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Features

Empire's Giant 2013 Movie Preview
185 films of next year profiled and explained


Oscar Botherers
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The Impossible

DATE  January 1 (UK)
DIRECTOR  Juan Antonio Bayona
CAST  Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast

BASED ON  A real-life story that took place during the Boxing Day tsunami disaster.

SYNOPSIS  A Spanish family on holiday in Thailand are swept up in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. The disaster separates them, and a desperate search begins as they struggle to survive. Expect trauma amid the impeccable recreation of the strife, quite a lot of screaming and some absolutely stunning performances.

WHAT TO EXPECT  Watts in particular could find herself looking at some awards heat for her performance here, but this is a quality affair across the board and one that's well worth a look.
• Watch the trailer below

Quartet

Quartet

DATE  January 1 (UK)
DIRECTOR  Dustin Hoffman
CAST  Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Sheridan Smith

FUN FACT  Ronald Harwood adapted the screenplay from his own stage play.

SYNOPSIS  Beecham House is a home for retired musicians, but it's facing difficulties and the annual Verdi concert must be successful in raising money. When retired opera singer Jean (Maggie Smith) moves in, it seems like a godsend, but that's only if she and her old quartet - including her ex-husband (Courtenay) - can overcome their differences.

WHAT TO EXPECT  Smith at her most withering, Connolly at his most charming and Gambon at his most irascible. This Hoffman guy might be a director to watch.
• Watch the trailer below

The Sessions

The Sessions

DATE  January 18
DIRECTOR  Ben Lewin
CAST  John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Rhea Perlman

FUN FACT  The Oscar talk for this film would be the second time that Oscars have been attached to this story - poet Mark O'Brien was previously the subject of an Oscar-winning short documentary by Jessica Yu in 1996.

SYNOPSIS  38-year-old Mark O'Brien was paralysed by polio as a child and spends most of his days in an iron lung to help him breathe. With the help of a priest, he hires a sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt), to help him lose his virginity.

WHAT TO EXPECT  The performances in this have won nothing but adulation since the film's first screening, particularly for Hawkes and Hunt, and the story is a tragic and fascinating one.
• Watch the trailer below

The Counselor

The Counselor

DATE  2013 TBC
DIRECTOR  Ridley Scott
CAST  Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, Goran Visnjic

BASED ON  An original script by Cormac McCarthy, delivered to his publishers in lieu of the novel they were expecting.

SYNOPSIS  Fassbender plays a lawyer who attempts to dabble in the drug trade without getting his hands dirty. Suffice it to say, his hands are soon pretty dirty.

WHAT TO EXPECT  We're hoping for a seriously high-quality crime drama here. A script by the great McCarthy, directed by the great Scott, starring the recently near-flawless Pitt, Bardem, Fassbender and the rest: what could go wrong?

Les Miserables

DATE  January 11
DIRECTOR  Tom Hooper
CAST  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks

FUN FACT  That giant elephant statue you spotted in the trailers? It actually existed in Paris in 1832 and was mentioned in Victor Hugo's original novel.

SYNOPSIS  Jean Valjean (Jackman), imprisoned 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, is finally paroled - but lawman Javert (Crowe) resolves to keep a close eye on him. Valjean, offered kindness by a priest, resolves to become a better man and, years later, is a factory owner and mayor. One of his workers, Fantine (Hathaway) is unjustly fired by his foreman and sinks into misery as she tries to pay the rapacious Thenardiers (Baron Cohen, Bonham Carter) who are caring for her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen, later Seyfried). Valjean befriends the dying Fantine and promises to care for Cosette - despite the fact that Javert is back on his trail. Cut to more years later, and Valjean and Cosette find themselves in Paris just as a student rebellion bubbles up, involving student Marius (Redmayne) and the Thenardiers' daughter Eponine (Barks). Cue more tragedy. Oh, and lots of singing.

WHAT TO EXPECT  In a word, Oscars. In a few more words, a quality adaptation of the stage musical that looks sumptuous and is brilliantly performed by the cast, singing live on set as they go. Also, a giant elephant statue! What's not to love?
• Watch the trailer below

Lincoln

Lincoln

DATE  January 25
DIRECTOR  Steven Spielberg
CAST  Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, Lee Pace, James Spader, Jared Harris, Hal Holbrook

FUN FACT  Sally Field appears in two films in the last 12 months where her husband is shot to death - see also The Amazing Spider-Man.

SYNOPSIS  As the US Civil War winds down, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) rushes to pass the slavery-banning 13th Amendment before the issue becomes a part of the peace talks and is potentially scuppered by the South's terms of surrender. To get it through Congress he must wrangle everyone from fiery abolitionist Thaddeus Wood (Jones) to conservative peacemaker Preston Blair (Holbrook) and his own Secretary of State, William Seward (Strathairn) - even resorting to under-the-table tactics and bribery, courtesy of W. N. Bilbo (Spader). Lincoln's emotional wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Field) and gung-ho son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) give him worries closer to home.

WHAT TO EXPECT  If Velazquez shot a prequel to The West Wing, it would look something like this. Day-Lewis disappears completely into his role, to the extent that you'll have to remind yourself he's an actor. The film won't be to everyone's taste - it's basically a series of discussions between men in small, dark rooms - but as a portrait of America's greatest President it's hard to resist.
• Watch the trailer below

Hitchcock

Hitchcock

DATE  February 8
DIRECTOR  Sacha Gervasi
CAST  Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy, Michael Stuhlbarg

BASED ON  Stephen Rebello's book, Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho, was first optioned for the screen way back in 2005.

SYNOPSIS  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the story of the making of Psycho, during which Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) depended on the support of his wife Alma (Mirren) while Hollywood expressed open doubt in the story's more twisted elements. Johansson plays Janet Leigh, with James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins.

WHAT TO EXPECT  It's more or less a love story about the close but sometimes thorny relationship between the Hitchcocks, as well as the struggle to get his groundbreaking movie made. Spoiler: he made it in the end.
• Watch the trailer on YouTube

Gravity

Gravity

DATE  2013 TBC
DIRECTOR  Alfonso Cuarón
CAST  Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

FUN FACT  Other names in contention for this film included Robert Downey Jr. and Angelina Jolie.

SYNOPSIS  Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle flight and Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) an experienced shuttle commander. On a routine spacewalk, disaster strikes and their shuttle is destroyed. Tethered only to each other and with no radio link to Earth, they're adrift in the vaccum - and the air's running out. But apparently "The only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space", according to this synopsis. We're not sure they've thought that through.

WHAT TO EXPECT  This synopsis seems noticeably different from the test screening people saw earlier this year, which might mean that there have been some significant reshoots - and of course its release date has vanished ever into the ether. Still, the problem appears to be less a lack of quality and more a surfeit, with audiences not sure how to respond to what even the naysayers had to admit was a technical masterpiece and a terrific piece of acting.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street

DATE  2013 TBC
DIRECTOR  Martin Scorsese
CAST  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Bernthal, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Matthew McConaughey

FUN FACT  Jordan Belfort ran a 'boiler room' stock operation that also served as inspiration for the film Boiler Room.

SYNOPSIS  DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stock broker who ran a boiler room in the 1990s, lived the high life and was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering. He served 22 months in federal prison after cooperating with the FBI and had to pay back $100 million to stock brokers.

WHAT TO EXPECT  BFFs Scorsese and DiCaprio are together again, which is never a bad prospect, and they've assembled a heck of a supporting cast: Oscar winner Dujardin, Friday Night Lights MVP Kyle Chandler and so-hot-right-now Matthew McConaughey among them. It's far, far too early to talk Oscars for February 2014, but if it weren't, we'd be talking about this one.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks

DATE  December 20 (US)
DIRECTOR  John Lee Hancock
CAST  Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson, Rachel Griffiths, Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak, Kathy Baker

FUN FACT  Walt Disney's favourite song in Mary Poppin's was 'Feed The Birds'. The composers who wrote the film's music, The Sherman Brothers, tell a story of how when Walt ever told them to "play it", he always meant 'Feed The Birds'.

SYNOPSIS  The story behind the making of Disney's Mary Poppins, this sees Walt Disney (Hanks) struggle with author P.L. Travers (Thompson) in his attempts to have her sign over the rights to her story. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we learn about her early life and her relationship with her father (Farrell), who inspired the book's Mr. Banks.

WHAT TO EXPECT  On the strength of the cast and the release date, this looks like it's being positioned as Oscar bait. Whether it will catch anything depends on the finished product, but it's an intriguing story on paper and Travers was a fascinating character and more than Disney's match.

Zero Dark Thirty

DATE  January 25
DIRECTOR  Kathryn Bigelow
CAST  Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Edgar Ramirez, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt

FUN FACT  Chastain's Maya is the main character, but speaks not a word in the trailer. Also, look out for Torchwood's John Barrowman popping up in a Washington-set scene.

SYNOPSIS  Maya (Chastain) is a young CIA agent sent to the US Embassy in Afghanistan to join the hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2003. Over nearly a decade, she and her team track down leads and interrogate detainees in pursuit of the Al Qaeda leader, before the assault of Seal Team Six on the house she identifies as his base.

WHAT TO EXPECT  This won't take any prisoners in getting going - like Maya, the viewer is expected to jump straight into the confused situation and follow what's going on - but the story is sufficiently strong to sweep you along anyway, and the cast uniformly excellent even in sometimes tiny, almost unnamed roles.
• Watch the trailer below

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

DATE  February 22
DIRECTOR  Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
CAST  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Hugo Weaving, James D'Arcy

SEE ALSO  David Mitchell's famously "unfilmable" novel of the same name. Ha! Take that, unfilmability!

SYNOPSIS  Um. Well there's a bit on a boat, and another bit in the future, and a section in the '70s, and a post-apocalyptic bit, and Hugh Grant as a cannibal and... look, there's only so much space on the internet. If you're looking for it in film terms, think of it as "Silkwood + A Single Man + Amistad + Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" (thanks to @nevpierce for that one). Let's just say it's six stories spread over a couple of thousand years, charting souls throughout many lives and examining the human condition.

WHAT TO EXPECT  Something audacious and strange but largely successful, according to everything we've seen so far. The story's still sufficiently complex that you'll need your wits about you to figure out how it all hangs together (the filmmakers have abandoned the book's structure and linked segments by theme instead) but it's worth the attempt.
• Watch the trailer below

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

DATE  May 17
DIRECTOR  Baz Luhrman
CAST  Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan

SEE ALSO  The 3D version of Dial M For Murder, a film which inspired Baz Luhrman to use that format here.

SYNOPSIS  Midwesterner Nick Carraway (Maguire) moves to Long Island and becomes fascinated by his glamorous neighbour Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a man who throws glamorous parties but shows no interest in his guests. Nick soon learns that Gatsby's only real interest is Daisy (Mulligan), the girl across the bay he loved and lost. But the course of true love/obsession (discuss: 10 marks) does not run smooth, with Daisy married to Tom (Edgerton) and not quite available.

WHAT TO EXPECT  Something that's visually dizzying and drunk on the high spirits of the 1920s, judging by both Luhrman's previous efforts and the trailer. But with DiCaprio, Maguire and Mulligan in the lead roles and F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel as the source, it should have some emotional and dramatic heft in there as well.
• Watch the trailer below


Quick Poll   Which of these films are you looking forward to most?

The Impossible
Quartet
Les Misérables
The Sessions
Lincoln
Zero Dark Thirty
Hitchcock
Cloud Atlas
The Great Gatsby
The Counselor
Gravity
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks


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