Is it too early to start looking forward to 2013 films? The earlier the better according to the studios, what with the massive budgets they put behind most of their features. Audience awareness is one of the keys to big box office so the sooner you know about a film, the more likely it is that you’ll plunk down your hard earned cash for a ticket. Case in point – television trailers are already running for Brad Pitt’s zombie epic World War Z and its release date is June 21, 2013. With upwards of $150 million spent on the film already, Paramount Pictures is taking no chances making sure you know the movie is coming! Of course, they run the risk of media overkill starting this early but it’s a gamble they have to take with the financial stakes as high as they are.
What follows is a list of films (one for every month in 2013) that I’m looking forward to. This is by no means a comprehensive list as I am looking forward to Z, as well as Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and others. But those films need no extra press from me, so what you will find below are movies that might get lost in the shuffle – ones I think have all the signs of exceeding expectations and being genuinely entertaining.
January – Mama – Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, this horror film focuses on a young couple charged with raising their two young nieces who were found alone in a forest, having lived there for five years. How they got there, how they survived and who might have been with them are just some of the questions at the core of this modern fairy tale. Equally promising is the presence of Jessica Chastain as the sudden mother, an actress who stops at nothing in challenging herself in a wide variety of roles in such films as The Help, Take Shelter and Zero Dark Thirty. Release Date: January 18. Trailer at: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4261979161/ 
February – Side Effects – Directed by Stephen Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11) this cautionary tale looks at the harmful side effects of an anxiety drug that might have been rushed to market without having been fully tested and the doctor (Jude Law) who’s a bit overzealous in prescribing it. Soderbergh is an expert at looking at hot button topics in an engaging and entertaining fashion, as evidenced by Traffic and Contagion. With the red-hot Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rooney Mara, this has all the makings of being a fascinating and timely thriller. Release Date: February 8. Trailer at: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2420417561/ 
March – Oz: The Great and Powerful – Yes, I too am a bit skeptical about this first of two planned prequels to The Wizard of Oz, but many of my fears were laid to rest once I got a glimpse of the fantastic trailer for this epic fantasy directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man 1 – 3). James Franco is Oscar Diggs, a stage magician from our world who’s transported to the fantastical land of Oz and finds himself in the midst of a conflict between three witches, each of whom think he’s the man they’ve been waiting for to fulfill a prophecy. Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz play the trio of enchantresses in what promises to be an innovative and darker look at the land where Dorothy landed. Release Date: March 8. Trailer at: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1066968345/ 
April – Pain and Gain – Based on a true story, this film revolves around a kidnapping and extortion scheme that goes horribly awry. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie are three steroid-addled bodybuilders who are more brawn than brains. Dissatisfied with their lot in life, they scheme to kidnap an arrogant entrepreneur (Tony Shalhoub) and wind up stealing millions in the process. Seemingly suffused with as much humor as action, the only downside to this project is that it’s directed by Michael Bay. We’ll see if he can handle a film that doesn’t have giant robots as the main characters. Release Date: April 26. Trailer at: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1575135001/ 
May – The Fast and the Furious 6 – Surely, I must have lost my mind to include this film on the list. Not only is this is sequel but the sixth part in a franchise that features two actors (Vin Diesel & Paul Walker) who’d be unemployed were it not for this series. And yet, there wasn’t a film that surprised me more in 2011 than the last segment of this franchise, which was reinvigorated by impressive direction from Justin Lin and an exciting plot involving a heist with the most improbable of getaways. The two principals return as does Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, who are joined by Gina Carano who made an impressive debut in Soderbergh’s Haywire. The plot is being kept undercover and frankly, the less we know, the better. Release Date: May 24.
June – This is the End – This is either going to be the funniest film of 2013 or the biggest embarrassment. Either way, the cast and the premise make it a must-see. James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jay Buruchel, Danny McBride, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling and Rhianna all play themselves in this ribald comedy in which the celebs, while partying at Franco’s place, find out the world is coming to an end. What ensues is a Darwinian exercise in which only the strongest and weirdest survive. The red band trailer, which is not for the easily offended, can be seen here: http://www.beyondhollywood.com/this-is-the-end-2013-movie-preview-images...  Release Date: June 14.
July – Turbo – If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – if there’s one under-represented group of creature I want to see more of on screen, it’s the garden snail. The folks at Dreamworks Animation have finally answered my plea with this feature about a snail (voice by Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of one day winning the Indianapolis 500. Yeah, it’s a long shot but a freak accident makes it a possibility in this feature that features the voice talent of Samuel L. Jackson, Snoopp Dogg, Paul Giamatti, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph. Hopefully this is one will be the one that pleases kids and their parents alike. Release Date: July 19. Trailer at: http://www.dejavurl.com/trailers/turbo/ 
August – Insidious, Chapter 2 – I’ve often said that I love a good horror film. The problem is that so few of them are done with any imagination or innovation. James Wan’s Insidious (2010) certainly fit the bill as it hit theaters with little fanfare but delivered good, old-fashioned shocks by employed effective editing, camera placement and pacing, eschewing gimmicky special effects which are often less than effective because they are so obviously fake. The cast from the original, including Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey, return for this follow-up that will hopefully follow the less-is-more approach that the first film did. Release Date: August 30.
September – Prisoners – This thriller finds Hugh Jackman as man who’s at the end of his rope. Frustrated over the police’s lack of action concerning the kidnapping of his daughter and her best friend, he abducts the man he thinks committed the crime. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the cop assigned to track him down and talk a bit of sense into him. While this film is still in production, the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in this indicates the script must be good, as does the fact that it was on Hollywood’s blacklist of the best scripts that haven’t been produced. The participation of Jackman and Gyllenhaal, both of who have solid track records where choosing smart projects is concerned, also bodes well. Release Date: September 20.
October – Captain Phillips – When was the last time you saw Tom Hanks in a really good movie? Catch me if You Can was in 2002 and there really haven’t been any classics since then. This may break the streak as Hanks takes on the title role of Captain Richard Phillips, who helmed the MV Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked by Somali Pirates in 2009. With Paul Greengrass as director (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93) expect a degree of realism that a drama of this sort demands. Release Date: October 11.
November – Mr. Peabody and Sherman - I’ve been wondering when they’d finally get around to bringing the classic Jay Ward cartoon about a genius dog and his boy to the big screen and it seems the wait is finally over. Someone has stolen Mr. Peabody’s Way-Back machine and is going back in time to change key moments in history. So, he and Sherman jump into action, trying to rectify things, running into historical figures along the way. Ty Burrell from Modern Family provides the voice of Mr. Peabody and Robert Downey Jr., Mel Brooks, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Ellie Kemper, Stephen Colbert and Allison Janney join him. Release Date: November 1.
December – Anchorman: The Legend Continues – I may end up on the couch for sharing this, but my wife actually peed her pants when we went to see Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that she was eight months pregnant) It remains to be seen if another incident occurs when we go see the sequel to the film that made Will Ferrell a star, which will finally arrive at the end of 2013. Back on board are Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner to witness how Burgundy copes with the modern 24-hour news cycle. Release Date: December 20.