Big Screen in ’13

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It’s that time again. The time of the year when I shake my Magic Eight Ball (and NO – I’m not talking about my shaved head, smart guy!!!) – and look over the months ahead to come to choose the five movies I ABSOLUTELY have to see on the big screen in 2013.

The funny thing is I usually write this post… anticipate these movies… see a smattering of them on the Big Screen… and then RARELY feature them in my Top 5 Movies list at the end of the year. Somehow, some indie darling or nuanced drama always manages to kick these things to the curb. It’s the constant battle within me. The kid inside still loves the idea of seeing things blow up real good while the adult in me likes to have my heart and mind nourished. So, don’t be surprised if none of these make the cut at the end of the year. Well – that’s not entirely true. I have HIGH hopes that a couple will straddle both sides of the fence.

Without further adieu, I present the Top 5 Movies I Need to See on the Big Screen in 2013.

5.   Superman – Man of Steel   (June 14th)

I’m a sucker for superheroes but Superman is probably my least favorite next to that limp fish Aquaman. In fact, the majority of the DC docket pales to hold a candle to the much cooler cats inhabiting Marvel’s corner of the universe. It’s a good thing DC’s got Batman. He single-handedly props up that entire label. Don’t fight me on this, nerds. 😉

So, why am I listing Superman – Man of Steel on this list? Simple – Christopher Nolan and his baby bro, Jonathan, cracked the story with David Goyer. That’s the exact same trio who helped The Dark Knight rise – and sure, that last flick wasn’t up to the caliber of their predecessors but Batman Begins and The Dark Knight stand tall. They made superhero movies that even my Dad might enjoy.

I’m also not one of director Zack Snyder’s detractors. Sure, 300 and SuckerPunch are a lot of sound and fury but the guy knows how to shoot things and amp up the epic. And, I thought he produced one of those rare remakes that improved upon the stilted original when he burst on the scene with the 2004 redux of Dawn of the Dead. (Let’s be honest – that original film got by on its social commentary alone (and buckets of gore) – honestly, it’s a little too obvious in its intentions). Then there was Watchmen, which crazy old coot Alan Moore be damned, was a pretty spot-on rendition of that beloved graphic novel.

So, the pedigree and a beautiful trailer have done a good job of selling me on this one. Every summer, I have a huge superhero flick that I absolutely HAVE to see in the theaters and this is it.

4.   Star Trek – Into Darkness   (May 17th)

JJ Abrams is a polarizing figure among genre fans and for the life of me – from my side of the street (the right of the argument, for those keeping count) – I can’t figure out why. The guy has a pretty good handle on grabbing grand, geek-friendly ideas and building compelling pop mythology out of them. He was responsible for making Mission Impossible actually FUN again – with his third entry that paved a nice foundation for the best of the bunch, last year’s Ghost Protocol, which Abrams produced. On television, Abrams laid down a solid string of hits including Felicity, Alias, Fringe and LOST – and sure, all of those shows had some audience members jump ship, frustrated by questions and questions that kept piling up the more seasons ran – but I’m one of those people who takes pleasure in the journey and puts a little less emphasis on the destination. The fun is seeing the sites along the way.

On Star Trek, Abrams did the impossible and took a franchise that has always held mainstream potential but limited itself with its staunch, stalwart approach to its own prime directive. For a show about traveling through space getting into all manner of adventures, it always seemed a bit stiff. If I was on that ship, I’d toss on the first red shirt I could find. And this coming from a guy who is friendly to geek properties. Sorry, but Star Trek is just a  little too nerdy.

Fortunately, Abrams found a way to put engaging, pretty people in the middle of it all – rebooted the whole thing – and engineered a breezy, exciting action spectacle that catered to the core groupies while opening the whole enterprise up to us fringe interlopers who never gave Tribbles much trouble.

Now, for the late breaking news. About a week ago, word broke that Abrams would move from Star Trek to the next Star Wars and almost immediately, the Internet (that wretched hive of scum and villainy) went on a witch hunt. Stop. JUST STOP! There have been countless Star Trek films – every other one considered horrible by the most loyal Trekkers. Abrams made ONE and made the best one yet. The sequel looks like a continuation of this new, expanding universe – so I think his track record continues. George Lucas helmed 4 out of 6 Star Wars movies and made 3 of the WORST sic-fi action flicks in the last three decades. I consider Abrams an upgrade.

Hell – give him The Hobbit while you’re at it. 😉

3.   Pacific Rim   (July 12)

This is one of those movies that I’m going on blind faith based on the guy bringing it all to life. The trailer plays a Transformers-esque angle pretty hard; which was not a good move made by last summer’s Battleship – but then again, that movie was a commercial cash-grab aimed at riding Michael Bay’s wave – while this thing, from all I’ve read, is an ambitious bit of big time “new world” construction.

Plus it’s got giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. That never gets old.

I was sold on this the second I heard Guillermo del Toro climbed aboard. Guillermo can go big (the Hellboy series) and intimate (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) – and through it all, you always feel his touch. He’s a lot like Tim Burton – 5 minutes into one of his movies and there is no question who is steering the ship.

From all I’ve heard, the trailer only hints at the massive world-building going on here. Decades after giant alien monsters have risen from the sea (from an underground dimensional rift in the Pacific Rim), the world governments have spent all of their resources on crafting giant robots to stave off extinction. These robots are connected via a neural link between two pilots – who control the right and left sides of the device. This bonds the pilots in a unique, intimate way – meaning del Toro may have figured out how to wedge a complex, interesting human story amidst the big-scale spectacle. Rim also boasts an eclectic cast including Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Charlie Day – not exactly your big Summer blockbuster cast but certainly an interesting one and that gives me hope we’re in for something special here.

2.   The World’s End   (October 25th)

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There’s no trailer for this one yet – just a couple of promo pics. All I know is, about a year ago, Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright tweeted a pic of Day 1 in their writing process – as they set out to finish the final film in their ‘tethered by genre deconstruction theme-only’ trilogy of films.

Shaun of the Dead playfully riffed off a zombie invasion in London – before every other movie had to have a zombie in it, including this weekend’s zom-rom-com Warm Bodies. Their follow-up, Hot Fuzz, transported the buddy cop flick to a sleepy English village. Both movies are so smart and funny and never edge towards parody. They tell actual stories that just happen to have a clever slant on the conventions usually found in these types of flicks we’ve all seen way too many times before.

The World’s End is their take on the disaster movie – with the title serving dual-purpose. Not only does it refer to Armageddon – it’s also the name of a fabled tavern that rests at the end of the pub crawl to end all pub crawls – as an assortment of longtime buddies seek out one last league of beers before the Big Bang.

Can not wait for this one.

1.   Elysium   (August 9th)

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Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was one of the best original sci-fi flicks when it released in 2009. It almost never came to be – a happy accident after Blomkamp’s original feature debut fell apart. A couple of years earlier, Blomkamp had been hired by Peter Jackson to direct a big-screen rendition of the video game series, Halo. They spent months in pre-production before Universal got cold feet after fighting with Microsoft over future profits and ultimately pulled the plug. Not wanting all that development time and effort to go to waste, Jackson had Blomkamp leverage some of the work he had done – and asked him to flesh out one of the cool, sci-fi short films he had made in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. The end result, District 9, ended up as a Best Picture nominee – made on a modest budget that looked 10 times more – and was instantly one of my favorite movies of that year.

I’m chomping at the bit for this one. This is set in 2159, where the majority of the planet’s population reside on a ruined Earth, while the 1% reside high above in a luxury space station. Matt Damon stars as a “border control” agent tasked with keeping the masses out but swiftly gets sucked into a mission that threatens to upset both worlds.

Blomkamp deftly balanced social issues with thrilling sci-fi action in District 9 so I’m eager to see what he does with his latest ‘ripped from the headlines’ peek into dystopia. He’s one of the best young directors bringing us new visions in an industry that sometimes doesn’t know what we want and insists on packaging the same ol’, same ‘ol. Blomkamp breaks that mold and we’re all the better for it.

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Finally, I’ve got my eyes peeled for these remaining flicks – all of which I could find myself seeing on the big screen. With ticket prices so exorbitant, a lot of times I save the more nuanced dramas and Oscar-bait for the comfort of my living room but spectacle demands the biggest screen possible and comedies work best surrounded by an audience. So, there’s always the chance I end up seated before one of these films even if there is bound to be something more nourishing on its way by year’s end.

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Iron Man 3   (May 3rd)
The Great Gatsby   (May 10th)
World War Z   (June 2nd)
Kick-Ass 2   (Summer)
Carrie*   (October 18th)
Thor – The Dark World   (November 15th)
Anchorman – The Legend Continues   (December 20th)
Oblivion   (April)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron sci-fi flick)   (Fall)
This Is The End (James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and any others playing themselves in an end of the world flick)

*I usually deplore remakes but Carrie is directed by Kimberly Pierce who helmed Boys Don’t Cry – so this looks like a perfect match of director and subject matter AND if anything, this tale of bullying taken to extremes feels so timely and necessary. This could be one of those horror tales that’s equal parts cautionary tale and vital ‘rage against the machine’.

Comments now closed (2)

  • I wasn’t this far behind but did miss this one somehow. (Yes, I am a subscriber.)

    I think I want to see #2 in the theater. Might not be able to wait for Netflix. Although Paul has sat on my coffee table for months. Yeah not quite the same thing.

  • Paul wasn’t written-directed by Edgar Wright. Without him, it seemed lacking. Wright did Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim. Awesome batting average.