10 films to watch in 2013

From horror and documentaries to indies and comedies, this year will be big in film

The last year has seen a lot of blather in film circles about the death of movies and film culture, most of which has already evaporated from the mind, like so much inert gas. Still, as we look ahead to 2013, several unnecessary sequels do seem eligible for the funeral pyre: Fast and Furious 6, The Hangover Part III, Grown Ups 2, The Smurfs 2. And several blockbusters, buried under mountains of cash when they were first released — Jurassic Park, The Little Mermaid, and the Star Wars installments Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith — will be disinterred and reissued in 3-D.

Yet for all of next year's likely stinking corpses, 2013 also boasts plenty of reinvigorating fare. Below are 10 titles — including some we haven't seen (and which might be eligible for the charnel house when we do) — whose promise suggests to us that reports of film's death are greatly exaggerated. (The opening dates listed are subject to change, and some films may open later in the Twin Cities.)

1. No (February 15)

The superb No opens February 15
Sony Pictures Classics
The superb No opens February 15

The superb final installment of Pablo Larraín's trilogy on Pinochet, No is set in 1988, when the Chilean dictator called for a referendum to determine whether he could extend his rule for another eight years. Those who want the tyrant gone approach advertising executive René (Gael García Bernal), who crafts incongruously effective TV spots filled with rainbows and mimes. Shooting on U-matic video to give No the look of the era, Larraín also demonstrates one of the most unlikely ways that a revolution could be televised.

2. Beyond the Hills (March 8)

Like his 2007 Palme d'Or winner, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu's astringent new film revolves around a female friendship tested by a sclerotic culture. Nun-in-training Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) takes in Alina (Cristina Flutur), her best friend since their orphanage days, at her isolated monastery. Alina — in events modeled after a true case from 2005 — is soon thought to be possessed by a demon. The treatment by her devout caretakers lays bare the disasters of dogma.

3. Carrie (March 15)

One of several remakes slated for 2013, including Spike Lee's Oldboy and Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Kimberly Peirce's update of Brian De Palma's 1976 adaptation of Stephen King's novel about a telekinetic teenager might, like many redos, warrant a bucket of pig's blood dumped on it. But the casting is propitious: Chloë Grace Moretz, so haunting as a pubescent vampire in another remake, 2010's Let Me In, seems perfect for the title role, bullied not just by her classmates but also by her religious crackpot mom (Julianne Moore).

4. Room 237 (March 29)

Another adaptation of a Stephen King novel — Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror masterwork, The Shining — is the subject of Rodney Ascher's dense, deft documentary. Five obsessive experts, who are heard but never seen, spin out their theories on Kubrick's film, including one who declares that it takes on nothing less than "the nightmare of history." Illustrating his interviewees' ideas with scenes from Kubrick's chiller (and his entire oeuvre), Ascher lets us get lost in these weirdly absorbing treatises.

5. The Heat (April 5)

A comedy that features Sandra Bullock as an FBI special agent might lead a reasonable viewer to worry that this will be Miss Congeniality 3. But The Heat is directed by Paul Feig, the helmer of Bridesmaids, which proved to all doubters that those with two X chromosomes can be funny. Also encouraging: That film's flat-capped comic genius, Melissa McCarthy, co-stars, playing a hotheaded Boston cop who teams with Bullock to take down a drug lord.

6. Something in the Air (May 3)

Autobiographical yet never sentimental, French director Olivier Assayas's coming-of-ager, set in the early '70s, centers on high school student Gilles (terrific newcomer Clément Métayer), born too late to take part in the insurrections of May '68 but still consumed with revolutionary zeal. He grows weary of political hair-splitting and soon devotes his life to other noble causes: art, sex, music, and cinema, passions that play out against a backdrop of perfect period detail.

7. Frances Ha (May 17)

Noah Baumbach's latest, starring and co-written by his romantic partner, Greta Gerwig, is both a fizzy homage to the French New Wave and a sharp, witty entry into the long-moribund adrift-twentysomething genre. Gerwig's kinetic performance of the title role reveals her to be a nimble comedian, perfectly balancing mortification and bravado.

8. The Last Time I Saw Macao (summer TBD)

Film noir meets Chris Marker — like cine-essay meets tranny fabulousness in this playful, poetic rumination on time, space, and memory, co-directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata. After Cindy Scrash lip-synchs to Jane Russell's "You Kill Me" — from Josef von Sternberg's Macao (1952), a key reference here — the film seamlessly shifts to a mystery story and to da Mata's wry off-screen recollections of growing up in the former Portuguese colony of the title.

9. Elysium (August 9)

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp proved to be a master of metaphor with his debut, District 9 (2009), a biting sci-fi allegory about apartheid. Hopes are high for the Occupy-inflected Elysium, set in 2159 and pitting the cosseted rich who live on the space station of the title against the 99 percent, barely surviving on a destroyed Earth.

10. Runner, Runner (September 27)

In his last outing, The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), director Brad Furman showed a knack for jazzing up a legal thriller, one that ushered in the Second Coming of Matthew McConaughey. Working with a blue-chip cast — Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, and the always-welcome Anthony Mackie — Furman should be able to deliver another satisfying genre picture with this tale of offshore online gaming.

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