Features

The Notable Films of 2013: Volume O-P: Part 1

By Garth Franklin Wednesday January 16th 2013 10:46AM

In this volume I consider a visit to the magical land of Oz long before Dorothy got there, a big-budget giant robots vs. giant monsters movie, a stunning looking sci-fi mystery piece from the director of "Tron: Legacy," a remake of the most beloved South Korean movie of the past decade, a romantic vampire tale that's the complete opposite of "Twilight," a comedy from the director of the "Transformers" series, a lesbianism-laced story of murderous rival co-workers, and an adaptation of a famed Dean Koontz novel.

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Oblivion
Opens: April 12th 2013
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough
Director: Joseph Kosinski

Analysis: The first of next year's three 'Scorched Earth'-themed films to hit the screens, "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski brings his skill for luscious visuals to this $130 million adaptation of the Radical Comics graphic novel which he co-wrote. Originally setup at Disney, the film ultimately went into production over at Universal because Kosinski could not reduce the film's content to a Disney-approved PG rating without destroying the narrative in the process.

Boasting an acclaimed script by William Monahan ("The Departed"), Karl Gajdusek (TV's "Last Resort") and Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3"), Tom Cruise became attached quite early to the project, leading to some intense competition for the two female leads. Jessica Chastain was set to star at one point, but dropped out due to her "Zero Dark Thirty" commitments. That didn't stop Kosinski landing an excellent supporting cast including Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Zoe Bell.

In the film, Cruise plays Jack Harper, one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on an Earth that has been left a wasteland after decades of war. Patrolling the skies, everything changes when he rescues a female stranger from a downed spacecraft - a rescue that triggers a chain of events that force him to question everything he knows.

While M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth" is a survival meets coming of age tale on a abandoned and nearly primeval jungle planet, and Neil Blomkamp's "Elysium" is a political satire and allegory about class warfare on an Earth that has become a garbage heap, "Oblivion" is refreshingly straightforward pure science fiction effort. A mystery-laden and mythology-heavy action piece, the film's trailer showcased a stunning looking film set on an Earth of clear skies and endless snow-covered rocky waste.

Kosinski keeps the 'clean room' aesthetics of "Tron: Legacy," refusing to let things get too grimy or gritty in favour of some luscious clean visuals and sexy-looking technology. Practical where possible, and extraordinarily well-integrated visual effects where necessary. The central mystery actually looks intriguing, and the mid-April release ensures an original tale like this won't get lost in the crush of Summer blockbuster sequels. One of the few films in the first third of the year that's worth getting excited about.

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Odd Thomas
Opens: 2013
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt, Addison Timlin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Director: Stephen Sommers

Analysis: Shot in early-mid 2011 in New Mexico, this $27 million adaptation of Dean Koontz's 2003 novel is still awaiting both a distributor and a release date. Much like Stephen King, Koontz's work has rarely translated well on screen and produced duds like "Phantoms," "Hideaway," and "Watchers." Some of Koontz's best works, like "Lightning" and the Christopher Snow books, have yet to see the transition. Koontz is normally quiet about the cinematic adaptations of his works, but in this case he was championing Sommers' script before filming even began.

Set in a Californian desert town, Anton Yelchin plays a short-order cook from a dysfunctional upbringing who has clairvoyant abilities. Set across a fateful 24-hour period, Odd encounters a mysterious person he nicknames 'Fungus Man' who has a link to dark, threatening forces that appear only during times of death and disaster. His sixth sense leads him to Fungus Man's home, and Odd begins to uncover more details about the man in an effort to prevent the disastrous bloodshed that is to come.

Of the Koontz works that could be translated, this is a good choice. On the one hand it has the potential to be a franchise on a modest budget, also other works featuring similar subject matter have clicked in the past - most notably shows like "Dead Like Me" and films like "The Frighteners." Still, it's surprising that nothing has really been mentioned about the film since it began production, other than some slight financial issues the project suffered that forced it to briefly shut down. Hopefully it will buck the trend and end up being a good adaptation, but the longer we go without hearing anything, the more I wonder if it will disappoint.

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Oldboy
Opens: October 11th 2013
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, James Ransone, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Spike Lee

Analysis: As someone who is not a fan of Asian action films, the one or two that annually get hyped by my colleagues often fall decidedly flat for me - last year's "The Raid" for example. One of the few exceptions though was Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy," a film that not only lived up to all the hype, but surpassed it. Unlike many other films of this type, this one had an ambitious and daring plot, unexpected emotional twists, and truly effective character drama amidst all the inventive fight sequences and moments of shocking violence.

It has become a modern and revered cult classic in its own right, so the idea of a Hollywood remake seems frankly horrific, even with a serious artist like Spike Lee at the helm. Lee came onboard after the film went through several different directors, including Steven Spielberg helming a version in which Will Smith would have starred. At the time the plan was to adapt the original manga on which "Oldboy" is based, rather than outright remake the film. Lawsuit confusion, however, put a stopper on that approach.

In this version, an advertising executive (Josh Brolin) is kidnapped and held hostage for over a decade in solitary confinement without any indication of his captor's motive. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover just who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment, only to learn he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment. His quest leads him into an ill-fated relationship with a young social worker (Elizabeth Olsen) and an illusive man (Sharlto Copley) who allegedly holds the key to his salvation.

Asked about the film in recent interviews, both Brolin and Olsen claim the new "Oldboy" will be as dark as the original. Producers say it's very similar, though there's a couple of new elements (about 20% of the overall story) designed to throw off audience members who have seen the original. The aim of scribe Mark Protosevich was "to take elements of [Chan-wook's film] combined with elements of the manga and completely re-envision and re-contextualize those to create a specifically American story around the same concepts and themes."

Unlike say "Akira," "Oldboy" is a story that's more adaptable to other countries and cultures. Also, the producers on these films are the same ones behind "The Departed" - a great example of a Hollywood remake of an Asian film that actually does work. The hammer fight scene, the live octopus eating, and even the ending are all here - in fact there's talk the ending for this remake will be even darker. Whether it works or not, it'll be an interesting watch either way.

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Olympus Has Fallen
Opens: March 22nd 2013
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Analysis: Much like last year's duelling "Snow White" pictures, this year sees two films with the same subject matter hit within months of each other. However, while there was a distinct stylistic difference between the "Snow White" films, the differences here are less distinguishable.

'Olympus' is the first out of the gate, Antoine Fuqua's $80 million action thriller sees Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent pulled into an operation to rescue the U.S. President (Aaron Eckhart) after a team of North Korean operatives infiltrates the White House.

We're two months from release, and yet there is still no serious promotional material available for the film yet, other than a few early posters. Roland Emmerich's rival project, "White House Down" at Sony Pictures, at least has several photos out there. Produced by Millennium and distributed by FilmDistrict, 'Olympus' will ultimately hit the home market through Sony's distribution channels which makes for an interesting little conflict of interest.

'Olympus' has already test screened to a good reaction, so it's essentially ready to go. According to script reviews, the key difference between this and 'Down' is that the latter is more a throwback to late 1980s buddy action-comedies, whereas this is a bit more contemporary and serious in tone. All we are waiting on now is for a trailer to drop.

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Only God Forgives
Opens: 2013
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying, Vithaya Pansringarm
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Analysis: Though he scored acclaim for his work on the "Pusher" trilogy and launching Tom Hardy to stardom with the excellent "Bronson", Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn really broke through in 2011 with "Drive" - an acclaimed throwback crime drama which ended up in the #1 spot on many top ten of the year lists (including my own). As a result he's been linked to and considered for numerous projects.

'Forgives' however is something he'd been planning long before "Drive" exploded, and he's stuck to his guns. Shot in South East Asia on a small budget ($4.8 million), Luke Evans was originally set to star but dropped out due to his commitments to "The Hobbit". Instead, Refn's "Drive" star Gosling stepped in and underwent 2-3 hour daily Muay Thai training sessions for the project.

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

Gosling calls the project "the strangest thing I've ever read and it's only going to get stranger". Refn describes the project as essentially a heightened reality fairytale western set in the Far East. Early reports and recently leaked first footage confirmed the movie shares stylistic qualities with "Drive" with long tracking shots, deep shadows, neon lighting and intense levels of violence.

If anything, this is expected to have much more brutality than "Drive". With a late Spring release planned for Europe, this will likely debut at Berlinale or Cannes ahead of an early Fall theatrical release in the United States and other global markets.

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Only Lovers Left Alive
Opens: 2013
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin
Director: Jim Jarmusch

Analysis: After a near perfect record of critically well-regard and often decent earning indie films like "Dead Man," "Down by Law," "Ghost Dog," and "Broken Flowers," Jim Jarmusch hit a stumbling block with 2009's "The Limits of Control." With divided reaction, and little in the way of both outright love or box-office, the film essentially tanked and some wondered if the honeymoon would be over permanently.

Well, he's back with this romantic vampire movie that will hopefully shake up the genre in the way his previous work did with westerns and samurai movies. "Thor" baddie Tom Hiddleston stars as an underground German musician deeply depressed by the direction that humanity is going. He seeks solace with Eve (Swinton), his enigmatic lover of several centuries. Things go awry when Eve's wild and uncontrollable younger sister Ava (Wasikowska) arrives.

With vampires in cinema these days reduced to either moping and angsty teenagers, or vicious killer monsters, Jarmusch's film will hopefully offer an alternate, thoughtful and distinct view of the world of the undead. It's something we haven't seen in a while, aside from the brilliant "Let the Right One In" and the ambitious, but flawed "The Wisdom of Crocodiles."

It all depends upon what kind of tone Jarmusch brings, and considering his back catalogue one can't begin to guess because he loves to surprise the audience. Shot in Detroit, Tangiers and at least two cities in Germany, a lot of eyes will be on this which it makes a likely debut on the Fall festival circuit.

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Open Windows
Opens: 2013
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Iván González, Brian Elder
Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Analysis: Spanish filmmaker and "Timecrimes" director Nacho Vigalondo makes his English-language feature debut with this high-concept, high-tech thriller. Blending the feel of a 1970s paranoia thriller with today’s computer and online environment, Elijah Wood plays a man who is obsessed with an actress (Sasha Grey). When she gets abducted by a vicious man (Neil Maskell), Wood's character goes on a mission to find her.

What makes this particular film unique is that the entire movie is seen through an Internet connected laptop, with the film screen acting like a computer desktop. Events unfold in real-time, meaning we the audience essentially become the protagonist of this adventure. Shot in Madrid in November, Vigalondo has drawn comparisons between this and Brian De Palma's acclaimed "Blow Out".

The visual style, however, will be quite different. The production employed twelve different types of camera, including webcams, head cameras, tablets, mobile phones, 3D mapping cameras, security cameras and satellite cameras to shoot the multi-format picture. One of the film's producers describes the project as "essentially a 90-minute chase, a continuous climax with unrelenting tension … it is also a powerful viral tool, with a wide potential for different audiences." Expect a festival bow sometime soon.

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Out of the Furnace
Opens: 2013
Cast: Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Casey Affleck
Director: Scott Cooper

Analysis: "Crazy Heart" director Scott Cooper goes darker and grittier with this Pennsylvania-shot crime thriller about two brothers living in a mill town in the economically depressed Rust Belt. After a cruel twist of fate puts the elder brother (Christian Bale) in prison, the younger (Casey Affleck) becomes involved with one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast. Once released, the older brother must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his family.

While Rupert Sanders was originally slated to direct, once Cooper came onboard he and Brad Ingelsby did some necessary script re-writes. There's an impressive ensemble cast here alongside the two leads such as Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard. There's also strong talents behind the scenes including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ridley Scott and the late Tony Scott as producers.

This genre rarely does well commercially though, contemporary and straightforward revenge movies don't play as well as more elaborate spins on that old storytelling staple. Andrew Dominik's critically liked "Killing Them Softly" was something of a commercial disappointment. Same with James Wan's "Death Sentence" which various script reviews have compared this with. The first trailer should tell us a lot about what to expect.

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Oz: The Great and Powerful
Opens: March 8th 2013
Cast: James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff
Director: Sami Raimi

Analysis: There was a point about two years ago when around nine films were in development based on L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz book series. As the work is in the public domain, anyone can develop projects based on the property and many studios were doing just that. Most of them have dropped off the radar since, a couple still remain in active development (e.g. the "Wicked" movie), and one or two are actually going to make it to screens this year or next.

Without question though, the biggest and most interesting of those that have been made so far is this $200 million tentpole at Disney Pictures. Aiming to emulate the billion dollar success they had with Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" a few years ago, the Mouse House has given this "Oz" the same CG-heavy fantasyland sheen, another fanboy-loved director (in this case Sam Raimi), and gives us a new spin on the story. While Burton's 'Alice' was a pseudo-sequel to the original Lewis Carroll story, this is a kind of prequel set several years before Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

The story explores how a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics (James Franco) is transported from Kansas to the mythical land of Oz. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing this magical world, he must ultimately become the great and powerful Wizard that everyone is expecting him to be. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire penned the story which combines elements from the original books along with some homages to the classic 1939 MGM movie.

Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp were originally up for the lead, while Sam Mendes was a top candidate to direct at one time. In the end, it was the "Spider-Man" duo of Raimi and actor James Franco who became part of the film. More exciting is the actresses filling out the roles of the three key witches, starting with the radiant Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch of the South. Rachel Weisz goes full-bore evil as Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East who will ultimately be crushed by Dorothy's house.

The big question is what exactly Mila Kunis' role entails. Her Theodora character is seemingly helpful and a stunning looker too. She doesn't resemble the Wicked Witch of the West that we know, and the trailers show that the green-skinned cackling incarnation of the character makes a dramatic appearance in the film. Disney's marketing is keeping the mystery intact for now, showcasing the evil green witch figure in promo posters, but obscuring her face so we are not sure who she truly is.

While the film's first trailer seemed like a miscalculation and very similar to Burton's woeful "Alice," subsequent trailers and TV spots showcase a decidedly more interesting and ambitious looking film. From the change in color and aspect ratio between the Kansas-Oz scenes, to the impressive scale and stunning visuals - there's definitely a more consistent and adventurous feel overall than Burton's 'Alice'. The reviews will hopefully be considerably better as well.

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Pacific Rim
Opens: July 12th 2013
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Analysis: One of the most common genres of storytelling in Japanese anime involves human-controlled giant robots (mechas) battling other giant beings - be it fellow robots, monsters, aliens or angels. Aside from the "Transformers" films, it's an idea that hasn't been widely or explicitly explored in western movies, but it is one rich with potential. An anime like "Neon Genesis Evangelion" not only included large scale action, but was almost impenetrably dense with religious symbolism, philosophical pondering and psychological conflicts.

"Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro makes an attempt at it with this $200 million live-action film where soldiers pilot giant robots (Jaegers) in a battle against invading giant monsters (Kaiju) who have mysteriously risen from a trench in the Pacific Ocean. On the verge of defeat and making a last stand, a former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) must team to drive a legendary, but obsolete Jaeger from the early trials that could be humanity's last hope.

Travis Beacham ("Clash of the Titans," "Killing on Carnival Row") penned the script and del Toro was originally only going to produce. When his long-term dream project - a live-action adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" - fell apart in 2011, he jumped onboard this as director. The project sports a great cast of talented actors rather than big name stars, including Charlie Hunnam ("Sons of Anarchy"), Idris Elba ("Luther"), Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel"), Charlie Day ("Horrible Bosses") and his regular cohort Ron Perlman. He even scored Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS in the "Portal" games, to play the Jaeger AI.

Shot on Red Epic cameras in Toronto, the film could serve as a potential franchise launcher should the public embrace it. Those who have read the script have raved about it, saying it has far more depth and quality on offer than you would think a giant robot movie could sport. Del Toro has also hired some excellent talents in key roles such as "Game of Thrones" and "Iron Man" composer Ramin Djawadi, and many of the key visual effects people behind the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, "Real Steel" and the "Star Trek" reboot.

The trailers are visually stunning. To showcase the sheer scale of these creatures, the camera work never displays these monsters completely in one-shot. The environments of the battles are distinct from each other and include real world environmental factors. More importantly, those doing the effects seem to understand something that so many blockbusters seem to forget - the laws of physics. These creatures and fights have mass, momentum, inertia and proper scale. Making sure these are conveyed properly is as important, if not more so, than how elaborate the creature design is. Hopefully this will be one of the Summer's real highlights.

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Pain and Gain
Opens: April 26th 2013
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Anthony Mackie
Director: Michael Bay

Analysis: After numbing both us and himself with "Transformers" sequels, Michael Bay tries his hand at a film he is actually keen on doing - a low-budget caper comedy based on a series of Miami New Times articles from 1999. Bay has been pursuing the film for several years, but Paramount's desire to have the "Transformers" sequels meet specific release date targets have delayed his plans.

In fact, after 'Dark of the Moon' he was ready to bow out of the "Transformers" franchise and produce this on his own. It didn't work out, so he came to a deal with the studio - they would distribute and fund the $22 million 'Pain,' if Bay agreed to direct a fourth "Transformers" film for them. He agreed. In fact, he and stars Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg believe enough in the project that they have forgone salaries in exchange for back ends of the film's profits.

Marking Bay's cheapest film since the first "Bad Boys" back in 1995, the filmmaker has taken a simplified approach to this character piece. The story has Wahlberg as a Miami bodybuilder who concocts a plan with his friend (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap and extort Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a rich businessman and prick who is a regular at the gym where he works.

Enlisting the help of a recently released criminal (Dwayne Johnson), the gang successfully get Kershaw to sign over all his finances. When Kershaw survives an attempted murder by the gang, he hires Detective Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to catch the criminals after the Miami Police Department fails to do so. Despite the limited budget, the film looks expensive and even includes Bay's signature visual of the cast walking away from an explosion.

It also showcases a lot of what you'd expect - that awkward meathead humour that has pervaded a lot of Bay's films since "Bad Boys 2." Dark comedy usually requires a delicate balance of clever wit and savage bite, neither of which seem to come off in the gags on display in the trailer. It is Bay's most interesting looking film in a while though, and even if it doesn't work it will certainly have camp appeal.

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The Paradise Trilogy
Opens: 2013
Cast: Maria Hofstätter, Nabil Saleh, Margarete Tiesel, Inge Maux, Gabriel Mwarua
Director: Ulrich Seidl

Analysis: Originally conceived as one 130-minute feature film, Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise" project become a nearly six-hour trilogy that has already been acclaimed and awarded. The trilogy consists of three parallel stories, each focusing on one of three women from the same family (two adult sisters and a daughter). Each set out on very different paths in their efforts to find happiness.

The first film, "Paradise: Love," follows a 50-year-old woman who travels to Kenya as a sex tourist. The most elaborate of the three films, Seidl wanted to explore female sex tourism and opted to set it in Kenya because of the added layer of colonialism. Mixing professionals and first-time actors, the result competed at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where one reviewer said it was "Repulsive and sublimely beautiful … hideous and masterful all at once, Salo with sunburn."

The second film, "Paradise: Faith," was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize. In this, the other older sister is a medical facility technician who takes time off from her job to do missionary work in immigrant neighborhoods in the far-flung suburbs of Vienna. She's also mad for Jesus, self-flagellating and sexually wanton of the Son of God.

The third, "Paradise: Hope," is slated to premiere at Berlinale next month. It deals with the teenage daughter being sent to a fat camp. No doubt humiliation and other awkwardness ensues. Reviews all claim the trilogy goes quite far, is often obscene, and each entry is needlessly long. Strand Releasing has already picked up the distribution rights, with plans to release all three films fairly close to each other this year.

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Paranoia
Opens: October 4th 2013
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Josh Holloway
Director: Robert Luketic

Analysis: It feels like ages since we have had a good movie about industrial espionage. Aussie filmmaker Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde," "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton") will hopefully fill that need with this adaptation of "High Crimes" author Joseph Finder's 2004 novel of the same name. Barry Levy ("Vantage Point") penned the adaptation for this Pennsylvania-shot production which was filmed in two distinct blocks - the second of which went into production only last month.

Luketic has enlisted his fellow countryman Liam Hemsworth in the lead role of a young man whose financial prank jeopardizes his low-level job at a technology corporation. Threatening him with charges of embezzlement, his boss Nick Wyatt (Gary Oldman) gives him the chance to save his job if he agrees to an undercover corporate espionage assignment at the company of his rival Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).

According to those who have read the script, there are some distinct changes from the book including the additions of several new characters such as Josh Holloway's FBI agent and Lucas Till as Hemsworth's younger brother. Hopefully the changes won't be too much, the book itself scored many raves for being a highly entertaining and tense thriller. I wonder if the film will be the same.

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Parker
Opens: January 25th 2013
Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr.
Director: Taylor Hackford

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

As such he's a popular character to translate to the big screen with Lee Marvin ("Point Blank"), Chow Yun-Fat ("Full Contact") and Mel Gibson ("Payback") all playing variations of the character based on the first novel in the series "The Hunter." Now comes Jason Statham's turn in the role for this $30 million caper movie which boasts a stronger supporting talent than the other half-dozen action features he seems to star in each year.

Much like Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" and Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," the film is an original story blending elements from several Parker-centered novels rather than directly adapting one. In this, Parker turns down a job offer to pull off a jewel heist and narrowly escapes with his life. He ends up teaming with a female real estate agent to find the target of the heist so they can steal the loot for themselves.

With a script by "Black Swan" scribe John J. McLaughlin, and filmmaker Taylor Hackford ("Ray," "Devil's Advocate," "Proof of Life") helming, it was hoped that we might see a more faithful translation of this fascinating and repelling character. The Parker of the books, especially the earlier ones, is a ruthlessly amoral violent thug who has no problem killing innocents, and is anything but the stereotype of the charming and witty thief that usually leads caper movies.

The trailer for this film unfortunately comes off as essentially a random episode of "Burn Notice" but without the fun supporting characters or dialogue. Aside from a brief bit where he dons a horrendous Texan accent, Statham's Parker seems to offer little that's different from all his other characters. As such, it's hard to see anything in this that will draw in anyone, aside from those who already worship the bald cinematic god.

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Passion
Opens: 2013
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth, Rainer Bock
Director: Brian De Palma

Analysis: It has been a while since everyone's favorite overly sexual Hitchcock homager Brian De Palma has done a good film. His heyday in the 1980s led to some solid films in the 1990s, but from 1998's "Snake Eyes" onwards it has been a long period of badly received duds from "Mission to Mars" and "Femme Fatale" to "The Black Dahlia" and "Redacted". Five years after that last film, de Palma finally returns to screens with this French-German erotic thriller which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

A remake of the 2010 French film "Love Crime," Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas are swapped out for Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. The story follows a young businesswoman who plots a murderous revenge after her boss and mentor steals her idea. It's the kind of source material that's right up de Palma's alley - a somewhat seedy and mildly exploitative vibe, vengeful co-workers, loads of lesbian eroticism, rivalry, obsession and murder.

Unfortunately it's not a return to the glory days of "Dressed to Kill" or "Blow Out," rather more of the same as reviews from the festivals took issue with the movie. One reviewer called it "a tarted-up English-language remake that affords some modestly campy pleasures, but lacks the delirious trash-horror verve of De Palma's best work." The film is said to hew quite close to the original "Love Crime" until the final act. It's certainly lurid enough to find an audience, and the performances of its two female leads should be fun enough to make it worth checking out.

ALSO OPENING:

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Oculus
Sci-fi pin-up girl Karen Gillan ("Doctor Who") and Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar Galactica") team up for Mike Flanagan's horror thriller set a decade after a terrifying family incident left two young children orphans. Although her brother (Brenton Thwaites) was charged with murder, Kaylie (Gillan) is convinced a haunted antique mirror is the real perpetrator and years later wants to prove that the mirror was responsible for killing their parents. Sackhoff plays the mother in flashbacks and tied her hair red to match Gillan and actress Annalise Basso (who plays the younger version of Kaylie). Shot in Alabama over the Fall, Flanagan ("Absentia") has demonstrated solid ability with a small budget. Good luck to her here.

One Direction Concert Movie
While the failure of Katy Perry's "Part of Me" documentary might have led you to believe that the "3D concert-meets-documentary movie" genre was over, don't be so quick to dismiss them. Sony Pictures has smartly opted to do one about the world's biggest boy band, One Direction, who have the kind of international fanatical following that the likes of Perry or the Jonas Brothers can only dream about. This will more likely ape the $100 million worldwide success of the Justin Bieber doco from 2011. Helmed by veteran documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), the quintet of Niall, Liam, Louis, Zayn and everyone's favorite Harry, hit screens in August/September.

One Square Mile
Acting legend Richard Jenkins stars in this $5 million indie sports drama about a reclusive Seattle track coach (Jenkins) who forms a bond with a young man (Kelly Blatz) from the wrong side of the tracks. The boy's only path out of poverty is to become an outstanding runner. The first English-language movie from French Canadian director Charles-Olivier Michaud ("Snow and Ashes," "Sur le Rythme"), the film also stars the likes of Kim Basinger, Cam Gigandet, Rhys Coiro and Dylan Arnold.

Parkland
Peter Landesman, the controversial investigative journalist for the New York Times, makes his directorial debut on this ensemble drama recounting the chaotic events that occurred at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Like "Bobby," this is essentially an ensemble piece that uses the assassination of a Kennedy as a backdrop. In this case, the cast includes the likes of Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, and Marcia Gay Harden - a list that is impressive in anyone's language. Filmed in Austin, Texas last year and produced by Tom Hanks' Playtone label - there is no word as yet on a release date.

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The Past
After Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning "A Separation" became such a major international critical success, everyone has wondered what he would do next. What he has done is this still highly secretive immigrant romantic drama about an Iranian girl (Bérénice Bejo) and a North African man (Tahar Rahim) set against the backdrop of Paris. The film is a shoo-in to premiere at Cannes where it will likely sell quickly ahead of a release in Western markets at the end of the year. One of the year's most anticipated foreign-language titles, and with good reason.

The Patience Stone
Afghanistan's un-nominated entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at this year's Oscars, Atiq Rahimi's latest work is based on his 2008 novel of the same name. The story deals with a young woman's self-actualisation in an unnamed war-torn Middle Eastern country. Said woman has two young daughters, and a comatose combatant husband unlikely to recover. Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani stars in the film which forgoes a narrative voiceover in favor of its protagonist speaking monologues to herself at times when she is alone (which is the case for much of the film).

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

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