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Winter Movie Preview 2013

Bring out the turkey, the presents and the Oscar-worthy dramas — 'tis the season! And as with any season, the Entertainment Fuse staff has the low down on all the most buzzed-about movies between now and Dec. 31.

Once again, we've all made top 10 lists (and checked them twice) of our most anticipated movies and have combined them into a staff top 10. Which movie is our most anticipated of the season? What movies have you maybe never even heard of that cracked the list? We also include our individual critic's picks, one film we're each interested in that didn't make the group's top 10. Check it all out below and let us know what you're most excited to see.

10. Mama (Jan. 18)

If things pan out as currently predicted for Ms. Jessica Chastain, she will walk towards the remainder of 2013 a Best Actress Oscar winner. Following, however, will be the staple of the perfunctory-horror-film-for-the-rising-star, though the talent at play, premise and eerie trailers are more intriguing than most.  The general vagueness of the promotional material is actually another compelling aspect as it’s made unclear if the horror aspect will be entirely centered around two creepy kids, or if Chastain’s character has the more significant role when all is said and done. The simple fact that this film is expanded from a short by a first-time director (name: Andrés Muschietti) adds a significant spark and grounded cause for interest. ~Simon


Directed by Andrés Muschietti
Written by Neil Cross
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Carpenter  


Simon's Critic's Pick: Dark Skies (Feb. 22)

Rarely (if ever) do we see an alien invasion movie blended with normal horror tropes, and when they do appear the result can be less than gratifying (*cough* The Fourth Kind *barf*). Despite the abundant genre clichés in the trailer (pseudo priest, tortured child, perpetrator-less break-in’s, etc) Kerri Russell’s presence and some cool visuals have my interest piqued, even when the fact Dark Skies is directed by the man who brought us Legion and Priest does not.


Dark Skies
Directed by Scott Stewart
Directed by Scott Stewart
Starring: Kerri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goya



9. Identity Thief (Feb. 8)

Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses didn’t quite hit the funny bone for me as it did for others, but something still seems special about his follow-up, Identity Thief.

And that would be the leading duo of Melissa McCarthy and Jason Betman. In Identity Thief, the former steals the identity of the latter, leading Bateman to hunt down the one who’s maxing out his credit cards on lavish purchases. Yes, Identity Thief sounds completely absurd, but in a comedy starring these two, what do you expect? And what’s a comedy if it can’t go over the top?

This is nothing particularly new for McCarthy and Bateman, whose previous work thrives on similar character types. But while they seem to play inside their usual realm of straight vs. funny, but how can it hurt when they’re so good at it? Let’s just hope the script and supporting cast admirably take to the challenge as the hijinks ensue. ~Donovan

Identity Thief
Directed by Seth Gordon
Written by Craig Mazin (screenplay and story), Jerry Eeten (story)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet



Donovan's Critic's Pick: Quartet (Jan. 11)

Like the Maggie Smith-starrer, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, before it, Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet will serve as a cinematic refuge for audiences of a certain age who aren’t interested in fake guts, special effects, and jokes about weed. Smith plays a diva (hard to believe, right?) who disturbs the peace at a home for retired opera singers upon her arrival since her ex, played by Tom Courtenay, lives there.

The terrific actress’s performance serves as the primary reason for my anticipation, but those around her – Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, and Courtenay – aren’t bad names to drop into the equation either. Though I’m not of a certain age, it’s nice to see this film get a release in an age where “comedy” is often nothing more than a game of who can be the loudest. 

This could be Marigold Hotel all over again, but perhaps there’s something special about this little comedy after all.

Directed by Dustin Hoffman
Directed by Ronald Harwood (screenplay and play)
Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Derek Connolly



8. Side Effects (Feb. 8)

Ads about drug addiction and dependency fill the airwaves, but they tend to be more laughable than anything else despite the urgency of the message. Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming thriller, Side Effects, looks to examine the problem with a little more suspense and intrigue – and hopefully a little less cheesiness.

The director teams with his Contagion scripter Scott Z. Burns to examine a woman’s addiction to prescription drugs – more specifically, the effect it has on her life and the lives of those around her. Rooney Mara leads as the addict, with Jude Law as her psychiatrist and Channing Tatum as her husband. This is the actress’s first time working with Soderbergh, and it’s likely her last when it comes to theatrical releases since Side Effects looks to be the director’s last film to hit theaters.

Mara more than capably led David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so she should be an impressive presence here as well. The supporting cast around Mara, which includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, isn’t shabby either. There are less central characters this time around, so hopefully it’s a bit more focused than Contagion. Given Soderbergh’s résumé, we can expect him to go out with a bang. ~Donovan

Side Effects
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones



7. Broken City (Jan. 18)

Mark Wahlberg is running to become mayor of January movies. Liam Neeson is ahead in the polls; In their head-to-head matchup last year, The Grey demolished Contraband (if not in terms of box office then certainly when it comes to artistic merits). But old Qui-Gon is away from the screen this month, so Marky Mark has the chance to make up some ground with this solid-looking thriller.

Allen Hughes (of The Hughes Brothers fame) directs, and Wahlberg plays a former NYPD officer who stumbles upon a major crime while secretly trailing the wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of the Big Apple's mayor (Russell Crowe, who we don't expect to be singing at all, so fear not).

It's actually Crowe's participation that's got us most excited. Wahlberg doesn't choose them like he used to, and Hughes is working without his brother for the first time. Good old Maximus, though. That's a surprise for a dime-a-dozen January thriller. Plus, the trailer looks half-decent, and Hughes certainly knows how to beef up a film's atmosphere (his credits include From Hell and The Book of Eli). So we'll see. ~John

Broken City
Directed by Allen Hughes
Written by Brian Tucker
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine Zeta-Jones




John's Critic's Pick: Stand Up Guys (Feb. 1)

It's not as if Al Pacino or Christopher Walken is enough to get one excited about a film nowadays. They've made too many questionable choices over the past decade. But the promise of them together - and teaming with Argo's Alan Arkin - should be enough to make your ears perk up.

Based on an original screenplay by a first-time screenwriter, Stand Up Guys tells the story of a trio of septogenarian gangsters. Pacino is getting released from prison after serving nearly thirty years for a shootout. Walken plays his best friend who's given the order to kill Pacino within 24 hours of his release. But Pacino went to jail for so long because he didn't rat Walken and Arkin out. Will Walken be a "stand-up guy" like his friend? Will he take the fall and refuse to kill him?

Stand Up Guys
Directed by Fisher Stevens
Written by Noah Haidle
Starring: Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Walken



6. Warm Bodies (Feb. 1)

More zombies are coming — again. You’re probably tired of the genre by now just like we all were with vampires any time in the last three years, but Warm Bodies might convince you otherwise, and fast.

This zom-rom-com stars X-Men: First Class and Jack the Giant Slayer’s Nicholas Hoult as a member of the living dead who starts to become more human again when he takes to an attractive young lady (Teresa Palmer) and helps her and her father fight an army of truly carnal undead. No, it’s not a Twilight-style romance: Warm Bodies was adapted and directed by Jonathan Levine, whose superb 50/50 was one of our favorite films of 2011. This film actual has a sense of humor and style.

John Malkovich, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco (21 Jump Street) and Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) co-star in this one, which shows definite promise if for no other reason than it clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. ~Steven

Warm Bodies
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Written by Jonathan Levine, Isaac Marion (novel)
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry




5. Movie 43 (Jan. 25)

The last mainstream vignette-style comedy I was subjected to was 2007’s The Ten which attempted to spin the lore of The Ten Commandments on its head, and needless to say, “subjected to” are the correct terms. Movie 43 on the other hand had me guffawing with ease at its red band trailers and solidly impressed by its cast which includes (among many others) Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, Elizabeth Banks, Gerard Butler, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry and Richard Gere. The utter crudeness of it all combined with the unbelievable cast can offer nothing but optimism regarding this comedy, and despite the iffy nature of the subgenre, the attempt in itself is reason to be optimistic. ~Simon

Movie 43
Directed by Peter Farelly, Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, James Gunn, Brett Ratner
Written by Steve Baker, Rocky Russo
Starring: Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, Elizabeth Banks, Gerard Butler, Kate Winslet




4. A Good Day to Die Hard (Feb. 14)

What's great about the fifth film in the John McClane saga is that there's no pretense. We don't need to kid ourselves about this one going in. Die Hard, of course, is a landmark film—one of the very best action movies ever. Its sequels have gotten progressively trashier over time. Now, its promotional materials include the tagline "Yippie Ki-Yay Mother Russia". Yes, that's the kind of series it is now.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, how many times can the same guy—a guy who, in the first film, was an ordinary citizen, mind you—save the world without a little tongue-in-cheek self-awareness thrown in?

But this entry is directed by John Moore—best known for nonsense like Max Payne and Flight of the Phoenix. And the screenplay comes courtesy of Skip Woods—best known for such cinematic gems as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hitman, and Swordfish. Yep, this is what's become of John McClane—the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey. But at least we'll get to see some stuff blow up. Yes, lots of stuff will explode in this movie. ~John

A Good Day to Die Hard
Directed by John Moore
Written by Skip Woods
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead




3. Promised Land (Jan. 4 - expansion)

Matt Damon is an Academy Award winning writer as a well as a Hollywood star and Promised Land sees his return to screenwriting, his partner this time role being The Office star John Krasinski. Damon also reunites with his Good Will Hunting director Gus van Sant.

Damon stars as Steve Butler, a natural gas salesman who goes to small rural town to buy drilling rights for the controversial process of flacking. Butler promises jobs and a bigger tax intake which would improve the town’s economy and public services: but local campaign protest against flacking because the environmental threat. As the deal becomes more difficult Butler falls for a local teacher, Alice (Rosemaire DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married), in a film that explores more than flacking but also the changing nature of rural and small town America. ~ Kieran

Promised Land
Directed by Gus van Sant
Written by John Krasinski, Matt Damon (screenplay), Dave Eggers (story)
Starring: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt




Kieran's Critic's Pick: Parker (Jan. 25)

Jason “The Stath” Statham is one of the few genuine action stars remaining in Hollywood and his movies ofter bone crunching violence. Parker seems to be an interesting project, based on Donald E. Westlake’s popular character who has appeared in 24 novels, and Statham is being supported by Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Jennifer Lopez and Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek) and it was directed by the Oscar nominated director of Ray, Taylor Hackford. Plus Statham attempts a Texan accent.

Based on Westlake’s novel, Flashfire, Parker (Statham) is a thief who lives by his own moral code: he never steals from the poor and does not hurt innocent people. But when he is left for dead by his old crew led by Melander (Chiklis) he sets out to get revenge by stealing his planning to steal their next big heist. Parker gets the help of one of his former victims, Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) to help him with his heist.

Hopefully this would be a movie that supplies action thrills from a capable director and January releases are not notorious pieces they use to be.

Directed by Taylor Hackford
Written by John J. McLaughlin (screenplay), Donald E. Westlake (novel)
Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis



2. Gangster Squad (Jan. 11)

Although the tragic shooting of several people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. devastated the entire country, the impact of this massacre at The Dark Knight Rises midnight showing had a particularly hurtful effect on the movie community, blurring the line between fiction and real life.

As such, Warner Bros. yanked Gangster Squad from its fall lineup as a pivotal scene involved shooting in a movie theater. The film was rewritten and another scene shot in its place. How will it affect the quality of Ruben Fleischer’s third feature film? I guess we’ll never know truly know (Blu-ray feature please), but what a nice addition to an otherwise dull January slate.

The film is a slicker, more action-oriented period mob tale about a a special group of L.A.P.D. officers that stoop below the law in order to do what it takes to keep East Coast mafia man Mickey Cohen and his influence out of Los Angeles. The star-studded cast includes Milk co-stars Josh Brolin and Sean Penn as the anchors, but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play love interests if you’re looking for a reason to convince your girlfriend to go. ~Steven

Gangster Squad
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Written by Will Beall, Paul Lieberman (book)
Starring: Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte



Steven’s Critic’s Pick: The Last Stand (Jan. 18)

There’s only one thing you need to know about my interest in this film: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the role of action star. I otherwise couldn’t care less about the film, and neither could you, most likely. But for now, let’s say we do.

The Last Stand tells the story of a sheriff (Schwarzenegger) and his band of misfit cops that include Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville of all people, and how their town becomes the FBI’s last chance to keep the escaped leader of a drug cartel from crossing over the border into Mexico. It’s a simple action setup that if done well could be a nice cinematic distraction.

South Korea’s Jee-Woon Kim directs (I Saw the Devil, The Good, The Bad, The Weird), which could be a nice change of pace from Hollywood action sensibilities. The original script comes from rookie writer Andrew Knauer with a rewriter from the guy who wrote The Day After Tomorrow and Don Cheadle film Traitor and supervision from The Adjustment Bureau’s George Nolfi. I’ll be optimistic.

The Last Stand
Directed by Jee-Woon Kim
Written by Andrew Knauer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, George Nolfi (supervisor)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eduardo Noriega, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzman



1. Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 25)

Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow’s and Mark Boal’s big follow up to their Oscar winning movie The Hurt Locker and it is already looking like of the movies of the year, winning and being nominated for a number of critics’ awards and four Golden Globes (and boosts a stellar 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

Bigelow ensembles a top cast top cast for her action thrillerMark Strong, Joe Edgerton (Warrior) Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Jason Clarke (Lawless), James Gandolifini and Frank Grillo (Warrior)just to name a few. And all of them are led by Jessica Chastain, who is one of the favorites to be nominated for Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the decade long search for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. One of the main members of the search team is CIA analyist Maya (Chastain), who retains her determination to eliminate bin Laden for en entire decade.

Zero Dark Thirty has been met with controversy over its use of torture and the "over-access" the filmmakers had to classified material, but if it even half as successful as The Hurt Locker we are in for a cinematic treat.  And like The Social Network, Zero Dark Thirty have a cover song sung by the Belgian choir group Scala. ~Kieran

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton



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