Top 10 Anticipated Movies of 2012 (Part I)

Two quick primers on the list you're about to read/flip through absentmindedly:

1.) Last year I started breaking this list into two parts: January through June and July through December. That allows me to highlight ten more films, of course, but it also gives me more time to have a feel for what in the world I can expect from the year's later releases.

2.) This is FAR from a science. I pride myself on my ability to pick out bad movies and avoid them but my foresight has limits. I'm lucky if I've even seen a teaser trailer for anything scheduled for release later than mid-February, let alone the titles you'll see below that debut in the summer. This is a crapshoot. I looked back at last year's Part I and was embarrassed to see a couple of truly awful films made the list. But hey, that's how things go sometimes and I'm more than willing to stick my neck out one more time.

I firmly believe 2012 will be a great year for film but it is extremely bottom heavy. That is to say, most of its value will be found in the back half of the year while the front half is somewhat lackluster. So please bear that in mind as we delve into my Top 10 Anticipated Movies of 2012 (Part I).

Honorable Mention: Jeff Who Lives at Home - Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer
The only reason this film, about a thirtysomething who still lives in his mother's basement, didn't make the list is that it will receive a limited release (the bane of my moviegoing existence). That means I probably won't end up seeing it until it hits DVD shelves and if I'm not going to see it in theaters, then I don't feel good about giving it a spot here. That's too bad because I think this is going to be stinking funny.

10. Men in Black 3 - Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
I'm well aware that the trailer for MIB 3 is, shall we say, less than promising. I admit I'm nervous, especially taking into consideration the whole time-travel thing which is usually a bad sign. But here's the thing: I love Will Smith. Always have, always will. I wish the guy would take on more challenging roles from time to time (Django Unchained would have been PERFECT) but I almost always enjoy his movies and often times, I enjoy them quite a bit. Smith hasn't been in a movie in 3 years and as a result I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. I'll take my chances with a haphazard plot. Also, the idea of Josh Brolin playing Tommy Lee Jones sounds uber-appealing.

9. Dr. Suess' The Lorax - Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms
It is always smart to be at least somewhat suspicious of any animated film that isn't related to Pixar and Dr. Suess books haven't translated well the screen overall. But the visuals on The Lorax looks fantastic, this is one of my very favorite Suess books, and the studio busted out a Polyphonic Spree song for the trailer which is ALWAYS a smart move. So consider my interest piqued.

8. Chronicle - Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell
There will always be a spot for a low-budget sci-fi film on my list. Deal with it. This one, about three friends who are mysteriously given super powers, looks extra appealing even if it will, undoubtedly, touch on teenage angst a little more than I'd like. Looks like we'll be treated to solid special effects and what could be a compelling, if unoriginal, storyline. I'm also on the lookout for a quality performance from Jordan (of Parenthood and Friday Night Lights fame) who has the chops to be a hot name in Hollywood over the next couple of years.

7. M.S. One: Maximum Security - Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare
If you enjoyed Taken and are excited about Taken 2 (which will open later this year), then you will certainly appreciate MS One which is basically Taken 1.5. It centers on a falsely-convicted criminal who is given his freedom in exchange for rescuing the president's daughter from a prison colony on the moon and it is produced by Luc Besson. I can't tell you, dear readers, that this will be a "good" movie but I can tell you it will be a "ridiculously fun" movie that I will be in attendance for on opening weekend. I honestly can't wait. Also, I think it's high time that the world recognizes how boss Pearce really is and maybe his subbing in for Liam Neeson will make that happen.

6. The Five-Year Engagement - Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, A Whole Lot of Really Funny People
This R-rated comedy (title should be explanatory as far as the plot goes) reunites director Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel who previously collaborrated on both The Muppets and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller's other work, Get Him to the Greek, is one that grows on me every time I run across it on cable. These are just genuinely funny guys. Add in the Bridesmaids feel and the RIDICULOUS supporting cast (Chris Pratt, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Parnell to name a few) and you've got a potential smash hit.

5. Moonrise Kingdom - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray
One of my simple rules for picking good movies is this: if Wes Anderson directed it, it's good. Like I said, simple. Anderson's unique style is irresistible for me and I don't think the guy has ever made a bad movie. His last venture, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, MIGHT be his best (heresy, I know). Moonrise, about two pre-teens who run away together, sounded appealing enough sight unseen. Then the first trailer hit last week and I'm now completely on board. What a great cast! Really, really excited for this one.

4. Prometheus - Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace
Ridley Scott's "it's not an Alien prequel but yeah, it's an Alien prequel" sci-fi extravaganza will have been garnering serious Internet attention for the better part of two years by the time it actually opens in theaters.   With an incredible cast and an established fan base, I think we can bet on Prometheus bringing in a haul at the box office this summer. And that's good because, in all honesty, Scott could really use a hit. Since Gladiator brought him a Best Picture Oscar, he's been at the helm for Hannibal (awful), Black Hawk Down (critical success but not a huge winner at the box office), Matchstick Men (good, not great), Kingdom of Heaven (I love this movie, most people do not), A Good Year (beating), American Gangster (not the success it aspired to be), Body of Lies (bombed), and Robin Hood (one of the most disappointing movies of 2010). "Needs" a hit would be strong terminology but his return to space could provide a major boost.

3. The Avengers - Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
I have conflicting feelings about this one. The nerd in me is absolutely freaking out about seeing this many superheroes together at one time. (Add in the fact that Nerd King Joss Whedon is at the helm and it becomes almost too much to handle.) At the same time, however, I haven't been quite as enamored by the trailers as my fellow nerds have. I don't think there's any way this movie will be bad; I'm just nervous that it isn't going to be the world beater it needs to be in order to justify the unique way Marvel has built its programming toward this release. The task of blending all of these actors together is another hurdle in my mind. This isn't the same as the standard ensemble film. It's one thing to take a back seat to another actor when you're a part of a big cast working for a great director; it's another entirely to do so while also playing a character for which you are famous. Obviously I'm STOKED to see this movie but I've got a bit of anxiety regarding whether or not the idea of this movie is better than the movie itself.

2. The Hunger Games - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson
Three things about my experience with this franchise:
1.) I love the first book in the Hunger Games series (on which this movie is based);
2.) I think the two that follow are shoddily put together and repetitive;
3.) I have NO IDEA how well the book will translate to the screen. While reading I kept wondering how in the world Gary Ross would be able to maintain the book's harsh reality and keep it PG-13. I'm still not sure if it's possible.
The trailer for The Hunger Games, though, is outstanding. I love the look of the film and I am thoroughly excited to see Lawrence take on a role I believe she will excel in. And lest we forget, American Treasure Woody Harrelson is going to be GREAT in this movie. Expect this movie to make a RIDICULOUS sum of money this Spring.

1. Brave - Kelly Mcdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd
I debated what order this top three should end up in and settled on Brave at number one for two reasons:
1.) Pixar is the best film studio. Ever.
2.) Coming off of Cars 2, the studio's only miss in its 16 year history, I think Pixar is going to bring the thunder even more than usual. That is to say, I expect they've gone even further above and beyond to ensure that Brave is incredible.
This will be Pixar's first film that centers on a female character. I'm genuinely excited to see what they can do with that concept in mind and while the trailer doesn't give away much as to the plot, I think it looks amazing. Plus, can we all agree that it's just cool when a movie is based in Scotland? I mean, who doesn't love it when we have an excuse for Billy Connolly to show up? By the end of June, I imagine no one will even remember that Cars 2 was a thing.