Best of 2013

Liam Neeson
Synopsis: A burned-out air marshal on a transatlantic flight has to take down a psychopath who's threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless he's given $150 million.
What You Need To Know: The post "Taken" career of Liam Neeson: Action Hero has been a mixed bag, creatively; lots of lows ("Battleship," "Clash/Wrath Of The Titans," "Taken 2," "The A-Team"), few highs. But along with "The Grey," one of the brighter spots was "Unknown," a spectacularly silly Berlin-set thriller, and Neeson's reteaming with the director of that film, Jaume Collet-Serra, for this airborne thriller. Collet-Serra's made his name with a certain kind of well-executed trashy thriller (like his masterpiece "Orphan"), and we've got our fingers crossed that the same might be in store. Especially with a damn fine supporting cast, including Scoot McNairy, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Nate Parker and Anson Mount.
Release Date: TBD at this point, but we'd put money on a distributor aiming for that early October "Taken 2" slot.

Now You See Me, Trailer
“Now You See Me”
Synopsis: A team of magicians rob banks and give their accrued wealth to audience members, eluding capture from a dedicated law enforcement team.
What You Need To Know: Concepts don’t get much more straightforward than this. A crackerjack cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent, Common, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Dave Franco and Mark Ruffalo assist the much-loved Ed Solomon-Boaz Yakin-Edward Ricourt script, which has landed in the hands of “The Incredible Hulk” director Louis Letterier. The mystery the trailer sets up is a pretty irresistible one, a sort of "Inside Man" meets "The Prestige," and we'd pretty much watch that cast play Monopoly for two hours. But it seems to us that an idea like this works best when it's lo-fi, and there are worrying signs of CGI-itis on display. Still, one of the more promising commercial films of the summer.
Release Date: June 7th

Oblivion, Tom Cruise
Synopsis: Jack works for a mysterious agency as a scavenger in charge of rescuing the remains of an abandoned Earth. However, one such mission begins to tear at the fabric of the only reality Jack once knew about why the Earth was abandoned.
What You Need To Know: With Daft Punk scoring “Tron: Legacy” and now M83 taking a stab at “Oblivion,” Joseph Kosinski has proven himself to be the only person in Hollywood who has a record collection that predates 1994. Of course, it’s his being ahead-of-the-curve that likely appealed to star Tom Cruise – “Oblivion” was originally conceived as a graphic novel by Kosinski, a decision made to better illustrate his concept to executives. While Cruise seems to be bringing his usual star-power and intensity to the part, lending the project a slight feeling of safety, this is in essence an original science fiction story, something which major studios seem less and less interested, so it should probably be celebrated. Then again, Kosinski showed almost no feeling for storytelling or character in "Tron: Legacy," so he'll need to raise his game before we feel totally confident about this one, but hopefully script polishes from Oscar-winners William Monahan and Michael Arndt will ease the way.
Release Date: April 12th exclusively on IMAX, then April 19th everywhere.

James Franco Oz The Great And Powerful
“Oz The Great & Powerful”
Synopsis: An inventor named Oz seeks the opportunity to put his stamp on the world of illusion and storytelling, but he finds more than he bargained for when he’s whisked away to a faraway fantasy land.
What You Need To Know: Greenlit almost immediately after the billion dollar success of “Alice In Wonderland,” this fantasy film ended up being a sweet security blanket for Sam Raimi after being jettisoned off “Spider-Man IV.” Reuniting with 'Spider-Man' supporting player James Franco (who reportedly was Raimi’s rejected first choice when he was developing the new “Jack Ryan” film), Raimi could be making his “Hugo,” an auteur film that perfectly captures what inspired them to make films. While the previews suggest another CGI-heavy fantasy film with a dollop of mandatory-feeling “origin” beats, we’re confident in Raimi’s big bag of tricks to reach into the rich backstory of Frank L. Baum’s writings and bring out something worthwhile. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams co-star as the trio of witches.
Release Date: March 8th

Pacific Rim
“Pacific Rim”
Synopsis: When humanity is besieged by monsters emerging from the ocean, our best response is to build a fleet of giant robots to defeat them.
What You Need To Know: Guillermo del Toro spent fruitless years slaving over potential big budget gigs in “The Hobbit” and “At The Mountains Of Madness,” and for a while, it seemed like he was forever lost in the wilderness. Fortunately, this hotly-tipped monster mash script fell into his hands, and it wasn’t long before del Toro was spending Warner Bros. capital to realize what every 12-year-old boy really wants to see: giant robots fighting monsters. It’s very possible this ends up the product of a bunch of random elements tossed into a Nerd Movie Generator, particularly with the niche-cool casting of Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day. The trailer did feel like recycled ideas from discarded “Cloverfield” and “Transfomers” sequels, but the early draft of the script we read was a cracker, and if anyone was going to water it down, it was unlikely to be del Toro.
Release Date: July 11th

Pain & Gain Poster Crop
“Pain & Gain”
Synopsis: A based-on-a-true-story tale about a couple of Floridian bodybuilders who kidnap, rob and leave for dead a wealthy businessman in a get-rich-quick scheme. But their plans take a twist when their victim survives and hires a P.I. to help him exact revenge.
What You Need To Know: Long considered Michael Bay’s low-budget pet project, “Pain & Gain” is easily his smallest picture since the original “Bad Boys.” The trailer, which showcased the almost improbably beefier physiques of Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie, promises a wacky film of violent crime-and-punishment hijinks. The source material, a novella-sized newspaper article about a gang of murderous beefcake criminals, doesn't exactly reflect the more light-hearted, potentially "Fargo"-esque tone of the final film. Certainly, Bay and the screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ("Captain America: The First Avenger"), have taken some liberties and put their own twist on the story, in what will hopefully be a throwback to the work of pre-"Transformers" Michael Bay . Could this be the movie that finally wins the director some auteur cred?
Release Date: April 26th

Ryan Reynolds R.I.P.D. Set Photo
Synopsis: A recently deceased cop joins a bureau of undead officers to help solve his own murder.
What You Need To Know: The supernatural action-comedy is a tricky beast to get right; for every "Ghostbusters" or "Men In Black" there's a... well, "Ghostbusters 2" or "Men In Black 2." But director Robert Schwentke ("Red") has had plenty of time to get his attempt right; "R.I.P.D," based on a comic book, shot back in 2011, and he's been working on the extensive effects ever since. The central pairing is an appealing one, with Ryan Reynolds as the newly dead cop and Jeff Bridges as the grizzled veteran (Kevin Bacon plays the villain, Mary-Louise Parker their boss), so there could be fun in store, although Schwentke's track record, and the previous credits of the writers (which include "Aeon Flux" and "Clash Of The Titans") mean we're still fairly cautious of what's looking like one of next summer's bigger question marks.
Release Date: July 19th

Rush, Chris Hemsworth

Synopsis: A biography of Formula 1 champion drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and the 1976 crash that almost claimed the latter's life.
What You Need To Know: Mere weeks after the accident, Lauda got behind the wheel to challenge his rival, James Hunt. As directed by Ron Howard, “Rush” stars Chris Hemsworth as Hunt, German “Inglourious Basterds” star Daniel Brühl in what's apparently going to be a star-making role as the disciplined Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda, plus Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara (“Control”) and “Game Of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer (and maybe a cameo from Russell Crowe, playing Richard Burton). Set against the glamorous 1970s world of Formula 1, “Rush” is, if writer Peter Morgan's ("Frost/Nixon") previous work is anything to go by, a drama as much as it is an action-laced driving movie that pits two rivals each others and follows the two men as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance. A late September date (around the same weekend as “Moneyball”) suggests they may follow the same Oscar strategy, which will almost certainly figure a Toronto International Film Festival premiere.
Release date: September 20th

"Saving Mr. Banks"
Synopsis: The story of how Walt Disney convinced cantankerous author P.L. Travers to let him make a film of "Mary Poppins."
What You Need To Know: A behind-the-scenes look at an iconic filmmaker didn't turn out so well this year with the disappointing "Hitchcock," but we've got our fingers crossed that things turn out better with "Saving Mr. Banks." With Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as Travers and Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson and Bradley Whitford among the excellent supporting cast, they've certainly got stars on their side, and word on the script, by Kelly Marcel, is uniformly excellent. But we're a little more concerned that, with Disney backing the film, it could become a hagiography, and even more worried about John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") being in the director's chair. Here's hoping that neither prove to be problems, because we'd like nothing better than for this to be practically perfect in every way (sorry...).
Release Date: December 20th

"The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty"
Synopsis: A mild-mannered photo manager at LIFE magazine loses himself in his elaborate, fantastical daydreams.
What You Need To Know: In development for at least a couple of decades, this remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye vehicle "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" attracted the likes of Steven Spielberg, Mike Myers, Gore Verbinski, Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen over the years, but it was Ben Stiller, both directing and starring, who got it over the start line. The idea of another big-budget comedy remake isn't an immediately winning one, and Stiller's on the backfoot after "The Watch" and "Tower Heist," but his work behind the camera ("The Cable Guy," "Tropic Thunder") tends to be more interesting than his acting gigs-for-hire, and he's assembled a pretty great selection of comedic ringers here with Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley MacLaine and, of all people, Sean Penn joining him in the cast. Could this be a pleasant little year-end surprise or the next "Gulliver's Travels?"
Release Date: December 25th