The Obvious Blockbusters:
Most folks already know these movies are coming and they're also something of a known quantity, so I'm separating them out. There are, of course, other big blockbusters coming, but these are the ones I'm most interested in:
- The Dark Knight Rises - I'm obliged to include this one. I'm a huge fan of The Dark Knight, but I have to admit that I have trouble believing this new installment will even come close to its predecessor. I actually don't know much about Bane as a villain and I think Tom Hardy's a fantastic actor, but I can't imagine he'll compare favorably to Heath Ledger's Joker. What's more, this film seems to be suffering from typical superhero-sequel-villainitis - there are apparently three villains here. On the other hand, if anyone can pull it off, it's Christopher Nolan and his typical band of collaborators. I'm excited for this movie, but I'm also a little wary and am trying to temper expectations (I'm also avoiding trailers/marketing as much as possible).
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Peter Jackson has reassembled the LotR crew. I don't really need to explain why this is so awesome, but interestingly enough, I think the Hobbit is probably a more mainstream story that will really hook audiences. On the other hand, they're splitting the book (which is pretty short and straightforward in comparison to the rest of LotR) into two movies, which seems like a naked money grab. Still, I can't wait for this one.
- The Avengers - Another superhero tale, this time a superteam comprised of superheroes, each of which has had their own solo movie. The problem, of course, is that all of the solo movies have been profoundly mediocre (with the one possible exception being the first Iron Man). On the plus side: Joss Whedon is writing and directing, which is the one factor that distinguishes this movie from its ilk and really makes me want to see it. But to be honest, I want this movie to be good more because I'd like to see Whedon go on to make something original and interesting (the way Nolan was able to parlay his success with Batman to make movies like Inception).
- Skyfall - Bond finally returns to the big screen. I can't say that I'm too excited about director Sam Mendes for this, but I loved the hell out of Casino Royale and the series has nowhere to go but up after the disastrous clusterfuck of Quantum of Solace.
It seems like 2012 is brewing up a lot of original screenplays with talented directors, which is a welcome development. And an exciting one too!
- Django Unchained - Without a doubt my most anticipated movie of the year. Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino is taking on the Western, and he's assembled a fantastic cast to help him along. I'll be curious to see how the tragic loss of Tarantino's long-time editor Sally Menke (frequently cited as an important collaborator) will impact the production, but I'm confident Tarantino will be able to put together something great here...
- Looper - Writer/Director Rian Johnson's take on the time-travel story is another of my hotly anticipated films of the year. I loved Johnson's Brick and The Brothers Bloom, so this one is a no brainer. Also of note: Apparently Shane Carruth (who wrote, directed, edited, and acted in the ultra-low-budget time-travel tale Primer) is pitching in, so now I'm expecting some really mind-blowing time travel stuff.
- Wreck-It Ralph - It's been a long time since I've been excited for a new Disney Animation movie, but it appears the time has come. I don't know much about it, but it's apparently set in an arcade where video-game characters can hop from game to game. Typical villain Wreck-It Ralph gets sick of being a bad guy and attempts to channel his inner-hero. The whole intersection between video games and movies is interesting to me, so I'm expecting a lot out of this one... Also of note: Director Rich Moore cut his teeth working on The Simpsons and Futurama. Excitement level: Rising.
- The Cabin in the Woods - A horror movie with a tired premise ("Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen."), but some interesting talent attached (it doesn't seem like it will be the teenager deathtrap that so many of these movies devolve into), including a script by Joss Whedon. Color me intrigued.
- Seven Psychopaths - Writer/Director Martin McDonagh made a name for himself with In Bruges, and this latest film seems like it'll be right up my alley. Apparently the plot features a bunch of gansters and the titular psychopaths and follows the tale of a dog-kidnapping. Also, it stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, and Kevin Corrigan. Yes, please.
- Argo - I'm not sure how it happened, but Ben Affleck really has quietly become one of the more interesting directors working in Hollywood these days, and this movie seems like another offbeat choice. Apparently it follows a CIA plan to mount a fake movie production in order to save Americans trapped during the Iranian revolution. Yeah. And Jack Kirby is apparently a character? Ok. I will see this.
- The Secret World of Arrietty - It's not often that Anime films get a release in the US (and who knows how many screens this will end up on), but a new film from Japan's Studio Ghibli is always worth a shot (even if it's not directed by Hayao Miyazaki - though he has a writing credit here).
- Gravity - Director Alfonso Cuarón's one-woman show starring Sandra Bullock as the lone survivor of a space mission to fix the Hubble telescope sounds like it could be amazing. But I've never been a big fan of Sandra Bullock, and I've always found Cuarón's Children of Men to be overrated. That being said, rumors indicate that Cuarón will be relying heavily on long takes to tell this story, which could elevate a seemingly simple story into pure spectacle all by itself. Then again, it could also be a tremendously boring character piece with long shots of Sandra Bullock crying or something. Still, an original science fiction tale that might have some hard SF elements is something I am certainly excited for...
- Cloud Atlas - Six interconnected tales that span centuries and genres, directed in parallel by two units lead by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski Siblings. It's certainly ambitious and it will almost certainly be epic... but the question is whether it will be an epic clusterfuck or an epic wonder of cinema. Neither Tykwer or the Wachowskis have done anything all that interesting recently, so that's not very encouraging, but the sheer scope of this movie is interesting enough to make me want to see it...
- Only God Forgives - Nicolas Winding Refn is always interesting, though he sometimes gets a little too carried away. This film reunites him with Drive's Ryan Gosling and has a pretty strange premise: "A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match." Alright, I'm interested.
- Cosmopolis - David Cronenberg adapting a Don Delillo novel about a young millionaire's odyssey through New York in order to get a haircut stars Robert Pattinson. This could be interesting or an utter disaster.
- Bullet to the Head - Walter Hill's return to action films could be decent. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa and Christian Slater(!) and it follows a cop and a hitman joining forces to bring down a common enemy. Everyone involved in this has hit-or-miss careers, so I wouldn't get too excited, but there's potential here.
- The Great Gatsby - The thought of an adaptation of this novel alone wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the movie is being directed by the bombastic Baz Luhrmann. In 3D. I'd like to pretend like I have a clue about how this will turn out, but I have a feeling that I'd never come close to what this will actually be.
- Gambit - A script by Joel and Ethan Coen always intrigues, though director Michael Hoffman's filmography does little to inspire. Still, it sounds interesting: "An art curator enlists the services of a Texas steer roper to con a wealthy collector into buying a phony Monet painting." I kinda wish the Coens were directing, but I'll still give this one a shot...
- Wanderlust - Mostly because director David Wain is pretty awesome. Also, Jennifer Aniston. The premise is lackluster (New York couple moves to a free love commune), but Wain is typically hilarious.
- The Raven - Edgar Allen Poe hunts a serial killer. Interesting casting choice of John Cusack as Poe and a premise that could be great (even if it's pretty well trodden revisionist ground).
- Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson's next film certainly has a great cast - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban - but I'm always wary of Anderson.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Yeah, this revisionist stuff was overplayed a few years ago, but this could be a lot of fun, right? Director Timur Bekmambetov can certainly bring some interesting visual flare to the proceedings, though I don't think I really like any of his previous films (but they are pretty!)...
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation - I know, right? This doesn't sound like it would be any good, but I recently saw the preview and it actually looks like an exciting action film with some unexpected starpower in the form of Bruce Willis. I don't really expect much out of this, but it could be a bucket of fun...
- Frankenweenie - Tim Burton? I haven't been a fan of most of his recent stuff, but this animated feature sounds like it could play to Burton's particular brand of whimsy.
- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - The first movie was horrible and the preview for this isn't particularly inspiring, but co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (known mostly for the Crank films) have a wicked sense of humor and a manic visual style that could make this movie more interesting than it deserves to be.
- The Bourne Legacy - A Borne flick without Borne? It's certainly got a lot of talent attached and I'm a fan of Writer/Director Tony Gilroy (who wrote the previous installments, though his work on the third was apparently minimal due to the writer's strike), so there's a big potential upside here. But it could also fall completely flat without Damon...
There are some movies in the pipeline that may or may not be released in 2012. But when they do come out, I'd probably be interested in them:
- The Master - I have no idea what it's about, but any movie from Paul Thomas Anderson will of course be hotly anticipated by any film geek. Unfortunately, it's unclear if it will be released this year. I will say, though, that I'm disappointed that Anderson never got to make his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's awesome stoner/noir detective novel, Inherent Vice (hopefully he tackles that next).
- Inside Llewyn Davis - It's the Coen Brothers next movie. Duh. The plot summary is less than inspiring, but the Coens always seem to make their movies worth watching.
For whatever reason, these films aren't inspiring as much interest in me as they seem to be in everyone else...
- Prometheus - On the face of it, it sounds interesting. Ridley Scott directing a new original science fiction movie? Except that it's apparently something of an Alien prequel... and man, the concept of finding out the origins of the space jockey is just silly. Ridley Scott's recent output has been rather dull as well. I guess this could be good, and the preview doesn't look like the abomination that it sounds like on paper, but I'm still not really looking forward to this one...
- The Amazing Spider-Man - An unnecessary remake/reboot that doesn't look like it will add anything new or interesting to the series. I suppose it could be ok, but I have a hard to believing that.
- Lincoln - Don't get me wrong, the involvement of Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis is intriguing, but I just can't muster much interest in this biopic...