13 big films to watch for before the end of the year

We look ahead to the blockbuster cinematic treats yet to come this year, starring 2012, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and a fair few more…

It used to be simple. The really big budget blockbusters would arrive between May and July every year, and then at Christmas, you’d get some family fare, again with a bit of money spent on it. But those rules don’t work any more. Instead, we’re increasingly finding very expensive films littered right throughout the cinema schedules, with every month finding some kind of major blockbuster heading our way.

With that in mind, here are 13 of the big movies coming our way between mid-September and the end of the year (which means the fascinating-looking 9 just misses the cut), that might just be worth your ticket price (we’ll come back to the Oscar-baiters in due course, as well as Mike Judge’s Extract…)…

2012

We’ve actually run the latest trailer for this one today, and we’d have seen the full film already had Sony decided not to shunt it out of summer blockbuster season to give it some more space. Personally, I couldn’t categorically state that director Roland Emmerich will give us a solid and substantial film with 2012 – heck, I can’t erase 10,000 BC from my head that easily, sadly – but he does seem on very sure footing here. The effects-packed trailer at the least demonstrates that Emmerich is someone who can get his money firmly on the screen, and I just hope that he can flesh out his end-of-the-world premise into a rounded movie too.

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It’s a very expensive and effects-driven movie to turn up in November, mind…

US release date  13 November UK release date  13 November

Zombieland

The early promotional material for Zombieland has looked sparkling, and the latest trailer in particular looks to have the humorous tone nailed bang on. It’s the casual, matter-of-fact manner in which Jesse Eisenberg’s character goes about his zombie disposal that comes across really well, and the signs are that Zombieland is going to, at the very least, offer a couple of bloody and entertaining hours at the movies. Bad-ass Woody Harrelson really helps matters, too…

US release date  9 October UK release date  27 November

The Invention Of Lying

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The first time Ricky Gervais starred in a really good Hollywood comedy, most audiences gave it a miss. Yet Ghost Town remains one of the undiscovered gems of 2008 for our money, and there’s every sign that The Invention Of Lying will be just as good. Co-directed by Gervais with Matthew Robinson, the smart trailer we’ve seen thus far introduces a world where everybody tells the truth. Until Gervais’ character walks into it. With a strong cast, and a welcome starring role for Jennifer Garner too, this could yet be the strongest comedy of the year. Here’s hoping.

US release date  25 September UK release date  2 October

Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

We’ll throw this one in as the potential sleeper. Directed by Paul Weitz (who has About A Boy, American Pie and In Good Company to his name), this is the story of a boy who leaves his life behind to join the Cirque Du Freak of the title, as he befriends John C Reilly’s vampire. We’re promised a mix of comedy, action and horror, and the cast is fleshed out with the hugely underrated Orlando Jones, Ray Stevenson, Ken Watanabe, Salma Hayek and Willem Dafoe. And we’d certainly take it over the also-incoming Saw 6….

US release date  23 October UK release date  23 October

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The Fantastic Mr Fox

The rest of the year has a couple of animated treats firmly lying in wait. We don’t get Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation, The Princess And The Frog, until February in the UK, hence its omission from this list (in spite of the fact that it’s a film I’m personally dying to see). But Wes Anderson’s striking-looking The Fantastic Mr Fox looks quite sublime. Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, which is always a good start, Anderson has brought together a talented group of performers, and unusually has opted for stop-motion animation to bring the tale to life. The trailer released thus far seems to indicate that he’s made a very wise decision.

US release date 13 November UK release date 23 October

Sherlock Holmes

You can flip a coin right now to guess just how Guy Ritchie’s retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story is going to turn out. Bluntly, I’ve no idea. On the upside, the casting of Robert Downey Jr in the title role is a very smart move, and Jude Law as Dr Watson should work out well too. The gamble is the man in the director’s chair. Ritchie hasn’t tackled a project like this before, and it’s been some years since he brought his best work to the screen (last year’s RockNRolla was something of a return to form, but Snatch it absolutely wasn’t). Mixed messages have come from the production, but if everything gels, we’re looking at an action comedy treat here. It might even have something to do with the Sherlock Holmes stories themselves…

US release date  25 December UK release date  26 December

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Where The Wild Things Are

Now this one should be interesting. Warner Bros’ family adventure has not been a happy production according to some reports. Based on the story by Maurice Sendak, the big reason to see it is Adaptation and Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze behind the camera (he co-write the screenplay too). However, it was rumoured at one stage that Warner Bros was considering entirely reshooting the film, and already Jonze had uprooted it from Universal to Warner Bros (Universal had put out a short teaser for it in 2000!). Mixing in live action, suit work, CGI and animatronics, it’s going to be fascinating seeing just what emerges from the midst of what could be described as a troubled production, but with Jonze steering the ship, it’s a film it’d be folly to write off.

US release date  16 October UK release date  11 December

The Informant!

Reuniting director Steven Soderbergh and star Matt Damon for the first time since the Ocean’s trilogy, The Informant! already looks a little unusual. It’s the story of a corporate whistleblower, played by Damon, who then goes undercover for the FBI. Based on a true story, the trailer thus far confirms that Soderbergh seems to playing the film more as a comedy though, a gamble which could clearly go either way. You can’t accuse him of playing things safe, though…

US release date  18 September UK release date  20 November

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Jennifer’s Body

Can Megan Fox headline a major motion picture just off the back of her name? Here’s where we find out. Jennifer’s Body, the first film from writer Diablo Cody post-Juno, finds Fox as a possessed cheerleader who kills lots of people. We’ve noted before on the site that the film appears to be mashed together out a collection of possible Google search terms, and the promotional material thus far would lead you to think that you’re in for 90 minutes of a scantily clad Megan Fox. But is there a film of note underneath it all? As someone who loved Juno, I suspect there might just be….

US release date  18 September UK release date  6 November

Surrogates

It’s a sign as to just how crowded summer blockbuster schedules are getting that Surrogates has sat things out until the end of September to make its bow. Starring Bruce Willis and steered by director Jonathan Mostow, the film is a science fiction thriller where human beings sit on their backsides at home, and surrogate versions of themselves live in the real world. Inevitably, things go tits up, and Bruce Willis has to leave his house for the first time in yonks to go and clean up the mess. There have been mixed responses to the Surrogates trailer so far, and the latest stills Disney has released from the production aren’t likely to have helped. Bluntly, I couldn’t call this one either way, but it has the potential to be an interesting movie….

US release date  25 September UK release date  25 September

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon

You might just already know the drill on this one. The first Twilight movie was a bit of a mess, but it made boatloads of money. New Moon has a new director – Chris Weitz – and keeps its young stars (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart). It will also make a lot of cash, no matter how good or otherwise it is. And if you don’t like it, you needn’t worry. Another Twilight movie will be along in seven months anyway…

US release date  20 November UK release date  20 November

A Christmas Carol

I don’t think I’m alone in having seen enough adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to last me my lifetime. Between Alistair Sim, The Muppets, Blackadder and Bill Murray, I’ve seen every interpretation of the story that I’d want to. At least that was until I saw the 3D trailer for Robert Zemeckis’ motion-captured new take on the story. I’ve wondered before why, while much of the attention has been on James Cameron and what he’d be doing for 3D cinema this year, another of cinema’s technical innovators has wrongly flown under the radar. For the footage that Robert Zemeckis has put on the screen for his Christmas Carol take thus far has been really very strong, and I actually thought that the 3D was, for the first time, working. I temper this with my memories of The Polar Express, a visual spectacle but a slight film in my eyes. Yet A Christmas Carol may yet be the shot in the arm that 3D cinema requires, and Zemeckis on his day can’t half make a cracking film.

US release date  6 November UK release date  6 November

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Avatar

Without wishing to pour fuel on the flame wars that continue to erupt across the web, Avatar is – no matter what your take is on the material showcased in the last week – still the must-have ticket for 2009. I didn’t mind the trailer, personally, although do concede it wasn’t what I thought we were going to get at all. But the very idea of a James Cameron passion project, the prospect of the biggest technological jump in cinema we’d seen in some time, and just the veneer of mystery keep me intrigued. Even if Avatar doesn’t generate the wads of money that’d be needed to pay off its bills, there’s no way in mind that an interesting film isn’t going to coming out of the end of all of this. December 18th can’t come quickly enough….

US release date  18 December UK release date  18 December

Not out in the UK this year: The Princess & The Frog, The Lovely Bones (the latter looking quite brilliant thus far)