The Notable Films of 2013: Volume I

By Garth Franklin Tuesday January 1st 2013 11:35PM

In this volume I look at a more grounded and darker take on "Iron Man," Ralph Fiennes telling the tale of the secret mistress of Charles Dickens, Pedro Almodovar going gaga for flight attendants, Aaron Eckhart as a modern day Frankenstein, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey as feuding Vegas magicians, James Franco remaking scenes from one of the most infamous cult films ever, and a sequel to a highly profitable and well-regarded supernatural shocker.


I, Frankenstein
Opens: September 13th 2013
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney
Director: Stuart Beattie

Analysis: Shot in Melbourne in early 2012, Lakeshore's contemporary fantasy thriller is based on the Darkstorm Studios graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, the gregarious baritone actor and writer of the "Underworld" movies. The story follows Frankenstein's monster Adam (Aaron Eckhart) who, centuries after his birth, comes to the aid of humankind as a war between two supernatural clans threatens to take over the Earth.

Scribe turned filmmaker Stuart Beattie, who delivered a solid debut turn with Aussie action thriller "Tomorrow, When the War Began," took over the director's chair from the originally attached Patrick Tatopoulos. The film is essentially an Australian production with the various key supporting roles filled out by local actors including Miranda Otto ("The Lord of the Rings"), Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck," "Dexter"), Jai Courtney ("Jack Reacher," "A Good Day to Die Hard") and Aden Young ("Black Robe," "Mao's Last Dancer").

The only non-Aussie or Kiwi stars in the main cast are Aaron Eckhart in the lead role, and Bill Nighy as the villain - one of the angels who descended with Lucifer when he fell. Otto plays the Queen of the Gargoyles, and both she and Eckhart spent three months training in the Filipino martial art of Kali for their fight scenes. Originally slated for a February 2013 release, it got pushed back a half-year to September. This is one time, however, where it is more a case of marketing and timing than any production issues.


I'm So Excited
Opens: November 22nd 2013
Cast: Javier Cámara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos Areces
Director: Pedro Almodovar

Analysis: After his brilliant dive into psychological horror with "The Skin I Live In," that crazy Spaniard Pedro Almodovar steps back into more familiar territory with this bawdy light comedy set entirely on an aeroplane. Shot over the Summer in Madrid, several of his previous collaborators return in key roles. The likes of Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Carmen Machi, Pepa Charro and Paz Vega will also pop up in cameos.

Not much is known of the story, but a recent teaser trailer makes it look like a throwback comedy - a campy "Airplane" if you will. Flight attendants were drinking booze, smoking pot, sucking off the pilot, and miming to The Pointer Sisters song of the same title. Almodovar has said the story takes place from "the moment a plane breaks down to the moment it manages to make an emergency landing." The pre-sales were so strong that they completely funded the film, which allows the director to essentially work unrestrained. I for one can't wait.


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Opens: March 15th 2013
Cast: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde
Director: Don Scardino

Analysis: This $30 million comedy about rival Las Vegas magicians comes from frequent "30 Rock" episodes director Don Scardino and the scribes behind "Horrible Bosses." Like the latter, this is filled with some high-profile names, even in the smaller roles. The draw for most though will be seeing Steve Carell & Steve Buscemi's ageing flamboyant Siegfried & Roy-inspired act versus the Criss Angel and David Blaine-esque stylings of Jim Carrey's tattooed death-defier.

The story follows Burt Wonderstone and Anton Lovecraft, childhood friends and working partners whose magic show has grown stale. With both out of a job, and Carrey's more modern magician Steve Gray stealing the limelight, Burt seeks the advice of both his adoring assistant and his mentor to get him back on track. It's not going to be a smooth process though.

A few leaked early reviews indicate there's laughs to be had, with Carrey and Arkin stealing the show. Yet those reviews also say the tone isn't entirely sure of itself, even if the story is quite predictable. The trailer indicated as much with a couple of fun gags in an otherwise fairly generic preview that's dominated mostly by Carrey's antics. Hopefully it'll be fun.


Inside Llewyn Davis
Opens: 2013
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Analysis: The Coen brothers get to indulge their love of folk music again with this story of a singer-songwriter navigating that scene in New York's Greenwich Village during the 1960s. Though the protagonist is fictional, Dave van Ronk's memoir "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" is said to serve as inspiration for the project which was shot in Queens at the start of the year.

Coming off the major success of their western remake "True Grit" which not only scored critical acclaim, but became a genuine crowd-pleasing hit, the Coens are once again teaming with Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein as producers. Expect a big awards push at the end of the year if the critics take a liking to this.

Judging by the polarised script reviews so far though, they might not all be onboard. The film follows a drifter who ultimately doesn't learn anything, stays fairly enigmatic throughout, and ultimately ends in a fairly dark place. Isaac is a solid actor though, especially in more dramatic modern historical fare like "Balibo" and "Che," so I'm curious to see what the Coens can do with him.

He's aided by Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham, along with some good looking young guys such as Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, Stark Sands, and "Girls" scene stealer Adam Driver. The film is said to be almost finished, but hasn't locked a release date as yet. Reports in the British press indicate a potential Cannes debut is currently under consideration.


Insidious Chapter Two
Opens: August 30th 2013
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey
Director: James Wan

Analysis: After breaking through with "Saw," Aussie director James Wan tried his hand at another horror tale ("Dead Silence") and a drama ("Death Sentence"), neither of which took off. Taking things back to basics, he and his colleague Leigh Whannell crafted a "Poltergeist"-esque haunted child thriller called "Insidious" and shot it on a tiny budget of $1.5 million. The result was arguably Wan's best work aside from the original "Saw," and a solid movie that earned $97 million worldwide.

That makes it one of the most profitable indie films ever made, so is it any wonder that a sequel is going forward? With all the key cast and crew members back in the same roles, the only question is where the story will go from here. Considering the ending of the first film, this might have to be a prequel, or the more likely scenario of another family being haunted by the same demon. The production doesn't actually being shooting until mid-January, even though distributor FilmDistrict has already slated it for a late August release.


Interior. Leather Bar.
Opens: 2013
Cast: Val Lauren, James Franco, Christian Patrick, Travis Mathews, Brenden Gregory
Director: James Franco, Travis Mathews

Analysis: James Franco's pre-occupation with queer art and gay sex continues with his latest collaboration attempting something fairly ambitious. Franco has teamed with director Travis Mathews, the filmmaker behind the explicit short film "I Want Your Love," on a project that attempts to re-create the 40 minutes of excised and destroyed footage from William Friedkin's notorious 1980 thriller "Cruising".

Al Pacino starred in the original as an NYPD officer who goes undercover to catch a serial killer in the pre-AIDS, late 1970s, Manhattan gay S&M club scene. Friedkin's film was hardcore in its day with some graphic depictions of gay sex including a bar scene where an extra in the background gets fisted in a sling. Franco originally wanted to remake the film, but couldn't get the rights.

Instead, he and Mathews set about making this reconstruction of the lost 40 minutes. They went as far as interviewing extras from the original film and including real gay sex in the footage. Yet, the final film is as much about the production process itself as it is the recreation. There's plenty of behind-the-scenes interviews and B-roll footage showcasing the filming of the various scenes, along with frank discussions about cinematic depictions of gay men and sex. Shot in just two days and edited in two months, it's decidedly low budget and highly experimental filmmaking.

Esoteric? Absolutely. Indulgent? Most likely. Intriguing? Definitely. While some will be quick to write it off as porn, Mathews' original "I Want Your Love" short delivers one of the most realistic and grounded portrayals of gay men I've seen in a cinematic work. As a result I've been keen to see further efforts from him. His teaming with Franco, a man who seems to know a lot more about the gay lifestyle than those of us who have been living it for two decades, is a combination that should be exciting. The project premieres later this month as part of Sundance's New Frontiers.


The Internship
Opens: June 7th 2013
Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, John Goodman, Rose Byrne
Director: Shawn Levy

Analysis: Shawn Levy's new comedy reunites the "Wedding Crashers" duo of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn for this story of two old school salesmen in their forties who have found themselves suddenly unemployed and passed-by in the digital world. The pair tries to reinvent themselves by becoming interns at a major tech company, unfortunately the competition is two decades younger and much hungrier for success than them.

Cue various jokes about older dudes first fighting, then eventually bringing these younger guys around to their ways. The premise is self-explanatory, the question is if Vince Vaughn's script will be an improvement over his writing on the god awful "Couples Retreat." There's a solid supporting cast though, including Will Ferrell, John Goodman, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Josh Gad, Jessica Szohr, and the budding comic genius of Dylan O'Brien from MTV's "Teen Wolf."


The Invisible Woman
Opens: 2013
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley
Director: Ralph Fiennes

Analysis: Following on from his acclaimed contemporary adaptation of one of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays "Coriolanus," Ralph Fiennes will look into the life of the secret mistress of author Charles Dickens for his next acting/directing effort. Boasting a £12 million budget, Fiennes helmed the film from a script by "The Hour" creator and "Shame" scribe Abi Morgan. "Like Crazy" breakout star Felicity Jones plays the mistress, while Fiennes' "The English Patient" co-star Kristin Scott Thomas is set to play her mother.

Based on Claire Tomalin's book, the affair between the then 45-year-old and married Dickens (Fiennes) and 18-year-old actress Nelly Ternan (Jones) was kept hush-hush due to the huge scandal it would have become if it had been made public. Even after Dickens' separation from his wife, the relationship remained a secret. When Dickens died, Nelly married a man 12 years her junior and disguised her own age. BBC Films originally hoped to have the film out for the end of 2012, but now a mid-late 2013 release is the likeliest possibility.


Iron Man 3
Opens: May 3rd 2013
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce
Director: Shane Black

Analysis: The success and acclaim of the first "Iron Man" set the template for all of the Marvel movies to come. While it has its defenders, "Iron Man 2" wasn't as well-received. Most of the complaints over it dealt with the subplots setting up "The Avengers," along with the visual effects overtaking the plot. With the departure of Jon Favreau from the director's chair, and with this being the first Marvel film in the wake of the enormous success of "The Avengers," the question is what can we expect this time?

Like most of their decisions so far, Marvel has been very savvy. Shane Black, writer of practically every quotable action movie of the 1980s and early 1990s, was hired to direct. Black and Downey had previously collaborated on 2005's hilarious and well-received, but little seen comedy noir thriller "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" which showed that they worked very well together. During the writing phase of "Iron Man 3," it was decided to take a stripped down and back to basics approach. This time there are no "The Avengers 2" lead-ins, and Tony Stark's inexhaustible gallery of gadgets appears to be destroyed early on.

As a result, Stark is stuck for a big portion of the movie with only his wits. Added to that is the screen realisation of the character's greatest foe, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and a storyline inspired by Warren Ellis' acclaimed "Extremis" mini-series from the comics which deals with a programmable military nanotechnology serum. Guy Pearce comes in as a secondary villain, and is one of several smart casting additions here including Rebecca Hall, William Sadler and James Badge Dale.

Kingsley's choice has been contentious one amongst the fans, mainly due to his lacking the character's Asian heritage. Many also seem worried about how the 'Ten Rings' element from the comics will be worked in, the rings themselves are glimpsed in the film's first trailer. That trailer was fairly spectacular, and is without a doubt one of the year's biggest films. Let us hope that, like "The Avengers," it also turns out to be one of its best as well.



The Identical
Music video director Dustin Marcellino makes his feature film debut on this rock-themed musical fable centered around a family. The Nashville-shot film covers a three decade period from the 1940s through to the 1960s and will use the rock music of the period as key elements of the story. "Space Cowboys" scribe Howie Klausner penned the script which features the likes of Ray Liotta as a preacher, Ashley Judd as his wife, and Seth Green as a drummer who can't balance his excesses.

Identity Thief
"Horrible Bosses" director Seth Gordon helms this Universal Pictures comedy about a guy (Jason Bateman) whose identity is stolen. When he goes to confront and bring back the thief (Melissa McCarthy), he gets a wake-up call about his own life. The pair are soon on the run when a cartel, from which she stole, is out to kill her. While the thief was originally going to be a man, when McCarthy expressed interest it was quickly re-written to suit her talents. Gordon's also nabbed a solid supporting cast including Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Jon Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Clark Duke, T.I. and Morris Chestnut.

In a World…
Actress Lake Bell makes her feature directorial debut on this quirky comedy which sounds like it's a little inspired by the late Don LaFontaine, the American voice actor famous for recording the narration over 5,000 film trailers and hundreds of thousands of TV ads. The "Surface" and "Boston Legal" actress stars as an underachieving vocal coach who is motivated by her father (Fred Melamed), the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Battling pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she aims to change the voice of a generation. Demetri Martin, Geena Davis, Jeff Garlin, Rob Corddry and Ken Marino also star in the film which premieres in competition at Sundance.


The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
"Notorious" and "Faster" helmer George Tillman Jr.'s latest effort is this unassuming indie coming of age tale about two young boys who have been separated from their mothers and are stuck facing a summer alone in the Brooklyn projects. Hiding from police and foraging for food, they soon learn they can only trust each other. Yet another film on this list scheduled to premiere at Sundance, there's some big names who have small roles here including Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie and Jeffrey Wright.

In Fear
Jeremy Lovering, a second unit director on "Hot Fuzz," makes his directing debut on this psychological horror thriller which has become a part of this year's Sundance's Midnight Movie selection. "The Fades" & "S.H.I.E.L.D." star Iain De Caestecker, along with "Beautiful Creatures" lead Alice Englert, play a couple trapped in a maze of country roads where they are being terrorized by an unseen tormentor exploiting their worst fears. They eventually realize they've let the evil in – it's sitting in their car. Backed by Film 4 and StudioCanal, there seems to be more to this film than meets the eye.

In the Blood
"Blue Crush" and "Turistas" helmer John Stockwell uses Puerto Rico to substitute for South America in this $10 million action thriller starring MMA fighter and "Haywire" actress Gina Carano. Carano plays a woman trying to track down her husband after he is kidnapped on their South American honeymoon. She's soon joined in her search by a local (Diego Boneta). Just wrapping last week, there's quite the macho supporting cast on hand including Danny Trejo, Stephen Lang, Amaury Nolasco and Treat Williams. The film is also expected to have bare bones action vibe that suits Carano's skills.

The Complete Notable Films of 2013 Guide

Volume 0-9: 2 Guns, 21 and Over, 33 dias, 42, 47 Ronin, 300: Rise of An Empire, 7500

Volume A: The ABC's of Death, About Last Night, About Time, Admission, A.C.O.D., Adult World, After Earth, Afternoon Delight, Aftershock, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, All Is Lost, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Angry Little God, Are We Officially Dating?, As I Lay Dying, Ass Backwards, At Any Price, August: Osage County, Austenland

Volume B: Backmask, Baggage Claim, Bailout: The Age of Greed, Battle of the Year, Beautiful Creatures, Before Midnight, Belle, The Best Offer, Better Living Through Chemistry, Beyond The Hills, Big Sur, The Big Wedding, Black Dog Red Dog, The Black Marks, Bling Ring, Blood Ties, The Brass Teapot, Breathe In, Broken City, Bullet to the Head, The Butler, Byzantium

Volume C: The Call, Can a Song Save Your Life?, The Canyons, Captain Phillips, Carol, Carrie, A Case of You, Cavalry, CBGB, Chavez, Child of God, Chinese Zodiac, Closed Circuit, Closer to the Moon, Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers, C.O.G., The Colony, Come Out and Play, The Company You Keep, The Congress, Concussion, The Counselor, The Coup, The Croods, Crystal Fairy

Volume D: Dallas Buyers Club, Dark Blood, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, Decoding Annie Parker, The Deep, Delivery Man, Despicable Me 2, Devil's Knot, The Devil's Rapture, Diana, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His & Hers, Disconnect, Dom Hemingway, Don Jon's Addiction, Dorothy of Oz, The Double, Drift, Drinking Buddies, Driven

Volume E: The East, Eden, Elsa and Fred, Elysium, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, Emperor, Empire State, Empires of the Deep, Ender's Game, The English Teacher, Epic, Errors of the Human Body, Escape From Planet Earth, The Europa Report, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, Everything Will Be Fine, Evil Dead

Volume F: Fading Gigolo, Fast Six, Fellini Black and White, Felony, A Field in England, Fill the Void, Filth, Foxcatcher, Foxfire, From Up On Poppy Hill, Frozen, Fruitvale, The Frozen Ground

Volume G: Part 1: Gambit, Gangster Squad, The Gatekeepers, Get a Job, Getaway, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger and Rosa, Girls Against Boys, Girl Most Likely, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Gods Behaving Badly, A Good Day to Die Hard

Volume G: Part 2: Graceland, The Grand Masters, Grand Piano, The Grand Seduction, Grave of the Fireflies, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, The Green Blade Rises, A Green Story, Greetings from Tim Buckley, Growing Up (and Other Lies), Grown Ups 2

Volume H: The Hangover Part III, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, The Heat, Hell and Back, Hell Baby, Her, Hidden, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Homefront, Horns, The Host, The Host 2, How I Live Now, Hummingbird, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunt

Volume I: I Frankenstein, The Identical, Identity Thief, I'm So Excited, In a World, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, In Fear, Inside Llewyn Davis, Insidious Chapter Two, Interior Leather Bar, The Internship, In the Blood, The Invisible Woman, Iron Man 3

Volume J-K: Jack Ryan, Jack the Giant Slayer, Java Heat, Jayne Mansfield's Car, Jimmy Picard, jOBS, Jurassic Park 3D, Justin and the Knights of Valour, K-11, Kick-Ass 2, Kid Cannabis, Kill Your Darlings, Kiss of the Damned, Kon-Tiki, Knight of Cups

Volume L: Part 1: Labor Day, The Last Days On Mars, The Last Exorcism: Part II, The Last Stand, Last Vegas, Laurence Anyways, Leo the Lion, Leviathan, Le Weekend, Libertador, The Lifeguard, Like Someone in Love, The Little Mermaid 3D, The Loft

Volume L: Part 2: London Project, The Lone Ranger, Lone Survivor, The Longest Week, Long Time Gone, A Long Way Down, The Look of Love, The Lords of Salem, Lore, Love and Honor, Love is All You Need, Lovelace, Lowlife, Lullaby, Luv

Volume M: Part 1: Machete Kills, Magic Magic, Malavita, Mama, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Maniac, Man of Steel, Man of Tai Chi, The Man Who Sold the World, A Many Splintered Thing, Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, Mary Mother Of Christ, May in the Summer, McCanick, Meet Me In Montenegro, Milo

Volume M: Part 2: Mindscape, Mobius, Mockingbird, Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist, Monsters University, The Monuments Men, Mood Indigo, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A Most Wanted Man, Mother of George, Movie 43, Mr. Morgan's Last Love, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Much Ado About Nothing, Mud, Mystery Road

Volume N: Nebraska, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Night Moves, Nina, No, No One Lives, No Place on Earth, Non-Stop, Northern Soul, Not Safe for Work, Now You See Me, The Numbers Station, Nymphomaniac

Volume O-P: Part 1: Oblivion, Oculus, Odd Thomas, Oldboy, Olympus Has Fallen, One Direction Concert Movie, One Square Mile, Only God Forgives, Only Lovers Left Alive, Open Windows, Out of the Furnace, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Pacific Rim, Pain and Gain, The Paradise Trilogy, Paranoia, Parker, Parkland, Passion, The Past, The Patience Stone

Volume P: Part 2: Pawn, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Penthouse North, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Phantom, The Physician, Pieta, The Place Beyond The Pines, Planes, Plastic Jesus, The Playroom, Plush, Post Tenebras Lux, Prince Avalanche, Prisoners, The Prophet, The Purge

Volume Q-R: The Quiet Ones, The Railway Man, The Rambler, Random, Reality, RED 2, Red Light Winter, Red Machine, Red Wing, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Reykjavik, R.I.P.D., Riddick, The Rover, Runner Runner, Rush

Volume S: Part 1: S-V/H/S, The Sacrament, Safe Haven, Saving Mr. Banks, Scary Movie 5, The Scribbler, The Sea, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Serena, The Seventh Son, Side Effects, Sightseers, Simon Killer, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, A Single Shot, Small Apartments, Small Time, The Smurfs 2

Volume S: Part 2: Snitch, Snowpiercer, Someone Marry Barry, Something in the Air, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Space Warriors, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Starbuck, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars: Episode II & III 3D, Still Life, Stoker, Stories We Tell, Sweetwater, Syrup

Volume T: Part 1: Tar, Tarzan 3D, A Teacher, Thanks for Sharing, Therese Desqueyroux, Therese, They Came Together, They Die by Dawn, Third Person, This Is The End, Thor: The Dark World, A Thousand Times Good Night, Three Days To Kill, Three Worlds, The To Do List, Tom a la ferme, The Tomb, Tomorrow You're Gone

Volume T: Part 2: To The Wonder, Too Late, Touchy Feely, Toy's House, Tracks, Trance, The Trials of Cate McCall, Trust Me, Turbo, Twelve Years A Slave, Twenty Feet From Stardom, Twice Born, Two Night Stand, The Two Faces of January, Two Mothers, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Tyler Perry Presents: We The Peeples

Volume U-W: Part 1: Under the Skin, Unforgiven, Untitled David O. Russell Project, Untitled Nicole Holofcener Project, Untitled Terrence Malick Film, Upstream Color, Venus in Fur, Very Good Girls, Virtually Heroes, Wadjda, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, War Witch, Warm Bodies, The Way Way Back, We Are What We Are, We're the Millers, Welcome to the Jungle, Welcome to the Punch, What Maisie Knew

Volume W: Part 2-Z: White Bird in a Blizzard, White House Down, The Wilderness of James, Winter Rose, Winter's Tale, Wish You Well, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Wolverine, Wolves, Words with Gods, World War Z, The World's End, You Are Here, You Can't Win, You're Next, You're Not You, The Young and Prodigious Spivet, The Zero Theorem