Hey, guess what: 2012 is like, four days away. Exciting, eh? Well, aside from that whole Mayan calendar/end of the world business. And that there’s going to be a Presidential campaign all damned year, and the economy’s still in the toilet, and Community is on a “hiatus”… On second thought, 2012 is already looking pretty terrible, and it hasn’t even started yet.
No, wait! There will be new movies! Many, many new movies. And don’t kid yourself: plenty of them are going to be terrible (I mean, there’s a Battleship movie coming out, for God’s sake). But some of them look awesome! So in the spirit of cautious optimism, join us after the jump for a look at ten 2012 releases that we’re genuinely looking forward to.
The Dark Knight Rises DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan CAST: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine RELEASE DATE: July 20
From Batman Begins forward, Christopher Nolan has proven himself a filmmaker who knows how to do the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster right — with skill, intelligence and wit. The thing is, you don’t actually have to dumb down to make movies that engage a mass audience, contrary to what the makers of Transformers and Fast/Furious movies might tell you. We’re loving pretty much everything we’ve seen and heard about his third Batman movie: the infusion of Inception cast members, the casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (insert “meow” or “purr-fect” joke here), that intense prologue ahead of Mission: Impossible (bonus points for the appearance of Aidan Gillen, aka The Wire’s Mayor Tommy Carcetti), and most of all, the insistence of everyone involved that this film marks the end of Nolan’s Batman cycle. Nothing like getting out while you’re ahead.
Django Unchained DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino CAST: Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kerry Washington RELEASE DATE: December 25
Okay, first, a confession: your author was not as nuts as everyone else about Tarantino’s last film, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. It’s a good film, no one’s saying it’s not, but it’s an awfully self-indulgent one, in which we find a filmmaker too much in love with the sound of his own words (even more so, his own words translated into foreign tongues) and too interested in hearing them instead of moving a narrative forward. But the guy is still one of our most distinctive writer/directors, and the central idea of his new movie — a “Southern,” mashing up the tropes of the Western (and, presumably, the Spaghetti Western) with a slave rescue — is intriguing. Plus, get a look at that cast. Jules and Hans Landa and Stuntman Mike (and Borat?) all in the same movie — with the RZA and Omar from The Wire? Can we buy our tickets now?
Skyfall DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes CAST: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris RELEASE DATE: November 9
It took a long time for MGM to get their financial house in order and get this 23rd (or 25th, depending on how you count them) James Bond movie going; it seems like we’ve been hearing about Sam Mendes’ Bond film for years. At any rate, now that the cameras are finally rolling, we’re way excited to see where the revitalized franchise goes next; pulling in Bardem as the (presumably smoldering) villain is a good start.
This is Forty DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow CAST: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Lena Dunham, Megan Fox, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow RELEASE DATE: December 21
We’re not sure why they’re waiting so long to release Judd Apatow’s latest, which wrapped last summer and would thus seem to be a summer 2012 release (all of his previous directorial efforts came out in the warm months as well). We’ve got two theories: a) the summer is too crowded, or b) they’re just torturing us. I mean, c’mon, Albert Brooks in an Apatow movie? And Tiny Furniture star Lena Dunham? And Melissa McCarthy? All in support of Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Leslie and Judd’s kids reprising their roles from Knocked Up (which were, let’s face it, the best part of the movie)? All we’re saying is, December 21, 2012 is a long way off, and it doesn’t have to be locked in yet. We’ll go in the summer. Promise.
The Five-Year Engagement DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller CAST: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Chris Pratt, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Brian Posehn, Jacki Weaver RELEASE DATE: April 27
We cooed and giggled over the trailer for this one a couple of weeks back, and repeat viewings haven’t softened our enthusiasm — Stoller and Segel’s previous writer/director collaboration, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, was one of the freshest and funniest rom-coms in recent memory, and they also wrote The Muppets, so they pretty much get a lifetime pass on everything. Throw in a role for our most underrated leading lady, Emily Blunt, and supporting turns for a bunch of really funny people, and this one looks like a can’t-miss.
Men In Black III DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld CAST: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Rip Torn, Bill Hader RELEASE DATE: May 25
Sure, Men in Black II didn’t exactly cure cancer, but Men in Black remains one of our favorite summer blockbusters — fast, funny, and clever. Advance word that they were going into production without a finished screenplay was, yes, worrisome (c’mon dudes, you had like a decade), but the first trailer is encouraging, and the casting of Brolin as ’60s-era Tommy Lee Jones is, I’m sorry, genius.
The Avengers DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg RELEASE DATE: May 4
The Ocean’s 11 of superhero movies has been in the works for years now, and with every credit cookie and Nick Fury appearance, we were simultaneously excited and concerned — how could this thing actually work, and not turn into some kind of giant, smirky mess? And then they hired Joss Whedon to write and direct, and all of our fears were calmed. (In Joss We Trust.) It’s a little weird that we’re getting our third Hulk (Ruffalo) in three films, but that minor continuity complaint aside, we can’t wait to see what Whedon does with these colliding franchises.
Looper DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, Tracie Thoms, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano RELEASE DATE: September 28
Good lord, when does Joseph Gordon-Levitt sleep? He’s in three movies on our list (plus Lincoln, which almost made the cut, and Premium Rush, which, um, did not), and we’re particularly psyched for this one, which reunites him with Brick writer/director Rian Johnson. That moody drama was a breakthrough for both of them; Johnson went on to make The Brothers Bloom, the best pure popcorn movie you didn’t see in 2008. We’ve got no photos or trailer yet (just the above on-set footage); according to IMDb, it’s a futuristic tale of a Mob killer (Gordon-Levitt) who recognizes a target as his own future self (Willis). Mind-bendy! It sounds 180 degrees from either the neo-noir stylings of Brick and the caper comedy of Bloom, and that’s got us all the more curious.
Haywire DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh CAST: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum RELEASE DATE: January 20
Confession: We’ve already seen the last two movies on our list — we’re anticipating you getting to see them, so that we can then talk about them with you. January brings Soderbergh’s bone-cracking action movie, which turns out to be not as much of an aberration as we’d figured; sure, it’s a bit jarring, at first, to see the Oscar-winning filmmaker indulging an audience’s appetite for ass-kicking and glass-smashing. But once the initial shock has worn off, his familiar interests and stylistic devices begin to surface, as well as his continuing (and welcome) insistence on bringing new life and energy to wheezy old tropes. Plus, he’s found himself a movie star with MMA fighter Gina Carano; it’s pure pleasure to watch her beat her way through a rather distinguished cast of supporting players. This one’s not gonna win Soderbergh any more Oscars, but it’s as much fun as he’s had with a movie since the Ocean’s series concluded.
The Innkeepers DIRECTOR: Ti West CAST: Sara Paxton, Kelly McGillis, Pat Healy, Lena Dunham RELEASE DATE: February 3 (on demand this Friday)
In his previous picture, the magnificent ’80s-babysitter-movie homage The House of the Devil, director Ti West proved himself the master of the cinematic slow boil. He confirms it with his latest film, a creepy haunted hotel tale that recalls The Shining in both its narrative and its execution. He builds his films, slowly but surely, taking in the details and assembling a sense of dread before letting loose in the third act. That’s certainly the case with The Inkeepers, which has a climax that will, I can safely predict, scare the bejesus out of you.
Those are our must-sees for 2012 — what are yours? Let us know (and complain that The Hobbit wasn’t included) in the comments!