(CNN) — While the Academy gets ready to crown the best films of the past year, we’ve got something else for your consideration. From “The Avengers 2” to “World War Z,” CNN Entertainment presents your guide to the biggest, best and buzziest movies of 2013.
Comic Book Heroes
Comic book franchises will be flying by us faster than a speeding bullet this year, from a reboot of the Superman series (replacing Brandon Routh from “Superman Returns” with Henry Cavill for “Man of Steel” June 14) to the set-in-Japan “The Wolverine” July 26 to “Thor: The Dark World” November 8.
But topping all of these on the anticipation meter (and hitting theaters first) is “Iron Man 3,” which brings Tony Stark back from the epic team-up of “The Avengers.” It also kicks off the next phase of Marvel movie standalones like “Thor” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that lead into “The Avengers 2.”
The stakes are more personal for Stark this time out, and although comic book fans will recognize the classic characters, Stark’s got new on-screen villains to contend with such as Eric Savin/Coldblood, played by James Badge Dale. “The level of security that I got to go through to learn my own lines is out of control,” Dale told CNN. “They have a Marvel security guy whose job it is to run around and find photographers hiding in the forest.” Hence the minimal leaks. Still, if 2012 is any indication, it’s safe to say we’ll all be watching.
Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell will be back in “Anchorman: The Legend Continues” on December 20, just in time to keep San Diego classy for Christmas. Of his dim-witted character Brick Tamland, Steve Carell said that he hopes he hasn’t changed at all since the first film, which came out in 2004. “I think it’s such a great ensemble piece that I would hope that our roles are the same as they were the first time around,” Carell said. “The storyline is going to be different, but I hope the people in it are exactly the same.”
“Oz: The Great and Powerful,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Great Expectations” — sense a theme there yet? All of these films based on classic literature have, well, great expectations associated with them, but the anticipation around the Charles Dickens story starring Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham has dimmed a bit since its U.K. release (Its release in the United States is TBD).
Then “The Great Gatsby” had its release date shuffled from December 2012 to May 10, 2013, curtailing potential Oscar nominations this time around (although the trailers still look promising).
This leaves Sam Raimi’s “Oz” film, out March 8, to take the lead. In this origin story, James Franco stars as the would-be wizard who leaves Kansas and lands in Oz where he meets a bevy of witches played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. “It’s otherworldly,” Weisz said. “It’s not just a different country; it’s like a different planet. Definitely not on Earth.”
With no more “Harry Potter” or “Twilight,” movie studios have been scrambling to create new teen-oriented franchises, and only “The Hunger Games” has caught fire so far. The second installment of the series, due November 22, just wrapped shooting in Hawaii (the new Game, featuring survivors of Games past, has a water-and-jungle theme). Fans are eager to see Katniss’ wedding dress, the clock-structure of the arena and the confrontation with President Snow. (Not to mention some extra kissing this time around!)
But hot on the heels of “Catching Fire” are some worthy contenders, including boy-centric “Ender’s Game” (out November 1), “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (out August 23), and the first of the Caster Chronicles books to be adapted, “Beautiful Creatures” (out February 13).
The latter two are good-versus-evil supernatural stories: “Mortal Instruments” is about half-angel demon hunters, or Shadowhunters, and “Beautiful Creatures” is about light and dark witches, or casters, who discover what they are during a ceremony at age 16. “We’ve really loved everything we’ve seen so far in the film,” said “Beautiful Creatures” co-author Kami Garcia. Audiences will likely love Emmy Rossum’s take on the lollipop-wielding Ridley, who casts her siren spell with each lick.
The first nine minutes of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” out May 17, are already showing in select theaters, which has amped up Trekkie speculation about plot points: Could this be a contemporary “Wrath of Khan?” Will Benedict Cumberbatch’s mysterious “John Harrison” character become Khan? Pointing in this direction is the casting of Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, Kirk’s long-lost love and inventor of the dangerously powerful Genesis device, which could turn inhabitable worlds into class M planets suitable for humans but could also destroy all pre-existing life.
Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity,” which features “two people floating in space,” as George Clooney put it, is also enticing. Clooney’s co-star is Sandra Bullock, who dominates the film, and together, they are the two survivors of a damaged space station. Reports from early test screenings suggest the film, out October 18, is gorgeous and awe-inspiring, but also divisive along the lines of “The Tree of Life.”
2013 will see its fair share of familiar properties getting new life in the form of remakes and reboots. “The Lone Ranger” series (which has existed as radio and TV shows and several film incarnations) becomes a Gore Verbinski movie (out July 3) with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer aboard for a Tonto-centric story.
Tom Clancy-created CIA agent Jack Ryan has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, and now Chris Pine is getting his turn, with a release date set for December 25.
Sissy Spacek hands the “Carrie” baton over to Chloë Grace Moretz on March 15.
And Spike Lee’s American remake of the South Korean thriller “Oldboy,” out October 11, stars Josh Brolin as an executive who has been mysteriously confined for years and is now freed, and sets out to find out who stole his life. Will there be any eating of live octopus like in the original? They’re not saying, but producer Nathan Kahane promised other “treats” for fans. “If you look carefully, you’ll see some of the cast from the original,” he said.
There’s no competition for “The Hobbit,” the second installment of which is due out December 13 as the Dwarves get closer to their goal of reclaiming Erebor (after getting captured by both giant spiders and Elves). “The Desolation of Smaug” will feature Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon Smaug. “He’s absolutely fantastic,” gushed co-star Martin Freeman. Smaug will be the first performance-captured dragon, and thanks to advancements in technology, we should be able to see more emotion and musculature in his face in the same manner in which Gollum was improved for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” only on a much bigger scale. Also look for some more elf action in the second “Hobbit” film, with the return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
Ryan Gosling fans have three ways to see their favorite actor in 2013: in “Gangster Squad,” “Only God Forgives” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.” The third of these, due March 29, reunites Gosling with his “Blue Valentine” director Derek Cianfrance and kicked off his romance with co-star Eva Mendes. The movie has been getting rave reviews on the festival circuit, even if Rosling’s role as a motorcycle stunt rider who resorts to bank robbery sounds like a rehash of what he did in “Drive.” This time, however, it’s more of a family drama; Gosling really only carries one third of the film. (Meanwhile, “Only God Forgives” is a reunion with his “Drive” director Nicholas Winding Refn, but has yet to screen).
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
There won’t be a bigger zombie apocalypse than “World War Z,” and it’s got one of the biggest stars (Brad Pitt) to anchor it. Max Brook’s book featured interviews from various survivors of the Zombie War, which gave both a time line and a sensation of the global nature of the catastrophe. Pitt’s character has the unenviable job of tying up disparate storylines, but if anyone can do it, it’s him.
On the comedic side, it’s a toss-up between Seth Rogen’s directorial debut “This Is The End,” out June 14, and Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End,” out October 25.
In “This Is The End,” an unspecified global cataclysm wipes out many famous actors playing themselves (including Michael Cera), so Rogen and friends hole up at James Franco’s house and try to ride it out. “We joke about (the potential for a sequel), but I don’t know where it would exist,” Rogen laughed. “But they’ll make a sequel out of anything. There’s a script for “Titanic 2″ lying around somewhere.”
Then, in the bound-to-be-self-referencing “World’s End,” Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and friends try to do a pub crawl on their last night alive. Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” know this will be epic.
What is it with all the films this year about Earth becoming an inhospitable planet? “Elysium” (starring Matt Damon, out March 1), “Oblivion” (starring Tom Cruise, out April 19), and “After Earth” (starring Will Smith, out June 7) share common themes, but only the first two seem to blame rampant corporatization and wealth discrepancies instead of nature. “After Earth” focuses on survival; “Oblivion” is about an underground resistance (led by Morgan Freeman).
But “Elysium,” directed by Neil Blomkamp (of “District 9” fame) has the most socio-political overtones. In this scenario, the rich live on a luxurious new world called Elysium, and the poor live on Earth, which has become overpopulated, diseased and crime ridden. Damon’s character fights to make a better life for himself, and inadvertently, everyone else.