I’m going to level with you. If you’re working a day job like I have been for the past three months, seeing 30 movies in one season, let alone a year, seems pretty optimistic.
I on the other hand, am crazy, and there are a number of movies that, ultimately see them or not, I at least want to be able to comment on. I managed to limit that list to 30 movies this year. I don’t know if that says more about me or 2013’s crop of movies if I don’t even have a snide comment to give to “The Smurfs 2,” amongst others.
For my convenience, I’ve ordered them in terms of my excitement level, and not the overall din of noise surrounding each one.
Before Midnight – May 24
“Before Midnight” took Sundance by storm this past January, rocketing it to the top of anyone who knows and cares about movies most-anticipated list for the year, not just the summer. Why? Because Director Richard Linklater has returned to his match made in indie heaven, Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), for the third time. Maintaining the timeline of nine years after where 2004’s “Before Sunset” left off, and 18 years after 1995’s “Before Sunrise,” Linklater has made another daring experimental gem that may be the only Sundance film to get Oscar attention.
This Is the End – June 14
“This is the End” first caught my attention with their hilarious redband trailer on the presumed Doomsday last December. And in a way, the marketing campaign has now been centered around Mindy Kaling’s strange sexual affinity with Michael Cera. For years though, Seth Rogen and company have made movies that embodied their perceived personas and little else, so why not make a movie that embraces them? It may feel like a full length Funny or Die sketch, it may be too focused on ridiculous action scenes, and it may spawn a wave of comedies in which actors play themselves, but it looks absolutely uproarious.
The Bling Ring – June 14
Emma Watson may be acting like a wild version of herself in “This is the End,” but she takes that idea to a new level in “The Bling Ring.” She already knocks it out of the park in the film’s latest trailer, and like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens before her, she’s ideal casting for a movie about teens and celeb culture. Knowing Director Sofia Coppola, “The Bling Ring” may not be as high-octane as “Spring Breakers,” but it could be genius all the same.
I’m So Excited – June 28
After the outrageously underrated and surreal “The Skin I Live In,” Pedro Almodovar could not have taken a stranger and yet more welcome follow-up than “I’m So Excited,” an outrageously colorful comedy about gay flight attendants dealing with a psychic. His collaborators/muses Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz also star in small roles.
Fruitvale Station – July 26
“Fruitvale Station” tells the true story of Bay Area resident Oscar Grant on his New Year’s Eve birthday in 2008. The film, by the first time feature director Ryan Coogler, won the top prize at Sundance this year. With a summer release, The Weinstein Company is playing the Oscar game “Beasts of the Southern Wild” style to get acting nominations for stars Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer.
The Spectacular Now – August 2
Yet another Sundance darling, James Ponsoldt’s third feature is a touching, complex, teenage coming-of-age story, but it is hardly a “teen movie.” Touching on more adult themes than most, this dramedy combines ideas of alcoholism, sex, college, fathers and futures. I can say all this because I’ve already gotten the chance to see it at Ebertfest, and it’s anchored by two lovely performances from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – August 16
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a Terrence Malick-esque movie that got more buzz than an actual Terrence Malick film this year. It stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in a “Badlands” style spirituality tale and love story shot completely on a shoestring budget.
Something in the Air – May 3
Opening this Friday is a French film I got the chance to see at the Chicago International Film Fest. Olivier Assayas’ (“Summer Hours,” “Carlos”) has made a coming-of-age drama set in the rocky period of revolution in the ‘70s. It’s a stylish, thoughtful movie not reliant on pop-culture references and featuring a strong, solemn performance from my breakout star/crush of last year, Lola Creton.
Stories We Tell – May 10
Films don’t get more autobiographical than this. Director Sarah Polley (“Away From Her,” “Take This Waltz”) has made a documentary about her mother and her experiences growing up with her in a movie that charmed the festival circuit last fall.
Frances Ha – May 17
Greta Gerwig was catapulted to the position of indie film’s most likeable, relatable star with Noah Baumbach’s last film “Greenberg.” In “Frances Ha,” she’s the quirky star doing her best Hannah Horvath impression in this black and white comedy.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks – May 24
Alex Gibney is just about the most productive and provocative documentarian working today, and his latest, “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks,” has gained a lot of attention by being tied so closely to the controversy surrounding Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.
The Kings of Summer – May 31
Thankfully renamed from the inscrutable title “Toy’s House” when it first premiered at Sundance, “The Kings of Summer” is yet another coming-of-age comedy, this one being called a mash-up between “Stand By Me” and “Superbad.” The film might get a lot of traction thanks to its co-stars Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and comedian Kumail Nanjiani.
The East – May 31
Brit Marling’s screenplay follow-up to “Another Earth” is a thriller about a woman tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group until she accidentally contracts Stockholm Syndrome. The film also stars Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard and Patricia Clarkson.
The Way, Way Back – July 5
Fox Searchlight is betting big on the follow-up from “The Descendants” writing team Nat Faxon and Jim Rash with “The Way, Way Back,” a coming-of-age comedy (how many does this make now?) about a depressed teenage boy working with a batch of other cynical characters at a waterpark. The film’s cast is pure indie royalty (Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry), but initial reviews have been mixed.
Blue Jasmine – July 26
Details are scarce about Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” and who knows whether it will be another “Midnight in Paris” or another “To Rome With Love,” but one perk is that Louis C.K. is in it. C.K. described his character to the New York Times as, “just a liar. One of the leads, Sally Hawkins, I’m an episode in her life. I’m one of those awful stories that women carry around. But it’s also romantic in parts, and it’s sweet.” So that’s cool.
The World’s End – August 23
I’d be more excited for “The World’s End” were it not for “This is the End” coming out months earlier, but Edgar Wright has returned to direct Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in what is supposedly the third and final film of their action/spoof trilogy. Their apocalypse story comes after an epic pub crawl, which sounds promising, but more so because Wright is at the helm.
The Grandmaster – August 23
“The Grandmaster” is perhaps not the film fans of modern auteur Wong Kar Wai would most like to see. It’s a kung-fu movie about the Ip Man, of whom there are already several cult movies. There’s no English trailer just yet, and initial reviews are mixed, but the visuals are no doubt something to look at.
Less than Thrilled
Iron Man 3 – May 3
I don’t think the narrative has been tossed around that “Iron Man 3” is yet another ad for “The Avengers 2,” but I wouldn’t put it past Marvel to make it seem that way. Expect new director Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) to make former collaborator Robert Downey Jr. even more cocky and snarky than in Jon Favreau’s two films.
The Great Gatsby – May 10
I would’ve been more interested to see Martin Scorsese’s fake version of Gatsby starring “Entourage’s” Vinnie Chase as Nick Carraway. Instead, we get Tobey Maguire, who is good casting, as is Leonardo DiCaprio. They may both be stellar, but Baz Luhrmann’s visual style is insufferable, and “The Great Gatsby” looks like more of the same.
Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17
I’m in the camp that believes that J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” is overrated while “Super 8” is underrated,” and it reflects the movie I would rather see of Abrams, the big budget movie that feels small scale and intimate, not the big budget sci-fi that is that perfect meld of fanboy baiting and modern revisionism. So yeah, I guess I’m saying I was always a bigger “Star Wars” fan.
The Hangover Part III – May 24
Did you actually see “The Hangover Part II”? Because I didn’t. Apparently a lot of people did, but then I don’t know anyone who didn’t see the original. If there’s a perk to this one, it’s that it’s set back in Vegas and not Bangkok, but it also stars John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy, both of whom are always fun, even in a bad movie.
Much Ado About Nothing – June 7
Will “Much Ado About Nothing” be one of the first Shakespeare adaptations you can call a blockbuster? Joss Whedon for whatever reason has that kind of power, despite this not being for “The Avengers” crowd. Shot with friends in just a few days, it strikes me as though Whedon would’ve rather done a play, but this would get more attention.
Man of Steel – June 14
Wait, so suddenly Christopher Nolan slaps his name somewhere on a movie and people care about Superman movies again? In superhero movie terms, it’s been a long time since we last had a Superman movie, but not that long. Fanboys will have more to say about Henry Cavill’s casting, but I’m more interested in seeing Michael Shannon crazy it up as a villain.
Monsters University – June 21
When “Finding Dory” was announced a few weeks ago, I read and commented on a column asking why Pixar isn’t allowed to make sequels. “Monsters University” is why. On paper it sounds unbearable, and the trailer is no better. I actually quite like “Monsters Inc.,” but this is not the way I envisioned revisiting these characters.
World War Z – June 21
Zombies, as is their nature, have been overrunning humanity recently. I mean that in a cultural sense, obviously. So it bothers me a bit that “World War Z” might have so much appeal and clout coming from Max Brooks’ cult novel (yes, a novel with words, not pictures) that we might have even MORE zombies than we do now. This looks to be Brad Pitt’s most commercial product in years, but maybe the trailers are deceiving, and maybe Marc Forster, whose last two films were “Quantum of Solace” and “Machine Gun Preacher,” will find his way out of his creative funk.
The Heat – June 28
“The Heat” will probably make a boatload of money. “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig returns with a movie starring Melissa McCarthy AND Sandra Bullock? I hope this movie does well so that we can have another slate of boilerplate columns about women in comedy.
The Lone Ranger – July 5
Apparently audiences don’t like Gore Verbinski when he’s making real cartoons (“Rango”) and would prefer fake ones where all the action was intentionally wacky, impossible and campy. “The Lone Ranger” may just be the perfect product for that, and we’ll now get treated to another round of “Look how kooky Johnny Depp is!”
Pacific Rim – July 12
I do not get the hype for this movie. Suddenly Guillermo del Toro decides to do a “Transformers” movie, and people don’t mind the ginormous special effects, macho heroics and canted angles. Well, maybe it’ll blow my mind after all.
The Wolverine – July 26
Wait, so is this not an X-Men movie? I don’t really understand the lore or what sets “The Wolverine” apart from others in the canon. I know it was going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, who James Mangold is not, but that’s all right. I guess I’ve just grown weary of Hugh Jackman giving this performance. How many movies does this make now? Six?
Elysium – August 9
“Elysium” is Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to “District 9,” and like that movie, it starts as a provocative social commentary sci-fi that will inevitably turn into a generic, loud, action extravaganza. So I look forward to defending how this movie is overrated too.