10 for 13

by Lewis H. Montaug

A look at ten films that promise to make 2013 another fascinating year of cinema…..

Inside Llewyn Davis 

It seems fitting that we begin to look at some of 2013’s most anticipated films with the Coen brothers, as anytime they release a film it’s an event, a pivotal moment in cinema. Whatever they touch turns to gold1. This time the gifted duo takes us into Greenwich Village in the 1960’s, where we follow the travails of a struggling folk singer played by Oscar Isaac2. The source material for the film is a memoir entitled “The Mayor of Macdougal Street” by Elijah Wald about Dave Van Ronk. But expect the Coen Brothers to put their usual spin on things and to wade far from the source material from time to time. Also, because of the subject matter, and the fact that T. Bone Burnett3 and Marcus Mumford have been brought on to produce the music, we are assured some “mighty fine a-pickin and a-singin!”4. Inside Llewyn Davis also features John Goodman’s triumphant reunion with the Coen Brothers – reason alone to be excited about this film.

Release Date: No release date at this time.

Upstream Color

A man and woman are mysteriously drawn together. They become entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.

Thus reads the premise of Shane Carruth’s bold new endeavor Upstream Color. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shane Carruth’s past work, he is a writer, director, actor and composer best known for his 2004 debut film Primer5. It is about the accidental discovery of time travel and since its debut has attained a cult following. If Primer, filmed with an ultra-low budget of $7000 and rife with complex dialog, experimental plot structures and thought-provoking philosophical ideals, is any indication of the type of science fiction drama that Carruth can produce (and win awards with) than Upstream Color can only shine.

After already generating substantial accolades and a strong reception at this years Sundance Film Festival, I for one am looking forward to letting the waves of this hypnotically powerful romantic thriller wash over me. But I have to warm you, Carruth’s brand of film thrives on head-scratching, deliberate vagueness with certain aspects of the plot, and on the fact that he will mix together madness and beauty, all to assure that you, the viewer, continue to feel its effects long after the reels have stopped spinning and the lights come on.

Release Date: 04.05.13

The Wolverine

This movie might never have happened. At first, Darren Aronofsky was slated to direct, but then later walked away while it was still in pre-production. Then the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit, further delaying the Japenese-set film. The Wolverine came dangerously close to being shelved, but too many people wanted to see it for that to happen.

Marvel Comics has needed a darker, grittier adaptation of one of their comics for quite some time now. Despite hasty reboots that arrive at the heels of their predecessors, or campy team-ups that rely too heavily on humor, the box office usually comes away highly satisfied while the masses have been entertained for at least a couple of hours. But many hardcore fans are left disappointed, looking to Marvel for a Christopher Nolan type reimagining that will do justice to these heroes that people have loved since the sixties.

Enter Frank Miller, the man behind successful graphic novel interpretations of both Batman (perhaps the most influential element of The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Daredevil, not to mention two original series, Sin City and 300, both of which went on to be major blockbusters in their own right. His 1982 series, simply titled Wolverine, which was co-written with Chris Claremont, was widely successful at the time. It chronicles Logan’s time in Japan, away from the other X-Men, and on a spiritual journey where new enemies will arise and his humanity will be tested.

Hopeful fans have reason to be optimistic simply for the fact that this movie is a standalone that has very little bearing on the rest of the X-Men continuity (something that was completely botched with the First Class prequel). Yet despite its isolated plot, it’s not just another premature reboot, because who else could unsheathe those claws with the level of ferocity and intensity that Hugh Jackman can? Hugh’s been at this for over a decade now, and he’s done a damned good job. Very few people are looking for fresh, young blood to step into the role of Logan. Not as long as Hugh is still willing to play him.

Release Date: 07.26.13

The Place Beyond the Pines

Few people knew the name Derek Cianfrance before the success of his 2010 independent romantic drama, Blue Valentine, but audiences stood up and took notice when this story of an unraveling marriage hit the big screen at Sundance. Be it the film’s candor or the range of conflicting emotions it evoked, critics were still talking about Blue Valentine a year after it premiered. It would seem that the movie-going public wants more of Cianfrance’s fresh, if often disillusioning, perspective.

The Place Beyond the Pines is sure to reinvigorate the crime drama, as it pits motorcycle stuntman and part-time criminal Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) against rising police officer and aspiring politician Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The movie aims to deal with the timeless issues of fatherhood, loyalty, and legacies without taking the long view in a generation spanning town history. Ray Liotta will return to a role he’s always been very comfortable in: a past-his-prime and jaded cop who may or may not be on the take, which can only serve to blur the lines of morality that Glanton and Cross will most definitely be on opposite sides of.

The tale of the cop and the robber both going through the world trying to provide for their families while living by their own code of ethics is one that’s been told again and again. Yet there’s no doubt that audiences will be hungry for Cianfrance’s take on the genre, in the process breathing some new, and hopefully original, life into it.

Release Date: 05.29.13

Gravity

I love Children of Men. Love. I treasure the untethered realism, captured in almost every shot, of a dystopian future that seemed all too possible. I love the tension generated through all the turbulent camera movements and angles that heightened the dire circumstances occurring on screen. And I love the moving climax that literally births a miracle unto the world amid vociferous conflict. It is a truly beautiful work of art. Thus, every waking moment since Children of Men rocked me to the core I have been waiting for Alfonso Cuarón’s follow up, which will be released in October of this year. Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts who survive after their shuttle is destroyed in a devastating accident, leaving these two bound to each other and spiraling out into the blackness. We know little else about the plot, but with Cuaron behind the lens we are assured a technical and visually stunning piece of cinema. And, rumors are swirling about a breath-taking 20 minute single shot opening to the film.

Release Date: 10.04.13

World War Z

When one hears the term “zombie flick” one’s thoughts may drift to George Romero’s seminal Dawn of the Dead, or Danny Boyle’s high energy romp 28 Days Later, or you might even envision Simon Pegg’s Shawn of the Dead. In the future you may add one more movie to that list, one that may very well crown them all. World War Z is that flick. A zombie film to end all zombie films. An epic, world spanning tale of humanity’s heroic fight and almost loss to the swarming horde of zombie undead.

The film World War Z, loosely based off of the wildly popular book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War written by Max Brooks6, follows UN employee Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), as he travels across the ravaged and destroyed post-zombie war7 Earth, interviewing survivors of the zombie apocalypse. As he encounters the remnants of humanity, living in the shadows of collapsed governments and defeated armies, he sees that the thin fabric of society has been ripped open, its survivors clinging weakly to its tattered remains. And as he wanders, he begins to wonder if survival was even a victory at all. Because for the living, all that is left now is death.

Chilling…

Release Date: 06.23.13

The Counselor

Take one part Ridley Scott (Director), stir in a healthy serving of Cormac McCarthy (Screenwriter)8, and then throw in a sprinkling of Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz, and what do you have?, 20th Century Fox’s The Counselor. Honestly those names right there are enough to get me off my couch and into the theater, but the plot appears intriguing as well – or what we know of it.  The Counselor is about a Southwestern lawyer, played by Fassbender, who finds himself in over his head after he gets embroiled in the drug game. This is literally all we know about the film’s plot, but the last time Fassbender and Scott worked together they created a little bit of magic9 – so we shouldn’t be surprised if this collaboration produces equally successful results.  And I will always jump at the opportunity to behold Cormac McCarthy’s lyrically-stark prose and brutal subject matter come to life on the big screen.

Release Date: 11.15.13

Man of Steel

I know I should get right to talking about Henry Cavil’s performance as Superman in this flick. Or Christopher Nolan’s influence as producer on this film10. Or even Zack Snyder, who gave us two gorgeous films in 300 and Watchmen11 , signing on as director.

But I can’t. I won’t. I am unable to get started without first giving respect to my main man, my hero of the moment, my Curtis LaForche12 and Nelson Van Alden13 and John Givings14 all mixed into one, the very talented actor Michael Shannon.

When I heard that Shannon had signed on for Man of Steel I was ecstatic. My mind spun as I imagined which role he would play. Would it be Jor-El, Superman’s father from the red planet Krypton? Or Jonathan Kent, Superman’s adoptive father from rural Kansas? But I had my ah-ha! moment when my mind finally alighted on the correct answer, on the only role that made any sense: General Zod, a being so bored with his powers that he became disappointed with how easy it was to take over Earth. He’s at his core an anti-Superman. Possessing all of Clark Kent’s powers but none of his humanity.

Who better to mirror Superman’s good nature than Shannon, a man who excels at playing dark, and deeply troubled individuals? A man who so convincingly channels fear and anxiety and anger and contempt that you can no longer distinguish the character from the actor?

On second thought what else is there to say? Michael Shannon is Zod. For that reason alone go and see this flick.

Release Date: 06.14.13

Star Trek: Into Darkness

You would be hard pressed to find someone, whether nerd or “normal”, that likes action films and did not like J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. The truth of the matter is he killed it – he re-booted the fuck out of a tired franchise and because of this he now holds the reigns to every movie whose title begins with “Star”. A new generation now knows about Kirk, Spock, Bones and the gang, and the old generation of fans has become inspired again. This May, J.J. Abrams follows up his 2009 blockbuster with a sequel which promises to bring Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his always loyal crew “Into Darkness” – “on a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction”.

As is the case with many of these highly anticipated Summer releases, plot details are hard to come by – but there are leaks.  What we do know is that Benedict Cumberbatch15 is the film’s villain16, but what we do not know is if he is playing a young version of Khan17, as many rumor mills are suggesting. Whatever the case, and whoever Benedict Cumberbatch turns out to actually be, if we were to judge from the trailer alone we are in for another hell of a ride aboard the Enterprise, a ride we are eager to engage upon.

Release Date: 05.17.13

Elysium

In Homer’s Odyssey, Elysium is described as a paradise. In ancient Greek it is a concept of the afterlife where the righteous and heroic would remain after death, living a life filled with blessings and happiness. In Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium, Paradise has been replaced by a man-made space station, and its righteous inhabitants substituted out for the ultra wealthy individuals who can afford to live there.

The story takes place in 2159. Existence is divided into two worlds: those unfortunate enough to live on the ravaged, overcrowded, crime and poverty-ridden lands of Earth; and those lucky few who have the resources and the connections to be able to call the pristine and fertile lands of the space-habitat Elysium home.

It is a two-caste system, with those who remain on Earth trying desperately to survive on a dying planet and those who inhabit Elysium trying to prevent them from leaving. The citizens on Elysium have their own plans, their own ideals regarding who is worthy to live there and the stations Secretary Delacort (Jodi Foster) and her hard-line forces would do anything to to preserve the sanctity of its inhabitants lifestyle. The persistent struggle of the haves against the have-not’s finds an opportunity to bring equality to these two extreme worlds in the character of Max (Matt Damon), a desperate man in need of finding refuge on Elysium. Desperation oftentimes breeds defeat, but occasionally it offers answers. And on Elysium, Max – who throws his life on the line in his efforts to join Elysium’s elite – discovers he may have stumbled onto a solution to save not only his own life but the lives of the abandoned masses living below.

Release Date: 08.09.13

  1. Am I the only one who pretends Intolerable Cruelty never happened? []
  2. Who could forget his haunting scowl in Drive? []
  3. T. Bone Burnett worked with the Coen Brothers on O Brother where Art Thou – a collaboration that resulted in 8 million records sold and a Grammy on T-Bone’s shelf. []
  4. To quote the aforementioned O Brother! []
  5. Which went on to win the Grand Jury prize at the 2004 Sundance film festival and draws heavily from Carruth’s training as an engineer and mathematician. []
  6. Son of legendary comedian Mel Brooks. Spaceballs! []
  7. Called World War Z []
  8. The Counselor is Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay. []
  9. Fassbender’s David in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is one of the more memorable characters in film last year. []
  10. Two words: Dark Knight []
  11. I am still amazed how he was able to faithfully reproduce, page for page, on film what was drawn in the original comic book’s for 300 and Watchmen []
  12. Take Shelter []
  13. Boardwalk Empire []
  14. Academy Award nominated best supporting actor for Revolutionary Road []
  15. BBC’s Sherlock Holmes []
  16. But J.J. Abrams himself has confirmed that Benedict’s character will not be the only villain – and that Klingons are involved. []
  17. The genetically upgraded tyrant portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in a February 1967 episode of the original series, and in 1982’s big -screen Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. []

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