(Yeah, okay, I probably should have done this back in January. But honestly, the only movie I would have added to this list that has already opened is 21 Jump Street)
Dark Shadows (May 11). Johnny Depp and Tim Burton and vampires, oh my! I’ll admit I was mildly horrified when I first heard that JD would be jumping on the vampire bandwagon. I happen to think vampires are dumb and annoying and better contained in the mercifully soon-to-be-over tween universe of Stephanie Meyer. But one look at the trailer for Tim Burton’s adaptation of the classic ’60s soap thriller reassured me that these vampires would be nothing like the moody, female-fantasy versions of the Twilight or True Blood variety. Barnabas Collins has a sense of humor! And I’m totally digging the ’70s vibe and overall sense of fun.
Prometheus (June 8). I just watched Alien (1979) for the first time last night, and holy shit. Ridley Scott does not mess around! I’m expecting similar mind-blowing creepiness in what is probably…most likely…pretty sure…a prequel to the Alien franchise. Interestingly, one of the world’s most anticipated movies of the year is also one of the most closely guarded. Scott has refused to give many details about how, exactly, Prometheus fits into the Alien universe. From the intense trailer, it seems to have all the right elements: space travel, cyborgs, killer aliens. Let’s hope it delivers the goods.
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20). Avengers, I’ma let you finish, but The Dark Knight (2008) was the best superhero movie of all time. Heath Ledger’s Joker? ‘Nuff said. I’m not really expecting Rises to live up to its predecessor, but as the last Batman film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, it better be good. I’m intrigued by new cast members Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And the stakes seem to be higher than ever for the now-reviled Batman which should help assuage any fatigue from listening to Christian Bale’s Bat-voice for three whole movies.
Anna Karenina (November 9). Ah, a lush adaptation of classic literature. One of my happy places. Supposedly the majority of the action will take place in a single interior location, using toy models instead of life-size props, as a cost-cutting measure and also to signify the characters’ inauthenticity and entrapment within the aristocratic system. We’ll see how effective that device is, but in the meantime, the casting is really fantastic. Keira Knightley as Anna is kind of obvious, but Jude Law will play totally against type as the humorless Karenin, and Kelly Macdonald, Matthew MacFadyen, Michelle Dockery and Emily Watson will surely be flawless in supporting roles.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14). I have a confession: By the end of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003), I kind of wanted to shoot myself with one of Legolas’s arrows. Overblown fantasy epics are really not my cup of tea, and after close to 9 hours of watching CG mythical creatures fight battles and mope about a ring I am cautious about returning to Tolkien’s universe for another go-round. But I did enjoy reading The Hobbit in high school and the masterful trailer got to me. The Hobbit (part one of two, because Peter Jackson can’t make one two-hour movie like everyone else) looks pretty great. Most of all, though, I’m dying to see this 48 frame-per-second debacle everyone’s talking about. Will we feel like we’re right there next to Bilbo Baggins? Or will it look like a cheap reality show? Not even Gandalf could tell us until December 14.
Les Miserables (December 14). Now, unlike fantasy epics, musicals ARE my thing. I’m in love with everything about Les Mis and feel like my prayers were answered with this movie. Dream cast, including Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway (and NOT – shudder – Taylor Swift, as was briefly rumored)? Check! Big budget? Check! Real singing? Check! There really isn’t any way this movie can be bad – not with such classic songs, timeless drama, colorful characters and cinematic locales. As far as I’m concerned, this is the movie event of the year.
Life of Pi (December 21). I read the book by Yann Martel several years ago and I can still recall some scenes vividly. The magical-realistic tale, about a young boy who is stranded in a lifeboat with exotic animals after a shipwreck, is not for the faint at heart. I hope the movie version, directed by the lovely Ang Lee, doesn’t whitewash the more disturbing elements. I also look forward to seeing a film headlined by an unknown actor, and an Indian one at that. From start to finish, this is sure to be one of the most unique films of the year.
Django Unchained (December 25). This. Movie. Will. Freakin’. Rock. And I’ve read the screenplay, so you know I’m telling the truth. Quentin Tarantino’s version of a Western has everything we’ve come to know and love about a Tarantino film: snappy, memorable dialogue, gratuitous violence, creative cinematic flourishes, and great casting. Leonardo DiCaprio will play a villian for what must be the first time in his career, and Christoph Waltz is back! This time as a good guy! Best of all, Django Unchained is completely original. Not based on a book, old movie, comic book, or franchise – a truly new story. Just for that, Tarantino will get my $10.50 on Christmas Day.
The Great Gatsby (December 25). An adaptation of that bastion of high school literature that can take advantage of the 21st century’s crisp moviemaking sensibilities was, quite frankly, necessary. 11th grade English classes needed a better movie with which to wrap up their Gatsby units on a Friday afternoon than that version from 2000 with Paul Rudd, and this, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, will be the one they watch for the next 20 years. Most of the hype has centered around Luhrmann’s decision to shoot the film in 3D despite the fact that it contains no aliens, superheroes or Na’vi. I’m less interested in that and more looking forward to seeing what the actors bring to these legendary roles.