Back in December I did a post on the 35 mainstream films I want to watch this year, so here's a follow up that features a bunch of World Cinema and indie titles, all of which I am desperate to watch. I didn't include these films in the earlier post because they were either not announced then or were not confirmed to release this year.
26 - The Grandmasters
Presumably named after its own director Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmasters is an ultra-ambitious super duper slick action movie about IP Man, the guy who trained Bruce Lee. If the star cast of Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang doesn’t impress you, then this trailer certainly will. It remains to be seen how well Kar-Wai handles action, since his forte is very strong character based dramas.
25 - The Place Beyond the Pines
After taking Cannes by storm in 2010 with the heartbreaking Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance reunites with star Ryan Gosling in a Drive-esque story of a motorbike stuntman who gets embroiled in a crime. The film also stars Hangover’s Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta.
24) [REC 3]: Genesis
The original [REC] by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza redefined the zombie horror genre with tense, atmospheric, raw found footage thrills. They followed it up with the more action packed [REC 2] which nicely built up a twisted mythology. [REC 3]: Genesis is a quasi-prequel made by Plaza that jumps both forwards and backwards in time, and leads up to Balaguero’s finale [REC 4] that arrives next year. The final fifteen minutes of the first [REC] were by far the most frightening images captured on film, and though I doubt that [REC 3] would be as good, there’s no denying that I’d camp outside the hall to watch it.
23 - Ramin Bahrani’s Next
The director of the magnificent Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo is back with a new yet untitled movie that finished filming last year and is reportedly in post-production. Bahrani would most likely keep his signature minimalistic style here, but the only problem seems to be its unspectacular mainstream cast of Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron and Heather Graham.
22 - Elefante Blanco
Starring the excellent Ricardo Darin whom I like to call the Stellan Skarsgard of Argentina, Elefante Blanco centers on two priests who survive an attack in Central America and team with a woman, Luciana, to fight corruption. Those not familiar with director Pablo Trapero should watch his lovely Carancho, which is currently being remade in Hollywood.
21 - Room 237
Tailor-made for film critics and ravenous film buffs, Room 237 is an intriguing experimental documentary that dissects and explores the dozens of theories and the hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. The film is directed by Rodney Ascher and has received insane buzz around the festival circuits with some reviews claiming it to be a fanatical, wonderfully freaky and at times hilarious analysis.
20 - The Imposter
The Imposter is an interesting documentary drama about the real life antics of Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year-old French man who posed as the 16-year-old son of an American family who had been missing for three years. Most reviews have been positive, and as per this one, The Imposter is a surreal, stupefying film that manages to be entertaining while appalling at the same time.
19 - Sinister
Director Scott Derrickson made the entertaining The Exorcism of Emily Rose a few years ago and followed it up with the horrid remake of The day the earth stood still. However his latest Sinister arrived out of nowhere and is getting some great reviews, thanks partly to its secret SXSW screening. The film, starring Ethan Hawke is apparently a fun twist on the found footage genre and is clever and creepy enough to rise above the genre’s dreck.
18 - Marley
A documentary on Bob Marley wouldn’t be so intriguing had it not been directed by The Last King of Scotland and State of Play director Kevin Macdonald. Even if it doesn’t carry the emotional pizzazz of last year’s Senna, it’s sure to have an excellent soundtrack. Mcdonald also edited last year’s dazzling experiment Life in a Day, and as per the trailer Marley looks like an equally snazzy film.
17 - 28 Hotel Rooms
This film grabbed a lot of eyeballs at Sundance a couple of months ago, and my interest levels only increased after watching this amazing (NSFW) trailer. The movie features just two characters, a novelist and an accountant who meet for a one night stand at a hotel while traveling for work. The entire movie is literally set in hotel rooms as the characters’ relationship develops into something much more complicated over 28 nights. Reviews suggest that the film is 'endlessly intriguing'.
16 - Safety Not Guaranteed
Starring Aubrey Plaza (the geeky comedienne from Funny People), Safety Not Guaranteed is supposedly a weirdly entertaining mix of (500) Days of Summer, Back to the Future and Donnie Darko made like a John Hughes film. The movie got some people roving crazy at SXSW and looks like it might be this year’s 50/50.
15 - Rust and Bone
Director Jacques Audiard’s follow up to the brilliant A Prophet stars Marion Cotillard. Nothing much is known about the film but that may change when it screens at the upcoming Cannes film festival.
14 - The Tall Man
Pascal Laugier made a splash when he splashed dozens of liters of blood and violence upon our faces in the stunning Martyrs, the mad man is back with another horror thriller called The Tall Man. The story revolves around a mother searching for her lost child who has been abducted by some monster out on the streets. The film stars Jessica Biel, but with Pascal at the helm it would be hard not to be unsettled and entertained in the most nightmarish way possible.
13 - Cogan’s Trade aka Killing them Softly
Starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Sam Shepard, Killing them softly is directed by Andrew Dominik who made the underrated The Assassination of Jesse James. The film was shot over a year ago and is supposedly ‘pure pulp entertainment’ in the form of an action comedy mob heist movie.
12 - Welcome to the Punch
Welcome to the punch is a thriller about an Icelandic crime lord who arrives in the US after a botched heist, only to team up with a London detective who had been chasing him to uncover a large conspiracy. The film stars the awesome James McAvoy and the even more awesome Mark Strong – Eran Creevy’s script was part of the famous Brit List.
11 - Nero Fiddled
Could Woody Allen possibly top last year’s enchanting Midnight in Paris? Could be possible because Allen has rounded up a cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Robert Begnini, and himself in a new film set in Rome. Not much is known about the story, apart from the fact that it is a romantic comedy split in four parts and that all the tales are interwoven.
10 - On The Road
The Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles is back with another road trip drama, this time with an all-star cast of Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard and more. On the Road is based on the famous Jack Kerouac novel that was among Time’s 100 best English novels of the 20th century. The other draw of On the Road is that Gustavo Santaolalla has composed the music.
9 - The We and the I
Legendary director Michel Gondry failed at commercial mainstream with Green Hornet but that was a blessing in disguise seeing as he has gone back to his indie low-fi roots. The We and the I revolves around a group of school kids who travel into the future by mistake and discover a machine that keeps people younger. The film was shot last year and Gondry is already busy with his next movie Mood Indigo with Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Léa Seydoux, and Gad Elmaleh.
8 - Only God Forgives
Nicholas Winding Refn reuinites with his Drive star Ryan Gosling for an even more explosively violent slicing and dicing swordplay movie set in Thailand. Gosling plays a boxing club owner who also runs his family business of running drugs and gets entangled in a vengeful bloodthirsty quest to find the killer of his brother. The film takes place mostly at night and is apparently a combination of Refn’s Drive, Bronson and Valhalla Rising in terms of tone and lighting.
7 - This is not a Film
Acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been jailed and banned by the Iranian government from making films because he had spoken against the country’s regime in 2009. In 2010 when he was under house arrest Panahi shot this film that chronicles his own life of house arrest and the lack of creative freedom in the country. The film was shot secretively on small cameras and even an iPhone, and was smuggled out of the country as a USB stick hidden in a cake. Panahi's risky work has paid off because reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
6 - The Raid
A Welsh filmmaker and a Thai producer saw Tropa De Elite and thought 'heck, we can do better than this'. Behold The Raid - an action film that has been described as a nonstop action bonanza that will kick you in the head and make you like it. Martial arts actor Iko Uwais could just be the next Tony Jaa, and director Gareth Evans has already begun work on a sequel. Still not convinced? Watch THIS trailer and have your mind blown.
5 - Sleepless Night
Frederick Jardin’s French film Sleepless Night has been described as a sort of Die Hard (in a nightclub) meets Taken - the claustrophobic film is set in one night and revolves around an undercover cop who is desperate to get back his son who is kidnapped by a drug-dealing nightclub owner. The movie got glowing reviews at last year’s TIFF and has been hailed as the best French action movie of the decade.
4 - Zero Dark Thirty
Initially titled Kill Bin Laden, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty chronicles the Seal Team 6 and the mission that they were sent on to find and kill the man in Abbotabad. The movie stars Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, and has begun shooting after months of extensive prep. A part of the film was to be shot in India but problems arose when a right wing Hindu group protested against a Chandigarh set doubling as Pakistan. The film is scheduled to release on December 19, and if you’d like to know how the film would play out, you can read about the entire Bin Laden mission in detail here.
3 - V/H/S
V/H/S is a horror anthology found footage movie that has been described as ‘genius’, ‘utterly terrifying’ and that it reinvents all kinds of genres. The plot is suitably intriguing as hell – a bunch of thieves are hired by a mysterious person to rob a deserted house, where they stumble across a VHS tape containing footage that is beyond their wildest nightmares. The segments are directed by cult filmmakers Ti West (House Of The Devil), David Bruckner (The Signal), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell The Dead), Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs), Adam Wingard (You’re Next).
2 - Holly Motors
The ingenious Leos Carax, the Terrence Malick of France makes a return to cinema thirteen long years after his deliciously crazy Pola X. Holly Motors stars Denis Lavant, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue and is about a man who can travel between multiple parallel lives – including a murderer, a beggar, a CEO, a monster and a father. The sci fi romantic drama seems like an amalgam of his masterpiece Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and the futuristic Bad Blood.
1 - Stoker
The granddaddy of them all – Korean maestro Park Chan wook makes his English language debut with Stoker, a strange tale of a man who after his brother’s death moves in to stay with his niece and her mentally unstable mother. Mia Wasikowska plays the girl with Nicole Kidman playing her mother and Matthew Goode as the mysterious estranged uncle with a creepy secret. With a resume that reads Oldboy, Thirst, The Vengeance films, Chan wook’s new film becomes the other side of The Dark Knight Rises as my most anticipated movie of the year.
Honorable Mention: Pieta. Director Kim Ki-duk does one film every year, and if you’ve seen 3-Iron, The Isle, Bad Guy, Spring Summer, you’d know that it becomes impossible to not want to watch his movies.