The Notable Films of 2013: Volume L Part 1

By Garth Franklin Saturday January 5th 2013 11:26PM

In this volume I consider a period hostage drama from the director of "Juno," a British sci-fi paranoia thriller set on another planet, the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to full-time acting, a geriatric version of "The Hangover," a biopic of the legendary politician who united South America, a documentary set entirely onboard fishing boats, a 3D re-release of one of Disney's most beloved animated films, and a remake of a Flemish high-concept infidelity thriller.


Labor Day
Opens: 2013
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, James Van Der Beek, Jacki Weaver
Director: Jason Reitman

Analysis: Having firmly established a name for himself with the likes of "Thank You For Smoking," "Juno" and "Up in the Air," filmmaker Jason Reitman turns to more dramatic fare this time out with an adaptation of the titular novel by "To Die For" author Joyce Maynard. Shot in Massachusetts over the Summer, the project has already test screened and is in the midst of post-production ahead of a likely release in late August.

Kate Winslet plays depressed single mom Adele who, along with her son Henry (Dylan Minnette), offer a wounded drifter (Josh Brolin) a ride. As police search town for an escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited. Over the holiday weekend, he ultimately teaches Henry important life lessons, along with helping Adele come out of her shell.

The premise sounds fairly familiar, something of a spin on Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World," yet both Maynard and Reitman's sensibilities are refreshingly and unabashedly cynical. This means there has to be more meat and flavor to this story than the simple premise would suggest. Other key roles in the film include Tobey Maguire as an older version of the kid, and James Van Der Beek, Jacki Weaver and Clark Gregg in small, but key parts.


Last Days On Mars
Opens: 2013
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Elias Koteas, Johnny Harris, Olivia Williams
Director: Ruairi Robinson

Analysis: Oscar-nominated short film director Ruairi Robinson ("Fifty Percent Grey," "BlinkyTM") helms this ambitious horror thriller set entirely on the red planet, and based on the short story "The Animators" by British sci-fi writer Sydney J. Bounds. This UK-Irish co-production was shot at both Elstree Studios and in Jordan. Universal is expected to distribute the film in key international territories sometime in the early Fall.

The story follows a group of astronauts onboard the spaceship Aurora who have been on Mars for six months and are packing to head home. These explorers discover evidence of life, and it is not friendly. As they collect specimens, they succumb to a mysterious and terrifying force. Scribe Clive Dawson had to shift around some of the characters from the story, mainly changing the genders of the all-male crew to a mix of men and women.

Regarding the casting, Robinson has stated that he deliberately picked cast members that "never normally do sci-fi stuff because they are going to take it seriously, and then people are going to take them seriously." Sally Hawkins was originally a part of the cast, but had to drop out and was replaced by Olivia Williams. Tone-wise Robinson is aiming for a 70s paranoia movie, a "claustrophobic, characters at each other's throats, densely packed movie." Post-production is continuing apace right now with the film expected to be delivered by May.


The Last Stand
Opens: January 18th 2013
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzmán
Director: Kim Ji-woon

Analysis: While he has done cameos in projects such as "The Expendables," this will mark Arnold Schwarzenegger's first leading role since "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" ten years ago. In spite of personal and professional issues that plagued him right before filming in late 2011, the former Governor carried on. The result is the first of a new wave of at least a half dozen Arnie action titles scheduled to hit over the next 2-3 years.

Korean filmmaker Kim Ji-woon, who directed the decidedly odd "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" along with the highly acclaimed "I Saw the Devil," makes his Hollywood debut on this $30 million action thriller set in a small town in New Mexico. He also recruited a fun supporting cast including Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Eduardo Noriega, Jaimie Alexander, Harry Dean Stanton, Peter Stormare and Genesis Rodriguez.

Arnie plays Ray Owens, a former LAPD cop who left the force following a bungled operation that got his partner killed. Now the sheriff of a sleepy border town, he finds himself in the firing line again when a fugitive drug kingpin and his gang make the run for the border in a specially outfitted car. At first reluctant to become involved, Owens ultimately accepts responsibility for a face-off in his town.

It's a good warm-up style film for Schwarzenegger, a western with modern blockbuster sensibilities. R-rated, ball-smashing, back to basics action, all built on a simple and familiar concept and with a tongue planted firmly in cheek. Kim has a definite knack for this kind of material, and should ensure some healthy surprises along with a couple of memorable shots to make the whole endeavour stand out from the crowd. Not a bad way to kick off the year.


Last Vegas
Opens: December 20th 2013
Cast: Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Analysis: Pitched as a "Hangover for the pensioner crowd," this comedy from scribes Adam Brooks ("Wimbledon," "Definitely, Maybe") and Dan Fogelman ("Tangled," "The Guilt Trip") sounds decidedly ordinary. What makes it stand out is the cast - Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas play four best friends in their late-60's who decide to escape retirement and throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the only one of them who has remained single (Douglas).

Scheduled to hit next Christmas, the film will likely try to cash in on the same audience that turned 2007's "Wild Hogs' into a $250 million global hit. The big question though is tone - the involvement of "National Treasure" and "Phenomenon" director Jon Turteltaub would unfortunately seem to indicate a light and family-friendly tone - something which just sounds all kinds of wrong for the premise. If it is R-rated and the material is strong enough, it's the kind of film that could become a big holiday earner which manages a few decent laughs.


Laurence Anyways
Opens: 2013
Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri, Susie Almgren
Director: Xavier Dolan

Analysis: He's only 23, yet Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan has already starred in several films and is in the midst of directing a fourth one coming later this year. Before that though comes this romantic drama, a less autobiographical work than his first two. Despite reviews being slightly more mixed than they were for his widely praised earlier films, 'Laurence' still managed to win the Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival back in May, along with Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto Film Festival a few months later.

While shooting "I Killed My Mother," Dolan was inspired by a costume designer's story about her relationship with a transsexual. So came this $6.5 million feature funded by both French investors and even some online crowd sourcing. Dolan himself is not starring in front of the camera this time, rather scoring French talents Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clément for the key roles.

Set in 1989 and spanning a decade, the story follows the impact on a love affair between an award-winning male novelist and his fiery and passionate girlfriend when the author decides to have a sex change. The relationship falls apart, resumes, falls apart again, and further shocking secrets are revealed. Clocking in at a little under three hours, the most common complaint in reviews was the needlessly long runtime and a certain amount of mannered self-consciousness. Yet, almost all praised the performances, confident direction, and excellent score.


Opens: 2013
Cast: Declan Conneely, Johnny Gatcombe, Adrian Guillette, Brian Jannelle, Clyde Lee
Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel

Analysis: An already acclaimed documentary by Vérena Paravel and Lucien Castain-Taylor, "Leviathan" follows a pair of fishing vessels off the coast of Massachusetts. What makes it so unique is that the entire film is captured from almost impossible angles via small weather-proof digital cameras attached to basically everything imaginable. There's only a small smattering of dialogue, the majority of the film taken up by just watching the day-to-day environment from completely unfamiliar and often startling perspectives.

It's not a film for those with motion sickness though as the cameras never stop moving. It's also not for the timid, after all the decks of a fishing vessel are usually lathered in blood, guts and scales. Yet, it gives an insight into the mundane everyday, the danger, the grotesqueness, and the beauty that comes with holding one of the most primal of occupations on Earth. Think of it a soulful and contemplative "The Deadliest Catch," without any of that show's needless artifice.


Opens: 2013
Cast: Édgar Ramírez, María Valverde, Iwan Rheon, Danny Huston, Gary Lewis
Director: Alberto Arvelo

Analysis: The largest independent South American feature production in history, Alberto Arvelo's $50 million historical epic is a biopic of the life of influential diplomat Simon Bolivar. Bolivar was the driving force behind Latin America's fight for independence against Spain in the early 19th century.

Following that triumph, Bolívar participated in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Hispanic-America, and led countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to independence - laying the foundation for democracy throughout much of the region. "Carlos" actor Edgar Ramirez stars as Bolivar in the project which boasts both a script by Timothy J. Sexton, and a score by the L.A. Philharmonic's music director Gustavo Dudamel.

Shot over a whopping 14 months, the film should have plenty of action, such as a recreation of the Battle of Valencia between Venezuelan and Spanish forces. It has also got some interesting talent involved including "Misfits" star Iwan Rheon, Goya-winning Spanish actress María Valverde, and Danny Huston as a fictional character who plays a key part in scenes set in Jamaica in 1814.


Like Someone in Love
Opens: February 15th 2013
Cast: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase
Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Analysis: Though he's been directing features within his home country for four decades, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami really broke through in a big way with 2010's "Certified Copy." A big hit with art house audiences and critics a year ago. It was a project that introduced many cinemagoers to the Iranian filmmaker's work.

Now comes his next effort, a second non-Iranian production, which has been shot completely in Japanese and on location in Tokyo. The story follows the unusual relationship between a student (Rin Takanashi) working part-time as a prostitute, and her new client - a brilliant elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno). The characters each has a pre-conceived notion of the other going into this relationship, perceptions that they and the audience will come to question throughout the film.

If 'Copy' was a rumination on art, this is a layered examination of personal identity with an ambiguous finale that should cause much debate. It's a quiet and deliberately paced, and reviews have been quite mixed. Almost everyone seems to compliment the techniques and filmmaking on display, while the complaints are all along the same line - that narratively it feels like a decidedly unfinished affair.


The Loft
Opens: April 2013
Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Rachael Taylor
Director: Erik Van Looy

Analysis: A $14 million remake of the 2008 Dutch-language Belgian infidelity thriller of the same name, Erik Van Looy returns to the director's chair for this English-language version which shifts the action States-side. Wesley Strick has adapted Bart DePauw's script which follows five married friends who split the rent on a communal loft which they can use as a safe place to bring their assorted mistresses and one-night stands. When an unknown dead woman is found there one day, the friends start to suspect each other of murder.

"Rust and Bone" actor Matthias Schoenaerts reprises his role from the original, while a highly impressive cast fills out the other parts including James Marsden, Karl Urban, "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller and "Modern Family" comedian Eric Stonestreet as the other four men. Rhona Mitra, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Margarita Levieva and Kristin Lehman are all set to play the key wives and mistresses in the story.

It's a solid idea for a movie, and it has been a while since we've had a good adultery-themed thriller. Trailers for the film showcase a surprising amount of nudity (male and female) along with the requisite amount of action and violence. Yet, there's also a feeling of distinct familiarity to it all, the guys for example fit into stereotype roles - the rich bad boy, the gruff jock, the good guy, the bookish one, and the partier. Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment acquired the film which will be one of the last projects that falls under its former output deal with Warner Brothers.



The Last Exorcism: Part II
While it is easily confused with the wealth of other awful exorcism-themed supernatural thrillers of the last few years, 2010's "The Last Exorcism" is actually one of the more decent ones. Pulling in a profitable $67 million from a tiny $1.8 million budget, the film also scored decent reviews and award recognition such as a 'Best First Feature' nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. Now comes the follow-up, with Ed Gass-Donnelly taking over as director from Daniel Stamm. Ashley Bell returns as Nell Sweetzer, the young woman who tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie. However, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.

Le Weekend
"Notting Hill" and "Enduring Love" director Roger Michell's latest work is currently filming in Europe, so it won't be getting a release until the end of 2013 at the earliest. Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as a British couple who return to Paris, many years after their honeymoon there, in an attempt to rejuvenate their marriage. An encounter with an old academic protégé (Jeff Goldblum) causes the couple to re-think their life and relationship. This will mark the third film together of Michell, writer Hanif Kureishi and producer Kevin Loader. The trio previously teamed on "Venus" and "The Mother" which are amongst the most acclaimed of Michell's works. Hopefully, that will also be the case here.


The Lifeguard
Liz W. Garcia's daring-sounding Sundance entry is this dark drama starring "Veronica Mars" and "House of Lies" actress Kristen Bell as a former valedictorian who quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the last place that she truly felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets a job as a lifeguard, and starts a dangerous relationship with a 16-year-old delinquent. Shot in Pittsburgh last summer, the film boasts a cast that includes Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Joshua Harto and Amy Madigan.

The Little Mermaid 3D
While "The Lion King" was the box-office juggernaut, "Beauty and the Beast" the critical darling, and "Aladdin" the cool kids movie, it was 1989's "The Little Mermaid" that began the so-called 'Disney Renaissance'. 'Mermaid' kicked-off a wave of successful titles over the next decade that resurrected the company's animation department from over twenty years of mediocrity, turning it into a serious powerhouse of acclaim and financial power in the process. Now, almost a quarter century later, Ariel gets her chance to be part of this world with a 3D re-release. These kinds of re-releases can generate anywhere from $40-90 million in additional box-office, not to mention millions more in new disc sales, for an outlay cost of very little for the conversion and marketing.

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