, "Submarine" kid Craig Roberts", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" smug spymaster Toby Jones in supporting roles. Whether this'll be a bit of a letdown like "Buried" ultimately was - we'll see.

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Red Tails
Opens: January 20th 2012
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo
Director: Anthony Hemingway

Analysis: After two decades of development, George Lucas' Tuskegee Airmen film finally got off the ground and filmed throughout the second half of 2009 in the Czech Republic with "Ali" and "The Manchurian Candidate" first A.D. Anthony Hemingway making his directing debut on the $58 million project which Lucas funded himself (along with dolling out a further $35 million for distribution).

The story is set in 1944 with Allied forces suffering heavy casualties, while the black pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program find discrimination keeping them grounded. When a mission so dangerous comes up no-one wants it, these airmen finally get a chance to prove their mettle.

John Ridley ("Bobby," "Undercover Brother") adapted Lucas' outline into a script based on a fascinating true story that looks to have been homogenised into a feel good anti-racism studio picture with a couple of CG heavy WWII aerial dogfights thrown in to pull in audiences.

High definition Sony F35 cameras were used for the main shoot, but what is said to be some fairly heavy reshoots by Lucas himself (Hemingway was too busy with HBO's "Treme" to do them) utilises consumer-level DSLR digital cameras to shoot some of the flying and cockpit sequences where the larger cameras were just inappropriate.

The cast has some odd choices, most interesting is that no less than five actors on this were also cast members on "The Wire". Its budget is more substantial that many films with a mostly African-American cast which has led to Lucas being vocally concerned that if the film fails it will have negative repercussions for black filmmakers. If it succeeds though he's already planning a prequel and a sequel.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Opens: 2012
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Martin Donovan
Director: Mira Nair

Analysis: "Monsoon Wedding" and "Amelia" director Mira Nair becomes only the third Indian filmmaker to shoot in Pakistan with this adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s Booker Prize-nominated best-selling 2007 novel.

This also marks the second effort from the Doha Film Institute following last year's "Black Gold" and tells the story of a young Pakistani man named Changez who is chasing corporate success on Wall Street in the late 90's. After the events of 9/11 however, he experiences a major change in his own attitude and eventually abandons his American life.

The book uses the framing device of an outdoor cafe in Lahore where Changez is telling his story to a nervous American stranger. British actor Riz Ahmed ("Four Lions," "Centurion," "Black Gold"), who voiced an abridged version of the novel for BBC Radio 4 in August, stars as Changez alongside an impressive American cast including Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland.

Nair says she's inspired to make a contemporary film about Pakistan in a time "when the perceived schism between Islamists and the Western World becomes more pronounced each day". Filming got underway in October in Atlanta, New York, Lahore, Delhi and Istanbul for release late this year.

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Resident Evil: Retribution
Opens: September 14th 2012
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Li Bingbing, Kevin Durand, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Analysis: The fifth film in this franchise based on the hit video game series, the third to be directed by Anderson and the second to be done in 3D, 'Retribution' continues the move away from horror to a more straight up action approach much like the game series and the previous two films.

This entry will take place across several international locales including Tokyo, Moscow and New York - with filming having taken place in all three locales. Numerous elements from the game are being brought in including an action set piece from the fifth video game being translated directly to film. Also the Las Plagas parasite from the games is being incorporated which will give us zombies able to shoot guns and ride motorbikes.

Three characters not yet translated onscreen - Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, and Barry Burton - have been added to the cast here which includes the returning Alice, Jill Valentine, Luther West, Carlos Olivera and a cameo from villain Albert Wesker. The big surprise though is that two of the characters that died in the first film - Michelle Rodriguez's 'Rain' and Colin Salmon's 'One' are coming back in some capacity with the actors reprising the parts.

The box-office for this series has stayed fairly stable domestically, internationally however it has expanded with each entry. Dramatically so in the case of the fourth film which earned $236 million outside the U.S. - more than double that of its predecessor. No-one is quite sure how this one will go but with only moderate budgets and that kind of revenue coming in - the 'Resident' films are far from over.

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, MIB 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

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