And 5 Escapist Movies We're Also Looking Forward To...
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
: In the first of a three-part prequel to “The Lord of the Rings
,” Bilbo Baggins relates an early journey with Gandalf and a pack of unruly dwarves to steal a horde of treasure from the dragon Smaug.
What You Need To Know:
Given that the original trilogy was near-universally beloved, a giant box-office hit (taking close to $3 billion worldwide) and even managed to be win a record haul of Oscars with its last installment, getting "The Hobbit
" made proved surprisingly tricky, with rights issues and studio bankruptcy holding the project up for years, even before original director Guillermo del Toro
bailed. But Peter Jackson
's finally returned to Middle Earth, and if the atmospheric teaser
is anything to go by, he hasn't forgotten what he's doing. Settling back into the world feels like putting on a comfortable pair of old shoes, and the filmmaker looks to have the perfect Bilbo in "The Office
" star Martin Freeman,
who leads a group of new arrivals to the franchise including Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Aidan Turner, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace
and Evangeline Lilly,
along with many returning favorites. We have our reservations, however. Is Jackson's heart really in it, after spending so long saying he didn't want to direct the film? Will the (now) three-part structure feel padded and indulgent for a book that only runs to 285 pages? Will having a baker's dozen of dwarves mean that they blend into one? And what's up with the 48fps thing, anyway? But despite all of that, if anyone can pull it off, it's the hirsute New Zealander.
A former military policeman-turned-drifter becomes involved in the investigation centering around a sniper who seems to have randomly killed five victims.
What You Need To Know:
Having had the biggest hit of the season last year with "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol
hope that another Tom Cruise
actioner can pull off the same trick this Christmas. But "One Shot
" should be a very different affair. It's more of a hard-boiled thriller vibe, with "The Way Of The Gun
" director Christopher McQuarrie
helming the first of what's hoped to be a franchise starring Cruise as author Lee Child
's iconic hero in an adaptation of the 9th novel, "One Shot
." McQuarrie, working from his own script, has assembled a pretty strong cast, with Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, David Oyelowo
and, most excitingly, Werner Herzog
as villain The Zec. The trailer
wasn't wildly impressive, but we're hopeful this might be a nice, tough alternative to the rest of the Christmas fare.
: December 21st
In a future where time travel exists, but is outlawed, hitmen are enlisted to eliminate mob targets sent back from even further in the future, so as to leave no bodies. However, the system falls apart when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt
) fails to pull the trigger on his older self (played by Bruce Willis
What You Need to Know:
Writer-director Rian Johnson
has already put an inspired spin on both film noir with the high school-set “Brick
” and the con-man caper with “The Brothers Bloom
.” To see him tackle heady sci-fi action with a cast that includes “Brick” lead Gordon-Levitt (coming right off “The Dark Knight Rises
”), Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano
and Garret Dillahunt
is an exciting prospect indeed. While we’d normally be wary of test screening reviews -- and still, taken with a grain of salt and such -- feedback so far has been very strong, while the trailers look great
, and an opening slot at TIFF bodes well. Let’s face it: we could always use an R-rated action flick that’s as brainy as it is bloody, so here’s hoping that this fits the bill as heir apparent to “The Terminator
” and Willis’ own “12 Monkeys
: September 28th
After an attack on MI6, and the exposure of their double-agents, a left for dead James Bond returns, although the nefarious Silva (Javier Bardem
) may make him wish he'd stayed away.
What You Need To Know:
Revived in 2006 by the best entry in decade, "Casino Royale
," the long-running James Bond series was thwarted only a few years later, not by weak-as-piss 22nd film "Quantum of Solace
," but by the financial troubles of long-time home MGM
. Finally sorted, "Skyfall
" is shaping up to be quite the prestigious return, featuring Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes,
helming a script by Oscar-nominee John Logan
"), with a glittering cast including Javier Bardem
as the film's villain, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw
(taking up the mantle of gadget-meister Q), Naomie Harris, Albert Finney
and newcomer Berenice Marlohe
. Footage so far
has suggested that Mendes has come up with something that, appropriately for the 50th anniversary of the series, feels closer to classic Bond than previous Daniel Craig
entries, while not abandoning the more psychologically realistic approach. The action looks imprssive, the visuals (by Roger Deakins
) extraordinary. Fingers crossed, it looks like Bond is back...
: October 26th internationally, November 9 in the U.S.
“This Is Forty”
Synopsis: Leslie Mann
and Paul Rudd
reprise their “Knocked Up
” roles as married couple Debbie and Pete, wrestling with the approaching end of their 30s.
What You Need to Know: Judd Apatow
is still producing like a madman these days, although not every film is a smash. The gangbusters performance of last year’s “Bridesmaids
” was tainted a little with the flopping of “Wanderlust”
and “The Five-Year Engagement
” -- but he hasn’t written and directed anything himself since 2009’s ungainly but heartfelt “Funny People
.” For his return, he's picking up with "Knocked Up" couple Debbie & Paul, who arguably had some of the most memorable moments of that film, for something that seems like it could be his most personal effort so far. And while there's some further continuity, with Jason Segel
and Charlyne Yi
returning to their characters, we can expect appearances by new folks like Albert Brooks, John Lithgow
(as Rudd & Mann's fathers), Megan Fox, Ryan Lee, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy
and Chris O’Dowd
. From the midlife-crisis title on down to the casting of Brooks as Rudd’s father (his own warm, shaggy work as a writer-director has clearly influenced Apatow in creating credible characters and comedy), 'Forty' feels like a logical progression for Apatow’s career, and if that December date is any indication, it might finally earn him and his cast of regulars some much deserved awards attention. Or maybe it’ll just be really, really funny. That works, too.
Aside from all of the films at festivals and screenings we've seen already ("The Master,
" "Killing Them Softly
," "Anna Karenina
" etc), there's a few others that feel like they're worth getting excited about. We're certainly intrigued by Robert Zemeckis
," (November 2nd) which has a fine premise and an excellent cast, but looks like about six different movies in the trailer. A NYFF
slot bodes well, though, as it does for "Not Fade Away
" (December 21st), the feature debut of "The Sopranos
" creator David Chase
, about three Jersey teens with dreams of rock 'n' roll in the 1960s.
All three of the fall's animated offerings --- "Frankenweenie
" (Oct 5th), "Wreck-It Ralph
" (November 2nd) and "Rise Of The Guardians
" (November 21st) -- look promising to one degree or another, and after a disappointing year for animation, that can only be a good thing. "The Guilt Trip
" (December 25th), with Seth Rogen
and Barbara Streisand
, could hopefully be a comedy entertaining enough to unite the generations at Christmastime. And as far as guilty pleasures go, there's two options at very different ends of the spectrum. "The Man With The Iron Fists
" (November 2nd) offers stylized kung-fu action, Russell Crowe
in villain mode, and director/star RZA
punching a guy's head clean off, while "Pitch Perfect
" (October 5th) seems like it could be Anna Kendrick
's "Easy A
" -- a more palatable take on "Glee
" which seems like it might have a deceptively smart script.