Friday, March 30, 2012

Life after Batman. Ten movies worth anticipating after The Dark Knight Rises.

I've opined here and there about how, to put it bluntly, there isn't much left on the immediate horizon that gives me the kind of anticipation that can remotely equal the kind of 'must-see chills' that I felt for The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II.  With Chris Nolan's Batman saga ending in July, it brings a certain moment of reflection in regards to my would-be fandom.  To paraphrase LA Confidential, my would-be film fanaticism started with Batman.  Perhaps that's as good a place as any for it to end.  But for the moment, and in the name of eternal optimism, here are a list of ten films that are scheduled for release after the July 20th debut of The Dark Knight Rises that have most peaked my interest.  They don't include every major release that I'm remotely interested in, but these stuck out as ones that I'm genuinely eager to sample for one reason or another.  In order of release date:

Alex Cross (October 26th, 2012)
When my wife and/or I complain about the dearth of mid-budget/star-driven thrillers, we're basically referring to films like Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.  While said sub-genre has made a most welcome comeback in the last two years, it is still nice to see that the James Patterson franchise has been revived, if only because there are so many novels that can be used for source material in crafting melodramatic 'super hero' detective yarns.  Perhaps the last ten years of sensationalized television crime dramas has negated the need for this kind of big-screen franchise (Criminal Minds is basically James Patterson meets Justice League), but I haven't given up on big-screen genre.  As for the film's controversial casting decision, that also inspires genuine curiosity.  Come what may, Tyler Perry *can* act, he has something to prove, and I like the idea of the unknown.  Point being, we all have a pretty good idea how Idris Elba would have played Mr. Cross (think Luther).  But I have absolutely no idea what Tyler Perry will do with the role.  And that is frankly exciting.

Skyfall (November 9th, 2012)
I suppose I could paraphrase James Earl Jones's 'baseball' speech from the climax of Field of Dreams with 'James Bond'.  "This series... this character... it's a part of our past, Ray."  Anyway, a new 007 adventure will always be cause for excitement, and the Daniel Craig entries have done a fine job of balancing smaller, character-driven stories with the sort of larger-than-life action that this franchise all-but invented.  I like Quantum of Solace more than most, as I find its politically-relevant narrative and morose character beats compensate for some choppy action editing.  I'm not the biggest fan of Sam Mendes, and I find his selection a bit too similar to Marc Forrester the last time around, but Bond is and always will be Bond.  The cast is superb, with Craig and Judi Dench being joined by Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Javier Bardem, and Naomie Harris.   Come what may, "James Bond has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again."  But fifty years after Dr. No, if you build it, people will most definitely come.

Les Misérables (December 14th, 2012)
This is my favorite Broadway musical, bar none.  It's not a 'daring' or 'unconventional' choice, but I still know most of the lyrics by heart.  So yes, the idea of a star-filled big-budget film version of my favorite show has indeed filled me with the sort of anticipation usually reserved for the continuing adventures of Bruce Wayne.  The film has been obscenely well-cast, with old-school song & dance pros like Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, and Anne Hathaway (watch Ella Enchanted if you doubt her musical chops) joining less conventional picks like Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen (the latter two did just fine with Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd).  And just for good measure, director Tom Hopper plucked Samantha Barks straight from the stage to reprise Éponine.  There isn't a Gerald Butler in the bunch, and hopefully Hopper won't pull a Chris Columbus and cut out huge chunks of the second act, ala 2005's Rent.  My wife actually hates this show, but then she loves White Chicks and Batman & Robin.  The rest of her family (my in-laws, my sister-in-law, etc) will probably want to see this.  That's fine, Wendy can watch the kids.

Django Unchained (December 25th, 2012)
I'm not the world's biggest Jamie Fox fan.  I found his Oscar-winning performance in Ray to be a few notches above Saturday Night Live-mimicry (same goes for Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, natch).  So while I wish Will Smith had indeed signed on for this one, the project itself seems like a surefire winner.  Quentin Tarantino's foray into westerns is exciting enough, let alone one that directly deals with that pesky slavery issue in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Anthony LaPaglia, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  This promises to be another larger-than-life jaunt that plays with how we view real-life through a cinematic prism, while delivering the kind of old-school 'movie making' that seems to be in short supply these days.

Now You See Me (January 18th, 2013)
In an age where it feels like every newly announced project is a reboot, remake, or unrequested sequel (cough-Triplets-cough), this one earns its place on the list mostly through having a great original concept.  Louis Leterrier (who also has something to prove, after getting screwed by studio interference on both The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans) helms this thriller concerning a team of magicians who use their skills to rob banks right in the middle of their on-stage performances. Neat.  This one has a great cast too, with Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Isla Fischer, and both Michael Caine *and* Morgan Freeman coming to play (will they flip a coin to decide whether Caine or Freeman narrates the trailer?).  I know little about the film other than the premise and the cast, but this sounds on paper like oodles of fun.

After Earth (June 7th, 2013)
This is it.  This Will Smith/Jaden Smith vehicle is the last chance for M. Night Shyamalan to prove that his early triumphs weren't some kind of fluke.  The helmer of two of the best movies of the last fifteen years (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) has fallen into a pit so deep that perhaps not even the biggest movie star in the world can pull him out.  As I wrote when the project was first announced, I am hopeful that Shaymalan will benefit from again having someone above him to tell him 'No' when required, and Smith will benefit with Shyamalan's once sure-hand with actors (he is responsible for any number of career high turns - Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Mel Gibson, Paul Giamatti, etc prior to The Happening).  At this point I talk about M. Night Shyamalan the way Luke Skywalker and/or Padme Amidala talked about Anakin Skywalker at the end of their respective Star Wars trilogies.  I know there is still talent and potential there... somewhere beneath the hubris.  We never got that last great album from Michael Jackson before his premature demise three years ago.  I still have faith that M. Night Shyamalan has at least a couple more gems left.  

Man of Steel (June 14th, 2013)
Unlike many of you here, I like Zack Snyder.  I've vigorously defended the intellectually-challenging Sucker Punch and was impressed by the character-driven Dawn of the Dead remake and the visually stunning and potently anti-war Legends of the Guardians.  As for Watchmen, there are moments of beauty, especially in the first third and Patrick Wilson's star turn, and it's perhaps the best possible Watchmen movie that could have been made.  I'm not a fan of 300, but that's probably as much to due with Frank Miller's source material as the film itself.  We know Snyder can do the kind of big-scale action that has largely been absent from super hero pictures, and we know he can focus on character when its required.  With Chris Nolan's guiding hand, a truly terrific cast (Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Lawrence Fishburne, Chris Meloni, Richard Schiff, etc) and all signs pointing to the superb Superman: Birthright as the source material, there is no reason not to at least hope that this is the epic and socially-relevant Superman movie we've been waiting for over the last 30 years.

Red 2 (August 2nd, 2013)  
The original Red was a narrative mess that barely coasted on its terrific cast and amusing premise.  I still love the idea of older character actors playing in the action/thriller sandbox, so interest was piqued when Summit hired the inexplicably unemployed Dean Parisot to helm the sequel.  Parisot directed one of the best comedies of the 1990s, and Galaxy Quest is a textbook example of how to successfully meld genre satire, character-development and sympathy, and action that has weight and consequence.  So yeah, this immediately becomes a likely contender for a sequel that far surpasses the original.  I don't know who is returning from the first go-around, although I hope they allow the dead characters to stay dead and make smart choices about who to add this time around.  I do have my own suggestions...

Phineas and Ferb: the Movie (August 26th, 2013)
Why didn't anyone tell me how awesome this cartoon is?  I had seen merchandise at Disneyland and had heard the theme song playing at the park, but my daughter's random curiosity allowed me to discover what its easily one of the coolest and smartest comedies currently airing.  The plot basically involves two step-brothers who get into crazy (and usually science-based) adventures over the summer while their disapproving older sister tries to 'bust them' (IE - clue in their parents to the antics).  Meanwhile, their pet platypus is secretly a covert spy who constantly battles a mad scientist who lives in the same city and constantly tries to bring ruin to the tristate area.  The premise is clever enough, but the writing is absolutely gangbusters, suggesting a sense of humor akin to The Emperor's New Groove.  My daughter has moved on to other cartoons, but I'm still hooked.  Anyway, I have no idea what Disney has in store for this apparent live-action/animation hybrid, and it could easily be something resembling the tragedy that is The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.  But the Mouse House, however floundering they are in regards to older-skewing live-action properties, has been nothing-but-caring and cautious when it comes to family fare.  And I too old to be excited about a Phineas and Ferb movie?  Yes, yes I am.  But don't judge me if you haven't sampled it.       

The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind (May 30th, 2014)
Obviously this one is pretty much a blank slate save for the premise and release date, but the idea of Pixar playing around in the realm of human psychology is enough to sell me.  A token kudos for again including a female protagonist, suggesting that this summer's Brave isn't just a gimmick.  We'll know more about this one when we know more about this one, but for the moment I am officially intrigued by something that feels far outside the Pixar template.

And that's a wrap.  Yes, there are other big-studio films that are somewhat interesting (The Hobbit, a Shane Black-helmed Iron Man 3, etc), and yes there will always be festival surprises and indie treats that no one saw coming.  But the point is that there is indeed stuff to look forward to after Batman hangs up his cape this summer.  Now it's your turn to share what upcoming releases are most enticing?  What do you most look forward to after this summer?

Scott Mendelson


obthavariable said...

I like Zack Snyder and love all his movies, so "Man of Steel" is hands down tops for me. And no judgement regarding "Phineas and Ferb." It is flat out awesome. But what about "The Great Gatsby"? I'm so excited for that one.

Brandon said...

John Carter and the (definitely male)Gods of M*** (people won't go if we say "Mars")
The Girl Who Played with Inexpensive Fire
The Girl Who Gently Kicked the Hornet's Next (can't afford to buy another one if it breaks)

...wait...what do you mean "bomb"? hahaha


corysims said...

Right with you on Skyfall and Man of Steel.

You can add, at least for me, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

Screw Prometheus (or as I like to call it, the Alien Prequel that's not really and Alien Prequel, even though it is) and the Hobbit. Both unneeded.

Robert Jones Jr said...

As an African American man, you could not PAY me to see Django Unchained.

jesse said...

LOOPER, for God's sake, LOOPER!

Dark Knight Rises may be my most anticipated movie of the year... but if anything could eclipse it RIGHT NOW, it would be Looper. Rian Johnson back with Joseph Gordon Levitt plus Willis (hopefully not sleepwalking) and Emily Blunt AND TIME TRAVEL??!?!

I take it back: I AM looking forward ot it more than Batman 3.

Scott Mendelson said...

Care to elaborate?

For what it's worth, as a Jewish man, I was intrigued by the surface-level JEWISH REVENGE FANTASY of Inglorious Basterds playing out as a mediation on the universality of the dehumanization of war-enemies and the value of propaganda-esque pro-war narratives.

Maxwell H said...

How about Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master? Andrew Dominick's Cogan's Trade? Spielberg's Lincoln? Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity? Ben Affleck's Argo? The Wettest County (Now titled Lawless)? None of these are festival surprises or indies but are perhaps a little more serious/esoteric, all come out in 2012, and none made your list. And I'm more excited for all of these than most of what is on your list, particularly because they aren't all that far away. Sure, I can't wait for Skyfall and The Hobbit too, but there's more to being a film fan than just anticipating the biggest upcoming blockbusters.

Also: I, Alex Cross? Really? I just can't get behind Tyler Perry or Rob Cohen as director.
And Red was so bad I don't care who directs the sequel. I never want to see those characters again.

Scott Mendelson said...

I hemmed and hawed about making the list even longer, which would have included a few of the others you mentioned (The Wettest Country is honorary #11). Lincoln I left off because Spielberg's unwillingness to release it before the election implies a certain apolitical toothlessness unbecoming the man who made Munich (same with the similarly-delayed Bigelow Bin Laden picture). Alex Cross is my guilty pleasure, so I cannot defend it otherwise.

While I've liked all of them, the only Paul Thomas Anderson film I loved was Magnolia, so I remain hopeful-but-not ecstatic for The Master. I didn't care for The Town, and Affleck's seemingly ego-driven (?) decision to star in Argo (playing an Hispanic character no less) puts a slight damper the project, although I adored Gone Baby Gone. Yes, The Wettest Country (or whatever it ends up being called) would have made a longer list, as I'm a big fan of The Proposition. The 'other' Lawless in intriguing by virtue of being Malick, but I've never LOVED a Malick film, only liked/appreciated them. Gravity is a wild card, but one that certainly will merit attention when the time comes. Killing Them Softly will likely be a rock-solid genre film, but I did have to draw the line somewhere. The list above were the ten films that came closest to capturing the 'gee-whiz' glee that yes often comes from an often inexplicable personal interest.

Cimmaron30 said...

No interest in THE HOBBIT?

Disco Paco said...

What films are needed? Oh, Hunger Games sequels. Gotcha.

Simoncolumb said...


I got so much respect for Shyamalan - and I would put THE VILLAGE and SIGNS up there with SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE. I just hope it works out...

Gem said...

What about Cabin in the Woods?
And there's a possibility of the Avengers being extremely good fun... or bombing... so that should be interesting either way.

Brandon said...

I don't think some of you realize the article says "AFTER the Dark Knight Rises". Some of the ones listed that you are scratching your heads at are released before it.

Girish said...

I'm feeling the same kind of chills and anticipation I felt for 'HP: DH-2' and 'TDK' for 'Snow White & the Huntsman', 'TDKR' and 'The Hobbit' which are my Top 3 most anticipated of the year!
My most anticipated after "The Dark Knight Rises" is released are (2012-13):
After Earth
Django Unchained
Ender's Game
Les Misérables
Man of Steel
Star Trek 2
The Lone Ranger

Robert Jones Jr said...


I read the script online. It's not really about a black man getting revenge. It's about a white man teaching a black man how to be a real man. And that sort of paternalism--a Hollywood staple--simply isn't appealing to me.


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