Part I may be found here.
10. Wreck-It Ralph (November 2) – John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman
The previous two Disney animation films have been the very definition of hit (Tangled) and miss (Mars Needs Moms). With that in mind, it’s difficult for me to guess what we’re going to get from Wreck-It Ralph. That said, the concept (a classic video game villain who decides he wants an opportunity to be a hero) is almost Pixarian and the first trailer is outstanding. I wouldn’t have expected Wreck-It Ralph to make this list at the beginning of the year but it is definitely winning me over.
9. Taken 2 (October 5) – Liam Neeson, Framke Janssen, Maggie Grace
The Expendables 2 (August 17) – Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Liam Hemsworth
I’m cheating just a bit by combining these two films but when you really get down to it, the only difference between the two is that the first stars a one man wrecking ball and the other requires a ridiculous team to get the job done. I’m probably slightly more interested in Taken 2 than Expendables 2, due mostly to the Neeson Factor but let’s be honest: Stallone bringing Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme into the fold for his sequel is a stroke of absurd genius.
8. Gangster Squad (September 7) – Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone
If director Ruben Fleischer had jumped directly from 2009’s Zombieland into this film, I think it would find a place much higher up there list. But alas, Fleischer stopped down last year to gift the world 30 Minutes or Less, one of the more haphazard, wasteful movies of last year and the rare comedy that gets worse the more times you accidentally catch three minutes of it on HBO. Still, everyone loves a good gangster film and with this cast and the slick style laid out in the trailer, it seems difficult to imagine Gangster Squad flopping.
7. Skyfall (November 9) – Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes
I went back and forth on the appointment of Sam Mendes as director and I’m still not convinced that he was the best choice but if nothing else, I expect working with a top notch dramatic director will bring out the best in Craig (which was frankly lacking in Quantum of Solace). In what will probably be Craig’s last turn as Bond, I expect Skyfall will hit closer to the mark of Casino Royale than its predecessor. And hey, you definitely can’t go wrong casting Bardem as the villain.
6. The Bourne Legacy (August 10) – Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz
2012 has already proven to be a banner year for big budget franchises taking chances. We’ve seen a Spider-Man reboot only five years after the previous film ended, a prequel that isn’t a prequel but really it’s a prequel in Prometheus, and of course the payoff for years’ worth of groundwork in The Avengers. Legacy is another entry into this field of ambitious popcorn films as this installment plans to work hand-in-hand with the previous trilogy while telling an entirely different story. I must tell you, dear reader(s), I am insanely intrigued by this premise. On top of that, if you’re going to replace Matt Damon, there probably isn’t a better alternative than Renner. My excitement for this one is growing by the day.
5. Looper (September 28) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
I am nothing if not all about high concept sci-fi and Looper definitely qualifies. In a nutshell, the plot involves a modern day hit man (JGL) who specializes in killing and disposing of victims from the future who are sent back in time. But things change when his intended target turns out to be his future self (Willis). Confusing? Perhaps. Intriguing? Uh, yeah. Director Rian Johnson has warned prospective viewers to avoid the newest batch of trailers in order to prevent spoilers and I have dutifully followed his advice. Besides, that cast plus that concept is enough to get me in the theater anyway.
4. Lawless (August 29) – Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce
This film, about a family of moonshiners who run afoul of both the law and a rival outlaw, made waves at Cannes earlier this year and has one of the best trailers I’ve seen this year. I love the premise and Shia LaBeouf notwithstanding, that cast is ridiculously good. This could be the rare film that works as both a blockbuster and an award contender.
3. Django Unchained (December 25) – Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz
I still have no idea why this film, about a slave (Foxx) who seeks revenge on the men who took his wife, is opening on Christmas; Quentin Tarantino doesn’t exactly represent the holiday spirit. Then again, last year’s holiday season brought us The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so… Anyway, bringing DiCaprio into his flock of actors is a stroke of genius for Tarantino and while I still lament the fact that Will Smith pulled out of the role now occupied by Foxx, I expect the Oscar winner will do an excellent job. And I cannot wait to see what Tarantino can do with the Western genre.
2. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) – Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
At times it seems as if it’s been far more than four years since Christopher Nolan gave us The Dark Knight. The collective anticipation for this movie has mounted to the point that I half expect to be disappointed because how could this final entry into the series possibly live up to the hype? But if any film could pull this feat off, it’s gotta be this one, right? Expect Nolan to pull out all the stops, take some potentially unpopular chances, and make every attempt to rectify the wrong the Academy members did he and his film in 2008.
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14) – Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
I thought about flip-flopping The Hobbit with The Dark Knight Rises and in truth, there’s a part of me that expects the latter to be the better film. But at the end of the day, this is essentially a life goal coming to fruition. The Hobbit is unquestionably my favorite book ever; I read it for the first time when I was around eight years old (nerd from the womb, yo) and have read it at least a dozen times since. Knowing that it is finally about to come to the screen is almost more than I can bear. So what I’m saying is those stinking Mayan calculations better be spot on because if the world ends before December 14th, I’ll be furious.