Winter is Coming


I’ll confess to not being entirely sure if the tacky, link-baiting Game of Thrones reference in the title has crossed back over from being played-out and lame to being funny again. So if it is, in fact, not funny… sorry.

In any case, we are now just about into what is considered the midpoint of the “Summer Movie Season,” a nebulous period that now begins sometime in late April and wraps-up whenever you start seeing this or that month’s new Jason Statham movie debuting in an actual theater rather than direct to DVD. By now the reigning narratives of Summer 2013 have been largely set in stone; with the big stories being “The Avengers Brand Is Still a License to Print Money” i.e. Iron Man 3, “Women Can Open Action Movies After All” meaning The Heat outgunning White House Down at the box office, and “People Angry At Unnecessarily Gruesome Movies Based on Previously Child-Friendly Characters” meaning Man of Steel and, by Monday, The Lone Ranger. The only questions yet unanswered are whether or not The Wolverine can revive its own moribund franchise and if Pacific Rim can make a big enough impact to change the conversation about the viability of big movies based on original, non-adaptation screenplays.

In other words, we’ll soon be heading into Fall; which means that the season of what the entertainment press refers to as “grown-up movies” – but most of us can hopefully recognize as mostly being “award season hopefuls” – will soon be upon us. With that in mind, here’s the stuff coming down the pike that I’ve had my eye on…

ELYSIUM – August 9th

Watch the trailer for Elysium here.
I suppose this is more of a late-Summer entry (“Kick-Ass 2,” definitely Summertime fare, debuts a week later), but given its pedigree I must include it here. Director Neil Blomkamp’s hotly-anticipated follow-up to his surprise smash-hit debut “District 9” is another hard-edged science fiction actioner with one eye on allegory – this time for immigration: In the future, humanity’s wealthy elite live comfy, pampered, disease-free lives on the orbital space colony Elysium, while the rest of us are stuck on filthy, overcrowded Earth – with any attempt at “undocumented” (subtle!) travel to paradise prevented by heavy artillery and an army of robot soldiers. Matt Damon stars as a fed-up laborer from Earth who, faced with a fatal workplace injury, gets outfitted with a strength-enhancing robotic exoskeleton that will enable him to storm Elysium’s gates for some good ol’ fashioned class warfare. Bad. Ass.

THE BUTLER – August 16th

Watch the trailer for The Butler here.
Previously, the big story on Lee Daniels’ autobiography of longtime White House butler Cecil Gaines (initially billed as “The Black Forrest Gump“) was the eyebrow-raising weirdness of some of the historical-person casting (yes, that’s John Cusack as Nixon) in its first trailers. Now, the big story is that it might have to change its title. Me? I’m just glad to see Forrest Whitaker in another big lead role… and I also want to see just how nutty this thing turns out to be.

Daniels’ is a strange presence in Hollywood right now – a filmmaker who so-far specializes in making absurd, trashy exploitation melodramas with above-average casts (Shadowboxer, The Paperboy) that has somehow managed to smuggle his mischievously-perverse sensibilities into the world of middle-brow “prestige pictures” by virtue of the Oprah Winfrey sanctification that accompanied his breakthrough hit Precious: Based on The Novel ‘Push’ By Saffire. Her Oprahness is back for this one, this time with an onscreen part, but what I want to know is just how much Daniels’ gets to indulge the soapy histrionics that seem to be his specialty in regard to the famous First Families set to be on display. I mean, casting Severus Snape as Ronald Reagan (and Jane Fonda as Nancy!) just screams of pretense to provocation, no?

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 – September 13th

Watch the trailer for Insidious: Chapter 2 here.
Big next couple of years, potentially, for onetime Saw creator James Wan: He’s taking over the Fast & Furious franchise from Justin Lin and he has The Conjuring (a film slapped with an R-rating – despite featuring little blood, no sex and no cursing – simply for supposedly being “just too scary” according to the MPAA); but I’m focused on this sequel to his joyfully low-tech haunted-house chiller. The original, about a family that seemingly does the smart thing by immediately moving the hell out of an obviously haunted house only to find that it’s not that easy after all, ended on a note that leaves a lot of “HOW?!” questions for a sequel, but frankly, I’m just glad to have a present-day horror franchise so committed to old-school Spook House aesthetics that it opts to depict “The Other Side” using nothing but a blacked-out stage and dry ice fog. Awesome.

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GRAVITY – October 4th

Watch the trailer for Gravity here.
Between this and the surprise mega-hit of “The Heat,” is this the year Sandra Bullock finally becomes a tolerable screen presence? Don’t know, but director Alfonso Cuaron is a serious player and the “Open Water in space” premise is white-knuckle nerve-wracking stuff just on its face. Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts left adrift in orbit after a satellite is hit by space debris. Most common thing I hear from audiences whenever this trailer plays? “Nnnnnnnope!”

MACHETE KILLS – October 4th

Watch the trailer for Machete Kills here.
Yes, I know it’s Prestige Movie Time; but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from releasing guiltier pleasures so it certainly won’t stop me from looking forward to them. The original Machete‘s surprisingly effective righteousness as an Immigration Rights rallying-cry is what pushed it just far enough above the standard Robert Rodriguez genre-wallow to be interesting, no telling if this one can (or is even aiming to) repeat the trick. Incidentally, yes – I believe this may be the first time Charlie Sheen has been credited by his given name in a movie.

OLDBOY – October 25th

Mercurial American auteur Spike Lee hasn’t released a genuinely good non-documentary feature since Inside Man, but he’s a singular and undeniable talent and even his most spectacular misfires (and he has a lot of misfires) are always fascinating to watch. Honestly, without his presence as director there’d probably be no other reason to look forward to this remake of Chan Wook-Park’s celebrated 2003 manga-adaptation about a man who seeks revenge on the unknown persons who held him captive without any discernible motive for 20 years. Well, okay… Samuel L. Jackson having the lead role doesn’t hurt, either. Might be good, might be a disaster, day-one must-see either way.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD – November 1st

Watch the trailer for Thor: The Dark World here.
The question of whether anyone still cared about Iron Man as a solo franchise post-“Avengers” having now been asked and answered – to the tune of over $1,210,000,000 and counting, it is now The God of Thunder’s turn to re-introduce himself. And presumably explain to Jane Foster why he didn’t bother to so much as call when he was back in town for the weekend last Summer.

It’s officially directed by “Game of Thrones” workhorse Alan Taylor, but gossip abounds of reshoots and tinkering by others. The film has also been plagued by rumors of a messy production and a restless cast. But the trailers have looked promising, and I’m still interested to see more of the Marvel Universe’s cosmic side and rumors that the story will explore Asgard’s version of the afterlife have intriguing implications for what “death” actually means in this and other Avengers-adjacent universes and… oh, who am I kidding? Yay! Loki’s back!

ENDER’S GAME – November 1st

Watch the Ender’s Game trailer here.
One of the most influential works in youth science fiction finally comes to the big screen. I feel like the time for this may have passed, and too many of the original novel’s better points have been pillaged by other movies, but it looks promising enough. Either way, watching the producers walk on eggshells as they try and get this into theaters as “Harry Potter Joins Starfleet” while hoping against hope that Orson Scott Card doesn’t find himself in front of a camera or microphone between now and opening weekend will be entertaining on its own.


Watch the The Wolf of Wall Street trailer here.
Leonardo DiCaprio reunites with Martin Scorsese on his tireless quest to make everyone else feel even more inferior by securing a Best Actor trophy while still resembling history’s most world-weary 15 year-old. This year’s offering: A fact-based ode to capitalist villainy, with Leo as a crooked stockbroker riding out the sleazier side of the pre-2008 bubble economy. Whatever. Scorsese. Sold.


Watch the The Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer here.
It has to be better than the first one. It has to be better than the first one. It has to be better than the first one.

…doesn’t it?

hobbit part 2 poster


Watch the The Hobbit Part II: The Desolation of Smaug trailer here.
More Bilbo, more Gandalf, more Dwarves, more Orcs plus Wood Elves, a big-ass Dragon, and the return of Legolas to screens? And the dragon is played by star Martin Freeman’s “Sherlock” bro Benedict Cumberbatch, no less? Of course I’m there. It seems fairly clear that the Hobbit trilogy is ultimately going to be a different thing than LOTR was – more of a Middle Earth Rollercoaster thing than all the portent and solemnity of before – and so long as I have as much fun as I did with the first one I’m okay with that. Plus, we get to find out if the universe tears in half if Orlando Bloom and Luke Evans share a scene together…


Watch the Anchorman: The Legend Continues trailer here.
Yes, I’m psyched for this for the same reason everyone else is. Anchorman being a straight-up modern comedy classic. But let’s get real for a minute: I’m a little worried about how little of Christina Applegate’s Veronica Coringstone is in the trailers for the sequel so far. She may have had the least showy part in the original, but I maintain that she was the film’s secret weapon. If she’s been somehow sidelined for this one in favor of just re-focusing on all the more quotable characters, well… I’m sure it’ll still be funny, but definitely not as funny.

SAVING MR. BANKS – December 20th

Tom Hanks is Walt Disney (no, really – roll that around in your head for a minute) and Emma Thompson is Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in a story focusing on the complicated relationship that developed between the two notoriously headstrong creators as they hashed out the details of Walt’s now-famous adaptation of her famous books. This should be really interesting: Travers is a fascinating character (seriously, look her up – she was pretty awesome) whose decidedly offbeat life has been eclipsed by Mary’s fame today, and while the eccentric Disney’s one-of-a-kind way of running a movie studio is the stuff of Hollywood legend it’s very rarely been filmed. “Disneystalgia” is a potentially big subgenre just waiting to break, with Tomorrowland (a top-secret Brad Bird/George Clooney project that may involve ‘mysterious secrets’ related to the Disney park of the same name) now in production and a screenplay called The Magic Kingdom (in which the characters/attractions at Disneyland come to life) still kicking around looking for a director.

THE MONUMENTS MEN – December 20th

During WWII, it was the officially policy of the U.S. Army that the survival of historic, artistic and cultural treasures of Axis-occupied countries was vital to maintaining post-war stability. A specialized unit comprised of historians, professors, and art experts was established and commissioned by the army to rescue and catalog paintings, sculptures and other priceless art treasures that had been stolen by the Nazis. They also worked to “flag” buildings, museums and statuary of historic value so that Allied bombers would know what not to destroy during bombings, ultimately saving countless irreplaceable artifacts that might otherwise have been lost to history. They were real, they were awesome, and now George Clooney is directing and starring in a long-overdue movie about them.

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.