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Monday, 9 January 2012

12 films I'm looking forward to in 2012 (and 12 I'm not)

As ever, there's a whole bunch of films coming out in 2012. I've been having a look at the Hollywood films I'm interested in this year. I'm probably most interested in Jackie Chan's Chinese Zodiac film and Donnie Yen's Monkey King one, but this is my list of what I'm looking out for in American movies.

Wahey! Hollywood continues its dubious tradition of remaking foreign films so that Western audiences don't have to read subtitles. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur has been hired to remake Reykjavik-Rotterdam with Mark Wahlberg in the starring role. It's a slightly unusual choice as Óskar Jónasson directed the original and  Kormákur played the lead.

In the original, Kristofer works as a security guard. After getting fired from the freight ship for smuggling alcohol he is tempted back into smuggling to raise some much needed money. Of course, things don't go smoothly and Kristofer ends up in the middle of an action thriller.

I enjoyed Reykjavik-Rotterdam, despite it being a bit too commercial and I expect Hollywood will turn out a perfectly competent remake with Mark Wahlberg continuing to be a perfectly competent (if unspectacular) actor. I'm not expecting it to be the film of the year, but something that'll be predictably enjoyable when there's nothing better available. 

The Iron Lady
Dismay! I'm not looking forward to this and I'm going to do my best to avoid it, although Meryl Streep is everywhere, promoting the hell out of this. I've never been keen on these bio-dramas due to the lack of veracity and the tendency to make up far more dramatic dialogue than ever actually took place. Half the film concentrates on Mrs Thatcher's political life and the other half (more worryingly) concentrates on her descent into dementia. I find it rather distasteful that such a film has been made whilst Mrs Thatcher is still alive.

The European premiere was last night and critics seem unanimous in the opinion that Meryl Streep puts in a good performance in an otherwise shit film. So I'm glad to hear my prejudice confirmed.

Also this month: Underworld Whatever (can anyone tell these films apart or remember which ones they've seen?)

Safe House
Yay! I don't think Denzel Washington's ever done anything truly awful and I'm very much expecting a good performance from him in this action film. He's charged with looking after a fugitive in a CIA safe house, but of course it's attacked and he ends up on the run. Again, I don't expect this is going to test my intellect terribly much, but with Ryan Reynolds also appearing and upcoming Swedish (no, really) director Daniel Espinosa, it's not likely to disappoint.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Gay! Nicholas Cage adds to his reputation as someone who just accepts any script without reading it. After the boredom of the previous Ghost Rider film, I really don't see how this can be any good at all.

Also this month: The Secret World of Arrietty. The Studio Ghibli version of the Borrowers finally turns up. I've already seen it and it's good. Perhaps not as imaginative as other Miyazaki films, but the source material is handled well.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Cracking! "15 years after their traumatic gingerbread-house incident, siblings Hansel and Gretel have become a formidable team of bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world." That's all I know about this film and yet it's enough to get me excited. It could be mediocre, but it has the potential to be really good. I'm willing to find out.

The Hunger Games
Lacking! Oh, now I lot of people are very excited about this, but it just sounds like lazy childish sci-fi to me. And I like sci-fi! When I was told what it was about, I thought I'd read it before, that's how lazy I find the concept. To me it just doesn't feel as imaginative as the kind of sci-fi films we got in the 1970s, nor is it grounded in reality (there's no way anything like this is possible in any situation ever). It feels like a writer looking for an idea and then just mashing two concepts together in the hope that one would appear by magic. And then I read in an article "she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq." Yup, that's exactly what it feels like to me.

I know a lot of people are going to love this and they're going to rave about it. But could you all just do grumpy sods like me a favour and not bang on about it constantly and try to make us watch it?

Also this month: Jiro Dreams of Sushi - A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono. Oh yes, now we're talking! I'll have seen this before March though.

Woo! Luc Besson producing and Guy Pearce as the lead. "A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president's daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates." Besson has openly admitted that it's just "Taken" set in space, but that doesn't bother me. Could be dreadful rubbish or it could be pretty good. I have faith.

American Reunion
Boo! Are they still making these? I thought that after some of the sequels went straight to DVD, they'd given up flogging this particular horse, but apparently not. Universal have hired the crew from Harold And Kumar in the hope of resurrecting this. If it's successful, expect a whole new rash of these. Oh god...

The Dictator
Yay! Sacha Baron-Cohen's latest laughing-at-foreigners film revolves around the kind of dictator that Ghadaffi was assumed to be. Probably not so funny after what happened in Libya this year, but we'll see. And it's got Anna Faris in it and I'll watch anything she does just in case she accidentally makes another Smiley Face.


Nay! Yup, based on the board game, I just don't see how this can be any good at all. The plot will have to diverge so far from the original concept that it seems daft to actually license it. Mind you, I suppose it's entirely possible that they did so just to make you wonder why and watch it to find out. Expect lots of C4. Geddit? Ah ha ha...

Also this month: Dark Shadows. Tim Burton goes back to do the only thing he's good at: gothic stuff with Johnny Depp. But is he capable of making anything good any more? Well, he's got a TV show to copy from this time, so half the work's already done for him. But being mediocre would be worse than actually being shit.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Cool! To be honest, this doesn't enthuse me terribly much. It's another "name-colon-thing" format that relies on the name alone to attract an audience. It's hard to do these silly films well and with Hansel and Gretel earlier in the year, it's unlikely that Hollywood can do it twice so close together. But I'm willing to give it a go, purely because it's directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the Kazakh who directed Night Watch and Day Watch. Hollywood continues to buy in outside talent to make up for their own lack and Bekmambetov hasn't been heavily tainted by money yet, so he can probably pull this off.

Fool! Grab a writer from Lost, steal plot elements from Aliens, Blade Runner and every successful science fiction film since and you'll end up with a horrible mish-mash that disappoints at all levels. Can no one write anything like Soylent Green any more?

Neighborhood Watch
Fuck! "Suburban dads form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families, only to discover a plot to destroy Earth." Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn... yeah it's about time they did something good again and I reckon this will be it.

The Amazing Spider-Man
Suck! I thought a reboot was when you'd taken a series of films as far as you could and needed to restart them to avoid ending up in a writing cul-de-sac. But apparently Spiderman needs a reboot just because the last one sucked. I didn't like the last Spiderman and I'm unlikely to like this one as it's pretty much just the same thing all over again. Mind you, I liked the 1970s film and the crazy Japanese version.

Also this Month: The Dark Knight Rises. Yawn.

The Expendables 2
Cracker! Childish, mindless shit. And that'll do me just fine. Sylvester Stallone invites round every other 1980s action film star as well as Jason Statham and Jet Li and, well... who gives a shit about the plot? This will be simple, ridiculous fun.

Total Recall
Knacker! The first film was daft sci-fi rubbish based on a much more serious and downbeat Philip K Dick short story. This is a big budget summer blockbuster based on remaking the previous film. Rather than go back to the book and reinterpret it, they've just grabbed the old script. Not good, not clever, not even Bill Nighy and John Cho can save this one.

Also this month: The Bourne Legacy, but without Matt Damon.

Fly! Yes, the last Judge Dredd film wasn't good. It was a brave attempt to join many early Dredd stories and it was admirable in its scope, but as soon as Stallone took the helmet off, it turned to shit. This time round, Karl Urban plays Dredd (oh how I wish the first film had been made in the 1980s with Clint Eastwood) and Pete Travis (of the surprisingly good Vantage Point) directs. Can Hollywood stuff it up again? Of course they can. There are already rumours of fights over the editing and the like, but this time round the helmet stays on and Judge Anderson makes an appearance. So there's hope. I'd rather they just took it easy and made a Dredd film that just explores the man and the nature of the city he works in rather than trying for a big story (leave that for the next film), but that's not going to happen, so we're just going to have to cross our fingers.

Hotel Transylvania
Die! The latest CGI cartoon from Sony. "Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter." Mmm, these cartoons just feel awfully formulaic to me. I loved the first Toy Story and I was impressed (if not enamoured) with The Incredibles, but it seems to me that these CGI toons are just getting lazy. It's the same characters every time with the plot split into the same story intervals. I bet you could even play two of them side by side and see certain scenes crop up in both at the same time. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Miley Cyrus? Yeah, I can predict the entire thing just from the voice cast. Skip.

Also this month: Resident Evil: Retribution. More daft, but slick rubbish from the increasingly-stretched Resident Evil storyline. Still got Milla Jovovich? Yup. Gonna love it.

Gangster Squad
Fires! With Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer at the helm and Sean Penn heading up the cast, this is enough to attract my attention. Add in Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick and a story about the LAPD fighting the Mafia in the 1940s and 50s and I reckon this is a film that will turn out to be so good, we'll wonder why we didn't hear more about it beforehand.

Tires! Tim Burton again and this time he's go Winona Ryder in tow. Could he be any more transparent in his attempt to return to the 1980s (when he was good)? "Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences." Hmm. Seeing as Tim Burton can't make two good films in twenty years, I somehow doubt he'll manage two in just 2012. This just sounds like a committee attempting to assemble the elements that made Burton an interesting talent when he first appeared. I have my doubts.

Also this month: A Halloween sequel and yet another Saw film, probably. It's October isn't it?

Super! It's a James Bond film.It's got Daniel Craig in it. Uh... um... we're all going watch it, so does anything more need to be said?

Red Dawn
Pooper! To be honest, I'm ambivalent about this one. The original film was an enjoyable bit of trash, but many people seem to regard it as way better than it was; perhaps that's more based on warm memories than actual recollection. Having barely done anything since, original co-writer John Milius (who also directed) returns to contribute exactly the same plot as last time. Oh except this time it's the Chinese, or would have been if the studio hadn't balked at offending such a large potential audience, so it's the North Koreans.

When I reviewed the computer game Homefront last year, I raged about how lazy and pathetically unrealistic its story was. The producers hired John Milius to write the story and insisted that they'd used CIA advisors to ensure the realism of the plot. I'm sure if you pay some retired CIA staffers enough, they'll pretend to agree with anything. North Korea, doesn't have the resources or the will to invade the US and the only reason they're being used is that they're the handy portable bad guys for any film these days Heck, back in 2009 when this film was actually shot, the bad guys were all Chinese, the studio just changed their mind and repainted them with North Korean flags in post-production.

This film is going to make me angry if I watch it. And having been through several studios in an attempt to get it off the shelf, can it be any good?

Also this month: Twighlight Something-or-other and 47 Ronin, where Keanu Reeves shits all over Japan's national legend.

World War Z
Tops! Are we tired of zombie films yet? Apparently not. Max Brooks' surprisingly excellent book Written from the point of view of a UN representative interviewing survivors of a zombie war, it'll be interesting to see how this is presented on the screen. If handled well, it could be quite an intelligent and clever film. But even if they don't try particularly hard, it'll still be fun.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Slops! A Hobbit walks to a mountain to get a treasure. Uh huh. I only saw one of the Lord of the Rings films, I cant remember which one and it bored the hell out of me. Oh good, more of the same.


Well, that's all there is. Obviously there are other films out there of which no real details are publicly known at this stage, etc, etc. I think what I'm most keen to see is probably Hansel and Gretel, but I'm equally excited by World War Z. Looks like I'm pretty down on old Tim Burton, but he really hasn't done anything worthwhile since Ed Wood and I'm tired of everyone giving him a free pass just because he made The Nightmare Before Christmas. None of films I've listed are exactly intellectual masterpieces, but it is Hollywood. Maybe I ought to do another list of foreign films.


  1. Well, I'm looking forward to World War Z (scripted by jms, he of Babylon 5 fame), *and* the Hobbit! Also I expect my daughter will love Hotel Transylvania. And... you missed out Star Wars in 3D coming next month, but then it's the Phantom Menace so I could probably see why...

  2. Well, I'm not excited by any Star Wars film in 3D really. Perhaps one of the original films in an IMAX cinema would be nice. But I didn't mention the Phantom Menace release as it's not a new film. That and I'm not looking forward to it.

  3. Actually another one for your out in March which will either be great or a total disaster is John Carter 'tis pixar's first live action film and the story is the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series

  4. I am interested to see what they do with John Carter. Four armed aliens? With eyes on the side of their heads? Can't wait to see how they make that work.