25 movies to watch in 2012 – January to June

14 min read

Right, we’re a week into 2012 and it’s time to look ahead at the notable new releases of the next 6 months. Please bear in mind that release dates are subject to change, and the list includes a handful of flicks that have already opened overseas but have yet to reach South Africa.

And yes, upfront I’ll admit that a number of 2012 biggies didn’t make my list for various reasons. Look out for kinda pointless sequels Underworld 4, Ghost Rider 2, Wrath of the Titans, Madagascar 3 and Ice Age 4, as well as the 21 Jump Street remake, curious mash-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, long delayed Joss Whedon horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods and star-saturated skit comedy Movie 43. The following though are my personal picks for the next 6 months:

We Need to Talk About Kevin:
Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, Tilda Swinton stars in this thriller about a travel writer-turned-frustrated-mother who has a complicated relationship with her son. Over the years she realises that there is something terribly wrong with him emotionally. Except nobody believes her… with devastating consequences. The Nature vs. Nurture Debate features strongly in this, one of the most talked about film festival releases of 2011.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 12 May 2011 (Cannes Film Festival), 27 January 2012 (South Africa)

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The Muppets:
Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of those loveable, wise-cracking puppets are back for their first musical comedy film in 12 years. And apparently it’s fantastic. Not that The Muppets has ever really been about plot but here Jason Segel and Amy Adams play a couple who spearhead a fundraiser to save the Muppet Theatre. Apparently the movie is heartfelt, packed with star cameos and, most importantly, is a treat for nostalgic Muppet fans and franchise newcomers alike.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 23 November 2011 (US), 27 January 2012 (South Africa)

War Horse:
Steven Spielberg helms this good ol’ fashioned adventure drama – based on a children’s book and hit theatrical production – about Joey, a horse drafted into World War I by the British. While Joey touches lives on both sides of No Man’s Land, his farm boy owner (Jeremy Irvine) enlists to find him. Better bring the tissues for this one – it looks like an unapologetic tearjerker. Also with Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 25 December 2011 (US), 24 February 2012 (South Africa)

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Most famous for violent crime dramas, director Martin Scorsese continues his recent genre experimentation with this 3D family fantasy adventure. Set in 1931 Paris, Hugo centres on an orphan boy who lives in the walls of a train station, and is busy completing his late father’s greatest invention – an automated man. The film looks magically memorable, and is currently stacking up award nominations. Famous faces in the cast include Ben Kingsley Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jude Law.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 23 November 2011 (US), 10 February 2012 (South Africa)

Another of this year’s big award season players is this sexually explicit drama. Artist turned filmmaker Steve McQueen reunites with star Michael Fassbender for this tale of a single, 30-something man who can’t control his sexual urges. Hiding his addiction becomes even harder when his sister Carey Mulligan moves in. Expect this one to be depressing but powerfully honest and brilliantly acted.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 11 September 2011 (Toronto Film Festival), 2 March 2012 (South Africa)

“Top secret agent is betrayed by their government, survives and seeks revenge.” The plot for Haywire sounds like a thousand Z-grade, straight-to-DVD action thrillers. The difference though is that Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh is in the director’s chair and the cast includes big names like Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas. Also, the betrayed agent is played by women’s MMA star Gina Carano. Although her acting skills are untested, Carano actually has the convincing moves and physique of a female action hero – instead of being an Angelina waif. Hooray!
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 20 January (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

The Grey:
He may have played a Jedi and voiced a lion god but Liam Neeson is 100 times cooler when he’s a soft spoken, apparently ordinary man driven to violence by extraordinary circumstances. Here he plays the survivor of an Alaskan air crash who must cope with the elements and, more terrifyingly, a pack of starving wolves. An action thriller from A-Team director Joe Carnahan and A-Team producers Ridley and Tony Scott. Could be bleak but engrossing.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 27 January (USA), 20 April (South Africa)

“With great power comes great responsibility…” Or maybe not. Super powers apparently lead to the dark side in this sci-fi horror film, shot in the “found footage” style and starring a bunch of unknowns to heighten its sense of realism. Three high school friends develop amazing abilities after an encounter with an extra-terrestrial object, but as their powers grow events take a morally dark turn. The trailer for this one looks fantastic; let’s hope the finished film delivers on its great concept.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 3 February (USA), 17 February (South Africa)

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters:
The first fairy tale movie out the gates in 2012 – and there’s a ton of them! – is this steampunky horror comedy set 15 years after the famous events at the gingerbread house. Since then siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become sought-after, leather-wearing, gun-toting witch hunters. Their latest mission pits them against sorceress Famke Janssen. Sounds like Van Helsing but let’s hope it’s way better than that messy cheesefest.
Release date: 2 March (USA), Unknown (South Africa)
UPDATE: The American release date for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has now been pushed back to 11 January 2013.

The Raven:
It’s Sherlock Holmes meets Saw in this 19th Century mystery thriller. John Cusack plays writer Edgar Allen Poe, who is recruited by the Baltimore police to help solve a series of brutal murders based on his tortured horror stories. Cusack’s presence makes most things worthwhile, and hopefully, coming from the director of V For Vendetta, The Raven will be more than just another “battle of wits between serial killer and hero,” which we’ve already seen a hundred times.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 9 March (USA), Unknown (South Africa)
UPDATE: The American release date for the Raven is now 27 April 2012.

John Carter:
Disney’s big live-action fantasy adventure for the American Summer is this decades-in-development adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s pulpy Barsoom stories. Taylor Kitsch is Civil War veteran John Carter, who is mysteriously whisked away to a Mars unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. In this barbaric world of warring alien beings and humanoids, Carter emerges as a saviour figure. The big question though: Will audiences still come if they don’t know the character? And will this 3D epic have the wow factor of Avatar?
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 9 March (USA), 9 March (South Africa)

The Hunger Games:
Arguably the biggest Youth Literature phenomenon since Twilight, it was inevitable that Suzanne Collins’s bestseller would get the big screen treatment. The guys should like this one too though, given it’s more brutal sci-fi than goo-goo eyes romance. In a future where America as we know it has crumbled, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to replace her younger sister in the Hunger Games – an annual televised tournament where teenagers from society’s 12 remaining districts fight to the death. Arguably one of the Top 3 Most Highly Anticipated Films of 2012.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 23 March (USA), 13 April (South Africa)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits:
Admittedly I know little about this stop-motion comedy adventure, other than it comes from Wallace and Gromit’s Aardman Studios and Sony Picture Animation – a collaboration that recently gave us the brilliantly British Arthur Christmas. So I have high hopes for this one. Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven voice Victorian Era pirates who compete for the Pirate of the Year Award, encountering Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria along in the way. Screening in 3D and based on The Pirates! series of kids’ books.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 30 March (USA), 13 April (South Africa)

American Reunion:
2012 is a big year for nostalgia and with this comedy – and fourth entry in the original American Pie series – we rejoin those once randy high schoolers for their 10 year reunion. The drawcard is that they’re ALL back, from Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott, to Tara Reid and Stifler’s mom, Jennifer Coolidge. Hopefully this one isn’t just a dented pie tin filled with stale ideas.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 6 April (USA), 6 April (South Africa)

The Avengers:
All the Marvel Universe movies of the past 4 years have been building to this point – the various costumed heroes uniting in a single team to defend the Earth against its greatest threat. Marvel’s sure to keep things action-packed, light and entertaining but it’s a notably tall order trying to split 2 hours of screen time between Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – not to mention Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and all the film’s villains. Can this ambitious project escape feeling overstuffed and rushed?
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 4 May (USA), 27 April (South Africa)

Dark Shadows:
Tim Burton reunites (yet again!) with Johnny Depp for this supernatural drama based on the cult hit gothic soap opera. Depp’s an 18th Century dandy turned into a vampire and only escapes his coffin in 1972 to reconnect with his dysfunctional descendents. The star-studded cast includes Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Hayley. With a focus on twisted characters as opposed to frantic action and special effects, this could be a return to classic kooky Burton.
Release date: 11 May (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

The Dictator:
When is a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy not controversial and deliciously politically incorrect? Here the Ali G and Borat star takes a jab at Muammar Gaddafi and other eccentric Middle Eastern dictators by playing the delusional ruler of fictional Wadiya. The trailer for The Dictator is hilarious. Just brace yourself for a massive outcry come May.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 11 May (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

Consider this sci-fi actioner 2012’s answer to Transformers – big, very dumb and heavy on the special effects as humans battle technologically advanced aliens. Leading the surge of movies based on board games, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna and Liam Neeson as naval officers whose war games turn real when they encounter alien invaders in the Pacific.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 18 May (USA), 4 May (South Africa)

Men in Black 3:
Nobody was really asking for a second Men in Black sequel, especially not one in 3D, but here it is anyway. This time there’s time travel thrown into the sci-fi mix, with Agent J (Will Smith) sent back to 1969 to protect Agent K’s (Tommy Lee Jones) younger self – played by Josh Brolin – against assassination. MIB3 looks okay, although right now I’m only really interested in this one for Brolin’s Jones impersonation.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 25 May (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

Snow White and the Huntsman:
That other Snow White movie, Mirror Mirror releases back in March, but this is the live-action fairy tale “reimagining” everyone is amped for – especially after its breathtaking first trailer. In this gritty fantasy adventure Charlize Theron stars as the life-stealing sorceress queen while Kristen Stewart makes Snow White an armoured woman of action, training with the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Dwarves in a bid to overthrow the queen once and for all.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 1 June (USA), 1 June (South Africa)

Director Ridley Scott returns to the genre that established his reputation with this is-it-or-isn’t-it-an-Alien-prequel. Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron play interstellar explorers who investigate artifacts of an alien civilisation that may have ties to humanity’s origins… and deadly consequences for its future. The Prometheus trailer hits all the right buttons for fans of Alien, and dark psychological sci-fi in general. One of my Top 5 Most Highly Anticipated Films of 2012.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 8 June (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

Jack the Giant Killer:
Another fairy tale movie out in 2012 is this action adventure, which sees X-Men’s guiding influence Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair for the first time since Valkyrie. Nicholas Hoult stars as a farm boy who re-establishes the link between our world and the realm of the giants (hint: magic beans are involved!), and then must set things right. Screening in 3D, and co-starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane. Looks a bit vanilla, but in Singer we trust. Usually.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 15 June (USA), Unknown (South Africa)
UPDATE: The American release date for Jack the Giant Killer has now been pushed back to 22 March 2013.

Not only is Brave Disney-Pixar’s first original story after 2 years of CGI-animated sequels, it’s also the first Pixar film to feature a female lead and the first Pixar film in the folk/fairy tale tradition. Set in the Scottish Highlands and featuring stunningly atmospheric 3D visuals, Brave tells the story of a feisty young princess who defies Celtic tradition, triggers a curse and then must summon the courage to undo her mistake. With the voices of Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 22 June (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

G.I. Joe: Retaliation:
The first one was silly fun in the right spirit but I’m sure nobody but diehard fans were itching for a sequel to the high-tech actioner – based, of course, on the TV series and toy line. So why should we care about the second big screen outing? Well, with the exception of Channing Tatum and Ray Park’s Snake Eyes, the first film’s cast is out, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis are in. Also, G.I. Joe 2 promises to be darker and more intense in tone, although frankly that’s a drawback.
Watch the trailer.
Release date: 29 June (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

Magic Mike:
With so many movies catering for adolescent boys (or grown men with the minds of adolescent boys), here’s one for the ladies. Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey and Joe Manganiello all whip off their kit to play male strippers… for A-list director Steven Soderbergh weirdly enough. This comedy drama is based on Tatum’s real-life experiences, and Pettyfer stars as a newbie learning the ropes in this unusual profession. It’ll be very interesting to see what Soderbergh does with this blatantly “exploitative” material.
Release date: 29 June (USA), Unknown (South Africa)

Last Updated: January 9, 2012

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