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The Notable Films of 2010: Part Five

By Garth Franklin Wednesday December 23rd 2009 12:10PM

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One
Opens: November 19th 2010
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: David Yates

Summary: With dark forces everywhere, Harry, Ron and Hermione set off on their mission to locate and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing pieces of Voldemort's soul and along the way learn of the mysterious three 'Deathly Hallows' which they also require.

Analysis: The beginning of the end. Years ago there was talk of splitting the fourth film "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in two but in the end that plan was dismissed. So in late 2007 as production kicked off on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", talk emerged again of taking Rowling's final adventure and splitting it in two - this time the speculation panned out.

The result allows the filmmakers to essentially include everything from the book and give the characters plenty of breathing room for a proper send-off, plus helps Warner Brothers extend the money-making possibilities of its biggest and most consistent film franchise. Armed with a whopping $250 million budget, the 250-day film shoot kicked off in February and will continue well into the new year with no plan of delays like the previous film.

Various directors put their hands up for the job of helming this, but the job went to David Yates. His hiring for 'Hallows' left a few uncertain as though his first time out with "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was commendable, it was hampered by being based on the weakest book in the series and an ineffective script adaptation that cut out too much of the character and emotional edge.

All concerns were laid to rest though with 'Half-Blood Prince' which scored frequent raves for being up there with Cuaron's third film as the best of the series. Yates has already had an impact on the series continuity, making them much more interconnected than the first four stand alone films while Producer David Heyman confirms these films will be a much closer recreation of the books.

The most exciting thing though with this first part is the change of scene. With people so used to Harry Potter's exploits taking place at Hogwarts, this first part essentially skips the school entirely and is being described as a "road movie" with a whole new look. Yates has indicated that filming on this part will also involve a lot of hand-held cameras (ala the 'Bourne' series), the gritty feel aiming to convey the tension of the hunt for the Horcruxes before a return to the more classic style of shooting for the Hogwarts-set finale.

Composer Nicholas Hooper, who scored the last two films, has opted out of this and there's already talk that John Williams, who composed the first three films, returning but the decision is not yet set. The first peek at footage came with the just released 'Half-Blood Prince' Blu-ray and showed a faithful but different look and some striking images of our heroic trio running around London and Hermione with blood-soaked hands casting a spell. Easily the biggest film of the second half of the year, if not all of 2010.

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Heartless
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Clemence Poesy, Noel Clarke, Timothy Spall, Eddie Marsan
Director: Philip Ridley

Summary: Jamie Morgan, a young man with a large heart-shaped birthmark on his face, discovers that there are demons on the streets of East London and he's made a deal with one of them he can't get out of.

Analysis: "The Reflecting Skin" and "The Passion of Darkly Noon" writer/director Philip Ridley returns to filmmaking nearly fifteen years on with this Faust-ian tale starring rising thesp Jim Sturgess. Having played the festival circuit to some very strong reviews, the interest here will be if horror fans so used to gore will still go for a very unevenly toned film with a distinct East London setting.

Better described as a gritty, East London, twisted psychological fairy tale than a horror drama, reviews praised a lot of the film from its wide reaching targets, dark humor, almost labyrinthian narrative and strong performances. It's unique and strange, something the critics will adore but horror fans, who're usually their own worst enemy, shy away from in favour of slasher remakes and "Saw" sequels.

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Henry's Crime
Opens: 2010
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan
Director: Malcolm Venville

Summary: Keanu Reeves stars as a man wrongly accused of bank robbery.

Analysis: Currently filming with a scruffy looking Keanu Reeves being photographed all over New York state, this quietly satirical and dark piece comes from director Malcolm Venville who helmed the well-received British gangster piece "44 Inch Chest" also featured in this guide.

A lot less is known about this project however, with "Anvil: The Story of Anvil" director Sacha Gervasi co-writing the script and no distributors yet set. It's likely the film will see a bow at the Toronto Film Festival later in the year and a late 2010 release scheduled if the demand is high enough.

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Hereafter
Opens: December 2010
Cast: Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile de France
Director: Clint Eastwood

Summary: "Hereafter" tells the story of three people -- a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways.

Analysis: Eastwood always keeps his cards close to his chest so you don't really know how his films will play out until just before release. This month's "Invictus" for example had no real promotional material until the poster and trailer in late October, while it wasn't until the reviews started coming out in late November that an actual idea of what the tone and quality was like began to emerge.

Thus Clint's first foray here into supernatural themes is something no-one is really sure what to expect, though some (including myself) are excited by the involvement of "The Queen," "The Last King of Scotland" and "Frost/Nixon" writer Peter Morgan who penned the screenplay. The cast, led by Damon and the always engaging Howard, looks great too.

Eastwood essentially has Oscars on standby waiting for the right film to come along and reward him, but he's just done his own thing in recent years and opted more for crowd pleasers like "Invictus" and "Gran Torino" than pure Oscar bait like "Million Dollar Baby" or his "Flags of our Fathers" saga. Which way will this one go? We'll see.

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Hesher
Opens: 2010
Cast: Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie
Director: Spencer Susser

Summary: A 13-year-old boy and his father move in with their grandmother to pick up the pieces of their life after their mother's death. Soon the boy meets Hesher, a chain-smoking anarchist head banger who loves blowing things up. Together they might help each other.

Analysis: One of the most anticipated titles at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, "Hesher" marks the feature debut of commercials and music video director Spencer Susser who made waves at the fest in 2008 with his zombie short film "I Love Sarah Jane". David Michod, whose "Animal Kingdom" also screens at the 2010 fest, co-wrote this darkly humorous indie dramedy which Susser has been developing for four years. Should the Park City screenings go well, expect this to be snapped up very quickly.

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High School
Opens: 2010
Cast: Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Michael Vartan, Yeardley Smith, Luis Chavez
Director: John Stalberg

Summary: A high school valedictorian who gets high with the school stoner and faces a drug test, then decides to get the entire school stoned so he can beat the test by making everyone fail. Brody will portray a drug dealer and Chiklis will play the school principal.

Analysis: Premiering out of competition at Sundance in a few weeks as part of the 'Park City at Midnight' section, next to nothing is really known about this stoner comedy aside from first-time helmer John Stalberg managing to nab a pretty stellar cast. We'll know more when reviews hit in a few weeks.

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Hippie Hippie Shake
Opens: 2010
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sienna Miller, Max Minghella, Emma Booth, Lee Ingleby
Director: Beeban Kidron

Summary: Follows the love story of Oz editor Richard Neville and Louise Ferrier. Neville and his cohorts launch the London edition of Oz amidst the 1960s counterculture and are subsequently put on trial for distributing a sexually explicit issue.

Analysis: One of the most troubled productions in Working Title's history, 'Hippie' began development back in 1998 but failed to get beyond script stage both in 1999 and in 2002 when "Elizabeth" helmer Shekhar Kapur was attached to direct. Filming finally got underway late 2007 with director Beeban Kidron in charge and shooting seemed to proceed without issue aside from feminist author Germaine Greer being vehemently unhappy about being depicted on film.

Actually the film scored quite a bit of free press for a skinny dipping scene where full-frontal shots of actress Sienna Miller shooting the sequence hit the tabloids and the Net. Don't expect much onscreen though as those scenes have been digitally enhanced to give Miller's landing strip a more period-appropriate "unruly, loud and proud bush" say the Brit tabloids.

Since its wrap, the press has been quieter but meaner in tone with a planned late 2008 release delayed due to a high profile scandal at the time about Miller's love life. Things got worse this year as director Kidron and scribe Lee Hall quit the project, Kidron telling The Times that she "worked on the film for as long as I could and as hard as I could and then I had to walk away. It was very wounding."

This of course begs the question of how much of Kidron's original cut will survive? An early sign of hope lies in some online test screening reviews earlier this year which were all glowing. A late May 2010 release is now planned in the UK and if those early reviews do pan out, expect a Toronto bow and potentially late Fall release States-side.

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Holy Rollers
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny Abeckaser
Director: Kevin Asch

Summary: An impressionable youth from an Orthodox Brooklyn community is lured into becoming an ecstasy dealer by a friend (Bartha) with ties to an Israeli drug cartel.

Analysis: While the subject matter sounds like it travels very familiar ground, Kevin Tyler Asch's feature film debut avoids the "Jewish Scarface" labels by focusing on a lesser known real-life niche element of the drug trade. That element was a point in the late 1990’s when young and impressionable Orthodox Jews became cross-Atlantic drug mules for a global smuggling ring Interpol desperately attempted to stop.

Talking from the set, actor Danny A. Abeckaser says the filmmakers have tried to avoid the stock elements of 'drug movies' by making this very much a character based piece with Sam's strict Hasidic practices a key component of the drama. The themes involved will explore how people come to slowly compromise their faith, no matter what their religion. Either way the film is strong enough that it will have its premiere in competition at Sundance next month, from there it could well go on to awards glory depending upon reviews.

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Hot Tub Time Machine
Opens: March 19th 2010
Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover
Director: Steve Pink

Summary: After a crazy night of drinking in a ski resort hot tub, four best friends who've become bored with their adult lives wake up in the year 1986. This is their chance to change their futures for the better, and in one case to ensure his existence.

Analysis: The single silliest concept for a comedy I think I've ever heard, what's surprising is that it actually might work. The trailers are fun, the tone seems much more coherent and consistent than this year's "Land of the Lost", the humor is said to be quite R-rated, and the 80's theme allows for fun self-aware parody

"Grosse Pointe Blank" and "High Fidelity" scribe Steve Pink directs from a script by the guys who penned 2008's "Sex Drive", though it's the presence of both Cusack and "Zack and Miri" scene stealer Robinson that make this a bigger draw than it would otherwise be. The catch here could be the studio watering down the product to PG-13, or more likely having release issues as all of the films on MGM's slate are in flux right now.

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Howl
Opens: 2010
Cast: James Franco, David Strathairn, Alan Alda, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Summary: San Francisco, 1957. This interweaves the life of a young Allen Ginsberg finding his true voice, the obscenity trial that ensued when his poem 'Howl' was published, and animated segments that adapt the poem itself.

Analysis: Arguably the single most anticipated title at Sundance 2010, Oscar-winning writer/directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman take on the facts-based story about the landmark case over censorship and First Amendment rights.

How the three storylines will intermingle is one of the big questions right now, but as 'biopics' go this is sounding the most unconventional and original since Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan-inspired "I'm Not There". The animated segments in particular, done here by Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker, are going to be the most unusual and potentially exciting element of the whole endeavour.

There's a strong cast in play as various famous figures in the case, and of course the work itself which may have lost some of its edge, but hasn't lost any of its power or relevance. Reviews should be forthcoming soon, but expectations are high.

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How to Train Your Dragon
Opens: March 26th 2010
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

Summary: In a mythical world, a Viking teenager doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe's longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. His world is turned upside down though when he encounters a dragon that challenges he and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

Analysis: Having moved from Disney to Dreamworks, "Lilo and Stich" writer/directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois try their hand at a CG-animated children's book adaptation with a Viking setting and conservation theme that would make P.E.T.A. proud.

This is Dreamworks Animation though, a company whose product is built purely on sales with little regards to quality, 2008's well-received "Kung Fu Panda" proving the exception rather than the rule.

The studio has three films hitting in 2010, this one taking the Spring slot occupied by this year's disappointing "Monsters vs. Aliens". Thus profits will no doubt roll in, helped by a big push during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Will it be any good though? The trailers aren't particularly encouraging so far, even if for once it avoids the talking animal cliche.

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The Hungry Rabbit Jumps
Opens: 2010
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau
Director: Roger Donaldson

Summary: When his wife is the victim of a brutal crime, a man subsequently becomes entangled with an underground vigilante organization in an effort to get revenge. He soon finds himself in too far over his head.

Analysis: Coming off "The Bank Job", one of my favourite films of 2008 and amongst its more critically acclaimed entries, Australian director Roger Donaldson helms this $30 million thriller which sounds like it'll hopefully explore the downside of a genre that has seen a resurgence in popularity lately - the vigilante movie. From "Taken" to the upcoming "Edge of Darkness", revenge thrillers have become kind of tedious lately and often avoid the truly dark costs that come with seeking one's own form of justice.

Reviews of Robert Tannen's script however paint this as something more along conspiracy thriller lines - with a secret society having dealt with his wife's attacker, they now require a favour from Cage's character which puts him in the position of either acquiescing, fleeing or attempting to expose them. It sounds like direct-to-video nonsense, but the story is apparently a fun little surface-level diversion with strong pacing that was good enough to make last year's Blacklist. Currently filming in the US, expect a potential Fall release.

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I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)
Opens: 2010
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Pippo Delbono
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Summary: The story of the wealthy Recchi family of Milan whose patriarch has surprised them by willing shared ownership of his massive industrial company to both his son and grandson. Added to this the son's wife has entered a passionate love affair with the grandson's friend.

Analysis: Its very European sensibility will restrict Guadagnino's Italian drama to a dedicated arthouse release, but reviews were very strong for "Io sono l'amore" after its premiere in Toronto in the Fall. With homages to Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk, the visually impeccable melodramatic study shows a bourgeoisie family coming apart as long-held back emotional repression breaks free.

Performances, particularly Tilda Swinton who speaks both Russian and Italian in certain scenes, have been praised along with the writing and cinematography. However its a refined style of filmmaking, very subtle with its emotions which, combined with the subject matter, makes it a challenging piece only a few will really embrace.

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I Love You Phillip Morris
Opens: February 5th 2010
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Summary: A fact-based film about Steven Russell, a married father whose exploits landed him in the Texas criminal justice system. He fell madly in love with his male cellmate, who eventually was set free, which led Russell to escape from Texas prisons four times.

Analysis: Premiering last year at Sundance as one of the hot tickets of the festival, reviews proved good but mixed with some saying the film is an oddly conventional Hollywood rom-com, despite its gay and true story angles, and is tamer than expected considering it's from the same guys who brought us "Bad Santa".

Others however, most notably distributors, balked at the film's inconsistent tone and unapologetic depiction of all-male love from Carrey & McGregor's tender romantic kisses to comedically-toned graphic sex between Carrey and various one-night stands. Struggling for many months to find someone to open it, Consolidated Pictures Group was the indie group with the balls to step up and set a release for February in the US.

Still, despite scoring the best reviews of a Carrey comedy in years, it's not expected to fly at all with audiences beyond a certain niche as mainstream audiences avoid 'gay'-themed films out of hate, fear, or most commonly sheer disinterest. It reminds me of the sad testament that the notoriously homophobic "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" took in twice as much money as Oscar nominee "Brokeback Mountain".

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Inception
Opens: July 16th 2010
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard
Director: Christopher Nolan

Summary: "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan returns with the story of a CEO-type executive who finds himself becoming involved in a blackmailing scandal. The story is said to explore the architecture of the human mind.

Analysis: Arguably the most mysterious and top secret project of the year, story details for the first post-"Dark Knight" film for Nolan are near impossible to come by. Insiders who've seen bits and pieces call it a 'game changer', a film that is really going to surprise and push boundaries. Shot in various places around the world for a considerable budget, it's astonishing in fact how little has gotten out aside from only some very basic casting descriptions.

A teaser trailer back in August just added to the confusion, showing a corporate action drama with a sci-fi bent - namely two guys in business suits fighting it out in the hallway while gravity kept shifting which had them falling and flying all over the place. A tagline saying 'Your mind is the scene of the crime' also raised questions. Subsequent posters and a second trailer didn't really clear up the situation, just adding more strange action from a recurring water motif to shots of cityscapes folding in on themselves.

A few days after the first trailer an apparent script review surfaced indicating the plot dealt with technology allowing one to enter people’s dreams and people using that tech to extract and steal information for their own purposes. It also had DiCaprio's character apparently on the run for his wife's murder. The validity of that report however has been called into question with nothing since backing up its claims, though the trailer action would fit that description. With Nolan though, whatever it is you can expect another somewhat cold but fascinating mindfuck along 'Prestige' lines.

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The Irishman
Opens: 2010
Cast: Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ray Stevenson, Vinnie Jones
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Summary: A biopic of Irish-American mob boss and FBI informant Danny Greene (Stevenson), who tried to shoot his way to the top of Cleveland's criminal underworld during the late 1970s.

Analysis: Though said to have done good business at AFM, there's still no word on a North American distributor or even potential theatrical release for this American-Irish crime drama that apparently took over a decade to get the screen rights to. A shame considering the strong cast involved.

The production was shot earlier this year in Detroit and used the famed Tigers Stadium for a week of shooting right before it was demolished. Hensleigh himself is most noted for his action screenplays ("Armageddon," "The Saint," "Die Hard: With a Vengeance") but did direct both 2004's "The Punisher" and the "Cannibal Holocaust" homage "Welcome to the Jungle" which sadly went direct-to-DVD. Will this share the same fate?

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Ironclad
Opens: 2010
Cast: Kate Mara, Robert Carlyle, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, James Purefoy
Director: Jonathan English

Summary: Follows the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 when the despised King John reneged on his signing of the Magna Carta and led a mercenary army to force the rebel barons of England to come back under his tyrannical rule.

Analysis: A good old castle under siege movie about one of the bloodiest battles in world history, the $25 million indie production shot in Wales takes the knights genre and gives it "visceral and stylized action combined with impassionate heroism and romance" according to producers ContentFilm.

The cast is richly stacked with talent from Paul Giamatti as the evil King John, to some British acting greats in supporting roles like Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Bob Hoskins, Brian Cox and Robert Carlyle. There's also some other recognisable names here including James Purefoy, Mackenzie Crook, Kate Mara, Jason Flemyng and William Moseley.

Director Jonathan English has experience in the genre, shooting 2006's not-so-well received "Minotaur" with Tom Hardy and Tony Todd, but remains the most uncertain aspect in play here. Launched at AFM in November, buyers flocked to the epic with international rights snapped up across the globe.

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Iron Man 2
Opens: 2010
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle
Director: Jon Favreau

Summary: Having revealed his Iron Man identity to the public, billionaire inventor Tony Stark is unwilling to share his technology with the military, but forces outside his control plot against him.

Analysis: The single most guaranteed hit of the year, nothing will come close over the Summer to toppling this juggernaut off its perch (even "Twilight" will be pressed to match it). Coming off strong reviews, a $318 million domestic and $266 million foreign gross, the first film was a game changer in many ways for the genre thanks to its sheer sense of fun and surprise.

Unlike "Spider-Man" or "X-Men" for example, "Iron Man" wasn't a household name and so Favreau was able to surprise us with a pitch-perfectly cast and light-hearted adventure which blended the right amount of action, humor and pathos. There were the standard third act problems inherent to all superhero origin movies weighing it down, and the film became over-praised and over-hyped like most good action blockbusters do, but 'Iron' easily joins the ranks of the very best of the comic book movie adaptations.

With a sequel though the surprise element is gone and the expectations are a lot higher. Despite the return of all the key cast and crew members, there's no guarantee of quality here - the hope is things will be even better like in the cases of "Spider-Man 2" or "The Dark Knight". The concern though is that lightning won't strike again and we'll get something creaky and not particularly very good such as the 'Pirates' sequels or "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen".

A Comic Con launch in July showed a strong five-minute bit of footage along the same quality lines as the original. The replacement of Terrence Howard by Don Cheadle doesn't look to have had a negative impact at all, and the inclusion of Mickey Rourke as the villainous Whiplash and Sam Rockwell as a secondary villain/plucky comic relief figure are great choices. It's only Scarlett Johansson's black body-suited thief that feels a tad out of place from the previews (she replaced the more suitable Emily Blunt who left due to a scheduling conflict).

Having finished shooting in July, the film is now well into post and will probably follow a similar international launch like the first one did, kicking off with a global press tour in early April. In an odd turn of events, the normally reliable Paramount Australia didn't invite me to the Sydney junket for the first one so I wasn't able to provide any early coverage, I'm hoping the problem won't be repeated with the next one.

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It's A Wonderful Afterlife
Opens: 2010
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Sally Hawkins, Jimi Mistry, Zoe Wanamaker, Sendhil Ramamurthy
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Summary: Mrs. Sethi, a hysterical North-Indian mother who is desperately searching for a son-in-law for her fat daughter, takes her obsession with marriage into the world of serial murder.

Analysis: Scoring a last minute inclusion at Sundance this year, "Bend it Like Beckham" and "Bride and Prejudice" director Chadha delivers a dark romantic comedy with a cast of British Asians.

Chadha's works have a strong international following and the film is already lined up for release next year in many territories. The strong cast as well, from Golden Globe winner Hawkins to "Heroes" star Ramamurthy, is led by award-winning Indian actress and parallel cinema star Shabana Azmi who put on 11kg (25 lbs) for her role as the homicidal Punjabi matriarch.

The director calls the film a tribute to Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" and includes her usual hallmarks of feminist themes and a key wedding scene. However there's also some ghosts this time around, murder victims who haunt their killer - one of which includes "The Kumars" star Sanjeev Bhaskar who could be seen on set wandering around with his fake intestines hanging out.

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It's Kind of a Funny Story
Opens: November 2010
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham
Director: Ryan Fleck

Summary: 16-year-old Craig, stressed out from the demands of being a teenager, checks himself into a mental health clinic where a fellow patient soon becomes both Craig’s mentor and protégé, while he's romantically drawn to another 16-year-old.

Analysis: One of Focus Features big potential awards contenders, this film adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s 2006 novel comes from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the same duo behind 2006's acclaimed "Half Nelson" and this year's baseball drama "Sugar".

A coming-of-age story with comedic and dramatic elements set in a mental hospital certainly sounds promising, the book itself has scored rave reviews while the inclusion of "Hangover" star Galifianakis should provide both an incentive for non-arthouse goers to come, while also hopefully surprising us with a good dramatic performance.

Normally this is the kind of film made for Park City, but production only kicked off a few weeks ago so expect either a Cannes/Venice premiere or most likely a high-profile bow at Toronto where we'll hear the first verdict.

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Jackass 3D
Opens: October 15th 2010
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn
Director: Jeff Tremaine

Summary: More dangerous, crude, ridiculous, and self-injuring stunts and pranks by the various characters of the late MTV television series and its subsequent two films.

Analysis: There are many things I'd love to see in 3D, but Steve-O's penis isn't one of them. Still, Paramount's reasoning behind this is very sound - the first two films cost only a couple of million to make each and both earned not just good reviews but nearly $100 million a piece, not huge hits but highly successful endeavours no matter how you paint it.

Funnily enough there's also a consistency of timing with a four year gap between films, #1 was in 2002 while #2 was in 2006. There's probably a concern that the whole Jackass craze has passed, but the first sequel disproved that theory. As long as the studio can keep the costs in check, there's no reason why this can't be a hell of a lot of fun and a solid success at that like the previous films.

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Jack Goes Boating
Opens: 2010
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega
Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Summary: A limo driver's blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.

Analysis: Set for a world premiere at Sundance, this adaptation of Robert Glaudini's 2007 Off-Broadway stage play marks the directing debut of much loved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman starred as the titular Jack in the stage version and reprises his role on screen, as do many of the supporting actors while Glaudini himself adapted the film script.

Hoffman's skill as a director is what most are curious about when it comes to this. Adaptations of high-profile non-musical plays have generally been good, though only a few like "Frost/Nixon" or "Doubt" have crossed over into hits as well in recent years. Should it fare well at Park City, awards talk could likely follow.

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John Rabe
Opens: 2010
Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Ulrich Tukur, Steve Buscemi, Anne Consigny,
Director: Florian Gallenberger

Summary: A true-story account of a German businessman who tried to stop the atrocities of the Nanking Occupation and helped establish the Nanjing Safety Zone which sheltered some 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the massacre.

Analysis: Premiering at Berlinale in February and having since gone on to numerous award wins over the year, it was only a few weeks ago that Strand Releasing stepped forward and picked up the North American distribution rights with plans to release the multi-lingual film in a limited bow sometime in March.

Reviews from European outlets are generally glowing, though a few English-language outlets have more reservations over the film with calls that historical accuracy has been altered to soften Rabe and humanise the whole event to the point that much the impact of his actions has been lost. Production values however were highly regarded by all, as was Ulrich Tukur's performance as the titular Rabe.

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Jonah Hex
Opens: June 18th 2010
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender
Director: Jimmy Hayward

Summary: Based on the titular DC Comics character. In the Wild West, a scarred bounty hunter tracks down a dangerous ex-Confederate soldier trying to reignite the civil war and ensure the South will win this time.

Analysis: A project that's sounding more and more like a 'what could have been' style deal. "Crank" and "Gamer" writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor scripted the comic book adaptation said to combine the Western genre with supernatural elements, in fact there was early talk of a voodoo practitioner and an army of undead Confederate soldiers which sounds rather unique.

Then the pair left the project over creative differences and the supernatural elements got ditched. Jimmy Hayward, an animator turned animation director on the likes of "Robots" and "Horton Hears a Who", came onboard and makes his live-action directorial debut. While there wasn't talk of trouble during production, lets just say several sources claim that some truly great sets and art design were essentially wasted.

Not helping was the footage screened at Comic Con which showed off a gritty, over saturated and high contrast pulpy western with too many modern action touches and just outright silly additions like Megan Fox as history's least convincing bar wench. So it came as no surprise when it leaked out earlier this month that "I Am Legend" and "Constantine" helmer Francis Lawrence is being brought on to consult on some reshoots for the project.

What footage we saw was not "Wild Wild West" insultingly bad, but considering that debacle it's no big surprise the studio is very carefully proceeding with its promotions for the film. Atlanta-based heavy metal band Mastodon are said to be providing the score which is a good call, but it'll be the first trailer that should prove a good bellwether as to whether the film will work or not.

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The Joneses
Opens: 2010
Cast: Amber Heard, David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly
Director: Derrick Borte

Summary: A seemingly perfect family moves into a suburban neighborhood, but when it comes to the truth as to why they're living there, they don't exactly come clean with their neighbours.

Analysis: Roadside Attractions snapped up the indie satire a few weeks after its world premiere in Toronto and have scheduled a late Spring release. Reviews out of the festival called it enjoyable, thought-provoking and a well-performed modern morality tale about American consumerism with a surprisingly inventive premise.

In fact the reveal of the truth about this family happens early on and is good enough that it's not worth spoiling, suffice it to say it's a great idea for a film and one that makes you seriously consider that such a situation could've taken place in the real world at some time.

Sadly it sounds like things head towards a very run-of-the-mill style ending complete with anti-materialism monologues, but overall it was good enough that it sold most of its international distribution rights within days of it premiering.

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The Karate Kid
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Director: Harald Zwart

Summary: A young boy named Dre moves to Beijing with his mother, where he encounters bullying at his new high school. Taking lessons from Chinese martial arts master Mr. Han, he learns to stand up for himself.

Analysis: The original 1984 "The Karate Kid" is not a pin-up example of great filmmaking, but it is a shining and still treasured effort of 80's coming of age movies and was very much a product of its time. On the surface, the idea of remaking it is like remaking "The Breakfast Club" or "The Goonies", it may be unknown to a younger generation but to a lot of us older folks it feels like a violation.

The Chinese-setting allows for some more picturesque location work and cross-cultural issues, but not helping is that scribe Michael Soccio is best known for work on "The King of Queens" while director Harald Zwart's main claims to fame are the "Agent Cody Banks" films and "The Pink Panther 2".

Some fears though were laid to rest with a just released trailer which looked better than expected. Despite the basic storyline being similar, the look and feel is different enough from the original that no-one will ever be confused. Smith and Chan seem a better fit than expected, Chan especially looking more relaxed in his acting than he has in a long time.

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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