The early months of the year are usually pretty empty when it comes to quality studio releases. But luckily for us cinephiles, the early months are jam-packed with smaller releases of long-awaited international fare and smaller indie flicks finally getting their release dates. January through April becomes an exciting time for films despite the assumption that there is nothing out there to see. Additionally, there are always several big releases that surprise with their quality, seemingly coming out of nowhere (and those that don’t come out of nowhere with solid reception such as The Grey and Haywire) with a release that could have only come during this time of the year. I think we can agree that Chronicle fits that slot. I usually have some kind of interest in the majority of releases, whether it be for genuine interest or for guilty pleasure reasons. I’m pretty surprised that my 30 is this jam-packed.I can’t think of a more internationally eclectic group of films that have ever made up one of my Anticipated Films list (and I’ve been doing these 3 times a year since 2006). I’ve got films represented in the 30 alone from the UK, Greece, Albania, Chile, Mexico, Poland, Norway, France, Japan, Turkey, Belgium, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Austria and Australia!
A lot of the films that did not make the cut I am very excited to see. For example, I think the comedic duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street looks inspired; yes I said it, inspired. Though Norwegian Wood was a book I felt would have been more meaningful to me if I read it as a teenager, I’m very interested in seeing its adaptation, and with Rinko Kikuchi no less. Just how much of a disaster will Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance be? I don’t know, but I want to see the insane end result with the Crank directors at the helm. Whether is be a passing interest (‘yeah I guess I’ll see through Netflix someday) or an active one, there’s obviously a lot coming out that looks in some way intriguing. Here are the 30 that made the cut, in order, with very short bullet point reasons.
A side note: When I list the synopsis as a reason, I should be clear that this is an element of interest with all these choices (clearly), but that the films where I cite synopsis as a reason means it particularly stands out even more so than the films I did not put it in for.
30. In Darkness
Why? New Agnieszka Holland films are a rarity.
Why? For someone pretty sick of superhero films, this sounds like a nice change of pace that seems to embrace the inherent and realistic selfishness of people. The warm reception solidifies its spot.
Why? Richard Linklater, synopsis and Jack Black doing something I am actually interested in that does not include voicing an animated panda.
27. The Hunter
Why? Willem Dafoe, synopsis. While not the biggest fan of Sleeping Beauty, I love Julia Leigh’s ideas and want to see a work of hers adapted for the screen by someone more capable of filming it than Leigh herself.
26. Friends with Kids
Why? The cast which includes Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph and the delectable Jon Hamm. Only concern is Westfeldt as lead; not really a commanding presence but we shall see. Plus, it’s her project so she has every right to place herself front-and-center.
25. The Kid with a Bike
Why? Dardenne Brothers, acclaim build-up since Cannes, Cecile de France and Jeremie Renier.
24. Post Mortem
Why? Synopsis. Although I haven’t seen Tony Manero, I know of its acclaim and that Pablo Larrain is one to watch judging by the formers praise.
23. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Why? It’s placement on countless 2011 film lists from those who had seen it, its universal acclaim
22. The Innkeepers
Why? Ti West’s follow-up to The House of the Devil, been making the rounds since SXSW premiere last March, divisive opinions have me further intrigued (although I don’t know the specifics; a new-years resolution is to read less about a film’s reception before seeing it. Nothing really beyond basic critical reaction is my goal)
21. The Woman in Black
Why? Daniel Radcliffe’s first onscreen post-Potter role, Hammer Films output, looks like an entirely old-fashioned ghost story relying on atmosphere which pulls me in, James Watkins (director of Eden Lake which I failed to get to this past October, but who I assume is a director with some kind of credibility)
Why? Synopsis, critical reception
19. Haywire (seen)
Why? Building a film around a female MMA retiree for the sole purpose of exhibiting her physical skills, Steveb Soderbergh, ensemble cast
18. The Secret World of Arietty
Why? Studio Ghibli
17. The Forgiveness of Blood
Why? Synopsis, Joshua Marston’s nine-year after-the-fact follow-up to Maria Full of Grace
16. The Deep Blue Sea
Why? Terence Davies, months and months of festival buzz build-up, based on a Terence Rattigan play, Tom Hiddleston
Why? The endless comparisons (both favorable and unfavorable) to Dogtooth, hearing about this film for the year and a half since its first festival premiere and having wanted to see it way back then.
14. Miss Bala
Why? Synopsis, critical reception
Why? Festival acclaim, made by Haneke’s casting director, intrigued by use of controversial subject matter
12. Cabin in the Woods
Why? Joss Whedon’s involvement, finally getting released after years of sitting on the shelf, Amy Acker, synopsis, genre
Why? Festival buzz, while I don’t pay much heed to IMDB scores, when something has a 7.5 from 5,000 votes I take notice, based on a Jo Nesbo novel whose novels I haven’t read but is very well-renowned meaning this is assumedly based on solid source material, Nikolas Coster-Waldau is the Norwegian Josh Holloway (and also the luscious Jaime Lannister).
10. Bully (documentary)
Why? Extremely important and timely subject matter that needs exploration and at the very least addressing in all forms including the documentary medium.
Why? Synopsis, buzz, critical reception
8. Crazy Horse (documentary)
Why? Two words; Frederick. Wiseman.
7. This is Not a Film (documentary)
Why? I shouldn’t even have to give reasons here. If the fact that this is absolutely necessary to see does not slam you over the film once you’ve got the proper context for its existence, then I just don’t want to know you.
6. The Raid
Why? Been wanting to drown my eyeballs in this since its reaction at Toronto and subsequent trailer release, exactly the kind of genre flick I anticipate
Why? Yet another film I’ve been waiting to see for quite some time (tracking back at the very least to Toronto; see this is why this time of year is awesome, because all these festival films I’ve been waiting to see for months finally get released), synopsis, acclaim
4. Sound of My Voice
Why? Synopsis, the first of two collaborative efforts (each of slightly different sorts) between Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij whose upcoming similarly cult-infiltration based The East is one of my very highly anticipated upcoming films, early buzz.
3. Damsels in Distress
Why? Whit Stillman’s first film in an incomprehensible 14 years. Enough said.
2. Kill List
Why? Since hearing about this from last years SXSW this has been at the top of my highly anticipated films, all-over-the-map critical reaction, hush-hush “Don’t read anything about it, just go see it” comments
1. The Hunger Games
Why? Not at all sorry to break it to you folks, but I’m a “Hunger Games” fan, which clearly means I am more excited about this than anything else coming out through April. With Gary Ross at the helm and Billy Ray being a screenplay contributor (not to mention the quality of the images and footage seen thus far), you can bet I’m counting down the days for this. And I feel bad for anybody willing to immediately write it off.
The rest (in alphabetical order):
21 Jump Street
4:44 Last Day on Earth
Casa de mi Padre
Chico and Rita
Declaration of War
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
House at the End of the Street
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
On the Ice
Pirates! Band of Misfits
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The Decoy Bride
The Five-Year Engagement
The Front Line
The Moth Diaries
The Salt of Life
The Turin Horse