Exactly one month and roughly 70,000 words later, here is the tenth and final volume of this year's "Notable Films of 2012" guide.
In this chapter I look at movies that include the return of Sam Worthington's Perseus as he battles the Greek Gods, Daniel Radcliffe leaving behind Harry Potter to take on a classic Victorian ghost story, a zombie teen romantic fantasy, a stripped down reinvention of Emily Bronte's classic "Wuthering Heights", and a love story as told by Terrence Malick.
There's also Brad Pitt tackling epic socio-political satire in a post zombie apocalyptic world, a tale of lovers from two worlds with different gravitational pulls, James McAvoy as a cop hunting the one that got away, Bradley Cooper dealing with the fallout of plagiarising someone else's work, and a Disney animated film about an 8-bit video game character.
Untitled David Chase Movie (aka. Twylight Zones)
Opens: October 19th 2012
Cast: James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett, Jack Huston, Christopher McDonald, Molly Price
Director: David Chase
Analysis: A reunion of sorts for fans of "The Sopranos", that show's creator David Chase and star James Gandolfini team for Chase's directorial debut which takes them back to New Jersey. Instead of exploring a crime family in contemporary times however, this is a coming of age tale set in the 60's with a focus as much on the parents as there is on the teens.
The action centers around a garage rock band named The Twylight Zones and the families of the band members. Chase claims the drama will explore how post-war, post-Depression era parents gave their children as many advantages as they could and now can't help but feel a little jealous of the more liberated and adventurous future their kids are able to enjoy that they weren't while they grew up.
It may sound fairly conventional on the surface, but Chase's skill should not be underestimated considering his 'Sopranos' changed the face of cable television. Whatever title the film finally settles on, many have already begun to compare this to Cameron Crowe's masterful "Almost Famous" as a potential new benchmark for teen drama.
Untitled Ramin Bahrani Film
Cast: Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, Clancy Brown, Kim Dickens
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Analysis: Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani is considered one of the real rising stars of the indie filmmaking scene with his first three films - 2005's "Man Push Cart," 2007's "Chop Shop" and 2008's "Goodbye Solo" - widely regarded as a hat trick of impressive and affecting features. So when the casting list was announced for his next project, it's not unfair to say said list generated a bit of a shock amongst some film news writers out there.
The casting of Zac Efron in particular has irked some but the actor has proven he can do well given the right material, same with Quaid who plays an ambitious farmer who wants to expand his empire but becomes caught up in the genetically modified foods debate with a rival company. Efron plays his rebellious son who is much more keen on becoming a race car driver.
The project is on a much bigger scale than Bahrani's last three films, and swaps out a focus on the immigrant experience for the complete opposite - a look at multiple-generation families in heartland America. No-one is entirely sure what to expect here, not aided by the fact that there's numerous companies with usually very different agendas backing the project. Certainly it'll be more interesting than it sounds on the surface, and the star names should attract a bigger audience than he has previously reached.
Untitled Terrence Malick Project
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem
Director: Terrence Malick
Analysis: Love or hate him, Terrence Malick has become more than ever a lightning rod for debate following "The Tree of Life". Malick's cinematic approach has always been much more akin to impressionistic art than storytelling, his films driven far more by moods than structure. They're beautiful to look at and often achieve a transient wonder, yet they can also be ponderous, undisciplined and frustrating.
As a result he's become to art house cinema what Michael Bay is to dumb blockbusters - a filmmaker unashamed to indulge in the worst excesses in their respective fields, in the process earning an army of unquestioningly loyal supporters. Of course fandom is like any religion, the blindly devout tend to be crazy and are best avoided.
If there's one thing for certain about his next film, it's NOT titled "The Burial" as some have suggested. This romantic drama centers on a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart. Shot States-side in late 2010 and in Paris early last year, Malick famously forms his films in the post-production phase - sometimes taking years to get them just right.
Whole swaths of plot, character and performance get cut out or remixed along the way - much to the chagrin of some of the actors involved (as in the famous case of Adrien Brody and "The Thin Red Line"). Despite all the talk of a more conventional narrative than usual, gossip which drew a strongly repellant reaction from his faithful 'Malick-ites', never trust much of anything you hear about a Malick film before it screens. For all we know the entire focus could be shifted leaving Affleck with only two minutes of screen time.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jim Sturgess, Jayne Heitmeyer, Larry Day, Holly O'Brien
Director: Juan Solanas
Analysis: Every now and then a big budget sci-fi film slips through the cracks in terms of early awareness. Usually it's because it's made outside the Hollywood system as a foreign co-production of some sort and often won't fit the action-adventure formula that dominates the genre. Ultimately though some of these films do break through like "District 9", while others stumble such as the Jared Leto-led "Mr. Noboby".
One film that suddenly seemed to arrive out of nowhere recently was this $60 million sci-fi romance starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess. Beyond their casting back in late 2009, not much was reported about the project until a few weeks ago when a highly impressive French promo trailer (with a ton of completed visual effects) was revealed and sadly pulled shortly after.
A French production shot in Canada for the English language market, the story is set in an alternate reality where there are two separate worlds. One is inverted, affluent and hovering over the other. A humble guy from the world below holds onto the memory of a girl he met in his youth from the world above. When he catches a glimpse of a grown up version of her on television, nothing will stop him from getting her back - not even the laws of physics.
The project was originally taken to Hollywood and shopped around but ultimately European partners were brought on instead as they wanted the film to be driven primarily by its director and not studio executives. Argentinean director Juan Diego Solanas helms the film which is already drawing comparisons to high-concept but smart sci-fi tales like "Inception" and "Gattaca".
Not only is there the physical difference of a world hanging above one's head, the filmmakers also explore issues of a class system - the residents of 'Down Below' are seen as lesser people and a widespread xenophobia on both sides makes it illegal for people to have contact with those from the other world. There's also some highly impressive action on display which plays about with gravity in all sorts of inventive ways. I hope it finds an audience.
Cast: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan
Director: Various Helmers
Analysis: Screening at Sundance this year for its Midnight section, "V/H/S" saw a good response. Reviews were fairly positive, one audience member passed out, and Magnolia Pictures quickly acquired it for a theatrical and VOD release this year. In terms of content, this anthology horror feature boasts several different segments held together by a framing story.
Said story has a group of teen misfits hired by a mysterious third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, in the process discovering a dead body and cryptic footage with each tape proving stranger than the last. Each of the VHS tapes they come upon contains a horror short film directed by the likes of Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence.
Like all anthology films some segments no doubt shine brighter than others, while the found footage technique means this won't be a pretty film to look at, even if the shaky cam adds to the atmosphere. Produced by the man, the myth and the legend that is Bloody Disgusting's Brad Miska, the word is definitely good enough to check it out when it becomes available in your area.
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Scott Speedman, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange
Director: Michael Sucsy
Analysis: The cast, the story, the marketing material - everything about this movie screams that it's another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks work (ala "Dear John," "The Notebook," "Nights in Rodanthe"). However Sparks had nothing to do with this romantic drama which has been in development for over a decade.
Inspired by a true story, this follows a newlywed New Mexico couple (Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum) who get into a car crash which leaves the wife in a coma. She soon awakens but with no memory of the past few years, including having met and married her husband.
In fact she still believes she's engaged to her former fiance (Speedman), a cad who is happy to have another chance with her. This leads to her real husband attempting to win her heart back in grand gestures that are cloy but romantic and will likely go down well with its target market.
Five writers previously had a crack at this project which at one time had Julia Roberts attached to star. "Grey Gardens" helmer Michael Sucsy eventually took on the scripting and directing duties and the result doesn't look that bad but certainly feels very familiar. In this genre though, that's a big selling point.
Opens: February 24th 2012
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Malin Åkerman, Lauren Ambrose
Director: David Wain
Analysis: The team behind "Role Models" and "Children's Hospital" return for this light fun sounding comedy with the welcome re-union of "The Object of my Affection" stars Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.
The story follows a New York City couple who've just purchased a new place right before the husband loses his job. With no options left, they skip off to Georgia to live with family. Along the way they hang out at a bed and breakfast that turns out to be a hippie commune.
Cue various nudist jokes which has earned this an R rating for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use. On the surface there isn't much surprising or particularly original about this, but it should make for a pleasant enough diversion.
Opens: August 10th 2012
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, John Malkovich
Director: Jonathan Levine
Analysis: The critics love him, but the public is still only slowly waking up to filmmaker Jonathan Levine. His first film, "The Wackness", was the toast of Sundance but also the text book example of a film in the Park City bubble - upon release reviews were far more mixed and the box-office was disastrous. His follow-up last year however, the cancer comedy "50/50", drew rave reviews across the board and a decidedly more impressive box-office result.
His third outing however is unlikely to score the awards nominations of his last film, but could well be a bigger earner than his previous two films combined. Based on the novel by Isaac Marion, 'Warm Bodies' is described as a zombie romance set in a post-apocalyptic world and following a zombie named R ("Skins" and "A Single Man" star Nicholas Hoult) who eats the brain of a suicidal teen. R is soon overcome with love for the teen's girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer), rescuing her from certain death at one point which leads to a blossoming romance. Cue distinct allusions to "Romeo and Juliet" throughout.
Levine's work is said to be quite faithful to the book, but more importantly he gets to change up the mythology of zombies as seen in the various films and shows which usually have a 'Dead' in the title. For starters he says the tone will be a romantic fantasy one and therefore a PG-13, so the zombies themselves are actually decent lookers and there's no exploding body parts.
The zombies also only grunt or make the occasional sound, but there'll be a "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" style locked-in syndrome approach with Hoult providing a lot of voiceover conveying his character's thoughts. Shot in Montreal over the Fall, it'll be interesting to see how audiences will react to a film that could well shake-up the familiar undead formula.
Welcome to People
Cast: Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Duplass
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Analysis: Whatever you think of their films, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have certainly become amongst the most in demand screenwriters for studio fare in the last few years thanks to their work on the likes of "Star Trek," "Transformers," "Mission: Impossible III" and "Eagle Eye" as well as serving as producers on shows like "Alias," "Fringe" and "Hawaii Five-O".
Now Kurtzman, the one with the salt-and-pepper hair, makes his directorial debut on this intimate family dramedy he and Orci penned nearly a decade ago but have been saving up. While the log line doesn't sound anything out of the ordinary, Kurtzman has convinced some impressive talent both in front of and behind the scenes to be a part of this including Steven Spielberg as producer and A.R. Rahman doing the score.
"Star Trek" star Chris Pine plays a struggling damaged goods broker who flies home to L.A. to attend the funeral of his estranged record-producer father. It's there he learns that the old man's will stipulates that he must deliver $150,000 in cash to a 30-year-old alcoholic bartender sister and his 12-year-old delinquent nephew, both of whom he never knew existed. Shot last year, there's no real word yet as to when we'll see this or how big a release it will score.
Welcome to the Punch
Cast: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Risebourgh, Peter Mullan, Daniel Mays
Director: Eran Creevy
Analysis: Perennial British sweetheart James McAvoy finally gets a chance to show off a bad boy side in this action thriller effort from Eran Creevy ("Shifty") whose script for this came third on the 2010 edition of the Brit List (the British film industry's equivalent of Hollywood's Black List). With some stellar crime films coming out of the UK in recent years, here's another that's worth getting excited over.
Mark Strong plays Sternwood, a former Icelandic criminal who comes out of hiding in an effort to save his son when a heist goes wrong. That's the chance that London detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) has been looking for - Sternwood's the one case of his that got away. Circumstances however force the pair to work together to expose a deeper conspiracy.
Reports from the set hint at an impressively scaled action film which is targeting larger international markets than other British crime thrillers - as a result the action is more akin to a Michael Mann film like "Collateral" and includes high speed car chases around Canary Wharf and a hotel being blown apart by gunfire.
Shot last Summer in just seven weeks and edited over the course of another six, producer Ridley Scott’s influence was reportedly most felt in the edit room where he took time out from work on "Prometheus" to give Creevy some input on the project. The final completed version is due to be delivered in very early March which has lead to talk of a possible SXSW festival debut.
The Wettest County
Opens: August 31st 2012
Cast: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce
Director: John Hillcoat
Analysis: Delayed a year due to financing problems, production finally got underway early last year on this $70 million adaptation of Matt Bondurant's novel "The Wettest County in the World" which explores his own family of Virginian bootleggers during the Depression.
At the time of Prohibition, the Virginian area of Franklin County was dubbed the 'Moonshine Capital of the World' with an estimated 99% of residents involved in some way in the then illegal liquor trade. The book focused on a series of events and a trial regarding the illicit activity.
It's a well regarded book, but the anticipation here for a lot of people is the re-teaming of director John Hillcoat and scribe Nick Cave who previously worked together on the award-winning 2005 Australian western "The Proposition". Like that film, the tone is said to be quite graphic in its display of the brutality and sadistic behavior of the era.
The cast is superb including Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf as the three Bondurant brothers along with Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan in supporting roles. In fact many are wondering if this could be a potential awards contender for next year - we'll see.
What Maisie Knew
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Diana Garcia, Joel Garland
Director: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Analysis: The classic Henry James novella gets an update which shifts the action to contemporary New York City. The original followed the pre-teen daughter of a couple now divorced, forcing her to spend six months of the year with each parent and leading her to realise that her motherly old governess is the only person upon whom she can truly depend.
This take similarly has a 7-year-old girl caught in the middle of a custody battle between her aging rock star mother (Moore) and her art dealer father (Coogan). "True Blood" hunk Alexander Skarsgard will play Moore's new husband, Maisie's stepfather, which is more of a character in the work than her actual parents who are essentially minor roles.
Still, filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel are ones to keep any eye on with their thriller "The Deep End" starring Tilda Swinton remaining a great and under rated work. The question is what kind of tone will they go for here - deeply emotional drama or something more humorous?
What to Expect When You're Expecting
Opens: May 11th 2012
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock
Director: Kirk Jones
Analysis: The dismal failure of "New Year's Eve" has sadly only slowed down rather than stopped the emergence of one of the more tedious of recent film genres - the star-packed ensemble rom-com. "Love Actually", even with its cloying sentiment, was one of the few examples where it worked despite the formula trappings. "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Valentine's Day" on the other hand make anyone but the most die-hard forgiving of rom-coms in general shudder in fear.
Nevertheless studios love them - with each star only doing a few days work they can land big names and yet still make these movies at a quite economical price and market it entirely on the stars involved. So it comes as no huge surprise that Lionsgate wants in on the action and is using Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel's famed self-help guide for soon-to-be mothers as the basis.
To do that, scribes Heather Hach and Shauna Cross constructed a narrative following five couples (and their friends, co-workers, etc.) who'll have their own subplots that'll no doubt occasionally interact. Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro play a couple who adopts a baby from abroad even though he's not ready for a kid. Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford are food-truck owners and old flames who come together which leads to her becoming pregnant.
Elizabeth Banks plays the owner of a boutique selling goods to new mothers who becomes one herself and promptly begins to doubt her beliefs on raising children. Chris Rock is the head of a social group teaching soon-to-be fathers what to expect. Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison are a pair who team for a celebrity dance show - not sure how a baby comes into that one. Dennis Quaid, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Joe Manganiello, Rebel Wilson, Brooklyn Decker, Thomas Lennon and Cheryl Cole also have small roles.
Wish You Were Here
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Anthony Starr
Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith
Analysis: 'Wish' marks the latest effort of Blue Tongue Films, the company behind the acclaimed but barely seen "The Square" and partly involved in the success of "Animal Kingdom". It's also the feature helming debut of Australian actor Kieran Darcy-Smith who has starred or guest-starred in most Australian TV dramas produced since the mid-90's.
Shot on a low $2 million budget in Australia and Cambodia, the story follows four Australian friends who set out on a Cambodian holiday, but only three come back. Dave and Alice return home to their young family desperate for answers about Jeremy’s mysterious disappearance. When Alice’s sister Steph returns not long after, the first of many nasty secrets is revealed about the night her boyfriend went missing.
The main star is "Warrior" actor Joel Edgerton who continues his curious path from playing comedic relief supporting roles on local TV a decade ago to the trimmed down, more dedicated and serious film actor he's become today. The always enjoyable Felicity Price not only co-stars but co-wrote the script with Darcy-Smith while rising Aussie Teresa Palmer and New Zealand actor Antony Starr fill in the supporting roles.
The choice of Cambodia as a location rather than a more familiar Aussie tourist drawcard such as Thailand or Bali, is one that should've payed dividends as it's truly beautiful countryside with both a dark history and breathtaking vistas. However the film premiered a week ago at Sundance where reviews were decent but mixed, calling it "The Hangover 2" without the attempted comedy.
Reaction seemed to be that it was handsomely made and well acted but was limited by fairly generic thriller shenanigans, clumsy plotting, and a problematic third act. That hasn't stopped interest or sales with Entertainment One picking up North American rights for a release sometime in the Fall. Should be fine but don't expect something on the level of "Animal Kingdom".
The Woman in Black
Opens: February 3rd 2012
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White
Director: James Watkins
Analysis: There's quite a bit of anticipation for this third adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Victorian gothic horror novel considering the previous incarnations. The first was the 1987 stage play, the version most are familiar with, which has since become the second longest running play in the history of the West End behind only Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap".
The second was ITV's hard to find and unfortunately somewhat dated 1989 TV movie adaptation which starred Adrian Rawlins as the solicitor and Pauline Moran, best known as Miss Lemon in the popular "Poirot" series, as the titular woman. "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe plays the solicitor in this incarnation, a cute bit of casting considering Rawlins played Harry Potter's father James in that film series.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it's set in the 1920's and deals with the young lawyer being assigned to deal with the belongings of a recently deceased widow living in a small market town on the UK's east coast. The woman lived at Eel Marsh House, a desolate and secluded estate in the middle of a marsh that's cut off at high tide and often surrounded by mist. It's there, on his own, that strange sounds begin and the terrifying truth of the woman is ultimately revealed.
Both the play and telemovie were famous for a big focus on atmosphere over visual gore and restraint in the best possible ways - noise effects, fog, shadows, movement and slow burn suspense building to quite bleak and dark endings considering the time. Helping this incarnation along is some top notch talent including the under-rated Radcliffe along with the likes of Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds and "Life on Mars" actress Liz White as 'The Woman'.
"X-Men First Class," "The Debt" and "Kick Ass" scribe Jane Goldman penned the script while James Watkins is directing - an unexpected but interesting choice. Watkins' "Eden Lake" starring Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly is one of the most memorably unsettling horror films I've seen in recent years, and it'll be interesting to see what he can do with the more restrained stylings of Hill's tale. Judging from the trailers and early British press screenings though, we've got a winner on our hands.
The Woman in the Fifth
Opens: June 15th 2012
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Samir Guesmi
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Analysis: Director Pawel Pawlikowski's first film since 2004's acclaimed "My Summer of Love", 'Woman' played the festival circuit last year to a decidedly mixed response. Kudos was given to the way it was shot and its initial touch of mystery with the tone said to be akin to Roman Polanski's more esoteric classics like "Repulsion".
An adaptation of the Douglas Kennedy novel, Ethan Hawke plays American writer who moves to Paris to try and rebuild his relationship with his estranged wife and his six year-old daughter. It soon comes to light he has a history of violence and a not particularly good grasp on reality - he soon ends up robbed and stuck in a seedy hotel where things take a turn for the decidedly weird.
While the production was praised for shooting the French capital in a creepy and unusual way, criticisms were lobbed at it for being too enigmatic. Threads are left dangling, characters are near impossible to get a grasp on, and various bouts of hallucinatory imagery from red-hooded girls to insects are there to compensate for an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion.
Hawke's performance was also criticised, whereas most of the supporting cast fared better. The film will still find an audience on the art house circuit and later on video with ATO Pictures giving it a limited theatrical release in the middle of the Summer.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons
Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Analysis: Having screened at Sundance this week to a solid response, this part-thriller/part-romantic drama with a plagiarism theme is one of the most accessibly mainstream films to show at Park City this year. That explains why CBS Films quickly came in and picked it up ahead of its premiere, and will likely give it a decent sized theatrical run later this year.
Bradley Cooper, the questionably official 'Sexiest Man of 2011', heads up a hell of an impressive cast in the story of an aspiring novelist (Cooper) who comes upon a dusty old manuscript in a vintage satchel and passes it off as his own work. He earns both acclaim and money, but right after the book goes on sale an elderly man (Jeremy Irons) approaches him and says he is the true author.
There's punchy pacing and three different story lines to explore - Cooper's theft, the past of Irons' character, and a story-within-a-story framing device with Dennis Quaid as a best-selling author telling the tale of Cooper's character. Chuck in some bright and pretty young things like Zoe Saldana and Ben Barnes in supporting roles and you have a pretty interesting sounding film.
Scribes Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal make their directorial debut here and reviews call it a confident, well performed and brisk tale. In fact a few think it may be over confident in its ambitions, as a result its grasp slips a few times - be it the darker themes of guilt and ultimately redemption in the third act upsetting an otherwise breezy narrative, or the lack of proper connectiveness between the subplots. Either way it should spark some interesting debate.
Words with Gods
Cast: Emir Kusturica, Makiko Watanabe, Masatoshi Nagase, Kazuya Takahashi
Director: Guillermo Arriaga, Bahman Ghobadi, Emir Kusturica,
Mira Nair, Hideo Nakata, José Padilha, Warwick Thornton
Analysis: Much like "Paris, je t'aime"/"New York, I Love You", 'Words' is the first of four planned anthology features going under the moniker of 'Heartbeat of the World'. Each film will consist of ten shorts helmed by different directors from around the world with each short linked by a common thread to that film. In the 'I Love You' series it was a particular city with each film, in this series it's global topics - religion, sexuality, politics and drugs.
'Words' tackles religion and has a distinctively more Asian and Latino flavour than the American & Euro-centric stylings of the 'I Love You' films. There's also no real stars either - the focus here is being kept on the stories being told rather than who is involved in them.
That said the list of directors is pretty damn great including Serbia's Emir Kusturica ("Underground"), Brazil's Jose Padilha ("Elite Squad"), Australia's Warwick Thornton ("Samson and Delilah"), Iran's Bahman Ghobadi ("Turtles Can Fly"), India's Mira Nair ("Salaam Bombay!"), Japan's Hideo Nakata ("Dark Water") and Mexico's Guillermo Arriaga ("The Burning Plain"). Three more will also be involved but haven't been named.
Each will tackle religion in different ways. Arriaga's focuses on atheism in Mexico, Ghobadi's deals with Islam in Turkey, Kusturica's with orthodox Catholicism in Serbia, and Thornton's will likely deal with indigenous religions in Australia's Alice Springs.
All four films in this proposed series have secured funding from private investors in Mexico. No word on a date when this will premiere - only some of the shorts have been shot, the rest will depend upon the filmmaker's availability. Expect a festival debut either in late 2012 or sometime in 2013.
World War Z
Opens: December 21st 2012
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Lucy Aharish, Julia Levy-Boeken
Director: Marc Forster
Analysis: With zombie apocalyptic tales, the story is almost always kept to a small scale with only minor glimpses of the larger event. The focus sticks with a group of people, usually somewhere in a non-coastal American city, hiding out in suburban and rural locales to keep away from the undead hordes. It's also often a deadly serious affair with the occasional bit of black comedy or satire snuck in.
Max Brooks' "World War Z" novel on the other hand was a fun and clever read because it was all about the bigger picture. Fusing horror with political satire, the book consisted of several dozen chapters with each being an interview of a different subject about their experiences relating to the event. Through these recollections from civilians, soldiers and officials from around the globe we learn how the outbreak started, how different countries and religions reacted to the problem, how a solution was found, and how the world order was affected in the process.
It's the perfect material for a big budget anthology TV series with each episode based on one of the short stories. Instead, Brad Pitt's Plan B production company secured the rights and hired "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski to turn it into a feature. It's a challenge as it essentially requires a massive re-write and shift in focus from the book, turning the barely discussed UN interviewer character into the main lead. Matthew Michael Carnahan also came onboard to do a polish.
Budgeted at a considerable $125 million and shot over the course of much of last year in various European locales, those involved have planned this out as a trilogy which means it's likely we'll only see some of the stories from the book make the translation to screen in this film. Reviews of early drafts of the script paint it as something potentially ground breaking in the genre with comparisons made to Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men".
Whether the fun of the book survives the translation, we'll see. The political elements of how countries like the U.S., Israel, North Korea, Russia, South Africa and the like deal with the crisis was the most enjoyable aspect, however it could well be neutered for the film version so as not to offend potential international audiences. More likely to stay in is the twists on survival elements such as the annual thawing out of zombies as Spring returns to Canada. If it works, this could be great.
Wrath of the Titans
Opens: March 30th 2012
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Rosamund Pike
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Analysis: It was hardly a great film, but the original 1981 Greek mythological epic "Clash of the Titans" has deservedly earned a cult following over the years of which I'm a proud member. While Harry Hamlin's nipples, Maggie Smith as a bitchy goddess and the stop motion effects made it lots of fun, it was one of the few films that actually understood Greek mythology and adapted it fairly faithfully (Bubo aside) rather than re-envisioned it into something else entirely.
The 2010 remake however, though it has supporters for some of its impressive production design, was a mess and one of the biggest disappointments in cinema-going for me in years. Characters like Cassiopea and Andromeda were rendered useless, the Gods looked like they were hanging out at a well-lit disco on a theme night, and the dialogue was often painfully awkward - most notably Gemma Arterton's. Don't get me started on how they ruined the great Medusa's lair sequence from the original.
Despite the critical drubbing, and the film becoming the poster child for how NOT to do 3D, the new 'Clash' made a half billion dollars worldwide so a sequel was inevitable. Much like the recent "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows", the filmmakers have essentially not even bothered to try and stay true to Greek myth this time. Instead we're getting a straight up action fantasy mash-up of beasts, deities and fantastical locales.
'Wrath' explores the Gods vs. Titans war, a story already played out in the likes of the "God of War" video game series and last year's gory "Immortals". One welcome difference is that the approach isn't a straight up war tale but rather a big ol' 'rescue mission' storyline. Here we see Perseus (Worthington sporting a shaggy haircut) and a few others setting out on a quest to rescue Zeus from the Underworld where Hades and Ares are holding him after making a deal with their Titan father Kronos.
Armed with a better cast and grittier look, it's a film that will almost certainly prove more conventionally satisfying than the first one. Those involved are reportedly far more pleased with how it turned out than they were with the disappointing 'Clash', certainly the first trailer surprised quite a few people even though it picked a poor time to launch (against the superior "Prometheus" and "Dark Knight Rises" teasers). People were badly burned by the first one though and 'Wrath' will have to overcome that resentment if it is to achieve the success level that 'Clash' did.
Opens: November 2nd 2012
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
Director: Rich Moore
Analysis: A non-Pixar effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios, this 3D computer-animated comedy adventure is one of the first to follow a new mandate from the studio to try and incorporate a greater variety of stories rather than just falling back on adaptations of fairy tales.
Rich Moore, a former animation director on "The Simpsons" and "Futurama", helms this story of a simple 8-bit video game villain character named Wreck-It Ralph who dreams of there being more to life than smashing buildings, so he tries to break out of his 'bad guy' limitations by becoming a good guy.
In order to do that he sneaks into a modern first-person shooter game with the aim of winning a medal - but accidentally unleashes a dangerous enemy that threatens every game in the arcade where they reside. The film is said to feature three visually distinct video game worlds including the Halo-esque FPS game "Hero’s Duty" and a Mario Kart-style racing game called "Sugar Rush".
There some great casting choices - Sarah Silverman as a glitchy Princess Peach type character and "Glee" scene stealer Jane Lynch as the voice of a Master Chief style Army Sergeant. Expect cameos galore from famed 8-bit video game characters - a D23 preview of the movie showed one scene being a group therapy session moderated by one of the ghosts from Pac Man and one of the attendees being Kano from Mortal Kombat.
It'll be an interesting marketing challenge considering most kids and teenagers didn't even exist during the heyday of that era of gaming which gave us titles like Super Mario World, Space Invaders, Duck Hunt and Donkey Kong. For those of us old enough to remember though, it should be a fun blast from the past.
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Nichola Burley, Oliver Milburn, Amy Wren
Director: Andrea Arnold
Analysis: One of the great under seen films of recent years was Andrea Arnold's 2009 British coming of age tale "Fish Tank", a surprisingly accessible and powerful drama featuring Michael Fassbender's most relaxed and arguably seductive performance to date. Now she's back and tackling a film adaptation of one of the cornerstones of English literature - Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights".
Like "Jane Eyre" by Emily's sister Charlotte Bronte, 'Wuthering' has been adapted countless times for both television and film, most recently a 2009 ITV mini-series starring "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises" actor Tom Hardy and "Walking Dead" star Andrew Lincoln. Cary Fukunaga's acclaimed adaptation of "Jane Eyre" last year however showed that there's still plenty of life in the old girl yet, so expectations are high for what Arnold has delivered here.
For those unfamiliar, the novel is set on the Yorkshire Moors and follows the passionate but doomed love affair between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a teenage passion which eventually destroys them and many around them. While Arnold avoids 'The Maturity of Heathcliff' second half of the book like many adaptations have, she otherwise takes a very different approach with this - shooting the film entirely on location under top secret conditions with a tight £5 million budget. Authenticity was a crucial thing for her, so much so the lead actress was banned from shaving her armpits during filming.
In fact Arnold didn't even announce who her male lead star was until after the movie was completed. Said star was young up & comer James Howson who is also the first black actor to star as Heathcliff in any screen adaptation of the work. Arnold went back to the original work and cast young actors much closer to the ages of the book characters than other versions have been, in the process dumping some of the more famous names previously linked to the lead roles including Natalie Portman, Abbie Cornish, Michael Fassbender and Ed Westwick.
The film premiered in Venice last year where it won an award for Best Cinematography. Reviews were strong, highly praising the production's attention to detail and visual look along with its smashing of costume drama conventions while showcasing the stark, brutal, almost animalistic reality of living in that hard environment at that time. Some had criticisms of the performances and the racism angle, but there's also a few who consider it one of the best films they saw on the festival circuit last year - expect a similar reaction when it finds a theatrical release this year.
Your Sister's Sister
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia, Jeanette Maus
Director: Lynn Shelton
Analysis: Indie comedy darling Lynn Shelton's fourth film, her first since the critical and awards success for her 2009 mumblecore comedy "Humpday", kicked off its run on the film festival circuit in Toronto last year to quite good reviews. Critics called it a stronger and more polished affair than 'Humpday', but some stated that in spite of its natural performances and interesting exploration of human behavior, it over reaches in its final act.
The story has a guy named Jack (Mark Duplass) getting to spend a week alone at the family island getaway of his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) so he can reflect on his life and get over the rut he's been in since his brother's death the year before. When he arrives there's a complication - Iris' older sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is there and is getting over the breakup of a seven year relationship she was in with a girlfriend. Drinking leads to talking which leads to a quick roll in the hay and when Iris shows up it leads to the eventual reveal of a secret of Hannah's.
Rachel Weisz was originally cast as Hannah but a delay on this and filming commitments to "The Deep Blue Sea" got in the way, leading to DeWitt taking over. With each new effort Shelton's films have displayed increasing commercial appeal, a trend that will likely continue here.
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