We’re living in a period in history unknown to the ancient Mayans. It’s 2013 folks, lets party like we’re Conquistadors. So my film compass was a bit off last year. I had films like Dark Shadows, (cold, implacable shiver) and The Master in my Top 10 Most Wanted list of 2012. (I liked both equally – which is to say I didn’t like them at all) I also had The Dark Knight Rises and The Bourne Legacy. Imagine my surprise that The Bourne Legacy not only turned out to be a bit anticlimactic, (my first true understatement of 2013 folks) but it also turned out to be far and away my favorite movie of the four I just mentioned.
In my defense I did have Prometheus, The Grey, Rust and Bone, Lawless, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on my list a year ago, and I ended up going crazy for each of those films.
Attempting to forecast the winning lot of movies in a given year is a careful process. I obsess over the following ten picks just as painfully as I obsess over the ten films that make the cut on my annual Top 10 Films lists. All of these movies are unknown properties at this early point in the year, so I sort of treat them like companies about to go public.
What movies am I interested in investing in? (certainly not Gavin Hood’s film adaptation of Ender’s Game – which gets my prediction for worst movie of 2013) Whose portfolio looks the strongest? Finally, and most importantly, what ten films should I premeditatively sentence my panties to a twist over..?
So what – other than a life blessed without the threat of a Mayan curse – looks good in 2013? For my money these are the 10 hottest tickets of the year.
1) Star Trek Into Darkness – Directed by JJ Abrams
Truth be told, I love Summer movies. Sad truth be told, the overwhelming majority of them – much like Courtney Love’s boobs – have gotten floppy and almost too easy to access any more. Honestly, if it weren’t for JJ Abrams, and now, Joss Whedon, I’d be prepared to call the season dead weight. These kids are making Summer vacation fun again. There are a thousand reasons why I think Star Trek Into Darkness will be the star of Summer 2013 for me – the most salient one being that I’m an unconditional Star Trek fan. That being said, I haven’t had to be an apologist for Abrams last Star Trek film like I have for something like, say… Nemesis. Or Voyager. (how bloody brilliant would it be to have Kirk bang Janeway’s grandma in Into Darkness..?) We could talk about how great it is that Abrams wrangled Cumberbatch to play the villain in Star Trek 12, or that he didn’t cast him as Khan like everyone wanted him to. (I still think this guy’s an android replicant – but keep that a secret) The truth is that JJ’s movies are popcorn sonatas – gorgeous and grand. Like the Spielberg Summer movies of my youth JJ’s movies are pure escapism. I loved Super 8. I loved Star Trek 2009. I loved Mission Impossible 3. Abrams understands that a blockbuster needs more than a pregnant special effects budget to make a studio’s 150 million dollars worth spending – and more importantly, our ten bucks worth spending. These movies need a beating heart behind the drama and action. Star Trek’s always had that. Now, thanks to Abrams, it’s right at the forefront of the franchise again. More than anything I can’t wait to sit down in front of Spock, Bones, and Kirk again, and be comfortable that some of the best screenwriters in the industry are writing their material. And even if Star Trek Into Darkness is terrible…? (it won’t be) I’ll still see it five times in the theater. Just like I did with The Final Frontier. I meant it when I said unconditional.
2) Mad Max: Fury Road – Directed by George Miller
The post-apocalypse just hasn’t been the same since Miller left it back in 1985. In fact, I can only think of one other film in the genre that I appreciate almost as much as Miller’s original Mad Max movies – the Hughes Brothers The Book of Eli. And even though I completely dig that movie, it’s still a distant second to Beyond Thunderdome. As long as I’ve been writing about movies, I’ve been waiting ardently for Miller’s Mad Max 4. Since that time cast changes, (Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. are out – Hardy and Charlize Theron are in) African civil wars, and budget problems, have made the sequel a sketchy reality at best. But as a member of the Rockatansky faithful, I kept a candle burning for this sequel. I’ve trudged on through the years with my Mad Max and Man From Snowy River Blu-Rays tucked under each wing, heart full of hope that some day George Miller would open Fury Road to the public. I guess he knew something more about what Tom Hardy’s real estate value would be in distant 2013 then maybe the public did back in 2000 when Gibson quit the production. (your math is correct – Fury Road’s been in production for 13+ years baby) Mad Max 4 has finally wrapped. It’s in post-production now. As if anyone cares right…?
I’m looking at the character roster for Fury Road, filled with names like Imperator Furiosa, (Theron) Nux, Splendid, and Rictus Erectus, (the cast is terrific too – Miller’s even got Elvis’s granddaughter in this thing) and visions of road-warriors, wasteland vermin, and righteous trash are consuming my waking thoughts. I have a few provisions about this new Max film. I’m more than thrilled that Tom Hardy is replacing Gibson as the lead, but for anyone who grew up with the terrible American dub of Mad Max, an Australian accent is imperative for this character. And we need real car wrecks and stunts. No floppy disc (it’s an 80’s expression) effects on this outing please. If George Miller feels at all out of touch with his younger, intrepid, pre-Babe: Pig in the City self he only need look to a few modern examples of what he was once capable of putting on celluloid. Namely Nic Refn’s Valhalla Rising, Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, and maybe Stallone’s last Rambo film. Please ignore the languid offspring of Indiana Jones and Conan the Barbarian George Miller – harness the blood frenzy and diesel fumes of the Max films of old and inject some of that ancient horsepower into Fury Road. You’ll have a fan forever.
3) The Counselor – Directed by Ridley Scott
Was anyone else bummed when Ridley Scott’s production of Blood Meridian got canned? I certainly was. My two favorite things in the world almost came together that year. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy almost had a baby together. And what a homicidal rat-bastard he would have been had he survived that toxic womb. Which is why it thrilled me to no end that Scott bought Cormac’s screenplay, The Counselor, about a lawyer (Fassbender) getting involved with Mexican drug cartels. And because lightning can strike twice, he cast Javier Bardem in another Cormac McCarthy film about drug money. If Ridley can do what the Coens managed to do with No Country for Old Men, and step aside to let the writing do all the heavy lifting in The Counselor, then he’s well on his way to making one of his better films in ten years. Not that I don’t like, or go completely gaga over big Ridley Scott productions. If I even allow myself to daydream about Blade Runner 2 I immediately foam up like Pavlov’s dog. But I dig “small-scott” just as much as his blockbuster-scale material. The Counselor affords Ridley the chance to reconnect with his, fanatically snooty, detractors. I’m just thrilled that while Michael Mann and David Fincher are on hiatus, I’m getting two Scott movies in as many years. Now if we can just push Blade Runner 2 toward a 2015 release date, alongside Avatar 2 and the new Star Wars sequels, then we’ll….. Uh oh. Look at me. I’ve began foaming again.
4) Noah – Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Noah is currently listed as a March 2014 release, with the film presently listed as in post-production. I think that it would be a MAJOR BLUNDER for Paramount to release this movie any other time than 2013’s Holiday season. You have an epic biblical period piece made by one of Hollywood’s proven avant garde filmmakers – who’s already released films (The Wrestler and Black Swan) that did exceptionally well during the holidays – and the plan is to dump the film in March? I don’t believe it. My prediction is that Noah will be on the menu in December right next to The Desolation of Smaug – if it isn’t, then consider The Hobbit II one of my Most Wanted Films of 2013. The truth is I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone to make a movie set in the antediluvian period when the Earth was full of demigods and giants. That it happens to be Darren Aronofsky making the movie is a considerable bout of good fortune. I love Darren’s films, and Noah has the potential to be a great cinematic achievement for the filmmaker. And who doesn’t like Russell Crowe in the role of Ark Builder?
5) Only God Forgives – Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn/Place Beyond the Pines – Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Two Ryan Gosling movies? Why not? When he’s working with Nic Refn (Drive) and Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) it’s best to turn off the urge to envy this kid’s career and adoration and just accept that Gosling, as pretty as he is, works with great talent. Without the inclusion of Ryan Gosling people who normally wouldn’t have bothered now go to art films. Thanks to Ryan half a million teenage girls dozed off during Drive and still managed to wake up titllated and ready for the Ides of March. Gosling puts butts – nice ones – in theater seats. One of the biggest regrets of my cinema life, other than paying to watch both Expendables movies, is that I didn’t get to see Blue Valentine in time to include it on my Top 10 List back in 2010. It’s since become one of my more favorite, more divisive, films to recommend to friends. Blue Valentine should leave you appropriately rattled. It’s a film that needs the post-pie-and-coffee-discussion once its ran its course. I’m interested in anything the people behind Blue Valentine have in the chamber for us. That A Place Beyond the Pines is a crime film…? Is nothing but pure providence. As for Only God Forgives? If you’re ignoring Nic Refn at this point, then you’re ignoring the limits of what contemporary cinema is capable of. I’m there for anything Nic Refn does at this point. That he’s chose to make a kickboxing movie in Bangkok, I couldn’t be more tickled. And who doesn’t love this poster? Even you girls want to break out the Band-aids and Benadryl looking at this bad boy.
6) The Wolf of Wall Street – Directed by Martin Scorsese
It’s Scorsese and DiCaprio. Marty’s adapting Jordan Belfort’s biography about his many Wall Street proclivities – including cocaine, loose women, and pump n’ dump stock trading. I don’t think we’ve had a good business movie since last year’s Margin Call – and before that it was the two Oliver Stone Wall Street films. I’m most definitely NOT considering The Boiler Room, which, oddly enough, was based on Belfort’s actual exploits on Wall Street. The Wolf of Wall Street feels like the perfect film to snuggle up and get cozy with next Fall. I love it when these two guys work together.
7) The World’s End – Directed by Edgar Wright
So we’ve reached the final installment of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy – better known as the Cornetto trilogy. What’s this triad of films I speak of? If you’ve seen Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz you’re two-thirds of the way through Blood and Ice Cream, you just didn’t know it. I know this film is about an epic pub crawl during the apocalypse. I also know that it’s by the team that brought is Shaun and Hot Fuzz. This is absolutely the bare minimum of information I need to get excited about this movie. This is 2013’s safest bet.
8) The Man of Steel – Directed by Zack Snyder
Iron Man 3? Or The Man of Steel? It’s a fanboy deathmatch in Summer 2013. Where do your allegiances lie? DC or Marvel? With the original Man of Steel, or the man, literally crafted out of steel? My allegiances are all about the two guys making these movies this Summer. I want to see a new Shane Black flick just as much as I want a new Snyder flick. I think Marvel’s leading the charge as far as their recent film productions go, and Iron Man’s a proven box office contender. That being said…. The Man of Steel has the hotter trailer. And I bleed red, white, and DC. I love Zack Snyder movies (yep… I own, and distantly appreciate Sucker Punch, feel free to stare if you see me in public) but Man of Steel looks like he’s taken his film game to another tier. The coveted Nolan tier. I think most people are ready for a great Superman flick. Which isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Superman’s pretty much Godzilla. You need a King Kong to keep the fighting fair. Snyder’s got Michael Shannon, Hollywood’s current A-list nutcase, in the role of General Zod. It’s an interesting, if not too familiar match-up. The cast in this new film has me the most excited, Superman’s looks as though he’s got a supporting cast and film worthy of the weight his name carries. For once in my life I’m actually excited about the prospect of a Super-series.
9) Stoker – Directed by Chan-wook Park
There are a few reasons to get excited for Chan-wook Park’s Stoker, not the least of which is that this is the first American film feature from the director of Oldboy. (anyone else less than thrilled that Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake is being released this year as well?) There’s also Stoker’s trailer (my favorite trailer for a 2013 film so far, outside of World War Z – see below) which hints that this might not be a young adult novella dressed up for adults – but something much darker at heart. Then there’s Fangoria magazine’s recent review of the flick at its Sundance premiere last week. They gave Stoker an almost perfect rating. Who needs Variety and Time magazine when America’s Horror Magazine is now writing reviews for Nicole Kidman movies? I like the new wardrobe Nicole – you look great in black. But the real reason I’m looking forward to Stoker is that it doesn’t look conventional in any sense of the word, even if viewed as a piece of American Gothic. We’re used to convention in American cinema, and something as “off” as this movie certainly feels is something worth taking note of. I’m actually heading out to see an early preview of Stoker just a few hours from now. Not only does this affirm how behind on my schedule I was in 2013 publishing my 10 Most Wanted Films list, but also that I felt the overpowering need to make sure that Park’s movie made this specific cut before I had a chance to see the film. I believe in Stoker – sight unseen.
10) World War Z – Directed by Marc Forster
Obviously we’re not going with everything in Max Brooks’s book. I think the biggest loss to this movie will the blind swordsman in Japan chapter of the novel. That being said…. the trailer for World War Z looks absolutely phenomenal. I’m still wondering if Marc Forster was the right filmmaker for this project, but whoever came up with the idea of the zombie-swarm needs a big, wet kiss on the forehead. At this point we’ve almost seen everything the living dead have to offer, but a rolling tidal wave of corpses is a new, fresh horror in the genre. World War Z is one of the few victims of 2012’s mass transit to 2013 that I think will actually benefit from the bump. This looks heavy enough to contend with most of Summer 2013’s blockbuster candidates next June. It’s about time zombies raided the domestic box office – with a 125 million dollar budget their march into Summer movie season better be fantastic. The source material this film was drawn from sure is.
Those are my Hot 10-ish for 2013. Of course I’m plenty interested in Danny Boyle’s Trance, Joe Kasinski’s Oblivion, The Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis, Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, Khalfoun’s remake of Maniac, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, (apparently we’re going to be able to pick and choose our maniacs in 2013) Alfonso Cuaron’ Gravity, (which made this list last year) Justin Lin’s latest Fast and Furious flick, Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, and I would have to be a total fruit loop not to cross my heart and hope that Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is every bit as cool as it looks – but, oddly enough, I sense a foul smell around this production. I’ve been burned a few times by things looking too good to be true. And Pacific Rim looks like just that very thing.