Now You See Me: Action filmmaker Louis Leterrier’s output is all over the map, from the fitfully delightful Transporter 2 and superior Jet Li vehicle Unleashed to that irredeemable Clash of the Titans remake. His latest sounds pretty dopey—the FBI tries to stop a group of bank-robbing magicians—but Leterrier is sure to deliver at least one killer set piece, and who could argue with a cast boasting Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael Caine? At the very least, those four are getting pools out of this.
Shadow Dancer: X-philes, all those years of wanting to believe have finally paid off: Gillian Anderson finally gets a good part! Already celebrated by critics, this thriller from James Marsh, director of the award-winning Sundance hits Man on Wire and Project Nim, is set in Belfast in the ’90s and follows an IRA agent (Andrea Riseborough) who goes undercover for England’s MI5 after being arrested by a spy played by Clive Owen—this is as close to an Owen James Bond film as we’ll get.
Student: Kazakh filmmaker Darezhan Omirbaev isn’t a household name, but he does have a big fan in Jean-Luc Godard, who calls Omirbaev “one of the most outstanding directors of today.” Student, Omirbaev’s contemporary adaptation of Crime and Punishment, was a hit at Cannes last year. Spoiler: There’s not a happy ending.
Much Ado About Nothing: The Bard comes to Sunnydale in this adaptation/update of Shakespeare’s comedy, all filmed in director Joss Whedon’s house. (But not set there; that would be weird.) As Avengers co-creator Stan Lee might put it, the director’s handling the greatest English playwright in the mighty Whedon manor.
After Earth: While it’s not being advertised as “an M. Night Shyamalan film,” this big-budget science fiction flick was helmed and co-written by the once-promising filmmaker. Will Smith and son Jaden star as space-age foragers on a post-human Earth. The ads suggest this is a vanity project to promote Big Willy’s kid, but with Shyamalan there’s always a twist—maybe it will be that the film doesn’t suck.
Passion: Brian De Palma returns with this visually delirious, Hitchcock-inspired pulp remake of 2010 French thriller Love Crime. Rachel McAdams and original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace co-star as social-climbing ad women whose rivalry leads to a hilariously convoluted murder plot. The film is full of everything De Palma’s fans and detractors have come to associate him with, building to a fantastic orchestra hall set piece, complete with split-screen photography. It’s good, mean fun.
Man of Steel: Now that Christopher Nolan’s Batman is dining (and probably whining) across the Mediterranean, and Marvel is cramming multiplexes with Avengers-related entertainment product, DC and Warner Brothers have prioritized the reboot of comics’ biggest, nicest hero. Director Zack Snyder may have struck out with Sucker Punch, but the most recent Man of Steel trailers suggest this could be a serious, character-driven adventure. And we can’t wait to kneel before Michael Shannon as General Zod!
The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola’s based-on-batshit-true-events drama follows celebrity-obsessed teenage thieves who robbed Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of roughly $3 million in cash, clothes, and jewelry. Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, and American Horror Story‘s Taissa Farmiga co-star in Coppola’s follow-up to Somewhere, that really good drama starring the guy in those electronic cigarette ads.
A Hijacking: Better known as “That Other Somali Pirate Drama, the One Not Starring Tom Hanks,” A Hijacking is Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm’s follow-up to R, an impressive, uneven prison drama. In the much buzzed-about A Hijacking, pirates hold a Danish ship crew hostage while that crew’s employers work out whether to cut their losses or negotiate a rescue.
World War Z: How many people does it take to save a horror-thriller? First, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski penned a script, then Lions for Lambs screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan rewrote it, then Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard and Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof stepped up for substantial rewrites—after much of the movie had been filmed. But even after seven weeks of re-shoots and a six-month release delay, we still want to see this adaptation of Max Brooks’s imaginative “oral history of the zombie war. ” It’s a big-budget zombie movie starring Brad Pitt, and character actor wiz David Morse. Tickets, please.
Monsters University: A prequel to Pixar charmer Monsters Inc., Monsters University reveals the backstory kids have been dying to find out: how exactly Mike the cyclops (Billy Crystal) and Sulley the muppet-bear-thing (John Goodman) became BFFs. Besides Pixar’s still-fantastic record, the voice cast should sell this: Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Sean Hayes, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, and, best of all, Frank Oz reprising his role as Fungus.
Maniac: This remake of sleaze-meister William Lustig’s singularly depraved riff on Psycho is shot mostly from the perspective of a killer, as in actual first-person POV photography. That killer is played by lil’ Elijah Wood, so presumably achieving that Wood’s-eye view involved setting the camera on a Roomba. Wood may seem like a weird choice to play a mommy-and-hooker-obsessed serial murderer, but remember him as Sin City‘s lady-killing cannibal?
The Heat: Melissa McCarthy is funny as hell, and hopefully, re-teaming with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this buddy cop comedy will give her her second big-screen role worthy of her talents. Sandra Bullock co-stars, but then again, so does Marlon Wayans.
I’m So Excited: Pedro Almodóvar chases his masterfully disturbing body horror melodrama The Skin I Live In with this sex comedy about flight attendants who will do anything to keep their customers happy. It’s exciting to see Almodóvar return to peppy, deranged farces, especially as he’s now a better filmmaker than when he made lopsided gems like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It would be better still if Almodóvar discovery Antonio Banderas’s part in this showcases how far he’s come as an actor since Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!
Museum Hours: Among the most buzzed-about titles at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours stood out, partly because it didn’t star James Franco with a grill and wasn’t directed by P.T. Anderson. Set in the Viennese Kunsthistorisches Museum, Cohen’s breakout follows a security guard and a mysterious guest as they pore over paintings, and talk about their lives and the city’s history.
The Lone Ranger: After Rango, we shouldn’t underestimate director Gore Verbinski, even if he did direct two of those dire Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Yes, watching Johnny Depp play Tonto sounds offensive, but the film is bound to be visually dynamic thanks to Verbinski’s knack for cartoonish set pieces. Jack White provides the score, and nostalgia provides the audience.
The Way, Way Back: Once the Sundance Film Festival is underway, it only takes a couple days before a few titles are hyped as that year’s must-see films. The Way, Way, Back, a sweet coming-of-age story set at a water park, is one of this year’s word-of-mouth hits. Word is the directorial debut of Jim Rash—Community‘s dean!—is a Meatballs-meets-Adventureland pleasure that benefits from stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Sam Rockwell.
Hammer of the Gods: This bloody Viking drama is the directorial debut of Farren Blackburn, whose previous TV credits include Doctor Who and Luther. The film follows a young, probably often bare-chested Viking’s quest to reunite with his brother. Let’s hope it’s not Ragnarök.
Pacific Rim: Giant monsters fight giant robot in Guillermo del Toro’s high-concept action film. If it’s anywhere near as violent and operatic as del Toro would have us believe, it might make up for the fact that the Pan’s Labyrinth director will never make that adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness he’s been trying to land. Bonus: Sons of Anarchy stars Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman turn up, along with Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
V/H/S 2: Like pretty much any portmanteau film made by multiple directors, the first V/H/S, a compilation of found footage horror shorts, was a mixed bag. Still, it proved that creative things that can still be achieved in Paranormal Activity-style found-footage horror films. V/H/S 2 includes new shorts by the makers of The Blair Witch Project, The Raid: Redemption, and Hobo with a Shotgun. Seriously, one guy we know really liked it!
The Hot Flashes: Susan Seidelman’s latest film sounds like it could be either hellish or delightfully cheesy: A group of middle-age Texan women try to get their mojo back by challenging a group of high school girls to a basketball tournament. The older women in question include Wanda Sykes, Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, and Camryn Manheim. It’s been too long since Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan, but with luck, Hot Flashes will be Hoosiers for mature actresses who deserve better roles.
R.I.P.D.: This Men in Black-esque, high-as-a-kite-concept action-comedy stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as ghost cops—meaning “ghosts that are cops,” rather than cops who gun for ghosts. The plot: Bridges shows Reynolds the ropes of ghost policing as the duo tries to track down Reynolds’s character’s killer, probably either Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, or James Hong. This is director Robert Schwentke’s follow-up to Red, the only comic book movie where Helen Mirren teams up with a really big gun.
Computer Chess: Set in the ’80s, this comedy concerns the designers of one of the earliest chess-playing computer program. Within the short-lived cycle of mumblecore indie dramas about self-involved twentysomethings, Andrew Bujalski’s films stand apart. He has an ear for hilarious, naturalistic dialogue, and his scope has grown ambitious: Beeswax, his third feature, was a Whit Stillman-inspired romantic drama, as well as a capitalist critique—will Big Chess feel a sting from this one?
Only God Forgives: Ryan Gosling re-teams with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for this bonkers thriller, recently screened at Cannes. Refn has described Only God Forgives as a contemporary western set in Thailand, and the plot synopsis is no less incredible: Gosling plays a drug-dealing cop-killer and Thai boxing club proprietor/hitman who gets tangled up with the crime lord played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Seriously, this is a real film that’s coming out.
The Wolverine: Another would-be blockbuster that might be good, but probably won’t, this X-Men spinoff was originally supposed to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, but is instead being helmed by Knight and Day director James Mangold. Based on the debut story in the first solo Wolverine comic series, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, The Wolverine is set sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan (Hugh Jackman) fights some yakuza, and falls in love; could be busy fun, or it could just be busy, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Blue Jasmine: There are precious few details available for Woody Allen’s latest comedy, but apparently it’s about a neurotic housewife. The film’s cast is typically varied, and ranges from conventional picks like Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett to pleasant surprises like Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K., and even Andrew Dice Clay. We’re guessing Clay isn’t the housewife.
Fruitvale Station: After winning Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize, Ryan Coogler’s indie drama was acquired by the Weinstein brothers and sent to Cannes. The Wire and Friday Night Lights‘ Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar Grant, the real-life Bay Area resident gunned down by a transit officer on New Year’s Day 2009. Chad Michael Murray and Kevin Durand co-star.
2 Guns: Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur seems to have adopted a one-for-you, one-for-me approach to filmmaking. Before taking on 2 Guns, a crooked cops-versus-mob thugs comic book adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, Kormákur directed soulful, pulpy neo-noirs like Jar City, or last year’s The Deep, and, uh, Contraband, a good-enough Wahlberg vehicle. 2 Guns looks like Kormákur’s return to dumb-dumb mode, but he’s a talented stylist, the cast is solid (Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton), and there’s nothing wrong with the ol’ summer pew-pew.
Europa Report: Most of the people involved with this indie sci-fi are unknowns: The closest thing to a recognizable star is Michael Nyqvist, of the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies. Still, since serious science fiction films are now almost as rare as westerns, this story about an expedition to Jupiter’s fourth moon deserves a look.
The Spectacular Now: One year after he broke out at Sundance with Smashed, a drama about alcoholism starring Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, director James Ponsoldt returns with an even more buzzed-about Sundance hit. Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bob Odenkirk join Winstead in this teen romance, which is also to some extent about addiction. 21 & Over star Miles Teller plays Sutter, a popular high school senior who also drinks a lot. Sutter falls in love with a nice, safe nerdy girl, played by The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley. Sounds like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but with booze and scruffy puppy love.
Elysium: Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 sounds like more of the same blunt sci-fi social critique. In the year 2154, Earth is a ghetto for people too poor to live on Elysium, an orbiting space station. But the terrestrial plebs are restless, so it’s up to Matt Damon to keep the haves away from the have nots. District 10 co-stars Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, and William Fichtner.
Blood: Nick Murphy’s flashiest directorial credit is a couple episodes of Primeval, the dino-hunting adventure show that fans of Brit sci-fi watch when Doctor Who isn’t on. But his feature debut, The Awakening, was creepy fun, and his new cop drama, Blood, sounds promising. Mark Strong and Paul Bettany co-star as brothers who have to investigate a murder—that they also committed.
Metallica Through the Never: This Metallica concert doc was shot by Hungarian-American filmmaker Nimród Antal, an exceptional modern B-moviemaker and talented stylist. Even if you’re not a Metallica fan (and at this point, who is?), you might want to see how good the band will look. (How they’ll sound isn’t Antal’s problem.)
Paranoia: Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Josh Holloway, and Richard Dreyfuss co-star in Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic’s thriller about corporate espionage. Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame plays Adam Cassidy, an entry-level employee who screws up at his job and is then given a choice: spy on a rival corporation or get fired. Is it awful of us to wish the movie were more about one of the old guys?
Kick-Ass 2: Last time, director Matthew Vaughn brought out the best in Kick-Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s obnoxious, hyper-violent, satirical superhero comic. Kick-Ass 2‘s trailer suggests more of the same, but hope stirs in the geek breast thanks to the arrival of new cast members John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey, the latter as a vigilante named “Colonel Stars and Stripes.” Carrey’s winningly deranged performance in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone suggests that the once-exciting performer can still be funny. And if the trailer is to be believed, Carrey will steal this proudly profane sequel.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Easily the biggest word-of-mouth at Sundance this year, St. Nick director David Lowery’s breakthrough drama is now headed to the Croisette for the Cannes’s Critic’s Week sidebar. Casey Affleck stars as a killer who breaks out of jail and makes a long, bloody trek back home to his estranged family. Rooney Mara plays his two-timing wife, and Ben Foster is the other man—a cop, of course.