Trav's most anticipated movies of 2013

Now that we can finally tie a bow on 2012, it's time to look forward to what 2013 has in store. Long gone are the days where a major film can truly sneak up on me, so these "most anticipated" lists are far more informed than they were just a few years ago. While that may effect some, seeing a lot more footage of something like Man of Steel or Pacific Rim doesn't lessen my eagerness to plop down in my seat on opening day and see the end results for myself. What it does do is increase my appreciation for those filmmakers who enjoy dangling the carrot in front of our noses for a few months, keeping the mystery intact, and truly shocking us with the full scope of their vision.

This list amounts to my Top 15 most anticipated movies of 2013, although it easily could have been the Top 50. These are always tougher to pull together than any 'Best Of', because it's about what we don't yet know rather than what we already do, and it's interesting to go back at the end of the year and see what truly lived up to expectations.

15. Star Trek Into Darkness
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve, John Cho, Anton Yelchin
Release Date: May 17th

I'm not the biggest Star Trek fan in the world, but going back to what I was speaking to earlier about movies that have maintained a sense of mystery, well Star Trek Into Darkness is at the top of that list. For all that has already been written and said about J.J. Abrams' sequel to 2009's hit relaunch, what do we really know? There's still some sense of secrecy clouding the identity of the villain, and we don't truly know the full scope of the attack he's set to launch on Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. The first film ushered in a whole new generation of Trekkies, but now I'm curious to see if Abrams and his fantastic cast can maintain that momentum.

14. Kill Your Darlings
Director: John Krokidas
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgewick, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Cross
Release Date: TBD, Premieres at Sundance on  January 18th

While On the Road may have stolen much of the spotlight for those eager to see Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation depicted on the big screen, the far more promising film is undoubtedly Kill Your Darlings. Daniel Radcliffe's boldest post-Harry Potter move yet has him starring as poet Allen Ginsberg, with Jack Huston as Kerouac, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, not to mention Ben Foster as William Burroughs and Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker. That's a pretty spectacular group of young up 'n comers, perfect for chronicling the formation of the iconic group in 1944, brought together by a murder that bound them together for life.

Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, James Ransone
Release Date: October 11th

Nobody railed against remaking Park Chan-Wook's twisted South Korean classic more than me, but the addition of the forward-thinking Spike Lee has calmed not only my frayed nerves, but the phenomenal cast has quieted others who may have screamed bloody murder. It's tough to go into the plot without giving too much away, but basically what you have is a hyper-violent revenge story about a man kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years under mysterious circumstances, then suddenly released and eager to find out the truth behind what happened. The script by Mark Protosevich will pull deeply from the source manga, which is a little different than Chan-Wook's film, ensuring this won't just be some tired retread.

12. Kick-Ass 2
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, Clark Duke, Lindy Booth, John Leguizamo
Release Date: June 28th

The loss of Matthew Vaughn behind the camera hurts. A lot. Nothing against Jeff Wadlow, who directed the underrated Cry_Wolf a few years ago, but the unholy union of Vaughn, creator Mark Millar, and co-writer Jane Goldman was a large part of Kick-Ass's success. That said, it's hard to ignore the chance to see Christopher Mintz-Plasse in full-blown villain mode, 2010's breakout character Hit-Girl battling a Russian bodybuilder named Mother Russia to the death, and let's not forget Jim Carrey as the psychotic Colonel Stars 'n Stripes. 

11. The World's End
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman
Release Date: October 25th

After years of promises, the final chapter in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's "Three Flavours" trilogy is finally here, and the results absolutely apocalyptic. Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz probably already have the release date marked in black ink on their calendars(I sure do), and for very good reason. The World's End follows a group of friends who attempt to recreate an epic pub crawl from their youth, unaware that their may be larger issues at stake. Despite the first two films attaining cult status in record fashion, it'll be interesting to see if this one makes a dent at the box office. Pegg and Frost still aren't exactly household names, despite appearing in some pretty big franchises over the years, and the last time Wright stepped behind the camera it resulted in the flop Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which as it turns out is another pop culture fave.

10. Elysium
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner
Release Date: August 9th

District 9 established Neill Blomkamp as the rare director who understands the full capability and purpose behind science-fiction. It's not just about cool technology and alien creatures, it's about exploring the sociopolitical issues of today in a future context. Whereas his first film dealt with the world response to apartheid, Elysium shines a light on the issues of immigration, economic disparity, and the continued fleecing of the lower class. Set in the year 2159, the wealthiest people now live in a pristine, disease-free space station up in the clouds, while the poor fight and scrap for survival on the Earth below. The cast is phenomenal, with Damon leading the charge as a souped up warrior who undertakes a dangerous mission to bring some measure of equality back to the human race, while Blomkamp reteams with Sharlto Copley as the deranged villain.

9. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Jamie Chung, Dennis Haysbert, Alexa Vega, Clive Owen(presumably)
Release Date: October 4th

Robert Rodriguez has been stringing us along on a Sin City sequel for so long that I won't believe it until my butt is in the chair and the credits roll. A stylized adaptation of Frank Miller's film noir comic book, Rodriguez broke new ground visually back in 2005, but he's going to have to come up with something new to stay ahead of the game in 2013. While much of the star-studded cast is expected to return, there are a few new faces, along with the persistent rumor of Angelina Jolie taking on the lead role of sexy seductress Eva Lord, the titular 'dame' of the story.

8. Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Release Date: TBD, possibly October

Hard to believe it was way back in 2005 when Alfonso Cuaron floored us with Children of Men, a sci-fi experience that was grim and hopeful in equal measure, one of the genre's best ever in my opinion. The early buzz on Gravity is that it may be just as important an entry, although if you followed the troubled production you'd think nobody else has that same amount of confidence. From Angelina Jolie to Scarlett Johansson to Natalie Portman, numerous actresses turned down the lead role that ultimately went to Sandra Bullock, and despite the presence of George Clooney this is very much her movie. Even he was a replacement for Robert Downey Jr., who split after numerous delays. The story follows a pair of astronauts struggling to find their way back to Earth after disaster strikes during a routine spacewalk. Cuaron used continuous tracking shots to great effect in Children of Men, but he's taking it to a whole new level as Gravity is said to open with one lasting roughly 30 minutes. Incredible.

7. This Is the End
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Aziz Ansari, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Martin Starr, Michael Cera, Rihanna
Release Date: June 14th

How can this not be near the top of every person's list? Seriously, if you love to laugh there's no other comedy that comes close to matching the potential of This Is the End. Based on Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel's short-film, the duo pulled together all of their buddies to play amped up versions of themselves, trapped in Franco's home while the apocalypse rages outside his door. Turns out the true danger may be in the gang getting on one another's nerves. Clearly not for the faint of heart, expect this one to feature a number of dead celebs, and off-color jokes, including the frequent questioning of Franco's masculinity. While we expect that sort of thing from most of these folks, the real surprise is the presence of Emma Watson, and hopefully this is just the first of many chances we'll get to see her flex her comedic muscles.

6. Iron Man 3
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau
Release Date: May 3rd

2013 is the biggest year for superhero movies yet, with at least four major ones looking to put the box office in a stranglehold. Marvel is the standard bearer for comic book films right now, and Iron Man is undoubtedly their flagship and the driving force behind The Avengers. The third film of any series is typically where the quality starts to take a turn for the worse, but with Shane Black taking over as director, he's pushing the armored Avenger into whole new territory. Black and Robert Downey Jr. certainly know one another well from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but from everything we've seen this doesn't look like the typical light-hearted Tony Stark we're going to be getting. It's a darker world out there, and the trailer promises Ben Kingsley's villainous turn as Mandarin could be the most impressive of the franchise yet.

5. Stoker
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich
Release Date: March 1st

Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy is being remade by Spike Lee and also ranks on this list, but it's his English-language debut that has me the most excited. Based on a script by Wentworth Miller(Prison Break) and a tone that seems to be somewhere between Chan-Wook's Thirst and The Addams Family, the film stars Mia Wasikowska as a girl dealing with the recent death of her father and the sudden return of her uncle, played by Matthew Goode. It isn't long before strange happenings start going on in the neighborhood and people start disappearing. Chan-Wook's heightened visual style is certainly in effect, but the real draw may be Nicole Kidman's scene-chewing as the evil mommy.

4. The Wolverine
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rila Fukushima
Release Date: July 26th

Gone is the disappointment of losing Darren Arnofsky's talents behind the camera, and in its place is the potential of The Wolverine kicking off a new era of cinematic cohesion amongst Fox's X-men franchise. Hoping to scrub away the stink of X-men Origins: Wolverine, this sequel leaves that film behind and has the clawed X-man in Japan battling samurai, finding new romance, and having his indestructibility put to the ultimate test. Jackman will be appearing in X-men: Days of Future Past shortly after this, and with talk of X-men 4 on the way, there's no indication he's retiring from superheroes any time soon.

3. Man of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne
Release Date: June 14th

Superman is perhaps the most boring superhero ever created, and it has everything to do with his iconic nature. It's difficult to do anything new with him for fear of alienating those who like him just as he is, the altruistic, unflappable hero always fighting on the side of what's right. Unfortunately that hasn't made for the best movies, and we've seen Warner Bros. struggle time and time again to make him relevant. They may have finally gotten it right with Man of Steel, which at least according to the trailers presents a Superman unlike any we've seen, one who is uncertain of his place in the world. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this new, majestic take on the character are the people behind it. Most people had written off Zack Snyder after Sucker Punch and Watchmen, but he seems to be perfectly in sync with producer Christopher Nolan. And what about Henry Cavill? Can he help us forget all about that Brandon Routh guy?

2. Before Midnight
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Release Date: TBD, premieres at Sundance on January 20th

Call me an old softie, but I don't think you'll find a better love story than Jesse and Celine's in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Filmed in secret over the summer, Before Midnight again follows their continuing romance, which we've been following for nearly two decades. It's a testament to the smartly-written script and the likability of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke that we're willing to embark on this journey every nine years, forever hoping that one day they'll finally set everything else aside and finally just love one another. They could probably keep making these movies forever and I would keep coming back for more.

1. The Great Gatsby
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki
Release Date: May 10th

The truth is that Baz Luhrmann's gaudy, pop culture-infused period pieces have always left me a little bit cold. I didn't like it in Romeo + Juliet, nor did it work for me in Moulin Rouge. Australia isn't even really worth commenting on it's so forgettable. So why do I think it will work in The Great Gatsby? Well, to be perfectly honest I'm not sure it will, but there's no doubt Luhrmann is pumping new energy into F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic story, arguably my favorite book of all-time. Has there been a bad adaptation of it? Not to my memory, and with a cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire the chances of this being the first are incredibly slim. Flashy and stylish, with a score composed by Jay-Z of all people, this will certainly be unlike any version of the story we've ever seen.

Honorable Mentions: Pacific Rim, The Monuments Men, The Nymphomaniac, Snow Piercer, Oblivion, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Inside Llewyn Davis, Thor: The Dark World, Captain Phillips, Fast and Furious 6, Pain and Gain, The Place Beyond the Pines, Only God Forgives, The Grandmaster, Bling Ring, The Counselor