Sunday, 1 January 2012

Movies I-wanna-see in 2012

According to the Mayan calender, we have until next December to live, which is plenty of time to see some of the most eagerly awaited films ever made. Just in case we might survive the entire next year, I'll include 32 films for next year running to the end of the year. These are divided into three different categories.

10 Spring Premieres:

Iron Sky (c) 2012 Energia Productions

John Carter
Director: Andrew Stanton

Pulp heroes tend to have it tough on the big screen. Recent failures of adventures such as Conan or Solomon Kane or (shudder) The Immortals are not exactly raising spirits. But this is my eagerly awaited event movie of the spring for one good reason: It is Pixar director Andrew Stanton's first foray into live-action films. With the director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo behind it, surely this will find time for the characters as well as just big space sci-fi scenes and explosions. Not sure about the title, though. If they try to bring people who are not sci-fi nerds into the theatre by dropping the "Of Mars" from the title, then why is the trailer almost nothing but big action scenes, weird-looking martians and spaceships? 

Pirates! - Band of Misfits
Directors: Peter Lord, Jeff Nevitt

You know what's as reliable as Pixar? Aardman! The creators of Wallace and Gromit seem to have delivered an exquisit pirate rompt to wash away the sour aftertaste of the last Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. I truly adore this trailer, with its goofy humour. It seems like this doesn't talk down to children and thus we get jokes about limbs falling off and fishermen being crushed by pirate ships. And a giant fish that the mad pirate captain has dressed up as a crewmember! With sea monsters, ghost ships and swordfights aplenty, this could've been my favorite movie in the world when I was 12. But there's no reason I wouldn't enjoy the hell out of it now, either.

Ghost Rider 2: The Spirit of Vengeance
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Mark Taylor

Bad movies rarely have good sequels. But I'm willing to give this Marvel adaptation the benefit of a doubt for the fact that it's being directed by the guys behind the hilariously insane Crank films. So, suitably, this is a film where Nicolas Cage turns into a flaming skeleton that can vomit lava and pee fire. There's a high concept for you. The film has had bad early word-of-mouth, but I'm willing to watch any Nicolas Cage movie, particularly if it is as insane as this. Bring it!

The Innkeepers
Director: Ti West

Run-off-the-mill horror directors such as Eli Roth or Rob Zombie have somehow earned the title of being the Future of American horror. Well, one director who has truly earned that title, is Ti West, the director of 2008's effective House of the Devil. Like he did there with 80's-style horror, he has picked another popular horror sub-genre and shown others how it's supposed to be done. A haunted house! Admittedly, the trailer shows a pretty regular-seeming ghost house story, with its jump-scares and all. But I'm fairly confident that West sells his film by good direction, rather than unique stories. At least I hope so.

Killer Joe 
Director: William Friedkin

2011 was a year of return for many veteran directors. So, also William Friedkin has had a new film done, altough it has yet to premiere outside film festivals. The master of crime films such as The French Connection or To Live And Die in LA has now chosen to do a black comedy, and I'm all the merrier. There's not a trailer out yet, at least not in YouTube, but the above scene tells a lot about what to expect. Matthew McConaughey has pulled himself together since his comeback last year in The Lincoln Lawyer. He plays the titular hitman, who gets hired to do a job, but it gets complicated since he strikes his eye on his employer's sister. It's a lot more low-key than that sort of plot usually would imply, with no mob bosses to be seen. The real threat comes from Killer Joe himself, and I'm confident he's able to do some pretty terrible things.

Bullett to the Head
Director: Walter Hill

Another intriguing new project by a veteran action director is the new film by Walter Hill, director of The Warriors and 48 Hours. The film is not a remake of John Woo's craziest film, but an original action drama starring Sylvester Stallone, Christian Slater and Jason Momoa. It's a film based on a graphic novel where a cop and a hitman have to form an uneasy alliance to kill the murderer of both their partners. Stallone still is in freakily good shape for his age (that's steroids for you), so let's hope he has it in him to pull off another Rambo and deliver a huge bodycount.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Director: Tommy Wirkola

Altough Dead Snow didn't work as a whole, the film had a number of delightfully twisted ideas and good scenes. So that alone makes the new film by director Tommy Wirkola worth waiting for. In an age when classic fairy tales get a modern re-imagining, casting Hansel and Gretel as full-grown witch hunters dressed like a pair of extras from Underworld movies makes me at least curious. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton seem to be good leads for such a film, and Zoë Bell plays a witch. So let's hope the result is a lot better than The Brothers Grimm.

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue

I'm a sucker for off-beat adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, which is why I love Roger Corman's Poe movies so much. But this one, directed by V for Vendetta's James McTeigue, somehow re-imagines a poem where almost nothing happens (except in the mind of the lead), as an action movie. The trailer reveals that actually this is a Sherlock Holmes / From Hell / Se7en ripoff, where Poe himself (perfectly cast as John Cusack) is called to help solve murders based on his own writings. This is a goofy concept and I really want to see it work, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Wettest County 
Director: John Hillcoat

Another director whose new work always intrigues me is John Hillcoat, the director of The Proposition and The Road. Particularly as it's script is been written by Nick Cave. Hillcoat is bringing his trademarked brown-shades this time to do a gangster story set to the prohibition era. Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Shia LaBeouf play brothers who lead a pack of bootleggers, threatened by the corrupt FBI agent played by Guy Pearce, who wants a slice of their cake. The film is an adaptation of Matt Bondurant's fact-based book The Wettest Country In The World, which was based on the life of the author's grandfather.

Iron Sky
Director: Timo Vuorensola

Last, but definately not least, a very special Finnish film, which is looking to be released in the April if the winds are benevolent. The guys who started out doing Star Trek parodies in their basement proved that they could do a feature-length movie with 2005's Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning, which was released free in the internet and became a hit with millions of downloads. Their next film has been in the making since then, and has finally been finished with a lot of help from fans around the world. But this is not a amateur film by any means, as its script has been made by award-winning fantasy author Johanna Sinisalo, and it stars international character actors such as Udo Kier, Christopher Kirby and Julia Dietze. Oh, and what the movie is about? Nazis conquering the moon on the last days of the Reich and setting a base there. And the Moon Nazis attacking the Earth in 2018. How's that for a high concept?!

2011 Throwbacks Top 10:

Many parts of the Earth are not as lucky as the Americans, and we haven't yet seen many of 2011's most interesting films premiere here. Whereas in the USA spring is mostly quiet film-wise, in Europe it might be the most exciting time of the year to go to movies, as we finally get a chance to see the most awited award-baits. I've collected 10 of these films in this part.

The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius

One of the biggest shoe-ins for The Best Picture Oscar is surprisingly this French silent movie. Big deal, Mel Brooks did a comedy silently in 1976, but didn't win any awards for it. But in seriousness, this is reportedly a love letter to cinema itself, with plenty of slapstick gags that reminisce the best of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd. And, I would also bet if it's an Oscar favorite, that the film has a softer side too, and is willing to not only make people laugh, but, perhaps, also make them shed a tear for the changing times.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Director: Lynn Ramsay

Based on a best-selling novel, this film studies the nature of evil and bringing up a child in the modern world. The titular Kevin does some very bad things and his parents, played by Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, have to deal with it. I'm expecting a dark film, but as it ties together with real world's horrible shoot-outs, it is a film that asks questions that are adamantly necessary, too.

Director: Martin Scorsese

To tell the truth, I wasn't terribly thrilled about the trailer for Martin Scorsese's 3D adventure movie. But then praise started to flowing in. Even James Cameron called the "best use of 3D technology he'd ever seen, including his own films". Recognizing the apt notice that this is the first time in history that James Cameron has recognized that someone is better at something than he himself, the film must be a real miracle. I'm also interested because Steven Spielberg did so well on his own 3D experiments in The Adventures of Tintin. Surely the friendly rivalry between the two old pals ensures that they both are innovative films.

The Descendants
Director: Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne's new look into the mindsets and tragedies of middle-aged people is also almost certainly worth a shot. This one is not just a crisis that the wealthy land-owner played by George Clooney goes through in Hawaii. It is also a story about an estranged family that has to come together. That there is a pretty basic independent dramedy material, but I'm sure Payne has both good enough caharcter observations and funny enough jokes to this be a worthy candidate to watch.

The Muppets
Director: James Bobin

I'm not the world's biggest Muppet fan, but I recognize that we are direly in need of them in these times. There's something seriously old-school in The Muppets, and not just that the puppets are hand-craft actors, not CGI effects. The variéte style that the films encompass has been resurrected by the world's biggest Muppet fan Jason Segel, and the subsequent musical-comedy has been praised as pure joy. This film is in threat of going straight to DVD in Finland, while crap like Journey 2 and The Phantom Menace 3D get theatrical releases. I'm willing to fight for my right to see The Muppets in theatre. It's a big-sized comedy. If put just on DVD, I fear it will be mixed with such lesser movies as Muppets from Space or The Muppet Wizard of Oz. I'm certain that the powers behind this have put a little more effort into bringing Muppets back to the limelight.

This Must Be The Place 
Director: Paolo Sorrentino

One of the first premieres in Finland this year is this Sean Penn-starrer. He plays a Robert Smith lookalike that attempts to carry out his estranged father's last wish and to murder the Nazi that tortured him in a concentration camp. A hijink-filled road trip ensues. With music by David Byrne. There's another High Concept for ya. This one will either work like a charm or fail miserably. Judging by the trailer I'm willing to bet for the former.

Director: Roman Polanski

Yes, even Roman Polanski is among the list of veteran directors who managed to produce an intriguing new film last year. This one relies on star actors for a good performance and little else. Two sets of parents (Jodie Foster & John C. Reilly and Kate Winslet & Christoph Waltz) arrange to have a discussion since their adolescent boys have been in a fight. But as both sides are willing to fiercely protect their own offspring, things are about to turn ugly. Polanski has relied on big issue-filmmaking in recent years, so it's refreshing to see him do a completely character-based film. He is one of the finest actor's directors alive today, as anyone that has acted for him will tell. Because this is about adult reaction to their child's misbehaviour, this seems like a natural companion piece to We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Director: Steve McQueen

Not just old veterans have done interesting new films. Steve McQueen proved he had strong cinematic sense with Hunger, and he has teamed up again with actor Michael Fassbender for his latest. Like previously, this is a frenetic piece about an obsession. Fassbender plays a sex addict who attempts to hide his shameful ways from the outside. This becomes harder as his sister arrives to his place to stay over. McQueen is a visual storyteller, who can work without much dialogue. Still, I hope the film will be less experimental in style as Hunger was.

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy 
Director: Thomas Alfredson

Another bright and rising talent is the swedish director of Let The Right One In, Thomas Alfredson. In his Hollywood debut he has gained enough reputation to be able to direct one of the best actors alive, Gary Oldman. Oldman is also due to a comeback, since he has mostly been seen as a (albeit very good) bit-part player in big ensemble pictures such as The Dark Knight trilogy and the Harry Potter films. The film is a return to the thinking man's espionage pictures, taking place during the Cold War. The British Intelligence goes through rough times as an operation in Istanbul goes haywire. Oldman's George Smiley is brought from retirement to capture the Russian spy hiding among MI-6. And he's willing to get his hands dirty to find him.

Tropa de Elite 2 – The Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Director: José Padliha

One of the most kick-ass action films of the 2000s has gotten a sequel that has been hailed as even better than the first one. As the first one was about a paramilitary police squad bent on cleaning up the favelas from crime, the second one delves deeper, into politics and structures of the society. This may be the Brazilian Wire, but in action film form rather than a TV series. I can't fucking wait. Fortunately, this arrives in Finland already in January, so it won't take long any more.

Rest of the Year Top 12:

If one thing's for certain, it is that it's impossible to know what the year's truly interesting films will be until one sees them. So, because big blockbuster films are the ones that start their marketing early, they are also the ones that we have most information about at the moment. The best films of 2012 may be ones we've never heard about. But then again, there will be plenty of interesting, and BIG blockbusters, too. Here's 12 projects that have captured my interest for the rest of the year.

12. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Video game adaptations and Takashi Miike films: two things that are more often bad than not. But still, Nintendo's crazy handheld lawyer game is tailor-made for a director as crazy as Miike to direct. This may be the japanese Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in a courthouse – an odd mixture of computer graphics and overladen drama. I'm hoping to catch this at autumn's Love & Anarchy festival.

11. Twylight Zones 

Sopranos mastermind David Chase has directed and written his debut feature film! It's a film set in New Jersey in the 1960's, where a group of friends decides to form a band. Sounds intriguing, and seeing as Chase has brought James Gandolfini with him, I'm hoping this will touch some layers of brilliance. No pictures have come out yet, but I remain interested.

10. The Amazing Spider-Man

When one of the most popular superheroes of all time (that isn't Superman) has a new movie coming out, and it's only the third most awaited superhero epic of the year, you know it's 2012. Spidey is a sort of underdog of the year, which is hardly surprising. The film seems to be aimed at Twilight audiences who love brooding and pouting. Spidey fans got enough drama from Sam Raimi's films and are hoping for a more light-hearted take in the same vein as Iron Man and Thor. But, this advertizes as being "the untold story", so the film might have tricks up its sleeve even for die-hard comics readers. And I think Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone seem to be a good casting choice as the lead lovebirds, seemingly even better and more apt than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Spidey remains my favorite superhero, and I will see the film no matter what.

Also make a lot of these hand motions and "Thwippp" -sounds.

9. The Life of Pi 

Meanwhile, whatever happened to Tobey Maguire? Well, as is seen in Ang Lee's latest film, he got stuck on a lifeboat with an orang-utan, a zebra, a hyena and a tiger. This is a perculiar story, but I'm willing to bet Lee makes it into a heartwarming adventure story. Also I like to see how a lifeboat filled with animals will cope.

8. Frankenweenie 

I'm still willing to give Tim Burton the benefit of a doubt, particularly when he makes stop-motion animations. This one is based on his own live-action short, that was heck of a charming yarn in the first place. It's a story of young Victor Frankenstein, who resurrects his dear dog Sparky after it's hit by a truck. But the people living in the suburbs don't take kindly to such creature to walk the Earth. It's nice to see Burton call back his earlier cast members such as Winona Ryder and Martin Landau, who will provide voices.

7. The Expendables 2 

If Simon West, the director of Con Air, the best ensemble action film of the last 20 years, can't produce explosive gold with a cast that includes Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Chris Hemswoth, and bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who will at least fire a gun this time around), then America has failed as a nation.

6. Skyfall

Welcome back, Mr. Bond. We've missed you. What way to welcome back everyone's favorite agent than giving his new adventure's director's chair to Sam Mendes? I hope all the time spent worrying over MGM's fate has given the director time to think the film through, as no one wants to see the repeat of Quantum of Solace's failures. We want a streamlined action thriller with exotic locations, and to see what the hell is going on during the action scenes. No Paul Haggis on screenwriting duties means no frustrating underlining of the film's themes. This time, there's also serious acting talent involved, with Javier Bardem playing the main villain, and also Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith and Albert Finney being involved. Most interesting will be that Q and Miss Moneypenny return the series as younger versions after a long while. Maybe 007 will have back some of his boyish humour after the last two films were almost comically serious affairs.

5. Brave 

This certainly is a year filled with cinematic adventure. Pixar is returning to form after the wreckage of Cars 2 with a relatively low-key one. The biggest threat in Brave is not awakening ancient evil, or the destruction of Earth, but just a big bear. True, the story's a sort of Mulan re-hash with a young girl wanting to be a warrior but shunned. But she'll prove them wrong. I'm totally in love with the fim's visual look, that doesn't resemble an American CGI animation at all. It has a really European, and medieval feel to it. Much of this is achieved with the various light effects, which are truly marvellous. The film seems to be as funny, exciting and perfected as Pixar's finest.

4. The Dark Knight Rises

So far I've felt like the promotional material for Christopher Nolan's trilogy-closer have been quite underwhelming. Third parts are never easy in franchises, particularly if you have to follow the excellent Dark Knight. The trailer doesn't tell much about the story, just that Batman has to stop Bane from destroying Gotham City. Bane as a villain seems to be just a mumbling muscleman with a jockstrap in his face. I'm almost missing the screaming retard from Batman & Robin.

But everyone who likes big action movies will wait for this nevertheless. Nolan is known for his secretiveness, and there are almost certainly twists and turns in the film no one saw coming before. I'm also willing to bet Bane and Catwoman aren't the only supervillains in the game, and that several others may also make a surprise appearance. It's never really been done before that a superhero's story has an end, and it will be exciting to see what tricks Nolan has up his sleeve. If Batman Begins was inspired by Year One, The Dark Knight by The Killing Joke and The Long Halloween, than this one must be inspired by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, not plot-wise, but thematically. And that's the best Batman story there is, so it's suitable.

3. The Avengers

But for all its brooding and a sense of end, I'll still rather take a light-hearted ensemble action romp where a lot of things go boom. Building up a big team-up with five movies has got to mean that The Avengers is one of the biggest films ever. Because the nerd-friendly Joss Whedon is directing, the whole thing has good chances of working. True, it is probably mostly Robert Downey, Jr.'s show, but then again, he is so good, he should be the centre of attention. This is another trailer that doesn't really tell much, just that the heroes are assembling to fight a threat. Since Loki is involved, I bet he's pulling the strings on The Hulk at first (like in the comics), but perhaps on an attack by a certain shape-shifting alien race later on. Any Marvel fanboy worth his salt just can't wait!

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I'm betting many others were also not aware of how much they have missed Middle-Earth. From the trailer's first notes it feels like an opportunity to go back home. As the source book was meant more or less for children, we are able to expect a much more lighter-hearted film. One should note that the trailer showcases locations and moods more than actual actions, which are pretty light during the first part of the book. The adaptation seems to be interwoven with prequel duties, setting up things that happened before the events of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. But let's hope the film will not be only walking around and Tolkien songs, but exciting and fun as well. With Peter Jackosn back directing, and Guillermo Del Toro in scripwriting duties, there's a pretty good chance for it.

1. Django Unchained

Oh, Quentin Tarantino. How you always refuse to move from your comfort zone, yet I'm still always eager to see your next film. The director has flirted with the style of spaghetti westerns in each of his movies before, so it was about time he gave into the genre as a whole. Even less surprisingly, it is a story of revenge, as a black slave gets released, trains to be a bounty hunter, and comes back to rescue his wife from a sadistic ranch owner. Inglourious Basterds-style table-turnings must follow.

I have to ask myself, what it is about this film that excites me so. And I must answer that it has to be the cast, probably the most impressive of Tarantino's career, or at least after Pulp Fiction. Tarantino has new roles for the two best actors of his two latest films, Christoph Waltz and Kurt Russell. He has Hollywood A-listers with Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has cult favorites such as Don Johnson, Anthony LaPaglia and even Franco Nero himself. He even has the wild card in Sacha Baron Cohen. The whole thing pulled together with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington as the leads. So, this is the kind of cast I'm willing to follow to hell and back. And with Tarantino always whipping up good performances, it'll be a hoot to see who out-acts the other out. And who knows, maybe there will be something new or unexpected in the film. Wouldn't actually be so strange for Tarantino, after all.

Have a good 2012, everyone, and remember to go see movies!


  1. Oh no, you got me with Django. I've tried to keep it completely cool. Damn you, Paavo! ^_^ Great job, a very thorough list!

  2. Thanks! This was a thing that sort of blew all over when I started to think about various reader segments. Plus, I got really excited to see a bunch of movies this year! Django in particular has only been heard of due to its casting news, but each new thing I hear, the more excited I am!

  3. Näin tuo Shamen Pariisissa. Mun mielestä se oli tosi upea ja syvällinen kuvaus aiheesta, mutta suuri syy miksi tykkäsin elokuvasta oli se, että kuvaus oli tosi kaunis ja kikkaileva. Hungerin katsomisesta on niin pitkä aika, että en tosin muista oliko se yhtä kokeellinen kuin se, mutta veikkaan että ei Shame ainakaan vähemmän kokeellinen ole :)



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