Now that we’ve made it through the first two weeks of January relatively unscathed, it is time to kick off our countdown of our most-anticipated films of the year, timed with the first weekend that includes a film on the list below. While our comprehensive countdown includes a range of selections from Christopher Nolan to Michael Haneke — each with a specific reasoning on why they belong — much of the excitement that goes with being a cinephile lies in the surprises each year. So while we conducted extensive research to bring titles you may not have heard of, stayed tuned to The Film Stage all year long for thorough film festival coverage. Without further adieu, check them all out below counting down to our #1 most-anticipated of the year.
145. ATM (David Brooks, April 6th)
Synopsis: On a late night visit to an ATM, three coworkers end up in a desperate fight for their lives when they become trapped by an unknown man.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming from the writer of Buried, this one-room (er, ATM vestibule) film will likely be full of plotholes and the cause of screaming “why on earth would you do that?” at the screen. But I have no doubt ATM will be some old-fashioned fun, a goofy addition to IFC Midnight’s slate of VOD releases. So withdraw some money, curl up and check out this gimmicky horror one late night this spring. – Jordan Raup
144. Get the Gringo (Adrian Grunberg; TBA)
Synopsis: A career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 9-year-old boy.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Shelved since Mel Gibson‘s outbursts, the actor opted for a more dramatic new impression with The Beaver and with that utterly failing, this action film is the only thing left in the backlog. With only a still and a poster released thus far the film previously known as How I Spent My Summer Vacation has yet to pick up US distribution. Are studios rightfully scared of Gibson’s kiss of death or is it just a flat-out bad film? It would be nice if this was a fun throwback action flick and hopefully we’ll find out later this year. – Jordan R.
143. Welcome to People (Alex Kurtzman; TBA)
Synposis: A man is tasked with delivering $150,000 of his deceased father’s fortune to the sister he has never met.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Oddly missing from the Sundance line-up is the directorial debut from Alex Kurtzman, screenwriter behind the summer’s biggest films like Star Trek and the Transformers trilogy. With cast including Olivia Wilde, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chris Pine, Jon Favreau and Mark Duplass, here is hoping Kurtzman can deliver some unfounded talent behind the camera. – Jordan R.
142. Untitled Taken Sequel (Olivier Megaton; October 5th)
Synopsis: In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Taken took everyone by surprise when it was released in 2008, turning Liam Neeson into an unlikely action star and becoming a hit both critically and commercially. You can argue the merits of making a sequel to a story that seemed so self-contained but that’s also part of the fun: how does Taken 2 measure up to the first one? We’ll see in October. Meanwhile get prepared to tally up how many times Neeson will throat chop the bad guys in his way; my money is on 450. – Jonathan Sullivan
141. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov; June 22nd)
Synopsis: President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Timur Bekmambetov, who helmed the chilling and inventive vampire tales Night Watch and Day Watch, brings his keen eye and dark wit to this thrilling adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s cheeky cult-adored novel. Adding some sex appeal to Honest Abe’s stake-wielding adventure is a cast that includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker). – Kristy Puchko
140. Bullet to the Head (Walter Hill; April 13th)
Synopsis: After watching their respective partners die, a cop and a hitman form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: He may be a right-wing madman, but Walter Hill is responsible for some of the most memorable action films of our time, from the cultishly weird (The Warriors) to the funny and genre-defining (48 Hours). After a ten-year break, he returns with Sylvester Stallone to hopefully bring a little more skill to the standard action film. – Anthony Vieira.
139. Titanic 3D (James Cameron; April 6th)
Synopsis: A boy and a girl from differing social backgrounds meet during the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Yes, I know we’ve already seen it. But when it comes to most 3D releases being post-converted messes, the technology’s pioneer James Cameron is one of few that can do it right. From the brief glimpses I’ve seen in the 3D theatrical trailer it looks to be an epic worthy of the upgrade. Or it is just that damn Celine Dion song that pervades right into my heart. – Jordan R.
138. The Babymakers (Jay Chandrasekhar; TBA)
Synopsis: After failing to get his wife pregnant, a guy recruits his pals to steal the deposit he left at a sperm bank years ago.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After their flop The Slammin’ Salmon, the comedy troupe Broken Lizard (also behind Super Troopers and Beerfest) are back with a new film. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Schneider is getting a much deserved lead comedy role in what hopefully is a return to form for the group. – Jordan R.
137. Ted (Seth MacFarlane; July 13th)
Synopsis: A story centered on a man and his teddy bear, who comes to life as the result of a childhood wish.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Being so completely out of touch with Family Guy and Seth MacFarlane‘s other animated ventures, I come with mixed feelings to his live-action debut. First off, the concept of a teddy bear coming to life is so crazy it just make work, especially if done with a comedic tone unlike last year’s dry drama The Beaver. Then there is Mark Wahlberg, who has been more impressive in funnyman roles than in his many recent action films or dramas. Coupled with Mila Kunis, here is hoping MacFarlane can do more than flashbacks and parodies. – Jordan R.
136. Great Hope Springs (David Frankel; December 14th)
Synopsis: After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense counseling weekend to decide the fate of their marriage.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After last year’s mega-bomb The Big Year, The Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel is hoping to return with this dramedy. With Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones getting counseling from Steve Carell, it could be a perfect trio to deliver laughs. – Jordan R.
135. Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman; June 1st)
Synopsis: Set in 1987 Los Angeles, Drew and Sherrie are two young people chasing their dreams in the big city. When they meet, it’s love at first sight, though their romance will face a series of challenges.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Adam Shankman has made some terrible films. From Bedtime Stories to The Pacifier, he usually reserves a spot on most critics’ year end worst lists. But Shankman also showed many years ago, with his 2007 version of Hairspray, that he is capable of far more. Rock of Ages, another musical, looks to be in the vein of his John Waters adaptation, which was one of the most pleasant surprises in recent years. – Jack Giroux
134. Donny’s Boy (Sean Anders, John Morris; June 15th)
Synopsis: A father moves in with his son right before his wedding and soon begins sparring with his daughter-in-law.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After helming the crude and funny Hot Tub Time Machine back in 2010, Sean Anders and John Morris have made names for themselves in the comedy world. With Adam Sandler hopefully showing he can do more than just bad Dennis Dugan films, he is joined by Andy Samberg, Susan Sarandon and James Caan for this new family feud. – Megan Elsen
133. The Bay (Barry Levinson; TBA)
Synopsis: Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: His best film in years (and years) was the recent HBO mini-series You Don’t Know Jack, suggesting that the old dog may have learned some new tricks. Add to that Levinson’s return to Maryland roots meshed an eco-disaster conflict he’s never attempted anything like, and it feels like the best of both worlds. – Dan Mecca
132. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky; TBA)
Synopsis: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The book upon which this film is based became something of a modern classic among the high school literati. The story, about a loner freshman getting ushered into an adult world he may not be ready for, has a lot of dramatic punch. Passages of the story strike painfully close to home for anyone who has been through that awkward stage of trying to figure out who you are or where you belong. Harry Potter fans should get a kick out of seeing Emma Watson in a new dramatic role, and fans of the book will be happy to know that the writing and directing of the screen version will be handled by none other than the book’s author, Stephen Chbosky. – Brian Roan
131. Neighborhood Watch (Akiva Schaffer; July 27th)
Synopsis: Suburban dads form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families, only to discover a plot to destroy Earth.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The concept induces a couple of groans on my own part, but the eclectic lineup – how many American studio films cast Richard Ayoade in a lead role? – and writing credits from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are hard to scoff at. If those two elements can converge upon the high-concept premise, a good time should be had. – Nick Newman
130. Bernie (Richard Linklater)
Synopsis: In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she’s alive.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: It feels like Richard Linklater’s been gone for a while, in part because his last three films (Me and Orson Welles, A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation) have gone underseen. Bernie, a dark comedy about a mortician who kills a friend of his than attempts to pretend she’s still alive, may be weird enough to break the recent trend. – Dan M.
129. Casa de mi Padre (Matt Piedmont)
Synopsis: Scheming on a way to save their father’s ranch, the Alvarez brothers find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Will Ferrell is doing what he naturally does best, a film entirely in Spanish. Add in two of the best actors fluent in the language, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, and we have an enticing project. Will it feel like an overlong SNL sketch or a worthwhile comedy feature? We’ll find out soon when it hits theaters this spring. – Jordan R.
128. My Mother’s Curse (Anne Fletcher; November 2nd)
Synopsis: An inventor and his mom hit the road together so he can sell his latest invention.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After his hit comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love., screenwriter Dan Fogelman is paired with The Proposal director Anne Fletcher for his next project. I can’t wait to see the fantastic Adam Scott get another lead role, along with Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks. – Jordan R.
127. The Words (Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal; TBA)
Synopsis: When an aspiring writer claims another man’s long-lost work as his own, the price he must pay is more than he could have ever imagined.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: When he isn’t the Sexiest Man Alive or taking pills to be smart, Bradley Cooper can deliver a performance much stronger than his reputation would suggest. The Words, by all accounts, will allow him to do just that, while the impressive line-up of actors look to be just as well-off in this drama with a plenty-intriguing premise. – Nick N.
126. The Woman in Black (James Watkins; February 3rd)
Synopsis: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Daniel Radcliffe finally gets to put down the wand for this gothic thriller, his first outing since last year’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. The former boy wizard is haunted by an evil spectre in the second film from horror helmer James Watkins. In his own grisly way, Watkins helped introduce the world to newcomer Michael Fassbender back in 2008 with Eden Lake, and we all know how well that turned out. If the trailers are any indication, audiences should enjoy watching Radcliffe move into new territory in this creepy, Victorian ghost story. – Amanda Waltz
125. Bomb (Sally Potter; TBA)
Synopsis: Two teenage girls living their life in 1960s London.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming off of 2009’s Rage, Potter is no stranger to unique story telling or dramas. After making a name for herself in 1992 with Orlando, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel, Potter forged her path in directing memorably pensive films. This time around, she’s brought in Elle Fanning, one of the best young actresses working today, along with Christina Hendricks, to tell her angsty-dramatic-period piece tale of young girls discovering love, friendship and London in the 1960s. – Megan E.
124. Frankenweenie (Tim Burton; October 5th)
Synopsis: Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: As I child I remember watching the original Tim Burton short. There was, even then, an emotional resonance to the idea of a child wanting his dog back to life. The idea of having this tale of a boy and his dog brought to the big screen with a full length treatment is both promising and worrisome. On the one hand, Burton might get in his own way with too much production design and not enough heart. However, the combination of old-school sentiment and earnestness, as well as the novelty and energy of the stop-motion medium far out-weight that petty worry. The kid in me is jumping for joy, and the grown-up cinephile is eager to see what stop-motion Burton can do. – Brian R.
123. The Brass Teapot (Ramaa Mosley; TBA)
Synopsis: When a couple discovers that a brass teapot makes them money whenever they hurt themselves, they must come to terms with how far they are willing to go.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Based on her short of the same name, Mosley makes her directorial debut with this indie drama. From that synopsis, it sounds like a varied version of The Box, and in my eyes, that isn’t a bad comparison. The promising cast includes many up-and-coming actors such as Juno Temple, Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawkat and Michael Angarano. – Jordan R.
122. Great Expectations (Mike Newell; TBA)
Synopsis: A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: We’ve seen this story countless times and after Prince of Persia, here is hoping Newell can get back to more comfortable territory with this adaptation. Marking the next big film from War Horse star Jeremy Irvine, he is joined by Ralph Fiennes, Sally Hawkins and Helena Bonham Carter. Let’s pray it can match up to Alfonso Cuaron’s slightly overlooked version. – Jordan R.
121. Bachelorette (Leslye Headland; TBA)
Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The directorial debut from the writer of the short-lived FX show Terriers has rounded up a fantastic comedy ensemble for this Sundance dramedy. Kirsten Dunst seems to be in a more chipper mood after her other wedding film Melancholia, joined by Isla Fisher, James Marsden, Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott. – Jordan R.
120. Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine; August 10th)
Synopsis: After a zombie becomes involved with the girlfriend of one of his victims, their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After being inundated with schlocky vampire and zombie films trying to ape off the success of franchises like Twilight, I always find it interesting when capable directors tackle genre outings. We got one of the best films of the last decade with Tomas Alfredson‘s Let The Right One In and now another director is taking a major genre turn with Warm Bodies. Described as a “zombie romance” story, Jonathan Levine goes from cancer (50/50) to the walking dead. I’m curious of the tone with comedic actors like Rob Corddry, but nonetheless it is a new film from a talented up-and-comer. – Jordan R.
119. The Dictator (Larry Charles; May 11th)
Synopsis: The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Sacha Baron Cohen blew audiences away as Borat and Bruno, both fictional characters who interacted with real people in hilarious ways to make two of the funniest and sharpest documentaries of the decade. He’s had small scripted roles before, but The Dictator will be his first scripted lead. Considering how relevant dictators getting overthrown is right now, it’ll be loaded with just as much sneaky cultural commentary as his mock-docs. – James Battaglia
118. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow; TBA)
Synopsis: Two magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Playing in the dramatic competition at Sundance, this low-budget indie mixes some sci-fi and romantic comedy for what should be an entertaining combo. Staples on the independent scene, Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza, are joined by Kristen Bell, Jake Johnson, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Jeff Garlin. – Jordan R.
117. 47 Ronin (Carl Rinsch; November 21st)
Synopsis: An 18th century set story centered on a band of samurai who set out to avenge the death of their master.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Carl Rinsch’s a talent to watch. His commercials and excellent short film The Gift showed a director with a vision. Rinsch was once tapped to make the Alien prequel as his feature debut, and his commercials showed he certainly has an eye to create a big and bold vision. With 47 Ronin, hopefully he’ll be able to deliver just that on the big screen. – Jack G.
116. Gods Behaving Badly (Marc Turtletaub; TBA)
Synopsis: Greek gods living in modern-day New York intervene in the lives of a young couple.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Long-time indie producer Marc Turtletaub is making his directorial debut with this fantastical tale. Christopher Walken, Sharon Stone, Alicia Silverstone, John Turturro and Oliver Platt round out the major cast and coming from a filmmaker behind Little Miss Sunshine and Away We Go, here is hoping the same charm comes across. – Jordan R.
115. Movie 43 (Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrick Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner; April 13th)
Synopsis: A feature-film comprised of short comedy segments.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Featuring what could possibly be one of the best casts of the year (Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Stephen Merchant and many, many more), this short film experiment is in the hands of many skilled comedic directors. But will it fare like The Ten or be a success? With the talent involved, lets hope the latter. – Jordan R.
114. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden; May 4th)
Synopsis: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Due to Miramax’s financial problems, by the time The Debt hit theaters last year thanks to Focus Features, John Madden was already well underway with his next film. Coming from Fox Searchlight, Marigold Hotel looks like a leisurely effort from the trio of Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy, but it could be a much-needed alternative to the packed slate of massive summer blockbusters. – Jordan R.
113. Thanks for Sharing (Stuart Blumberg; TBA)
Synopsis: Three people undergo a 12-step treatment for sex addiction.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The directorial debut of the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind The Kids Are All Right shot in NYC last year and distribution will hopefully arrive this year. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo, the concept makes it seem like a rom-com version of Shame, something I’d certainly like to see pulled off. – Jordan R.
112. The Grey (Joe Carnahan; January 27th)
Synopsis: In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: This entry into the little-served wilderness survival genre has a lot to be excited for. Buzz coming out of BNAT is strong, and the trailers have show some audacious action beats. Director Joe Carnahan has proven himself a fairly able director of action fare. Smokin’ Aces was uneven and preposterous, but when it reached a fever pitch of violence it also had a kind of visceral punch. Add to those flashes of genius the charismatic action hero monolith that is Liam Neeson, and you’ve got something worth looking out for. – Brian R.
111. Safe House (Daniel Espinosa; February 10th)
Synopsis: A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds team up for the first time ever in this action packed crime thriller from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, coming off his praised Snabba Cash. Filmed on location in Cape Town, audiences can expect plenty of explosions, car chases and gun fire in the foreground of the bustling South African city. That along with an intense performance from Washington, who shines in these types of bad guy roles. – Amanda W.
110. Escape From M.S. One (James Mather, Stephen St. Leger; April 20th)
Synopsis: A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the President’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Luc Besson‘s action flicks usually fall into one of two categories: dumb or dumb fun. After his last produced effort Columbiana fell squarely in the former category, Escape From M.S. One (formerly titled Lockout), looks to be a return to form. Taken‘s Maggie Grace needs rescue again, only this time in space. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather carry out the mission than Guy Pearce. – Jordan R.
109. The Avengers (Joss Whedon; May 4th)
Synopsis: The S.H.I.E.L.D. agency brings together a team of superhumans to help save the Earth from annihilation by extraterrestrial invaders.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The brief glimpses we’ve seen so far may feel like Marvel’s All-Star Party Jam, but Disney and Marvel Studios have placed their franchise’s riskiest installment in the hands of Joss Whedon. While Thor, the two Iron Man movies and Captain America may diverge in many ways, they all have one big strength in common: the leading actors (Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans); the notion of these guys taking aim at each other as they try and forge an impossible team is oddly exciting, especially with Whedon at the helm. – Anthony V.
108. Imogene (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini; TBA)
Synopsis: A playwright stages a suicide in an attempt to win back her ex, only to wind up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With The Extra Man not receiving the same response as their beloved American Splendor, the duo return this year with someone who wouldn’t have been a major star a year ago: Kristen Wiig. Judging from the synopsis it sounds like the darkest material the comedian has been involved, something I can’t wait for. – Jordan R.
107. John Carter (Andrew Stanton; March 9th)
Synopsis: Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: All marketing thus far has, admittedly, been underwhelming, but you’d be a fool to completely discount the man behind Finding Nemo and Wall-E. His guiding hand isn’t the only source of interest; I’d certainly like to know how Taylor Kitsch will fare in his first big screen starring role. Hoping for the best, partially expecting something along the lines of Attack of the Clones. – Nick N.
106. Lay the Favorite (Stephen Frears; TBA)
Synopsis: A dramedy centered on a thirtysomething woman who becomes involved with a group of geeky fiftyish men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The director of The Queen seems to be taking a more relaxed approach with his last film Tamara Drewe and continuing here with Lay the Favorite. Starring Bruce Willis, Laura Prepon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall, Vince Vaughn, Joshua Jackson, Frank Grillo this looks like a fun, light feature that is set to premiere Sundance. – Jordan R.
105. Dog Fight (Jay Roach; August 10th)
Synopsis: Two rival South Carolina politicians with presidential aspirations tangle with one another.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Featuring many of the most prominent comedy stars working today, this film is really all about the excellent ensemble cast in place. With Will Ferrell, Zach Galifinakis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd and Jason Sudeikis among the participants, there is someone for everyone here and should they be provided with a witty script, this could be one of the comedy hits of 2012. – Jack Cunliffe
104. Welcome to the Punch (Eran Creevy; TBA)
Synopsis: When notorious criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London, it gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to take down the man he’s always been after.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Mark Strong playing a British criminal, being chased down by James McAvoy? It sounds like an anglophile’s dream. Here is hoping it makes its way to the U.S. before year’s end. – Jordan R.
103. Jack the Giant Killer (Bryan Singer; June 15th)
Synopsis: A modern day fairy tale in which the long-standing peace between men and giants is threatened, as a young farmer leads an expedition into the giants’ kingdom in hopes of rescuing a kidnapped princess.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Nicholas Hoult, the kid from About a Boy, is all grown up and battling giants in this action-packed adaptation of the classic children’s tale. Director Bryan Singer, who famously forged the X-Men franchise, revealed some major action set-pieces and stunning visual effects in the feature’s moody first trailer. But as we draw closer to this adventure’s summer release, expect more wonders to be unveiled, including footage of the feature’s spectacular supporting cast: Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Stanley Tucci, Warwick Davis and Ewan McGregor. – Kristy P.
102. Elvis & Nixon (Cary Elwes; TBA)
Synopsis: A recreation of the meeting at the White House between Elvis Presley and President Nixon.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: He’s known for charming Robin Wright in a hilariously told fairytale, taking on the roll of the beloved Robin Hood, and sawing off his foot — but this time, first time director Cary Elwes will take a backseat to Eric Bana and Danny Huston as he depicts one of the most memorable meetings in history. – Megan E.
101. All You Need is Love (Susanne Bier; TBA)
Synopsis: Described by the director as “a tender story with a much lighter atmosphere than my previous works: Enough with conflicts.”
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Details are scarce on Bier’s upcoming drama, only with the name Pierce Brosnan attached. But coming off her cleanly polished Foreign Oscar winner In a Better World, I’m looking forward to what the leading female storyteller can bring us next. – Jordan R.
100. Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders; June 1st)
Synopsis: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Kristen Stewart looks to leave passive lip-chewer Bella behind, taking on the re-imagined role of Snow White in commercial director Rupert Sanders’ film debut. Here Snow White is armor-clad, trained by a burly huntsman to wage war against an Evil Queen who wants her dead. With a visually-striking trailer, this Snow White tale is garnering better buzz than Mirror Mirror, and boasts a cast that includes the always-incredible Charlize Theron, playing the beautiful-but-vile queen, Thor’s Chris Hemsworth as Snow White’s sneering mentor, and a crew of masterful character actors (Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone and Toby Jones) scaled down to dwarves with the help of some serious CGI. – Kristy P.
99. The English Teacher (Craig Zisk; TBA)
Synopsis: An English teacher’s life is disrupted when a former student returns to her small town after failing as a playwright in New York.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: If you’ve watched any show on Showtime, FX or standard cable in the last 15 years, chances are you’ve already seen the directing talents of Craig Zisk. Nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, The English Teacher serves as Zisk’s first feature-length foray, which is sure to deliver ample amounts of drama and comedy alike. Lily Collins, Julianne Moore, Nathan Lane and Greg Kinnear. – Megan E.
98. Untitled Drake Doremus Project (Drake Doremus; TBA)
Synopsis: A film about love, fidelity, marriage and music.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: While his Sundance dramatic winner Like Crazy would be high on my list of overpraised films of last year, Doremus, a competent visual director, could do a lot if he loses the redundant, improvised style. With a bigger budget here, including a cast of Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan. Kyle MacLachlan and his Crazy star Felicity Jones, he’ll hopefully take a more focused approach. – Jordan R.
97. The ABCs of Death (Angela Bettis, Hélène Cattet, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrián García Bogliano, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard; TBA)
Synopsis: A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: As someone who isn’t the biggest horror fan, small bites and snippets do wonders to entice me with the genre. That is why The ABCs of Death is one of my most-anticipated horror films of the year. Makes a short film related to each letter of the alphabet, the line-up of directors is remarkable. We have Timecrime‘s Nacho Vigalondo, Kill List‘s Ben Wheatley (who has another film on this very list), You’re Next‘s Adam Wingard, Hobo with a Shotgun‘s Jason Esiener and The Innkeepers‘ Ti West. It is going to be a bloody good time. – Jordan R.
96. Blackbird (Stefan Ruzowitzky, TBA)
Synopsis: The film, written by Zach Dean, is about two desperate sibling fugitives on the run who subsequently collide with the holiday homecoming of a troubled ex-boxer.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The director behind the Oscar-winning foreign film The Counterfeiters is making his English-language debut with this thriller starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and Charlie Hunnam. If he can continue with the sense of tension and intensity stateside, then this could be an excellent Hollywood debut. – Jordan R.
95. Red Lights (Rodrigo Cortes; TBA)
Synopsis: Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Thankfully our director is stepping outside of the coffin for his follow-up to Buried. A few spare teasers show that his knack for visuals is carried here, alongside quite an ensemble cast of Cillian Murphy, Sundance starlet Elizabeth Olsen, Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver. With a Sundance premiere set we’ll know soon enough if this sophomore effort succeeds. – Jordan R.
94. The Cold Light of Day (Mabrouk El Mechri; April 6th)
Synopsis: A young American uncovers a conspiracy during his attempt to save his family, who were kidnapped while on vacation in Spain.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming off of JCVD, Mechri directs Henry Cavill (our upcoming Superman), Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver in this action thriller. If he can bring the same kinetic, unique style found in his last film, we are in for a treat. – Jordan R.
93. Hunter Killer (Antoine Fuqua; December 21st)
Synopsis: An untested American submarine captain teams with U.S. Navy Seals to rescue the Russian president, who has been kidnapped by a rouge general.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The submarine-based sub-genre of action films has been running silent for a while now (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it). Luckily, action stylist Antoine Fuqua, who brought us Training Day and Tears of the Sun, is taking a crack at ending that dry spell. Well-executed action fare is always a welcome diversion, and seeing it done well by someone with a sense of style that doesn’t drown substance is even better. Sure, the idea of something going wrong in Russia leading to an elite American intervention is well-trod cinematic ground, but the pedigree involved in this film and the relative novelty of the submarine genre in general make this well worth keeping on your radar… or sonar (sorry, I’ll stop). – Brian R.
92. Wanderlust (David Wain; February 24th)
Synopsis: Rattled by sudden unemployment, a Manhattan couple surveys alternative living options, ultimately deciding to experiment with living on a rural commune where free love rules.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: David Wain, Paul Rudd and Ken Marino (the goofballs who brought you Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer) re-team for this fish-out-of-water comedy that features such sidesplitting comedic performers as Kathryn Hahn, Kerri Kenney and Todd Barry. Yes, Jennifer Aniston co-stars with Rudd, but – hey look Ray Liotta! – Kristy P.
91. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Tim Heidecker; Eric Wareheim; March 3rd)
Synopsis: Two guys get a billion dollars to make a movie, only to watch their dream run off course. In order to make the money back, they then attempt to revitalize a failing shopping mall.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job is one of the most hilarious, brilliant, and unsettling, programs ever run on Adult Swim. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the duo’s work, you’d be better off watching a clip online that reading about it here. If you aren’t convinced after that, maybe it’ll help to know B$M (as it’s known on Twitter) features cameos from John C. Reilly, Will Ferrell, Will Forte, Zach Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum and more. Shrim! – James B.
90. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Chris Renaud, Kyla Balda; March 2nd)
Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Illumination Entertainment, who brought audiences the supervillian/family man comedy Despicable Me and the Easter Bunny adventure Hop, draw their latest inspiration from Dr. Suess‘ environmentalist morality tale The Lorax, a story that was once a deeply bleak cartoon in the 1970s. But producer Christopher Meledandri has brought new vitality into this tale of a mournful, orange eco-warrior, by beefing up the role of the boy who bookends the source material. Also adding panache to this CGI animated adaptation is a voice cast that includes Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate and Danny DeVito as the Lorax!.Says DeVito about his mustachioed tree-hugger, “Look, I don’t want to be gruff about it, but we’ve got to wake up and smell the oil burning… I feel sometimes the only way to get things done is shake people up a little bit, and the Lorax is not a guy who pussyfoots around. He’s not a guy who uses kid gloves…No, no, the Lorax means business.” Sounds like perfect casting to me. – Kristy P.
89. Liberal Arts (Josh Radnor; TBA)
Synopsis: When thirty-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a young 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With TV star Josh Radnor’s directorial debut Happythankyoumoreplease, Radnor proved his talent for crafting poignant character-driven drama peppered with witty and sharp dialogue. He also showed an eye for casting, giving new opportunities to Malin Akerman and Tony Hale, resulting in one of the most charming romances of the year. With his next effort, Radnor has wrangled an enviable cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Elizabeth Reaser (Young Adult), Allison Janney (Juno) and Richard Jenkins (Friends with Benefits). – Kristy P.
88. Wish You Were Here (Kieran Darcy-Smith; TBA)
Synopsis: Four friends lose themselves in a carefree South-East Asian holiday. Only three come back. Dave and Alice return home to their young family desperate for answers about Jeremy’s mysterious disappearance. When Alice’s sister Steph returns not long after, a nasty secret is revealed about the night her boyfriend went missing. But it is only the first of many. Who amongst them knows what happened on that fateful night when they were dancing under a full moon in Cambodia?
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With films like Animal Kingdom, Spider and The Square, there is little reason to doubt the caliber of another drama from the Blue Tongue collective. Starring Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer, this is one of my most-anticipated of Sundance. – Jordan R.
87. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross; March 23rd)
Synopsis: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Beyond being based on the biggest YA novel sensation since Twilight and Harry Potter, Ross’ Hunger Games seems destined to surpass these franchises on a filmic level thanks to a cast filled with extraordinary performers. Jennifer Lawrence, who earned an Oscar nod for her role in 2010’s gritty noir Winter’s Bone, stars as a teen girl forced to face her own mortality when she’s thrown into a kill-or-be-killed battle. Child star-turned-ingendude Josh Hutcherson co-stars as her earnest love interest, with pretty boy Liam Hemsworth as his romantic rival. But that’s just the beginning. Also onboard: Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Elizabeth Banks. While there’s already plenty of backlash—thanks to the exhausting early marketing and staggered casting announcements of minor roles—the fact that a major action franchise is being centered on a pro-active female character who is not being tarted up in a stripper costume is definitely something worth being excited about. – Kristy P.
86. Rush (Ron Howard; TBA)
Synopsis: A biography of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Mere weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel to challenge his rival, James Hunt.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: I know – the Ron Howard Oscar-bait films can get a little tiresome, but a Formula 1 racing tale led by the talents of Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl is enough to get me in the theater. Things go past the star level, though; Peter Morgan is scripting the thing, too, and he’s proven adept at handling historical material time and time again. Heck, one of the last times he did so was with Ron Howard, and that resulted in one of the director’s best films: Frost/Nixon. – Nick N.
85. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt; March 30th)
Synopsis: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With Pixar hopefully stepping up their game after Cars 2 and the studio that gave us Coraline delivering another stop-motion, the animation world is looking strong in 2012. Another major contender is from the makers of Wallace and Gromit. After On Stranger Tides left a bad taste in our mouths last summer, this pirate adventure looks to be packed with more wit, detail and thrills than any scene from Disney’s boredom fest. My only desire is that US audiences can embrace this one. – Jordan R.
84. Celeste and Jesse Forever (Lee Toland Krieger; TBA)
Synopsis: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Krieger’s last feature, The Vicious Kind, was a family drama with a vicious and sharp sense of humor that proved the leading man abilities of Adam Scott. Now, Scott’s Parks and Recreation co-star Rashida Jones, who co-wrote Celeste and Jesse Forever with character actor Will McCormack-who also co-wrote her comic Frenemy of the State, steps up to leading lady status alongside co-star Andy Samberg. It’s about time Jones got a role worthy of her chutzpah! – Kristy P.
83. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Lorene Scafaria; April 20th)
Synopsis: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Think of it as a friendlier version of Melancholia. I tend to dig a romantic comedy/drama with a little twist and this film from the writer of Nick & Norah has just that. Considering it is coming from an indie distributor like Focus Features, I doubt this film starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley will feature any big special effects, but if our writer/director nails the story and her characters, that is all I ask. – Jordan R.
82. 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller; March 16th)
Synopsis: A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Updating a not-exactly-classic TV show should be something of a red flag for any theatergoer, but previews and early screening buzz indicate that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have reshaped this story for perfect comedic effect. Sure, the unlikely pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is part of that – but I’m mostly keen on seeing the absurd concept get aped with some more realistic outcomes. And James Franco’s younger brother is in it, too. – Nick N.
81. Shadow Dancer (James Marsh; TBA)
Synopsis: A young woman who has been a member of the IRA alongside her brothers and husband becomes an informer for Britain’s MI5.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Returning to Sundance after his celebrated documentaries Project Nim and Man on Wire, James Marsh arrives this year with this narrative feature starring Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen, who deserves more promising projects like this. – Jordan R.
80. 2 Days In New York (Julie Delpy; TBA)
Synopsis: French woman Marion, has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their children. Her Parisian family come to visit her, but the cultural differences between her eccentric father and new American boyfriend will turn out to be explosive. Meanwhile, her sister has had the “good” idea of bringing an ex-boyfriend from Paris and there is the pressure of an upcoming photography exhibition.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: 2 Days In Paris is one of the sharpest romantic-comedies in the last few years, so writer/director/actor Julie Delpy’s sequel holds a lot of promise. And with Chris Rock playing opposite to the French beauty, it’s clear the comedian’s taking step in a different, exciting direction.- Dan M.
79. World War Z (Marc Forster; December 21st)
Synopsis: A UN representative, writing a report on the great zombie war, interviews survivors in the wake of World War Z.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: I’m as tired of zombies as the next guy – and Marc Forster isn’t really in my favor – but a global-scale pandemic thriller starring Brad Pitt sounds like the perfect end to a movie year. Sure, there’s a deviation from the beloved source material, but using Max Brooks’ novel as a template is, at the end of the day, the best they can do – because that thing was never going to work as a straight film. Put a little faith in them to carry the rest of the weight, and World War Z suddenly shows a lot of promise. – Nick N.
78. The Five-Year Engagement (Nicholas Stoller; April 27th)
Synopsis: A comedy that charts the ups and downs of an engaged couple’s relationship.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Stoller wrote the script for this sure-to-be raunchy comedy with his Get Him to the Greek and The Muppets collaborator, Jason Segel, who stars opposite sharp comedienne Emily Blunt as a pair of disgruntled fiancés. And with a supporting cast that includes TV comedians like Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Alison Brie (Community), Mindy Kaling (The Office), and Chris Parnell (Archer), Five-Year Engagement is sure to score laughs. – Kristy P.
77. Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan; TBA)
Synopsis: Three children were savagely murdered in 1993. Weeks later, police announced the arrest of three teens accused of committing the murders as part of a satanic cult ritual.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Based on the West Memphis Three, Egoyan is prepping his next feature that could shoot in time for a release this year. With only Reese Witherspoon attached, I’d like to see the director’s take on this story. Plus, he needs some true-to-life drama after Chloe. – Jordan R.
76. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore; November 12th)
Synopsis: The bad-guy character in a classic game who longs to be a hero brings trouble to his entire arcade after sneaking into a new first-person shooter game and unleashing a deadly enemy.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: If the above synopsis doesn’t make you absolutely jazzed, then you had a normal childhood and weren’t allowed to play as many videogames as I was. With the brilliant concept for Disney’s upcoming animation and coming from a frequent Futurama director, I absolutely can’t wait for the film featuring a voice cast of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman. – Jordan R.
75. Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij; TBA)
Synopsis: A journalist and his girlfriend go undercover within a cult in order to write an expose on its charismatic leader who claims to be from the future.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: I had the pleasure of viewing this Sundance darling at SXSW last year, and it has a big chance of cracking my top 10 list for 2012. This is a film to experience, meaning try your best to read as little as possible about it. Going in the fresh is the way to see this film, and, once you leave it, you’ll have plenty to ponder and discuss. – Jack G.
74. Wrong (Quentin Dupieux; TBA)
Synopsis: Dolph searches for his lost dog, but through encounters with a nympho pizza-delivery girl, a jogging neighbor seeking the absolute and a mysterious righter of wrongs, he may eventually lose his mind… and his identity.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: A beguiling teaser and clip makes it look as though Quentin Dupieux has outdone the weirdness of his first film, Rubber – which was about a tire that kills people. There’s the risk of things running the gamut of the bizarre, to the point where we, as audience members, become nauseous, but a successful take means we’ll have another original vision on our hands. – Nick N.
73. The Company You Keep (Robert Redford; TBA)
Synopsis: A thriller centered on a former Weather Underground activist who goes on the run from a journalist who has discovered his identity.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Robert Redford hasn’t directed a good film in a very long time, but mixing the kind of politically-motivated story he loves with a (seemingly) smart thriller sounds like a good mix; a killer cast (Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Jim Broadbent, and so on) doesn’t hurt, either. So long as he manages to avoid a Lions for Lambs level of bluntness, this can go pretty far. – Nick N.
72. The Raid (Gareth Evans; TBA)
Synopsis: A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The Indonesian action flick blew up at TIFF and will now arrive via Sony Pictures Classics this spring. Taking place among 30 floors of an apartment building, this one is said to have non-stop action, for which Evans was inspired by films like Hard Boiled, Die Hard and Assault On Precinct 13. I’ll throw out this prediction now: it will likely succeed more than most U.S. summer blockbusters a la last year’s Attack the Block. – Jordan R.
71. Dark Horse (Todd Solondz)
Synopsis: Romance blooms between two thirty-somethings in arrested development: an avid toy collector and a woman who is the dark horse of her family.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With quite a few years in between 2010’s’s Life During Wartime last year and Solondz’s previous films, he isn’t repeating the pause. The offbeat director’s next feature premiered to strong buzz on the festival circuit. – Jordan R.
70. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb; July 3rd)
Synopsis: Teenager Peter Parker grapples with both human problems and amazing super-human crises.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Even though 500 Days of Summer was a beautifully unconventional romantic comedy, Marc Webb is just about the last director you would think of to direct the Spiderman reboot. However, his vision for the film is pleasing, as in addition to focusing on the teenage anst of Peter Parker, he also wants to tackle the action head on, stating that as one of the primary reasons he agreed to do so. Early looks at Andrew Garfield as the titular hero are promising, and this should be a unique spin on the Spiderman tale, if nothing else. – Jack C.
69. Gambit (Michael Hoffman; TBA)
Synopsis: An art curator enlists the services of a Texas steer roper to con a wealthy collector into buying a phony Monet painting.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: We are highly anticipating another film from the Coen brothers this year, but they also found time in their busy schedule to pen a remake of Gambit. The Last Station’s Michael Hoffman directs Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci in what could be a fun caper comedy. – Jordan R.
68. Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley; June 29th)
Synopsis: A funny, bittersweet and heart-wrenching story about a woman struggling to choose between two different types of love.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Premiering to mostly fantastic reviews at Toronto last year, Sarah Polley follows up her Oscar-nominated drama Away From Her with this tale of young love and infidelity. Seth Rogen is said to further prove he can act outside of Apatow comedies, and well, Michelle Williams is one of the best actors of our generation. – Jordan R.
67. On The Road (Walter Salles; TBA)
Synopsis: A young man sets out to travel the roads and railways of America.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Here’s hoping Walter Salles’ next is more The Motorcycle Diaries than Dark Water, the how-did-this-finally-get-made adaptation of the Jack Kerouac road novel. With Francis Ford Coppola producing and a young, talented cast (Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart) leading the way, this could make Beat-wannabes dreams come true. – Dan M.
66. Hyde Park on the Hudson (Roger Michell; TBA)
Synopsis: The story of the love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley, centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: As someone who not only grew up 30 minutes from this film’s primary setting, but has also visited it countless times, I’m a little biased. That much being said, a well-executed, ever-so-fluffy period piece is a nice break from the whiz-bang CG confections of the multiplexes, and I’ll bet the story told here is far more engaging than anything in half of the studio pictures released this year. There’s also, of course, the curiosity around Bill Murray playing one of the United States’ most beloved Presidents – are we getting serious Murray, or funny Murray? You know what? We’re getting Murray, period, and that’s enough for me. – Nick N.
65. Angel’s Share (Ken Loach; TBA)
Synopsis: Described as a bittersweet comedy, about a criminal who wants his son to lead a better life, hooking up with his buddies on community service and scheming about a new, legal money-making plan involving malt whisky.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: No one does the working class drama quite like Ken Loach. Between the sweeping revolutionary fare of The Wind That Shakes the Barley, or the deeper, more intimate story of Kes, Loach knows how to wring out the best from his well-trod font of working class characters. In this story, he seems to be working for a lighter touch, making a comedy about a criminal who tries to sway his son toward something better while also making a go at an honest living by distilling his own whisky. The “angels’ share” of the title most likely refers to the amount of liquor that evaporates during the aging process. So make of that what you will. If you’re in to this particular brand of familial working class comedy or possibly the world of distilling liquor, this movie will definitely scratch that itch. – Brian R.
64. Haywire (Steven Soderbergh; January 20th)
Synopsis: A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Soderbergh’s chameleon-like abilities are sometimes unmatched among his contemporaries; here, he’s stepping into the shoes of an action director. Early word and peeks at footage indicate that this has paid off, and it – by “it” I mean “Gina Carano beating people mercilessly” – should be a great treat during the cinematic malaise of January. – Nick N.
63. The Congress (Ari Folman; TBA)
Synopsis: An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Simply knowing that it’s from the director of Waltz with Bashir earns it a spot on this list. When you look at the story and filmmaking techniques being employed, however, there are hints of a satirical, self-referential headscrew on the level of a Jonze/Kaufman collaboration. Seeing as we have to wait another year or so for the actual thing, something in a similar vein will do the trick for now. – Nick N.
62. Brave (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman; June 22nd)
Synopsis: Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Pixar brings their own unique spin to the princess story subgenre with a fearless and wild-haired heroine and a cryptic adventure. While the first full trailer was underwhelming to some, I’m personally eager to see these master storytellers tackle a tale with a female protagonist. Voicework from Kelly Macdonald, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson also adds to the film’s appeal. – Kristy P.
61. The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona; TBA)
Synopsis: An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: From the director of The Orphanage comes his English-language debut, an action/drama starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. If he can match the focus and tension of his last film, it will definitely be one to look forward to. – Jordan R.
60. Red Hook Summer (Spike Lee; TBA)
Synopsis: A boy from Atlanta lands in Brooklyn to spend the summer with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Although he arguably surpassed it in quality with 25th Hour, Do The Right Thing remains Spike Lee’s most seminal film. With Red Hook Summer, he is returning to play Mookie, one of the most interesting characters in a film that featured a colourful array of different personalities. Whether this will be about racial tensions, or political tensions, or something else entirely, is unknown at the moment. However, Lee’s intimate knowledge of Brooklyn and his talent for drawing audiences into the worlds he creates, means that he should provide something with the palpable tension he is best at, whatever the message he decides to relay. – Jack C.
59. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies; March 30th)
Synopsis: The wife of a British Judge is caught in a self-destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: One film I saw at Toronto last year that grew on me considerably is Terence Davies‘ slow-burn drama The Deep Blue Sea. After Midnight in Paris, Thor and War Horse, Tom Hiddleston continues his break-out streak with what might be his best of the bunch. Looking at tough side of romance, Rachel Weisz leads this stirringly realistic portrait of love. – Jordan R.
58. Twylight Zones (David Chase; October 19th)
Synopsis: Set in suburban New Jersey the 1960s, a group of friends form a rock band and try to make it big.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: After creating one of the best TV series of all time in The Sopranos, David Chase has unfortunately remained rather quiet since. Thankfully, he is returning this year in a big way in his first feature film as director, in addition to re-teaming with Sopranos star James Gandolfini. The film is also autobiographical, as it tells of true exploits made by Chase back in the 60s. It’s definitely a significant step away from the gangster filled world of Sopranos, but it will be extremely interesting to see how he decides to approach this film. – Jack C.
57. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard; April 13th)
Synopsis: Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Joss Whedon is a one-man reason to see anything so long as you’re a fan of his meta- and geek culture-saturated writing style. Drew Goddard has flexed similarly inclined writing styles on Lost and Cloverfield. As such, this movie, written by both and directed by Goddard, should prove a pretty heady takedown of the slasher genre. Not only that, but the buzz coming out of BNAT have brought media anticipation over this long-delayed film’s release to a boiling point. Fans of scary movies, meta fiction, and twisty storytelling in general should put this flick on the top of their list. – Brian R.
56. Flight (Robert Zemeckis; TBA)
Synopsis: An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Zemeckis gets back to the real world with a conflicted Denzel Washington in tow. Years spent toiling in a CG playground has made so many forget his beautiful touch with human drama, and Flight’s moral opaqueness will let him play around with character interactions once more. For that alone, it deserves to be here. – Nick N.
55. ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell; August 17th)
Synopsis: A misunderstood boy who can speak with the dead, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: This film entered my ken following its moody, engaging trailer. I’m a huge fan of all things stop motion, and I especially love children’s fare that doesn’t forget that kids can handle darkness as well as slapstick and fluff. This film, with its horror trappings and killer visual style, promises to given even Pixar’s work a run for its money in the kids’ market this coming year. – Brian R.
54. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright; Late 2012 TBA)
Synopsis: Trapped in a loveless marriage, Anna, looks for a better life, but finds only a more complicated one.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Leo Tolstoy’s treatise on passion, infidelity, and societal double-standards between men and women constantly finds itself on literary top ten lists. The story of a woman who abandons her marriage for a disastrous affair with a callow military officer is rife with drama and the time period lends itself to cinematic costume fare. Director Joe Wright has proven himself able to handle high period melodrama with Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, and as those were both literary adaptations as well this film is pretty much a lock to at least look good and deliver high drama. As a fan of Wright, and the source material, though, I hold out hope, though, that this could be one of the best of the year. – Brian R.
53. The Bourne Legacy (Tony Gilroy; August 3rd)
Synopsis: A story centered on a new CIA operative in the universe based on Robert Ludlum’s novels.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: I was down on the prospect of a Bourne retread when news first got out, but I’d be crazy to resist a spy thriller led by Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, and Oscar Isaac, regardless of franchise. That being said, knowing here-and-there pieces of the plot leaves me curious how they’ll approach this world and the repercussions of Jason Bourne’s destructive actions. Coupled with Skyfall, we should have a good time with spy franchises this year. – Nick N.
52. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer; TBA)
Synopsis: Aliens descend upon Earth with a specific mission in mind: To abduct hitchhikers and take them back to their home world, where human meat is considered a delicacy.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Jonathan Glazer doesn’t make enough films. His Sexy Beast is a dark, funny, surreal, and original take on the crime genre. The director’s follow up film, the divisive Birth, is far better than its given credit. After an eight year wait, Glazer’s returning with a fairly ambitious and bonkers-sounding project. – Jack G.
51. Passion (Brian De Palma; TBA)
Synopsis: A young businesswomen plots murderous revenge after her boss and mentor steals her idea.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: One of the best directors from the New Hollywood returns five years after an unfairly maligned statement came and went. If that’s all Passion was, it would deserve a spot on this list. But it’s not; this is an old pro working with two interesting counterpoint leads on the kind of material that gives him creative juice. I doubt Passion will end up granting De Palma the recognition he’s been robbed of for almost an entire career, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean us fans can’t revel in his return. – Nick N.
50. Chicken with Plums (Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi; TBA)
Synopsis: Nasser-Ali, a talented musician, loses the will to live after his wife breaks his beloved violin during an argument. He searches for a replacement, and finding none that sounds quite the same, he vows to die. Eight days later, he does. This is the story of his last week of life, where we see flashbacks and flash forwards of his previous life and his children’s futures. We also see appearances of a nude Sophia Loren as well as the angel of death, Azarel. As we see his life, we realize exactly why he chose to end it and the profundity of this choice.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming off their black & white 2D animation Persepolis, I was enchanted by Chicken with Plums at Toronto last year. It is somewhat scattered and a few scenes fall flat, but what is great here astounds, including a mix of the skill this duo showed off in their last films. It is a rare kind of magic realism that is sadly missing in cinemas these days. – Jordan R.
49. He Loves Me (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris; TBA)
Synopsis: A young novelist struggling with writer’s block finds a love interest in a most unusual way.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: It’s been six years since Little Miss Sunshine took home two Oscars and charmed the hearts of millions. Comedy duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are back with He Loves Me, with first-time writer Zoe Kazan scribing what is expected to be a delightfully witty love story starring Paul Dano, Annette Bening, Alia Shawkat and Antonio Banderas. – Megan E.
48. Snowtown (Justin Kurzel; Feb. 29th)
Synopsis: Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother’s new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Hitting the festival circuit last year, Kurzel’s directorial debut is a deeply disturbing look at a real-life murder spree. Animal Kingdom comparisons will be tossed around, but this is a more accomplished look at lost innocence. – Jordan R.
47. The East (Zal Batmanglij; TBA)
Synopsis: A story centered on contract worker who is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group, only to find herself falling for its leader.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The same year their reportedly haunting Sound of My Voice is bound to leave some sort of impression on cinemagoers, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling are doing the cult thing again with their bigger budget, bigger star follow-up. Positive word on their previous work is already great encouragement, but the mysterious, ever-so-creepy plot details and killer lineup allow this to stand on its own. – Nick N.
46. Les Miserables (Tom Hooper; December 7th)
Synopsis: An adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo‘s classic novel set in 19th-century France, in which a paroled prisoner named Jean Valjean seeks redemption.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The hit musical based on Victor Hugo’s celebrated novel provides everything you could want from a story. There is romance, action, redemption, and a struggle between good and evil on personal and societal levels. Add in some of the most sweeping and powerful songs in recent musical theater and you’ve got one hell of a show. Now, translated to the screen and starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, the stage is set for this film to reach the same heights as the wildly popular musical. Bringing the musical tale of Jean Valjean’s redemption and the social upheaval that is engulfing France at the time will be no easy task – and cinematic musicals have a tendency to fall flat as of late – but between Jackman’s easy showmanship and director Tom Hooper’s handle on period drama, this should be a winner. – Brian R.
45. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh; June 29th)
Synopsis: An upstart male stripper is taken under the wing of a more experienced colleagues.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The first reaction to the announcement Steven Soderbergh was tackling this project before his consistently delayed retirement was one of consternation. However, since it is a comedy, thus meaning it won’t attempt to be a heartfelt and sentimental tale, my anticipation for this one is rather high. Based on the true exploits of star Channing Tatum, it features a variety of talented actors from Alex Pettyfer to Matthew McConaughey. It might serve as a reminder that Soderbergh leaving the film industry will be a very sad thing, or it might be a total flop. Here’s to hoping for the former. – Jack C.
44. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels; TBA)
Synopsis: A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: While I wasn’t impressed at the gratuitous, manipulative nature of Precious, director Lee Daniels seems to be handling smaller issues at hand with his adaptation of The Paperboy. Zac Efron is taking another promising step to shed his pretty boy image, as he joins Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey in this southern drama. And John Cusack as a grimy villain? Day one. – Jordan R.
43. Life of Pi (Ang Lee; December 21st)
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zookeeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi is found adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: A 3D tentpole from Ang Li could yield many interesting results in and of itself, though, true to his roots, he’s still taking unusual source material and putting a mostly unknown cast into the middle of it all – discounting Tobey Maguire, of course. Some footage of the actual thing is needed to get a grip on what we can fully expect – given its unusual, possibly claustrophobic concept – so I’ll hold back on getting too excited in the meantime. But, no matter what, it’s bound to stand out in 2012’s crowded December. – Nick N.
42. Sightseers (Ben Wheatley; TBA)
Synopsis: Two crazy people go on vacation together.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With his nightmare-inducing Kill List already on VOD, Wheatley is already set to release his follow-up this year. The synopsis hints at a film with just as many surprises so with much of my anticipation lies in knowing as little as possible, I’ll stop here. – Jordan R.
41. 7 días en La Habana (Laurent Cantet. Julio Medem, Benicio Del Toro, Gaspar Noé, Elia Suleiman, Juan Carlos Tabío, Pablo Trapero; TBA)
Synopsis: A young American boy is trying to break into the acting business, and goes to Cuba during a film festival.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: We aren’t getting a feature film from Gaspar Noé this year, so this short film anthology should hold us over. Also notably featuring a short from The Class director Laurent Cantent and Benecio del Toro, this could be one to watch out for, as Josh Hutcherson and Daniel Brühl make up part of the ensemble. – Jordan R.
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.
25. Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer; October 19th)
Synopsis: A chronicle of the LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: The number of quality gangster films is unfortunately declining nowadays, but Ruben Fleischer’s upcoming crime epic is looking to mark a change in that trend. Featuring the likes of Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn & Josh Brolin, this detective thriller is Fleischer’s first feature that is an out and out drama, which leaves question marks in the eyes of some. However, he showed a keen eye for action with his uniquely entertaining Zombieland, and Gangster Squad will no doubt be phenomenally acted, if nothing else. – Jack C.
24. Simon Killer (Antonio Campos; TBA)
Synopsis: A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of five years. His life should be open-ended and full of promise, but he can’t shake his feelings of loss. Being a stranger in a strange land only aggravates his situation. When he falls in love with a young mysterious prostitute, a fateful journey begins, though we soon learn that Simon is the one with deeper secrets.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Campos’ debut, Afterschool, is one of the best-kept secrets among cinephiles to emerge in the past ten years. The amount of control and skill exuded in that feature was enough to grant the guy some attention, and the synopsis for his next only makes things a little more interesting. No matter what the thematic and narrative content delivers, I’m expecting nothing less than exemplary technical craft. – Nick N.
23. Stoker (Chan-wook Park, TBA)
Synopsis: A teenage girl mourning the death of her father deals with an uncle who mysteriously shows up to meet the family.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: One of a handful South Korean filmmakers making their English-language debut, Chan-wook Park has rounded up quite a cast for Stoker, including Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver and Lucas Till. Is there a creepy turn to the seemingly standard logline? We’ll have to wait and see, but coming from this director I’m sure a mountain of surprises are in store. – Jordan R.
22. Argo (Ben Affleck; September 14th)
Synopsis: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: For a while there it looked like the world had burned out on Ben Affleck. His cache as an actor had fallen and his personal life became a punchline. Then, out of nowhere, Affleck surged back onto the scene as a highly acclaimed director. Between Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck has ably proven himself a talent worth watching. Of course the fact that this movie is based on one a stranger-than-fiction true story involving espionage and subterfuge doesn’t hurt either. – Brian R.
21. Skyfall (Sam Mendes; November 9th)
Synopsis: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: I’m one of the few who liked Quantum of Solace, but even a viewer such as myself is looking for meatier content from this franchise. Mendes looks to be on track with that, and that’s only partially taking into account the casting of Javier Bardem as the antagonist. Really, it’s the more dramatic approach – which these movies can sometimes lose sight of – that has me pining to learn Skyfall’s secrets this fall. Daniel Craig kicking people’s ass once more is an attraction, too. – Nick N.
20. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg; TBA)
Synopsis: Follows a multimillionaire on a 24-hour odyssey across Manhattan.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Although the films he has made in the 21st Century are not quite as wildly eccentric as his earlier ones were, David Cronenberg still inserts a sense that nothing is at it seems and brings the twists and turns along the way that make his work so intense and intriguing. With Cosmopolis, the opportunity for paranoia is too good to pass up. His decision to make Robert Pattinson the star bewildered some, but I have faith in his decisions. Expect the unexpected. – Jack C.
19. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance; TBA)
Synopsis: A motorcycle stunt rider considers committing a crime in order to provide for his wife and child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Coming off his intimate drama Blue Valentine, Cianfrance is re-teaming with Ryan Gosling and bringing along Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta and Animal Kingdom’s Ben Mendelsohn. If his knack for capturing fully fleshed out characters transfers over to this more marketable crime drama, then we are in for a winner. – Jordan R.
18. Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski; October TBA)
Synopsis: Six stories set in a different time and place become intricately related to each other.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Six vaguely connected stories reaching across time and the earth is enough – changing your actors’ characters, genders, and race is flat-out insane. A new work from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is good enough; it’s that kind of towering ambition which makes Cloud Atlas an item of intense curiosity. – Nick N.
17. The End (Abbas Kiarostami; TBA)
Synopsis: The unusual relationship between a student, who works as prostitute on the side to pay for her studies, and a brilliant, elderly academic who is one her clients.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Kiarostami may be one of our greatest living filmmakers, and he upheld this image just last year with the carefully measured, masterful Certified Copy. His next feature is a Japan-set “continuation” of that film, though it’s still not entirely clear how he’s going back to old territory. But do you really want to know? I just can’t wait to experience another long car drive and philosophical discussion – all of which is perfectly captured, of course. – Nick N.
16. Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh; TBA)
Synopsis: A screenwriter gets caught up in his pal’s dog-kidnapping plot.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Best-known for such horrific yet hilarious plays as the child murder-centered comedy The Pillowman, Martin McDonagh made the leap to film in 2004, writing and directing the devilishly delightful Oscar-winning short Six Shooter. Next, he stepped up to features with the wickedly funny, Oscar-nominated hitman comedy In Bruges, which co-starred Irish bad boy Colin Farrell as a moody newbie killer and Six Shooter star Brendan Gleeson as his reluctant mentor. Like his stage plays, In Bruges displayed McDonagh’s deftly realized black humor, which is as dark and daring as it is demented and delightful. So his next effort, which pairs Farrell with Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, who both co-starred in McDonagh’s last Broadway effort The Behanding in Spokane, seems guaranteed to tickle our funny bone’s with an edgy and macabre sense of humor. – Kristy P.
15. The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan; July 20th)
Synopsis: Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the terrorist leader Bane arrives in Gotham City, pushing it and its police force to their limits, forcing its former hero Batman to resurface after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Wait, you need us to tell you? Really? Well… it’s Christopher Nolan ending his (up to this time) outstanding trilogy on his own terms. The scale and scope looks nigh intimidating. Tom Hardy is ready to destroy Gotham as Bane, even if we won’t understand anything he’s saying. The IMAX footage is incredible. It’s a comic book movie that probably won’t feature tie-ins to other franchises. Nolan might stick this landing. If you’re not excited yet, I can’t see anything changing that. – Nick N.
14. Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard; TBA)
Synopsis: And adaptation of Craig Davidson’s short story, which conjures a savage world populated by fighting dogs, prizefighters, sex addicts, and gamblers. The twenty-seven bones of the title story are the bones in a boxer’s hands; once broken, they never heal properly, and the fighter’s career descends to bouts that have less to do with sport than with survival: no referee, no rules, not even gloves.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Jacques Audiard gave us one of the better French exports from the past ten years with A Prophet, and he’s coming back with a series of tales described as a “mix of suspense and love.” Marion Cotillard is leading what, based on the source material, may or may not be an ensemble piece/anthology picture, but let’s not fret over that right now; just take this as one of 2012’s most promising efforts. – Nick N.
13. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg; December TBA)
Synopsis: The sixteenth President of the United States guides the North to victory during the Civil War.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Steven Spielberg has always been known for his grand visions and epic scales when it comes to filmmaking. His decision to make a biopic of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his pivotal role during the Civil War, accentuates his desire to tackle complex subjects head on whilst providing thought provoking ideas. The film features an astonishingly good cast, with Daniel Day-Lewis as the titular president being supported by such talented stars as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones and David Straitharn, who don’t even begin to touch on how many recognizable faces will be appearing in this production. Suffice to say, this will be a major awards contender. – Jack C.
12. Amour (Michael Haneke; TBA)
Synopsis: A retired couple deals with aftermath of the wife suffering from a debilitating stroke.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: If you like a movie to stick with you after just one viewing — a Michael Haneke film is for you. Through his dense subject matter and restricted visual style, he has the ability to emotionally and physically control his audiences. Coming off his Palme D’or win for The White Ribbon in 2009, Amour has some big shoes to fill but shouldn’t disappoint on any dramatic level. – Megan E.
11. Prometheus (Ridley Scott; June 8th)
Synopsis: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: With Alien and Blade Runner, Ridley Scott redefined sci-fi movies forever. It has now been 30 years since the latter and the director is finally returning to his roots with Prometheus, a film that was once set to be a prequel to Alien, but is still heavily inspired. Whatever the case, it should be a highly entertaining and intriguing thriller, and with no returning characters from the franchise, it means that pretty much anything goes, cranking up the suspense. Whether Scott can conjure up the magic of his first two forays into science fiction remains to be seen. However, there should be little doubt about his credibility and the ensemble cast features some terrific stars. This has the potential to be one of the very best films of 2012. – Jack C.
10. Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas; TBA)
Synopsis: An 18-year-old man reacts to the social changes of late 1960’s Europe.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Assayas showed a deft hand at tackling period settings with 2010’s incredible, sweeping Carlos. Here, he’s sticking to one time and one place, and is doing so with a more personal story; seeing him return to the scale of something along the lines of Summer Hours bodes well for cinephiles across the world. Even if there’s none of Édgar Ramírez’s penis. – Nick N.
9. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson; May 25th)
Synopsis: A pair of lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Writer-director Wes Anderson and his wry recurring player Bill Murray re-team for the former’s long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. If that’s not enough to entice you, maybe the addition of Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, and Frances McDormand to Anderson’s quirky and warm hued world will. – Kristy P.
8. Looper (Rian Johnson; September 28th)
Synopsis: A killer who works for the mob of the future recognizes one of his targets as his future self.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Writer-director Rian Johnson has brought a curious and captivating spin to the crime genre with his past efforts, the high school-set neo-noir Brick and the daffy heist rom-com The Brothers Bloom. So his latest venture—which pairs Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt with action hero extraordinaire Bruce Willis—seems sure to dazzle as it injects elements of science-fiction into a hitman-centered scenario. – Kristy P.
7. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, TBA)
Synopsis: A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: What could be better than a reunion of Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn? We saw their beautiful union in 2011’s Drive and their latest project will provide us with another crime drama that could subtlety blow the minds of everyone watching. Change Drive’s gritty Los Angeles scenery to Bangkok, add a little Thai-boxing, some gangsters and you’ve got Only God Forgives. – Megan E.
6. Cogan’s Trade (Andrew Dominik; TBA)
Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Andrew Dominik’s previous film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, was a cold yet elegiac masterpiece and arguably the best western since Unforgiven. Consequently, the 5-year gap between that and his followup has been a painful. But this year we’ll finally see his 3rd feature hit theaters. That film is Cogan’s Trade, a crime drama with the potential to be something really special considering the subject matter and the stellar cast which includes Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta. Marketing has been quiet so far but this promises to be a riveting and exciting thriller. – Jack C.
5. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen; TBA)
Synopsis: A singer-songwriter navigates New York’s folk music scene during the 1960s.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Joel and Ethan Coen have delivered four consecutive hits, two of which were among the best of their respective decade, and their brief sabbatical is wrapping up. Some of their main players (Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman) are people we expect high quality from, but it’s the people behind the camera who are generating heat. Look, a new feature from these two is going to make us excited; the siblings doing a film based around ‘60s folk music is a mixture that feels tailor made for anyone with a modicum of taste. – Nick N.
4. The Burial aka Untitled Terrence Malick Film (Terrence Malick; TBA)
Synopsis: A romantic drama centered on a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Even if you’re not a fan of him, Terrence Malick makes films that are guaranteed to get the film community talking. Anyone who can create that much of a stir just from the mere presence of his work is worth waiting for. However, as this film marks and unprecedented break in form for the reclusive director, coming just one year after his last film, The Tree of Life. What isn’t a break in form, though, is the amount of talent involved in the film – Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Chastain, Olga Kurylenko, Amanda Peet, and Barry Pepper are just a few of the names attached to this project, which aside from a one-line synopsis remains as enigmatic as most of Malick’s work. – Brian R.
3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino; December 25th)
Synopsis: With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Tarantino is finally tackling a genre he’s flirted with for the past several years – most strongly in his last film, which just happened to be a masterpiece – and he’s bringing along a stellar cast (Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with him. That’s a recipe for a great time at the movies, but he’s also going back to a controversial topic with biting dialogue, virtuoso filmmaking and a sense of cool that many imitate and none match. – Nick N.
2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson; TBA)
Synopsis: A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as “the Master” whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: By the time this movie’s released, we will have waited 5 very long, very painful years to see anything from Paul Thomas Anderson, which ultimately makes The Master one of our highest anticipated films of 2012. 2007’s There Will Be Blood gave us a broader sense of Anderson’s tortured side both in his writing and directing styles, with the faith-based drama The Master following right in its (long-awaited) wake. – Megan E.
1. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron; November 21st)
Synopsis: The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter.
Why You Should Look Forward To It: Alfonso Cuaron’s last film was the technologically impressive and emotionally resonant Children of Men, and the six-year gap between that film and Gravity’s release has been seemingly interminable. With Cuaron’s technical mettle being almost peerless among big-budget directors and the potential for this heartfelt, character-grounded science fiction tale being almost limitless, there’s no reason that this film shouldn’t top every one’s list of must-watch fare for 2012. – Brian R.
What are you most-anticipated films of the year?
The Film Stage’s 145 Most-Anticipated Films of 2012