Concepts dominate cinema
The lowdown: In the year 2159, when the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, Matt Damon’s Max takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarised worlds.
The hoopla: Jason Bourne in outerspace! And then some. Director Neill Blomkamp had a breakout success with District 9, which tackled alien invasion from a fresh angle, and with more brain than brawn. There’s high hopes for this high-concept adventure.
The rub: Science- fiction is always a dicey game, just look at how dull the similarly- themed Total Recall remake turned out. But Blomkamp and Damon aren’t likely to screw this up.
ETA: August. #6 The Master The lowdown: A naval veteran, played by Joaquin Phoenix, arrives home from World War II unsettled and uncertain of his future, until he is tantalised by The Cause and its charismatic leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The hoopla: Any new picture from Paul Thomas Anderson ( There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights) is an event, and this study of 1950s America through the eyes of a Hemingwayesque wanderer and an industrialist is no different.
The rub: Reviews have been mixed, some put off by the lack of a clear statement, and its ambiguous comment on scientology – which the cult is supposedly modelled on.
ETA: January 17. #5 Man of Steel The lowdown: Superman gets the reboot treatment. Brit Henry Cavill dons the ‘‘S’’ in what is expected to be a weightier, more grounded depiction of what it would mean to have a superpowered being in our midst.
The hoopla: Can Zack Snyder ( Watchmen, 300) do for Superman what Christopher Nolan did for Batman? It’s arguably the biggest question mark hanging over movies for 2013.
Having Nolan produce and assist with the story doesn’t hurt, nor does a cast including Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Russell Crowe as Jor-El.
The rub: Can Snyder really handle this? Watchmen would suggest ‘‘hell yes’’, but he got it so, so wrong on his last movie, the braindead, story- starved Suckerpunch.
ETA: June 27. #4 Lincoln
The lowdown: Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited political study of The Great Emancipator, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. It focuses on Honest Abe circa 1865 and his dilemma of being in a position to try and end slavery or end The Civil War – but he can’t do both.
Spielberg, DayLewis, an American icon – this one was Oscar-bait the second it was announced. State- side response has been rapturous, though it was always going to be. Day-Lewis’ performance looks like another scorcher and the supporting cast is from the top shelf.
The rub: Spielberg has as many misses as hits these days, but this looks rock solid.
Only risk is it gets too enamoured with its subject and the characters start chanting ‘‘USA! USA!’’.
ETA: January 31. #3 Zero Dark Thirty The lowdown: For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty chronicles history’s greatest manhunt, from the Oscar- winning team who made The Hurt Locker, starring Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong and Kyle Chandler.
The hoopla: If The Hurt Locker connections aren’t enough to arouse interest, then the plaudits should. Kathryn Bigelow’s picture topped the National Board of Review’s list for 2012, has a Rotten Tomatoes’ rating at 100 per cent ‘‘fresh’’, and is at short odds to win her another Oscar.
The rub: A fair bit of controversy over the frank depiction of torture, which apparently wasn’t used by the US in their pursuit of bin Laden. ETA: January 31. #2 Before Midnight The lowdown: A continuation of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, chat- heavy romances starring Ethan Hawke as cynical American Jesse and Julie Delpy as French romantic Celine, who are now in their 40s. This time they cross paths – or perhaps are already an item – in Greece.
The hoopla: If Before Sunrise isn’t the most romantic movie since Casablanca, then Before Sunset is. Richard Linklater’s perfect pair of brief encounters deserved a third – and perhaps final – act, and we may finally know if Jesse missed his plane at the end of Before Sunset.
The rub: The real-time, improv style of Before Sunset was a bit gabby for some audiences, and it’s unknown whether Before Midnight repeats the style. ETA: Mid year. #1 The Wolf of Wall Street The lowdown: Based on the bestselling memoir of high-flying 1990s stockbroker-cum-criminal Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street will trace his rise and fall; the money, the drugs, the women – all under the masterful guidance of Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort.
The hoopla: Scorsese is back where he belongs, New York City, and will no doubt offer a fascinating character study and an industry constantly embroiled in corruption and accused of selfservice. Former The Sopranos scribe Terence Winter has written the screenplay, and Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau and Matthew McConaughey co-star.
The rub: The premise and story arc does sound a little like a white- collar Goodfellas, and is there anything more to say about Wall St excess and immorality that Wall Street, Margin Call and American Psycho haven’t covered already?
ETA: End of year.
Rebooted: Harry Cavill is touted to be a Superman for our times in Man of Steel.
Blow the house down: Leonardo DiCaprio has money on his mind in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.