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Best movies of 2012 that you don't know about yet: John's list

Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 8:58 AM Central
Last updated Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:17 AM Central

by John Couture

By now, I'm sure that you've read our list of movies that we think will be heating up the box office charts in 2012 and probably Tim's, shall we say, negative rant on the state of cinema. But now I'll attempt to shed a little light into those darker corners of the release schedule.

While, I head on over to Tim's office to remove all of the sharp objects, peruse my half of what is quickly becoming a favorite annual tradition among our readers, our lists of top 10 sleepers that we feel could be huge hits in 2012.

Of course, "hits" is subjective because this is also a list of movies that you probably haven't heard much about yet unless you spend endless hours trolling movie sites like ours. So, while a movie like The Muppets didn't set the box office ablaze with its $82 million, it still performed quite admirably for a film that had little to no buzz surrounding it when I put it on last year's list.

Naturally, they can't all be sleeper hits. For every Contagion on the list, there's a Skateland. Sometimes movies just fizzle out completely, but I'm pretty confident that this year's list is full of movies that you will be talking about in due time.

But only time will tell. Be sure to chime in and let me where I went wrong or got it right.

Project X

Why it MIGHT work: It is produced by Todd Phillips and he's had quite the golden touch lately with the Hangover movies.

Why it MIGHT fail: Another party movie with a bunch of no-name actors? See the trailer below.

It's pretty clear from the trailer and the stills that have been released by Warner Bros. that they are trying to rekindle some of that Superbad magic. Only this time, the film has a sort of a faux documentary or found footage feel to it with a bunch of no name actors in the key roles.

I think it's the sort of movie that will break out and do better business than one would expect. Warner Bros. is pumping some advertising dollars behind it and they embraced the R rating (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens).

They are looking to hit the college scene with a hard R comedy and I think it will fill that niche perfectly just in time for Spring Break. (3/2)

The Five-Year Engagement

Why it MIGHT work: The creative forces behind Bridesmaids and Forgetting Sarah Marshall combine to make a dream team. Jason Segel is sort of a big deal right now.

Why it MIGHT fail: Bridesmaids was a success because it toed a fine line between raunchy female humor and a love story, can lightning strike twice? Jason Segel has a tendency to write his penis into his movies.

I'm a huge Jason Segel fan, although even I could have done without his member getting screen time in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. All that aside, I think this film will find a surprising audience given its appeal to both men and women.

Dare I say it's the perfect date movie? That and Emily Blunt's accent will turn men into jelly. (4/27)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Why it MIGHT work: Timur Bekmambetov is probably the most interesting special effects driven director working in film today. Who doesn't want to see Honest Abe stake a few vamps? Can he start with RPattz?

Why it MIGHT fail: It comes out smack dab in the middle between Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, two of the biggest releases of the year. People actually like Honest Abe and don't want to see his dark side.

When it comes to taking poetic license with the past to create a new and entertaining story, I'm all for it. I just read Stephen King's 11/22/63 and found it fascinating.

While this is slightly better than the on-again, off-again notion of putting Zombies into works of literature, there seems to be a real split in people's acceptance of alternate historical perspectives. But who's to say that Abraham Lincoln's mother wasn't killed by a supernatural creature and Honest Abe didn't moonlight as vampire hunter?

The bottom line is that I love the Civil War time period and Bekmambetov is one of my favorite directors, so I'm in no matter when it comes out. Also, one has to wonder how they are going to make Mary Elizabeth Winstead look like the "frumpy" Mary Todd Lincoln. (6/22)


Why it MIGHT work: Writer, director and leading voice Seth MacFarlane somehow sold America on a TV show with a talking dog and an evil genius baby intent on settling the score with his mother. Mila Kunis is hot.

Why it MIGHT fail: People might think it's a sequel to The Beaver. Someone might actually realize that Mark Wahlberg is the lead actor.

In case you thought I was simply being a male pig in stating that Mila Kunis is hot, well you're probably right. But it should also be noted that she carried the craptacular film that was Friends with Benefits to over $55 million at the box office.

I enjoy The Family Guy quite a bit, but I'm not a diehard fan. There are a ton of diehard fans that already have this film circled on their calendars. And I'll be honest, I'm quite a bit intrigued by the idea of a man with a talking teddy bear.

The only downfall is that it hits theaters one week before The Dark Knight Rises, but it could turn out to be great counter-programming. (7/13)

The Wettest County in the World

Why it MIGHT work: People will finally be able to understand Tom Hardy again after The Dark Knight Rises. Audiences will forget that Shia LaBeouf has acted in anything before this.

Why it MIGHT fail: People will picket theaters demanding that Shia LaBeouf pay them back personally for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. All women on the planet break into spontaneous combustion the week before it releases.

This is another in a long line of movies this year that appeal to both sides of the gender war. Let's face it, the ladies will dig the cast that features Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce while the guys will enjoy the gangster shoot 'em up action.

I don't mean to be so blunt, but it seemed to work wonders for Public Enemies' box office. This time though it's a story of bootleggers turned mobsters and if there's anything that we like more than mob movies, it's mob movies with plenty of hooch in it. (8/31)


Why it MIGHT work: The cast is a current who's who of hot properties in Hollywood. People like director Ben Affleck much more than actor Ben Affleck.

Why it MIGHT fail: People might recognize Ben Affleck under that horrible wig and beard (see below).

In terms of sure-fire hit, I'm pretty confident that Argo is it on this list. I mean it has all the earmarks of great film making: a true-story, spectacular cloak-and-dagger espionage and a golden cast.

Of course, the story and even some of the behind the camera talent might be reminiscent of that spectacular failure The Men Who Stare at Goats, but don't let that sway you. The story follows a true CIA mission in which operatives went undercover as part of the crew of Science Fiction film that was filming in the area with the goal of extraditing six refugees from Iran.

If there's one thing that Hollywood is good at it's making films about people making films. And spies, definitely spies. (9/4)

The Gangster Squad

Why it MIGHT work: Audiences will suddenly realize that they really loved L.A. Confidential and want to see more of the same. It's got that Ryan Gosling guy in it.

Why it MIGHT fail: Emma Stone has a Mel Gibson-esque breakdown while doing press for The Amazing Spider-Man. People remember that they despise Sean Penn.

It's noire. It's Los Angeles. It's a loaded cast.

There really isn't much that could do this movie in other than the somewhat surprising release in the middle of October. Although I can understand why you wouldn't want to put it up against the Summer's heavy hitters.

I can understand some trepidation as it would appear that director Ruben Fleischer might be in over his head with this film. Don't get me wrong, I loved Zombieland but The Gangster Squad will most likely have heavier tones and darker themes than a zombie apocalypse.

The first image from the film (below) seems to ease my concerns a bit and the top-notch cast shouldn't really need much direction anyhow. (10/19)

My Mother's Curse

Why it MIGHT work: Seth Rogen is great in everything that he's in and people generally like him. Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski should like quite fetching on the big screen.

Why it MIGHT fail: The idea of Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand as mother and son on a road trip together makes people's brains explode. No, I really said Barbra Streisand.

This is the most peculiar and interesting movie on my list. I'm not what you would call a closet Streisand fan, but I think she can be funny at times. Case in point, Meet the Fockers.

But the idea of her playing Seth Rogen's mom is both ingenious and bizarre. It's like trying to wrap your mind around the awesomeness that is chocolate covered pretzels. You don't want to figure it out, you just want to eat them and enjoy the experience without someone stink-palming you.

I think this bizarre factor will help play into the movie's marketing and will hit a bunch of different demos. It's been a long time since the last great mother and son film, but I think it's a niche that needs to be filled. (11/2)

Les Miserables

Why it MIGHT work: As one of the longest-running Broadway musicals, it is much loved and has a huge following.

Why it MIGHT fail: As one of the longest-running Broadway musicals, it is much loved and has a huge following.

I love Les Mis. It is easily my favorite Broadway musical and I can't see it enough times. But, there is such as a thing as a bad Les Miserables. In fact, there have been several.

But, this film has the potential to be the best of them all. Of course, likewise it could be the worst thing to ever stink up theaters.

Director Tom Hooper is a bold choice, but one I like. He has also indicated recently that he wants all of the actors to actually sing their parts live in front of the cameras. That shouldn't be a problem for an old Broadway hound like Hugh Jackman, but I'm a bit concerned about Russell Crowe's ability to pull it off convincingly.

The cast is both brilliant (Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier) and frightening (Taylor Swift rumored to play Eponine), but this is a film that hasn't even started filming yet so it's quite conceivable that it will miss its December release altogether.

But if they can bring it together, it could be epic. (12/7)

Nero Fiddled

Why it MIGHT work: Midnight in Paris proved that Woody Allen is back.

Why it MIGHT fail: Midnight in Paris was simply the last great film from Woody Allen.

I really think this one could go either way. I saw Midnight in Paris and while I enjoyed it as a beautiful film with great performances, it didn't really resonate with me or leave me with any sort of lasting impressions.

Now, my wife, on the other hand, loved it and thought it was the best film of 2011.

Interestingly, what Midnight in Paris lacked in substance, it seems that Woody Allen is trying to make up for it with Nero Fiddled. The original title was The Bop Decameron, but Woody later ditched it when he realized that people weren't connecting with Giovanni Boccaccio's literature piece The Decameron.

He has since backed away from the connection, but the film is supposed to contain four vignettes that weave together in Rome, so the idea of containing multiple story lines woven into one piece is there. Whatever the case may be, this is definitely a bit more ambitious than Midnight in Paris and I'm excited to see it all unfold. (TBD)

Best movies of 2012 that you don't know about yet: Tim's list