The films to look forward to in 2012

The summer film season is just getting started.  While we had the Avengers to open everything with, quite literally a bang, there is still plenty more to look forward to.  Beyond that, the fall and winter will most likely bring us the award winners of 2012.  In no particular order, here are the films to anticipate:

1)  Prometheus

Director:  Ridley Scott

Stars:  Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce

Writers:  Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof

Release date:  June 8th, 2012

A scientific research team searches the corners of the universe to discover the origin of mankind on Earth.  However, will what they find lead them to humanity’s ultimate demise?  The answer will be revealed in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  The film marks Scott’s third science fiction outing.  This alone should excite any sci-fi fans (considering his sci-fi track record, with Alien and Bladerunner).  One of the main attractions, however, will be its cast.  While Noomi Rapace is the main character, Michael Fassbender’s performance, in particular, is garnering a lot of attention.  He plays the role of David, an android who serves as the butler and maintenance man aboard the Prometheus (hence the title of the film).  These big names, plus Scott’s long-awaited return to sci-fi make this a film to look out for.

2)  Ted

Director:  Seth MacFarlane

Stars:  Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane

Writers:  Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild

Release date:  July 13th, 2012

Seth MacFarlane is finally coming to the big screen.  The man behind Family Guy and American Dad has a story to tell about a childhood fantasy that, well, maybe some of us had.  In this case the fantasy comes true.  John Bennett (played by Mark Whalberg), as a child, wishes for his beloved teddy bear to come to life.  The teddy bear, appropriately named Ted, comes to life and is John’s best friend all throughout his life. Fast forward to adulthood, Ted and John are still friends, only things are not nearly as kid-friendly.  John wants to settle down with Lori (Mila Kunis), the love of his life, and needs Ted to move out of his apartment.  The problem is that Ted is a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, pot-smoking, unemployed teddy bear who’s too attached to his best friend.  Best of all, it looks downright hilarious.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the writers of Family Guy are behind the project.  What’s most exciting is to see Mark Whalberg back in the comedy world.  He already demonstrated just how funny he can be in 2010′s the Other Guys.  If Whalberg turns out to be as funny as he was in the Other Guys and MacFarlane and his writing team are on their game, this could be the summer’s funniest movie.

3)  The Dark Knight Rises

Director:  Christopher Nolan

Stars:  Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard

Writers:  Christopher Nolan, John Nolan

Release date:  July 20th, 2012

Truth be told, I was tempted not to include this on the list.  It’s not because there’s lack of anticipation.  Quite the opposite actually.  There’s so much anticipation surrounding Nolan’s next Batman outing and so much written about it that my input would seem pointless.  That being said, it would be wrong not to give Nolan the credit he deserves.  Thus far, he has had a spotless record, and the Dark Knight Rises seems ready to continue such a perfect trend.  The story is the conclusion to the Dark Knight saga.  The story is set 8 years after the events of the Dark Knight, with Batman/Bruce Wayne continuing to evade authorities in order to protect Harvey Dent’s image from being ruined towards the end of the last film.  However, Bane (played by Tom Hardy), looks to bring Gotham to its knees.  The only chance the city has is for Batman to return and bring down his ruthless new adversary.  While Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Batman’s ultimate fate are what seem to be driving the hysteria behind the film, I’m most excited about Bane.  Tom Hardy’s Bane is reportedly going to be the polar opposite of the late Heath Ledger’s Joker.  While the Joker tried to destroy Gotham through chaos, Bane has a completely different agenda in mind.  Bane utilizes his intellect, along with his powerful physique, to bring down Batman and Gotham.  Tom Hardy has already proven himself to be an intimidating and intellectual brawler in 2008′s Bronson.  With the addition of massive budget, and of course, Batman, fans of the series have a lot to look forward to with the conclusion in July.

4)  Killing Them Softly

Director:  Andrew Dominik

Stars:  Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta

Writers:  Andrew Dominik

Release date:  September 21st, 2012

Jackie Cogan doesn’t like to get up close to his victims when he kills them.  He doesn’t want to hear their cries for mercy or pleas.  That’s why he kills them from a distance, or, as he likes to say, kill them softly.  Softly, however, is a poor adverb to describe Jackie’s methods and Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly.  This unapologetically violent thriller has been getting positive early buzz from the Cannes Film Festival, with Dominik already being nominated for the Palme d’Or (the festival’s highest prize).  Based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgens, Pitt plays the role of Jackie Cogan, a professional mob enforcer who is hired to investigate a heist that occurred during a mob-protected poker.  While there isn’t much else revealed from this point regarding the plot, one can only imagine that the body count rises and the story will spin out of control.  Following up on the critical success of the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik may have very struck gold again.  We’ll find out in September.

5)  Only God Forgives

Director:  Nicolas Winding Refn

Stars:  Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying

Writers:  Nicolas Winding Refn

Release date:  Fall/Winter, 2012

Nicolas Winding Refn had the masses talking last year with the critically acclaimed Drive (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re doing something very wrong).  He is once again collaborating with Ryan Gosling for what is expected to be another brutally violent outing in Only God Forgives.  Gosling plays Julien, a gangster in Bangkok, Thailand involved in an underground kick-boxing ring.  Julien is summoned by his mother, Jenna (Kristin Scott Thomas), to avenge his brother’s death.  To do so, he must enter the ring and face an opponent known only as the Angel of Vengeance.  Gosling has already said that this is one of the most bizarre scripts he’s ever read and that it’s only going to get stranger.  No one should be surprised by the odd nature of the setting since Refn headlining the project.  However, between the Muay Thai premise and Refn being a master of stylish film-making, filmgoers should be jumping at the chance to see this when it comes out later this year.  It most likely won’t get the wide release that Drive did due to Refn’s indie nature, but filmgoers owe it to themselves to go see the brilliance of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling.

6)  The Place Beyond the Pines

Director:  Derek Cianfrance

Stars:  Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta

Writers:  Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder

Release date:  Unknown, 2012

Blue Valentine boasts some of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a film.  It is also a movie I would never want to watch again.  The disintegration of a marriage portrayed as realistically as it was in Derek Cianfrance’s first big film is painfully difficult to watch.  His next movie, on the other hand, sounds like it will appeal more to the masses this time.  The Place Beyond the Pines takes place in Schenectady, New York, a rather unusual setting for a crime film.  The story is supposed to take place over the course of multiple generations.  Gosling plays Bram Benderoff, a motorcycle stunt rider with a newborn baby.  Since he and his significant other (Eva Mendes) are unable to finance raising a baby, he considers crime as a means of providing for his child.  Enter Dustin Mason (Bradley Cooper), a cop-turned-politician who stands between Bram and his goal of helping his child.  I believe the film marks an interesting departure for Bradley Cooper.  While he has proven himself to a more than competent actor (see Limitless), he typically stays more in the realm of comedy.  However, with the meticulous attention to detail from Cianfrance and other great actors, this could very well be Cooper’s finest moment to date, as well as one of the year’s best movies.

7)  The Master

Director:  Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars:  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

Writers:  Paul Thomas Anderson

Release date:  October 12th, 2012

This is one that could have a lot of people in Hollywood talking, and it might not be all positive buzz.  The film tells the story of a preacher who begin a religious movement following World War II, simply known as “the Cause”.  Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a drifter who becomes involved in the new faith.  While enthusiastic initially, Quell eventually grows skeptical and suspicious of the preacher’s faith and established belief system.  If you’ve watched There Will Be Blood, you should expect a certain amount of minimalism in Anderson’s approach to film-making, along with some brilliant performances.  Keep an eye out for Amy Adams in particular.  She’s one of Hollywood’s finest actresses and while the nature of her role has yet to be revealed, any filmgoer should be very excited.  It’s also great to see that Joaquin Phoenix is back in what is probably going to be one of the more critically acclaimed movies this year.  It’ll be interesting to see how this performs at the Oscars.  It’s inevitable that it will get nominated for something (come on, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson), but because the story is rumored to be an allusion to the story of Scientology, there could very well be some controversy when this is released in October.

8)  Argo

Director:  Ben Affleck

Stars:  Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

Writers:  Chris Terrio

Release date:  October 12th, 2012

I don’t believe Ben Affleck is one of the greatest actors in the world.  As a director, however, he has demonstrated that he is someone to pay close attention to.  2010′s the Town could easily be considered the best bank robbery movie since 1995′s Heat.  This time, Affleck’s movie revolves around the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.  The film tells the true story of a CIA rescue operation that involved a fake crew for a sci-fi movie being filmed in the Middle East in order to rescue the hostages.  The film marks what could potentially be another hit for Affleck.  With a strong supporting cast and a gripping premise, Argo is bound for greatness.  I’m very excited to see Cranston in this one.  After coming off of Drive and having Breaking Bad on his resume, he could very well make this movie even more interesting.  It’ll be difficult for me to choose between this and the Master on October 12th.  Coin flip anyone?

9)  The Great Gatsby

Director:  Baz Luhrmann

Stars:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton

Writers:  Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Release:  December 25th, 2012

Baz Luhrmann has a Christmas gift for us, and I’m dying to unwrap it.  While F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved story has been brought to life through film multiple times, this looks to be the most stylish and fun approach yet.  Luhrmann already has quite the following, understandably so, with Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! under his belt.  DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby, a restless young entrepreneur who hosts extravagant parties in 1920s New York.  I don’t have to tell you that we should be looking out for DiCaprio.  It’s been made abundantly clear that almost anything he’s in is golden.  Luhrmann also bring Mulligan and Maguire to the table, playing Daisy Buchanan and Nick Carraway respectively.  Between the strong cast and Luhrmann’s eccentric brilliance, he may very well have another masterpiece on his hands.

10)  Django Unchained

Director:  Quentin Tarantino

Stars:  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel Jackson

Writers:  Quentin Tarantino

Release date:  December 25th, 2012

It seems like DiCaprio is going to be having a very merry Christmas this year.  Django Unchained marks the first collaboration for DiCaprio and the ingenious Quentin Tarantino.  Tarantino has a nearly flawless track record (sorry Kill Bill), and with Django Unchained, we can expect razor sharp dialogue, violence, and of course, Samuel Jackson.  Foxx plays Django, a slave in the south who has been separated from his wife (played by Kerry Washington).  Enter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), a bounty hunter who rescues Django. He offers Django the opportunity to help him bring down the Brittle Brothers, a gang of killers that Django is somehow connected to.  If Django accepts, Schultz will return the favor by granting him his freedom and helping him rescue his wife from the brutal plantation owner, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).  While the cast should be exciting the masses, the one to look out for is Christoph Waltz.  He and Tarantino made magic together in 2009′s Inglorious Basterds.  I’m very excited to see how he’ll do on their second collaboration.  Get excited, get very excited, because Tarantino could very well have another masterpiece on the way.

*Note:  Some of the character names and other film details are pending for certain movies, so forgive me if there are any inaccuracies here.  If you find the real names or if I was wrong on any details, please correct them for me in comments.