By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 4, 2012 at 12:02PM
Synopsis: Based on the 1974 George V. Higgins novel of the same name, “Cogan’s Trade” follows Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
What You Need to Know: This will be director Andrew Dominik’s first film since “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” of 2007, a film that was met by massive critical acclaim (to our minds, one of the finest of the past decade), but that was criminally ignored by audiences and awards ceremonies. It may have been Brad Pitt’s best performance to date, and clearly he wanted to repeat his collaboration with Dominik; here Pitt once again stars, in a cast also including James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins, with newcomers Bella Heathcote and Scoot McNairy both taking on significant roles. Pitt has been pretty choosy with his projects recently, and he hasn’t struck out in a while, and The Weinstein Company has already bought the rights to distribute in North America, though since this one's a dark comedy, it remains to be seen if they'll be aiming for an Oscar bid.
Release Date: An early-to-mid September bow like “The Town” or “Moneyball” would be our guess, though it could make a "Drive"-style appearance as early as Cannes.
“The Company You Keep”
Synopsis: Jim Grant, a former Weather Underground militant who has been wanted by the FBI for 30 years for a Bank Of Michigan robbery, must go on the run when his true identity is exposed by a young, ambitious reporter hell-bent on making a name for himself.
What You Need To Know: Following last year’s tepid “The Conspirator,” Robert Redford returns with a project that not only has a lot more mainstream appeal, but retains his interest in politically angular material while also marking his first starring role since 2007’s “Lion For Lambs.” Along with “The Wettest County,” this will be a significant change of pace for co-star Shia LaBeouf, who is making some big strides into non-franchise territory and hoping it will pay off. The pic will also be enlivened by more young talent including Sundance sweetheart Brit Marling and Anna Kendrick, along with an ace line-up of veterans like Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins and Stanley Tucci. But while the premise is sound, so was that of the “The Conspirator,” and that film soon got bogged down in Redford’s heavy-handed politics. If he has learned those lessons, though, and can keep the thriller elements brisk and the thematic undercurrents subtle, it could be his best effort since the mid-'90s.
Release Date: Not scheduled yet, though a festival bow seems likely.
Synopsis: Based on the novel by American author Don DeLillo, it centers on Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a young multi-billionaire making an epic, ultimately doomed limo ride across New York City.
What You Need to Know: David Cronenberg is enjoying an unparalleled level of critical and commercial acceptance after decades hovering on the fringe. At the outset, "Cosmopolis" seems to fall in line with the mannered, critic-friendly films of the recent Cronenberg era. It is, after all, an adaptation of a critically revered and best-selling novel and stars hunky heartthrob-of-the-moment Robert Pattinson. But on closer inspection, the movie seems more atypical and dangerous (a good thing, since "A Dangerous Method" felt far too safe for a filmmaker known for exploding heads and genital mutilation), taking place primarily in a stretch limousine as it crawls through New York City (not exactly a cinematic conceit). A number of Cronenberg's favorite thematic tics are explored, too, including man's relationship with modern technology, the messiness of murder and sexual obsession. So while it might be sold as another buttoned-up late era Cronenberg think piece, we're hoping it's going to be ruder, looser, and more like the days of yore, even if it has to be without the exploding heads and genital mutilation.
Release Date: With press for “A Dangerous Method” occupying much of Cronenberg’s time in the fall of 2011, our guess is the fall film festival circuit will be the earliest we see the picture.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
Synopsis: Batman has been away for eight years, but when sinister masked terrorist Bane turns his sights on Gotham, Bruce Wayne must don the mask again.
What You Need To Know: Ignore the baggage of years of comic book continuity. Ignore the rich cinematic life this character has boasted thus far. Hell, ignore “The Dark Knight,” the previous film that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and became a critical favorite. What we’ve got here is a meticulous, often personal filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, working at the peak of his powers within the studio system. Nolan played by their rules and made the most beloved comic adaptation of all time and his “pet project” turned into the $800 million-grossing “Inception.” It’s always exciting when great filmmakers get a blank check, and doubly thrilling that he’s opted for, from what we can tell, a fairly dark storyline. In the comics, our villain Bane shattered Batman’s willpower and his body. But the comics benefited from a reset button and a re-establishing of the status quo. Nolan’s grounded, believable Batman universe doesn’t seem so accommodating to this logic, particularly with Nolan, Christian Bale, and the entire team revealing that the story, which remains under wraps, has a distinct air of finality. With all parties involved moving on, and with Warner Bros. eager to continue the Batman saga with a likely sunnier reboot within the next few years, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a pivotal film for those intrigued by the successes and fallacies of big studio sequential filmmaking.
Release Date: July 20
Synopsis: A freed slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to track down his wife (Kerry Washington) and liberate her from her plantation owners led by the sadistic Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
What You Need To Know: The eighth film from Quentin Tarantino was originally written as a vehicle for Will Smith, with Foxx taking on the role after the squeaky-clean actor passed, presumably to squeeze in another four quadrant tentpole. It's his loss. The chance to star in a Tarantino film doesn't come around often, which might explain why the ridiculously stacked cast -- which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Don Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Remar, Anthony LaPaglia and The RZA, among others -- also features DiCaprio, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, in a supporting role. And judging by the script there are many juicy roles here for the talented cast to dig into if the director can pull it off. After drifting close to self-parody with his indulgent, referential grindhouse entry "Death Proof," Tarantino came roaring back with "Inglourious Basterds" like he had something to prove, which of course, he did. We have to admit we're a little concerned about Tarantino returning to the revenge narrative yet again ("Kill Bill," "Death Proof," 'Basterds'), but with its racially charged and sure-to-be-controversial subject matter, 'Django' has the potential to be an epic unlike anything we've seen from the filmmaker before.
Release Date: December 25
Synopsis: A female security agent goes undercover in an environmental anarchist terrorist group, but winds up falling for the leader.
What You Need To Know: Can lightning strike three times for Brit Marling? The actress/writer/producer lit up Sundance a year ago with the one-two punch of “Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice,” and quickly found a home with Fox Searchlight, who not only agreed to distribute both of those films, but are also backing this one. Reteaming with ‘Voice’ co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij, their next endeavor seems to be a riff on their previous effort, centered around a cult. But here it seems the themes are opening up considerably, with the magnetism of this kind of leader being explored more deeply as Marling falls under the spell of Alexander Skarsgård (who wouldn’t?). Additionally, with an ex-lover coming into play (Ellen Page) and a doctor fighting Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms with a tainted drug (Toby Kebbell), it looks like this will be more than just a ‘Voice’ reprise with bigger stars. An issues drama? A thriller? Maybe something in the intangible middle? That’s what we’re hoping for, and with a world of expectations and hype on Marling’s shoulders, we’ll be curious to see how she and Batmanglij use the resources of a studio for the first time.
Release: No date yet, and with filming kicking off this fall and “Sound of My Voice” still waiting for a releast date, we won’t be surprised if this is festival fare only in late 2012 with a broader release planned in 2013.
“The Five-Year Engagement”
Synopsis: Tom and Violet get engaged, but life gets in the way of their wedding plans, leading to a -- you guessed it -- extended engagement period.
What You Need To Know: Though the premise is hardly earth-shattering, simply more of Hollywood's hetro-centric obsession with upcoming nuptials, there are quite a few reasons to hope for the best in this case. The film re-teams the duo behind "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The Muppets," writer/director Nicholas Stoller and writer/actor Jason Segel, along with the almighty Judd Apatow producing. Many people missed Segel and Emily Blunt's comedic turn together in last years mega-flop "Gulliver's Travels," in which they supplied the only cast chemistry that kept that corpse somewhat afloat, which at least bodes well for "The Five-Year Engagement." This potentially sweet-and-sour rom-com also boasts a supporting cast of absolute comedic ringers from the small screen including Alison Brie (“Community”), Mindy Kaling (“The Office”), Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”) and Chris Parnell ("SNL"), and everyone's favorite terrifying Australian matriarch, "Animal Kingdom" Oscar-nominee Jacki Weaver. Segel and Stoller have already made it clear they are aiming to mine the holy grail of rom-coms like Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and Rob Reiner’s ”When Harry Met Sally.” Though the recently released trailer focuses on plot summary over hilarity and hi-jinks, it was still still amusing, possessing the endearing tone we’re hoping for, plus, hopefully there’s still plenty R-rated fun and genius one-liners hidden in its arsenal.
Release Date: April 27
Synopsis: Based on a series of articles in the L.A. Times, the story follows a specialized L.A.P.D. unit set up in the ‘40s to fight the growing influence of the East Coast Mafia, namely from that infamous gangster Mickey Cohen, a mogul who started as muscle for Al Capone in Chicago
What You Need To Know: Credit to Warner Bros. for going with the inspired choice of “Zombieland” and “30 Minutes Or Less” director Ruben Fleischer to tackle what sounds like a sprawling, period L.A.-set gangster picture. The drama will see Sean Penn play the notorious gangster, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as two cops trying to bring him down, and Emma Stone as the femme fatale no doubt coming between them. And if the prospect of those four battling it out wasn’t enough, how about a supporting cast that also brings names like Anthony Mackie, Nick Nolte, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick, “The Killing “ star Mireille Enos, Sullivan Stapleton, Frank Grillo and Giovanni Ribisi among many others, together as well. Fleischer has been keeping a photo blog of the production, and the production values look high, while writer (and ex-cop) Will Beall described the film as “a Western. It's 'The Magnificent Seven' or 'Rio Bravo,' but set in mid-20th century Los Angeles. Micky Cohen is the cattle baron who has the town in his grip and it's up to our heroes to find a way to get rid of him." Sign us up.
Release Date: October 19
"A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III"
Synopsis: Successful graphic designer Charles Swan III (Charlie Sheen), whose fame, money and charm has made him irresistible to women, is thrown into a downward spiral of doubt and reflection after his girlfriend (Katheryn Winnick) breaks up with him.
What You Need To Know: It's been 10 years since Roman Coppola's hugely underrated debut film "CQ" snuck into theaters and its fans, us among them, are still waiting for a follow-up. That film was a mix of autobiography and pop fantasy set in Paris during the '60s, it mixed influences as diverse as "Day For Night" and "Barbarella," into something strangely original. He's spent the last decade at work, doing 2nd unit for both his sister Sofia's films as well as co-writing "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Moonrise Kingdom" with his pal, Wes Anderson. For his long-awaited sophomore feature, he moves the action ahead a decade to the decadent '70s for another tale that looks to meld his own life with his influences. But unlike "CQ," this one is unlikely to vanish in limited release; the cast features Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza and perhaps most importantly, tabloid magnet Charlie Sheen in his first major role since his public meltdown. Playing a celebrity entering a downward spiral shouldn't be too hard for the actor given his recent troubles, but if he nails the part he might sneak back into Hollywood again after his disastrous rants nearly sunk his career. Everybody loves a good comeback story.
Release Date: TBD
Synopsis: The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
What You Need To Know: A notoriously slow and deliberate filmmaker and editor, who tends to write his film <i>as</i> as he is shooting (what a luxury), Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai is one of the most world-renowned international directors, but this will be his first film since his 2007 poorly received English-language debut, “My Blueberry Nights.” Starring longtime collaborator Tony Leung (“In The Mood For Love”), Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen and Chinese star Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), the picture will also be the filmmaker’s first action-oriented movie since 1994’s “Ashes of Time” (which Leung also appeared in). So shooting started back in 1981... ok, we’re kidding, but it really feels like we’ve been reporting on this project for three or four years now. Delays did occur due to Leung accidentally breaking his arm during a fight with a stuntman and Ziyi’s participation was always unconfirmed until set photos showed her in training, but all we know is we’ve seen a tantalizing sizzle trailer and some rain-soaked pictures and posters and now we want to see this damn picture already.
Release Date: It’s been in post forever now. It was rumored for Cannes last year, so with a year-long delay we can only hope a 2012 Cannes bow is finally in the works.