To this day, Les Miserables remains the longest running West End show in musical theatre history, accumulating over ten thousand performances and numerous awards. Originally based on Victor Hugo’s groundbreaking 1862 novel of the same name, the musical is an epic tale of revolution and redemption. It spans several decades in 19th century France, complete with multi-layered and fascinating characters. The source material has been adapted countless times in the past, but remarkably an adaptation of the stage musical has never been attempted before.
But now, 25 years after the first performance, Les Mis is finally getting a chance to truly shine on the big screen, and probably win a ton of awards in the process. Tom Hooper, fresh off an Oscar win for directing the surprise award behemoth and cultural phenomenon, The King’s Speech, takes the reins on this ambitious adaptation. Having previously tackled period dramas with John Adams, Elizabeth I and of course, The King’s Speech, Hooper is clearly at home with the aesthetics and tone of the past, but can he handle a famously dark and depressing musical? The studio clearly has faith, propelling the film into production in record speed, with filming beginning in March and a December release date looming. Chop chop, Hooper.
Personally, I’m far more excited by the fantastic cast in place, boasting a host of top name performers, both in film and on stage. Finally bringing his immense musical talents to the big screen, Hugh Jackman takes the lead as Jean Valjean, a wrongfully imprisoned convict desperately attempting to escape the clutches of corrupt law enforcer, Inspector Javert. Brilliantly, fellow Australian, Russell Crowe, has been chosen to portray the aforementioned Javert, a deliciously charming and cruel role that will allow Crowe to at last turn the tables and play a villain. Support comes in the form of the beautiful Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cossette and Samantha Barks, who recently starred in the 25th anniversary production, as the doomed Eponine. On top of this, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are also on board as the horrid Thenardier duo, both roles they should easily excel in.
Whether the inherent staginess of most movie musicals can be overcome remains to be seen, but with a cast that amazing and beautiful source material to work with, Hooper should be able to do the musical lovers proud. Did I mention all the songs are being performed live on set rather than dubbed in later on? Chop chop, Hooper…
Release date: December 14
From The Royal Tenenbaums to Fantastic Mr. Fox, and even various television commercials, all of Wes Anderson’s works have a very distinct and easily recognisable style and tone driving them. By balancing an equal amount of wit, absurdity and poignancy, Anderson crafts incredibly memorable films that strive to be funny and unique, without ever losing sight of the humanity and heart of the story or the characters. He presents these characters as kooky and flawed, yet always relatable and incorporates them into an almost nostalgic version of our world; accentuated further by classic folk/rock soundtracks and unrivalled dry humour. Clearly a winning formula for success, as proven by the director’s consistent track record, it looks as if his next project, Moonrise Kingdom (his first live-action film since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited) will follow a similar path.
Briefly, Moonrise Kingdom takes place in a small New England island town in the 1960s, following two twelve-year-olds who embark on a pubescent adventure, sparking a local search party to track them down. If that sounds a little run-of-mill, don’t worry, Anderson is sure to make it as distinctive as possible,; the trailer teases lightning strikes, nude water-coloured paintings and a tree house perched in the sky. Once again, Anderson has attracted an impressive cast, with regular dead-pan gods, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as the girl’s parents, Bruce Willis as the local sheriff, Edward Norton as a scout leader and Tilda Swinton looking her usual fierce, wild self as a social worker. Taking the lead roles of the two mismatched kids are first timers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. If they can make an impression as well as Jason Schwartzman did in his debut Rushmore, these two will definitely be ones to watch out for in the future.
With Anderson’s striking colour palette, beautiful landscapes and hilarious one-liners taking centre stage, Moonrise Kingdom promises to be another masterpiece in the making. What kind of bird are you?
Release date: May 25
Firstly, The Burial is not the official title; the film is usually referred to as simply, Untitled Terrence Malick Project.
In almost 40 years, the infamously elusive Terrence Malick has only made five films, each one as brilliant, thought provoking and aesthetically gorgeous as the last. It appears although Malick’s last feature film was critically divisive; the compelling and visually stunning Tree of Life introduced the filmmaker to a modern generation of fans, eager for more. He couldn’t possibly make us wait another five, ten or even fifteen years for another film, surely? Happily, Malick is keen to oblige us for once, finally letting his creative juices fully bloom, on track to release a staggering four films in the next couple of years. As a huge Malick fan, this is almost too much for me to handle and as usual, all the projects are shrouded in secrecy, increasing my excitement even more.
The very basic plot of the film is apparently centred on a philanderer who marries a European women he has an affair with, only to rekindle a romance with an old flame later on. While it appears to be pretty standard stuff and a straightforward narrative by Malick standards (i.e. no Pocahontas or dinosaurs), there is clearly more to the story than originally believed. Like Tree of Life before it, The Burial is partly autobiographical, with Terrence Malick himself leaving his French wife to marry a childhood friend. Clearly not just a coincidence, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how Malick interprets his own personal journey for everyone to see. Also, another intriguing note: this will be Malick’s first story with a contemporary setting, so expect plenty of modern day musings of a spiritual and philosophical nature.
Ben Affleck leads the cast, with Rachael McAdams and former Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, as the women in his life, alongside Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem and Jessica Chastain in unspecified supporting roles. I think you’ll agree that’s one hell of a stellar cast, though don’t expect everyone to make the final cut. Malick is notorious for chopping his films to pieces, filming hours of footage and editing as he sees fit. Just ask Adrien Brody, who initially believed he was the lead in The Thin Red Line, only for his role to be dramatically reduced to two lines and five minutes of screen time.
While no release date has been officially announced, I’m confident the film will be released sometime this year (Cannes is an absolute possibility), especially as Malick has already moved onto his next two (!) films, Lawless and Knight of Cups, both starring Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. Get started on his back catalogue because Terrence Malick is back with a vengeance, baby.
Release date still to be announced
Paul Thomas Anderson knows a little something about crafting flawed and dysfunctional characters. This is the director that propelled underwear model, Mark Wahlberg, to Hollywood fame with a simple crotch shot; made Tom Cruise a misogynistic arsehole; proved Adam Sandler could legitimately act; and helped Daniel Day-Lewis achieve a second Oscar, simply by shouting about a milkshake. Through these unique and vulnerable creations, Anderson delves into the emotionally hidden side of his characters, often pitting them against their own internal fears of alienation, loneliness and inferiority, yet never neglects their humanity.
For his first film since 2007’s magnificent There Will Be Blood, Anderson is once again returning to a period setting, and this one sounds like it could be another modern masterpiece waiting to happen. Set primarily in 1950s America, sometime after World War II, The Master follows a charismatic man (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who creates a religious organization, referred to as The Cause. The film is said to focus on the protagonist’s relationship with his right hand man, a local drifter, who begins to question the authenticity and cause of the organization as it begins to gain traction with the general public. Controversially, the ‘cult’ is said to be a thinly disguised analogy of Scientology, and it’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who Seymour Hoffman bares more than a passing resemblance to. The filmmakers have denied any coincidental likeness with the Church of Scientology, created in 1952, after Hubbard returned from war. It’s sure to be titillating stuff and clearly relevant in modern culture.
In his first acting role since his faux retirement, Joaquin Phoenix will play the aforementioned drifter, with Amy Adams as Hoffman’s wife, and Laura Dern, Jesse Plemons (Landry from Friday Night Lights!) and Swedish actress Lena Endre (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in supporting roles. Paul Thomas Anderson has always been extremely popular with the Academy and a film generating this much buzz is sure to cause quite a stir upon release.
Release date: October 12
Only number 6 you say?! Let the backlash begin…
It ‘s no secret that the third part of Christopher Nolan’s phenomenal trilogy is highly anticipated by almost everyone. Why shouldn’t it be? He pretty much redefined not only the comic-book genre, but also a cultural icon, with the gritty Batman Begins, and even more so with The Dark Knight. The caped crusader was no longer a nipple flashing, wisecracking rich bloke with great hair, but a tormented, deeply troubled vigilante, with even better hair. The Dark Knight went on to gross over a billion dollars worldwide and Nolan was the new king of Hollywood (until James Cameron came back to reclaim his throne with Avatar) and he used his new status to fund a pet-project, Inception, another smart blockbuster that became a huge success.
Everyone is clearly expecting big things from The Dark Knight Rises and Nolan is under enormous pressure to deliver. For me, the cast alone is impressive enough to guarantee my ticket, and the first trailer only fuelled my excitement tenfold. As usual, Nolan is keeping the main plot under lock and key, with only a few details known. Taking place eight years after the second installment, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is once again forced to become Batman in order to save Gotham from its greatest threat yet: Bane, a hulking mammoth of a man with an agenda for pain and destruction. Hardcore comic-book geeks will be well aware of Bane’s story arc in the original Batman mythology (Spoiler alert: he breaks Batman’s back) and it will be extremely exciting and possibly controversial to see what direction Nolan will take. On top of all this drama, the sexy and deadly Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, plays an integral role, but is she an ally or an antagonist? Everyone has been sworn to secrecy, and rightly so.
With Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway as Bane and Catwoman respectively, Nolan has once again pulled together a fantastic cast. Add returning trilogy veterans, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, as well as Inception co-stars Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and you might just have one of the best superhero ensembles of all time. There have also been nagging rumours of certain, supposedly dead characters returning to make Batman’s life even more difficult, but of course these could be nothing more than fanboy rumours, so take them with a pinch of salt.
Having had the privilege of seeing the prologue at the IMAX, I can confirm it does indeed look terrifically epic and is sure to be a fitting conclusion for one of the most iconic characters of all time. The legend ends indeed.
Release date: July 20