A sleeper hit in the US, this fictional drama set in a major Wall Street broker's office on the eve of the subprime mortgage meltdown plays like GHOST RIDER 3D: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE crossed with David Mamet. A credible debut from writer-director JC Chandor, who pulled in Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker and Demi Moore to sell it.
Michael Morpungo's children's novel about a horse embroiled in the trench warfare of WWI becomes a Steven Spielberg film by way of its stage incarnation. It's a long, bumpy ride, sometimes brilliant, always emotional.
Golden Globe Awards
Ricky Gervais is back to bite the hand that feeds him, in what should otherwise be renamed The George Clooney Hour, in honour of his multiple nominations for The Descendants (deserved) and Ides of March (say what?). The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has also fallen heavily for The Artist and The Help, bless 'em.
The always surprising Steven Soderbergh turns his hand at a straight-ahead action thriller, a vehicle for mixed martial arts star Gina Carano, who does her own stunts and beats up Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, among others.
19 - 29
Sundance Film Festival
Including the UK's My Brother the Devil and Stephen Frears' Lay the Favourite (with Rebecca Hall and Bruce Willis), Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, the Eugene Jarecki's doc about the war on drugs, The House I Live In, and his brother Nicholas's high finance thriller, Arbitrage, with Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling.
That would be J Edgar Hoover, of course, not the vacuum salesman, the bureaucrat who kept tabs on anyone who was anyone in the USA for more than 40 years. A sterling performance from Leonardo DiCaprio makes this old style biopic a worthy companion piece to The Aviator. Clint Eastwood directs.
Another biopic, from another performer turned filmmaker, in this case Madonna – who lavishes more care and attention on Wallis Simpson than the lady may have deserved. Andrea Riseborough is the American divorcee who stole away a kingdom, and Abbie Cornish is the modern Wally who holds a crush on her namesake.
Oscar Nominations Announced
At time of writing, a black and white silent film from France is the favourite to win Best Picture – which would make it the unlikeliest winner in a very long time. Payne, Scorsese, Spielberg, Malick and Allen may still have a say though, and don't forget The Help.
George Clooney gives arguably his most subtle, nuanced performance in this beautifully judged, funny, poignant movie about a husband and father whose wife is put on a life support machine after a boating accident – which is when he finds out she was cheating on him. From Alexander Payne, the director who gave us Sideways and About Schmidt.
The spirit of Bunuel animates this grotesque satire about two sets of middle-class parents who clash over a trivial children's dispute. Roman Polanski directs Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C Reilly and Christoph Waltz. There is also a cameo for Roman's son, Elvis.
Stephen Daldry gets most things wrong in this ill-conceived tearjerker, an adaptation of the 9/11 novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Highly resistible younger Thomas Horn is the agoraphobic orphan who roams New York in search of a lock that fits the key he finds in his dad's closet.
Elizabeth Olsen in a star-making turn as MMM and M, who extricates herself from a commune with cult-ish leanings, but finds life with her staunchly normal sister (Sarah Paulson) almost equally hard to bear. The dread that the cult leader (John Hawkes) might snatch her back gives this psychological drama a tingling unease.
The gift that keeps on giving: George Lucas relaunches the saga in chronological order, this time in 3D.
Berlin Film Festival
With Jury President: Mike Leigh. Europe's third most important film festival serves up a mixture of second tier premieres (art house films with no hope of cracking Cannes) and Hollywood's Christmas harvest.
Jason Segal relaunches Jim Henson's vaudeville menagerie in a cheerfully cheesy musical comedy – a nostalgia trip for kidults as least as much as it's a children's film. Where else are you going to see a chorus line of chickens cluck their way through Cee Lo Green's biggest hit?
Hardcore crime novelist James Ellroy (LA Confidential) delivers one of his meatiest scripts in this bilious but sneakily awed portrait of a badass LA police officer, one of the last of the dinosaurs. Woody Harrelson reteams with director Oren Moverman (The Messenger) to powerful effect.
Too toxic for mainstream success, this black comedy about a ghost writer out to steal back her first boyfriend (now happily married with a baby) is nevertheless a return to form for Juno scriptwriter Diablo Cody. Jason Reitman directs, Charlize Theron is great fun as the deranged narcissist.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will be the film to beat at the British Oscar taster – though the most interesting face-off will be Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher vying with Marilyn Monroe according to Michelle Williams.
It's February, which means Nic Cage is skint and ready to ham it up for a few beans.
Reese Witherspoon has to choose between Chris Pine and Tom Hardy (both playing secret agents). Decisions, decisions… McG directs and judging by the trailer this could be a misfire for everyone involved.
An oddity from My Summer of Love director Pawel Pawlikowski, a mystery thriller with Ethan Hawke revisiting Paris and falling for Kristin Scott Thomas' femme fatale.
Jean-Jacques Annaud tries to turn the Arabian oil boom days of the 1930s into a dramatic thriller. Mark Strong and Tahar Rahim star.
With Billy Crystal standing up for Hollywood's senior citizens. (He can't be any more sluggish than James Franco was last year.)
Robert Pattinson gets ahead with the help of the wealthiest women in Paris in this bed-hopping drama from the de Maupassant novel. Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas are among his conquests.
Smashing Buenos Aires noir thriller with the great Ricardo Darin as an ambulance chasing lawyer who falls in love with a trainee doctor and tries to clean up his act, with disastrous results. Another winner from Pablo Trapero (Rolling Family).
Fairytales are big this year. Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola puts Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton through their paces as Grimm siblings with a bone to pick with witches. In 3D.
Novelist Michael Chabon collaborated with WALL.E scribe Andrew Stanton on this tale of a cowboy who wakes up on Mars (derived from the Edgar Rice Burroughs' story). This also marks Stanton's first live action film, and we're dying to see it. Taylor Kitsch is JC, Bryan Cranston, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church suggest that Martians can act.
After transplanting the Mayor of Casterbridge to the Gold Rush (in The Claim) and doing a straight Jude with Kate Winslet, Michael Winterbottom takes a notion to put Thomas Hardy’s Tess in distress modern day India. Frida Pinto may be reason enough for the attempt, but it would have been a good idea if they had taken a screenwriter along with them.
With Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum teaming up as cops sent back to high school to bust a drugs ring. The original TV series made Johnny Depp famous, and apparently he’s sufficiently over it to make a cameo appearance.
Agnieszka Holland returns to the WWII period that has inspired some of her most memorable films with this bleak reconstruction of a Jewish escape route in Nazi-occupied Poland.
A masterpiece from Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Climates). Nothing to do with fairytales or Sergio Leone shoot-outs, this is a slow tempo mystery with an undertow of melancholy comedy. Police escort a confessed murderer to the scene of the crime – only he can’t remember where he buried the body and as the light fades, tempers flare...
Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson make a happy home for the animals in this family flick, a strange career choice for writer-director Cameron Crowe.
Not the most succinct title Werner Herzog ever concocted, but this death row documentary is reputedly right up there with his best work.
Aardman Animation cofounder Peter Lord is the brains behind this buccaneer malarkey. The claymation looks distinctly twentieth century in the trailer, but hopefully there will be enough laugh out loud gags to cover the cracks.
Not many first time indie directors are honoured with a US DVD packaged by the prestigious Criterion company, but Lena Dunham is one of them, on account of this quirky autobiographical comedy about a bewildered unemployed college grad.
Sam Worthington is back as Perseus in this sequel to Clash of the Titans. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s last effort was the underwhelming Battle: Los Angeles. In 3DTop
James Cameron relaunches Titanic, this time in 3D. And without Billy Zane. (Kidding.)
Veteran action specialist Walter Hill (48Hrs) returns to the fray with a thriller about a cop and a hitman who team up to stop a common enemy. Sly Stallone and Jason Momoa (aka Conan) being the odd couple in question.
The latest from the Duplass brothers sounds like a variation on Cyrus. This time Jason Segel is the stay-at-home kid living with his mom. Things change when he accompanies his brother on a surveillance mission to see if his wife is cheating on him. Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon costar.
Marvel has been building to this what seems like millennia (at least since the first Iron Man movie). The gang is all here: Tony Stark, Thor, Bruce Banner, Captain America, Nick Fury, plus Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. That man Joss Whedon co-wrote with Zak Penn and also directs, so there is every reason to be optimistic.
The Farrelly brothers pay tribute to the excruciatingly unfunny slapstick trio. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
The annual shindig is the great equalizer for international cinema. Just don’t hold your breath for a British winner.
Tim Burton’s back in town with a big screen version of Dan Curtis’s cult vampire show from the late sixties. Johnny Depp plays bloodsucker Barnabas Collins. The juicy cast includes Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz and Helena Bonham Carter.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat director Larry Charles up the ante with SBC playing an Arab dictator – judging by the LOL trailer he’s part Gaddafi, part Saddam, part John Turturro. With Megan Fox as herself.
Ridley Scott returns to space and the Alien universe in this suspense thriller, starring Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. In 3D no one can hear you scream!
Rock musical with music by Def Leppard, Poison, Journey and Bon Jovi, plus Tom Cruise as Staycee Jaxx and Mary J Blige as Justice. Adam Shenkman (Hairspray) calls the tunes.
No, not a sequel. Sony decided Tobey Maguire’s Spidey had lost his tingle. But this is a whole new start, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – and just a little over two weeks to get the jump on…
You can wait for Daniel Day Lewis’s impression of Honest Abe, America’s 16th President, if you want (probably spring 2013 in the UK), but we’re more excited to see Benjamin Walker play the role in the latest supernatural hokum from Kazak Night Watch/Wanted maestro Timur Bekmambetov.
Pixar blemished its copybook with Cars 2, so let’s hope this tale of an independent, flame-haired Celtic princess restores the studio’s reputation. Kelly McDonald lends her voice to the proceedings.
Colin Farrell steps into Arnie’s shoes in this remake of the Philip K Dick story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Len Wiseman (Underworld) is no Paul Verhoeven though.
A zom-rom-com for real this time, by 50/50 director Jonathan Levine. Nicholas Hoult is the zombie who falls in love with a living, breathing mortal (Teresa Palmer).
31 - 10 September
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
The glamorous Lido bash just ditched artistic director Marco Mueller after eight successful years to bring back his predecessor – which could prove a costly misjudgment, with Mueller weighing up a bid to take the Rome film festival to the next level.
A bike courier (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is chased through New York City by corrupt cop Michael Shannon in this high concept thriller by David Koepp (Stir of Echoes). Looks awesome.
Nick Love collaborates with John Hodge (Trainspotting) to bring the 70s cop show to the big screen. Ray Winstone is Jack Regan, Ben Drew is Carter.
LONDON FILM FESTIVAL
The LFF also gets a new director with the departure of Sandra Hebron. Not expecting drastic changes here though.
Based on a true story about the daring attempted rescue of six Americans sheltering with the Canadian ambassador at the height of the Iranian Revolution. Ben Affleck directs and stars, alongside busy Bryan Cranston and John Goodman.
Tim Burton’s second movie of the year is an animated feature based on one of his very earliest short films. The voice talent includes such old Burton faves as Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Landau
Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn? Not a tough sell, even if it takes some imagination to think of the LAPD of the 1950s as heroes (haven’t these guys seen LA Confidential?). Other cool actors involved include Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte and Anthony Mackie, so let’s hope director Ruben Fleischer’s last effort, 30 Minutes or Less, was an aberration.
Part one of the final novel. Rather impressively Bill Condon (Kinsey, Of Gods and Monsters) has taken over in the director's chair. The cast is as was.
NATIVITY 2: THE SECOND COMING
The wickedest title of the year. Our own Debbie Isitt is responsible.
By now you have surely seen the trailer for Peter Jackson’s return to the Shire, which to our eyes looks more like a Lord of the Rings prequel and less like an adaptation of Tolkien’s first fantasy novel. But let’s wait and see shall we? Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, many of the old guard are back (Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis).
LIFE OF PI
Yann Martel's unfilmable Booker Prize-winner duly arrives, courtesy of unflappable Ang Lee. No word yet on who is playing Richard Parker, the 450-pound Bengal tiger who shares a lifeboat with our hero Pi (Tobey Maguire), a zebra, an orangutan and a hyena.
Saving the best til last? Quentin Tarantino was on his game with Inglourious Basterds. He is definitely sticking to his guns here, with another spin on an Italian genre movie (in this case a spaghetti western). Jamie Foxx is Django; other confirmed cast members are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, RZA, Kerry Washington and James Remar.