I have been writing this column every year for quite some time now and it’s one I always enjoy putting together. At some point I started breaking the list up into two parts, one for the first half of the year and one for the latter half, and that not only allows me to bring attention to more films, but it also helps prevent embarrassing mistakes wherein I get all excited at the beginning of the year for a film that comes out in November only to shudder when the first trailer hits and I realize it’s going to be terrible. Part one of this year’s list went fairly well as I’d say 7 of the 10 films I spotlighted came through at least relatively well and my top choice (Star Trek Into Darkness) would probably rank as my favorite big studio release of the last six months. So now that the second half of the year has begun, let’s jump into what I’m looking forward to the most through the rest of 2013. Honorable Mention Group #1: A Handful of Indie Projects Nebraska (November 22) – Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb Fruitvale Station (July 12) – Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz All is Lost (October 18) – Robert Redford Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (August 16) – Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster The Spectacular Now (August 2) – Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh Each of these five indie films hold some serious value for me and a couple of them are likely to be major factors during Award Season. I eliminated them all of them have been released at the various film festivals and therefore have already been reviewed by many of the bigger film outlets, so I feel like it’s cheating to put them on the list.
Honorable Mention Group #2: The Big Blockbusters That Might Tank Thor: The Dark World (November 8) – Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins Ender’s Game (November 1) – Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22) – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth I would say I’m more “interested” in these movies than “anticipating” them because I think with all three, there’s a fairly decent chance of stinkage. The Thor trailer is very unimpressive to me and I’m not sure how much I care about his story as a whole. Ender’s Game is a literary classic but one that may very well be unfilmable. And while I very much enjoyed the first Hunger Games film, the book on which the sequel is based is very, very bad, and I’m concerned that the film is going to end up getting closer to Twilight than it should be. I’ll be there opening day for all three but I’m not sold.
10. Lone Survivor (December 25) – Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster Based on the true story of Seal Team 10 whose mission in Afghanistan went horribly wrong, leaving only one man alive. Lone Survivor certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the most uplifting movie of all time but the cast is superb and I’m looking forward to director Peter Berg redeeming himself after the critical debacle that was Battleship.
9. Rush (September 20) – Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde Another film with a factual basis, Rush tells the story of the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl). The trailer for this film looks amazing, Hemsworth is becoming a true movie star, and I always trust Ron Howard to deliver a well-crafted movie as long as he stays away from Dan Brown adaptations. The only thing that holds me back is the release date. This is a relatively packed Oscar season ahead of us but you would think if Rush was a true contender it would have found a place later in the year.
8. The Christian Bale Double Feature Out of the Furnace (December 6) – Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck American Hustle (December 25) – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro I’m always in for a Christian Bale film and since these two debut within a month of each other, I’m just going to throw them both together. In Furnace, Bale plays a former convict who delves into the criminal world of the depressed Rust Belt in order to find his brother (Affleck). Bale in a gritty, grimy thriller opposite Woody Harrelson sounds fantastic. This’ll be Scott Cooper’s first film since he served as writer/director for Crazyheart, which of course won Jeff Bridges an Oscar. In American Hustle, Bale reteams with David O. Russell as a con artist who is forced to work with a federal agent (Cooper) and rat on fellow crooks in order to save his own skin. This looks like the middle ground between Russell’s last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook and that middle ground should be delightful. Plus, this cast is phenomenal.
7. Captain Phillips (October 11) – Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini Apparently I’m a sucker for movies that are “based on a true story” right now. This one tells the story of Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks), who was at the helm of the cargo ship that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. The story is interesting enough and Paul Greengrass is the perfect director for the project. But mostly, I’m just excited to see Tom Hanks back in a meaningful role and one that doesn’t involve the aforementioned works of Dan Brown.
6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13) – Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage The second act in the story of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and his dwarven comrades takes the group to the Lonely Mountain and the lair of the great dragon, Smaug. Last year the first chapter in The Hobbit series was atop my most anticipated list. Really, it’s been atop my most anticipated list since I was 5. But I think, more than anything else, the first film proved that we wouldn’t be able to completely appreciate this series until all three parts have come together. So, while I’m still very excited about the next installment, my expectations have been tempered a bit.
5. Anchorman: The Legend Continues (December 20) – Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd The saga of TV newsman Ron Burgandy (Ferrell) continues in this much anticipated sequel. Anchorman is without question my favorite comedy of the last decade and quite possibly the most quotable movie of all time. So, yeah, this is kind of a big deal.
4. Elysium (August 9) – Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fitchner In a future in which the wealthy have relocated to a space station known as Elysium and the poor are left to fend for themselves on earth, one man (Damon) seeks to force equality between the two castes. Man I love smart science-fiction. Neill Blomkamp made one of the great entries into this new golden age of sci-fi with 2009’s District 9 and I can’t wait to see what he can do with a big budget to work with. The trailer is phenomenal and Damon is always a major draw for me as well. Can’t wait!
3. The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15) – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey A young and ambitious stock broker (DiCaprio) takes Wall Street by storm before his risky business practices put a target on his back. Based on the trailer the tone of Wolf of Wall Street is much different than I expected to be but that has done nothing but add to my anticipation level for the film. Scorsese reteaming with DiCaprio is another huge draw and given his recent lack of success with the Academy, I think we’re about to see DiCaprio’s master work.
2. Gravity (October 4) – George Clooney, Sandra Bullock A pair of astronauts get stranded in space above earth’s atmosphere. When the trailer for Gravity debuted, my wife turned to me wide eyed and said very firmly, “I do NOT want to see that.” She’s been a little stressed out about the tension-filled situation presented in this trailer ever since. That’s exactly why I DO want to see this film. The degree of difficulty on this movie is insane, which means it could it crash and burn or it could turn out to be a complete masterpiece. Alfonso Cuaron isn’t a prolific director, preferring instead to spend years crafting his films to his exact specifications and that looks to have paid off with Gravity, which is the early front runner in the race for Best Picture.
1. The Monuments Men (December 18) – Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett In the midst of World War II, a team of art historians work to recover and secure some of the world’s greatest works of art before Hitler destroys them. If George Clooney is directing a movie and co-staring with Damon, Murray, Blanchett, John Goodman, and a bunch of other great actors, I’m extremely interested even if the movie is about the process of putting together an IKEA bookshelf. But on the heels of last year’s Argo, which Monuments has already drawn comparison to, my excitement level goes through the roof. You can probably go ahead and mark this one down for about 500 different award nominations.