By Stephanie Zacharek
By Robrt L. Pela
By Aaron Cutler
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Chris Klimek
By Nick Schager
By Stephanie Zacharek
After Earth: While it's not being advertised as "An M. Night Shyamalan Film," this big-budget science fiction flick was helmed and co-written by the once-promising filmmaker. Will Smith and son Jaden co-star as space-age foragers on a post-human Earth. The ads suggests this is a Karate Kid-like vanity project to promote Big Willy's kid, but with Shyamalan there's always a twist — maybe it will be that the film doesn't suck.
Man of Steel: Now that Christopher Nolan's Batman is dining (and probably whining) across the Mediterranean, and Marvel is cramming multiplexes with Avengers-Related Entertainment Product, DC and Warner Brothers have prioritized the reboot of the biggest, nicest hero himself. And while director Zack Snyder struck out with Sucker Punch, the most recent Man of Steel trailers suggest this could be a serious, character-driven adventure. And after hearing him read that sorority letter, we can't wait to kneel before Michael Shannon as General Zod!
The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola's based-on-batshit-true-events drama follows celebrity-obsessed teenage thieves who robbed Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of roughly $3 million-worth of cash, clothes, and jewelry. Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, and American Horror Story's Taissa Farmiga co-star in Coppola's follow-up to Somewhere, that really good drama starring the guy in those electronic cigarette ads.
World War Z: How many people does it take to save a horror-thriller? First, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Strczysnki penned a script, then Lions for Lambs screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan rewrote it, then Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard and Lost show-runner Damon Lindelof stepped up for substantial rewrites — after much of the movie had been filmed. But even after seven weeks of reshoots, and a six-month release delay, we still want to see this compromised adaptation of Max Brooks's popular and imaginative "aural history of the zombie crisis." It's a big-budget zombie movie starring Brad Pitt, and character actor wiz David Morse. Tickets, please.
Monsters University: A prequel to Pixar charmer Monsters Inc., Monsters University reveals the backstory kids have been dying to find out: how exactly Mike the cyclops (Billy Crystal) and Solly the muppet-bear-thing (John Goodman) became BFFs. Besides Pixar's still-fantastic record, the voice cast should sell this: Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Sean Hayes, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, and, best of all, Frank Oz reprising his role as Fungus.
The Heat: Melissa McCarthy is funny as hell, and hopefully, re-teaming with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this buddy cop comedy will give her her second big-screen role worthy of her talents. Sandra Bullock co-stars, but then again, so does Marlon Wayans.
Museum Hours: Among the most buzzed-about titles at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Jem Cohen's Museum Hours stood out, partly because it didn't star James Franco with a grill and wasn't directed by P.T. Anderson. Set in the historic Viennese art gallery Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Cohen's breakout follows a security guard and a mysterious guest as they pore over paintings, and talk about their lives and the city's history.
The Lone Ranger: After Rango, we shouldn't underestimate director Gore Verbinski, even if he did direct two of those dire Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Yes, watching Johnny Depp play Tonto sounds borderline offensive, but the film is bound to be visually dynamic thanks to Verbinski's knack for cartoonish set pieces. Jack White provides the score, and nostalgia provides the audience.
The Way, Way Back: Once the Sundance Film Festival is under way, it takes only a couple of days before a few titles are hyped as that year's must-see films. The Way, Way, Back, a sweet coming of age story set in a water park, is one of this year's word-of-mouth hits. Word is the directorial debut of Jim Rash — the dean on Community! — is a Meatballs-meets-Adventureland pleasure that benefits from stars Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, and Sam Rockwell.
Hammer of the Gods: This bloody Viking drama is the directorial debut of Farren Blackburn, whose previous TV credits include Doctor Who and Luther. The film follows a young, probably often bare-chested, Viking's quest to re-unite with his brother. Let's hope it's not Ragnarok.
Pacific Rim: Giant monsters fight giant robot in Guillermo del Toro's high-concept action film. If the film anywhere near as violent and operatic as del Toro would have us believe, it might make up for the fact that the Pan's Labyrinth director will never make that adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness he's been trying to land. Bonus: Sons of Anarchy co-stars Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman turn up along with Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
V/H/S 2: Like pretty much any portmanteau film made by various directors, the first V/H/S, a compilation of found footage horror shorts, was a mixed bag. Still, it proved that creative things that can still be achieved in Paranormal Activity-style found-footage horror films. V/H/S 2 includes new shorts directed by the filmmakers of The Blair Witch Project, The Raid: Redemption, and Hobo with a Shotgun. Seriously, one guy we know really liked it!
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