So sue me, I love musicals. It is also no secret I unashamedly love everything about the Eighties. Granted I wasn’t actually alive to physically be a part of it, but the films, music and, some would say, fashion, have influenced me nonetheless. The Breakfast Club is one of my favourite films, I consider the Brat Pack up there with my best friends and various John Hughes soundtracks litter my music playlists. This all leads me to greatly anticipate Rock of Ages, which promises to be the trashiest and campest (sorry Les Miserables) musical of the year. Originally a successful stage musical, Adam Shankman has been tasked with bringing the wig wearing, fist pumping eighties back to the mainstream. It’s debatable whether the director of The Pacifier and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is the right man for the job, but it is important to remember he did also direct Hairspray, and that turned out pretty well. An accomplished choreographer, Shankman has worked on everything from the Oscars to Step Up to the brilliant Buffy musical episode, Once More With Feeling. The man knows how to dance; I trust him.
Relative unknowns Julianne Hough (Folanotloose, Dancing with the Stars) and Diego Boneta (90210, Pretty Little Liars) lead the show as the standard two aspiring singers trying to make it big, eventually finding love and singing lots of duets. Both are established musical artists, so it’ll be interesting to see how well their sound will transfer to the screen. Backing them, Shankman has pulled together a terrific supporting cast, with Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti and Cathertine Zeta-Jones all donning wigs and ‘rocking out’. However, the film’s biggest draw will of course be the incomparable Tom Cruise as rock star Stacee Jaxx, again proving there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do. I think the last time I remember him showing off his singing abilities was the bizarre/awesome musical segment in Magnolia, and of course that was the best thing ever.
Release date: June 14
With Brick, Rian Johnson not only reignited fresh interest in film noir, but also put an evocative new twist on tired high-school flicks. He introduced the classic genre to a whole new generation of audiences, whilst still maintaining all the elements and characteristics that make noir pictures so easily recognisable and timeless. In the lead role, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was finally recognized as a versatile actor with serious dramatic chops, and Johnson was one of the first to focus his early potential. For Looper, their next collaboration, both actor and director are trying something completely different, tackling an ambitious sci-fi actioner, complete with time travel and Bruce Willis.
Coming off as an awesome sounding mash-up of Minority Report and Twelve Monkeys, the film takes place in the year 2042, with Gordon-Levitt playing a mob contract killer of sorts. The twist? He tracks down and kills people sent from the future, the year 2072 in particular. When he is tasked with killing his future self (Bruce Willis), he hesitates and shit obviously hits the fan. You might be wondering how Willis and Gordon-Levitt could possibly play the same character thirty years apart, but first-look photos show partial prosthetics are used and there is a surprising resemblance between the two. Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo and the always-brilliant Emily Blunt round out a pretty amazing cast.
For film geeks like me, one of the most exciting aspects of the film is the inclusion of Primer filmmaker, Shane Carreth, on board as ‘visual consultant’. For those who haven’t seen Primer, I highly recommend it for fans of time-travel and those who love a good old mind-fuck. Interestingly, Johnson has claimed that while time travel figures into the story quite substantially, it isn’t the film’s defining element, and there is whole lot more in store. This only makes Looper sound more thrilling and it has been a few good years since we’ve been treated to a decent time travel film, so this is definitely one to look out for.
Release date: September 28
The moment the Superbowl trailer showed the Avengers fully assemble for the first time, I experienced something like a mini-heart attack, temporary brain overload and wet dream all rolled into one. For me, seeing the A-Team of superheroes finally banding together to fight one universal evil was an almost revelatory epiphany; proof that it was actually happening and not just an action figure royal rumble in my bedroom.
There is no denying a film of this magnitude has never been attempted before, and justifiably so. How do you put four of the most loved figures in geek history, along with three second-tier heroes, together in the same film, egos and all? Most blockbusters can barely contain one superhero, and even they struggle maintaining a measured balance of action and drama. Luckily, Buffy and Angel supremo Joss Whedon knows a thing or two about working with ensemble casts, and is absolutely the right man for the job. It is clear from the trailers Whedon has fully embraced the legacy of the notoriously bickering super team, showing both their ego struggles and eventual realisation they need to put their personal problems aside and work together.
Full plot details are shrouded in secrecy, but we do know The Avengers (made up of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury) will be battling against an intergalactic threat led by Thor’s brother/nemesis Loki (Tom Hiddleston). All the actors have proved themselves numerous times in their own franchise films and seeing them finally work as a team will be nothing short of magical. With excitement reaching fever pitch, expect huge box-office numbers come opening weekend, propelled by millions of wish-fulfilled fanboys.
Release date: April 25
12. Cloud Atlas
Based on the acclaimed novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas is definitely one of the more ambitious sounding films coming this year. The narrative consists of six stories running in parallel, spread out over completely different genres, with the cast taking multiple roles and some even gender swapping. I couldn’t even begin to explain the actual plot, so I’ll let the official logline do the talking. Described as an “epic story of humankind in which the actions and consequences of our lives impact one another throughout the past, present and future as one soul is shaped from a murderer into a saviour and a single act of kindness ripples out for centuries to inspire a revolution”… Clearly, it sounds mind-bogglingly ridiculous, bold and totally brilliant.
As always, the casting is extremely important and perhaps more so for a production of this calibre, as the film will either triumph or fail depending on the star quality attached. Luckily, source material as intriguing as this is bound to attract a few star actors and I think Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving come under that banner. Even better, unofficial King of England, Hugh Grant is taking a rare dramatic role as a cannibal 2000 years in the future, who according to him does “a lot of raping and killing”. I for one cannot wait to see that.
The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) are on directing duties, with this being their first film since 2008’s brave but underwhelming, Speed Racer. Interestingly, as the scope of the production is so vast, the Wachowskis will only be directing part of the film, with German director Tom Tywker covering the rest. It’s a fascinating move and the directors have successfully proved before they have the potential to create something truly revolutionary and unique. Expect the unexpected.
Release date still to be determined – November is looking likely
The character of James Bond plays to one of the ultimate clichés: men want to be him and women want to be with him. Bond pretty much invented a cultural movement, and over a staggering 22 films he has continuously remained firmly in the zeitgeist, right up until the present day. One of the main reasons the Bond franchise has proved so successful and always relevant to audiences is its power to continuously reinvent itself with each entry. This partly comes from changing directors (and sometimes actors), allowing for a fresh direction and the power to explore new themes, styles and characters with every new film. Arguably, this is where the last film, Quantum of Solace, ultimately fell flat. Not only was it a direct continuation of the brilliant, Casino Royale, it was also pretty dismal in terms of story and action. Thankfully, entry 23 will be a completely stand-alone story, focusing on the complicated, but dedicated relationship between Bond (Daniel Craig in his third outing) and MI6 head honcho M (Judi Dench). Plot details are mostly under wraps, but the main logline sees James Bond having his loyalty to M tested after her past comes back to haunt her.
The team they have wrangled together for Skyfall is truly outstanding, with a host of accomplished names on board, including scripting duties from John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), American Beauty director Sam Mendes, regular Coen Brothers cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the always-consistent Thomas Newman (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) providing the score. That’s one hell of a terrific crew. On top of all this, the cast is once again top-notch. Javier Bardem portrays the lead antagonist, with Ralph Fiennes in an undisclosed, typically secretive role, along with Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris as the much coveted and deliriously sexy Bond girls. With a cast and crew like that, Mendes is bound to deliver an action-packed film with a strong emotional core and lots of naked flesh.
Release date: October 26
Part 3 of Josh’s Most Anticipated Films, is coming soon.