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The Notable Films of 2010: Part Four

By Garth Franklin Sunday December 20th 2009 01:50AM

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Fair Game
Opens: 2010
Cast: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Noah Emmerich, Liraz Charhi
Director: Doug Liman

Summary: The true story of Ambassador Joseph Wilson who watched his wife Valerie's CIA status become compromised after he wrote op-ed columns that accused the Bush Administration of manipulating intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Analysis: After a string of mostly well-reviewed and financially successful hits like "Go," "The Bourne Identity" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", it's no huge surprise that director Doug Liman was excited about launching a franchise with "Jumper" in 2008. Then of course that film came out and plans for a franchise pretty much collapsed under scathing reviews and mediocre box-office performance. Trying to restore a bit of credibility, Liman has turned to the film version of the Valerie Plame saga based on her memoir which was heavily redacted by the Bush administration.

The question here will be both timing and edge. With the US now firmly in an 'Obama state-of-mind', many are trying to forget the Bush years ever happened and so the film runs the risk of being seen as well past its due date. The other concern is that it will simply soft-pedal the whole thing as the filmmakers no doubt have to get legal clearances of all sorts of kinds in order to have made the picture in the first place. With Plame last month losing an appeal to declassify the redacted parts of her memoir, you can beat legal eagles from all over will be going through this with a fine tooth comb.

A test screening already took place with several very good reviews emerging and David Andrews' performance getting singled out in all for a humorous yet serious-faced take on Scooter Libby. The tone sounds quite left-leaning politics wise so there's already a huge section of the right who will ignore and condemn the film before it even hits. Right now there's also the question of when in the world it will get a release.

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The Fighter
Opens: 2010
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee
Director: David O. Russell

Summary: A drama about boxer Irish Mickey Ward and his unlikely path to become world lightweight champion with the help of his half-brother, a talented fighter turned criminal who turns his life around by helping his underperforming brother on the road to the world championship.

Analysis: His highly troubled and still unreleased ensemble drama "Nailed" stopped and started several times due to funding deficiencies, so it came as a surprise that the next effort from famously caustic filmmaker David O. Russell ("I Heart Huckabees," "Three Kings") went so smoothly. Paramount has not set a release date as yet but it would hardly be a shock if they line up this as one of their potential awards contenders.

Darren Aronofsky was originally slated to direct Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon (later Brad Pitt replaced Damon) with the film being lined up to shoot early 2008. Then of course came the writer's strike which pretty much grounded the project. Aronofsky turned to "The Wrestler" instead while Pitt left the project, and post-strike problems with financing and casting kept cropping up to interfere.

Then back in April both Bale and Russell joined the production with shooting finally getting underway in early July and completed by late August. Reports from the set indicated everything went fine without any major issues, though photos show Bale with a frighteningly gaunt visage that looks like he has dropped to his lowest weight since "The Machinist" (though not quite THAT far thankfully). No materials have yet been released so far, so we don't know just yet how the final product will look.

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The First Gun
Opens: 2010
Cast: Sun Honglei, Ni Dahong, Xiaoshenyang, Yan Ni
Director: Zhang Yimou

Summary: A Chinese-language remake of the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple". A restaurant owner finds his wife cheating on him and therefore hires a corrupt police officer to kill his wife and her new man. But the killer has his own greedy plan, which is to swallow up the restaurant owner's every possession.

Analysis: With Hollywood having remade so many foreign films, it's only fair that foreign filmmakers start adapting American films for their own markets. Yet no-one predicted that internationally-renowned helmer Zhang Yimou ("Hero," "House of Flying Daggers," "Curse of the Golden Flower") would choose to use the Coen Brothers' very first feature, 1985's "Blood Simple", as the basis for this period-set farcical thriller.

This transports the original film's plot from a town in Texas, to a noodle shop in a small desert town in northern China's Gansu province. Released at Christmas in China, reviews paint the film as surprisingly faithful to the source material and keeps its inherent darkness, though adds a more frentic pacing, some regional comedic elements and Zhang's usual use of garish colors. One highlight is said to be a complicated noodle spinning sequence choreographed to Ride of the Valkyries.

Previously titled "Amazing Tales: Three Guns" and released as "A Simple Noodle Story" in China, the film will be called "The First Gun" in its international theatrical release. Aimed distinctly at the Chinese market, Sony Pictures Classics has worldwide distribution rights but probably won't see much return outside of film lovers curious about the concept.

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Fish Tank
Opens: January 15th 2010
Cast: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Harry Treadaway
Director: Andrea Arnold

Summary: A fifteen-year-old in a constant state of war with her family believes her party-girl mother’s charming new boyfriend Connor can help her start to make sense of her life. His seemingly tender demeanor however may hide a much more treacherous interior.

Analysis: Already having won several awards and great praise at the Toronto Film Festival, Andrea Arnold's gritty Essex-set drama looks downbeat and somewhat cynical on the surface, but has led to some debate over its outcome which actually takes a tender and positive approach that indie urban coming-of-age stories rarely aspire too.

Newcomer Katie Jarvis has scored great acclaim for her role, as have the various supporting cast such as Rebecca Griffiths as the young sister and the increasingly fascinating Michael Fassbender as her mother's new boyfriend. There will be comparisons made to "Precious" of course as the basic premise of a young girl from a broken home with a c*nt of a mother is the same. 'Tank' however offers a more understated and hopeful approach that also plays more universally.

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Flipped
Opens: September 17th 2010
Cast: Madeline Carroll, Aidan Quinn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Mahoney, Anthony Edwards
Director: Rob Reiner

Summary: Based on Wendelin Van Draanen's young-adult novel and set between 1957-63, the story revolves around the confusing romantic developments of antagonistic boy and girl neighbors who eventually share a kiss when they reach their teens.

Analysis: Rob Reiner tries his hand at pre-teen romance in this adaptation of the award-winning Van Draanen standalone book. Shot quickly over the Summer and already pretty much finished, it's surprising that Warners isn't going earlier with it. However a ground up campaign with a lot of early buzz-generating screenings may be in order for something like this which won't have any reach beyond the 'wholesome family' demographic.

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From Paris with Love
Opens: February 5th 2010
Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Travolta, Kasia Smutniak, Amber Rose Revah
Director: Pierre Morel

Summary: A low-ranking intelligence operative working in the office of the U.S. Ambassador in France takes on more than he bargained for when he partners with a wisecracking, fast-shooting, high-ranking U.S. agent who's been sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack.

Analysis: Cinematographer turned film director Pierre Morel is proving a name to watch after the strong success of his first two helming efforts - the 2004 French parkour action flick "District 13" (aka. "District B13") and the 2008 Liam Neeson revenge thriller "Taken", both of which he filmed with writer/producer Luc Besson.

Their third time together with Morel in the big chair looks like similar explosive fun with John Travolta doing a more comedic and unhinged take on his 'Pelham 123' routine with "The Tudors" star Jonathan Rhys Meyers starring opposite as the jittery pen-pushing straight man.

Like Besson's "Transporter" film series, the rather pedestrian sounding plot here plays third fiddle to a mix of martial arts, elaborate gun fights, impressive car chases, and brutal takedowns of numerous bodyguards and bad guys.

Liam Neeson's conviction and solid acting chops combined with a simple but easy to empathise with story are what made "Taken" so effective in many ways, thus the whole terrorist attack plan on offer here sounds like a bad "Rush Hour" rehash. Much will depend on Travolta and Meyers chemistry working together, could we have a great new buddy team here - or something even Brett Ratner wouldn't spit on?

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Frozen
Opens: February 5th 2010
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, Kane Hodder
Director: Adam Green

Summary: A typical day on the slopes turns into a chilling nightmare for three snowboarders when they get stranded on the chairlift before their last run. As the ski patrol switches off the night lights, they realize with growing panic that they're left dangling with no way down.

Analysis: One can imagine the pitch meeting for this went along the lines of "'Open Water' on a skilift". The low-budget horror comes from Adam Green whose most notable work so far was 2006's "Hatchet" and 2007's "Spiral", both of which scored better notices than most films of the type but still weren't that good. Here the premise is actually kind of interesting if only for the question of how in the world the tension can be sustained for a feature runtime. We'll know more when reviews come in from the Sundance premiere about two weeks before its limited release.

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Furry Vengeance
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Dick Van Dyke, Ken Jeong, Samantha Bee
Director: Roger Kumble

Summary: A real estate developer oversees the building of a major housing development which threatens the homes of the local forest creatures, so the animals seek revenge by turning a peaceful cul-de-sac under construction into a battlefield of epic proportions.

Analysis: Easily the weakest film on Summit's 2010 slate, this on the surface sounds like "Doctor Dolittle" but with Brendan Fraser instead of Eddie Murphy. Fraser also beat out Jeremy Piven who would've been a lot more interesting in the lead role. The scribes on this have a sole credit to their name, the disappointing "Mr. Woodcock", while director Kumble is more of a mixed bag with the great "Cruel Intentions" and the woeful "College Road Trip" and "Just Friends". Maybe the trailers will show this to be more of an adult comedy than it appears in which case it might have promise, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

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Georgia
Opens: 2010
Cast: Val Kilmer, Andy Garcia, Rupert Friend, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Johnathon Schaech
Director: Renny Harlin

Summary: An American journalist, his cameraman, and a Georgian native get caught in the crossfire of the five-day Russia-Georgia conflict in August 2008, and then have to deal with their obligation to be impartial.

Analysis: A timely parable on war, or Hollywood propaganda filmmaking at its worst? Wherever it goes, especially in Europe and the former Soviet states, "Georgia" will cause a lot of talk and controversy as the incidents depicted are still so fresh in many's minds. Like all topics of the sort, it'll also have its strong supporters and detractors having opinions on the film long before a frame of footage is screened anywhere.

Shot on-location in Tbilisi, the project also marks a potential return to form for Finnish director Renny Harlin. Given the right material the skilled action director delivered three of the better 90's action blockbusters - "Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight". Lately though his work has been dramas and thrillers like "The Covenant," "Driven" and "12 Rounds" which don't come close. Given the right material, the man can make it work though.

Thus a lot depends on the script which comes from previously unknown writers. With the Georgian government essentially opening their doors wide for the production, you can bet the Russians generally will not come off well here. The biggest question of all though is whether the character story at the centre of the whole film is compelling enough that the political issues can essentially be ignored?

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Get Low
Opens: 2010
Cast: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black
Director: Aaron Schneider

Summary: Based on a true story. Felix Bush decides it is time to plan his funeral which he plans to be more party than memorial and an event to which anyone and everyone will be invited. At the event, Bush will reveal a long kept secret.

Analysis: Scoring a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival in September with calls of Robert Duvall's performance being Oscar-worthy, this low-key and maybe a tad too amiable work was snapped up by Sony Classics who'll push it out in limited release sometime this year. It may not entirely work as a movie, but it certainly is an actor's showcase and should be a comfortable fit for undemanding arthouse fans.

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Get Me to the Gig
Opens: June 11th 2010
Cast: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss
Director: Nicholas Stoller

Summary: Aaron Greenberg is a driven, idealistic young college graduate who works as an intern at a record company. Aaron is given his big break when he is sent to transport flaky English musician Aldous Snow to a concert at Los Angeles' Greek Theater.

Analysis: A spin-off from 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" featuring Russell Brand reprising his scene-stealing Aldous Snow character, the film also reunites director Nicholas Stoller and co-star Jonah Hill who actually plays a new character this time around. A bunch of musicians are also set to cameo including Pink, Christina Aguilera, P. Diddy and Katy Perry.

Despite the various controversies that have plagued him, Brand's appeal is arguably stronger than ever and has successfully crossed the Atlantic in a way a lot of other UK actors and comedians have failed to achieve. Thus a re-teaming with the Apatow camp comes as no surprise, but there's always a danger in moving strong supporting characters to the fore and watering down their appeal, Johnny Depp's role in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels for instance.

Some confusion has also emerged over the title which has varied between "Get Him to the Greek" and "Get Me to the Gig" with the later looking certain to be the international title as barely anyone outside the US has heard of LA's Greek theatre. 'Greek' may still be used States-side though.

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The Ghost Writer
Opens: 2010
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Roman Polanski

Summary: Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang hires a professional ghostwriter to join him at his US island retreat to help him finish his memoirs. The writer is quickly drawn into political and sexual intrigue Lang’s wife and aide, while buried secrets threaten all their lives.

Analysis: Perhaps the most infamous film of the year despite only just being completed, the first film directed by Roman Polanski since 2005's "Oliver Twist" was well into post-production when the director was arrested in Switzerland for the outstanding charges against him from 1977 for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Though jailed and still currently under house arrest awaiting a decision on extradition appeals, Polanski was allowed to finish work on his film while incarcerated.

That decision about his fate will not be forthcoming until well into early next year, before which the film will have its world premiere at the 60th Berlinale in competition. "Twilight" distributor Summit Entertainment got excited enough after recently seeing a screening of the completed film that they've bought the North American distribution rights and are planning release sometime in the first half of next year. How big that release will be is anybody's guess.

What will likely get lost in the debate though will be the film itself. Using an excellent cast and script by "Fatherland" and "Enigma" author Robert Harris who adapted his own novel, the twist-filled mystery drama has a solid foundation and will no doubt ooze atmosphere like all of Polanski's films from acclaimed successes like "Rosemary's Baby" and "Repulsion" to less known but often underrated cult efforts such as "Death and the Maiden" and "The Ninth Gate".

Sadly no matter what the quality, there are many who will find it difficult to distinguish between the art and the artist and so minds will be made up already despite not seeing a frame. On top of that, if the reaction veers too strongly positive or negative it will be seen as spin from his supporters or detractors having had an impact on critical consensus. Finally if the decision on his appeals come around the same time as the release, there could be even more heated debate. Either way this'll definitely be one to watch and should do great business in limited release.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Opens: March 19th 2010
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber
Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Summary: Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a gathering on a remote island owned by her rich and powerful family. Her uncle is convinced it was murder by one of his tight-knit but strange kin and employs a disgraced journalist and a disturbed young female computer hacker to investigate.

Analysis: What could be the next cross-Atlantic foreign-language hit of "Tell No-One" proportions if marketed right, Oplev's film adaptation of the international literary sensation is a thoroughly engaging mystery thriller and a solid translation of the first of Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy of novels.

One of the more entertaining film going experiences I had this year, the cinematography and production values of 'Girl' are excellent and the performances are solid, especially Rapace's effective if somewhat simplified interpretation of the novel's truly fascinating Lisbeth Salander character.

Be warned though, this is a dark whodunit with some disturbing themes of misogyny, serial murder and corruption. For example there's a brutal rape scene involving the female lead that's very difficult to watch, but later on she gets some brilliantly creative revenge.

At 153 minutes it's a long film and to be fair has a few problems, from a religious ritual killing angle that doesn't work to the typical difficulty of any adaptation to not fully convey atmosphere-rich prose.

The film does however perfectly straddle that line of being just mainstream enough to pull in a sizeable audience and certainly good enough to please a lot of critics and arthouse filmgoers, but it will have to be handled carefully or risk alienating both groups.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire
Opens: 2010
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber
Director: Daniel Alfredson

Summary: Lisbeth Salander finds herself on the run for the apparent murder of her guardian and two journalists investigating Sweden's sex traffic trade. She and Mikael Blomqvist separately pursue their own leads to learn the truth about the deaths and the mysterious figure at the centre of it all - Zala.

Analysis: Film versions of all three novels in Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy were released in Europe in 2009 to record ticket sales, and should the Spring release of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" do well, expect this and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" to bow in limited release as well later in the year.

Whereas 'Tattoo' was a dark murder mystery action/drama with misogynist themes, 'Fire' is an investigative procedural with corruption and Cold War politics in play. Second-unit director Daniel Alfredson takes the helm of this and 'Nest' as both were originally shot for television (and then recut for the cinema when 'Tattoo' performed so well). That, combined with a smaller budget than 'Tattoo', means the visual aesthetic is noticeably more pedestrian than Opley's often stark but beautiful imagery.

The pacing is also lower key as this really is very much the middle chapter of a trilogy with events setting up the gripping finale and next film. Story wise though it still works and while it omits some good bits from the book (the Grenada scenes are essentially excised), it cuts out a lot of the filler of Salander re-establishing herself in Stockholm. The key moments of surprising revelation are all there even if they lack some of the punch of the book, while a rather explicit lesbian sex scene should at least keep some of the audience awake.

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Glorious 39
Opens: 2010
Cast: : Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, David Tennant, Julie Christie, Jeremy Northam
Director: Stephen Poliakoff

Summary: Anne Keyes, an actress living in 1939 England, discovers a conspiracy involving her family, which could put an end to the war with Germany before it happens, but as people around her start turning up dead, she starts becoming suspicious of everyone around her.

Analysis: Poliakoff's first feature film in over ten years after some impressive small screen work, this Hitchcock-esque thriller about the early days of England's involvement in the Second World War scored a mixed reaction at its London Film Festival premiere. The slow pacing, a "spectacularly naive" heroine, lack of thrills and credibility-stretching plot make it unlikely to be a commercial hit or critical darling.

Still its historical attention to detail was generally applauded, as was the production values and performances such as "Doctor Who" star David Tennant standing out in a small but key role early in proceedings, and "Atonement" actress Romola Garai showing strong conviction as the underwritten lead female character.

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Going the Distance
Opens: October 8th 2010
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston
Director: Nanette Burstein

Summary: The story centers on a man and woman in a long-distance relationship who ultimately come to the realization that they would be happier dating someone closer to home.

Analysis: What on the surface looks like a rather standard looking romantic comedy benefits from the inherent chemistry of real life on-and-off coupling Barrymore and Long, a Blacklist script by Geoff LaTulippe, and director Nanette Burstein making her narrative film debut after several excellent documentaries ("American Teen," "The Kid Stays in the Picture"). Could prove that rare combination of a critically well-received rom-com that's also popular.

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The Good Guy
Opens: February 19th 2010
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Scott Porter, Bryan Greenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Aaron Yoo
Director: Julio DePietro

Summary: Ambitious young Manhattanite and urban conservationist Beth wants it all: a good job, good friends, and a good guy so she falls hard for a sexy, young Wall Street hot-shot. Complications arise when her affections turn toward his sensitive and handsome co-worker Daniel.

Analysis: Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival last March, it wasn't until October that indie outfit Roadside Attractions picked it up for worldwide release starting nearly a year on from that screening. Reviews were good, but with the Wall Street-based action set in the times well before the financial crisis had a big impact, it's a tough call these days to get people interested in upwardly mobile pretty young things playing romantic games and indulging themselves in a world awash in greed and sex.

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The Greatest
Opens: March 26th 2010
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan
Director: Shana Feste

Summary: A family is still coping with the death of their 18-year-old son when their son's girlfriend reveals that she is carrying his child.

Analysis: One of last year's highest profile premieres at Sundance, reviews were very good but the film didn't excite buyers or critics in the way some other high profile efforts like "An Education" and "Precious". Playing various festivals throughout the year, the quite emotional piece has finally secured a deal and will get a platform release kicking off in March.

The catch will be the emotional elements of the movie which is an at times almost painful reflection on grief thanks to the strong cast. Adult audiences who demand more from their cinema than mainstream fare usually provides will likely flock to it, but as for its chances of crossing over - that's unlikely for what is essentially a 'downer' of a picture, no matter how well it's made.

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Greenberg
Opens: March 12th 2010
Cast: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Mark Duplass, Brie Larson
Director: Noah Baumbach

Summary: At a crossroads in his life, Roger Greenberg ends up housesitting at his brother's home in Los Angeles. There, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his brother's assistant which leads to an uncertain and wonderfully vulnerable courtship.

Analysis: With work that includes penning the scripts for "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "The Life Acquatic", along with writing and directing the acclaimed "The Squid and the Whale" and "Margot at the Wedding", Noah Baumbach is seen by high-brow cinemagoers as amongst the strongest filmmaking talents working today.

The likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Mark Ruffalo were considered for key roles in the drama/comedy which is getting its premiere at Sundance in January. Should it go well, distributor Focus Features will likely push this one out with some strong promotion despite Baumbach's films never proving box-office draws beyond a very small fanbase.

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The Green Hornet
Opens: December 22nd 2010
Cast: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Edward James Olmos, Christoph Waltz
Director: Michel Gondry

Summary: Britt Reid is a wealthy industrialist by day. At night though he goes out in his masked "Green Hornet" identity to fight crime as a vigilante, accompanied by his similarly masked Asian manservant Kato who drives a car equipped with advanced technology.

Analysis: Over the years several have tried to turn the radio, and later TV serial hero into a feature film - despite the box-office and critical failure of Russell Mulcahy's 1994 take on the similarly originating "The Shadow". Things really didn't heat up though until 2004 when Kevin Smith became attached to pen and direct a film about 'Hornet' with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jet Li possibly starring. The project however became stuck in development hell and Smith left it in 2006.

Two years on Sony announced a 'Hornet' film with "Knocked Up" star Rogen in the title role and Hong Kong action/comedy star Stephen Chow directing and playing Kato. Chow ultimately left the project, but his replacement came in the form of acclaimed director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Be Kind Rewind"). Taiwanese singer and actor Jay Chou became Kato, while the villain originally slated to be Nicolas Cage became "Inglourious Basterds" bad guy Christoph Waltz.

Originally this sounded like a good spoof of the superhero genre by scribes Rogen and Evan Goldberg who previously penned 2007's "Superbad" and 2008's "Pineapple Express", easily the best films released by Judd Apatow's production banner. The hiring of Gondry though has reset expectations even higher as he's come in with a take on the material that the writers immediately loved and the studio execs got a tad nervous about. A lot will depend on the trailers which should give us a better idea of what to expect, while a strong launch at Comic Con in July could also have a big impact.

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Green Zone
Opens: March 12th 2010
Cast: Matt Damon, Jason Isaacs, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan
Director: Paul Greengrass

Summary: During the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, a warrant officer in search of weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert instead stumbles upon an elaborate cover-up by his own people that inverts the purpose of their mission.

Analysis: The re-teaming of "Bourne" franchise helmer Greengrass and star Matt Damon, together in a setting that actually lends itself to Greengrass' often frustrating shaky cam style of filming, looked at first to be the setup for a potential Oscar-style drama. Then came a half year delay and a first trailer which pegged this as essentially 'Jason Bourne in Iraq'.

So it won't win any awards, but when it comes to action that duo have set a modern standard that many have tried to copy and failed to truly match. One concern however is that standard seems to have gotten a old now, audiences are speaking out more and more about how fed up they're getting with quick cut, wobbly handicam work which trades in clarity and style for intensity and sometimes nausea.

More pressing concerns though lie in quality and cost. Rumored to have a budget close to $150 million thanks to numerous reshoots, the presence of the 'Bourne' duo can't hide the fact that even action-geared films about Iraq have not done well (ie. "The Kingdom"). Also Greengrass has come under fire for essentially making up the film as he goes along, not a worry in the case of the Bourne movies which already had a pre-existing formula but it may not work this time around.

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Grown Ups
Opens: June 25th 2010
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Salma Hayek
Director: Dennis Dugan

Summary: Five friends and former teammates reunite years later to honor the passing of their childhood basketball coach. With their wives and kids in tow, they spend the Fourth of July weekend together at the lake house where they celebrated their championship years earlier.

Analysis: Happy Madison's summer film entry will no doubt score big at the box-office considering the comedians involved. Yet the trailer revealed many of the same old material of MILF jokes and breast-feeding humor that's more gross than witty but will play well with the crowd that made the likes of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and "Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo" into runaway hits.

With the exception of Chris Rock, Director Dennis Dugan has shot at least one film with key comedians before and managed to turn the critically reviled "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" and "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" into $100+ million grossers for the studio. The same will happen here, especially from guys who'll likely opt for this on the July 4th weekend while their partners or girlfriends go see the new "Twilight".

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Guardians of Ga'Hoole 3D
Opens: September 24th 2010
Cast: Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten
Director: Zack Snyder

Summary: The story follows Soren, a young owl enthralled by his father's epic stories of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones.

Analysis: Based on the series of children's books by Kathryn Lasky, "300" and "Watchmen" director Zack Snyder tries his hand at the 3D CG animated family film genre with this which he's been in production on for several years down here in Sydney, Australia. No promotional material of any kind exists as yet so no-one is really sure what we'll see, but a few whispers have leaked out that it's pretty groundbreaking for the genre.

Armed with a significant budget, the voice casting of the cream of British and Australian acting talent is exciting while the books themselves are a great launching point. Aside from maybe Pixar's third "Toy Story", this is without question the most interesting of next year's CG animated films. Lets hope it lives up to the anticipation.

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Gulliver's Travels
Opens: December 22nd 2010
Cast: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Catherine Tate
Director: Rob Letterman

Summary: Lemuel Gulliver, a free-spirited travel writer is on an assignment to the Bermuda Triangle and suddenly finds himself a giant among men when he washes ashore on the hidden island of Liliput, home to a population of industrious, yet tiny, people.

Analysis: Jonathan Swift's 18th century satire has been translated many times before but usually in mini-series or animated form rather than a live-action feature. So this new adaptation will at least fill that niche, and happens to include a very impressive cast of comedians from the US and UK. Director Rob Letterman's resume though has been as writer/director on Dreamworks animated features like "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Shark Tale", how he'll do in the live-action arena is anyone's guess.

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Happy Tears
Opens: February 19th 2010
Cast: Demi Moore, Parker Posey, Ellen Barkin, Rip Torn
Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Summary: A woman prone to self-aggrandizement returns to her Wisconsin home and must deal with her bitter sister and her father, who suffers from a rare form of dementia. Moore plays the sister, fed up with dealing with the hateful father.

Analysis: Premiering at Berlinale in February, this new effort from "Teeth" writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein was picked up by Roadside Attractions who're planning a limited release very early into the new year. Reviews cited a deliciously eccentric turn from Posey and Moore's best performance in years, combined with some unpredictable touches in an obviously low-budget affair. Should find a strong life on DVD.

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Harry Brown
Opens: 2010
Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Iain Glen, Jack O'Connell, Liam Cunningham
Director: Daniel Barber

Summary: An elderly ex-serviceman and widower living on a housing estate succumbing to youth crime looks to avenge his best friend's murder by doling out his own form of justice.

Analysis: Having been gentrified in film roles of late as the wise butler or assistant, Michael Caine returns to his harder-edged 60's and 70's characters like Harry Palmer and Jack Carter with this story of a widowed Northern Ireland vet inflicting some old school violence on today's out of control youth.

On the surface it's a slam dunk of a project. Director Daniel Barber makes his directorial debut following on from his acclaimed gothic western short film adaptation of Elmore Leonard's "The Tonto Woman", while "Layer Cake" writer/director Matthew Vaughn produces. Violent revenge thrillers with a great acting vet in the lead are all the rage thanks to "Taken", Caine himself is an old pro at the genre, and the setting of housing estates which are becoming more crime-ridden and dangerous each year is both timely and credible.

Premiering in Toronto and opening in the UK in November, the film sadly didn't quite catch fire with the critics or box-office as hoped. Reviews were generally good but more mixed than expected, with both the credibility-stretching plot and its pro-violence attitude dividing a lot of opinion. The film could however cross over well in the States this year where revenge thrillers with that attitude (e.g. "Wanted," "Taken") tend to do better.

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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