Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: the best movie bets from January thru June.

As years go, 2012 had its problems, many of which were manifested by a group of ineffectual politicians who collectively call themselves the United States House of Congress. But that's a story for our sister blog at

If you were in the the movie business, things weren't so bleak. In fact, Hollywood saw a record breaking year with more than 10.7 billion in ticket sales and five of the six major studios posting earnings of better than a billion dollars each.

All of this means it was a good year for movie fans too. With lots of green flooding studio vaults and healthy economic prospects ahead (despite those morons in congress), studios should be much less shy about tackling ambitious projects.

Some of those projects, as is the case for our January pick, are already in limited release, while the movies scheduled for later in the year may still be in post production. But as studio marketing machines are cranking up efforts to sell you a ticket in 2013, I've put together a two-part list of the most promising releases currently scheduled for the new year.

With just hours to go, here's part one of my list for the movies I'm most looking forward to, from January through June of 2013.

January: Zero Dark Thirty. Already circulating in limited release and hot on the list for possible Academy Award nods, this Kathryn Bigelow directed drama centers on the ten year hunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Drawing as much controversy as awards talk, Zero Dark Thirty is the movie you'll want to have seen by Oscar night. Scheduled for wide release on the 11th.

Alternatives: Promised Land with Matt Damon and Francis McDormand, directed by Gus Van Sant, expanding to wide release on January 4th. Broken City with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe opening on the 18th.

February: A Good Day to Die Hard. The self proclaimed "007 from Plainfield New Jersey" is back for a fifth run, as John McClain finds himself on foreign ground in Moscow. At this point audiences are watching Bruce Willis as Bruce Willis, which is really what this franchise is all about. If things get notched up a bit, ala James Bond in last year's Skyfall, it's a guaranteed action flick in the middle of February's usual horror glut. Appropriately for those with broken hearts, Valentines Day is A Good Day to Die Hard.

Alternatives: If you're more of a Stallone fan, you're in luck; Bullet to the Head opens on the 1st. If it's old school bad guys you're looking for, it may be worth checking out Christopher Walken and Al Pacino in Stand Up Guys, scheduled to expand to wide release on the 1st as well.

March: The Great and Powerful Oz. Disney kicks off its year by tackling classic literature again, this time with a 3D trip to Oz that takes flight on the 8th and promises to dazzle. A promise I'm betting will mean box-office success and sequels. It's the first big event movie of the year and should put 2012's February release John Carter well into the dustiest corners of the Disney Archives.

Alternatives: If donning 3D glasses isin't your thing, check out the taught, soviet submarine based action thriller Phantom, starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny. Scheduled for release on the 1st.

April: Oblivion. While I'm expecting greatness, popping for an IMAX seat will certainly put you in the mood for what lies ahead as the 2013 blockbusters begin rolling out in May. If you didn't buy Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in 2012, seeing him back in the middle of a big budget sci-fi adventure may be a welcome change up. I'm also interested in seeing what Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has been up to since creating one of the most cutting edge fantasy landscapes on film. In theaters on the 19th, IMAX one week earlier.

Alternatives: Mark Wahlberg and  Dwayne Johnson go for action and laughs with Pain & Gain on the 26th.

May: Star Trek Into Darkness. Director J.J. Abrams returns with writers and cast intact from 2009's spectacular reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and the results look nothing short of stellar. What's sure to be one of the top three grossing movies of 2013, Star Trek Into Darkness is one of two 2013 movies I'm recommending for the full screening treatment (the other comes in December). That means, IMAX 3D and lots of popcorn. Releases on the 17th.

Alternatives: The big dogs of blockbuster season are upon us, so forget limited releases this month and just go for it. Iron Man 3 comes out on the 3rd. Nothing from Marvel has failed so far and Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect guy to anchor the follow-up to 2012's $1.5 billion grossing, The Avengers.

June: World War Z. Brad Pitt in a Zombie movie. Just go. This is the zombie movie that will change the genre and set a new production standard for everything that follows (at least for the major studios). Brad Pitt is the only big star I can imagine going this far out on a limb in a genre that owns the b-world of moviemaking. If the movie lives up to its trailers, Paramount execs will be seeing dead men walking - right to the bank on the 21st.

Alternatives: Disney launches the most anticipated sequel in its pixar stable with Monsters University, in a nice piece of counter-programming on the 21st. And there's something intriguing about the advance peeks at Now You See Me, that has me curious to see if a strong cast and an original concept can deliver magic on the 7th.

Release information from and Poster art curtesy of their studios. Release dates are based on North American distribution.

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