One is a man of steel, the other, a man of dreams. One is super, the other, merely great.
Together Clark Kent and Jay Gatsby are looking like the more intriguing characters to pop up on the big screen in the coming year. While everyone is wallowing in Oscar speculation, it’s time to move on.
We’ve sifted through title after title to come up with — wait for it — The 10 Most Promising Movies of 2013. And remember, all opening dates are subject to change.
“Stand Up Guys”
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are the guys in the title, setting a standard for inspired casting. You’d love to be on the set just to observe them during downtime. The script by newcomer Noah Haidle must be a doozy to have attracted these giants. They’re aging mobsters banding together for one last hit. Pacino and Walken rescue Arkin from a rest home, and they do a lot of reminiscing about their glory times. The actors all have live theater experience, and their director, Fisher Stevens, comes from that world as well, so you can imagine longer and more articulate dialogue than is usually found in action pictures. Everything leads up to a final confrontation with their pasts. Feb. 1
If Benjamin in “The Graduate’’ is a little worried about his future, the lead in “Warm Bodies,’’ known simply as “R,” is having a full-blown emotional crisis. It’s not just that he is a zombie. He also is responsible for the death — by attacking and eating — of a young man whose girlfriend with whom he becomes smitten. The timing of this movie near Valentine’s Day is no accident. It is a love story, based on Isaac Marion’s beloved zombie romantic novel for young adults. As R, Nicholas Hoult is almost unrecognizable from the youngster he played a decade ago in “About a Boy.’’ Feb. 1
Fans of the revered South Korean director Park Chan-wook are, well, stoked, that he has finally made a movie in English. Part horror story, part psychological thriller, “Stoker’’ seems ideal for Park, who is known for his portrayal of brutality. (It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino would be one of his Hollywood boosters.) The plot of “Stoker’’ sounds like Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt’’ — if Teresa Wright had bonded with Joseph Cotten and plotted against her family. Mia Wasikowska is the innocent girl and Matthew Goode is her predatory uncle. A stellar cast also includes Nicole Kidman and Jacki Weaver. March 1
You have to wonder whether Sandra Bullock or Melissa McCarthy stands to gain more by the success of this quirky comedy? At first thought it’s McCarthy, who is still trying to negotiate the leap between a TV show (“Mike & Molly) and a movie career. But since her Oscar three years ago Bullock has not exactly been a top box-office draw. So let’s say they both need this movie in which Bullock plays an FBI special agent and McCarthy is a Boston cop who spouts four-letter words. They wind up unlikely partners in the hunt for an evil drug lord. Paul Feig, who directed “Bridesmaids,’’ tries to get that girlfriend thing going again. From the trailer, McCarthy and Bullock look to have that all-important chemistry. It worked for Thelma and Louise. April 5
“Stuck in Love’’
This is one of those movies that makes you think: How did this cast ever get assembled? The plot has potential — a novelist whose wife has left him develops writer’s block and is exasperated by his daughter selling her first book — but also could be ponderous as movies about writers tend to be. It’s a first film for director Josh Boone. And yet Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Lily Collins (daughter of Phil) and Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Arnold) are all aboard. Perhaps most intriguing, Stephen King appears as a hugely successful novelist rather like, well, Stephen King. April
“The Great Gatsby’’
If all had gone as planned, “The Great Gatsby’’ might be vying for Oscar consideration right now. But director Baz Luhrmann wasn’t able to finish in time. So instead, “Gatsby’’ will usher in the summer season, which seems somehow appropriate given all the summer parties Gatsby hosted at his West Egg mansion. Filmmakers continue to be attracted to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterwork — this is the sixth version and, in some ways, the weirdest. Luhrmann is making it in 3-D, an odd concept for a movie that cries out to be dialogue driven, a display for Fitzgerald’s painfully beautiful words. This quintessentially American story is being shot in Australia (Lurhmann is an Aussie) with a largely British and Australian cast. Gatsby, though, will be played by an American, Leonardo DiCaprio, who at least is imaginable in the role. May 10
Those who are dying for a look inside Google’s storied headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., will get their chance in June. The new Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn starrer — their first together since “Wedding Crashers’’ in 2005 — is set at a Silicon Valley company very much like Google, and Google execs decided they might as well let the boys in to film it. (According to Slate, their legal counsel first checked Vaughn’s script to make sure that Google wasn’t the punch line of any jokes.) Wilson and Vaughn play pals who have been summarily fired. They decide to take an internship at Google even though they’re twice the age of their bosses. In a cameo role, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is shown critiquing the work performance of Vaughn’s character. June 7
“Man of Steel’’
So now it’s Superman being dusted off for another run, like Batman before him. A plot description indicates “Man of Steel’’ goes back to the very beginning of the comic-book tale when an alien infant is brought to Earth from a dying planet with the intention of having him grow into a guardian protector. From the way he ascends into the wild blue yonder in the trailer, the guess is that the new version will be heavy on special effects. A dark spirit appears to hover over everything, so it’s no surprise to learn that Christopher Nolan, who presided over the darkening of the new Batman, had a hand in the “Man of Steel’’ story. Henry Cavill (“The Tudors”) steps into the superguy’s tights and cape. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner play his adoptive parents, a rural couple in Kansas, and the adorable Amy Adams is Lois Lane. June 14
“World War Z”
All you zombie lovers — and you know who you are — check out the trailer for this movie based on the novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel!). There’s Brad Pitt doing battle with hordes of zombies. Rumor is he really gets down and dirty in the fight, with gashes on his head and blood all over. He plays a UN employee on a mission to investigate the cause of a zombie pandemic. Filming was slowed down when customs authorities took possession of 80 machine guns that were to be used as props out of fear it would be too easy to activate the guns. Other glitches resulted in the movie being delayed six months, to the annoyance of Brooks’ fans. But this boisterous group is said to be pleased with the trailer and anxiously awaits the summer release. June 21
“The Monuments Men”
So what’s the movie that’s sure to get all the holiday buzz one year from now? You’d have to mention “The Monuments Men,” not only because George Clooney is directing but also because he’s starring along with Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin. The story has the weight that Oscar voters go for: Art historians gather in Germany toward the end of World War II to reclaim pieces of art stolen by Hitler.
Other potential hot movies are “Last Vegas,” with Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman as best friends who turn their backs on retirement and throw a Vegas-style party; “Saving Mr. Banks,” family fare about the making of “Mary Poppins,” starring Tom Hanks; “The Desolation of Smaug,” the second film in “The Hobbit” trilogy; Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”; and more Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy “Anchorman: The Legend Continues.”