Most Anticipated Films of 2013, Part 2

And so we continue on with the most intriguing projects ahead in 2013. In today’s second and final installment, Ryan Gosling proceeds with his conquest of the world, Tom Hanks and Leo DiCaprio look like contenders to duke it out for next year’s Best Actor Oscar, and I force you to read about documentaries.

16. A Long Way Down

Directed by Pascal Chaumeil, written by Jack Thorne, starring Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots

Release date: no distribution

So far, Nick Hornby’s writing has translated well to the screen, whether in adaptations (“High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”) or his own screenplays (“An Education”); we won’t count “Fever Pitch” since that wasn’t so much an adaptation as a bastardization. “A Long Way Down” is therefore promising purely on that basis, although I would say the novel will be the most challenging so far to translate to the screen – mixing Hornby’s trademark fanciful humor and aimless melancholy, the novel follows a group of four people (a disgraced TV personality, a burnt-out young musician, a manic teenager, an overburdened single mother) who separately all decide to jump off the same building on the same night. Of course, their unexpected encounter with each other leads to a sort of surrogate family; and your writing had better be as sharp as Hornby’s if you want to keep a story like that from quickly descending into absurd sentimentalism. We’ll see how that goes, but at least they’ve assembled basically the perfect cast for this – I’m sure “Breaking Bad” fans will be happy to see Paul in particular getting to prove himself elsewhere.

17. Monuments Men

Directed by George Clooney, written by Clooney and Grant Heslov, starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville

Release date: Dec. 18, Columbia Pictures

As you can probably tell just from those credits, “Monuments Men” is probably the biggest prestige project on the horizon this year, and I would be prepared to call it a pretty clear sight-unseen Oscar contender even if it WEREN’T about WWII. Which it is. So.

Specifically, “Monuments Men” deals with an Allied group tasked with seizing art and other culturally significant items back from the Nazis before their destruction. If you’ve ever seen the documentary “The Rape of Europa,” then you might already be aware of this particularly fascinating subplot of WWII – it’ll be great to see a big Hollywood project, with all the media attention that follows Clooney and everything he touches, deal with this material.

18. Mud

Directed and written by Jeff Nichols, starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Michael Shannon

Release date: Apr. 26, Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

McConaughey seems set to continue his career resurgence with the latest by indie darling Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter”). “Mud” debuted last year at Cannes to decent reviews, but it recently played much stronger at Sundance – which perhaps isn’t too surprising, considering it’s clearly an Americana-infused thriller in the style of “Stand by Me;” Nichols’ characteristic atmosphere of paranoia with just a touch of Mark Twain. I’m guessing the action of the film is played up in that trailer, but as a big fan of “Take Shelter” (a film that stays stuck in your mind long after the lights come up), I’ll be there no matter what.

19. Only God Forgives

Directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas

Release date: 2013, Radius-TWC

After the critical success of “Drive,” re-teaming Danish director Refn with Ryan Gosling was probably inevitable. There’s still not a whole lot of plot on the table for this one yet, but it will involve Gosling as a drug smuggler in Bangkok who runs a Thai boxing club as a front for his family’s criminal organization. Scott Thomas will be Gosling’s “merciless and terrifying mafia mother,” which is absolutely something I want to see. Refn has described the film as a sort of fairy tale of hyper-realism and violence, so very much in the tradition of “Drive,” “Bronson,” “Valhalla Rising”…basically every film he has made and probably ever will make.

20. The Place Beyond the Pines

Directed by Derek Cianfrance, written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder, starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta

Release date: Mar. 29, Focus Features

Another film with Gosling re-teaming with the director of a critical hit – Cianfrance and Gosling previously made the emotionally brutal “Blue Valentine” together, although the follow-up here looks (confusingly) more like “Drive,” at least in the superficial sense of Hero Gosling using his skill with motorized vehicles for not-so-legal profit. But the parallel Bradley Cooper plot is new, and this could very well end up being the resonant crime drama that “Killing Me Softly” wasn’t.

21. Prince Avalanche

Directed and written by David Gordon Green, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch

Release date: 2013, Magnolia Pictures

Green’s career trajectory has followed a pretty bizarre path: after drawing critical praise for his small coming-of-age indie films like “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls,” he suddenly swerved into the Judd Apatow knock-off business with “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness.” But this year he returned to Sundance and small-scale projects with “Prince Avalanche,” about two highway road workers tasked with repainting traffic lines on an isolated country highway. That’s the kind of low-key character study that piques my interest, and I’m a big fan of both Rudd and Hirsch, so Green may have finagled his way back into my good graces here.

22. Saving Mr. Banks

Directed by John Lee Hancock, written by Kelly Marcel, starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Rachel Griffiths

Release date: Dec. 20, Walt Disney Pictures

It’s no surprise that Disney broke its usual mold and got involved with this prestige biographical drama – “Saving Mr. Banks” follows the negotiations between author P.L. Travers (Thompson) and Walt Disney himself (Hanks) for the film rights to Travers’ popular “Mary Poppins,” and the actual production of the musical classic. Considering Disney’s complicated (to say the least) personal history, I’m sure the studio wanted a tight leash on this one. Hopefully, Hanks will still have the wiggle room to bring some light to a controversial industry legend – if he can, we all know the Oscars love a biopic.

23. The Spectacular Now

Directed by James Ponsoldt, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, starring Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Release date: Summer 2013, A24

Critics are comparing this high-school romance (between Woodley’s shy outsider and Teller’s outgoing party guy) to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and the works of John Hughes, which is not bad company to be in at all. I’m always in favor of films that treat adolescence with the compassion, maturity and humor it deserves, rather juvenility and fart jokes.

24. Twelve Years a Slave

Directed by Steve McQueen, written by McQueen, John Ridley, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Quvanzhané Wallis, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Michael Kenneth Williams, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt, Dwight Henry, Taran Killam, Alfre Woodard

Release date: 2013, Summit Entertainment

Apparently, Steve McQueen decided that this time around he might like to cast someone other than Michael Fassbender in his movie, and was shocked to discover that literally everyone in Hollywood wanted to work with him. “12 Years a Slave” is based on the life of Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped in Washington D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. That’s some meaty material, and McQueen (“Hunger,” “Shame”) hasn’t faltered yet, so this is likely to be one of the most awaited auteur projects of the year.

25. Twenty Feet from Stardom

Directed by Morgan Neville

Release date: 2013, Radius-TWC

A big hit at Sundance, this documentary investigates the lives of some of the music industry’s most prominent backup singers, vocalists that are often responsible for some of your favorite tunes but never quite get to be in the spotlight. Sure to be entertaining and enlightening.

26. Upstream Color

Directed and written by Shane Carruth, starring Andrew Sensenig, Amy Seimetz

Release date: Apr. 5

Carruth’s 2004 debut film “Primer” was a stunning, convoluted, technically complex and philosophically confounding mess of a movie – which I intend as a complete endorsement. The sci-fi drama, made for a pittance, seemed to announce Carruth as one of the most promising directors in America. Nine years later, he’s finally returned with his follow-up, “Upstream Color,” which looks to be just as much of a mindfuck as “Primer:”

“Kris is derailed from her life when she is drugged by a small-time thief. But something bigger is going on. She is unknowingly drawn into the life cycle of a presence that permeates the microscopic world, moving to nematodes, plant life, livestock, and back again. Along the way, she finds another being—a familiar, who is equally consumed by the larger force. The two search urgently for a place of safety within each other as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of their wrecked lives.

I don’t understand a word of that, but I want to watch it.

27. The Way, Way Back

Directed and written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, starring Liam Jones, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph

Release date: 2013, Fox Searchlight

The directorial debut of Faxon (“Ben and Kate”) and Rash (“Community”), who you might remember from the time they won an Oscar (with Alexander Payne) for “The Descendants.” The coming-of-age comedy about a bored teenager who befriends the manager (Rockwell) of a water park near his family’s summer vacation home sold for a whopping $9.75 million at Sundance, so you can bet Fox Searchlight will be pushing this one hard. Considering the talented cast at their disposal, it shouldn’t take much to convince audiences.

28. The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Terence Winter, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin

Release date: late 2013, Paramount Pictures

For their fifth collaboration together, Scorsese and DiCaprio have returned to the crime/mob genre that has served the director so well in the past. DiCaprio plays a stockbroker who refuses to cooperate in a large-scale securities fraud investigation, and you have to think the studio will be gunning to nab the actor what is starting to look like his overdue first Oscar. He’ll have to tower above another deep “Departed”-esque ensemble cast.

29. The World’s End

Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright, Simon Pegg, starring Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan

Release date: Oct. 25, Universal Pictures

At last, the completion of what Wright and Pegg have dubbed the “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy, the loosely associated collection of genre parodies starring Pegg and Frost, also including the hilarious “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” “The World’s End” follows a group of friends attempting to re-create an epic pub crawl they completed as young twenty-somethings, while unwittingly becoming mankind’s only hope for survival. Again, in a year cramped with post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers (“Elysium,” “Oblivion,” “After Earth”), Wright’s comedic take on the genre should be more than welcome relief.

30. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

Directed by Alex Gibney

Release date: no distribution

Gibney has become something of a well-oiled documentary machine in recent years, cranking out acclaimed films like “Mea Maxima Culpa” (the Catholic sexual abuse scandals), “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” “Freakonomics,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and the Oscar-winning “Taxi to the Dark Side.” In a welcome development, he’s turned his eye toward WikiLeaks and one of the most bizarre, fascinating people on the planet, Julian Assanges. There are several WikiLeaks related films and mini-series arriving this year (including one starring Benedict Cumberbatch, in one of the greatest casting coups of our time), but Gibney’s take is likely to be the most objective and informative.

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