6. Beautiful Creatures.
While we're on the subject, be on guard for Beautiful Creatures, a movie based on a book that comes from the "Cash in on what's popular" school of storytelling. Beautiful "Totally Not Inspired By Twilight, You Guys, No Seriously" Creatures is about a mysterious teen girl who moves to a small town where she's ostracised by all but one boy, who she falls in love with even as she tries to keep him away because she has dangerous powers. See? It's not like Twilight because the genders are reversed.
The girl, Lena, is about to turn 16, and when she does she'll undergo the Claiming, a process that will forever tie her and her magical abilities to Light or Dark, because the first step to writing a Twilight knockoff is to consult the Generic Fantasy Phrases Handbook (followed by copy-paste and go to print, respectively).
There are some interesting ideas here: setting a supernatural romance in small town South Carolina can allow the story to explore the religious attitudes of the Bible Belt, and the fact that the big bad villain is Lena's mother adds drama that Twilight lacked. But any movie described as a supernatural romance - especially one starring people you've never heard of - should be treated with caution. The trailer tries to play up the action, but we all know the day will be saved with the Power of Love™.
If you think Planes sounds a lot like Cars, give yourself a pat on the back. It's a spinoff of the popular franchise starring everybody's favourite voice actor, TBA, as Dusty Crophopper, who is probably some sort of Boeing passenger jet.
Now, Cars may not rank near the top of Pixar canon, but it's still a fun film. Even Cars 2, the first Pixar movie that you can admit to not liking without being cast out of civilized society, had gorgeous animation and some fun moments. And if you've got kiddies to entertain, you can't go wrong with either. So Planes should keep your progeny off your back for a couple hours, right?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this ain't no Pixar film. Planes comes to us courtesy of DisneyToon Studios, the luminaries behind classics of animation like Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue and Bambi II: Revenge of Bambi. I may have made one of those subtitles up.
That's right, Planes is being made by Disney's shovelware department. In fact, it was originally going to be direct-to-DVD like all of DisneyToon's other movies, but it was promoted to a theatrical release when someone at Disney remembered that releasing anything associated with Cars is the closest they can legally come to printing money. Expect Dirigibles, Observation Balloons and Box Kites in the coming years.
Yes, that is White Zombie's "More Human than Human" in the trailer. Presumably the erotic moaning and profanity will be removed from the soundtrack version, otherwise there are going to be a lot of angry parents and confused boys who will later get arrested for masturbating at the airport.
4 and 3. Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down.
2013 is going to be a tough year for the White House. The economy continues to stutter, bi-partisanship is non-existent and terrorists are going to take over the Oval Office in not one, but two movies. If that seems like an oddly specific premise for a pair of films that are coming out within three months of each other, don't worry - there are obvious differences. Let's compare, shall we?
In Olympus Has Fallen, directed by noted mediocre action film maker Antoine Fuqua, a Secret Service agent played by pretty boy Gerard Butler is the only hope the nation has of rescuing President Aaron Eckhart from North Korean terrorists after they capture the White House. He does this by re-enacting Die Hard.
In White House Down, directed by noted mediocre action film maker Roland Emmerich, a Secret Service agent played by pretty boy Channing Tatum is the only hope the nation has of rescuing President Jamie Foxx from an unspecified paramilitary group after they capture the White House. He does this by re-enacting Die Hard.
See? The villains of one are North Korean, while the bad guys in the other probably aren't North Korean. Totally different!
If you only see one movie about terrorists capturing the White House this year, although I don't know why you'd even bother with one, maybe it's a slow Friday night and you've already played that Splinter Cell game where terrorists capture the White House, I'd lean towards Olympus Has Fallen. The classier name suggests more effort was put into it, and Butler is a more convincing action hero than Tatum. And while missing out on President Jamie Foxx is unfortunate, you instead get Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House turned Acting President, because at this point in Freeman's career movies will find a way to make him President regardless of who he was originally cast as.
The only downside to choosing Olympus Has Fallen is that having North Koreans as Hollywood's latest go-to villains is ridiculous. First the Red Dawn remake tried to make us believe that North Korea has more than three airplanes, and now we have to accept that these guys don't defect the minute they cross the border. Then again, Roland Emmerich thinks character development means showing you the inside of a building before blowing it up, so it's not like we can expect any better from him.
2. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.
"I wonder what Charlie Sheen has been up to?" asked nobody recently, because we are all so very sick of him. But too bad, you're finding out anyway - in addition to setting exciting new lows in sitcoms with Anger Management, Sheen is the star of A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, a romantic comedy that's trying so hard to look quirky its working title was Wacky Offbeat Indie Comedy!
What starts off looking like a calculated attempt at zaniness (Look, Charlie Sheen drives a car with bacon and eggs painted on it! And there's a couch that looks like a hot dog! And it's directed by Roman Coppola, which is almost like being directed by Wes Anderson, or a Coppola people care about!) descends into madness through a series of fantasy sequences. Sheen plays cowboy to attacking hot girl Indians, narrowly escapes an assassination attempt by the Secret Society of Ball Busters (who are dressed like sexy Nazis) and much more, none of which makes the slightest bit of sense.
Those surreal sequences are the titular glimpses into the mind, where our hero tries to work though his issues with the help of fantasy. Which isn't a bad idea, if it didn't come down to one long "Have you ever noticed how men are like this, but women are like this?!" joke.
Charles Swan premiered at the 2012 Rome Film Festival to a reception of yawns, with reviewers criticizing the meandering pace and moments of misogynism. The movie, much like Sheen himself, tends to go off on wild, stupid tangents, and it can't understand why people aren't enamored when it does. Charlie Sheen starring in a movie about elaborate fantasies makes perfect sense, but that doesn't mean it's worth watching.
1. 47 Ronin.
The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most revered tales in Japanese folklore. It's been put to film several times in Japanese cinema, but now the story of samurai seeking revenge for their slain master is coming to Hollywood. Naturally, Hollywood will treat this famed story with the greatest respe - oh God, I can't even finish that sentence. It's going to star Keanu Reeves as a half-British samurai who fights monsters. Come on, America, can't we forgive Japan for Pearl Harbor already?
Keanu Reeves, either on set as a samurai or just getting out of the shower at home.
To be fair, Reeves stars alongside a host of Japanese actors, so it's not like this is a total whitewash. But it's hard not to be leery about a classic tale being "updated" with fantasy elements. If you want to make a fantasy samurai movie, just go do that - why awkwardly shoehorn fantasy into an existing story? There's a reason nobody's remaking Hamlet to include the Danish prince fighting goblins and riding giant eagles. Wait, that sounds rad. Bad example.
Samurai Keanu Reeves fighting magical giants aside, 47 Ronin has mundane problems too. Originally scheduled to come out in November 2012, it was pushed back to the dumping ground of February and then again to Christmas Day. The ballooning budget has reached 200 million dollars, and John Carter taught us that giving that much money to someone making their first live-action movie has disaster written all over it in ugly CGI. Already considered a risky project, 47 Ronin is looking more and more like it's been written off as a disaster. Damn, who would have thought a samurai fantasy epic starring Keanu Reeves wouldn't work out?