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This week’s Big Picture offered a countdown of films I’m most excited (or, at least, interested) to see in the coming year. For the sake of tradition (and my own sanity) it was kept to an even ten, which obviously means that there are plenty of films that didn’t quite make the cut that I’m nonetheless looking forward to for one reason or another.
So, in no particular order* … here’s the cream of the not-quite-cream of the crop:

*NOTE: There’s at least one upcoming feature that would be on this list but can’t be because I’ve already seen it and just can’t break the embargo to talk about yet. So keep that in mind when the “what about … ?” stuff starts.

Chronicle

People tell me that my hatred of “found footage” filmmaking is a generational thing, and I basically agree, inasmuch as I understand that I am a member of the last generation who didn’t have its aesthetic sensibilities ruined by YouTube and camera phones. But every once in a while, someone does something interesting with the genre. Chronicle‘s hook is that a bunch of teenage douchebags have been filming themselves making mischief, but that these particular teenage douchebags have acquired telekinetic superpowers. So, Jackass meets X Men, I guess. The trailer certainly looks interesting.

Looper

In the future, gangsters dispose of their victims by zapping them back in time to our present to be executed by specially-designated hitmen (I guess the idea is that they’ll just turn up as “John Doe” corpses because they wouldn’t have records of existence.) Joseph Gordon Levitt is one such hitman, whose latest time-displaced mark (Bruce Willis) is different from the others. To say anything more would be spoiling (though I’d bet anything they’ll put it in the trailers) but rough versions of this have already screened to rave reviews. Rian Johnson (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) directs.

The Woman in Black

Ghost story, remake of a cult classic, good trailer, blah blah blah … the reason to care is that this is our first chance to see if Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe can transition to full-fledged leading man material now that his term at Hogwarts has ended. Note to future viewers: Calling out “ten points to Gryffindor!” every time he does something cool/heroic will only be funny once per theater, per showing on opening night. After that, knock it off.

Lock-Out (aka Ms-One in some territories)

In the near future, dangerous criminals aren’t just jailed – they’re put into suspended animation hypersleep and shelved in a massive high-tech super-prison … in space! Unfortunately, a jailbreak occurs and a group of non-incarcerated innocents are now hostages aboard the orbiting Alcatraz, including – yes – The President’s daughter. Guy Pearce is the bad-ass ex-military ruffian conscripted to break in and save her, presumably because, in the future, all contingency plans are just repurposed John Carpenter movies. Here’s a trailer.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

For my money, the first G.I. Joe movie got the tone (re: aggressively silly) exactly right but left a lot to be desired in its somewhat bland reimagining of the franchise’s basic look. Retaliation seems poised to correct that second part, with its teaser trailer showing off candy-colored ninjas, a cartoon-accurate Cobra Commander and a killer money shot: The Cobra Flag being raised over the White House.

The Hunger Games

Why didn’t this make the first list? Well, to be frank, because the only people who are really, really psyched for this are fans of the books and studio executives hoping that this will be the next Potter/Twilight-style mega-hit spawned from a Young Adult franchise, and I’m neither. Haven’t read `em. Sorry. I’ll get around to it. All I’ve seen is an incredibly underwhelming trailer and a plot description (teenagers forced into armed combat by decadent future society) that sounds WAY too much like Battle Royale. But, fans of the books assure me that they’re some kind of life-changing brilliance, so we’ll have to see.

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Casa De Mi Padre

Will Ferrell and a who’s-who of Latin American talent star in a parody of the Telenovela (“Spanish Soap Opera”) genre – and yes, it’s apparently (almost) all in Spanish, which Ferrell had to learn for the role. Could either be brilliant or a disaster, but I’m excited to see Will Ferrell enter the “I can get studios to greenlight my insane-sounding pet projects” phase of his career. Trailer here.

Amazing Spider-Man

On the one hand, “we have to do it and QUICK because if we don’t, Marvel might take the character back and add them to The Avengers” is both the worst, most cynically cash/contract-driven reason to make a movie and one of the worst possible conditions to make a movie under. On the other hand, those exact same factors gave us the magnificent X-Men: First Class, so maybe it’s a mistake to write Sony’s quickie/cheapie back-to-high-school Spider-Man reboot off this early. Then again … its first trailer? Ghastly. We’ll see.

Cabin In The Woods

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard made this movie two years ago, but the MGM collapse and the film’s supposedly waaaaaay out there plot twists got it shelved until now. A group of teenagers are stuck in a cabin and … well, what seems like a traditional horror setup supposedly takes a big turn for the weird. There is a trailer that shows some more, but you might want to avoid it and go in cold. Choice is yours.

Red Tails

Since “Cut!” was called on Return of The Jedi, George Lucas has been talking about various smaller non-Star Wars projects he was just about to tackle. Now, one of them has finally gotten made! Officially directed by Anthony Hemmingway (but with Lucas producing, exercising control over post-production and even directing a round of re-shoots himself) it’s a WWII action movie about The Tuskegee Airmen. Trailer looks promising, but let’s get real – the big interest is to find out if The George Lucas Story is about to have a surprise 4th Act.

Act Of Valor

A few years ago, a production company was contracted by the U.S. Military to produce an up-to-date narrative recruitment film for the Navy’s SEAL division featuring actual SEAL members and cutting edge military weapon tech in its action scenes. These sort of films are made semi-frequently, but are usually only ever shown to folks in the military who may wish to move up into other branches … but this one wound up turning out so good that it got repurposed into a wide-release feature film. (One imagines the killing of Osama bin Laden by a SEAL team last year helped generate more interest.) None of the SEALs’ real names will be used onscreen, as their identities are supposed to remain a military secret, but it should be pretty interesting to see a war movie (the story is a rescue mission) being acted out with A.) exacting attention to technical details and B.) by folks who actually know how to use the stuff we’re seeing.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. If you find yourself in Boston on January 13-16 stop by and see Bob in person at Arisia 2012

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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