25. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, dir. David Lowery
Starring: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine, Nate Parker
If there’s one film to come out of Sundance that excites me the most, it’s this one. Writer/director David Lowery isn’t all that well known, but he has a number of editing credits under his belt, along with all of the short movies that he’s done over the years. He has Casey Affleck playing an outlaw who sets on a journey to find his wife and daughter, the latter of which he has never met. Playing alongside him will be Rooney Mara and Ben Foster, a trio of actors that share a certain intensity that should mesh well together.
24. The Monuments Men, dir. George Clooney
Starring: Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin
Release: December 20
When it comes to entertainers that direct, produce, and star in their own films, George Clooney has to be at the top of the list. Other than The Men Who Stare at Goats and Leatherheads, Clooney is one of the most consistent and reliable players in the game, no matter the position he might be playing. A film about a group of people who try to recover several pieces of artwork before they can be destroyed by Hitler, not only does this movie promise to be entertaining, it’s already in my top 5 for next year’s Oscar race. Historical? Check. Nazis? Check. They only need to slap Matt Damon or Daniel Craig in a wheelchair and they’ve got the Oscar locked up.
23. Her, dir. Spike Jonze
Starring: Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Samantha Morton
Spike Jonze is one of the busiest directors in Hollywood, but most people wouldn’t realize so. The reasoning? Counting Her, only four of his 39 directorial gigs have been feature films, which is something you simply don’t see once a director “hits it big”. This one will follow a lonely writer who develops a unique relationship with a new operating system that is supposed to meet his every need. Adams, Wilde, and Mara should make for a very intriguing young female dynamic in the movie, and I’m excited to see that Samantha Morton is back to work again.
22. August: Osage County, dir. John Wells
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale
Another film that is bound to receive all kinds of Oscar attention once we get close to the time that normal people start paying attention to that kind of stuff, an impressive cast was brought in for the adaptation of this famous play. And doing the directing will be John Wells, more well known for his producing and writing work. But he knows how to handle ensemble pieces, however, writing several West Wing episodes after Sorkin left, as well as writing and directing ER and The Company Men. He should be more than ready to handle this story of a family that must come together after their alcoholic leader disappears.
21. Nebraska, dir. Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Devin Ratray, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenirk
Alexander Payne returns to his Nebraska roots after films in Hawaii and California. And he’s doing it quite literally, as a father and his son travel from Montana to Nebraska to claim a prize that the father has won in his home state, only to run into problems when they reach the town that he grown up in. Not exactly a bunch of familiar faces here, but Payne seemingly always gets an Oscar nomination (including a couple wins) for his screenplays.
20. Stoker, dir. Chan-wook Park
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Mathew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Dermot Mulroney
Release: March 1
Known for the incredible Vengeance trilogy, Chan-wook Park is making his English language debut in this dramatic horror about a young lady (Wasikowska) who becomes infatuated with an estranged uncle who enters her life after her father dies. Nicole Kidman plays her out of control mother, something that Kidman does better than almost anybody.
19. Blood Ties, dir. Guillaume Canet
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Clive Owen, Zoe Saldana, James Cann, Billy Crudup, Matthias Schoenaerts, Lili Taylor
Although I have every reason in the world to hate him (he’s Marion Cotillard’s husband), actor-turned director Guillaume Canet has shown a great deal of promise in the films he has done so far. This time he’s making his first English language film, and has a more impressive cast to work with, headlined by his better half. The “one brother is a cop, the other is a crook” storyline has been done to death (and this is being co-written by James Gray of We Own the Night fame), all it takes is a fresh look or unique characters and it’ll still work.
18. The Fast and the Furious 6, dir. Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris
Release: May 24
One of the bigger surprises of 2011 was Fast Five, which was able to create the perfect balance of street racing and thrilling action outside of the vehicles. From everything that we’ve heard from Justin Lin, the next couple movies will move further and further away from cars being an essential part of the movie. Granted, the racing was never a bad thing, per se. I still find the first film one of the more entertaining movies to pop in and enjoy no matter what my mood is. They’re bringing back the entire gang to go to Europe, including a character previously thought dead. The decision to bring in Dwayne Johnson was one of the best decisions that Lin made in reviving these movies. And how about that trailer, eh? Here is to hoping the franchise continues down the right path.