2012 looks to be little different than 2011 on the movie front. Original content = nonexistent. Franchise starters and familiar brand names = everywhere. It’s no surprise that the three most anticipated movies of the year are a Part 3 (or Part 7, depending on your count), a prequel, and a whatever-you-want-to-classify-The-Avengers-as. We’ve learned long ago to take our enjoyment where we can, however, and if you can accept the film calendar on its own terms, it should produce its share of awesomeness. Let’s have a look at the upcoming schedule for the movies: from now until the ball drops on 2013 (or the world ends like the Mayans predicted). Keep in mind that these dates are tentative and subject to change at the whims of Hollywood’s corporate overlords.
Winter’s dumping ground actually comes as a palpable relief after all the empty pretense of the awards season. The Devil Inside kicks off this Friday (without a critics screening nach), with another trek into exorcism country. Steve Soderbergh tries his hand at CIA thrillers with Haywire (January 20), while Marky Mark turns up as an ex-thief in Contraband (January 20). Liam Neeson gets no cookie from the ASPCA when he does battle with a pack of wolves in The Grey (January 27). Disney re-releases its classic Beauty and the Beast in 3D (January 13), and Sam Worthington tries to stick it to big business by threatening suicide in Man on a Ledge (January 27). Horror aficionados should keep an eye out for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release of The Wicker Tree, a semi sequel to 1974’s The Wicker Man (AKA The Good One) directed by the same man (January 27). But the big name – for better or worse – this January is Kate Beckinsale donning the vinyl catsuit for another round of the Underworld franchise (January 20).
February used to be a lot like January, but with event pictures starting earlier and earlier in the year, it provides a bit of breathing space for decent smaller films that can’t quite trade body blows with the big boys. We have high hopes for The Woman in Black (February 3), a haunted house thriller based on a terrific stage play that gives Daniel Radcliffe his first big opportunity to break away from Harry Potter. Genre fans, however, are probably more focused on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February 17), which will either save the character from the underwhelming first film or doom him to permanent big-screen wankerdom. 20th Century Fox takes a found-footage approach to superpowers with Chronicle (February 3). Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine team up to gang-rape Jules Verne in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, while Amanda Seyfried attempts to convince the authorities that a serial killer is chasing her in Gone (February 24). Disney continues its dedication to Miyazaki anime with The Borrowers (February 17), which the master co-wrote from a children’s book by Mary Norton. Denzel Washington dons his angry face again for the CIA thriller Safe House (February 10), while Act of Valor (February 24) delivers fictionalized versions of actual missions of real-life Navy SEALs. Finally, lest you have any money left that George Lucas hasn’t filched, The Phantom Menace returns to the big screen in 3D (February 10). Everyone says they’re not going to see it. Everyone is lying.
The year’s first real heavy hitters come out to play in March, headlined by Disney’s epic John Carter (March 9). Other sci-fi films seem to be running for cover a bit, though Relativity is placing its Edgar Allen Poe thriller The Raven right up against it and Open Road’s horror film Silent House opens on the 9th as well. Lighter projects dominate the first week of March, topped by Universal’s The Lorax (March 2) and the horror-comedy Hansel and Gretel: Vampire Hunters the same day. The 16th sees Tarsem Singh’s dubious Mirror Mirror and Columbia’s dodgy 21 Jump Street lurking about before more big names hit in the last two weeks of the month. The Hunger Games attempts to jump-start a new young adult sci-fi franchise on the 23rd, and the sequel to the utterly inept Clash of the Titans remake hits theaters on the 30th. It shares a start date with Aardman’s animated The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Martial arts fans should keep a look out for The Raid, from Indonesia, opening on the 23rd.
April kicks off with the Bruce Willis thriller Cold Light of Day, costarring Henry Cavill and Sigourney Weaver (April 6th). That same week, James Cameron presents us with a new 3D version of his epic Titanic. Sylvester Stallone delivers a touching coming-of-age love story in Bullet to the Head (April 13), competing against the Lionsgate horror movie The Cabin in the Woods and the big-screen version of The Three Stooges. Guy Pearce stars in the sci-fi thriller MS One: Maximum Security (April 20) and Steve Carrell tries to find his childhood sweetheart before an asteroid hits in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (April 20). The House at the End of the Street (April 20) maintains the flow of schlocky horror, and Jason Statham hopes to collect a big payday before summer starts with the action-thriller Safe (April 27).
The first of the year’s three must-see events kicks off the summer season, as Joss Whedon and company bring Marvel’s The Avengers to life (May 4). From there, it’s a steady stream of Big, Loud and Noisy, with new tentpole pictures arriving every week. Tim Burton delivers a new version of Dark Shadows (May 11) the same week that Sacha Baron Cohen gives us another reason to admire his giant brass balls in The Dictator (May 11). Liam Neeson fights aliens from the deck of a destroyer in the thoroughly shitty-looking Battleship (May 18), and the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones duo lays claim to Memorial Day with Men in Black III (May 25).
The year’s second Snow White project, Snow White and the Huntsman, kicks off on June 1: competing with the Tom Cruise rock musical Rock of Ages (yes, really). Ridley Scott hopefully blows our socks off with Prometheus (June 8), and Bryan Singer hopes to do the same with Jack the Giant Killer (June 15). Families can reacquaint themselves with Alex the Lion and Friends in Madagascar 3 (June 8), or join the fiery-haired Merida in Pixar’s Brave (June 22). The 22nd also brings one of the summer’s more intriguing entries: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. And June wouldn’t be June without some high-end turds to hold our attention. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29) tries to right the franchise’s sinking ship and Adam Sandler returns with the ominously named I Hate You, Dad (June 15).
Let’s cut to the chase: The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20th. Period. Full stop. Sony Pictures has two weeks to get in and out with their Spider-Man reboot (July 3) before Christopher Nolan’s 600 lb. gorilla lays waste to all before it. Those in the mood for lighter fare can sample Seth Macfarlane’s feature directing debut Ted (July 13) or watch Seth Rogan fight a wacky alien conspiracy with Neighborhood Watch (July 27). The fourth Ice Age movie makes a quiet bow on the 13th for those in need of kid-friendly fare.
The dog days hit with some down-and-dirty genre exercises as the summer’s big boys finish up their run. The Bourne Legacy (August 3) attempts to keep the Jason Bourne franchise going without Matt Damon – good luck with that fellas – the same week that Len Wiseman tries a reboot of Total Recall (August 3). Stallone returns for a second time this year, along with more action icons than you can shake a stick at in The Expendables 2 (August 17), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt tries to out-peddle Michael Shannon in Premium Rush (August 24). As for horror movies… August is chock full of ‘em. Warm Bodies (August 10) reimagines Romeo and Juliet as a zombie-human romance, Sinister (August 24) takes another stab at the found footage format, and the animated ParaNorman (August 17) pits a clairvoyant little boy against hordes of family-friendly ghoulies. The Apparition (August 24) and The Possession (August 30) promise more traditional scares, while Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green (August 15) takes the path of gentle fantasy rather than hard-core scares.
The movie year enters one of its periodic lulls as summer ends and kids head back to school. That won’t stop Paul W.S. Anderson from hitting us with another entry in the Resident Evil franchise (September 14) or Adam Sandler from voicing Count Dracula in the animated Hotel Transylvania (September 21). Finding Nemo reappears in 3D (September 14) – the fourth such retrofitted re-release of the year – and Karl Urban dons the badge of Mega-City One’s legendary lawman in Dredd (September 21). The Bruce Willis time-travel thriller Looper (September 28) and Oliver Stone’s drug thriller Savages (also September 28) round out the month.
Halloween is Tim Burton territory and the director unveils his second feature of the year with the stop-motion remake Frankenweenie (October 5). The rest of the month is dominated by a pair of horror sequels: Halloween 3D (October 26) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D (October 5). Jason Statham’s Parker (October 12) brings some gritty action to the month, as does Taken 2 (October 5) which sends Liam Neeson’s ultimate bad ass against the father of the man he killed in the first film. Warner Bros’ crime saga Gangster Squad (October 19) finishes off genre offerings for the month.
Love it or hate it (mostly hate it), the Twilight saga looks to dominate November with its fifth and final entry: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (November 16). Daniel Craig’s James Bond stands as its big competition with Skyfall opening just one week earlier on the 9th. Everyone else has more or less left the two of them to duke it out. Alfonzo Curaon’s high-minded Gravity (November 21) provides some respite for thinking sci-fi fans, while Keanu Reeves takes a stab at the legendary 47 Ronin (November 21). The animated features Wreck-It-Ralph (November 2) and Rise of the Guardians (November 21) put those with children in a holiday mood. And for fans willing to brave the stench, the long-delayed Red Dawn remake tentatively sees in the inside of theaters on November 2.
If I had to choose, I’d say that The Dark Knight Rises is the single most anticipated film of the year, but Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit (December 14) is definitely a close second. Like The Dark Knight, it has an impossibly high bar to meet, but the initial previews have been more than encouraging. A few other genre films stand out amid the expected gaggle of Oscar contenders, including World War Z (December 21), Django Unchained (December 25) and Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled project about the hunt for Osama bin Laden (December 19). Those with a taste for musicals should look for Les Miserables (December 7), starring genre stalwarts Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. And at the end of the month, the whole thing starts all over again. We hope you’ll all still be with us when it does!