Raze- January 10th
Director: Josh C. Waller
Cast: Zoe Bell, Rachel Nichols, Tracie Thoms, Doug Jones
Dude, it's Zoe Bell. Okay, those who know me understand that's more than enough reason to get excited over Raze, which pits the insanely-tough Bell against Rachel Nichols and dozens of other beauties in an exploitative, grindhouse-style flick that's a little bit Fight Club, a little bit Quentin Tarantino.
The Monuments Men- February 7th
Director: George Clooney
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin
Ever since his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, I've been impressed every single time George Clooney has stepped behind the camera. Not only is he always able to snag a great cast, but he manages to make big social or political points while telling an entertaining story. The Monuments Men may be his most ambitious film yet, and while the delay has me somewhat concerned, I trust he'll be able to nail the difficult balance of drama and humor.
Robocop- February 12th
Director: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel, Jackie Earle Haley
Here's one I'm looking forward to even though it might be atrocious. The darkly satirical films of Paul Verhoeven have been popular targets for remake of late, and after that awful first trailer it looked like Robocop may turn out like Total Recall and totally miss the point. But the most recent footage, backed by Samuel L. Jackson's boisterous boasts about the future of our country's war on terror have renewed my faith, and I'm starting to warm up to Joel Kinnaman as the robotic defender of justice. Honestly, I could care less about the sleeker suit or that you can see Kinnaman's eyes or whatever the latest complaints are. All that matters is that he's believable both as an ass-kicker and a family man, which shouldn't be too tough to pull off.
300: Rise of an Empire- March 7th
Director: Noam Murro
Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Jack O'Connell, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
Against my better judgement I'm surprisingly excited for 300: Rise of an Empire. Sure, Zack Snyder has moved on to helm the Man of Steel's next killing spree, handing the reins to the totally unproven Noam Murro. But the Smart People director seems to have captured the visual style and bloody swords 'n sandals action that made the first film a smash. Even if it lacks the same level of star power without Gerard Butler, it's more than made up for by the chance to watch Eva Green as she makes a bid for world domination. Yes, she can lead me into impending doom anytime.
Veronica Mars- March 14th
Director: Rob Thomas
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Ryan Hansen, Krysten Ritter, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Francis Capra, Ken Marino, Enrico Colantoni
I don't think anybody could have predicted Veronica Mars would make it to the big screen. Not even the most loyal marshmallow could have forseen the Kickstarter juggernaut it would become that got us to this point, but since I'm one of those who happily donated some cash you best believe I'm happy about it! Of course there are some concerns that what worked on TV won't fly as a movie, but as long as Kristen Bell is back as Veronica, and you've got Logan, Weevil, and good ol' Keith Mars joining her, there's every reason to believe fans of the show will leave happy.
Blood Ties- March 21st
Director: Guillaume Canet
Cast: Clive Owen, Zoe Saldana, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
So what if the response out of Cannes was mixed on Guillaume Canet's Blood Ties? I've never been let down by Canet, who directed the excellent crime thriller Tell No One, nor co-writer James Gray. The sprawling 1970s crime tale actually reads like something closer to Gray's sensibilities, with Clive Owen and Billy Crudup as brothers on opposing sides of the law. It's territory Gray has tackled plenty of times before in Little Odessa, We Own the Night, and The Yards, but he's never had a cast that stretches this deep. The combination of Canet and Gray's talents with an incredible amount of star wattage is too tantalizing to resist.
Nymphomaniac Part One- March 21st
Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Stacy Martin, Udo Kier
Maybe it makes me a dirty old man but I'm hella excited for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac, and yep, it has everything to do with seeing how far he's going to push the envelope. The trailers and clips we've seen up to this point have suggested a depraved corunucopia of fornication, with von Trier seemingly hitting on every sexual sub-group he can find. Now that the film is out in Europe we've started to hear some advance word, and it sounds like there's some sort of method to his madness, which pretty much sums up every film he's made. I think mainly it'll be interesting to see how our country deals with the in-your-face material. We had a hard enough time handling a couple of lesbian sex scenes in Blue is the Warmest Color. What are people going to think about a film that goes well above and beyond that?
Divergent- March 21st
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz
What do I know about Divergent? Not a lot, really. It's about humans divided into ideological factions or something, but I don't know why that's cool or anything. What I do know is that it stars Shailene Woodley, and so far she's batting 1.000 in making movies that speak directly to me, and the chance to see her rejoin The Spectacular Now's Miles Teller is simply too good. How is he not the love interest here, too? Fire the casting director, post haste! I don't know if this will be "the next Hunger Games" or "the next Mortal Instruments", but Divergent has my attention.
Noah- March 28th
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman
All of the sudden it's like everybody wants to make a Biblical epic. Okay, cool, but the one that should be the most impressive is Darren Aronofsky's big budget Noah, which he's been consumed with trying to adapt for quite a long time. Frankly, I'm less interested in the familiar tale of the guy charged by God to build a giant floating zoo to spare himself from a watery death, and more interested in Aronofsky's specific take, which has already ruffled the feathers of a few religious groups. Ruffle away, my friend.
The Raid 2- March 28th
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais
It's only been out for a couple of years and already The Raid: Redemption is a stone cold classic, and one of the few martial arts movies from overseas that have made a genuine impact on our shores. If you saw it, then you know already know it reaches incredible levels of violence at a pace so furious it's hard to stop and catch a breath. The sequel, believe it or not, promises to be even bigger with director Gareth Evans taking the action topside and onto the street where all types of new, vicious threats await. I can't wait!