The Shape of Things to Come – GST’s Most Anticipated Films of 2013

We’ve closed the books on 2012 here at Go, See, Talk!– you can catch up on all of our individual takes on the year here, here, here, and here— and officially declared it “great”. That means that the time for retrospection has come and gone, and the time to look ahead has arrived. If 2012 turned out to be a banner year for film as an industry and as an art form, then what will 2013 bring?

One short answer: a whole lot of science fiction. Indeed, nearly half of the entries on this list comfortably underneath that distinct storytelling umbrella, many of quite high profile, and that’s not even to say that we covered all of the sci-fi to be proliferated throughout theaters this year. For genre fans, that’s nothing short of great news; for the uninitiated or for those with only a cursory interest in sci-fi, well, the stories being spun within that tradition look to run the gamut from big-scale spectacle to quiet, introspective human drama, so there’s almost certainly something out there for somebody. (And with Alfonso Cuarón directing two Academy darlings, it’s not impossible that 2013 could be the year a science fiction film wins Best Picture.)

2013 marks the beginning of the Korean invasion on America’s cinematic shores; Ji-woon Kim’s The Last Stand opens a week from this Friday, Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer– while lacking a firm release date– is pushing for a theatrical run this year, and Chan-wook Park’s Stoker will open up in March. Color me cautious here; in recent history, transplanting Asian directors from their respective countries to US shores hasn’t wrought great results (see: the Pang brothers and Takashi Shimizu, who both directed remakes of their own films). But I like to think that the slate of Korean filmmakers testing American waters with original films will have better success– while they’re unknown quantities to mainstream viewers, they’re all extremely successful on art house circuits, they know their way around genre films, and they’ve each shrewdly compiled casts of recognizable, established talents and rising stars. In short, I’ve got high hopes for these projects.

And for Peter Jackson. (Not that the former has anything to do with the latter.) Jackson received something of a thumping from critics and audiences over his decision to film and present The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 FPS, and he’s going to be up for further rebuke this December when the next installment in the series opens wide. The big question therefore remains: is 48 FPS just a fad that Jackson’s pushing on us, or is it real-deal tech and an aesthetic that we just need to be acclimated to? Will this be the year in which we stop talking about HFR presentations in context with Middle Earth and start talking about them in context with other high-end blockbusters?

For each of these, we’re just going to have to wait and see. The year is young, after all. In the meantime, here are twenty of the films we’re most excited for in 2013– let us know what you’re looking forward to in the months to come!

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Star Trek Into Darkness (Marc)- As a life-long Star Wars fan I ‘m not afraid to tell you that I’ve never given one gram of attention to Star Trek. Well that all changed in the Summer of 2009 when J.J. Abrams showed me what I was missing my whole life. That film was so sensational, not just in action but in story, character and composition, that it turned me into a Trekker before the end credits even rolled. Well Mr. Abrams has given us a lot since then but I can’t wait to be taken back to that final frontier again to see what he’s got in store for us.
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Only God Forgives (Andy) – Drive remains my pick for “best film of 2011”, so frankly I can’t imagine not finding the idea of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling teaming up again to be fantastic. Maybe all you need to know is that Refn will be putting his pretty young leading man through the paces– if you need proof, check out the poster and Gosling’s bruised, battered, and yet still glorious mug. An early “teaser” clip– released Monday– gives us a brief but vivid idea of what we should expect from this picture, which looks to continue exploring some of the ideas Drive delved into two years ago.

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The Counselor (Marc) – Without seeing a trailer (since one hasn’t been released), and only reading the vague premise offered at IMDB, I want you to just take a look at the cast involved and tell me it doesn’t make you want to jump out of the chair you’re in and see this movie right now. Ahem, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem…yeah I’ll stop there. Far as we can tell, it’s going to be something about a lawyer and drug trafficking but with a cast like that I could care less about the plot. Anyone who saw No Country For Old Men and Skyfall knows what to expect from Bardem. And I don’t have to tell you how awesome Pitt and Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds alums) are. Can’t wait!!

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Andy)-  Gary Ross’ adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ smash hit young adult novel, The Hunger Games, proved to be pretty damn great in spite of a few visual pockmarks, establishing Jennifer Lawrence as a real star– not just a great actress, but a star— and showing everybody that not everything YA needs to be boring, lugubrious, petty, and terrible.  Will the second chapter in the series stand up to the first? I’m not much of a fan of Francis Lawrence, but if he’s in the same mode here as he was in the first half of I Am Legend, then Catching Fire (which includes 100% more Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jena Malone than The Hunger Games) could be the rare sequel that outshines the first movie.

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Man of Steel (Marc) – Picture this for a Superman movie: Zack Snyder’s talent for action and visuals combined with Christopher Nolan’s calculated writing…what could possibly go wrong?? As of right now, nothing. Under the watchful eye of Nolan, Snyder looks to deliver a one two punch of awesome. The trailers did not disappoint, the reserved nature of the story sounds fine, and coming from Nolan we can expect more pensiveness from the titular hero instead of a wham bam outing with the Big Blue Boy Scout. And can someone say Michael Shannon as Zod and Kevin Costner as Pa Kent? OK, I think I’m going to go stand in line right now.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Andy)- Should anyone out there be surprised at this inclusion, allow me to direct you to my glowing review of the first installment. But my bias aside, there’s good reason even for those less fond of Jackson’s unexpected journey to be excited for its continuance; all the set-up is out of the way. We’ve established the groundwork for the rest of the narrative. Now all that remains are goblins, shapeshifters, spiders, haughty elves, barrel chases, and one seriously greedy dragon. If some found the first act dance of putting pieces into place tiresome, then they ought to be in for a nice ride as the story vaults forward.

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Thor: The Dark World (Marc) – Some people thought the simple plot of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor lacked the punch that makes a Marvel Comic movie a Marvel Comic movie. In fact, a few puns were thrown around and I for one kind of liked reading someone call it “Thorrible”. But there’s a mighty fine (dare I say highly enjoyable) time to be had in this pre-Avengers lead up. 2011’s Thor, with its Superman-lite setup, paved the way for a grander adventure and only went slow enough to test the waters and get people on board. Well, following Joss Whedon’s billion dollar blockbuster, I think all those Asgardian naysayers will find they were Thorly mistaken to doubt the Odinson. Thor: The Dark World (odd name aside) has got me pumped because Hemsworth killed the role and the finale of the film (not to mention The Avengers) so much so I similarly found myself stating, I Like This *smash* Another!!

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Pacific Rim (Andy) – It’s Guillermo del Toro directing Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Charlie Day in a story about the endless battle between giant robots and giant monsters. I don’t know what the hell else you want from me here.

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Twelve Years a Slave (Marc) – Steve McQueen has made just two films to date. His first is in the Criterion collection, his second probably should be as well. Shame, like Hunger, is one of the most intense, honest and unflinchingly bold films in the last ten years. So what do you do when a gifted director joins forces with one of the finest actors on the planet and they end up making two exceptionally stellar films?? Have them work together again. McQueen again goes for some sensitive material but if the first two films didn’t put you off (personally I think Hunger should be shown/taught in every film school on the planet) and you realized that Spielberg (and to some degree Tarantino) handled sensitive material like slavery with style and respect then McQueen should equally find success with his trademark frankness, sophistication, and his eye for visuals and unparalleled scene compositions.

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I’m So Excited! (Andy) – I’ll admit that I’m still but a student of Pedro Almodóvar’s work – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is the only pre-2000s film of his that I’ve seen, and of the post-2000s I’ve only seen Bad EducationVolver, and The Skin I Live In – but I know him well enough to recognize his genius, and I can’t help but be immediately intrigued by the idea of setting an entire film on an airplane, especially given the wacky, energetic sense of delight in the first trailer. Consider me on-board! (Feel free to groan at the terrible pun.)

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Oblivion (Marc) – Of the staggering amount of sci-fi films set to light up screens in 2013, nothing has me more amped to venture into a dark theater than Oblivion. In his debut film, Joseph Kosinski did wonders with TRON: Legacy (visuals, music, cast) so should he be given a slightly better story than the flat, nonsensical one in Legacy, Oblivion could be astounding. Also I’m a sucker for M83, so that small facet in the production has me pulling for Oblivion just a tad more. To the naysayers, I agree it looks like some high concept mish-mash of I Am Legend and WALL-E (among other titles) but from just the teaser poster/trailer, to me at least, it has enough intriguing hooks, style, and eye candy that it’s all but primed to be flat-out awesome. So while Star Trek Into Darkness will likely be the one to beat, and Man of Steel is another front-runner that has the potential to be astounding, I’m always one to root for the underdog. I can’t wait to see how Kosinski fares in his second at-bat.

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Elysium (Andy) – 2009 saw a resurgence of great, socially-conscious science fiction cinema, and at the forefront of that new wave – comprised of the likes of Moon and Avatar – was Neil Blomkamp, the mind behind the brilliant part faux-documentarian District 9. The film’s hidden allegories can hardly be described as such; District 9 gets about as on-the-nose as possible, but that doesn’t stop it from being great, and Blomkamp’s new film Elysium looks to follow in a similar vein. This time, though, Peter Jackson’s protege has star power in the form of Matt Damon backing him, as well as quadruple the budget. Curious to see what Blomkamp can do with $120 million dollars? You should be.

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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Marc) – I think I may be one of maybe 15 people who really enjoyed Stephen Sommers’ popcorn flick. Sure it wasn’t the G.I. Joe we fans wanted, but it was still campy and colorful fun. On that note I was overjoyed that a sequel, even sans Sommers, was on its way and as the trailers showed it would pick up on the one thing that was really complex and engaging about the first one – the idea of Cobra taking over the White House. That seemed like something right out of the cartoon show and with David M. Chu giving it a fast n’ furious shot of adrenaline, it looked too good to be true. The hell with the 3D conversion and the clandestine addition of Channing Tatum, this looks like white-knuckle excitement and lots of fun. Can you say Yo Joe?!

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Gravity (Andy) – Well, how about that? Gravity had a spot on my “most-anticipated” list for last year, back when Alfonso Cuarón’s first directing stint in seven years (since his 2006 masterpiece Children of Men) still had  November 2012 release date. Time makes fools of us all, I suppose, or some adage to that effect. Gravity still doesn’t have a solid release date for this year, of course, but I can’t see it being pushed back again– and thank goodness for that, because no one should have to wait this long to watch Cuarón return to science fiction by directing George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in a space thriller about isolation and survival.

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Monsters University (Marc) – Since Monsters, Inc had probably one of the best, sweetest and most crowd pleasing endings of all time, what was the only option to follow up Pete Docter’s heart-warming film?…a prequel. This will find the very best of buddies in college and before their wonderful friendship got them singing their famouse, bromance fueled duet “If I Didn’t Have You“.

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Upstream Color (Andy) – I feel no shame (well, only a little bit anyhow) in openly stating that it took me four or five viewings of Primer to connect its time traveling loops of deception and backstabbing together. Likewise, I don’t feel bad at all for coming right out and saying that I’ll likely require multiple viewings Upstream Color before I totally grasp it, because Shane Carruth’s follow-up to his 2004 masterclass on time travel looks complex, weird, and just as wonderful– and, perhaps best of all, completely different.

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Gangster Squad (Marc) – Again with the reshoots…sorry, poor choice of words considering why they filmed alternate scenes following the tragedy in Colorado last year…but there’s nothing about this production that doesn’t look like a solid win. A throwback gangland flick from the 1930’s. There’s just something cinematically magical about that time/setting, don’t you think? It’s been a winning formula for multiple films in the past – ChinatownThe Untouchables, Road to Perdition, L.A. Confidential, even Michael Mann’s sloth-like Public Enemies (which gets points mostly just for its style). Plus, how can you ignore the appeal of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling? Sold! (FYI, it comes out this Friday so we don’t have to wait that long!)

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Before Midnight (Andy) – Two Richard Linklater films two years in a row? That’s something of a gift, especially considering that one of them– Bernie– stands out as his best work in years, and the other– Before Midnight— marks his reunion with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and their final exploration of the relationship between Jesse and Celine (maybe). Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are exquisitely intimate portraits of romantic love, and the latter in particular easily represents one of the best films of its decade and one of the best of his career; there’s no reason not to be compelled by a third collaboration between the trio at this point

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The World’s End (Marc) – If Edgar Wright’s name alone doesn’t already make your wallets $7 lighter, then how about this? Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are back and this time joined by Eddie Marsan and young Bilbo Baggins himself Martin Freeman. Seriously, Wright could make a movie about a box of paperclips and it’d be witty, audacious and uproarious. It took a lot of cinematic alchemy to make Scott Pilgrim work (even with Michael Cera) but if he could knock that out of the park then, there’s really nothing he can’t do. So what’s this yarn about? Pubs, pints, pandemonium…who care. It is helmed by a well-established filmmaker, so that’s all you need to know before walking into the theater.

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Stoker (Andy) – …okay, you had to know that this would be on here. Given that Oldboy is my favorite movie of all time (and you may note and complain about the conspicuous absence of Spike Lee’s remake on this list), it’s not hard to guess that of the three Korean-directed films making their way to American cinemas this year, Stoker has me the most excited. Park makes compelling movies even when he’s not at his best– for example, 2009’s I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay— and here he’s working in what looks to be his most effective mode, and with a cast that starts with Mia Wasikowska and ends with Nicole Kidman. If that’s not reason enough to be interested in Stoker, I don’t know what is.

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Of course, that’s just what we want to see, and there’s lot of other great ones coming down the pike in 2013 we didn’t even touch on. What are you most looking forward to?