Ten Taste Tests: upcoming releases 2013

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Okay so the hype of the new Superman remake is just beginning to fade away, and it was nothing short of crazy around area theaters here and certainly around the blogosphere. I’ve seen so many excellent posts from all kinds of different points of view — reviews have varied from gushing raves to disapproving rants, and that’s to be expected with a cinematic event as big as Man of Steel. Needless to say, we probably won’t be experiencing buzzes quite that strong for a little while. (Maybe Anchorman 2 being tacked on to the end of this calendar might get people talking again, but I seriously doubt that even that will reach Man of Steel levels.)

In the spirit of raising hell again, I now would like to discuss and highlight a few upcoming releases that are showing promise. At the very least, their trailers look very, very good, as do their casts. These are all films that will be coming out this year (theoretically, if nothing goes wrong in production or pre- and post- stages, that is).

Without further ado, I give you my first Ten Taste Tests:

THE WAY, WAY BACK (my review is here)

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Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb.

Director(s) Nat Faxon; Jim Rash

Expected Release July 5, 2013

IMDb: “Over the course of his summer break, a teenager comes into his own thanks in part to the friendship he strikes up with one of the park’s managers.”

FIRST BITES  It would appear Carell is back to some silver screen version of his Michael Scott self, playing the part of a jerk for a (step)father who doesn’t quite understand what’s up with the son he’s just inherited. Fourteen-year-old Duncan, played by Liam James, winds up striking up a relationship with a friendly water park official who shows him a thing or two about the nature of growing pains and forming relationships, as awkward as that can be sometimes. I spy a great and charming performance from Sam Rockwell and Liam James. We’ll see about the rest. Hopefully this will turn out to be as good as the trailer suggests.

Rorschach Reviews had this to say about it: “Between a dynamite supporting cast and incredibly rich character development, the emotional and comedic punches doled out by The Way Way Back make it a strong contender for my new favorite movie of the year.

Mark at Fast Film Reviews was similarly enthusiastic: “I know it’s only July, but is it too early to start talking Academy Awards?The Way Way Back enchants not with action, or special effects. It captivates because it concerns people, authentic people who yearn, hurt, care, and love.

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ONLY GOD FORGIVES (my review is here)

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Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn / / DriveBronson

Expected Release July 19, 2013

IMDb: “Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.”

FIRST BITES  Well I’m going to be honest here and say that my primary motivation for seeing this is because of its terrible critical reception at Cannes — this film was booed. What I’m not sure of (and won’t be until I see it, of course) is whether it did poorly because A) it borrows far too much from Winding Refn’s considerably successful Drive (which I’m fearing might be the case); B) there’s “too much violence,” C) the film is just boring. . . AND excessively violent, or D) the Cannes film committee is a bunch of pretentious snobs who don’t know what to look for in a good film. That last one is a little bit of an inaccurate generalization, but I don’t care. I’m waiting to see this thing so I can make up my own mind.

Eric Isaacs over at Isaacs Picture Conclusions wasn’t exactly psyched about the way procedures went down here: “More painful and worse than an ingrown hair in your eyebrow, here comes a movie about people staring at each other for an hour and a f**king half.”

. . .while Mark from Marked Movies seemed to be able to find the goodness in Refn’s bold new vision: “Anyone familiar with Winding Refn movies, will quickly realise that this type of filmmaking is actually the norm for him and much closer to his idiosyncratic style than “Drive” ever was. It’s filled with symbolism, metaphors and spirituality and categorically, it simply isn’t the action movie that most viewers were expecting.”

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THE WOLVERINE (my review is here)

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Starring Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee.

Director James Mangold / / Knight and Day; Walk The Line; Girl, Interrupted

Expected Release July 26, 2013

IMDb: “Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact his future.”

FIRST BITES  I love you, IMDb, and your frequently vague plot summaries. Hugh Jackman looks like he’s back, only this time he’s going to be taking things a little more seriously. I was not among those who despised X-Men: Origins, but I certainly thought it could have been better as well. The James Mangold direction looks to put a much darker, and dramatic spin on the story of the most iconic members of the X Men, and should be exhilarating in the extreme. (I hope.) My hopes are high for this one since I have rather enjoyed the previous X Men films, but this one has an entirely different feel altogether. Can’t wait.

Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews was excited about the new stylistic changes to this superhero film: “Something felt different about this movie right from the start, and I think it has to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. All movies, especially superhero ones, should be moving forward with their story and that’s why I knew I was off on a good foot with this flick and ready for an unforgettable ride. That’s exactly what I got, if not more.

Brad on Hard Ticket to Home Video thought: “Oh what could’ve been…

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2 GUNS (my review is here)

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Starring Marky Mark, Denzel Washington.

Director Baltasar Kormákur / / Contraband

Expected Release August 2, 2013

IMDb: “A DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been tasked with investigating one another find they have been set up by the mob — the very organization the two men believe they have been stealing money from.”

FIRST BITES  Here comes a whiter version of Bad Boys….well, not really I guess since one of the leads is also black. But I get the impression the blossoming buddy-buddy relationship here will be well-worn, but hilarious in almost every sense of the standard action flick, self-deprecating kind of way. The plot just sounds funny itself, and has the appearance of being able to serve up equal doses of great action and good one-liners. Hopefully there’ll be a little more to it than that that will help distinguish this upcoming adventure from the lot of other attempts which possess just as generic a title as this does. Bring it August!!!

Colin had this to say about the flick on The Cinematic Katzenjammer: “I haven’t been a fan of Kormakur through the years, especially not liking last year’s Contraband all that much, but here he seems to find a middle ground that suits him. Of course, that is comparing a buddy-cop movie to a sinister crime-drama, but it’s clear what Kormakur has a better eye for.

And Issy at The Filmster said: “2 Guns contains too many villains and too many plot twists, to blow your mind but the two stars keeps things entertaining.

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ELYSIUM (my review is here)

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Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner.

Director Neill Blomkamp / / District 9

Expected Release August 9, 2013

IMDb: “Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.”

FIRST BITES  There’s just something very cool about the way they have emphasized the style for Elysium. I’m seeing a blend of the dystopian injustices of District 9 with the futuristic vision of Oblivion. Hopefully Blomkamp will recreate his intelligent story creations for his 2013 project; with Matt Damon in the lead along with the exceedingly talented Jodie Foster, I see few reasons why I should be let down by this film. Elysium seems to bring a quality we have been missing in other sci-fi flicks as of late.

Fogs Movie Reviews thought: “Elysium is worth checking out for some of the spectacle, and it is still a decent enough sci-fi action film, but I can’t help but feel let down by how run of the mill it wound up feeling to me.

And Dustin of Sunday Dumb Day said this about the big sci-fi release: “It was a fun movie but I thought this was going to be the Summer Blockbuster I’ve been waiting for. It wasn’t.

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AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS

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Starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster.

Director David Lowery

Expected Release August 16, 2013

IMDb: “The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.”

FIRST BITES  I see a film that is going to be rich in its storytelling, passionate in the acting (I’m not that familiar with Casey Affleck outside of his role in American Pie and Ocean’s Eleven, but I do know that I love Rooney Mara’s interesting role choices), and low-key in the big-action department, which is not the same thing as saying it won’t be dramatic or compelling. I think this will be a relatively “quiet,” focused film that will find its rhythm in unexpected ways. Very much looking forward to this one.

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RUSH (my review is here)

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Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde.

Director Ron Howard / / Frost/NixonA Beautiful MindApollo 13

Expected Release September 20, 2013

IMDb: “A biography of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Mere weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel to challenge his rival James Hunt.”

FIRST BITES  Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. I can’t describe in words my level of excitement for this thing. Two very important reasons that shall trump any others for why this film should and will be fantastic: A) the director’s chair has the name ‘Ron Howard’ written across the back of it; and B) the film’s plot is compelling. In Rush, we’re going to experience the remarkable recovery of Ferrari driver Nicki Lauda who survived a terrible crash during a race, only to return to the track a mere month later and win it all. Aside from Howard’s disastrous The Dilemma, this man has never led us astray with his sure-handed camerawork as a director. A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, and Apollo 13 benefit from matured, intellectually stimulating direction and gorgeous cinematography. Imagine what the guy is going to do with cars that are both visually stimulating without cameras, and faster beyond reasonable comprehension. I wait with bated breaths. .  .

Also, thanks to an article posted by Shane over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer for being the first place I saw a trailer for this; it changed my entire outlook for the rest of this year at the movies!

Mikey over at Screenkicker! was impressed by Ron Howard’s return to form: “Rush is an inspiring, funny, brilliantly acted, love letter to male rivalry and friendship and is well worth watching. It won’t change your life but it will bring a smile to your face and make your heart beat a bit faster when you see the races in action.

And Filmbird Reviews also took kindly to Howard’s approach to racing films: “I went to an advanced screening of Rush hoping that it was good, but also hoping that my severe dislike of Formula 1 wasn’t going to put a dampener on things. It certainly didn’t – Rush turned out to be an incredible film. The best I’ve seen all year.

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GRAVITY (my review is here)

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Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris.

Director Alfonso Cuarón / / Children of MenHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Expected Release October 4, 2013

IMDb: “Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in space.”

FIRST BITES  At first when I saw this trailer I laughed pretty hard at the grand silence surrounding Bullock’s simple cry for help in that space suit. I know that’s not the right response, but the idea behind Gravity seems absurdly limited. What happens to a crew aboard a space shuttle that suffers damage from space debris? How do they get home, or even — can they? I have to say that the drama potential for this has almost no limits, and I am very curious about how Alfonso Cuarón can pull this off. I guess we’ll have to wait and see in October if this is going to be another yawn-fest or an Apollo 13-esque riveting story. Hmm…..

The Password is Swordfish had this to say about the experience: “We’ve seen this parable before, and in an actress like Bullock’s hands, it works just fine; we’ve never seen this world before. Not like this. Gravity, first and foremost, is an experience, with stunning spectacle, teeth-grinding tension, and some all-time great visual work.

And Ruth from Flixchatter had nothing but great things to say about Cuarón’s film as well: “Gravity is one of the most immersive cinematic experience I’ve had in a long time. I feel like I was being transported to another realm as I was watching the film. There are some humorous moments to help ease tension, but the action sequences were quite relentless and kept me at the edge of my seat.”

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BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (my review is here)

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Starring Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Director Abdellatif Kechiche

Expected Release October 9, 2013

IMDb: “The story of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end.”

FIRST BITES  I’ve read a few articles on this already, and the reviews have been unanimously intriguing, but mixed in their positivity/negativity. Opinion is scattered on the director’s decision to include much graphic nudity and sexual acts that apparently drive the film’s narrative. Some cite reasons like gratuitous sex does not make for a good film, among other things along that trend. Others rave about it, calling it one of the more beautiful films of the year. I am particularly curious because all of these reviews — more notably, the less favorable ones — seem to be suggesting this film is pushing the boundaries between “regular” film material and pornographic material. That may sound weird for motivation to see Blue Is The Warmest Color….and a little icky, but it’s about time Digital Shortbread possessed some risqué material on the blog already! If the relationships are built right and the acting is good, I see no reason why an unusual amount of sexuality won’t be appropriate for the story. Looking forward to this release, straight out of France. Might be hard to get a hold of this in the States. . . . or at least in its original form. The MPAA ratings board will have fun deciding on this one, I guess.

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ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (my review is here)

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Starring the Channel 4 News Team (need I say more??)

Director Adam McKay / / The Other Guys; Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Expected Release December 20, 2013

IMDb: “The continuing on-set adventures of San Diego’s top-rated newsman.”

FIRST BITES  I have had my reservations about making a sequel to one of the funniest movies of all time. My first thoughts were along the lines of ‘Why ruin a perfectly good comedy with a follow-up that won’t be anywhere near as good?,’ which I feel is probably a common fear of this new one. But that worry has steadily evolved into something more akin to hope, that even though it’s not likely this will TOP or even draw even with the 2004 hit . . . just the thought of it even coming close will still make it a very good comedy. Possibly. Maybe? First of all, the director’s back. That’s a huge battle won. Second, the main cast is also back. And looking just as slick and sounding as silly as ever. Third, they’re keeping a lot of the promo about this thing under wraps, limiting trailers to a single 2-minute teaser that we have all seen by now, and this is pretty impressive considering the studio must know what the effect would be if they started hyping it early on — knowing that they are sitting on either another classic (or maybe just the opposite). So, I don’t really know what to think now. I’m somewhere in the middle now between optimistic and doubtful, but my anticipation for it has only grown stronger, regardless of the final product. I just hope it stays inside December and doesn’t get pushed into 2014.

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Well that about takes care of my most eagerly-awaited releases between now (mid-way through 2013 already, how is this possible?) and the end of December — marked quite stoically by the upcoming Anchorman 2. This year didn’t start out particularly on a strong kick, but maybe it’ll end on a better one. Summer’s been interesting, and it doesn’t look like blockbusters are slowing down anytime soon (looking at you, Elysium. . )

What are some of your most anticipated?? How well do you think they will live up to your own hype?