Friday, December 23, 2011


  Some films due for release in 2012 that I'm quite keen to see. And why.
(Wong Kar Wai)
A Wong Kar Wai biopic of legndary Martial artist Ip Man, you say? With Tony Leung and a trailer that looks frighteningly like the rain-lashed finale from The Matrix Revolutions? Well, yes. But if youre looking for a traditional Kung Fu movie crossed with an Ip Man biopic, then Donnie Yen already did that. Odds on here then, that Wong's version will be heavy on mood and period athmosphere, full of lovely, mysterious scenes of romantic longing, nostalgic for the Hong Kong of old, and thronged with beautiful women surrounding Leung, easily the great Chinese leading man of his era. Sounds pretty good to me..

(Andrew Stanton)
The source material is ridiculous, but a great kind of ridiculous. Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs also created John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a Confederate Soldier from the American Civil War era who is transported to Mars via astral projection where, granted great speed, strength and agility by the gravity of the planet, he becomes involved in the complex wars between the various species of Martian he encounters, falls in love with a beautiful copper-coloured Martian Princess, and generally swashes his buckle. James Cameron's Avatar was a sort of updating on John Carter, mixed with Anne McCaffrey, but this is the real deal. People have been trying and failing to adapt Burroughs' character for decades without success, but Stanton suggested he had a visionary quality to him with the superb Wall-E, and that combined with the smooth, mythic purity of the storytelling evident in the best of Pixar's output makes me confident that he might have got this right. An immense budget, a great cast and that enigmatic first trailer, stuffed with glimpses of beautiful imagery, only increase that confidence. The second trailer is more about the action and the scale, and it makes the film look part Lawrence of Arabia, part Star Wars, and part Run of the Arrow. Sounds good to me. If you've seen Friday Night Lights the tv show then you'll know that lead here Taylor Kitsch is a star, he just needs the right vehicle. This year he's got three, following this with Peter Bergs Battleship and Oliver stones Savages. John Carter is the great unknown in the coming year of cinema; could be awful, could be incredible. It's out in March and I can't wait.

(Jacques Audiard)
Audiard has earned loyalty by never making a bad film. The last two - A Prophet and The Beat That my Heart Skipped - were both brilliant, so I'd watch anything he decided to do. But it definitely helps that I'm a big fan of "Rust & Bone" by Craig Davidson, a short story collection focusing on gamblers, boxers, losers and outsiders on the make. Audiard is adapting some of those stories, which should prove a perfect fit with his own low down, character-based sensibility. Marion Cotillard leads the cast, which is never a bad thing, either..

(Carlos Reygadas)
Mexican visionary Reygadas follows the amazing Silent Light with this mysterious, semi-autobiographical project. He said it will be a film where "reason will intervene as little as possible, like an expressionist painting where you try to express what you're feeling through the painting rather than depict what something looks like." He really knows how to sell a film, no?
His talent sells itself, is the unfunny truth.

(Christopher Nolan)
(Joss Whedon)
(Marc Webb)
Another Summer Blockbuster Season, another Superhero invasion. Nolan's third Batman film will probably be the biggest film of the year, and for all I think that his approach has its flaws - namely excessive seriousness, shoddy action scenes and a slightly cringeworthy inability to prevent his characters from explaining his themes to the audience - he is still an interesting talent, and we are lucky he makes big summer tent poles with some intelligence and fine craftsmanship rather than the likes of Michael Bay or Brett Ratner. His Batman films are set in a clearly defined world, brilliantly cast, impressively epic, and are refreshingly (by superhero standards) cerebral. This one brings in some exciting actors - Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Levitt - and Nolan's conception of villain Bane sounds far more interesting than The one from the comics. However, the trailer is slightly underwhelming, and crucially, for this Bat-fan; almost entirely lacking in Batman. What gives?
The Avengers looked silly from a distance; all those characters - Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow - thrown together in their silly costumes, when a common problem faced by the super hero genre is overstuffing. But Marvel have been so canny with the lead-up to this film, nicely setting up Thor and Captain America in cleverly pitched films, never being too ambitious, allowing their Universe to work on its own terms, and the trailer is so poppily exciting that I'm cautiously excited about it. Whedon understands the dynamics of the group in genre storytelling, as evinced by Buffy, Firefly and a stint writing X-Men comics, the cast is a fine balance of star power and acting chops, and it promises the biggest, loudest, most outright Superhero thrills of the summer. Plus: the Hulk fighting an alien invasion. Nuff said.
Spider-Man gets a needless reboot courtesy of 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb, promising a younger, edgier take on the character. Webb brought some style to the romcom in that film, but the Amazing Spider-Man trailer looks dull and generic in a genre best-served by personality and strong storytelling. Nevertheless, Andrew Garfield seems a good choice in the lead, the Lizard is a great villain, and Emma Stone is an upgrade on Kirsten Dunst, for me. But still, the point isn't exactly obvious.

(Paul Thomas Anderson)
The new Paul Thomas Anderson. A period drama about a Scientology-style Cult and its founder. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, score by Jonny Greenwood.
Anderson is quite probably the great American Director of his generation, as There Will Be Blood confirmed. Anything he does is something I have to see.
You need to know anymore?

(David O. Russell)
Having rejuvenated his career with the success of The Fighter, Russell returns to the comedy-drama of Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees with this adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel starring Bradley Cooper as a man newly released after a 4 year stint in a mental hospital, who moves back in with his mother and tries to rekindle his relationship with his estranged wife. Sounds weird and maybe a little uncomfortable. That's good, both those things Russell does well.

(David Cronenberg)
Yes yes, it stars RPatz. But it's Cronenberg does Delillo, which is either a perfect meeting between author and director or too much of a good thing. Should be fascinating, either way.

(Rian Johnson)
A sci-fi time travel action movie from the young talent behind Brick, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Emily Blunt. The reviews of an early cut of Looper have been pretty rapturous. Johnson seems a unique talent - Brick is quite unlike anything else I've ever seen, and quite remarkable, and The Brothers Bloom, while suffering from unmistakeable "difficult second album syndrome" is filled with good things - and this middle ground between mainstream genre thrills and personal indie filmmaking is exactly where he should be at this point in his career.

(Nicholas Winding Refn)
Refn, having finally got some recognition from hipsters with his study in 80s cool, Drive, reunites with Ryan Gosling on a Bangkok-set Noir about Thai boxing. He's long been one of World Cinemas more interesting directors, and this can be nothing less than fascinating.

(John Hillcoat)
Just like The Proposition, a Nick Cave/John Hillcoat collaboration, this prohibition-era Bootlegger drama has a strong cast (Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska) and subject matter seemingly perfectly suited to the director. Hardy and Shia Lebouef play two moonshine-making brothers. Violence, romance, and very probably some hard-bitten poetry ensue.

(Steve McQueen)
McQueen and Michael Fassbinder reunite after the brilliant Hunger on this drama about a youngish marketing executive and his sex addiction in modern Manhattan. It's gotten very mixed reviews, but the Trailer is brilliant and Fassbinder is the real deal; a leading man movie star who can act. He's joined here by Cary Mulligan.

(Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
One of the Worlds great cinematic masters, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien has never made a martial arts film before. The Assassin has been in the works since 2007, stars HHHs frequent leading lady Shu Qi alongside Chang Chen, and concerns a female assassin. How his trademark style will work in the context of this genre is impossible to say, but I cant wait to find out.

(Terrence Malick)
Malick. Not actually called The Burial, either. A youngish cast (Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, Barry Pepper) and - a first for Malick aside from the Sean Penn sequences in Tree of Life - a contemporary setting. Probably won't be out til 2014, but you never know...

(Steven Soderbergh)
Am I alone in loving Soderbergh most when he experiments in the boundaries of commercial cinema? When he uses his post Out of Sight heat to make an LA-set English Gangster movie by way of Alain Resnais? Or turns the second Oceans film into an insane collage of techniques and skits? Anyway, this is written by Lem Dobbs, his collaborator on The Limey, features an astounding cast of actors for real-life Martial artist Gina Carano to beat her way through (Michael Fassbinder, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas), locations in Barcelona, Dublin and the US, and looks a pretty stock double-crossed spy tale, only with fight-scenes shot the way they should be: with brutality and true impact. It's got a David Holmes score too...

(Nacho Vigalondo)
Vigalondo's debut, TimeCrimes, was a clever, stylish, gripping genre piece which suggested he might some day do great things. This unclassifiable sophomore film follows a man who wakes up beside a beautiful girl, in her apartment one evening with no memory of the drunken night before. He is Julio, she is Julia. Soon they discover an alien ship hovering above the city nearby. So then we get a romcom, a drama, and a genre film, wrapped up in a lovely little Spanish package. Looks brilliant.

(Tony Gilroy)
Gilroy returns to the franchise his script began, Jeremy Renner replaces Matt Damon, playing not Bourne but another Treadstone Assassin, and I imagine it'll be more of the same globetrotting-gritty-wetwork stuff, only - given Gilroy's disparaging words about Paul Greengrass' direction of the last two Bourne films - probably more classically directed. Gilroy's Michael Clayton is one of the better American films of the last few years, but his Duplicity was a clever bore, so all bets are off here.

(Andrew Dominik)
Dominik finally follows the sublime The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with an adaptation of George V Higgins 1974 novel. The book is typical Higgins; told almost entirely in dazzling dialogue which reveals a tightly wound, beautifully simple plot about a card game heist and the vengeance wrought upon the hold-up men by the mob. Brad Pitt plays the mob fixer charged with finding and punishing those responsible, and Dominik has surrounded him with some fabulous character actors including James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepherd. If Dominik's last film showed anything, it's that he has the talent to take a formidably distinctive novel and turn it into a distinctive film. This could be brilliant.

(Olivier Assayas)
Assayas follows the impressive Carlos, which studied the politics of Europe and the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, with this drama about a young man dealing with the social and political upheavals of Europe in the1960s. Assayas is one of the most consistently interesting filmmakers in France, making films which are accessible and involving but always deal in ideas and substantial themes. As a stylist he improves with each film, and this return to a slightly more intimate world after Carlos' epic canvas is a welcome move.

(Sam Mendes)
I've never really liked a Sam Mendes film. He's obviously an intelligent, talented chap, with impeccable taste. But his films, for all that they all contain fantastic elements, great moments, lovely passages, for all that, they all feel a little safe and predictable. That may mean he's the perfect fit for a film in a series which demands some safety, something predictable. He's also the perfect age to understand what a Bond film should be, can be, must be. Daniel Craig is joined by a ridiculously classy cast: Ralph Fiennes (rumours suggest as Blofeld), Ben Whishaw (Q), Javier Bardem, Naomi Harris and Albert Finney. Roger Deakins, master cinematographer, shoots. A Bond film with serious pedigree.

(Lu Chuan)
A big Chinese period drama. A bunch make it over here every year. But this one is directed by the talented Lu Chuan, who made City of Life and Death and Mountain Patrol, and that's reason enough to make me excited about it.

(David Chase)
A semi-autobiographical debut film from an American director set in 60s New Jersey about a group of friends who form a band and try to make it big? Sounds like the kind of thing that goes straight to DVD in the UK with a cast of young prettyboys and generic starlets, a couple of whom might surprise us by making it big a few years later. Only this one is directed by David Chase, creator of the Sopranos, which often played like the longest movie ever made anyway, and suggests that this could be something better and more sophisticated. But then Ricky Gervais had made a couple of sublime tv series, and his first film - a comedy drama about a group of friends in Suburban England in the 70s - was a bit fa misfire, so who knows? Tv and cinema, for all their similarities, are very different.

(Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Ceylan's latest has gotten lots of paise at festivals, and sounds like a Change of pace for him, since it has genre elements. It's a 140 minute drama, methodically following a murder investigation in rural Turkey, and its reportedly brilliant.

(Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino finally makes that long-promised Western, and it turns out it's not really a Western at all, but a "Southern", a tale set in the South during the Civil War era, following a slave turned Bounty Hunter as he sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Plantation Owner. But the title suggests it'll be full of references to Spaghetti Westerns, it's already got a great cast (Jamie Foxx as the bounty hunter, Leonardo DiCaprio as the Plantation Owner, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Samuel L Jackson in other parts) and it's Tarantino.

(Matteo Garrone)
Garrone burst onto the International scene with the ferocious Gomorrah, and his follow-up is this Drama about the modern obsession with fame and celebrity. Not much else is known, but he's been working on it for three years, and expectations are high..

(Larry Charles)
Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles complete a sort of "idiot trilogy" with this comedy about a Middle Eastern Dictator who may bear resemblance to certain real-life despots. For all the latters evident flaws, both Borat and Bruno made me laugh as much as anything I've seen in a cinema in years. Cohen is a brave comic, and Charles seems to get the best out of him. The trailer is middling but I'm there anyway.

(Ridley Scott)
Scott is famously better at world-building than he is at narrative or characterisation or any of that boring old storytelling crap. That explains why all of his historical dramas - even the ones with massive flaws - are all set in vivid, beautiful worlds. He often feels more interested in the background than foreground action. That is a gift well-suited to sci-fi. But he hasn't made a sci-fi film since the one-two punch combo of Alien and Blade Runner established him as a giant of the genre thirty years ago. Prometheus is his return, and the images that have escaped the set so far and the arresting trailer promise a predictably visually strong production. The early confusion over whether or not it was an Alien prequel suggested a troubling amount of rewriting, but Losts Damon Lindelof seems a safe pair of hands, and Scotts work is rarely without a personality; Prometheus will be the film he wants to make. The cast is promising, too, full of mature class-acts from Michael Fassbinder and Charleze Theron through Idris Elba and Patrick Wilson to Guy Pearce and Rafe Spall.

(Kathryn Bigelow)
That's not the title, only a rumour. Nobody knows the title yet. What is known is that Bigelow's follow-up to The Hurt Locker is this factual account of the Hunt for and Black Ops mission to assassinate Osama Bin Laden. The only confirmed cast members so far are promising character players Chris Pratt and Jason Clarke (better known from great work on tv in Parks And Recreation and Brotherhood, respectively) but you can be sure a director of Bigelow's talent - and expertise with action - will make this an exhilarating, intelligent, hot button thriller.

(Taylor Hackford)
Jason Statham playing Richard Stark's Parker is worth a post all of it's own, but it's not an entirely terrible notion. And the fact that this is a Stark adaptation at all is a very good thing. The rest of the cast is very true to the noirish nastiness of Starks worldview: Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis and even Jennifer Lopez could all have stepped comfortably from the pages of any of the Parker novels. As it happens this one is an adaptation of Flashfire, one of the recent books - Stark, a pseudonym for Donald Westlake, retired Parker for 23 years between 1973 and 1997 - and the only thing that really gives me pause is journeyman Director Taylor Hackford, who seems to have mediocrity running through his artistic veins.

(Michael Haneke)
Haneke films are an event, even small-scale dramas like this one. It centres on an elderly couple whose relationship is tested when they have to care for their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) after she has a stroke. Haneke is on an incredible run of film's - his entire career, really - and him working with Huppert for the first time since The Piano Teacher is an exciting prospect.

(Martin McDonagh)
McDonagh follows In Bruges with this dark comedy about a screenwriter caught up in a dognapping plot, which sounds very mid-90s post-Tarantino. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Abbie Cornish. If it's half as good as McDonagh's debut film, that'll be fine with me.

(Pete Travis)
Yeah, another Judge Dredd movie, sixteen years after the fudged Stallone version came and went with so little impact. This one is written by Alex Garland, whose track record as a screenwriter includes 28 Days Later and Sunshine, uncommonly interesting takes on familiar old genres both, and directed by the slightly less inspiring Travis, while the versatile Karl Urban plays the Lawman himself. As a character, Dredd could have been made for cinema: visually strong, suited to insertion into any plot or sort of story, his world is rich, funny and bizarre, and should always be full of visual wonders. Hopefully the film is too..

(Neil Blomkamp)
District 9 had its detractors, but it was an accomplished, ambitious, unusual sci-fi film from a filmmaker with a clearly defined aesthetic sensibility and a storytelling style all his own. His next film - actually due in 2013, I believe - is another sci-fi film, starring Matt Damon, Sharlito Kopley, Jodie Foster and a host of Latin actors (Diego Luna, Alice Braga, Rodrigo Mora). Its set 150 years in the future, concerns aliens and humans, Damon plays a convict; and aside from that, nobody really knows anything. Blomkamp has a big budget and big stars here, so I'm hoping the larger canvas doesn't overwhelm him, because this could possibly be something very special.

(Walter Hill)
I find it inspiring that veteran Walter Hill, who made a fistful of pared down action classics in the late 70s and early 80s (The Warriors, The Driver, Southern Comfort), peaked commercially with the definitive buddy-cop movie (48 Hours) and has consistently made the best Westerns of the last few decades (The Long Riders, Geronimo, Wild Bill) is still directing. Here he's collaborating with another couple of veterans in the form of Sylvester Stallone and producer Joel Silver on an adaptation of a French Graphic Novel about a Hitman and a cop teaming up to solve some murders. I'm hoping for at least one slow motion action scene from Hill, once the master of the form.

(Pablo Larrain)
Larrain has announced himself as a serious talent with his last two studies of the moral corruption of Chile under Pinochet. Both Tony Manero and Post Mortem were beautiful, disturbing, blackly funny and shocking, and here Larrain again takes on his countries past in a story tracing the experiences of aN advertising executive who devises a plan to beat Pinochet in a 1988 referendum. Larrain's rising status is signalled by the fact that Gael Garcia Bernal plays the executive.

(Julia Loktev)
Bernal stars again here, working with young Russian-American director Loktev - whose last film, the extraordinary Day Night Day Night indicated that she might be an enormous talent, with a sensibility more Russian than American - on an adaptation of a brilliant Tom Bissell story about a young couple on a holiday Trek across the mountains of Georgia who run into some complications with the locals. I missed it at the London Film Festival, but all I've seen and read make it look and sound brilliant.

(Leonard Abrahamson)
Abrahamson is the Irish director of Adam & Paul and Garage, minor classics both, and this is an adaptation of Kevin Power's terrific novel " Bad Day in Blackrock", which fictionalised the murder of a young man outside a Dublin Nightclub by a group of affluent Teens and in doing so, skewered the condition of Celtic Tiger Ireland in all it's moral confusion. If anybody can do such a book justice, it's Abrahamson, who has displayed a great feel for tone and place alongside an ear for black comedy in his work so far.

(Alfonso Cuaron)
Cuaron is, I think, the real deal; something of a visionary. This sci-fi drama reportedly follows two astronauts who have been accidentally cut loose in the middle of a space-walk and are floating into the void, alone together. They are played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and rumours suggest Curaon is attempting to shoot the whole thing in what will looks like one Russian Ark-like single unbroken take. The script had better be good to support such an idea, but I have faith in Cuaron, and that starry cast suggests the material is strong too. Sounds incredible,

(Gareth Evans)
The trailer and festival responses to this Indonesian action thriller - directed by an expatriate Welshman - suggest that it's one of those envelope pushing b-movies, an efficient machine which delivers a succession of pummelling action scenes one after another. The concept finds a SWAT team raiding a building filled with dangerous criminals, then having to fight their way through it, room by room, floor by floor, man by man.

(Bong Joon-Ho)
Koreas most eclectic and interesting mainstream director (he made Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother, all excellent) returns with this Post-Apocalyptic story, adapted from a French comic and following a Disparate group of survivors travelling across the icy waste aboard a train...

(Oliver Stone)
Don Winslow's novel is one of those books that reads like it was written to be adapted; it features strong, bold characters, a simple, compelling plot, and plenty of action. The story depicts two youngish middle class Californian drug producers who suddenly find themselves taking on a murderous Mexican Cartel who want their business. The cartel play dirty, abducting the duo's shared girlfriend and blackmailing them for their product. Only they decide to fight back.. The cast for Stone's version skews young (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as the duo) and classy (Benicio DelToro and Salma Hayek as Cartel management) and he has some form with Noir and the crime genre in the shape of the entertaining U-Turn. He's also due a hit.

(Hirokazu Koreeda)
Koreeda is a true master, capable of finely-tuned, perfectly weighted, surprisingly moving dramas, and this, like his earlier Nobody Knows, focuses on children. It tells the story of two young brothers, forced to live in different cities by their. Parents separation, and their dreams and attempts to be reunited. Some of the directors films have never made it to the UK, so fingers crossed that this on will.

(Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson directing Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Bruce Willis, set in the 60s, Alexandr Desplat score. Oh yes. 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Raid is Indonesian Movie not Malaysian..

12:15 a.m.  
Blogger David N said...

Amended, thanks.

10:31 a.m.  

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