Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Films to Anticipate - For 2011 and Beyond

My tastes in film tend to be fairly narrow -- as you'll see, I mostly like directors with arthouse roots, who carry those sensibilities into their more mainstream, bigger budget, studio careers -- but some parties have expressed interest in my opinion on what films they should be keeping an eye out for so hopefully this will be a helpful resource. If you feel I've omitted anything worth anticipating, please comment and let me know. It's possible something slipped my mind, or there's a project I was otherwise unaware of.

Django Unchained - written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It just broke that the film will be released on Christmas day, 2012. Coming off of the excellent Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino continues to explore the theme of historical vengeance, aimed at the purest evils. In Basterds, it was the Nazis, in Django it will be slave owners in America. The film is a spaghetti western about an escaped slave (as yet uncast) who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), to get revenge on a merciless slave owner to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has taken his wife hostage. It's kind of philosophically interesting what Tarantino seems to be doing, in a meta-film sense. Some viewers -- rightly -- have qualms about indulging in revenge fantasies, but Tarantino seems to be challenging those viewers to try not to indulge and delight in his tales of vengeance against the purest of evils, those that are the most prominent in the consciousness of the West. It's admittedly difficult to resist the appeal.

Untitled - In an unprecedented turnaround time, Terrence Malick has quickly followed up completion of his magnificent, stunning The Tree of Life, with a new film. Malick is notorious for having large gaps of time between films, so it's peculiar that he would film, and can, a new movie this quickly. And with The Tree of Life representing a kind of culmination of his film career thematically, it will be very interesting to see what direction this film goes. The new film is still untitled, but is sometimes referred to as 'The Burial'. It is some form of love story with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams playing the two main characters (and Javier Bardem playing a priest). Though it's finished shooting, there's no telling how long it will take to edit, market and release, but whenever it does hit, definitely be on the lookout.

The Master - though the title is subject to change, this is Paul Thomas Anderson's new one with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. The film is said to be loosely modeled on the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. I believe it's about to start filming soon. Coming off of There Will be Blood, I was very curious to see what PTA would tackle next, and this seems interesting and ambitious material. Anderson is absolutely among the most interesting and talented directors working, so I can't wait for this.

The Dark Knight Rises - by Christopher Nolan with Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, with most of the rest of the cast returning. The consensus is that The Dark Knight is the best superhero comic book film ever made, and I'm somewhat inclined to agree, even though I do think it had more flaws than most seem to think. In any case, Christopher Nolan films are reliably smart and entertaining, so if there's any blockbuster-type film to eagerly await, it's this one. I think it's coming out summer 2012.

Noah - This is still in early stages, but things are happening with it. After dropping out of directing The Wolverine, it seems that this Biblical epic will be Darren Aronofsky's (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) next endeavor. Aronofsky and his collaborators made the script into a graphic novel to help pitch the film, which apparently worked as it currently has been 50% financed by some studio, and will have the rest covered if they officially land Christian Bale to star (he's currently in talks to do so). It's safe to say that it won't be your typical Charlton Heston-esque Old Testament epic with Aronofsky directing. Aronofsky has said he wants to explore this story and the character of Noah, who he says has more darkness and nuance to him than you typically tend to think. I believe I read that he might portray Noah, initially, as a drunk, or something to that effect. But don't quote me on that.

The Hobbit - With Peter Jackson retaking the helm, after Guillermo Del Toro left the films, fans of The Lord of the Rings films, as well as the books, can feel fairly confident that all is well. Not that I was too worried when Del Toro was directing, but there was a question to what extent he would submit himself to Jackson's vision of the universe, and to what extent he would inject his own vision. His design of Smaug that he described in a New Yorker profile of him, for example, seemed to be particularly Del Toro-ish -- which means Smaug would not be particularly consistent with Jackson's universe. In any event, with Jackson helming there are no longer such lingering questions, and greatness is to be expected. As I understand it, this will actually be two films, covering the material from The Hobbit, and adding story to kind of connect The Hobbit to the beginning of Lord of the Rings.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Based on Stieg Larsson's immensely popular millennium trilogy, this sees David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network) returning to his dark, pulp roots as a director. Seems to be a brilliant match of director and material. The trailer looks great and Fincher's work is consistently excellent. It hits theaters Christmas, 2011.

A Dangerous Method - directed by David Cronenberg, and featuring Viggo Mortesen and Michael Fassbender as Freud and Jung, respectively. Mortensen is great, but I would have loved to see Christoph Waltz (who dropped out at the last minute) as Freud alongside Fassbender. This should be excellent.

Gravity - by Alfonso Cuaron starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The film has gone through some production woes, with Robert Downey Jr. being slated to star, and eventually dropping out, and I'm not quite sure what stage it is at currently, but if and when it gets completed it should be very cool. Cuaron directed one of the best Earth-bound, sci-fi dystopian films ever with Children of Men, so it should be cool to see him bring his sensibilities to space sci-fi. The film is said to be 60% CGI, integrating live-action with CGI. That is somewhat disheartening, but I imagine that the bulk of CGI will be of inanimate objects, like space crafts and such, and so won't be so bad. Apparently most of -- if not the whole -- film will be shot in zero-gravity conditions, and it will feature a 20-minute, uncut opening shot. Cool.

Blood Meridian - based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) the film was once slated to have Ridley Scott direct, then Todd Field, and more recently the project has fallen into the hands of James Franco, which seems insane. Franco is unproven as a director, and this is a literary classic of the 20th century that will be difficult to bring to the screen. In any case, the source material is utterly brilliant, and much of it has great cinematic potential, especially the enigmatic character of The Judge. If done right it could be phenomenal, but there are a lot of 'ifs' associated with this film at this stage. Who knows when it will go into production, or even whether it will ultimately get made, but if and when it hits theaters, check it out. But read the novel first.

Those are my most highly anticipated, taking a long-term look at the future, as many of the projects have not even begun filming yet. In the more near-term (2011 releases mostly), and with somewhat less interest I'm also anticipating:
  • David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis
  • Haywire by Steven Soderbergh
  • On the Road - an adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel with a good cast, from the team that made The Motorcycle Diaries
  • Moneyball with Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill, about Oakland A's manager Billy Beane.
  • The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The film is completed, but since the studio isn't hurrying to release it, it might not be any good.
  • The Man of Steel is Zach Snyder's take on Superman
  • Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson's newest with Ed Norton and Bill Murray.

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