It should be no surprise to you by now what type of film we generally cherish (non-pandering intelligent cinema), which ones we typically loathe (lowest common denominator chum meant to plop popcorn munchers in seats) and which ones we treat with suspicion until otherwise verified as something being other than slightly above reproach. And this is mostly that latter category. Contradictory notions aside, we do like to be entertained and if that escapist thrill can come in a smart, engaging package ("District Nine" is probably 2009's best example with "Star Trek" and "Inglourious Basterds" not far behind), we're all for it [ok, the ed. was not a huge of 'Basterds,' so what]. But often we're on the fence, not entirely sure, but willing to give a film a chance. As we said during our Least Anticipated Films of 2009 feature. We were mostly dead-on in our presumptions about the pictures we thought would be worthless (we went about 38 out of 40 pictures correct).
Basically, we're not quite ready to endorse these films wholeheartedly in the off-chance (or mild to strong) chance in case they suck. Don't get it twisted, we're excited about many of them, but we do have some minor reservations about some.
For instance, "Iron Man 2," will hopefully be just as sharp and entertaining as the original, but yes, we have often have some concerns. But here's to hoping they're all fantastic, compelling and smarter than they look. Sometimes we're being too generous by including there here (see the inclusion of "Terminator: Salvation" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" in 2009), and sometimes we're nicely surprised (see "500 Days Of Summer" and "Leaves of Grass"), but even last year's picks turned out to be mostly clunkers, so don't say we're being haters for being cautiously skeptical and or optimistic. But as always, we'll be pleased as punch if all these films are great and totally entertaining.
"Iron Man 2" - Paramount - dir. Jon Favreau
Synopsis: After going public with his identity, billionaire superhero Tony Stark must contend with a Russian genius seeking revenge against the family name, a seductive spy with ulterior motives, a greedy businessman looking for a financial edge and a government agency with grand plans for a Stark-led law enforcement squad. It's a sequel.
What You Need To Know: "Iron Man 2" has a lot of material for promo fodder, including Mickey Rourke as cagey supervillain Whiplash, Sam Rockwell as a fast-talking arms dealer and Don Cheadle armoring up as the power-packing War Machine, not to mention Scarlett Johansson in skintight leather. However, a significant amount of screen time is expected to be devoted to the expanding universe of the Marvel films, and rumors have suggested "Iron Man 2" will be the defacto beginning of a superhero franchise continuing with "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers." There's already chatter about scenes dedicated to Stark's father Howard (John Slattery), a WWII scientist who developed Captain America's Super-Soldier Serum (which served as part of the genetic material that created the behemoth of "The Incredible Hulk"), not to mention an increased presence for Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, who had a cameo in the first film announcing the potential for a team of superhumans. With Johansson's Black Widow character already on board, we could have a very clear idea of the next few films in this peculiar franchise by the end of this film. Which, of course, could mean no real surprises. Yay?
Release Date: May 7th
Synopsis: He robs from the rich. Gives to the poor. There are arrows involved.
What You Need To Know: Like many of 2010's leftover-feeling blockbuster brigade, this swordplay saga has long been in development, originating from a script called "Nottingham" that supposed that the Sheriff of Robin Hood lore was actually a decent man trying to protect his land from an immoral pillager. When Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe got their mitts on it, however, it shifted into a very different project — the revelation that Crowe was to play both the Sheriff and Robin Hood himself suggested either a colorful, schizophrenic take on the fable, or the story of a Sheriff who needed to create an antihero opponent to best serve the needs of his people. The dual-role conceit was dropped for Brian Helgeland's current draft, which is a more straightforward account of the archer of the English Barons facing a decidedly far-less-intimidating Sheriff than either Crowe or "Prince Of Thieves" villain Alan Rickman in the mousy Matthew MacFadyen. We're ok with every generation receiving their own version of the story, especially with a cast including Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Mark Strong and, most inspired, Kevin Durand as Little John, but the trailer does hew close to the already-formula Ridley Scott period-epic look while simultaneously only looking a shade more gritty than Kevin Costner's much-reviled take on the mythos. Oh, and the eleventh hour rumors of adding the 3D factor? Desperate. Still it's Ridley, so we give him the moderate benefit of the doubt here even if the track record has been poor in the last 4-5 years.
Release Date: May 15th, 2010, which more than suggests tentpole film, not Oscar-bait, keep that in mind.
"Centurion" - Celador Films - dir. Neil Marshall
Synopsis: A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack.
What You Need to Know: Everytime a horror film doesn't totally suck, the innured audience, essentially used to tolerating mediocre drivel tends to freak out. Hence the reason why Neil Marshall's good, but not spectacular horror film, "The Descent" is so grossly overrated now as some sort of lodestone in that always eyesore of a genre. Nevertheless, the cast here — Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, David Morrissey, Noel Clarke — is interesting and Fassbender alone is worth a second look in any film. If anything this will hopefully be much stronger than semi-similar fare like Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven," "Troy" and "King Arthur," and if Marshall can take his apparent skills and raise them above the aforementioned bland studio pictures, he might just be onto something great. We have high hopes.
Release Date: TBD
"The Green Hornet" - Sony- dir. Michel Gondry
Synopsis: Newspaper publisher Britt Reid takes to the streets at night as masked vigilante the Green Hornet.
What You Need To Know: The behind-the-scenes pedigree is there, with Gondry finally playing in a studio sandbox for once — on a superhero picture no less! Star Seth Rogen, who penned the script with writing buddy Evan Goldberg, seemed to understand basic action beats in “Pineapple Express” and is interested in exploring the mythos of the pulp character with a straight face, while also delving into the friendship between the hero and his chauffer/sidekick, Kato. The departure of Stephen Chow was a blow to everyone’s confidence, but it was probably a case of too many alpha males on set, and the film’s been peppered with colorful faces like Tom Wilkinson, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos and the great Christoph Waltz of “Inglourious Basterds,” here playing another baddie, but even Nicolas Cage thought the villain role was too thin and underdeveloped (!) which worries us.
Release Date: December 17, 2010
"Hot Tub Time Machine"- Lakeshore/MGM- dir. Steve Pink
Synopsis: There’s a hot tub. It’s a time machine. And it transports these dudes back to the 80s.
What you need to know: HTTM reunites John Cusack with his "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank" writer, Steve Pink, taking over the director’s chair this time. The writers of this we-hope-it’s-so-preposterous-it’s-awesome-script haven’t proven themselves yet, but with the presence of Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson (who both consistently elevate the material around them, looking at you "What Happens in Vegas" and "Pineapple Express") and relative newcomer/Michael Cera BFF Clark Duncan, we think they might have a pretty good safety net. Also, Chevy Chase!
Release Date: March 19th, 2010
"Machete" – Sony – dir. Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Synopsis: A trailer gets expanded. A betrayed Mexican Federale (Danny Trejo) launches a brutal campaign of revenge against those that killed his family.
What You Need To Know: Yes, a jokey trailer (from the double feature "Grindhouse") that begets an entire film is a risky and thin
proposition, but Robert Rodriguez does campy pulp action rather well (see "Planet Terror" and "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" that features a deliciously amusing turn by Johnny Depp). Plus it was all right there in the trailer
waiting to be laid out. A motley crew cast has been roped into this wild and off-the-cuff project: on top of Trejo there is Jessica Alba, Robert DeNiro, Steven Segal, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan and Michelle Rodriguez. On top of that cadre of actors there are also appearances by Rose McGowan, Cheech Marin and Danny Sabato (one of the original "Spy Kids" now all grown up and recently putting in a hilarious turn in the pitch black comedy, "The World's Greatest Dad"). This will either be a disaster or an entertaining riot and the inherent self-awareness of the project should prove to be a lot of fun and therefore hopefully the ur-text of escapist cinema.
Release Date: April 16, according to the always infallible IMDB.
"Toy Story 3" - Disney/Pixar - dir. Lee Unkrich
Synopsis: It's the third "Toy Story" movie, and this time Andy is going away to college.
What You Need to Know: This animated sequel had a number of false starts, like during the tenuous period when it looked like Disney and Pixar would split for good, so Disney went ahead and put a "Toy Story 3" into development without any input from Pixar. (That version of the story had Buzz being recalled and the rest of the toys traveling to Tawain to rescue him.) Not a whole lot is known about this 3-D film, except that it was written by "Little Miss Sunshine" scribe Michael Arndt. Oh, and we can expect a number of new characters, like Timothy Dalton's porcupine toy Mr. Pricklepants and Michael Keaton as Barbie's beau Ken.
Release Date: June 18th
"Cemetery Junction" - Sony Pictures - dir. Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais
Synopsis: Three young men growing up in Reading in the 1960s chase the sexual revolution they've heard so much about...
What You Need To Know: Ricky Gervais is yet to translate his success with the TV shows "Extras" and "The Office" to the big screen - "Ghost Town" was amiable, but not particularly funny, while "The Invention of Lying" took a promising script and cast, and botched it completely. "Cemetery Junction," however, marks his reunion with regular collaborator Stephen Merchant, and looks far more promising. A coming of age picture, taking its inspiration from 1960s British New Wave movies, it features newcomers (and "future movie stars," according to Gervais) Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan in the leads, and Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode and Gervais in supporting roles, it, from the script, should prove a return to form for the pudgy comic star.
Release Date: TBD, but April 7, 2010 in the U.K.
"Predators" - 20th Century Fox - dir. Nimród Antal
Synopsis: A 15-year-old idea is resurrected. A disparate group of elite military assassins, serial killers and mercenaries are mysteriously brought to a strange jungle planet to do battle with warrior-hungry Predators in need of a challenge.
What You Need To Know: Based on decade-plus-old script by Robert Rodriguez (and having gone through revisions including one by James Vanderbilt of "Zodiac" and "Spider-Man 4" fame), yes, the premise is paper thin and will certainly require the suspension of disbelief, but really, what did you expect? Once the motley crew (Adrien Brody, Alicia Braga, Topher Grace are the key cast with appearances by Danny Trejo and Laurence Fishburne) arrive on the planet, what ensues should be a fairly entertaining struggle for survival on a fiercely inhospitable planet. Then again, the promising Nimród Antal is now batting 1 for 3 ("Vacancy" and "Armored" were nothing like the joy that was "Kontroll"). This won't be high art, but it should be fun and hopefully a thousand times better than the "Aliens Vs. Predators" films that sullied both franchises. That's not too much to ask, right?
Release Date: July 7, 2010
"Buried" - dir. Rodrigo Cortes
Synopsis: A civilian contractor in Iraq wakes up to discover he has been buried alive with only a cell phone, candle and knife to survive and only 90 minutes worth of oxygen left to try and escape.
What You Need To Know: In what could be fascinating experimental filmmaking or excruciatingly painful viewing, the self-described one-man show from Ryan Reynolds will reportedly feature only Reynolds on screen and will be set predominantly in the coffin which his protagonist is buried in. The film will be premiering at Sundance Film Festival in the 'Park City At Midnight' field.
Release Date: TBD (Sundance Premiere)
"Youth In Revolt" - Dimension Films/The Weinstein Company - dir. Miguel Arteta
Synopsis: The story of Nick Twisp, a teenager on his own convoluted journey to ditch his white trash extended family, hang out with his best friend and finally lose his virginity.
What you need to know: Michael Cera got ripped for his samey-samey acting in 2008's 'Nick and Norah' and has been pissing off the entire Internet by being the rumored hold out in an Arrested Development movie, so all eyes are on him for this return to the big screen as Nick Twisp, the cross-dressing hero of a cult classic YA novel. The movie has a crack comedy support cast featuring Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, and Mary Kay Place and is director Arteta's biggest silver screen project since 2002's "The Good Girl." You should expect a movie along the lines of "Superbad" from this male-centric coming of age story, but with a bent on the wacky family backstory. There's also talk about this being a breakout role as Cera's love interest for actress Portia Doubleday. This would have been in our most anticipated (and it was in 2009), but it was delayed several months and now has a pretty forgettable release date, but perhaps it's an attempt at counter-programming. Ok, we saw it and didn't love it, but whatever, it's not awful either.
Release Date: January 8, 2010
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" - Warner Brothers - dir. David Yates
Synopsis: If you need a synopsis, then you're obviously not in the target audience for the seventh film in the blockbuster series.
What You Need To Know: It might look like more of the same for the first part of the fantasy series' finale with returning cast and crew, but "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" messes with the tried-and-true formula of the previous films. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermoine (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) forgo their last year at Hogwarts and embark on a mission destroy the Horcruxes (and, by extension, Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes). With Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans joining the cast, every British character actor imaginable has appeared in the saga. And so far most of them have been pretty good, escapist fun.
Release Date: November 19, 2010
“Dawn of War” – Relativity Media - dir. Tarsem
Synopsis: A mythological tale set in war-torn ancient Greece that finds young warrior prince Theseus leading his men in a battle against evil that will see the gods fighting with men against demons and titans.
What You Need To Know: Based off a script by brothers Vlas and Charley Parlapanides, visual magician Tarsem described the film as Caravaggio [an Italian Baroque artist circa the 16th Century] meets “Fight Club” with inspiration from Baz Luhrman’s “Romeo + Juliet.” Expect nothing more than an array of absurd visuals ala Tarsem’s “The Fall” set in world of “Clash Of The Titans” and/or “300,” which at the end of the day is at least more interesting than both beefcake films. The unluckiest man in Hollywood, Henry Cavill, gets his a rare opportunity to prove himself in the lead role of Theseus.
Release Date: TBD (Starts shooting early 2010)
“Love and Other Drugs” - 20th Century Fox – dir. Edward Zwick
Synopsis: In the cutthroat world of the 90's pharmaceuticals boom, a Pfizer sales-representative falls in love with a girl with Parkinson's disease.
What You Need to Know: A Jerry Maguire-like romance in the pharmaceutical industry. Something we have no problem with, as Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway's on screen chemistry has been in serious need of its own movie since "Brokeback Mountain." What might have us most interested, however, is that Edward Zwick, known primarily for his sprawling war dramas, might be making the first major film to take an unironic look at the 90s and give it the romantic period piece treatment. The rest of this promising cast includes Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria. Our deep concern however is that Ed Zwick has not made a great film since 1996's "Courage Under Fire" though we suppose "Defiance" wasn't a disaster. But it wasn't great either.
Release Date: November 24, 2010.
“The Expendables” – Millennium Films – dir. Sylvester Stallone
Synopsis: A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator.
What You Need To Know: Starring Stallone as the leader of the Expendables Barney Ross, this film has almost every big budget action star of the last 20 years save JCVD. The cast includes Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, and David Zayas. Throw in cameos by Bruce Willis and “the Governator” himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger and you’ve got action star overload in full effect. This is sure to be a good, old fashioned, high octane, explosion-fest with more familiar faces than you can shake a stick at. The script appeared to be pretty solid given the material so as long no one goes in thinking this is going to win any Oscars it should at least be an enjoyable ride.
Release Date: April 23, 2010
"The Adventurer's Handbook"- Universal Pictures - dir. Akiva Schaffer
Synopsis: Inspired by their favorite book, four lifelong friends decide to go for an adventure together.
What You Need To Know: Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is that the more expensive a comedy is, the less funny it'll be, with "Ishtar" and "1941" being two of the more prominent examples. Hopefully, the relatively generously budgeted "The Adventurer's Handbook" will buck the trend. From Lonely Island graduate Akiva Schaffer, who also directed the underrated "Hot Rod," the cast already includes Jonah Hill as "an engineer, isolated from his family," Jason Segel as an alcoholic failed musician and Jason Schwartzmann as "a spoiled and cowardly three-time Grammy winner," and it also features a script from Hill and Max Winkler, who also penned the forthcoming "Ceremony."
Release Date TBD and admittedly, maybe not even 2010, it still hasn't shot yet and there hasn't been any announcement as to when that might happen.
“Clash of the Titans” – Warner Bros. – dir. Louis Leterrier
Synopsis: A remake of the 1981 film version of the myth of Perseus and his quest to battle both Medusa and the Kraken monster in order to save the Princess Andromeda.
What You Need To Know: So far it’s looking like this will be at least an entertaining remake of the 80’s Greek epic. Leterrier did a good job of reviving the ‘Hulk’ franchise (after the horrible attempt by Ang Lee) and we think he should do ‘Titans’ justice. The cast is looking solid. OK, there's action cardb0ard cut-out Sam Worthington playing Perseus sure, but there's also Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and Alexa Davalos as Andromeda. We are admittedly a bit on the fence. After ‘Salvation’ flopped and “Avatar” booming but in no thanks to his acting, this could be Worthington’s shot at carrying a successful blockbuster. For his sake, let’s hope this one is a hit. Benefit of the doubt given here.
Release Date: March 26, 2010
"Alice in Wonderland" - Walt Disney Pictures- dir. Tim Burton
Synopsis: A teenage Alice runs away from a party (and a proposal) and falls back down the rabbit hole to the Wonderland she visited 10 years before.
What You Need To Know: We're being generous here as Tim Burton hasn't made an interesting picture in years. Here he enlists usual suspects/muses Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, respectively, and the rest of the cast features Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Christopher Lee and excellent newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Lewis Carroll’s psychedelic hallucination of a fairy tale gets the 3D treatment, while normally we wouldn't care to face the kiddie masses at the cineplex for this type of thing, Burton’s characteristic fantastical and quirky aesthetic makes him just the auteur to update this property, properly. Or at least hopefully...
Release Date: March 5th, 2010
"The Ward" - No Distributor - dir. John Carpenter
Synopsis: A woman sentenced to an institution stay starts seeing ghosts.
What You Need To Know: One side of us notes this is the first film Carpenter has directed since 2001’s “Ghosts Of Mars,” and that the guy hasn’t made a good one since 1994’s “In The Mouth Of Madness”- which is being charitable. The other side remembers that few, if any, genre directors had such an amazing run from 1978’s “Halloween” to 1988’s “They Live.” There’s a reason most of his films have gotten the remake treatment. Still, while it’s great to see the formerly prolific horror master back in the saddle, we’d feel better if he brought along one of his regulars like Keith David, Kurt Russell or even Dennis freakin’ Dun. We’re in wait-and-see mode right now.
Release Date: TBD
“Tron Legacy” – Disney – dir. Joseph Kosinski
Synopsis: A virtual-world worker looks to take down the Master Control Program.
What You Need To Know: Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) get stuck in a vividly lit computer program and are trying to get out. That’s pretty much the plot. Accompanying them are Olivia Wilde (something to look at other than the effects), John Hurt, and Michael Sheen as the villain. There is probably an entire generation or two that have never seen or heard of the original “Tron” outside of a joke or two on shows like “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy,” but for fans of the original, this sequel might be one of the most exciting movies of the year. For the rest of us, it’s probably just going to be a fun movie that’s visually appealing, most likely nothing to rave about (maybe like "Avatar"). We think the most exciting news to come out of the movie has been that Daft Punk is doing the entire score which should be a silver lining if all else fails, which, it very well might.
Release Date: December 17, 2010
"Going the Distance" - New Line - dir. Nanette Burstein
Synopsis: A couple (Drew Barrymore & Justin Long) attempting a long-distance relationship decide that dating people nearby is simply easier.
What You Need To Know: Every year we do a piece like this we inevitable leave off lesser, forgettable-looking pictures we don't have time for (the innocuous ones not even worth landing in least anticipated). 'Distance' wouldn't be here if it weren't for Nanette Burstein the director behind "American Teen" and co-director behind "The Kid Stays In The Picture." This is Burstein's narrative feature-length debut and since 'Teen' had reality-world like story-lines, she should be more than ready to make the leap to feature filmmaking. The problem is this one sounds and looks as generic as can be (doesn't any film starring Drew & Justin Long?). We suppose we're being too optimistic here, but won't be surprised if it's crap. Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Kelli Garner co-star.
Release Date: October 8, 2010
"Monogamy" - dir. Dana Adam Shapiro
Synopsis: a cautionary tale about sex, photography and fear of marriage; the trials and tribulations of a young couple's relationship.
What You Need To Know: Everybody already loves Rashida Jones, but everyman Chris Messina has been on the verge of leading man status for a few years now after playing the harmless boyfriend role in countless romantic comedies over the last few years (he must be getting frustrated at the constant pigeonholing; see "Julie & Julia" for the last "nice guy" example). Perhaps more notably, the indie romance comedy is the feature-narrative debut of Dana Adam Shapiro, the co-director behind the winning 2007 documentary, "Murderball." The script is abetted by his documentary scribe cohort, Marc Wiener who also co-penned Larry Clark's "Savage Innocents." We're keeping an eye on this one cause it sounds promising and lord knows the world needs a smart and enjoyable romantic comedy.
Release Date: TBD. It was supposed to hit the early 2010 film fest circuit, but wasn't picked up at Sundance, so it's possibly it will premiere at SXSW Film in March.
"Jackass 3D" - dir. Jeff Tremaine
Synopsis: Johnny Knoxville and company hurt each other in new, inventive ways. Now in a new dimension!
What You Need To Know: You don't need to know anything other than the obvious. The gang promised using "Avatar" technology to get into what we imagine is a combination of the throats, ears and anuses of Knoxville, Steve-O, Wee-Man and friends. We're not going to stand here and talk about the Brechtian elements of their on-camera pranks, but the gang (possibly guided by series producer Spike Jonze) has a certain flair when it comes to their more imaginative gags that make these films more (and often, wincingly, less) watchable than an interminable stunt film should be.
Release Date: October 15th
“Edge of Darkness” - BBC - dir. Martin Campbell
Synopsis: As straight-laced homicide detective, Thomas Craven, investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion that attracts an agent tasked with cleaning up the evidence.
What You Need to Know: Based on the hugely popular and multi-award-winning British TV miniseries, this is Mel Gibson’s (Thomas Craven) first starring role since “Signs,” seven years ago. Ray Winstone plays opposite him as the corrupt agent, after replacing Robert DeNiro in the role. DeNiro left, citing “creative differences,” just days after filming began. After revitalizing the James Bond franchise with “Casino Royale,” Martin Campbell now returns to the material that began his career (he was the director of the original series) with a script that comes courtesy of William Monahan of “The Departed” fame. Considering all this, we think the talent behind the film could raise it from being what sounds like a run-of-the-mill thriller, a la "The General’s Daughter" etc., but the trailer isn't particularly attractive and it's probably an entertaining revenge flick at best (we're probably being way too optimistic and we almost put this in our least anticipated picks).
Release Date: January 20.
Indie-ish Films (N0n-Escapist Explosion/Action Pics) That Look Mildly To Moderately Interesting
Again, if they suck, please don't blame us. They range from looking totally intriguing to.. well, ok. Which are which? You'll have to read on and see how we feel about each one.
"Middle Men" - dir. George Gallo
Synopsis: Follows the true life story of businessmen Jack Harris and Wayne Beering, who pioneered porn entertainment in the early years of the internet, getting in over their heads with a colorful collection of criminal personalities.
What You Need To Know: Lilywhite Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi seem well-cast as a couple of booksmart nerds who think they can dabble in adult entertainment without repercussions. We like tough guys James Caan and Terry Crews roughing up nerds too. The story certainly seems interesting. So why is the buzz so quiet on this film, which supposedly wrapped more than a year ago? The minimal cast names certainly seems like it would be a direct-to-DVD offering, especially considering Gallo, a Hollywood lifer, last directed "My Mom's New Boyfriend" which went direct-to-disc with Antonio Banderas and Meg Ryan. We'll see.
Release Date: TBD
"The Hippie Hippie Shake" - Universal/Working Title - dir. Beeban Kidron
Synopsis: A chronicle of Richard Neville and his endeavors in 1960's counterculture namely his relationship with girlfriend Louise Ferrier and the launch of the London edition of his satirical magazine, Oz.
What You Need To Know: Based on the memoirs of protagonist Neville, the film is led by Cillian Murphy and Sienna Miller. The film shot in late 2007 but was constantly delayed among controversies in Miller' own personal life and having its husband-wife director-writer team walk mid-production over "creative differences." One of the film's characters and former colleague of Neville, Felix Dennis, saw the film and described it was "possibly the worst film to be made in the 21st century," which has us more intrigued.
Release Date: May 21 in the U.K., soon after in the U.S.?
"Love And Other Impossible Pursuits" - Incentive - dir. Don Roos
Synopsis: A woman is forced to work out new relationships with her uncooperative stepson and his acerbic mother, who is still very much in the boy's life.
What You Need To Know: Based on the Ayelet Waldmen novel of the same name, the film stars Natalie Portman as the aforementioned protagonist with Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan and Lisa Kudrow rounding off the cast. The film premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival to poor reviews so we're not necessarily dying to see it, but mildly curious regardless.
Release Date: TBD
'The Special Relationship" - HBO Films - dir. Richard Loncraine
Synopsis: An exploration of the relationship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton during their respective political reigns with a focus on Blair's years from when he first rose to power to his first election as Prime Minister.
What You Need To Know: This film is the final installment of Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen's Tony Blair trilogy which was preceeded by "The Deal" and "The Queen." Morgan was originally slated to helm as well but later pulled out presumably to work on the latest installment of the James Bond series. Helen McCroy will also reprise her role as Cherie Blair while Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis will play Bill and Hilary Clinton. Julianne Moore was original set to play Hilary but later withdrew. It'll be interesting to see how the film will tackle the Monica Lewinsky scandal which will feature in the film; will Quaid reenact the infamous press conference?
Release Date: TBD
"Sex & Drugs & Rock N Roll" - dir. Mat Whitecross
Synopsis: A biopic of of Ian Dury (Andy Serkis) who was stricken with polio at a young age and defied expectations by becoming one of the founder of the punk-rock scene in Britain in the 1970s with the group Ian Dury & The Blockheads (who penned the famous song and coined the phrase "Sex & Drugs &....").
What You Need To Know: Rock biopics are always a dodgy proposition and while, Ian Dury was important to paving the way for punk (his band was more sort of the precursor known as pub-rock), name how many people that count the band as their all time favorite? Your witness. The picture looks and smells like either "Pirate Radio" or "Telstar," i.e., British rock-centric films that were either mediocre (the former) or so bad they went straight to DVD despite a great cast (the latter). The cast includes Olivia Williams, Ray Winstone, Naomie Harris, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, but the one saving grace is hopefully Serkis, who transformed his portrayal of Joy Division producer Martin Hannett into a hilarious work of art and perhaps the best rock biopic turn of the entire decade.
Release Date: TBD
"The Danish Girl" - dir. Tomas Alfredson
Synopsis: Based on a true story, it's a gender-bender that chronicles the story of a relationship between the first post-operative transsexual and their wife.
What You Need To Know: First and foremost, you have the director of the beloved vampire film, "Let The Right One In" and secondly, you have a pretty A-list cast with Nicole Kidman (the female who becomes male) and the wife (Gwyneth Paltrow). Charlize Theron was initially supposed to play the wife, but she stepped out and Paltrow took her place. The picture n adaptation of the David Ebershoff novel, and is based off a script written by Lucinda Coxon ("The Heart of Me," and also a playwright). If handled well, this tale of transgressive love could probably land in a "Boys Don't Cry"-type area and let's not forget it won its lead an Oscar. We're actually really looking forward to this.
Release Date: TBD
"Moneyball" - Sony - dir. dir. Bennett Miller
Synopsis: The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget, by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
What You Need To Know: How exciting is a movie going to be about the GM that told his players take walks rather than swing at the bat? Putting that aside for a second, "Moneyball" comes with a ton of baggage and is perhaps the most contentious project of 2009. Steven Soderbergh was set to direct and then the axe got pulled at the last second and the project grounded to a halt. Then Aaron Sorkin rewrote Steve Zaillian's draft (apparently putting in many more comedy elements) and Bennet Miller ("Capote") was tapped to direct with Brad Pitt still attached as the lead. The numbers against this film are already astronomical. Pitt waived his fee for Soderbergh, but apparently is taking his regular $20 million pay day for this version that will have probably spent more than $35 million (not counting the elements already shot that Soderbergh filmed) before one frame of 35 mm film is shot (so they'll likely go digital). A source also tells us Pitt has also rejected two Sorkin drafts so far. Ouch.
Release Date: TBD, but shooting isn't scheduled yet. We're a little curious if an overly-expensive baseball drama about relying on saber-metrics will ever actually make it to the screen.
"Main Street" - dir. John Doyle
Synopsis: A diverse group of residents of a small, economically moribund American city face the consequences of change produced by the arrival of a stranger in town.
What You Need To Know: The ensemble drama is helmed by stage director John Doyle in his feature film debut and was written by late Oscar and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Horton Foote who wrote the script after visiting North Carolina. The film shot last year with a cast led by Amber Tamblyn who stars alongside Orlando Bloom, Patricia Clarkson, Ellen Burstyn and Colin Firth. The strong writer-director team could prove an interesting combination inspired further by Foote's passing in March last year.
Release Date: TBD
"Tell Me" formerly known as "Last Night" - Miramax - dir. Massy Tadjedin
Synopsis: Monogamy is challenged. A married couple (Keira Knightley & Sam Worthington), spend a nigh apart; the husband takes a business trip with a colleague (Eva Mendes) to whom he's attracted. While he's resisting his temptation, his wife encounters her past lover (French actor Guillaume Canet).
What You Need To Know: A film that features Sam Worthington and no explosions or bullets? Isn't this impossible? This is the directorial debut of the screenwriter behind "The Jacket" (psychological film with Knightley and Adrien Brody) and "Leo" (a Southern gothic-type film with Elisabeth Shue and Joseph Fiennes). We'll be honest, this totally flew under our radar until we started looking at 2010 release dates. We're mildly curious. Maybe just for the fact to see what it's like to watch Sam Worthington act next to things that aren't green screen puppets. It's probably also one of the last films Miramax will release in 2010 (or at all).
Release Date: March 19, 2010
"The Irishman" - dir. Johnathan Hensleigh
Synopsis: The true story of Danny Greene, an Irish hitman in 1970's Cleveland who took on the Italian mob.
What You Need To Know: The use of the word "unkillable" in official synopses as well as the presence of "The Punisher" director Hensleigh and "Punisher War Zone" star Ray Stevenson suggests this just might be... well... an ersatz "Punisher" sequel/prequel, we guess. Stevenson, of "Rome" fame, is someone we like a whole lot as far as having a career of playing tough guys — he looks like he ate Jon Hamm — plus, he can act. Still, we'd like to see him associated with anyone other than hacky script doctor Hensleigh, who showed no aptitude behind the camera with his "Punisher" film, the worst of the three (!) released about the character. Christopher Walken plays a nightclub owner and Val Kilmer is a cop who befriends Greene, with the rest of the cast filled out with Vinnie Jones, Paul Sorvino, Robert Davi and oh god we just grew so much chest hair writing that.
Release Date: TDB
"Happy Tears" -Roadside Attractions - dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein
Synopsis: Two sisters (Parker Posey and Demi Moore) return home to deal with their ailing father Joe (Rip Torn), only to face some surprising situations when they discover he has a form of dementia.
What You Need To Know: It's an odd cast, Moore, Posey, and Torn as the leads with Ellen Barkin, but this is pretty much why we're interested and lord know Torn can be amazing when given room and a proper role. The film will premiere at the Berlin film festival in February and is directed by the man that gave us a film about vagina dentatis in "Teeth." Could be interesting as is the proposition as Moore and Posey as sisters.
Release Date: February 19, 2010
"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" - dir. Troy Nixey
Synopsis: A young girl moves in with her father and his new girlfriend only to find their mansion haunted by tiny demons.
What You Need To Know: This is a remake of a 1970's TV movie that curtailed the gore and scares for mainstream consumption but was actually pretty scary for its time. The original story, which must have made a big impact on the remake's writers Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, followed a couple getting used to the fearsome goblins hiding behind every nook and cranny of their cavernous new place, but Del Toro loves his child protagonists, so this version, anchored by Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes, will be much different. Del Toro has passed the directorial baton to Nixey, a first-timer and popular internet personalty, so this is nerd-bait all the way, but we hope Del Toro, who has made a series of films about the macabre that aren't actually that scary, has regained his interest in scares instead of coming-of-age parables.
Release Date: TBD
"The Romantics" - dir. Galt Niederhoffer
Synopsis: Seven close friends reunite for the wedding of two of their friends. Problems arise because the bride and the maid of honor have had a long rivalry over the groom
What You Need To Know: The film stars Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Malin Akerman, Josh Duhamel, Elijah Wood, Adam Brody and Jeremy Strong.
Release Date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
"Please Give" - Sony Pictures Classics - dir. Nicole Holofcener
Synopsis: A husband and wife (Catherine Keener & Oliver Platt) in New York City butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in apartment the couple owns.
What You Need To Know: Nicole Holofcener, the indie director behind, "Friends With Money,"Lovely & Amazing" and "Walking & Talking" is one of the rare indie directors out there making movies about adults, for adults (and often times with strong female characters) with little concern for the mainstream marketplace (that favors characters shooting missiles out of their eyes instead of interesting conversations and pragmatic, adult dilemmas. She was going to direct her most commercial effort, "I'm With Cancer," but walked away at the last minute, presumably with her dignity intact. We might not flock to see her films on opening night, but we eventually see them and more importantly, we're glad she exists and continues to work. Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Kevin Corrigan and Thomas Ian Nicholas co-star. Even before its Sundance premiere in January, SPC has announced it has picked up the film which bodes well for the tentative, wait-and-see approach to distribution these days.
Release Date: April 23rd, 2010
"Welcome to the Rileys" - dir. Jake Scott
Synopsis: On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man (James Gandolfini) seeks salvation by caring for a troubled young woman and prostitute (Kristen Stewart).
What You Need To Know: Yes, the name Scott is familiar, Jake is part of the Scott filmmaking dynasty that includes his dad Ridley, his uncle Tony and his sister Jordan. Jake has primarily done work in the field of music videos (Radiohead, Lily Allen, The Strokes, The Verve, R.E.M., and U2), but 'Rileys' is his second feature-length picture. Melissa Leo co-stars as Gandolfini's estranged wife.
Release Date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
"Tamara Drewe" - Sony Pictures Classics - dir. Stephen Frears
Synopsis: A sexy flirt returns to her small country village and stirs up dark passions among the locals.
What You Need To Know: Posy Simmond's graphic novel, which serves as source material for Frear's adaptation, is actually a modern reimagining of Thomas Hardy's "Far From The Madding Crowd." Young Brit Gemma Arterton has been tapped to lead alongside Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Luke Evas, Bill Camp and Tamsin Greig with shooting taking place in the last quarter of 2009.
Release Date: TBD
"The Extra Man" - dir. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Synopsis: An aging man (Kevin Kline) mentors a younger one (Paul Dano) in the art of being a companion to older rich women.
What You Need To Know: We're just going to pretend "The Nanny Diaries" never happened and imagine that this is directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's follow-up to the underrated "American Splendor." The quirky source material--a novel by "Bored to Death" writer Jonathan Ames--and great cast (Katie Holmes aside) seem like an excellent match, but the film's Sundance premiere will show if it can find a disributor...and an audience.
Release Date: TBA 2010
"Eat, Pray, Love" - Columbia Pictures - dir. Ryan Murphy
Synopsis: In the film based on Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir, a woman travels across the world to find herself.
What You Need To Know: The success of "Glee" might be making "Nip/Tuck" creator Ryan Murphy relevant again, but it's tough to overlook the mess he made of the star-studded adaptation of "Running with Scissors." We're not as excited about lead actress Julia Roberts as we are about the supporting cast--Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, and James Franco--but it's tough to imagine a woman who wouldn't want to be in her shoes when she falls for Javier Bardem (minus Anton Chigurgh's terrifying bowl cut, of course).
Release Date: August 13, 2010
"Columbus Circle" - dir. George Gallo
Synopsis: A reclusive heiress' life is turned upside down when a detective shows up to investigate the homicide next door and the new couple who move into that apartment invade her life.
What You Need To Know: With Selma Blair as the heiress, Amy Smart and Jason Lee as the neighboring couple and Giovanni Ribisi as the detective, the film has a decent core of leading actors that may prove to be an interesting combination. Kevin Pollack co-wrote the script with Gallo and will also co-star in this indie-thriller shot in Los Angeles.
Release Date: TBD
"Electric Avenue" - dir. Andrew Wilson & Luke Wilson
Synopsis: A buddy comedy in the vein of "48 Hrs" only with reporters instead of cops.
What You Need To Know: Andrew and Luke Wilson reunite behind the camera after "The Wendell Baker Story," which Luke wrote. It wasn't a perfect effort, but it did show some promise. Luke will be starring alongside an unknown star which Andrew wasn't "at liberty to announce" yet but presumably it won't be Owen. Filming is slated to begin in January or February so the unnamed co-lead should be announced relatively soon, that's if their financing is still in place with this shaky film market. If it sounds rather routine, we counter with: anything to stop Luke from
Release Date: TBD
"Twelve" - Lionsgate - dir. Joel Schumacher
Synopsis: A young drug dealer (Chace Crawford) watches as his high-rolling life is dismantled in the wake of his cousin's murder, which sees his best friend arrested for the crime.
What You Need To Know: Normally, a Joel Schumacher film gets you automatically tossed in the Least Anticipated films pile on principal (the last decent film he made was "Tigerland" in 2000 and reel for reel he's directed some of the biggest disasters ever. But the film has three things going for it. 1) a decent cast, but 2) more importantly it received the approval of the Sundance 2010 film festival (which also scaled back its premieres this year) and 3) Nathan Larson of Shudder To Think is writing the score. Emma Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Rory Culkin, Zoë Kravitz, Ellen Barker and 50-Cent co-star. We're still a bit dubious, but holding out minor hope for something watchable.
Release Date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
"Nowhere Boy" - Weinstein Company - dir. Sam Taylor-Wood
Synopsis: The story of John Lennon's childhood and adolescence which details the two battling maternal influences on his life -- his mother and aunt --, his relationship with future Beatle Paul McCartney and his early music career including the skiffle band, The Quarrymen.
What You Need To Know: Loosely based on a book by Lennon's half sister Julia Baird and is scribed Matt Greenhalgh of "Control" fame, Taylor-Wood's directorial debut premiered at the 2009 London Film Festival but will be hitting theaters in 2010 stateside. Fellow director Matthew Vaughn, who saw the film early, described lead Aaron Johnson's performance as a "ten-out-of-ten.". while the Weinstein Company apparently loved the script so much they bought the U.S. rights after only days of shooting had been completed. Co-stars Thomas Sangster as McCartney, Kristin Scott-Thomas as Lennon’s aunt, Mimi and Anne-Marie Duff as Lennon’s mother.
Release Date: TBD 2010, which doesn't entirely bode well, because it was supposed to hit December 2009, but poor reviews at the London Film Festival (including one of our own; our reviewer hated it), prompted the financially strapped Weinstein Company to focus on their 2009 Oscar bait and push this one onto a later season.
"13" - Paramount - dir. Gela Babluani
Synopsis: A young construction worker ends up an unwilling participant in a Russian Roulette league run by wealthy businessmen.
What You Need To Know: Babluani must always remember the names of George Sluzier and Ole Bornedal. Both were lured to Hollywood for a chance to remake their own films in English. Sluzier's disastrous remake, "The Vanishing," is probably a worst-case-scenario example when considering redos, while Bornedal's "Nightwatch," nearly a carbon copy of his original film, was buried for more than a year by Miramax before being dumped onto video. Both returned to their native countries and proceeded to make a number of films that have been roundly ignored by audiences and critics. Babluani is remaking his tense "13 Tzameti," and lest you think its a coup by casting toughies like Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, 50 Cent, Ray Winstone, Michael Shannon and Ray Liotta alongside young lead Sam Riley, remember that "The Vanishing" remake had an otherwise pretty damn great performance by Jeff Bridges. The original is not an untouchable classic, but it's a tense, affecting thriller, and there's not a whole lot of space for added Hollywood theatrics, so maybe this will be worth seeing.
Release Date: TBD
"The Debt"- Miramax Films - dir. John Madden
Synopsis: A shocking rumor throws the lives of three retired Mossad agents, considered heroes for their assassination of a Nazi war criminal, into turmoil, exposing a love triangle and a dark secret.
What You Need To Know: A remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, we were pleasantly surprised when we read the script to this — it's by writing team Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman ("Stardust", "Kick-Ass") and it's certainly the best thing they've written. Part thriller, part dark romantic drama, the cast is pretty high calibre, with Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas and hotly-tipped young star Jessica Chastain playing the young agents, and Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson and Helen Mirren playing their older equivalents. It's a great role for Mirren, and we're interested how Worthington fares away from the big-budget sci-fi that's been his calling card so far. The main question mark comes with John Madden, whose record in thrillers is patchy, as "Killshot" evinced.
Release Date: Miramax is basically dead in the water, but this one is reportedly hitting overseas in February so TBD later in the year it seems.
"I Love You Philip Morris" – Consolidated Pictures Group - dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Synopsis: Based on an amazing true story, gay con man Steven Russell is sent to prison where he falls in love with his cellmate, Philip Morris. When Morris is released, Russell uses his considerable skills of deception to reunite with his love.
What You Need to Know: If the thought of explicit man-on-man action makes you squeamish, then stay away from "Philip Morris"--unfortunately for you, you'll be missing what is reported to be one of the best dark comedies in years, and certainly the best Jim Carrey performance since "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Word is that the Sundance cut of the film has been edited to tone down the gay sex scenes for US distribution, which is a shame, though the original cut will no doubt show up on DVD. The film marks the directorial debut of "Bad Santa" writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, so expect to have your sensibilities offended and your heart maybe a little bit warmed. Ewan McGregor co-stars as the title character.
Release Date: February 12, 2010
"Morning Glory" - Paramount Pictures - dir. Roger Michell
Synopsis: A TV news producer hires a famous, egotistical anchorman to salvage her low-rated morning show.
What You Need to Know: Yeah, so it sounds like "Anchorman." But this J.J. Abrams-produced comedy has been hotly tipped for a while, and actually features a pretty decent script. Like "The Devil Wears Prada," also written by scribe Aline Brosh McKenna, this promises to be that rare film — a picture aimed at women that doesn't treat its audience like idiots. It also has the potential for another rarity — a non-phoned in performance from Harrison Ford, who takes the anchorman role, and should have fun with it. Rachel McAdams takes the lead, and the cast also includes the likes of Patrick Wilson, Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum.
Release Date: 30 July 2010
So that's it for now. We'll soon have a 2010: Dare to Dream feature (a few leftovers of pictures we hoped would at least shoot this year, but that's increasingly doubtful) and then a 2010: Arthouse pics which will get into the international auteurs of the world.
- Stephen Belden, Simon Dang, Kimber Myers, Beau Delmore, Oliver Lyttelton, Gabe Toro, Katie Walsh, Alish Erman, & RP