In this eighth volume I look at films that include James Bond returning to his old school ways, an 80's rock musical, an old fart & a robot becoming a pair of thieves, a teaming-up of various fairy tale characters, Jason Statham kicking ass, a Denzel-led action thriller in South Africa, an Australian Dreamgirls, and an Oliver Stone pot dealers vs. cartels drama.
There's also a dark epic fantasy take on "Snow White", the latest animated feature from Studio Ghibli, Nicolas Cage going all vigilante, a re-teaming of talents behind "In Bruges", Hollywood's greatest filmmakers discussing the jump to digital, a spook house tale done in a single shot, and a drama of alcoholics in love.
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Linda Cardinelli, Michael Shannon, John Slattery, Talia Balsam, Paul Sparks
Director: Liza Johnson
Analysis: Liza Johnson's first feature is this indie drama which follows a wife and mother returning from a tour of duty in the Middle East and her readjustment to regular suburban life. Johnson and star Linda Cardellini did a lot of research with both women who have been deployed and those now in V.A. hospitals to try and ensure as much authenticity as possible.
Debuting last May at Cannes, the sole U.S. film selected for the 25-film 2011 Director's Fortnight, reviews were quite good. Most labeled it a success with a small emotional scale and quiet but rewarding virtues.
Focus Features kept the promotional push for the film tightly under control until the other week when stills, a poster and trailer hit ahead of a limited theatrical and digital distribution release next month - an effective strategy that has made it stand out from other art house films opening around the same time.
Rise of the Guardians
Opens: November 21st 2012
Cast: Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law
Director: Peter Ramsey, William Joyce
Analysis: Despite the similar name, Dreamworks Animation's second 3D CG animated feature film for the year has nothing to do with that talking owl movie from a while back. Instead, this family comedy/action adventure comes from the mind of "Meet the Robinsons" creator William Joyce.
Back in 2005 Joyce was part of a joint production company aiming to produce CG animated films - with this set to be one. That never eventuated, but four years later the project resurfaced at Dreamworks where it went into production under the name "The Guardians of Childhood". That name was changed last year, but will be retained for the fifteen novel and picture books by Joyce that will soon be published and from which this film is based.
Described as a contemporary fairytale based on existing fairytale characters, the story has Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine) teaming up to stop Pitch the Boogeyman (Jude Law) from sending the world into eternal darkness.
It's more high concept and fun than most DWA films of late and could have plenty of potential considering how well 'Robinsons' was received. It will face stiff competition though with Disney's non-Pixar 80's video game inspired "Wreck-It Ralph" opening a few weeks before.
Rites of Spring
Cast: AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Marco St. John, Shanna Forrestall, Vickie McNeil
Director: Padraig Reynolds
Analysis: Having played last year's Screamfest to decent but not particularly stellar reviews from the genre press, IFC Midnight picked up this low-budget indie kidnap thriller turned creature feature for release sometime this year.
The story follows the kidnapping of a wealthy socialite's daughter with the kidnappers hiding out in an abandoned school. They soon fall prey to a mysterious creature that requires springtime ritualistic sacrifices and uses the school for a hunting ground.
Making good use of its locales, the resulting film doesn't look too shabby from the trailer and almost seems to suffer from "The Descent" problem - namely the second half becoming an entirely different and more silly horror movie after a tense and quite realistic suspense thriller first half. Might be worth checking out by fans of the genre.
Robot and Frank
Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liev Schreiber, James Marsden, Liv Tyler
Director: Jake Schreier
Analysis: Having just screened at Sundance, Jake Schreier's offbeat indie buddy comedy grew out of a film-school short he did a few years go. Despite taking over three years to develop, the actual film was shot in under three weeks on a low budget.
Set in the near future, the story follows an elderly ex-jewel thief, Frank, whose grown kids install a robot as his caretaker when early dementia sets in. At first Frank resists until he realises this robot can pick locks, so he soon enlists him as his partner in crime.
Langella's performance and the film itself scored good reaction at Park City, Twitter blurbs calling it funny, odd and crowd-pleasing if a little bland. It's one of those films that, despite its low-budget origins, could crossover with mainstream audiences - especially with this impressive cast which also includes Peter Sarsgaard as the voice of the robot. Should be fun.
Rock of Ages
Opens: June 15th 2012
Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand
Director: Adam Shankman
Analysis: Chris D'Arienzo's 2006 rock musical is a tribute to 80's glam metal and rock ballads, not the most acclaimed songs of the time but certainly amongst the most popular and memorable even if it is in often embarrassing ways. A time of big hair, theatrical make-up, skin tight leather pants, and bands like Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Jefferson Starship, Styx, Journey and Poison.
More upbeat, comedic and self-aware than other shows at the time of its original production, it became something of an international stage hit. Warners & New Line snapped up the film rights and planned to produce it in 2010 for a mid-2011 release, however various factors delayed shooting until last Summer with Miami ultimately standing in for the various Los Angeles locales.
Shankman has assembled a hell of a cast for this ensemble piece, though Cruise's casting as fictional rock god Stacee Jaxx has certainly raised a few eyebrows. At a costly $80 million it ain't cheap, but the studio obviously has high hopes for this, and certainly the first trailer last month showed that it looks like a lot of silly fun. Certainly it works as an excellent bit of counter programming to the expensive fantasy tentpoles that are crowding June.
Rust and Bone
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bouli Lanners, Céline Sallette
Director: Jacques Audiard
Analysis: Still in production so a Venice/Toronto debut seems the most likely, there's a lot of anticipation for this next feature from French filmmaker Jacques Audiard following 2005's "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" and his much acclaimed 2009 prison thriller "A Prophet".
An adaptation of Craig Davidson's short story collection and co-written by Thomas Bidegain, the story follows a mid-20's guy named Alain van Versch who has been saddled with a five-year-old child and is stuck taking odd jobs and living in his sister's basement along the coast of southern France.
Things get stranger from there - he meets a beautiful trainer of killer whales (Marion Cotillard) who soon loses her legs in an accident and they form a relationship. He then becomes an underground fighter and she his manager - yes, definitely one of the strangest synopses I've read.
Star Marion Cotillard turned heads filming some topless beach scenes a few months ago which should help draw in some audiences. Shot in France and Belgium, it's still too early so we won't get a proper idea of what to expect here until later in the year.
Opens: March 2nd 2012
Cast: Jason Statham, Chris Sarandon, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, Danny Hoch
Director: Boaz Yakin
Analysis: A straight forward action thriller for Statham and filmmaker Boaz Yakin ("Uptown Girls," "Remember the Titans"), this has been called a fast-paced "The Transporter" style effort minus the flash car and tongue-in-cheek style. A more accurate description would be "Mercury Rising" without the autism.
Statham plays a soldier of fortune who finds himself on the run across the U.S. eastern seaboard with a young Chinese girl carrying vital secrets that both the Chinese and Russian Mafia are intent on obtaining in order to blackmail world governments.
The trouble with these more sober "Kiss of the Dragon"-style films is the lack of distinctiveness or originality. Statham has had a run of action films recently that succumbed to that problem ("The Mechanic," "Blitz," "The Killer Elite") despite stronger casts, period settings and better premises than this.
Yet the film has screened here in Oz for some media journos I know who're actually surprisingly upbeat about it, and they're not the kind of people to be easily swayed by a Statham movie. Thus we may be in for a surprise.
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Joel Kinnaman, Brendan Gleeson, Robert Patrick
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Analysis: Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa exploded onto the international scene with the 2010 thriller "Snabba Cash" (Easy Money). Not only did that film make a star out of leading man Joel Kinnaman (who went on to lead AMC's "The Killing") but Hollywood is already at work on the remake. For his follow-up however, Espinosa joined the studio system to tackle this action thriller for Universal.
Set in Cape Town, the story has a group of rebel soldiers from a nearby region destroying a CIA-operated safe house. The facility's young house-sitter must work to move the dangerous former operative gone rogue who is being temporarily stored there to another secure location while avoiding his escape or both of them getting killed.
Espinosa has said in interviews that he had no intention of signing on for a generic Hollywood action movie and if he couldn't do the film the way he wanted to make it he would've easily let someone else take on the challenge. Espinosa and Washington reportedly spent a month together hammering out the script making sure it worked.
Armed with a great cast and a good budget, the tone aims to be grounded and realistic - the good and bad guys aren't clearly defined. From the trailers and promo materials, the visual style for this is akin to a slightly dialled down Tony Scott - that over saturated, blown out contrast and jerky camera look but thankfully not as extreme on any of those fronts. Could be a solid surprise.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Cast: Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Analysis: With "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon departing the project due to his commitment to the "Twilight" franchise, Lasse Hallstrom took the reigns of this adaptation of Paul Torday's acclaimed novel. With a Brit List-making script by Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"), many expected this to be a potential awards contender last year.
Then, much like what Searchlight did with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", the movie got bumped to this year. Reviews out of Toronto last year painted a pretty but not particular exciting picture, calling it a fun and cute if bland little movie. The film will hit the UK in March ahead of likely a late Spring or early Fall bow States-side through CBS Films.
Shot in London, Morocco and Scotland with a solid cast, the story follows Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries scientist who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the Highlands of the Yemen - a project that will change his life and British political history forever.
Cast: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Judith Lucy
Director: Wayne Blair
Analysis: An Australian "Dreamgirls"? Tony Briggs created the original stage play which ran in 2004 & 2005 before a revival in 2010 and tells the true story of the MacCrae sisters, Aboriginal singers in the late 60's. It's an interesting point in history to set the film, a time in Australian culture when discrimination was rife but intense lobbying for equal rights and legislative change was also taking place.
Set in 1969, a year after the referendum gave citizenship rights to Aborigines, it follows a singing group of four Koori women and singers who toured Vietnam for U.S. troops during the war. Though political at points, the play is mostly focused on the personal story of these women and mixes both fact and fictional events into a celebratory and upbeat tale.
The songs of this musical are mostly Motown hits with covers of numbers by Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. One traditional Aboriginal number, Ngarra Burra Ferra, is slipped in and ties in with a major character moment - one of the few somber numbers in the otherwise energetic albeit predictable little story.
"Bridesmaids" and "The IT Crowd" actor Chris O'Dowd plays the group's manager while frequent Aussie TV actress Deborah Mailman, who played a role in the original 2005 stage production, reprises it here. With its big crowd-pleasing tone, the hope is to lure audiences in the same way that 2010's Geoffrey Rush-led musical "Bran Nue Dae" proved a surprise hit in Australia.
Cast: David Gulpilil
Director: Catriona McKenzie
Analysis: There's been excitement in the Australian film industry in recent years following the success of Aboriginal coming-of-age art house tale "Samson and Delilah" which scored both great acclaim and solid box-office. Indigenous filmmaking in Oz has often been neglected in the past but things are slowly changing.
Now, award-winning short and documentary director Catriona McKenzie ("Mr Patterns," "The Circuit") continues this trend, the indigenous filmmaker helming this simple and uplifting story set against the back drop of Western Australia's most picturesque region - the East Kimberley countryside.
The story follows a 12-year-old young Aboriginal boy who lives with his elderly grandfather in an abandoned outdoor cinema in an outback town. When that home is threatened with demolition, he and his friend head off to the city to set things right. Along the way though they get lost in the bush and the boys must recall their grandfather's teachings to survive.
McKenzie says it's not a political film at all, rather it's a wide-appealing family film with strong visual elements. Screen Australia and Hopscotch are planning to push this out through a major film festival before a local release sometime this year.
Opens: September 28th 2012
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Oliver Stone
Analysis: Oliver Stone tackles a crime drama with his latest project, a film adaptation of Don Winslow's well-received and best-selling novel. Stone is actually more suited to this genre than some of the other ones he's been diving into lately, so there's definite interest in what he can do with the material.
Winslow and Shane Salerno adapted the script which follows two best friend pot growers (Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch) in Laguna who share a trippy girl named 'O' (Lively). The duo are so good at their job that an enforcer (Benicio Del Toro) demands they work for his boss, a Mexican drug cartel matriarch (Salma Hayek).
When they refuse, 'O' is kidnapped and they're forced to come up with a fortune in ransom. So they set out to hijack the cartel's drug supply. Stone has been so keen on the project he began adapting the script before the book was published and is personally investing in this film. Certainly a film exploring a battle between well-funded Mexican cartels and independent California growers could make for both a fun and thrilling tale.
Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast as O, but dropped out to do "The Hunger Games" and was replaced with "Green Lantern" love interest Blake Lively. She's surrounded by two hunks (John Carter's Kitsch and Kick Ass' Johnson) along with a strong supporting cast including Emile Hirsch, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Trevor Donovan and Demián Bichir. Stone recently claimed he's hoping it will get an earlier release than the late September bow it's currently scheduled for.
Searching for Sugar Man
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Analysis: One of the first films picked up at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics acquired this documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, an obscure Mexican-American folksinger from Detroit who was considered a talent on a level akin to Bob Dylan.
Rodriguez was a shy singer whose early 70's albums failed to sell and the musician seemed to essentially disappear, there was even a myth he had shot himself on stage. A few years later however young white Afrikaners, chafing under the restrictions of apartheid, began to embrace his music via bootleg tapes - eventually leading to an almost messianic concert in South Africa in 1998.
The film itself, the Opening Night Film of the World Cinema Documentary Competition, scored a standing ovation at Sundance and strong reviews. SPC will likely slot this in for later this year and a potential awards season run.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Opens: February 17th 2012
Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Moises Arias, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Analysis: The latest effort from legendary Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli is a new adaptation of Mary Norton's novel "The Borrowers", the film said to stick closely to that work aside from moving the setting to western Tokyo. Animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi is the youngest person to direct a film for the company and worked on key animation for Hayao Miyazaki's last three movies - "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo".
The story follows Sho, a boy who moves into his great aunt's house and soon discovers the presence of tiny people, the Borrowers, living there. He develops a friendship with a 14-year-old Borrower named Arrietty, despite it breaking the cardinal rule that humans must not know about the Borrowers' existence.
Reviews in Japan, the UK and Australia have been strong, citing it as one of the best non-Miyazaki Ghibli efforts. The few negative remarks have been those mainly wanting something more out of it, disappointed in the way it's a very gentle, leisurely paced and quiet little tale but one that's deeper and richer than many in the genre. The film has already pulled in an impressive $126 million worldwide.
In a different move for Ghibli releases, two separate English language soundtracks were recorded - one for the US market and one for the UK with both featuring familiar names. The theatrical release States-side has Bridgit Mendler in the title role and the likes of Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett in supporting parts. The UK version, which can now be imported via DVD & Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk, has a cast that includes Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Geraldine McEwan and Tom Holland.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Opens: April 20th 2012
Cast: Keira Knightley, Steve Carrell, TJ Miller, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Brody
Director: Lorene Scarfaria
Analysis: Playwright and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" scribe Scarfaria makes her directorial debut on this apocalyptic comedic road trip film which features the decidedly unusual pairing of Keira Knightley and Steve Carrell.
Shot in Los Angeles early last Summer, the story has an extinction-level meteor shower headed for Earth and a man (Carrell) finding himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He ends up going on a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart with the help of a neighbour (Knightley) who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
The character piece is said to explore these two people who were trapped in unassuming mundane lives who suddenly find themselves living larger in these few days than they ever have before. Of course there's a bunch of colourful characters along the way played by the likes of William Petersen, Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry and Mark Moses.
Universal's prestige label Focus Features is releasing it in late Spring, not exactly a slot that shows a vote of confidence but it's the kind of film that could hold its own on the art house circuit while the early Summer blockbusters dominate the multiplexes.
Opens: March 16th 2012
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau
Director: Roger Donaldson
Analysis: Australian director Roger Donaldson ("The Recruit," "The Bank Job," "Thirteen Days") helms this $30 million thriller, originally titled "The Hungry Rabbit Jumps", which explores the downside of a genre that has seen a resurgence in popularity lately - the vigilante movie. Revenge thrillers have become very tedious and often avoid the truly dark costs that come with seeking one's own form of justice.
The story follows a bookish school teacher (Nicolas Cage) whose wife (January Jones) is the victim of a brutal rape while the pair are celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The bereaved husband subsequently becomes entangled with an underground vigilante organization in an effort to get revenge and soon finds himself in too far over his head.
There's some interesting ideas here, most notably how some citizens are taking the law into their own hands in a post-Katrina Louisiana. Reviews however have not been kind, saying that solid performances and direction along with some robust pacing are let down by the script. Certainly there's a common complaint that the second half drops into a far more predictable and dumb territory with Cage's protagonist making increasingly unlikely choices. Still, Donaldson has shown he can make a fairly solid little thrillers so this should be quite watchable.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson
Director: Martin McDonagh
Analysis: One of the best indie comedy success stories of recent years was Martin McDonagh's 2008 film "In Bruges", an often hilarious, highly original and pitch black comedy crime caper. Along with rave reviews and solid box-office, it won star Colin Farrell a Golden Globe and scored McDonagh both a BAFTA award and an Oscar nomination for best screenplay. His brother, John Michael McDonagh, had the same kind of success story with last year's "The Guard".
Now Martin's back, re-teaming with Farrell for what sounds like a similarly biting toned caper tale about a struggling writer who dreams of finishing his screenplay. Soon his best friend, an unemployed actor and part time dog thief, enlists the writer's help after he and his associate (Christopher Walken playing a religious man with a violent past) steal a psychopathic gangster's mutt.
The film made headlines when Mickey Rourke, originally cast as the gangster, revealed he'd left the project as he didn't get along with McDonagh at all. Of course considering Rourke's taste in projects in recent years, that's a major compliment. Here's hoping we get something as fun, original and exciting as our trip to Bruges.
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Aidan Gillen, Gillian Anderson, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: James Marsh
Analysis: Filmmaker James Marsh's two documentaries "Man on Wire" and "Project Nim" stole the limelight at Sundance in recent years, now Marsh's new Dublin shot narrative feature hopes to do the same at both Sundance and Berlinale this year.
An adaptation of Tom Bradby's 1998 novel (with a script by the author) and set in Northern Ireland in the 90's, the story centers on Colette McVeigh, a republican terrorist whose family are heavily involved with the IRA and whose husband was killed by British security forces.
She becomes an informer for MI5 after being arrested in a failed bombing attempt in London and is given the choice of naming her associates or spending the rest of her life in jail.
The espionage thriller, made by several key crew members who also worked on the acclaimed "Boy A", plays up shifting loyalties and the personal stakes for the family in this politically volatile time. Criticisms were labelled at the book for being a bit behind the times when it came out, one doubts the film version will experience such problems.
Side by Side
Cast: Martin Scorsese, Chris Nolan, George Lucas, James Cameron, David Fincher
Director: Christopher Kenneally
Analysis: Documentaries about movies can go either way. If they don't work then you get nothing more than an extended DVD featurette. If they do however, you get something that can really excite you about the medium or make you see it in a different light. Two of my favourite films of the past decade are docos that did just that - the Robert Evans-themed "The Kid Stays in the Picture" and the Ozploitation fun of "Not Quite Hollywood".
Now Keanu Reeves has come along to produce and serve as on-screen interviewer for this one which explores the transition of filmmaking technology - specifically the swap over from film to digital. It's a great subject because the transition has not been a smooth one - even the best digital technology still hasn't quite matched the resolution and quality of film just yet, while differing standards have led to many major filmmakers taking widely different positions on what they use.
Christopher Kenneally, a post-production supervisor on many acclaimed films of recent years, helms this conversational piece which features interviews with many major directors and cinematographers working today including - James Cameron, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Chris Nolan, Steven Soderbergh, George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Danny Boyle, Lana Wachowski, Lena Dunham, Vittorio Storaro and more. The film will have its premiere at Berlinale, here's hoping it's one of the better ones of this type.
Opens: March 9th 2012
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Haley Murphy
Director: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Analysis: This will take a little explaining. In 2010 came "The Silent House" (La Casa Muda), a 79-minute Uruguayan haunted house thriller filmed entirely in what's reported to be one uninterrupted shot from a Canon DSLR camera - and done so with surprisingly stylish cinematography for such a low-budget feature.
Reviews from the fests painted the film as beautifully atmospheric but narratively suffering some major flaws - especially in terms of the credibility of some of the character behaviours. The most obvious is that the main character, knowing there's dangerous people in the house, doesn't try and get away right from the get go. It's a flawed film but interesting experiment nonetheless.
American filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau ("Open Water") however were keen enough they decided to do a remake with "Martha Marcy May Marlene" star Elizabeth Olsen in the lead. Olsen plays a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house.
So quick was the turnaround that the remake premiered at Sundance last year and sold for an impressive $3 million. The filmmakers have avoided talking about how many shots were cleverly edited together here to deliver what appears to be a single shot. They are however sticking by their sales pitch that the film contains "meticulous camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey".
The Silver Linings Playbook
Opens: November 21st 2012
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Jacki Weaver
Director: David O. Russell
Analysis: Following in the wake of his awards success with "The Fighter", David O. Russell was linked to numerous projects before finally settling on this $26 million adaptation of the serio-comic debut novel by Matthew Quick. He originally enlisted his 'Fighter' star Mark Wahlberg but scheduling conflicts led to him leaving and being replaced by "The Hangover" star Bradley Cooper.
Cooper plays a former teacher who, after spending four years in a mental institution, moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. He ends up meeting a young woman in a similar position to him and the pair try and navigate their lives while staying true to who they are.
Russell's landed some interesting cast members here - Robert DeNiro, Julia Stiles, "Animal Kingdom" Oscar nominee Jackie Weaver, even Chris Tucker in his first non-"Rush Hour" role in fifteen years. The Weinstein Company has slated this for a late November release hinting that the film will likely try for some awards consideration at the end of the year.
Opens: August 24th 2012
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, James Ransone, Fred Dalton Thompson
Director: Scott Derrickson
Analysis: Yet another found footage supernatural horror tale, this one ditches the religious elements in favour of a more classic haunted house horror tale - less "The Devil Inside", more "The Amityville Horror". "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious" producer Jason Blum is handling this sub-$5 million project which Summit Entertainment picked up for distribution and has scheduled for a late Summer bow.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" director Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill co-wrote the story which has Ethan Hawke playing a true crime novelist struggling to find his next big story when he comes across a box of home videos showing a family being brutally murdered. His investigations soon lead to a supernatural entity that may be placing his own family in harm's way. Will likely score bad reviews but decent business.
Opens: November 7th 2012
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
Director: Sam Mendes
Analysis: Six years ago "Casino Royale" introduced Daniel Craig as James Bond and successfully rebooted the franchise with one of its strongest films to date. Four years ago came "Quantum of Solace", an over-edited and turgid little revenge movie that worked as a decent Bourne-esque action film but stunk as a Bond movie.
Reviews were decidedly mixed for QoS at the time and reaction hasn't aged well, to the point that even Craig himself has gone on the record about how disappointed he was with that film. Now, after MGM's financial difficulties led to some delays and hiccups, Craig returns as 007 for a third time in an entry for the franchise that promises great things - a film both old school Bond enough to satiate classic fans while still retaining what has worked about the Craig-era.
Said to be a stand alone entry, the whole Vesper and Quantum subplots done and over, this sees a past secret of M's coming back to challenge Bond's loyalty to her - something bad enough to lead to a full on attack of MI6. British politics definitely plays a big part here with various high profile actors like Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Helen McCrory playing government agents or cabinet ministers with key roles in the storyline.
While it's still not entirely sure if Miss Moneypenny is actually returning or not, the hiring of a brilliant young actor like Ben Whishaw as the new Q is an inspired choice. Same with scoring Javier Bardem for the villain and, if rumours are true, Fiennes for the role he's set to be used in.
The hiring of "American Beauty," "Road to Perdition" and "Revolutionary Road" director Sam Mendes has been a much debated one. Fans of the series are worried some of his worst excesses will be brought to bear here, on the flip side this is a franchise that restrains its helmers from going too far one way or another. More importantly, unlike Swiss helmer Marc Forester, Mendes has an immeasurably better understanding of the Bond character and the films.
He's also surrounded himself with far better talent behind the scenes - Roger Deakins as D.O.P., John Logan polishing the script, and the return of 'Royale' editor Stuart Baird & second unit director Alexander Witt. Whereas the script for 'Quantum' was heavily impacted by the writers strike, this one has been worked on for well over a year and Craig has already been calling it better than 'Royale'. One of my three most anticipated films of next year (alongside 'Prometheus' and 'Dark Knight Rises').
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Megan Mullally
Director: James Ponsoldt
Analysis: Called a loose reworking of the classic "Days of Wine and Roses", this indie fidelity dramedy deals with what happens when someone realises they need to make a change in their life but their partner isn't up for making the same change.
The story follows a couple whose marriage thrives on their mutual alcoholism. When the woman's habits spiral into hard-core antisocial behaviour, she realises she must confront the lies she's been spinning and must deal with how her newfound sobriety will affect her relationship with her husband.
The cast is pretty solid including strong TV talent like Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad"), Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") and Nick Offerman ("Parks and Recreation") along with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Golden Globe winner Octavia Spencer. Set to premiere at Sundance, filmmaker James Ponsoldt ("Off the Black") hopes the film will divide audiences over whether these two should stay together or are better off apart.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Opens: June 1st 2012
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Clafin, Ian McShane
Director: Rupert Sanders
Analysis: Initially it was a film that left many scratching their heads. In the wake of the billion-dollar success of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", the studios seemed to be in a race to get out new cinematic takes on famous fairy tales and public domain literature with this new version of 'Snow White' seemingly the first to move forward. Numerous names were linked with the project during the casting phase, and various people came and went before the key three (Theron, Hemsworth, Stewart) were settled on.
The director was an unknown, the budget relatively tight ($70 million), writer Hossein Amini's hadn't really done much since the late-90's, and a similar sounding rival project was on the way. Then the first inklings of something different emerged at Comic Con last year where character sketches and artwork drew good reaction.
The game changer though came late last year when a teaser trailer hit and shocked the hell out of everyone - this looked good. Sanders delivered a visually impressive take that lived up to the claims of the movie having a "Lord of the Rings"-style tone with large battles and a dark heart that didn't soft pedal the darker and more twisted aspects of the Grimm brothers original story. If anything it made it more epic in scale and trounced the trailer for said rival ("Mirror Mirror") flat.
While Theron looks deliciously evil and Hemsworth is a suitable choice, the casting of "Twilight" star Stewart is still the unknown. Given the right material she can be a solid little performer, but oddly no promo material so far has her speaking a word of dialogue. Even if she proves a weak link, she's surrounded by a top notch cast and crew including some of the greatest British actors alive playing the assorted dwarves. An unexpected tentpole but its one that will likely surprise.
Something in the Air
Cast: Clement Metayer, Lola Créton, Dolores Chaplin, India Menuez, Carole Combes
Director: Olivier Assayas
Analysis: After his internationally acclaimed five-hour epic "Carlos" about the world's most infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal, filmmaker Olivier Assayas returns to the 1970's with this politically charged coming of age tale about a school student.
Newcomer Clement Metayer plays Gilles, a young artist swept up in the political fever of the time. All his friends, including his girlfriend ("Bluebird" star Lola Créton), are consumed by their political struggle and can't really understand his dream to paint and make movies.
IFC Releasing, who gave Assayas' family drama "Summer Hours" a limited US theatrical release, has taken the rights to this as well so will likely deliver a similar style theatrical run sometime this Fall once it plays the festivals.
Song for Marion
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, Christopher Eccleston
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Analysis: This Durham-shot dramedy from "London to Brighton" filmmaker Paul Andrew Williams is a big ol' crowd pleaser aiming as wide as possible with its tale of musical self discovery. Stamp plays a grumpy pensioner who is reluctantly inspired by his beloved wife Marion (Redgrave) to join a highly unconventional local choir. The choir director (Arterton) tries to persuade Arthur that he can learn to embrace life and reunite with his estranged son (Eccleston). The Weinstein Company has already picked up the film for U.S. distribution.
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