News

The Notable Films of 2010: Part Two

By Garth Franklin Wednesday December 16th 2009 05:18AM

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Bran Nue Dae
Opens: 2010
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski, Tom Budge, Ernie Dingo, Deborah Mailman
Director: Rachel Perkins

Summary: A musical set in Broome, Western Australia in 1965. A young fisherman quite comfortable with his life of freedom finds himself forced to return to a religious mission for further schooling by his mother. Punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away on a journey that ultimately leads him back home.

Analysis: Scoring a release next week on its home turf, the feature film adaptation of the 1990 musical scored somewhat mixed reviews from critics but won audience awards at both the Melbourne and Toronto International Film Festivals. Award-winning "Radiance" director Rachel Perkins helms the upbeat road movie with strong performances from Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski, Ernie Dingo and singers like Missy Higgins and Jessica Mauboy.

Originally planned as a TV movie, the project became a feature and the involvement of Rush pushed it into a more international spotlight with a highly publicised premiere in Broome the other month for international guests (sadly no invite here). The film should be getting a further push at Sundance later this month, but the up-tempo feel good vibe and lack of authenticity will certainly impact the reaction (though may improve sales).

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Breaking Upwards
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones, Olivia Thirlby, Julie White, Andrea Marti
Director: Daryl Wein

Summary: The story explores a year in the lives of a young, real life New York couple who, fours years into their relationship and battling codependency, decide to intricately strategize their own break up and explore alternatives to monogamy.

Analysis: Not a mumblecore effort despite its low-budget indie romance drama appearance, 'Upwards' played the film festival circuit to positive reviews a few months back. Audience and critical feedback praised the acting but took note with the cliches and a leading couple in their early 20's playing a couple with the kind of lifestyle usually ascribed to those in their 30's. Nevertheless IFC thought it was good enough to give it a distribution shot and so are planning a limited release in the Spring.

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Brighton Rock
Opens: Fall 2010
Cast: Sam Riley, Carey Mulligan, Helen Mirren, Pete Postlethwaite, John Hurt
Director: Rowan Joffe

Summary: Based on the novel by Graham Greene. In order to keep a waitress who witnessed him murdering a rival thug quiet, a small-town hood opts to marry her. As his gang begins to doubt his abilities, the man becomes more desperate and violent

Analysis: Considered a potential awards contender next year thanks to its stellar cast and source material, there's understandable excitement for this as both Neil Jordan's "The End of the Affair" in 1999 and Phil Noyce's "The Quiet American" in 2002 showed that Greene's material can still work with contemporary audiences in the right hands. Not one of Greene's more famous works like "The Third Man", nevertheless the book remains an important one while the 1947 film adaptation with Richard Attenborough is considered one of the most successful efforts in British film noir.

Unlike Jordan or Noyce though, this is a directorial debut project for Joffe who is best known for penning the better than expected sequel "28 Weeks Later". Though this new adaptation is expected to stick closer to Greene's original tome than the previous film did, the setting has been shifted to 1964 and will be more contemporary in tone where possible. Joffe himself said in an interview that the change was because "The story feels modern. It's too alive, too vibrant and too relevant to be contained in the late thirties".

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Brooklyn's Finest
Opens: March 5th 2010
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Jesse Williams
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Summary: An undercover cop who must choose between duty and friendship, a detective tempted by greed and corruption, and a suicidal cop on the verge of retiring. Fate brings these men to the same housing project as they take the law into their own hands.

Analysis: Initially holding such promise with "Training Day", director Antoine Fuqua's career since has generally fallen on the side of duds ("King Arthur," "Tears of the Sun," "Shooter"). 'Finest' many hoped would be a return to gritty drama form for the Pittsburgh-native, but the screening of an early cut at Sundance this year drew good yet quite hesitant critical reaction.

It also lead to a distribution nightmare for the film after its purchase by Senator which later hit financial strife. Some reshoots and a reworked ending were ordered, and a new edit ended up going back on the block at Venice where Overture Films picked it up. Now comes the question as to what final form the film will take, and whether an audience will have much interest in the drama.

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Buried
Opens: 2010
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ivan Mino, Anne Lockhart, Jose Maria Yazpik
Director: Rodrigo Cortes

Summary: Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it's a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.

Analysis: The Spanish indie thriller from director Rodrigo Cortes ("15 Days," "The Contestant") scores a midnight world premiere at Sundance in January where reviews will have a big impact on its release plans. Script reviews paint this as a very dark feature, a film that piles one tragedy on top of another with a believable sense of realism and a fair albeit shocking end - one daring enough that it might be toned down to be more wide appealing.

Though there have been plenty of films and series featuring scenes of someone buried alive from the original "The Vanishing" to Tarantino's "Kill Bill Volume Two" and "CSI" episode, few spend over an hour trapped in a confined space with most of the dialogue taking place over the phone. Joel Schumacher's "Phone Booth" did it several years ago and the result was a very strong and enjoyable thriller, can we hope for the same here?

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Burlesque
Opens: November 24th 2010
Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Alan Cumming
Director: Steve Antin

Summary: An ambitious small-town girl with a big town voice named Ali ventures to Los Angeles and finds love, family and success in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer who takes the girl under her wing.

Analysis: Though not based on a pre-existing show, the filmmakers are being very clear in their intentions to lift much of their inspiration from the greats of the genre, specifically "Cabaret". The story includes some atypical coming of age tropes including the advice-spouting mentor (Cher), the rival (Bell), the poor but handsome struggling love interest (Cam Gigandet), the rich other love interest who ultimately betrays (Eric Dane), and a sagely surrogate father figure (Stanley Tucci as the club's manager). Alan Cumming also pops up as the club's gender-bending MC, Cumming essentially reprising the role he played in a stage revival of "Cabaret" several years back.

How this will play is hard to say, especially with singer Aguilera in the lead as she's yet to prove her acting chops. Though it's highly doubtful this will be the next "Glitter", the Thanksgiving release and obvious aim to pull in a young market with a familiar story seems at odds with the very meaning of burlesque which is supposed to push boundaries and titillate by its very design. Steve Antin is more known for his quirky on-screen performances than his writing/directing efforts like "Chasing Papi" so an ambitious musical like this for him seems a strange choice.

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Carlos the Jackal
Opens: Spring 2010
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Beyer, Anna Thalbach, Susanne Wuest, Julia Hummer
Director: Olivier Assayas

Summary: The story of Venezuelan revolutionary, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the OPEC headquarters in 1975 before being caught by the French police in 1994. For twenty years he was known to the world by a different name, the assassin Carlos the Jackal.

Analysis: It's funny to think that despite being one of the most famous assassins to have ever lived, there hasn't really been an accurate biopic about Carlos even as his moniker has been used numerous times in film and fiction with little care for the real life facts. The closest I can recall, aside from Barbet Schroder's 2007 documentary "Terror's Advocate" about Carlos' lawyer, was 1997's little seen but enjoyable "The Assignment" which still ended up being only very loosely based on true events. Certainly that film was a lot better than the odious Bruce Willis-led "The Jackal" which opened the same year.

Now, along comes director Olivier Assayas ("Summer Hours," "Alice et Martin") delivering his first biopic which traces the life of Carlos from his first operation in London in 1974 to his capture and arrest by the Sudanese and French authorities in Khartoum in 1994. Edgar Ramirez ("Che," "The Bourne Ultimatum") stars as Carlos in the project which will include events such as the 1975 OPEC hostage-taking in Vienna. The possibilities here are rich considering Carlos had dealings with all sorts of different regimes throughout the Cold War including the PLO, the Soviets, the East German Stasi, the Japanese Red Army, Iraq under Saddam, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

In interviews, Assayas said he had an incredible level of freedom for the project and could essentially do what he wanted with a rather sizeable budget. Blending Super 16 and 35mm film photography, the film's language is around half-English, the rest in mostly Spanish or French. Shot during the first half of 2009 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and Morocco, the project will be released in two different versions. A 120-minute theatrical cut will be screened internationally in the Spring after a three-part 270-minute mini-series version airs on French cable television next month. IFC Films will release the shorter cut States-side in theatres and on VOD, the longer cut will probably have to be imported on DVD later in the year.

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Case 39
Opens: January 1st 2010
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Kerry O'Malley
Director: Christian Alvart

Summary: A family services social worker thinks she has seen it all until she meets her newest, most mysterious case - a troubled 10-year old girl whose parents try to kill her. The social worker decides to take her in herself until the right foster family comes along.

Analysis: Despite the presence of promising German director Christian Alvart ("Pandorum"), 'Case' has sat on a shelf since late 2006 and is finally being quietly shuffled out as the lone release on New Year's Day for one very good reason - it stinks. Having opened in the UK and Australia a few months back, reviewers utterly savaged the film as both incredibly dumb and utterly ludicrous. Lead star Renee Zellweger also scored personal criticism to a level rarely seen in film reviews outside of comments about Nicole Kidman's 'more alien than the aliens' frozen visage in "The Invasion".

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Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Opens: July 30th 2010
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, Jack McBrayer, Paul Rodriguez, Malcolm Stewart, Kristina Barr
Director: Brad Peyton

Summary: Cats and Dogs are forcibly teamed together when renegade cat Kitty Galore sets up her plan to enslave the world.

Analysis: There is simply no way to be kind here. Disney spending $150 million to create this past Summer's "G-Force" marks one of the biggest crimes against humanity since Slobodan Milosevic decided to do some spring cleaning of the Baltics. What's even worse is that people flocked to see it, yielding a global $283 million box-office haul and no doubt a hell of a lot more in eventual DVD and Blu-ray sales.

Seems many still love the idea of their pets secretly being super spies so Warners has finally dusted off its long planned follow-up to 2001's "Cats and Dogs" and is shuffling it out in the same "G-Force" release slot in 2010. Having essentially shed any and all star power from the first, we're only left with Chris O'Donnell as the human lead, 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer in a supporting role and Roger Moore in a cameo.

The trailer released last week showed only tired kid-friendly laughs that lacked any of the few glimpses of cleverness the original had (e.g. a Russian Blue cat as a KGB assassin). It's the height of Summer though and it looks entirely safe enough for parents to dump their kids at while they sneak off for a quickie with the gardener, so no doubt it'll be a huge success. However the only remotely good thing I can see coming from this are one of the producers who is a fan of the site and the Warners online publicity team potentially getting raises out of it.

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Cemetery Junction
Opens: 2010
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Ricky Gervais, Tom Hughes, Christian Cooke, Matthew Goode
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Summary: In 1970s England, a young guy wants to escape his working-class world but his two best friends are happy with life as is. When the guy's job reintroduces him to an old sweetheart, the trio must make choices that will change their lives for ever.

Analysis: Like Woody Allen, I'm much more impressed by Ricky Gervais as a writer/director than I am as leading man. In supporting roles he's fine, offering a dry pithy break in proceedings. As a romantic lead he's like Allen, awkward to watch and often cringe worthy as he 'seduces' women way out of his league.

This however I am keen for, the much anticipated re-teaming of him and his "The Office"/"Extras" partner Merchant on their first original film script. Gervais appears in a quirky supporting role where he's ably supported by a raft of great talent (Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson) and some good looking newcomers in the leading parts.

The premise is rather vague right now with its standard coming of age style tropes, but the 70's period and insurance industry backdrop could lend itself to some very scathing and pointed humor that hopefully the duo will explore.

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Centurion
Opens: 2010
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, David Morrissey, Noel Clarke
Director: Neil Marshall

Summary: Set during the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 117. The legendary Ninth Legion marches north under orders to wipe the Picts from the face of the Earth, only to be decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack. A splinter group of survivors fight for their lives behind enemy lines.

Analysis: Now here's a project you may not have heard of that's worth getting interested in. British helmer Neil Marshall created a modern horror masterpiece with 2005's "The Descent" while his schlocky werewolf tale "Dog Soldiers" and Scottish Mad Max-esque "Doomsday" both had some great fun moments amongst otherwise disappointing features. Now he returns with this promising sounding film version of the popular myth of the Ninth Legion's disappearance (the reality of the Legion's dissolution is undetermined but likely far more mundane).

Marshall's films aren't there for subtext, they're all about pure entertainment with a keen visual sense and visceral punch, which should give us something rarely seen in recent takes on Ancient Rome - namely some realistic looking blood-spraying action. Unlike many others of the type though, he's a director who makes films specifically for genre fans and so refreshingly likes to turn expectations on their head.

He's also got a great cast here with Fassbender ("Inglourious Basterds"), Dominic West ("300," "The Wire") and the most recent Bond girl Olga Kurylenko looking striking in her Pict make-up. Fassbender calls the project a 'chase film' which serves as a metaphor for the next few centuries as the dying Roman empire fell to the barbarians - just don't expect a lot of depth, this one's all about intensity.

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Chloe
Opens: 2010
Cast: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Thierot
Director: Atom Egoyan

Summary: A successful doctor suspects her husband is cheating on her and hires an irresistible young woman, Chloe, to test his fidelity. Chloe's torrid tales of her encounters take Catherine on a journey of sexual and sensual re-discovery which soon puts her family in great danger.

Analysis: Art house darling Egoyan ("Adoration," "Where the Truth Lies," "Ararat") returns with this erotic thriller that is apparently quite explicit, no surprise considering the helmer didn't write this film for a change but rather used a script by Erin Cressida Wilson ("Secretary").

Reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival gave the film lot of praise, a few comparing it to David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" in that the esoteric filmmaker tones it down and delivers something as powerful and challenging as his earlier work, but in a more accessible way. The promise of nudity, eroticism and lesbianism on the part of Seyfried and Moore should definitely pull in the punters, but hopefully they'll walk out thinking about more.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Opens: December 10th 2010
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet
Director: Michael Apted

Summary: Edmund, Lucy and their pesky cousin Eustace Scrubb find themselves on a fantastic Narnian ship captained by King Caspian and headed for the very edges of the world in a journey where they'll encounter slave traders, dragons and merefolk.

Analysis: Now here's a sequel far more interesting than it may at first appear. Having launched a hugely successful first film based on the second and most well-known of the seven Narnia books, Disney sunk even more money into a sequel and expected it to pay off - it didn't. "Prince Caspian" was always one of the weakest books in C.S. Lewis series, so it came as no surprise that the film was a rather bland child-safe war movie.

'Wardrobe' was a Christmas release, thus it had several months without any challenge for family-friendly, big-budget spectacle action. 'Caspian' though was pushed out in the second week of the most crowded May film schedule in many years. In the end the film, which cost at least $35 million more to make, made only about 60% of 'Wardrobe' at the global box-office. As the third one went forward, the studio initially planned to co-produce and later opted out altogether leaving Fox Walden footing the bill.

Now the good news. The budget has been cut to a still substantial but more reasonable $140 million which means less pressure to perform but a tighter control on production. Fox Walden also isn't as strict as Disney on sanitising the product so the film will hopefully take more risks - that could be one of the reasons Disney opted out (they cited 'creative differences'). The release is back to the more suitable December slot, while director Michael Apted ("The World is Not Enough," HBO's "Rome") is a far more skilled hand at both drama and action/adventure than previous helmer Andrew Adamson.

Best of all is the story, which lifts much of its basic outline from the best bits of Homer's "The Odyssey", is widely considered the best of all the 'Narnia' adventures. The script has been adapted by Richard LaGravenese ("A Little Princess," "The Fisher King") and Michael Petroni ("Til Human Voices Wake Us," "Queen of the Damned") and shooting went smoothly in Queensland, Australia throughout much of the last few months of 2009.

The only downside here could be Walden itself which has been keeping production rather quiet and didn't have any set visits to the film, even for locally based journalists like myself which has surprised more than a few people. A decently updated production blog is online which is a nice start, but the buzz needs to begin early to make sure this doesn't go the way of 'Caspian'. Lets hope the film becomes the hit it could be, because the next book 'The Silver Chair' is also one of the best of the series and deserves a big-budget adaptation.

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Clash of the Titans
Opens: March 26th 2010
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton
Director: Louis Leterrier

Summary: Based on the 1981 film of the same name, the ultimate struggle for power pits men against gods. But the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus is helpless to save his family from Hades, vengeful god of the underworld.

Analysis: Nearly thirty years on the cult classic original still has many fans today thanks to its great stop motion effects and delightful blend of camp with classic Greek mythology. From a brilliant acting turn by Harry Hamlin's nipples, to Maggie Smith as the bitchy goddess Thetis, 'Titans' represented the bodice-ripping sword & sandals genre at its escapist height - no deep issues of politics, slavery or religious difference, just flat out fantasy entertainment. Still, even the most loyal fans would be hard pressed to argue that it's a great film by any means.

On the surface Leterrier's remake at least seems to understand the appeal of the original and doesn't try a straight out remake. Instead we get a new adaptation with the emphasis moved toward a lot more action and intensity than the often leisurely paced original, while adding some new elements not seen in the previous film (e.g. Hades). It's an obvious effort to try and capture the box-office appeal of "300", but 'Clash' holds a lot more promise as it has neither the overly stylised visuals of Snyder, nor Frank Miller's right-wing politics that often made that film both ridiculous and offensive.

Both trailers so far have had me and quite a few people I know literally salivating - impressive reinventions of the creatures, an interesting new take on the Greek Gods (thankfully no "Troy"-esque excisions here), and most of all a sense of high adventure fun. "Terminator Salvation" was built on a brand and "Avatar" hid his face behind a blue alien for much of its runtime, thus 'Clash' marks the first real test of Aussie hunk Sam Worthington as a Hollywood action hero. Armed with a buzz cut and growl, the man looks every bit the hero even in an armored skirt that tends to lift slightly.

The question here is Leterrier. When it kept to the human element his 2008 take on "The Incredible Hulk" worked just fine, but once things turned computer-animated they became ridiculous and silly. Seemingly having learned his lesson, the director is very adamant about using effects only where needed here and the hope is that when he does use it he doesn't make the mistake of so many action directors who don't give their monsters any real physical weight or inertia. The MTV-style editing and music is a mild cause for concern, but hopefully that's simply the marketing.

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The Company Men
Opens: 2010
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Rosemarie DeWitt, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello
Director: John Wells

Summary: A look at the impact of corporate downsizing from different perspectives - a corporate hotshot who gets laid off, the salt-of-the-earth drywall installer who gives him a construction job, and a senior partner at the firm who struggles with the actions of his partners.

Analysis: An independently financed high-profile title that's going on the block at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, 'Men' marks the directorial debut of longtime TV writer/producer power house John Wells ("ER," "The West Wing," "Southland"). His involvement, plus the very timely subject matter and strong cast, have generated a lot of interest in the project which seems certain to snap up quite a few distribution deals. How the Sundance screening goes however will be a big determinate of when we'll get to see the film and what the critical reaction is likely to be.

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Confucius
Opens: 2010
Cast: Yun-Fat Chow, Xun Zhou, Yi Lu, Jianbin Chen, Lu Yao
Director: Mei Hu

Summary: Set in 6th Century BC and follows the highly-influential Chinese thinker and philosopher, from his days as a court official through battles and political intrigues, to his old age as a disillusioned sage.

Analysis: With only a few weeks to go before its official release in China, this $23 million biopic about one of the world's most famous philosophers has drawn quite a bit of controversy over its accuracy. Much like the way many Hollywood films tend to gloss up the romantic and action-related angles of famed historical figures, so to has this film undergone criticism for casting an action hero (Yun-Fat) as the man himself and portraying him as romantically attracted to a concubine.

Outside Asia where his backstory is less known, Mei Hu's filmmaking itself will likely get a more objective consideration. The trailers, generally a mishmash of scenes without any real context or order, have sparked both interest and confusion with the disappointing visual effects and overuse of battle scenes scoring criticism. As the Chinese government was heavily involved in the project, don't expect much in the way of a truly independent look at the revered thinker.

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The Conspirator
Opens: 2010
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Robin Wright Penn, Justin Long
Director: Robert Redford

Summary: Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.

Analysis: While Steven Spielberg has been waxing on about his desire to make an Abraham Lincoln biopic for a long time, Robert Redford just ups and does one about the conspiracy surrounding the late President's death. While his more recent directorial efforts like "Lions for Lambs" and 'Bagger Vance' can't compare to his earlier Oscar-calibre work ("Quiz Show," "Ordinary People"), the material combined with his presence and a stellar cast make this one of the more anticipated of next year. Although there's already potential awards contender talk, reviews of James Solomon's script have criticised it for starting out strong but turning into a rather conventional and safe courtroom/period piece drama.

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Cop Out
Opens: February 26th 2010
Cast: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Adam Brody, Jason Lee
Director: Kevin Smith

Summary: Two cops track down a stolen baseball card, rescue a Mexican beauty and must deal with gangsters and laundered drug money.

Analysis: Originally armed with the best film title of the Spring ("A Couple of Dicks"), director Kevin Smith fought but ultimately had to change it to a safer sounding one in order to be able to advertise the film. Unlike his previous work though, he is only directing this time out with scripting duties handled by "Gary the Rat" showrunner Robb Cullen. Smith has stated that the film isn't a "Kevin Smith film" as such, but just a 'job' he took so don't expect the ViewAskew hallmarks such as the geek focus or his signature and often delicious dialogue.

Reports from production seemed to indicate things went fine, though the director doesn't have a lot of kind words to say about star Bruce Willis. The supporting cast is strong, and the premise is sound enough that it looks like one to anticipate. Smith happily talks about the gushing test screening reaction of all his films, but that talk is unreliable considering how his output has often proven quite varied in quality. Early critical reviews will tell is this is another bit of "Chasing Amy" brilliance, or something along "Jersey Girl" mediocre lines.

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Cracks
Opens: 2010
Cast: Eva Green, Imogen Potts, Juno Temple, Sinead Cusack, Maria Valverde
Director: Jordan Scott

Summary: In a strict, all-girls 1930's English boarding school, a clique of students idolise their charismatic diving teacher Miss G. When a new Spanish foreign exchange student captures Miss G's fascination, the students grow more resentful and dangerous.

Analysis: Ridley's daughter Jordan Scott makes her directorial debut with this intriguing sounding study on power plays, adulation, manipulation, the dangers of obsession and even child abuse. Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival to mixed notices that seemed to find it slightly lacking in the thriller department, the story overall somewhat slight and the ending rather predictable. Nevertheless there's been comparisons to "Lord of the Flies" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock" in tone and some solid praise for the film's look and young cast. Already released last month on a very limited number of screens in the UK, IFC will distribute VOD and in limited theatrical release early in the new year.

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The Crazies
Opens: February 26th 2010
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Danielle Panabaker, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Director: Breck Eisner

Summary: A remake of George A. Romero's 1973 film of the same name. The story revolves around the inhabitants of a small Kansas town who are beset by death and insanity after a plane crash lets loose a secret biological weapon into the water supply.

Analysis: The recent rash of horror remakes have generally been rather poor, though one notable exception was Zack Snyder's impressive retooling of Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". Whereas the original 'Dawn' is considered sacred, Romero's low-budget flop "The Crazies" isn't held in such fond regard though isn't without a fanbase. Thus a remake could certainly work despite an overabundance of apocalyptic virus/zombie movies in the past few years.

"Sahara" director Breck Eisner is an interesting choice and should ensure a more professional production value than other films of this type. Two trailers have been released and both have shown a surprisingly dark and violent edge to the story which should be gorier than expected, but also seems to paint the military personnel equally as dangerous as the infected killers. Hopefully a fun, fast, creepy delight.

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Crazy on the Outside
Opens: January 8th 2010
Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kelsey Grammer
Director: Tim Allen

Summary: Fresh out of prison, Tommy must juggle his overprotective sister, her cynical husband, their oblivious grandmother, his former partner-in-crime, and his unpredictable ex-girlfriend - while he finds himself falling for his probation officer who is a single mother.

Analysis: A bland and easily dismissible Tim Allen comedy on first glance, what surprises here is who agreed to be in it. The trailer plays out like a very standard studio comedy that just isn't funny, yet the likes of Weaver, Liotta, JK Simmons and several other high-profile actors in supporting roles means there must've been something that drew them to the project. I'm guessing it has to be the paycheck as the release date slot doesn't give one much hope.

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Creation
Opens: January 22nd 2010
Cast: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones, Bill Patterson
Director: Jon Amiel

Summary: A biopic of evolutionary theory developer Charles Darwin, the 'Origin of Species' author finds himself in a struggle between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world of rational realism where God has no place.

Analysis: Based on the book by Darwin's great-great grandson, adapted by John Collee ("Master & Commander"), shot at many real life locations important to Darwin, and with a stellar cast - it makes sense the film was the opening night presentation at the Toronto Film Festival back in early September.

Unfortunately reviews from that screening and the film's release two weeks later in the UK were congenial rather than enthusiastic. The acting (especially Bettany) and visuals were praised, but the film was often criticised for taking a rather hands off, dispassionate and timid approach to subject matter so rife with possibilities.

For a film determined to not be political, it became just that in the early Fall when the lack of distribution in the United States prompted quite a few editorials and articles from the media and religious fringe groups. The articles called out studios on being too afraid to market a film on evolution in the US where creationism holds a much larger sway than any other country in the western world. Newmarket Films eventually picked up the rights.

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Cyrus
Opens: 2010
Cast: Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly, Matt Walsh
Director: Jay & Mark Duplass

Summary: John, a lonely divorcee can’t believe his luck when he becomes involved in a passionate affair with a beautiful and charming woman. Then he meets her 21-year-old son, can the deep and idiosyncratic bond between mother and child leave room for John?

Analysis: Having become indie filmmaking darlings and pioneering the 'mumblecore movement', the Duplass Brothers ("The Puffy Chair," "Baghead") have scored their biggest budget yet by far with this Fox Searchlight comedy premiering out of competition at Sundance this year. Despite having a script on hand, the actors and directors found themselves improvising a lot with Hill in particular apparently showing off a quite different character to his previous onscreen personas. Carefully taking time with it in post, the Park City premiere will be the first time anyone's seen anything from the film so the critical reaction should have a significant impact on its release plans and box-office chances.

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Date Night
Opens: April 9th 2010
Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco
Director: Shawn Levy

Summary: A couple find their routine date night becomes much more than just dinner and a movie when they're mistaken for a dangerous couple. They soon encounter everything from over-anxious securities experts to petty con men who mess up their romantic evening.

Analysis: The leads of NBC's two best sitcoms teaming for a romantic comedy with a premise along the lines of "Judgement Night" meets "Adventures in Babysitting"? What should've been a home run unfortunately looks tired, bland and completely unfunny. With direction by Shawn Levy ("Just Married," "Night at the Museum") and a script by Josh Klausner ("Shrek the Third"), it comes as no surprise that the trailer was full of pratfalls and the kind of humor that thinks jokes about threesomes are risque. The sole saving grace of this could be the cast, especially Wahlberg and Franco in supporting roles.

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Daybreakers
Opens: January 8th 2010
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo, Claudia Karvan
Director: Michael & Peter Spierig

Summary: In the year 2019, a plague has transformed most every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the dominant plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of humans on a potential way to save the human race.

Analysis: Back in early 2003 came the first word of "Undead", a very low-budget (around $600,000 US dollars) Australian feature film about a meteor shower causing people in a small fishing community to become zombies. I was one of the first outlets to really cover the film and its twin directors Peter and Michael Spierig who really made it a labour of love and happily passed on great material from the film.

For its cost, the visuals were extraordinary and the direction showed great promise, something which I happily praised. Yet though technically interesting, the story was a mess (especially its last act) and the performances were generally quite terrible. Like all reviews on the site I was honest about that as well in the review, and since then I haven't heard a peep from either director - not the first or last time that situation has happened, filmmakers can be very touchy when it comes to even constructive criticism.

Now a little over six years later they've returned with the intriguingly premised "Daybreakers" which hopes to deliver some bite to the vampire genre that has been so defanged by the "Twilight" phenomenon. Shot on a limited budget, the pair once again have delivered a film that looks like it cost considerably more than it did. There's a strong acting pedigree as well on both American (Dafoe, Hawke) and Australian (Neill, Karvan, Michael Dorman) fronts.

Despite the film having screened at several festivals, I went to a local media screening which imposed an embargo so I can't post a proper review until January. I can say that it's a very gory film, especially its final act, and is delightfully gross B-cinema in spite of its high concept sci-fi leanings. Festival reviews weren't gushing but they were positive certainly as it's quite fun, but it's unlikely to reach beyond genre fans and those who want to see a vampire movie that in no way resembles "Twilight". Think "Underworld" with a lot less exposition.

The Complete Notable Films of 2010 Guide

Part One: 13, 44 Inch Chest, The A-Team, Abel, The Adjustment Bureau, After.Life, Agora, Alice in Wonderland, Alpha and Omega 3D, The American, And Soon the Darkness, Animal Kingdom, Area 51, The Back-Up Plan, The Baster, Beastly, The Beaver, Bitch Slap, Biutiful, Black Death, Black Swan, Blitz, Blue Valentine, The Book of Eli, Born to Be A Star, The Bounty Hunter

Part Two: Bran Nue Dae, Breaking Upwards, Brighton Rock, Brooklyn's Finest, Buried, Burlesque, Carlos the Jackal, Case 39, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Cemetery Junction, Centurion, Chloe, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Clash of the Titans, The Company Men, Confucius, The Conspirator, Cop Out, Cracks, The Crazies, Crazy on the Outside, Creation, Cyrus, Date Night, Daybreakers

Part Three: Dear John, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, Death at a Funeral, The Debt, The Descent: Part II, Despicable Me, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dinner for Schmucks, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, District 13 Ultimatum, Don McKay, Dorian Gray, The Dry Land, Due Date, The Eagle of the Ninth, Easy A, Eat Pray Love, Edge of Darkness, Enter the Void, The Exam, The Expendables, The Experiment, The Extra Man, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Extraordinary Measures

Part Four: Fair Game, The Fighter, The First Gun, Fish Tank, Flipped, From Paris with Love, Frozen, Furry Vengeance, Georgia, Get Low, Get Me to the Gig, The Ghost Writer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Glorious 39, Going the Distance, The Good Guy, The Greatest, Greenberg, The Green Hornet, Green Zone, Grown Ups, Guardians of Ga'Hoole 3D, Gulliver's Travels, Happy Tears, Harry Brown

Part Five: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Heartless, Henry's Crime, Hereafter, Hesher, High School, Hippie Hippie Shake, Holy Rollers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Howl, How to Train Your Dragon, The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, I Am Love, I Love You Phillip Morris, Inception, The Irishman, Ironclad, Iron Man 2, It's Kind of a Funny Story, It's A Wonderful Afterlife, Jackass 3D, Jack Goes Boating, John Rabe, Jonah Hex, The Joneses, The Karate Kid

Part Six: Kick Ass, The Kids Are All Right, The Killer Inside Me, Killers, The King's Speech, Knight and Day, The Last Airbender, The Last Song, The Last Word, Leap Year, Legion, Let Me In, Letters to Juliet, Life as We Know It, Life During Wartime, Little Fockers, London Boulevard, The Losers, The Lottery Ticket, Love and Other Drugs, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Love Ranch, MacGruber, Machete, Main Street

Part Seven: Marmaduke, The Mechanic, Megamind, Micmacs, Middle Men, Morning Glory, Mother, Mother's Day, Mother and Child, Mr. Nobody, Multiple Sarcasms, My Own Love Song, My Soul to Take, Nailed, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Never Let Me Go, The Next Three Days, A Nightmare on Elm Street, North Face, Nowhere Boy, Oceans, Once Fallen, Ondine, The Other Guys, Our Family Wedding, Paul

Part Eight: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, Perrier's Bounty, Piranha 3-D, Please Give, Predators, Priest, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, A Prophet, Rabbit Hole, Ramona and Beezus, Rapunzel, Red, Red Dawn, Red Riding, Red Tails, Remember Me, Repo Men, The Resident, Robin Hood, The Romantics, The Roommate, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, The Rum Diary, The Runaways, Saint John of Las Vegas

Part Nine: Salt, Sanctum, Saw VII 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Season of the Witch, Secretariat, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Sex and the City 2, Shanghai, Shelter, She's Out of My League, Shrek Forever After, Shutter Island, Skateland, The Social Network, Solitary Man, Solomon Kane, Somewhere, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Special Relationship, Splice, The Spy Next Door, The Square, Stay Cool, Step Up 3D, Stone

Part Ten: St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, Sympathy for Delicious, Takers, Tamara Drewe, Tell Me, The Tempest, Three Backyards, Toe to Toe, The Tooth Fairy, The Town, To Save a Life, Toy Story 3, The Tree of Life, Triage, Tron: Legacy, True Legend, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Twelve, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too, Unstoppable, Unthinkable, Untitled Mike Leigh Project, Valentine's Day, Valhalla Rising

Part Eleven: Vincere, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Warlords, Warrior, Waska, The Way Back, Welcome to the Rileys, What's Wrong With Virginia, When in Rome, The Whistleblower, Wild Grass, The Winning Season, Winter's Bone, The Wolfman, Womb, Wonderful World, The Yellow Handkerchief, Yogi Bear, You Again, You May Not Kiss the Bride, Young Americans, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Your Highness, Youth in Revolt, The Zookeeper

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