Synopsis: A return visit to Frank Miller's stylized noir city, for a story likely to focus on the returning Dwight and femme fatale Ava.
What You Need To Know: Talked about almost as soon as the original cinematic adaptation of "Sin City" hit back in 2005, it seemed for a long time that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller would never get a second go-round for their black-and-white crime tales. But, somewhat under the radar, Rodriguez got going on his follow-up, "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For," back in October. Things are being kept very close to the chest -- we know that Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Jamie King are all back, with Dennis Haysbert and Jamie Chung taking on recast parts, but beyond that, details on casting are very quiet, to the extent that it's not even 100% clear that Clive Owen is returning as Dwight. Still, regardless of who's involved, "Sin City" was one of the more distinctive comic book adaptations we've seen to date, and there's no reason a second helping couldn't match it.
Release Date: October 4th
Synopsis: The Federation must defend itself from the terrorist actions of a megalomaniac operating from within.
What You Need To Know: J.J. Abrams and company are playing it close to the vest again, with the fans desperately attempting to figure out just exactly who the villain will be in the sequel to the surprisingly strong revival of the classic franchise. Much of the speculation to date has centered on who exactly Brit thesp Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in the movie. Khan? Someone called Gary Mitchell? Smaug? Thanos? Abrams has revealed that it's a character called John Harrison, but that hasn't stopped fans speculating it's some kind of bait-and-switch from the secretive filmmaker. We're not sure we mind, so long as Cumberbatch proves a step up from Eric Bana's undercooked bad guy in the original. Aside from that, however, the strength of the original film was the interplay between the colorful cast, and the hope is that part two builds on this. Given that the picture isn’t at the mercy of a writer’s strike like the first one, the writing should at least be sharper.
Release Date: May 17th
Synopsis: A gaggle of comedic celebrities survive the apocalypse and struggle to survive in the wastelands.
What You Need To Know: The Judd Apatow school of acting has benefitted from a sense of naturalism that seems to ignore “craft” in favor of comedic personalities playing thinly-veiled versions of each other. Why not cut out the middleman, asks the latest from that crew, reuniting most of the Apatow day players -- Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, plus newcomers like Emma Watson and Rihanna -- under the first-time direction of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Based on a popular short “Jay And Seth Vs. The Apocalypse,” “This Is The End” might have the ceiling of an amusing, in-jokey Funny Or Die sketch, with loads of foul-mouthed cameos providing momentary highlights – our prediction, sight unseen, is that Aziz Ansari steals the film. But one can’t forget that Goldberg and Rogen were behind the scripts for “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” and Goldberg last year co-wrote “Goon” – these guys are still jokers who know their way around a story. The clip that debuted just before Christmas was pretty funny, anyway.
Release Date: June 14th
“Thor: The Dark World”
Synopsis: Thor must overcome an Asgardian coup taken up by the villainous Malekith and his Dark Elves.
What You Need To Know: After the breakout success of “The Avengers,” the profile of Marvel’s merry Asgardian has risen considerably. Will that translate to his first actual sequel? Director Kenneth Branagh brought his theatrical chops to the first film, but here he’s been replaced by “Game Of Thrones” vet Alan Taylor, the theory being that costumes, swords and British accents are areas of expertise for certain filmmakers. This does sound more overtly plotty in a trivial comic book way than other recent Marvel films, and a more epic sweep is promised, but we hope that Taylor retains the better parts of the first film too; the humor, and the romance, which worked a little better than in most other Marvel pictures. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are all back, with Christopher Eccleston the biggest new name as the villain of the piece.
Release Date: November 8th
Synopsis: An A+ high school student decides to cross all sexual behavior off her list act by act before college starts.
What You Need To Know: Originally called “The Hand Job,” this broad comedy is the directing debut of Maggie Carey, a veteran of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” Long having attracted the attention of some of the biggest comedians in Hollywood, it finally went into production in 2011, with Carey’s husband Bill Hader amongst a cast that includes Aubrey Plaza, Donald Glover, Andy Samberg, Johnny Simmons, Rachel Bilson, and Clark Gregg. We’ve only heard promising things about the legendary stage readings of the script, and with a cast of ringers like this, it’s hard to believe that this wouldn’t become one of the year’s funniest comedies. Then again, it has been shuffling around the release schedule for a while...
Release Date: August 16th
Synopsis: Years after letting him slip through his fingers, a London cop has a second chance to bag his nemesis when he comes back into the country to find his comatose son.
What You Need To Know: Eran Creevy's not a name that's familiar to many, but he's this year's candidate for the Christopher Nolan/Rupert Wyatt/Matthew Vaughn-type -- a British filmmaker who leaps from an impressive low-budget debut to the big leagues. Following up his excellent debut "Shifty," Creevy has assembled a, frankly, shit-hot cast including basically everyone you could ever want in a British action-thriller: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, Daniel Mays, Daniel Kaluuya and Johnny Harris, among others. Creevy's inspirations for this one include Michael Mann and the late Tony Scott (his Scott Free company backed the project), and it's a lot more ambitious that many Britflicks. The trailer suggested it might veer on the side of cliche, but we think that Creevy & co have more up their sleeve that we've seen so far.
Release Date: March 15th in the U.K., TBD in the U.S., but a SXSW premiere seems likely.
Synopsis: A terrorist attack on the White House spurs one Secret Service agent with a checkered past into action.
What You Need To Know: What do you do once you’ve explored every single way to destroy the planet? For Roland Emmerich, it meant moving on from the delirium of “2012” (and the b.s. mythmaking of “Anonymous”) to the eerie futurism of “Singularity.” But when Emmerich couldn’t get that ambitious project going, his tidy fallback was teaming with 2012 golden boy Channing Tatum in a suspense thriller set inside the Oval Office. The portrayal of Jamie Foxx as the President should also be interesting; his sense of humor has become slyer since his departure from “In Living Color” two decades ago. But he’s also shown a livewire intensity as a serious actor, and it’s curious to see what version of him will show up as the Commander In Chief, who will no doubt take part in the action. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods and Jason Clarke co-star.
Release Date: April 5th
Synopsis: Despondent mutant Wolverine retraces his past in modern day Japan, crossing paths with feuding gangs.
What You Need To Know: With "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" proving to be a steaming great creative turd (though a modest enough financial hit), Fox has seemingly started over with a film that has little connection with its predecessor, making it the first reboot of a prequel. Or is it a new spin-off? Or a sequel? Who knows, but we're promised a back to basics take for a project that was set to be helmed by Darren Aronofsky, with James Mangold ("3:10 To Yuma") taking over in his stead. Adapting a classic run from the comics, this sees Wolvie head to Japan, with Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee and Svetlana Khodchenkova among his allies and adversaries. Still relatively under the radar, the script we read (by Christopher McQuarrie, among others) was actually pretty good, suggesting this could be the much-needed shot of adrenaline that "X-Men: First Class" promised, but mostly failed, to be to the franchise. Fingers crossed that Hugh Jackman will finally receive a film that’s worthy of his steady, fiery work as Marvel’s most beloved mutant.
Release Date: July 26th
Synopsis: A worldwide zombie epidemic spreads throughout, threatening a journalist in an attempt to reveal the truth.
What You Need To Know: The word “fiasco” doesn’t begin to describe the buzz that emanated from the “World War Z” production in early 2012. Despite having wrapped the previous summer, the film (once slated for a release last month) was looking for a writer to take another swing at the entire third act, with Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard among those drafted on to be fix-it men. Producer/star Brad Pitt (who apparently clashed with director Marc Forster on set) usually has a Midas touch when it comes to big studio properties. This couldn’t be the exception, could it? An adaptation of Max Brooks’ popular fake-nonfiction account of a massive zombie war, contorted into a major studio blockbuster starring one of our most glamorous leading men? The trailer seemed very different than the source material, but over-proliferation of zombie-related content obscures how much of anomaly this picture really is: zombies have always roamed through low-budget settings, but what if someone had some serious dime to throw down on a zombie film? We're intrigued enough that we won't dismiss it out of hand just yet.
Release Date: June 21st
Synopsis: A young man brings his girlfriend home to his family, only to be interrupted by murderous home invaders.
What You Need To Know: A sensation at Midnight Madness at TIFF way back in 2011, we'll finally get to see low-budget horror "You're Next" on screens late this summer. The latest from rising mumblegore (a term we might have just invented, but we think should stick) star Adam Wingard ("A Horrible Way To Die," the framing segment of "V/H/S"), and featuring "Step Up 3D" lead Sharni Vinson as the lead, with Joe Swanberg and Ti West among the cast, it's by all accounts a neat, funny subversion of the slasher movie that sees a group of "Funny Games"-style home-invaders hitting a house that turns out to have one person who's more than prepared to fight back. Like last year's horror highlight "Cabin In The Woods," Lionsgate have had it on their shelf for a while, but hopefully the wait will prove to be worthwhile.
Release Date: August 23rd
Extra Credit: Maybe 2013, Probably 2014
Synopsis: The return of Max Rockatansky, the one-time cop in a savage post-apocalpytic Australian landscape, as he joins with a group fleeing across the Wasteland on a mighty War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa.
What You Need To Know: Nearly thirty years after he last made it to screens, apocalyptic hero Mad Max is back, but with Tom Hardy stepping into the shoes of the disgraced and aging Mel Gibson, and George Miller, who was behind all three original films, back in the driving seat. Hardy's joined by Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and more, and we've been promised a film that leans closer to "The Road Warrior" than disappointing threequel "...Beyond Thunderdome," which can only be good news. The only question is when it will land. Miller finally wrapped a couple of months back, after years of pre-production delays and shifts, but the film doesn't yet have a release date. Warners could find a date in November, if they're not worried about clashing with "Catching Fire" and "Thor 2," but they also still have to find a slot for Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity," so they may end up deciding to hold fire until the spring or summer of 2014. Given that the release schedule is filling up ever faster, they'd better make a decision sooner rather than later.
Release Date: Like we said, TBD.
Honorable Mentions: We only have space for so much, but there's a few others that we have some vague interest in, even if we're far from convinced about them yet. "Beautiful Creatures" (Feb) looks a cut above most young adult adaptations, thanks to Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson -- it certainly makes "The Mortal Instruments" (August) look poorer in comparison. "Warm Bodies" (Feb) is more immediate, and could be more fun, if it gets the tone right. Also in that department, there's witch-hunting "Big Lebowski" reunion "The Seventh Son" (October) with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, and Stephen Sommers' "Odd Thomas," (TBD) starring Anton Yelchin, which we forgot existed until someone reminded us about it the other day.
Animation fans have plenty to pick from; Fox has "Epic" (May), DreamWorks has "Turbo" (July) and "Peabody And Mr. Sherman" (November) and Disney has fairy tale "Frozen" (November), a "Tangled"-style take on "The Snow Queen." And sequel wise, we're also getting follow-ups to "Cloudy With Chance Of Meatballs" (September) and "Despicable Me" (July). Also on the slate for slightly more grown-up crowds, there's Jackie Robinson biopic "42" (April) with Harrison Ford (not as Robinson, it should be said...), who will also star with Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth in "Paranoia" (September).