There is little doubt that 2012 will go down as a stellar year for films, ranging from the blockbuster success of comic book movies like The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises, the resurgence of James Bond with Skyfall to the teen literary world getting beginnings and endings with The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, and critically acclaimed films like Ben Affleck’s Argo and Silver Linings Playbook becoming crowd-pleasing hits.
But 2012 isn’t quite done with us yet. The final month of December holds a vast number of high-profile releases, complete with big name talent behind them aiming for box-office or Academy Award-winning gold. Here is a close look at the final crop of highly-anticipated films for the year and what their potential impact could be on pop culture.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Nine years after completing his fantastical epic trilogy The Lord Of The Rings, filmmaker Peter Jackson returns to the world of Middle-Earth to tell the prequel story of Bilbo Baggins’ adventure with a group of dwarves that leads into the monumental events of Rings with the first film of a new trilogy.
Starring newcomers Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage, along with returning favourites like Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum, Jackson has crafted a new digitally enhanced experience for his return trip to the series. The project went through years of delay from financial and ownership issues, along with first director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labrynth) departing the production.
Box Office Potential: Massive – Fans of Rings and author J.R.R.Tolkien’s work have long demanded this story see cinematic fruition and with Peter Jackson once again spearheading the content, followers feel like they are in good hands. The original LOTR trilogy generated billions in worldwide gross between 2001-2003.
Award Chances: Strong – Each LOTR film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and the third film, The Return Of The King won in 2004 (a first for a fantasy film), suggesting The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey might receive similar treatment with multiple nominations and a certain lock for a few technical categories.
Based on the series of best-selling novels by Lee Child, Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) inhabits the titular action-hero character much in the same way Matt Damon accomplished with Jason Bourne. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Way Of The Gun, writer of The Usual Suspects), Reacher steps into a homicide case involving a sniper on trial for the murder of five random suspects and sets out to secure the evidence to disprove his proclaimed innocence.
Box-Office Potential: Solid – Tom Cruise has long been proven to be a bankable commodity for Paramount Pictures (Top Gun, The Firm, Mission: Impossible) so its hard to figure Jack Reacher will underperform with the A-list star attached. Granted, it may not shatter any personal best records among audiences, but the material should be enough to put people in seats and interested eyes to the screen.
Award Chances: Non-Existent – This Cruise vehicle is made strictly for thrilling entertainment and is unlikely to generate any award nominations even if critics back it with some credibility.
Zero Dark Thirty
This is Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s highly controversial and much-talked about follow-up film to their previous work The Hurt Locker. Zero Dark Thirty is an intricate chronicle to the covert events that led to the ultimate killing of American public-enemy terrorist Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
Starring Jessica Chastain (The Help) as the key CIA analyst in the investigation, the movie was originally set as a different kind of project about the terrorist before the true events of his death took place and the script had to be re-worked to incorporate it. The movie closes with the infamous complex raid executed by Navy Seal Team 6, plus Bigelow received some backlash for learning classified information during the pre-production phase and possibly using it for the film.
Box-Office Potential: Moderate – This kind of film generally reaches a limited and mature audience who are very keen on the material, so Thirty is not the type of film aiming for big profits…but rather artistic appreciation. But due to the material still being so fresh in the minds of Americans, Thirty could very easily perform much better than The Hurt Locker.
Award Chances: Extremely High – The critics are already behind this taut and tense true life covert thriller as a masterpiece of filmmaking from Bigelow and this is exactly the type of drama that Academy members love to put on a pedestal come awards season. Zero Dark Thirty will be a major player at the upcoming Oscars for Best Picture and much more.
This Is 40
Judd Apatow re-unites with Paul Rudd and real-life wife Leslie Mann for this spin-off sequel to Knocked Up that focuses on two characters who were not the leads in the previous film and how they are adapting to marriage and parenthood as they approach 40 years-old.
Box-Office Potential: Good – Commercially Knocked Up was the biggest hit for Apatow besides The 40-Year Old Virgin, and the director is in need of a hit after once being the go-to guy for the genre over the last few years. The previews and trailers have been undeniably funny and the material should resonate well with an adult audience.
Award Chances: Minimal – There is the chance the movie could be acknowledged by the Golden Globes for Best Musical/Comedy film of the year, but beyond that it has no shot at any other nominations unless Rudd or Mann can truly deliver special comedic performances out of their characters.
Never one to shy away from changing the face of film genres, cinematic visionary Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) tackles a gritty western with an all-star cast of Jamie Foxx (Ray), Christolph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Don Johnson (Miami Vice) and Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown).
Foxx plays Django, a former slave-turned-bounty hunter who is on a quest to rescue his wife from a sleazy plantation owner (DiCaprio). Expect artistic violence and razor-sharp dialogue in true Tarantino fashion, coupled with brilliant cinematography to boot when the movie is released on Christmas Day.
Box-Office Potential: Solid – Tarantino films have a very loyal, built-in fanbase that will no doubt support his new effort and 2009`s Inglorious Basterds proved to be Tarantino`s most comercially successful film of his career to date, indicating his appeal only grows stronger with each passing project. His movies are so unique, it`s tough for anyone to pass up watching them.
Award Chances: Possible – Tarantino has been a bad-boy filmmaker but critics love him and Django could be a dark horse contender during awards season. His work is known to score awards from time to time (Pulp Fiction – Best Original Screenplay, Inglorious Basterds – Best Supporting Actor) and Django could be the kind of film to put Quentin back on the gold radar for the year.
The legendary Broadway musical set in a post-Revolutionary France about a prisoner who breaks his parole to start a new life for himself, gets the silver-screen adapted treatment from Academy Award-winning fimmaker Tom Hooper (The King`s Speech) and stars Hugh Jackman (Australia), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) and Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia!).
Box-Office Potential: Respectable – A sweeping musical of this nature is bound to generate interest in an audience who love the genre and cinematic tales set in historical periods. The film has enough star power to entice moviegoers to check it out and those who love the stage play will no doubt remain loyal to the new film adaptation.
Award Chances: Massive – Beloved musical, check. Historical drama, check. Impressive heart-felt acting performances, check. Epic filmmaking, check. Past nominated or awarded cast and crew, check. Les Miserables is a lightning rod for awards appreciation and could garner multiple wins or nominations in several categories, including Hathaway`s performance, Hooper`s direction and Best Picture.