40. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier; TBA)
Synopsis: One day in the life of Anders, a young recovering drug addict, who takes a brief leave from his treatment center to interview for a job and catch up with old friends in Oslo.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Memory and nostalgia—these are the things Joachim Trier sought when creating his dark, hopeful and depressing love letter to his hometown. Rather than use that word, however, he made a point in his Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival to call it the place he was born. Every city in the world is remembered by its citizens and ex-pats. They reminiscence about good times, how they felt, or how they miss it. The opening to Oslo, August 31st is a collection of these tales—memories and recollections associated when hearing the city’s name. A montage of home videos and footage from some of Trier’s favorite Norwegian films set to the words of interviewees fondly looking back, we become set at ease awaiting a sweet story to unfold. But Trier and Eskil Vogt’s script, based on the novel Le feu follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, has a different idea as a parallel path towards melancholy unfolds. – Jared M.
39. The Grandmasters (Wong Kar-wai)
Synopsis: The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After his failed US debut My Blueberry Nights, legendary foreign filmmaker Wong Kar-wai returns to his roots with this martial arts Ip Man biopic. With a likely Cannes premiere, The Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics are all reportedly vying for domestic distribution rights. – Jordan R.
38. Untitled Jim Jarmusch Project (Jim Jarmusch, TBA)
Synopsis: Details are scarce on this vampire movie.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: We haven’t heard much about Jarmusch’s next film, but hopefully he gets the ball rolling on his “crypto-vampire love story” with Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt. Sounds like a perfect group of vampires to me. – Jordan R.
37. Savages (Oliver Stone; September 28th)
Synopsis: Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Once the genius behind such masterpieces as Platoon and Wall Street, Oliver Stone has not been treated kindly in the (still young) 21st Century. His dream project Alexander flopped in a catastrophic manner, and it’s been downhill since, with his last film being a belated sequel to the stockbroking classic. That said, Savages features a very talented ensemble cast, including Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch and Uma Thurman. Combine that with a very intriguing synopsis, and it leads me to believe that this could just possibly be a return to form for Stone. We’ll have to wait and see. – Jack C.
36. Untitled Bin Laden Project (Kathryn Bigelow; December 19th)
Synopsis: An account on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the battled on his compound that resulted in his death.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After winning the Best Picture Oscar in 2009 — not to mention beating her ex-husband James Cameron for the award — we saw Kathryn Bigelow depict one of the most thrilling, real and gritty depictions of an Army bomb squad in The Hurt Locker. Bigelow is returning to familiar ground with her latest latest project as she explores one of the most explosive stories of 2011: the death of Osama bin Laden. Bigelow is also bringing back Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal for a film that is sure to deliver a dramatic storyline, jam packed with effortless action sequences. – Megan E.
35. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold; TBA)
Synopsis: A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming off her praised coming-of-age story Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold travels back a few hundred years to re-tell a beloved classic. With barely any dialogue, the stark, but luscious cinematography overwhelms in this tough adaptation. – Jordan R.
34. Nero Fiddled (Woody Allen; Summer TBA)
Synopsis: Consists of four vignettes, in one of which a husband and his wife travel to Rome and meet the family of the Italian man their daughter is going to marry. Another of the vignettes will feature Roberto Benigni as a man named Leopoldo who gets mistaken for a movie star. A third segment will feature Alec Baldwin as an architect from California visiting Rome with his friends. In a fourth segment two newlyweds go to Rome in order to visit some relatives but instead get lost in the city.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen proved that he has most definitely still got it. Continuing his European odyssey, his next feature will be set in Rome, and is host to a stellar cast including Allen debutees Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in addition to the returning Penelope Cruz and Allen himself. Hopefully, this will be as engaging, charming and witty as some of the auteur’s most accomplished work. – Jack C.
33. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson; December 14th)
Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit, journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a group of dwarves to reclaim a treasure taken from them by the dragon Smaug.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Many, including yours truly, thought that a return to Middle Earth was wholly unnecessary. Then the video blogs, production stills, and trailer showed up, and any concerns seemed moot. Going on a fun adventure with Bilbo, Gandalf, and a few dwarves is bound to provide a great time, but seeing Jackson back in home territory could also bring some life back into him. New technology – something this franchise has helped introduce, pioneer, and dominate – such as 48FPS cameras are a big point of curiosity, too. – Nick N.
32. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach; TBA)
Synopsis: An uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife find their lives loosened up a bit after befriending a free-spirited younger couple.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Noah Baumbach is probably going to make another film that won’t reach a mass audience here. However, it should be filled with his trademark quirkiness, a quality for which he is only rivalled by Wes Anderson (fitting, since Baumbach has written some of Anderson’s films). He is also re-teaming with Greenberg star Ben Stiller, a combination that worked perfectly in that film and will hopefully work well here too. The project has a lot of potential, and although it won’t blow anyone away, it may quietly make a strong impression on you. – Jack C.
31. The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell; November 21st)
Synopsis: After spending four years in a mental institution, a former teacher moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: David O. Russell is one of the best directors working today. Russell came back big with The Fighter, a film which once again proved he’s capable of standing out while also being very commercial. After a few projects not coming together post-The Fighter, he ended up with The Silver Linings Playbook, which features a more than impressive cast. If anyone could get a great performance out of the 21st Century Robert De Niro, it’s Russell. – Jack G.
30. The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann; December 25th)
Synopsis: An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby’s nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: When you read The Great Gatsby, you don’t quite imagine the story as what visionary Baz Luhrmann would probably do with the material. Really, who expects Gatsby to breakout and start jamming to Smells Like Teen Spirit? Not me. But it’s doubtful Luhrmann is going to adapt the classic novel into a high-energy and over-the-top fest, considering the somber subject matter doesn’t quite lend itself to that approach. Or maybe I’m wrong, and Luhrmann is creating something in the vein of his previous films. If that’s the case, I’ll still be the first in line, since a Baz Luhrmann film is still a Baz Luhrmann film. – Jack G.
29. This is Forty (Judd Apatow; December 21st)
Synopsis: A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of Knocked Up.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Judd Apatow redefined the comedy genre with 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, not forgetting the numerous other films that he produced. This is the first sequel/spinoff he has been attached to, but it couldn’t be a spinoff of a better film. Featuring the returns of some characters from Knocked Up, in addition to new arrivals in the forms of major comedy stars, this has the potential to be another hilarious and heartwarming film from Apatow, should it be treated with the respect it deserves. – Jack C.
28. Untitled Ramin Bahrani Film (Ramin Bahrani; TBA)
Synopsis: A drama centered on an enterprising farmer whose plans cause problems within his family.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Having perfected the neorealist approach in films like Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, auteur Ramin Bahrani has directed his biggest film yet with his next drama. Previously titled Heartland, Zac Efron stars with Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham in this story of farming, a subject only like Bahrani could make riveting. – Jordan R.
27. Mud (Jeff Nichols; TBA)
Synopsis: A drama centered on two teenage boys who encounter a fugitive and pact to help him escape from an island in the Mississippi.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Even in it’s first moments, Jeff Nichols’ previous directorial effort, Take Shelter, was a lock for my top ten list of 2011. Given that picture’s assured and honest direction and writing, there’s every reason to think that this film could reach the same rarefied heights. The story sounds equally dark and cerebral, and Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon some fresh dramatic material to sink their teeth into. Not to mention it’s always good to see Sam Shepard on the screen. – Brian R.
26. Wettest County (John Hillcoat; August 31st)
Synopsis: Set in the Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: John Hillcoat has established his credentials as a director who utilizes harsh surroundings with his settings, from the wild west to a post apocalyptic future. For his next feature, he wants to take on the sketchy times of bootlegging and the criminals connected with it. He’s assembled a multi-talented ensemble cast, including Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska. This rich crime drama should hopefully take on the hard times with the gritty realistic approach that Hillcoat is best at. – Jack C.
The Film Stage’s 145 Most-Anticipated Films of 2012
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