Following up on such a dismal year at the box office, this year’s standards don’t seem to be much higher than those needed to become a serious contender in the current GOP nomination race. However, Hollywood seems to have figured out that in order to reinvigorate its once imposing juggernaut, there can’t be too many more 2011’s. That’s why studios, producers, directors, and actors alike have rolled out perhaps one of the most anticipated line-ups of films in recent history. After 12 months of near utter hibernation, Hollywood’s set to make a mammoth comeback.
In chronological order:
January 20- Red Tails : In the midst of World War II, the Pentagon is forced to resort to secondary resources in order to bolster the aerial effort in Europe. It finds itself with no choice, but to consider the inexperienced African-American soldiers that are products of the untried Tuskegee Training Program. Kicking off the year with an instant thriller, this stacked cast and director seemed poised to do anything but disappoint.
March 23- The Hunger Games: Based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling series of novels, this highly anticipated film follows the life of 16-year old Katniss Everdeen in a desolate, post-apocalyptic world dominated by a climate of fear, violence, and death. With an incredibly expansive fan base avidly awaiting its release (over 8 million books have been sold), The Hunger Games is set to put up some big numbers at the box office, not to mention bringing some long-awaited suspense and entertainment to the theatre.
May 4- The Avengers: Take “New Year’s Eve,” yet instead of having Sofia Vergara, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Jessica Biel (etc.), you get Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. In what’s set to be a super-orgy (no other way to describe it), there’s nothing to dislike except for the always-possible scenario that the audience is presented with “too much of a good thing.” Let’s hope “The Avengers” is more of an MLB All-Star Game and less of a “Valentine’s Day.”
May 11- Dark Shadows: After a disappointing showing in “The Rum Diary,” Johnny Depp is set to take back the big screen in this oddly provocative tale of vampires. Tracking the ordeals of Barnabas, a playboy vampire, from past to present, the plot follows his attempts to deal with similar dilemmas in entirely different worlds. Basically, a more sophisticated, developed, and elaborate hybrid of the all-too commercial “Twilight” saga, this script has great potential; yet, there’s always the possibility that if, taken to the extreme, it could result in an over-the-top failure.
May 23- On the Road: Set in the revolutionary days of the Beat Generation, this film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel follows New York-based writer Sal Paradise and his companions, Dean Moriarty and Mary Lou, as they travel cross-country following the death of Sal’s father. Directed by Walter Salles (former director and writer of two Oscar-nominated films, “Central Station” (1998) and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)) and starring Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and Amy Adams (amongst others), this film seems poised to respectfully transfer a written masterpiece into a visual one.
June 1- Rock of Ages: And now, for the annual musical, June brings this Broadway-based film about the life of aspiring musician Diego Boneta and his lover as they try to make it in the competitive rock and roll world of the late 80’s. Featuring an enormously talented cast and a myriad of musical classics (Bon Jovi, Poison, Journey, etc.), director Adam Shankman proved himself with “Hairspray” and has come back for an encore.
July 20- The Dark Knight Rises: It’s summer time and we’re rolling out the big guns. Scratch that, the “biggest gun”. In what’s perhaps the most anticipated film of the year and what’s sure to be one of the biggest summer blockbusters of all time, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy draws to a fitting end as the superhero encounters his most fearsome menace yet in Bane. With much more profound social undertones written into the script, the trilogy plans to go out with a big bang.
September 14- Argo: Surprisingly talented and successful director, Ben Affleck, looks to expand his already impressive resume following the wildly popular hit The Town, with this action-packed thriller based on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Set along the lines of a 2007 magazine story documenting the CIA’s efforts to release the hostages, Affleck’s now commonplace success has set the bar pretty high for this new project.
October 19- The Gangster Squad: Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn, Gosling looks to follow up on his spectacularly successful 2011 season with this serious film about Sgt. Jerry Wooters of the LAPD and his pursuit to bring down Mickey Cohen and his East Coast gangsters. “Public Enemies” meets “Boardwalk Empire” can’t result in anything but an outstanding movie.
November 21- Gravity: Clooney… Bullock…stuck in space…? Hmmm…strange, but attractive nonetheless. Directed by A-list filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, of “Harry Potter” and the “Prisoner of Azkaban” and ”Children of Men,” this sci-fi drama focuses on two astronauts and their struggle for survival in a damaged space station. Rumored to incorporate incredibly innovative special effects, this movie builds a great startup for the best part of the films season.
December 7- Les Miserables: Starring Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, Victor Hugo’s transcendental novel has encountered one of the best directors in the business in Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech“). The storyline centers on Jean Valjean (Jackman), straight out of a 19-year stint in jail for the petty crime of stealing a loaf of bread. Following his escape from prison, Valjean assumes a new identity as a member of the aristocracy, but his past secrets come roaring back in the form of the tireless and determined detective, Inspector Javert (Crowe). Set in the tumultuous French environment of the early 19th century, there’s no one better for the directorial post than the man who has come to be regarded as the expert in all things historical by the Hollywood establishment.
December 14- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The Big Tamale, to the enth degree. In what’s set to be the first of two parts in the installment, which serves as the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the stakes are set and expectations are quite literally higher than ever. Peter Jackson directs and a majority of the LOF crew is back as Bilbo Baggins leads a group of 13 dwarves in their struggle against Smaug, the threatening dragon that holds dominion over the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
December 19- Untitled Osama bin Laden film: While the name is yet unclear, one thing’s for certain: Kathryn Bigelow is back and ready to prove all the doubters wrong in her newest film following her controversial, yet award-winning “Hurt Locker.” Not much is known about the director’s new project, but it seems likely that the plot will track the hunt for bin Laden and come to a climax with the actual raid of his Pakistani compound. Rooney Mara, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, and Tom Hardy are rumored to be up for roles in the cast.
December 25- Django Unchained: Tarantino’s back, and this time Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio have decided to join in for the ride. Were it not for scheduling conflicts, it would have been Dicaprio playing Brad Pitt’s role in his most recent film Inglorious Basterds; he was Tarantino’ first choice. Now Leo’s back as a ruthless plantation owner in the antebellum South .The story tracks the treks of Django (Foxx), a former slave turned bounty hunter, in what some claim might just be the film that allows Dicaprio to settle business in the Kodak Theatre come February 2013.
December 25- The Great Gatsby: With two massive releases, on the same day nonetheless, Leonardo Dicaprio’s in for a big Christmas. In his second project of the year, the Hollywood star portrays the aristocratic Jay Gatsby from Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. Perhaps it’s quite literally impossible to do justice to one of Fitzgerald’s works, but the pieces are set for this movie to make a hell of a run for it.
December 2012 (TBD)- Lincoln: It seems that the title itself would suffice to explain the magnitude of this film. What if we add, say… Steven Spielberg to the picture? Oh, and don’t forget Daniel Day-Lewis. Now we’re talking. Focusing on the latter years of Lincoln’s life (the end of the war, the abolition of slavery, and his assassination), not much is known about this project except for the fact that it’s poised for nothing less than greatness.