Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Awards Preview - Part One: Pulpy Players

     Below is my first list of films for the 2013-2014 Awards season, titled Pulpy Players.  Each article in this series will present a group of upcoming releases that are currently on my watch list.  I divided them up to each represent the strengths found in cinema in each of the last four years (with 2013 as an unknown wild card for the fifth post). This post is in honor of the year 2009, which was one of the best years in science-fiction ever.  In its honor, I present films in the genres that Oscar flirts with occasionally, but hardly ever follows home: Horror, Science Fiction, Action flicks, Thrillers, Mysteries & Westerns.
     On a side note, this might be the year that unseats 2009 as the best year for sci-fi in the twenty-first century.  There are no less than nine pictures in that genre on my watch list.  If even half of them live up to their hype, it would be a banner year indeed.
      The movies that already have release dates are presented in chronological order.  The films that have not received such dates are listed alphabetically afterward.  The fifteen films (that have not already been released) that I am most excited about seeing appear in bold with short descriptions of why.  Do not be surprised if we see some of these get pushed back until 2014.  I will be surprised if we don't.  Still, for now, the Pulpy Players of 2013 are...

  01/18 - Mama (stars Jessica Chastain)

  03/01 - Stoker (Kidman and Wasikowska)

  03/08 - Dead Man Down

  03/15 - The Call
              Upside Down (mixed reviews, but Kirsten Dunst!)

  04/05 - 6 Souls (stars Julianne Moore)

  04/19 - Oblivion (Cruise and Freeman, maybe cheese, maybe more)

  05/03 - The Iceman:  This picture may have gotten mixed reviews on the festival circuit, but Michael Shannon's performance was universally lauded.  Films like Take Shelter have proven what kind of tour-de-force work the man is capable of delivering.  The movie is directed by Ariel Vromen, and stars Shannon as a family man who must become a hired killer to provide for his loved ones. Along the way, he discovers he has a real talent for his vocation.  James Franco, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer & Stephan Dorff round out the cast.

  05/15 - Star Trek: Into Darkness (would have been highlighted, if I thought you needed a preview)

  05/31 - The East:  This will be the third film written by and starring Brit Marling.  She had a great start with Another Earth, took it to a whole other level with Sound of My Voice, and it looks like (going on the trailer, early critical response and my own hopes) she may surpass herself again with The East. The films stars writer Marling as an agent trying to track down a terrorist group called The East who have set out to punish the corporate giants who are sucking America dry.  Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard also star. Sound of My Voice director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij returns. I can't wait.

  06/07 - After Earth (surely Shyamalan will get it right again one day???)

  06/28 - Byzantium: This little quasi-horror flick is directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and adapted by Moira Buffini from her own stage play.  It tells of two mysterious women (Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton) who settle in a small town that quickly becomes curious about what the pair are hiding.  Sam Riley and Jonny Lee Miller round out the cast, but they had me at Saoirse.

  08/09 - Elysium: Back in 2009, South African writer/director Neil Blomkamp's District 9 raised the bar on low-budget science fiction forevermore.  Now it's 2013, he's got a much bigger budget, and he's returning with Elysium, a futuristic tale in which the 1% live in a lavish space station while the 99% inhabit a ruined planet Earth.  Class conflict with a sci-fi twist seems to be the man's forte.  Let's see if he can do it again.  Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9 star Sharlto Copley lead the cast.

  09/13 - I, Frankenstein (I'm dubious, but it stars Aaron Eckhart & Bill Nighy)

  09/20 - Prisoners: French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve blew me away a couple of years ago with Foreign Language film nominee Incendies.  Now he's been recruited by Hollywood for English language films beginning with Prisoners: the story of a man trying to locate his missing daughter by any means necessary.  The AMAZING cast includes Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Paul Dano and Terrence Howard.

  10/04 - Paranoia (Hemsworth, Oldman, and Ford)

  10/11 - Oldboy: Intrigue, mystery and suspense are the keywords in this remake of the Korean classic.  Director Spike Lee may have failed to "wow" with last year's Red Hook Summer, but I know he still has genius within him.  Perhaps something way outside of his normal wheelhouse is just the sort of palate cleanser needed to let it shine through again.  Josh Brolin, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Michael Imperioli, Richard Portnow, Sharlto Copley, and Lance Reddick star.
               Captain Phillips: Director Paul Greengrass has already managed to pull one unlikely Best Director nod out of the action thriller genre with United 93.  Can he snag another one for this biopic about the captain who faced the hijacking of the first U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates?  Having Tom Hanks in the title role with Catherine Keener as his wife can't hurt.

  10/18 - Carrie (I'm not sure we need another either, but it stars Moretz with Julianne Moore as Mom)
               Malavita: Leon, The Professional (one of the best action flicks EVER, for this Movie Frog's money) certainly proved that Luc Besson can direct a taut thriller and having a cast led by two of last year's Best Supporting Actor nominees (DeNiro and Jones) is certainly a step in the right direction.  Michelle Pfeiffer also stars, and if anyone needs/deserves a career relaunch, it's her.

  11/01 - Ender's Game (another one I almost highlighted, starring Hugo's Asa Butterfield)

  11/15 - The Counselor: A thriller about a lawyer who end up on the wrong side of the law doesn't sound THAT exciting.  If it's directed by Ridley Scott, I'll give it a chance.  If it stars Pitt, Fassbender, Bardem, Dormer, Diaz, Cruz, and Leguizamo, I'm stoked.  This one does.  Just saying.

  12/25 - Jack Ryan (If Pine can fill Shatner's shoes, why not Ford's?)

  TBA - Blood Ties: This crime family story set in 1970's New York is from talented French director Guillaume Canet (Little White Lies) and has a fantastic cast.  After Rust and Bone, I'd watch Cotillard and Schoenaerts team up in a Smurfs sequel.  Also stars Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, James Caan, Noah Emmerich and nineties indie queen Lili Taylor.
             Blue Caprice
             The Congress (more sci-fi with Wright, Giamatti & Keitel)
             Dead Man's Burden (might be the only 2013 Western of note)
             Devil's Knot (dramatization of West Memphis 3 from Atom Egoyan with Firth and Witherspoon)
             Empire State (fairly standard sounding actioner, but Hemsworth & Johnson might make good team)
             Ends of the Earth
             Europa Report (sci-fi with Sharlto Copley of District 9 & Michael Nyqvist of Millennium Trilogy)
             Horns (considered highlighting this one: Daniel Radcliffe in a bizarre horror tale)
             Kissing Darkness (in a twist on traditional horror set-up group of gay college pals go camping)
             Last Days On Mars
             The Loft
             Lowlife: Director James Gray has a highly unique mystery premise to work with and a STELLAR cast involved: Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard, and Joaquin Phoenix.  Believe me, this is one to WATCH!
             Non-Stop (stars Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore)
             Only God Fogives: Drive (directed by Nicholas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling) made #2 on my Best Picture list for 2011.  Only God Forgives is Refn's follow-up...also starring Gosling...hmmm. I had to watch the recently dropped trailer three times before I stopped drooling.
             Only Lovers Left Alive: Quirky director Jim Jarmusch tries his hand at a vampire flick.  Good news.  Better news?  It stars Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt.  Sometimes my inner fan-boy gets a little gift from the universe and the kind of movies I loved as a pre-teen actually get made well.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
             Simple Moves
             A Single Shot (crime thriller with William H Macy and Sam Rockwell)
             Snowpiercer: The director of 5 star Korean thriller Madeo (Joon-ho Bong) tries his hand at English language science fiction in this piece about a train that carries the last living humans across the planet.  Starring...wait for it...Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer.
             Still of Night (starring Susan Sarandan)
             Therese (between Jessica Lange and Elizabeth Olsen the scenery should be chewed to bits)
             Two Faces of January: Hossein Amini, scribe of such diverse fare as Drive, Wings of the Dove, and Snow White and the Huntsman brings this thriller of escape to the table for his first directing gig.  With Amini also handling the adaptation and stars Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac on board, my anticipation is running high.
             Under the Skin
             Violet & Daisy (Precious penner Geoffrey Fletcher debuts as a director, starring Sasirse Ronan)
             White Bird in a Blizzard (Doom Generation director Gregg Araki is sure to make an odd thriller)

     And that, my friends, is your list of Pulpy pics for 2013.  We covered a lot of ground today, but we have four more sets of films still to come.  Look for Part 2: Specialties That Might Spellbound later this week.  In it, we'll be covering Documentaries, Animated Features, and non English language movies that MIGHT (and it's more iffy in this category than most) make it to U.S. theaters in the coming year.  We'll be watching for you (and flies, always watching for flies).

     Related Articles: Senna, Take 13 (Take Shelter review), Another Young Project (Another Earth review),
The Sound Hope Sparks (Sound of My Voice review), Sister's Summer Sleepwalk (Red Hook Summer review), Down With Sinister Lies (Little White Lies review), Rent and Honed (Rust and Bone review), Best of 2011 - Best Picture (concluded)

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