The world is going to end in 2013, repeatedly: by aliens, bad waste management, war or zombies. In other apocalyptic news, Adam Sandler is releasing Grown Ups 2. On the bright side, a plethora of heroes are standing up. The Superman franchise has been rebooted (and re-caped) by director Zack Snyder as Man of Steel, starring English actor Henry Cavill as one of those few "good" aliens. Superman will be leading a pack of both superheroes and the conventional muscular variety (Arnie, Bruce, Sly) to save the world. And, perhaps, new films coming from Spike Jonze, the Coen brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Atom Egoyan and Terrence Malick can save cinema at the same time.
What follows is a handy compendium of 2013 movies, to help keep the disasters and the saviours straight. A word of caution: Release dates are given when known but may change. If we know one thing from the movies, it's that anything can happen and frequently does.
Starting with the crème, two must-see Oscar contenders for 2012 have not yet been widely released: Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning Amour, about an elderly Parisian couple in the last fight of their lives, hits the screens on Jan. 11, as does Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which topped many year-end critics' polls, and raised clouds of controversy. Jumping ahead to next year's contenders, some directors are already in the running. Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (May 10) stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the glamorous, corrupt protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Roaring Twenties novel, with Carey Mulligan as Daisy, his dream girl with a voice full of money. English director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) brings to the screen Twelve Years a Slave, the 19th-century memoir of a New Yorker kidnapped and sold into slavery, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Paul Giamatti. The Coen brothers are back with Inside Llewyn Davis, a fictional account of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties, with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan again, and Justin Timberlake. Details about Terrence Malick's latest, Knight of Cups (named after a tarot card), are, typically for the enigmatic director, being kept under wraps, though we know it stars Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. Otherwise, Meryl Streep can probably draft her best-actress speech for her role as a sharp-tongued, drug-addled, ailing matriarch in the film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer-winning black comedy, August: Osage County.
Following the conclusion of the Twilight film series, there's more room for other stories of young women action stars and their supernatural lovers. In the supernatural horror-comedy Warm Bodies (Feb. 1), teen Julie (Teresa Palmer) falls for an undead boy, Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), and brings him back to life. Then there's The Host (March 21), adapted from a book by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, about aliens invading human bodies – though one surviving human (Saoirse Ronan) bonds with her resident alien to reunite with her loved ones. Finally, Jennifer Lawrence follows the most successful female action film in history with the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 21).
The lot falls into three sub-categories this year:
1. Family Movies: The Croods (March 22), with Nicolas Cage and Catherine Keener, follows the adventures of a pre-Flintstones stone-age family. Monsters University (June 21), is a prequel to Monsters Inc., in which Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) are nerdy college kids. Also this year, for the middle-aged kids, comes the droll Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Nov. 1), a 3-D animated version of the half-century-old cartoon (part of the groundbreaking Rocky and Bullwinkle Show) about the genius dog, Mr. Peabody, and his pet boy, Sherman.
2. Girl Power: In the animated musical Dorothy and Oz, Dorothy Gale (Glee's Lea Michele) returns to tornado-devastated Kansas and then is transported back to Oz where there's fresh trouble. The environmentally flavoured Epic (May 24), based on a story by William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians), is about a teen (Amanda Seyfried) involved in a battle between good and evil to save the forest. Returning to its traditional fairy-tale base, Disney offers Frozen (Nov. 27) based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, starring Kristen Bell as the princess who must race to lift an icy curse on her heart. Disney is also to rerelease its 1989 hit The Little Mermaid, in 3-D (Sept. 13).
3. Boys and toys: Escape from Planet Earth (Feb. 14) has Brendan Fraser as a heroic astronaut on another planet, and Rob Corddry as his nerdy sibling. Disney's Planes (Aug. 9) is a spinoff of Cars, while DreamWorks's Turbo is a story of a snail who wants to be the fastest snail ever (is there an escargot pun here?). And then there are all those sequels to help kids learn to count: Despicable Me 2 (July 3), The Smurfs 2 (July 31) and Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers (Sept. 27).
Seven signs that the end is nigh:
1. Oblivion (March 20): Tom Cruise stars in this movie as a repairman on an Earth where most of the humans have left after an alien war.
2. After Earth (June 7): In M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, a father and son (Will Smith and son, Jaden) are space travellers who become stranded on our planet, 1,000 years after humanity abandoned it.
3. This Is the End (June 14): Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, take the director-writer duties in this mock-Cloverfield scenario. It begins with a celebrity party at James Franco's house (guests include Rogen, Emily Watson and singer Rihanna) that ends with the destruction of the world, except for Rogen, Franco and a few of their friends.
4. World War Z (June 21): UN investigator Brad Pitt races against time to investigate the aftermath of a zombie pandemic.
5. Baja Dunes (Aug. 9): Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9, in the near future, has the 1-per-cent living on a space station while the rest of humanity survives on the ruined Earth.
6. Heart Land: a group of children struggle to survive in a postapocalyptic America.
7. Pacific Rim (July 12): Guillermo del Toro directs this sci-fi invasion film in which humans build huge robots to defend themselves from huge aliens.
Biography and real life
"Based on a true story" is one of the surest ways to win awards and earn the ire of fact-checkers. This year offers 42 (April 12), the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), who broke baseball's colour bar, with Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey. Tom Hanks gets two biographical roles, as Navy SEAL Captain Phillips (Oct. 11), who was rescued from Somali pirates, and as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks (Dec. 20), with Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. Hands of Stone features Gael Garcia Bernal as Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, with Robert De Niro as his manager. With Devil's Knot, Canadian director Atom Egoyan offers a dramatic take on the 1993 Arkansas child-murder case that left three teens wrongfully jailed, starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
Reunions are the comic theme in 2013. With The Hangover Part III (May 24), Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms find a reason to get plastered again. In The Internship (June 7), Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) reunite as middle-aged interns at a tech company. Finally, Will Ferrell returns as pompous newsman Ron Burgundy in Anchor Man: The Legend Continues (Dec. 20), with the usual gang (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate).
Otherwise, Bridesmaids's breakout comic star, Melissa McCarthy, plays both sides of the law this year, as a con artist in Identity Thief (Feb. 8) who steals Jason Bateman's identity, and in Paul Feig's The Heat (April 5) as a cop buddy with Sandra Bullock. And for the boomer set, in The Big Wedding (April 26), Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton play a divorced couple pretending to be still married for their son's wedding.
Man of Steel (July 14): The 80-year-old original superhero gets born again, with Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as the nasty Kryptonian General Zod.
Iron Man 3: "Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher," sneers The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) forcing industrialist superhero Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to step up again, armed with his high-tech sarcasm.
The Wolverine (April 28): The blade-fingered, side-burned brute (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan this time to train with a samurai warrior.
Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8): In what looks suspiciously like Whack-A-Mole: The Movie, thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes his mighty hammer to a gang of Dark Elves.
R.I.P.D (June 19): No, the acronym doesn't mean "ripped," even though Ryan Reynolds stars. Based on Peter Lenkov's comic, it stands for Rest in Peace Department, with Reynolds as an undead cop setting out to solve his own murder.
Kickass 2 (June 28): Teen superheroes Kickass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) join other costumed citizens (including Jim Carrey) to battle Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in this second film from the Marvel Comics series.
Crimes and Punishments
Among the genre pile of thrillers and cop dramas, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects (Feb. 8), with Jude Law as a malevolent shrink and Rooney Mara as his patient, looks most promising. Also intriguing is Michael Bay's Pain & Gain (April 26), a true-life kidnapping and extortion story set among Florida bodybuilders, starring Duane (The Rock) Wilson, Mark Wahlberg and comic actress Rebel Wilson. Wahlberg also stars in the noirish Broken City (Jan. 18) as a detective assigned to follow the wife of the New York mayor (Russell Crowe).
For vintage tastes, eighties action stars Arnie, Sly and Bruce are all back in some form. Arnold Schwarzenegger chases a Mexican drug dealer in The Last Stand (Jan. 18), Sylvester Stallone stars in Bullet to the Head (Feb. 1) as a hitman who teams up with a cop to avenge a killing; and Bruce Willis heads off to Moscow in A Good Day to Die Hard (Feb. 14) the fifth in the John McClane series. As well, Brit tough guy and hairless heir apparent to the action crown, Jason Statham, is lined up for no fewer than four movies this year, starting with Parker (Jan. 25), followed by Hummingbird (March 15), Homefront and Heat.
The 1940s-set Gangster Squad (Jan. 11) has a strong cast (Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone) but a suspicious throwaway release date in a drama about Los Angeles police detectives trying to stop mobster Mickey Cohen (Penn). In Stand-up Guys (Feb. 1), Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are old cons trying to reunite the old gang, amid double-crosses and Viagra mishaps.
Fairy tales and fables
Despite two Snow White movies flopping last year, the studios keep trying the adult fairy-tale movie. The best choice is a remake of the Pygmalion myth, simply called Her, directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), with Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with his computer, despite the presence of Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde and Rooney Mara in his life.
Otherwise, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as sibling witch hunters getting revenge on their childhood abusers in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Jan. 25). Brian Singer directs the live action Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1), about a young man who breaks the truce with the giants. On the lighter side, James Franco stars in the Sam Raimi-directed Oz the Great and Powerful (March 8), offering a back story to the Wizard behind the wall.
Easily the most fascinating entry here is a remake of Brian De Palma's 1976 horror classic, Carrie (March 15), directed by Kimberley Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) and starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie, with Julianne Moore as her mother. Fanticipation is also high for Evil Dead (April 12), the remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 cult fave, about five twentysomethings in a remote cabin and a wood full of demons.
Otherwise, the unkillable franchise Texas Chainsaw 3D (Jan. 4) is back, the seventh film since 1974. Canadian theatre and indie film director Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs) takes a genre turn with The Last Exorcism Part II (March 1). And there's also I, Frankenstein (Sept. 13), with Aaron Eckhart as the man-made monster, caught between the usual immortal warring clans.
Remakes and Sequels
Graphic novelist Frank Miller returns with a double whammy, writing and producing 300: Rise of an Empire (Aug. 2), a prequel to the 2006 hit Greek historical fantasy, 300. He's also co-directing, with Robert Rodriguez, the neo-noir film Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 4), with Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke.
For incurable romantics, the 1987 film Dirty Dancing has spawned a prequel, a TV series and a stage musical. Now it finally gets a straight-ahead remake (July 26), with the original choregrapher, Kenny Ortega, in the director's chair.
In Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17), director J.J. Abrams follows his satisfying 2009 Star Trek reboot with the crew of the Enterprise encountering another of those unstoppable forces of darkness that will probably get stopped by Kirk and Spock, who boldly go into their sixth decade. Just to keep in the game, Disney is re-releasing the 2005 George Lucas film, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in 3-D (Oct. 4).
Really – two blockbusters about attacks on the White House in one year? The first is Olympus Has Fallen (March 22), directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), with Gerald Butler and Morgan Freeman in a plot about Korean terrorists trying to take the President hostage. White House Down (June 28), directed by Roland Emmerich (and starring Channing Tatum, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx), is another drama of a secret agent who must save the President after the White House is overrun by a paramilitary group.
Along with the aforementioned Warm Bodies, World War Z and R.I.P.D., there are at least three other zombie movies in the pipe: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Zombieland 2 and the 3-D animated Night of the Living Dead: Origins. Narcissistic vampire stars with personal issues are so 2012, but hundreds of shambling extras in non-speaking roles are recession-proof. For cost-conscious movie studios, zombie invasions are a no-brainer.