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The Notable Films of 2010: Part Six

By Garth Franklin Sunday December 27th 2009 12:09PM

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Kick-Ass
Opens: April 16th 2010
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Summary: The comic book adaptation centers on a high school dweeb named Dave Lizewski who decides to become a superhero even though he has no athletic ability or coordination. Things change when he eventually runs into real bad guys with real weapons.

Analysis: More than just another superhero movie, "Kick Ass" is in many ways one of the bolder experiments of the year. Director Matthew Vaughn ("Stardust," "Layer Cake") took his time and assembled the film's finances in such a way as to let him have essentially complete control over what makes it into the film.

The result is a combination of adult-aimed pitch black comedy, hardcore violence, language, etc. and all without parental groups or nervous studio executives watering down the edgy elements to try and appeal to a wider market. In a genre that has become so familiar, glossy and safe in its own way, it's great to see something that doesn't pander and could well give it a fresh new life.

That's said it must have more than extreme violence and little girls using the C-word going for it if it wants to stand the test of time, and story wise there hasn't been much revealed thus far. An early screening in Austin the other week played brilliantly, but that was for a film geek crowd that would very much appreciate something like this. How it goes with more regular audiences and critics will be an interesting test, for now though it looks like the pre-Summer film to beat.

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The Kids Are All Right
Opens: 2010
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo Josh Hutcherson
Director: Lisa Cholodenko

Summary: A lesbian couple have raised two smart and wonderful kids. When the older one turns 18, the kids meet their biological sperm donor father Paul and his presence in their lives causes friction within their family.

Analysis: "Laurel Canyon" and "High Art" writer/director Lisa Cholodenko returns to Sundance with this portrait of a modern family that seems like perfect arthouse fodder. Benning and Moore as a happy Californian lesbian couple makes for brilliant casting, but one wonders if the content will push the drama or comedy in a way that justifies a cinematic release as on the surface it resembles a made-for-TV movie more than anything else.

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The Killer Inside Me
Opens: 2010
Cast: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman
Director: Michael Winterbottom

Summary: Everyone figures Lou Ford, a West Texas sheriff, to be a normal kind of guy. They don't see the ruthless, sociopathic murderer underneath and as victims pile up, suspicions begin to emerge.

Analysis: The always interesting Winterbottom ("9 Songs," "A Mighty Heart," "24 Hour Party People") returns to Sundance in January with this new, western-meets-noir adaptation of Jim Thompson's 1952 crime novel.

Thompson's work has generally yielded some strong films like "The Grifters," "Paths of Glory" and the original "The Getaway", but a previous version of 'Killer' in 1976 starring Stacey Keach never really caught on. This new version has "The Painted Veil" director John Curran adapting the script, though from the look and feel it'll likely be compared to films like "No Country for Old Men" and even Showtime's "Dexter".

One scene where Jessica Alba, playing a prostitute, is severely beaten up by Affleck's character is brutal enough that festival organisers have already cautioned the press about it. An online trailer shows the scene (which ends with Alba's face beaten to a bloody pulp) along with another odd sequence in the film where Affleck's character repeatedly beats her ass cheeks with a belt until they are severely bruised. Of course being a Winterbottom film that 'lighter abuse' sexually excites her and some raunchy action ensues.

Winterbottom always likes pushing the envelope and while the story sounds solid enough, the trailer's look is oddly pedestrian and unexciting while the 148 minute runtime listed on the Sundance website, if accurate, will automatically cause many to dismiss this out of hand. Reviews out of Sundance will give a clearer idea, but I'm betting there'll be a small but loyal group of fans, others will cry out against the depiction of violence towards women, and almost everyone will complain about the length and pacing.

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Killers
Opens: June 4th 2010
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Mull
Director: Robert Luketic

Summary: A super-assassin who traded in an exotic lifestyle for domestic bliss. Three years on he learns he's the target of a multi-million dollar hit and the killers have been stalking them for years - thus it could be anyone, even close friends.

Analysis: Originally titled "Five Killers" before being shortened to just "Killers", the film certainly will undergo comparisons to the following month's "Knight and Day" as both are romantic comedies where the guy is a super spy and the girl has no idea of his lifestyle until she becomes caught up in it.

'Killers' though more obviously is targeted at the date night crowd as it asks you to buy into the idea of Kutcher as a ruthless assassin. The movie scored a lot of free press due to filming, Kutcher tweeting about his chest waxing sessions and repeatedly photographed in skimpy wetsuit shorts climbing an anchor chain to get onto a ship. Heigl got injured enough that she's vowed never to do another action film.

Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde") directs, though he's coming off a busy but unremarkable streak which included 2008's "21" and this year's "The Ugly Truth". Maybe he can make something of this, certainly the paranoia angle about their neighbours/friends being potential killers is a good idea that could well work. We'll likely get a better idea when a trailer hits.

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The King's Speech
Opens: 2010
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon
Director: Tom Hooper

Summary: The story of King George VI, the father of Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George reluctantly assumes the throne and with the help of an unorthodox speech therapist, he's able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war.

Analysis: The most obvious chance for Oscar glory next year for the Weinstein Company, this British/Australian co-production has a simply superb pedigree of talent involved combined with a story rarely heard about that should ensure something hopefully remarkable.

The teaming of Rush and Firth in any film is exciting enough, but with supporting talent in historical roles like Guy Pearce as the abdicating Edward VIII, Helena Bonham Carter as a young Elizabeth II, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, not to mention greats like Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon - it's downright pants-wetting.

David Seidler ("Tucker: The Man and His Dream") penned the multi-nominated Blacklist screenplay, while director Tom Hooper is coming off multiple award wins for the TV movie "Longford", the mini-series "John Adams", and the Michael Sheen film "The Damned United". The only downside is the concept of a guy essentially learning to publicly speak is going to be a tough sell to the masses, no matter how many 'overcoming adversity' platitudes it is cased in.

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Knight and Day
Opens: July 2nd 2010
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Olivier Martinez
Director: James Mangold

Summary: A lonely woman's seemingly harmless blind date suddenly turns her life upside-down when a super spy takes her on a violent worldwide journey to protect a powerful battery that holds the key to an infinite power source.

Analysis: In the "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"-vein but with a less interesting premise and decidedly less chemistry, 'Knight' is essentially a romantic comedy using Cruise's "Mission: Impossible" Ethan Hunt character as the male lead, albeit an unstable version of him.

On paper, the re-teaming of Cruise and Diaz isn't a bad idea as the two shared an odd but interesting buddy chemistry in their few scenes together in Cameron Crowe's utterly atrocious "Vanilla Sky". In practice however it hard to say if it worked, for example a just released first trailer completely falls flat.

Yet a great supporting cast, and a solid director at the helm in the form of James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma," "Walk the Line," "Identity") means that it has to be better than it sounds. Several different writers, including the notable Scott Frank, had a shot at the script and reviews of it sound a lot better than the stuff glimpsed in the trailer. For now I'd like to believe it's just a weak teaser, but we'll see.

In any case the film has the prime July 4th holiday weekend slot and will be the top alternative choice for those not interested in the third "Twilight" feature, ensuring a healthy opening and big dollars for Fox.

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The Last Airbender
Opens: July 2nd 2010
Cast: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Summary: A live-action film based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series. In a fantastic world where civilisation exists as four great empires, a reluctant young child sets out on a perilous journey to restore balance to a world torn apart by war.

Analysis: It has been quite the decade for M. Night Shyamalan, who started it as a household name with label of a modern-day Hitchcock thanks to the likes of "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs". Today he's considered more of a one-trick pony and in some cases a punchline due to rampant stories of ego run wild, and a series of highly derided flops like "Lady in the Water" and "The Happening".

Thus 'Airbender' marks a potential return to form. An adaptation of the hit cartoon series "Avatar", the film's name was changed to avoid confusion with James Cameron's epic, the pre-existing story and formula for young adult-aimed adventure fantasy epics takes the auteur outside of his usual "Twilight Zone"-esque thriller comfort zone.

In fact this is a genre plagued by pedestrian visuals and often drenched in far too much exposition, so the benefits of his atmospheric shooting style and restrained use of dialogue can definitely be seen as a plus. The story sounds interesting enough, though the 'Chosen One' prophecy angle is becoming more and more tiring with each and every show and film that exploits overused Messiah mythology.

The film has undergone a bit of a controversy for its 'whitening up' of the multi-ethnic cast of the animated series. That story wasn't helped by the reveal that "Slumdog Millionaire" star Dev Patel was actually a replacement for the whiter-than-snow Jesse McCartney for the film's villain. As we approach the release though it's likely that criticism will die down and the debates over the film's quality will take over.

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The Last Song
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Miley Cyrus, Bobby Coleman, Liam Hemsworth, Kelly Preston, Greg Kinnear
Director: Julie Anne Robinson

Summary: Set in a small Southern beach town where an estranged father gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter, who'd rather be home in New York. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common—music—in a story of family, friendship, secrets and salvation.

Analysis: While his tale of post-marriage romance in "Nights in Rodanthe" didn't catch fire, the film versions of Nicholas Sparks' young love tales "A Walk to Remember" and "The Notebook" became sleeper hits that proved strong draws for women young and old. Notably 'Walk' also launched the career of then teen pop star Mandy Moore who has since gone on to prove herself a strong little actress in her own right. Now comes an adaptation that essentially serves as a vehicle for tween sensation Miley Cyrus, in the process bringing with it a built-in audience and a certain amount of baggage.

Unlike the previous films, Sparks wrote this screenplay first and with Cyrus in mind for the lead role before adapting it into a novel. However the singer/actress has yet to prove herself in film work outside of her "Hannah Montana" franchise while Disney, who is making the film, is likely toning down any remotely edgy content in this to keep their 'Miley' brand safe for the family values crowd. Sparks himself stated that he had concerns himself about Cyrus' abilities though upon visiting the set seemed pleased with the work she was doing, it'll take more than his word to quell concerns though.

Her love interest, originally to be played by promising upcoming British actor Rafi Gavron, ultimately went to newcomer Liam Hemsworth. The Aussie actor is the least known but also the youngest of three tall and handsome acting brothers with his older brother and former soap star Chris Hemsworth making a name for himself in films like "Star Trek" and the upcoming "Thor". A release delay from January to the Easter weekend in April was a good call on the studio's part and should guarantee a strong opening, whether it will do the kind of repeat business of those other Sparks' movies though - we'll see.

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The Last Word
Opens: 2010
Cast: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor, Connie Nielsen, Stephen Dillane, Ewen Bremner
Director: David Mackenzie

Summary: The story of a couple falling in love as the world falls victim to a pandemic that causes people to slowly lose their sensory perception.

Analysis: Shot in Glasgow, this British-German co-production comes from Scottish helmer David Mackenzie who worked with Ewan on 2003's provocative affair drama "Young Adam". Since then his various films including Ashton Kutcher rentboy drama "Spread", 2005's "Asylum" and 2007's "Hallam Foe" have helped give him a solid indie film cred that also doesn't shy away from having dark edge with more explicit than you might expect sexual scenes.

Award-winning Danish scribe Kim Fupz Aakeson ("Little Soldier," "Hannibal & Jerry") penned the script and the cast includes some lesser known but very strong British talent, though with filming only just complete it's a little too early to tell how this will go. One gets the sense some "Children of Men" comparisons will be inevitable.

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Leap Year
Opens: January 8th 2010
Cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Kaitlin Olson, John Lithgow, Adam Scott
Director: Anand Tucker

Summary: A woman who has an elaborate scheme to propose to her boyfriend faces a setback when bad weather threatens to derail her trip to Dublin. With the help of an innkeeper her cross-country odyssey just might result in her getting engaged.

Analysis: One of those projects that looks to have been greenlit for tax rather than creative reasoning, the script comes from the duo who also penned the odious "Surviving Christmas" and the tedious "Made of Honor". Thus it probably couldn't be anymore formulaic, contrived or insipid if it tried - a film for women who don't like their rom-coms to deviate from the norm in any way.

The only hope here lies in the three principals - the always superb Amy Adams, the charming Matthew Goode, and the impressive directing skills of Anand Tucker ("Shopgirl," "Hilary & Jackie"). Can they salvage something from this? Judging from the reaction of one early screening attendee I know who is usually pretty generous, I'd doubt it.

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Legion
Opens: January 22nd 2010
Cast: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Tenney, Charles S. Dutton
Director: Scott Stewart

Summary: When God loses faith in Mankind, he sends his legion of angels to bring on the Apocalypse. Humanity's only hope lies in a group of strangers trapped in a desert diner, the Archangel Michael, and the unborn child of one of their number.

Analysis: Having played two priests and a monk in recent years, Paul Bettany as an angel doesn't seem like much of a stretch. The film on the other hand looks like pure hokum, essentially yet another exposition heavy warrior angel take on Christian mythology seen before in the likes of "The Prophecy," "Gabriel," "Fallen," and one of the most consistent series on TV lately "Supernatural".

Yet there's stuff that could work. The small group trapped in a doomsday scenario is usually effective, the angel effects and wings do look good, and the cast is pretty decent considering the material. Many of the cast claimed to have signed on because of writer/director Scott Stewart's script focusing more on building complex characters than justifying its otherworldly premise. We'll know either way in a few weeks.

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Let Me In
Opens: 2010
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono
Director: Matt Reeves

Summary: An English-language remake of Tomas Alfredson's 2008 Swedish film "Let the Right One In". An alienated 12-year-old boy befriends a mysterious young newcomer in his small New Mexico town and discovers an unconventional path to adulthood.

Analysis: The quality doesn't matter because as of this moment, no other film in 2010 is being pushed in front of a firing squad quicker by geeks than this unnecessary Hollywood adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel. Why? Because Alfredson's critically acclaimed Swedish-language film adaptation has already become a cult sensation throughout much of the world.

A lot of the mainstream audiences still haven't caught on though to that original gem, and with the "Twilight" craze in full swing, it's no surprise Overture Films is rushing forward with their more commercial take on this unique vampire story. "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves, who is helming this, is well aware of the pressure he's under but hopes people will give the project a chance.

To that extent, there's already hints at some big departures from the first film with this one using more elements from the novel, including the early 80's setting, that Alfredson chose to cut. While the author is open to the project, Alfredson isn't and already delivered the pointed quote - "If one should remake a film, it's because the original is bad. And I don't think mine is." Filming is underway in New Mexico and wraps next month with a late 2010 release planned.

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Letters to Juliet
Opens: May 7th 2010
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael García Bernal
Director: Gary Winick

Summary: An American girl on vacation in Italy finds an unanswered "letter to Juliet" -- one of thousands of missives left at the fictional lover's Verona courtyard, which are typically answered by "secretaries of Juliet. She goes on a quest to find the lovers referenced in the letter.

Analysis: The first weekend of May is always good for two things - a superhero blockbuster for the guys that'll dominate the slot, and a fairly standard rom-com for the girls as counter programming that should pull in some of the trickle over audience. Last year it was "Wolverine" and "Ghosts of Girfriends Past", in 2010 it's "Iron Man 2" and this little engine that could which has an overall more noble and sweet sentiment than that McConaughey vehicle.

The premise isn't too bad, the Verona location filming should be pleasing, the presence of Redgrave is always a delight even in pap, while "Mamma Mia" actress Seyfried is a charmingly buoyant lead. The downside are the guys with the usually reliable Bernal stuck with a scruffy look and a rather bland side role. Ex-Aussie soap star Chris Egan seems hampered by a poor man's British accent, though credit to the actor who impressed with his dramatic turn in NBC's short-lived "Kings".

The somewhat older Hugh Dancy was originally cast in Egan's role and it kind of shows in the trailer, one which also gives away every surprise of the entire movie. Director Gary Winick knows his way around the formula with both "Bride Wars" and "13 Going on 30" under his belt, so expect something along similar quality lines.

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Life As We Know It
Opens: December 22nd 2010
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Christina Hendricks, Josh Lucas, Melissa McCarthy
Director: Greg Berlanti

Summary: The story follows two unattached adults whose worlds are turned upside down when their mutual best friends die in an accident and name them as caregivers for their orphaned daughter.

Analysis: The premise sounds like a Lifetime TV movie, but director Greg Berlanti certainly has a knack for these kinds of storylines having served as showrunner on the likes of "Everwood," "Eli Stone" and "Brothers and Sisters". During production the other month, 'Life' made headlines not for its content but for gossip scandals over star Duhamel's love life.

Slotted into the Christmas weekend slot next year, the film is listed as a comedy but the premise sounds a little weighty and out of place for a crowd generally looking for some escapism. Then again, "Marley and Me" turned into a hit in the release slot last year so it may happen again here.

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Life During Wartime
Opens: 2010
Cast: Renée Taylor, Charlotte Rampling, Paris Hilton, Paul Reubens, Ciaran Hinds
Director: Todd Solondz

Summary: Separated from her incarcerated pedophile husband Bill, Trish is about to be married again. But when Bill is released from prison and her sons finally meet their future stepdad, the family is forced to decide whether to forgive or to forget. Trish's sister meanwhile is haunted by ghosts of lovers past.

Analysis: Described as "part-sequel, part-variation" to his 1998 indie cult hit "Happiness", acclaimed feather-ruffling filmmaker Todd Solondz returned to the festival circuit in the early Fall with this much anticipated release which scored good buzz and a best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival.

Though following various characters from "Happiness" ten years on, Solondz strangely decided to recast all the roles (a shame considering Dylan Baker's brilliant turn as the pedophile father in that first film), and mellowed down his notoriously sharp edge in what looks like an effort to deliver a more accessible film than "Storytelling" and "Palindromes".

The result was probably more mixed than expected, nevertheless most critical reviews seem upbeat and complimented both the strong cast and frequent bold laughs. They were however less forgiving of the structure and uneven sketch-like tone, while the themes of forgiveness on a number of levels sound somewhat overwrought.

Though already sold to many distributors worldwide, still no word as yet on a North American release.

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Little Fockers
Opens: July 30th 2010
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner
Director: Paul Weitz

Summary: Third film in the series after "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers", the story revolves around Polo and Stiller's couple dealing with twin toddlers either on the way or recently born.

Analysis: While Dustin Hoffman's involvement is a big question, Universal greenlighting another film in this series isn't. Despite a harsher critical reception, the sequel "Meet the Fockers" proved a big hit so it was only a matter of time before Gaylord and company came back. The biggest change here is directors with Jay Roach stepping out for this one and Paul Weitz ("American Dreamz," "About a Boy") coming in, thus the style of humor could well change.

There's also some new faces including Harvey Keitel, Laura Dern and Jessica Alba as a "sexpot pharmaceutical rep". Scribe John Hamburg has briefly said this new sequel will also deal with "death and divorce", an unexpected element but hopefully will give us something more biting than the often too obtuse and slapstick-ridden second film. More likely though it'll play things along safe lines as studio Universal is in need of a Summer hit after taking a bath on this year's "Land of the Lost".

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London Boulevard
Opens: July 30th 2010
Cast: Keira Knightley, Colin Farrell, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, Anna Friel
Director: William Monahan

Summary: A freshly released ex-con from South London attempts to stay out of the way of a ruthless loan shark by finding honest work at the Holland Park mansion of faded movie actress. As his violent past catches up with him and his disturbed sister is threatened, he is forced to act.

Analysis: One of the most promising looking thrillers of next year, this suspense drama is based on the acclaimed novel by crime author Ken Bruen. Most notably though it marks the directing debut of "The Departed" and "Kingdom of Heaven" screenwriter William Monahan who also adapted.

Though on the surface sounding like a British spin on "Sunset Boulevard", the story takes some dark and unexpected turns and includes some pointed commentary about the younger stars of today, especially those famous for their hard-partying lifestyle.

The crew is stacked with Oscar winners running all the major departments, similar to the damn impressive cast including Ray Winstone as the aggressive crime boss, David Thewlis as an agoraphobic business manager, and other talent like Stephen Graham, Jamie Campbell Bower and Ben Chaplin in supporting roles. Should hopefully be very good.

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The Losers
Opens: April 9th 2010
Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short
Director: Sylvain White

Summary: An elite U.S. Special Forces unit is sent into the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission and find themselves the target of a lethal betrayal instigated from inside by a ruthless enemy known only as Max. Presumed dead, the group makes plans to even the score.

Analysis: A comic adaptation thankfully not about superheroes, on the surface "The Losers" looks essentially like a very familiar revenge tale meets conspiracy thriller albeit with a military team instead of a lone burned spy. What makes this adaptation interesting though is the cast such as Morgan, Evans, Saldana and Elba who've all got a lot of geek love for their strong performances in the past.

Action director Peter Berg and scribe James Vanderbilt co-adapted the screenplay which should ensure some big time testosterone fuelled fun, but director Sylvain White is new to the genre with his only feature credit before this being the dance drama "Stomp the Yard". How he'll handle the 'grittier A-Team' style action is hard to say, though reports indicate the film will thankfully keep the hard R-rated edge of the comic.

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Lottery Ticket
Opens: August 2010
Cast: Bow Wow, Ice Cube, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Keith David
Director: Erik White

Summary: A young man living in the projects wins $370 million in a nationwide lottery. When his opportunistic neighbours discover he has the winning ticket in his possession, Kevin must survive their greedy and sometimes even threatening actions over a holiday weekend before he can claim his prize.

Analysis: Another Hollywood "urban comedy" with the same old faces like Ice Cube and Bow Wow, it's disappointing that when it comes to African-American audiences, studios only seem to consider manufacturing lame comedies and hip-hop coming-of-age dramas. Where are the romantic fantasies, sci-fi epics or action romps with all-black casts?

Maybe 'Lottery' will be different, certainly the premise sounds actually kind of fun, but all the hallmarks are there for yet another fusion of tired slapstick meets sentimental pap along "The Honeymooners" or "First Sunday" lines. These films have a built in audience though, much like Tyler Perry's melodramatic soap and drag comedy stylings, so as long as costs are kept down and profits remain steady you can expect more of the like in the future.

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Love and Other Drugs
Opens: November 24th 2010
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Judy Greer, Gabriel Macht, Hank Azaria
Director: Ed Zwick

Summary: A salesman competes in the cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals to hawk a male erectile enhancement drug. He soon enters into a relationship with a free-spirited woman with Parkinson's disease who is already involved with a hotshot Prozac salesman.

Analysis: Based on Jamie Reidy's memoir "Hard Sell", what's curious here is the involvement of Ed Zwick, a director mostly known for foreign-set period action dramas like "The Last Samurai," "Blood Diamond," and "Defiance". Zwick has dipped his toe briefly in the genre before, but not for a long time and so the choice seems an odd one. It's also slightly risky considering high-concept comedy/dramas of late (e.g. "The Informant," "The Men Who Stare At Goats") haven't really caught on.

Still, it should guarantee a better looking adaptation than you'd might expect, helped along no doubt by various viagra jokes and a flurry of highly talked about sex scenes featuring "Brokeback Mountain" stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Gyllenhaal got some headlines on the late night talk show circuit last month speaking about shooting several sequences dressed only in the tiny 'cock sock' actors use for sex scenes, if that becomes a big selling point of the trailer you could sign up a bunch of people right there.

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Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
Opens: 2010
Cast: Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan
Director: Don Roos

Summary: Based on the Ayelet Waldman novel, the story revolves around a young woman who finds her relationship with her precocious stepson the key to recovering from a newborn's death, family issues and her marriage.

Analysis: Starting out as a writer with the likes of "Single White Female" and "Boys on the Side", Don Roos hit the directing scene hard with 1998's wry and rich black comedy "The Opposite of Sex". Ever since then however he's been trying to match that success without much luck - giving us 2000's insipid "Bounce" and 2005's little seen "Happy Endings".

Though scoring his best notices since 'Sex', reviews out of Toronto were still not exactly complimentary about the manipulative and conventional approach to the melodrama, though quite a few critics admitted that emotionally it still hit them where it hurts. Though not expected to be anything but a very modest earner, the film will hopefully get some kind of theatrical release in the new year.

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Love Ranch
Opens: 2010
Cast: Joe Pesci, Helen Mirren, Gina Gershon, Scout-Taylor Compton, Bail Ling
Director: Taylor Hackford

Summary: A drama about a couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada and the violence that resulted when their relationship was tested by infidelity.

Analysis: It stars the likes of Helen Mirren, Gina Gershon, Bai Ling and Joe Pesci in his first lead role in twelve years. It's directed by esteemed filmmaker Taylor Hackford ("Devil's Advocate," "Ray," "Proof of Life") working together with his wife Mirren for his first time since 1985. Plus it was shot almost two years ago now and has been finished and ready to go for many months. So why hasn't this been released?

Several factors are at play, most notably the economic collapse hitting production company Capitol Films hard which make this an unfortunate victim of bad timing and circumstance. The subject matter of brothels though will also limit the film's economic chances, marketing elements and playability across the country. The film is just too high profile to disappear directly to disc, but until a distributor picks it up its fate will remain in limbo.

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MacGruber
Opens: April 23rd 2010
Cast: Will Forte, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe
Director: Jorma Taccone

Summary: In the decade since his fiancée was killed, special op MacGruber has sworn off a life of fighting crime with his bare hands. But when he learns that his country needs him to find a nuclear warhead that's been stolen by his sworn enemy, he's the only one tough enough for the job.

Analysis: What started out as a "MacGuyver" parody on "Saturday Night Live" has become a fully fledged movie. When it was first announced many thought it was a prank, after all how in the hell does a one-joke sketch become a feature film. Then star Will Forte confirmed it midway through this year and shooting quickly got underway despite a lot of concern and hesitation about another potential dud along "A Night at the Roxbury" lines.

Then the tide of opinion began to change. Bill Hader gave an interview in which he called the script a hard R-rated balls out satire, while Val Kilmer joined the cast as the deliciously named villain Dieter von Cunth. A test screening review emerged online raved about the film and provided some story details that actually sound fun. The question still remains whether there's enough material to stretch this out to ninety minutes?

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Machete
Opens: 2010
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis

Summary: A renegade former Mexican Federale takes an offer to assassinate a corrupt Senator. Double crossed and on the run, Machete braves the odds with the help of a saucy taco slinger, his "holy" brother, and a socialite with a penchant for guns.

Analysis: The second least interesting of the four faux trailers that screened with "Grindhouse" gets its own full-length feature using basically the same cast and premise setup in the preview. There's a few extra faces though, from the 'what the' casting of Robert DeNiro to the return of Steven Seagal to the big screen eight years after his last appearance in 2002's "Half Past Dead".

It's a decent story idea but how both it and the humor can be sustained for a feature length is a big question right now, as is relatively unknown co-director Ethan Maniquis who made his name as an editor on the likes of "Grindhouse" and "Shorts" for Rodriguez. "Grindhouse" famously flopped at the box-office, so there's no real pre-built fanbase - while the great tagline of "they f*cked with the wrong Mexican" won't likely get MPAA approval. Hopefully Rodriguez will surprise though.

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Main Street
Opens: 2010
Cast: Amber Tamblyn, Orlando Bloom, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson, Colin Firth
Director: John Doyle

Summary: The story centers on a group of people in a small town in North Carolina whose lives are shaken up when a stranger arrives. Bloom will play a small-town policeman, while McCarthy will play a Lothario business manager.

Analysis: Using the final screenplay penned by the late Oscar and Pulitzer winning screenwriter and playwright Horton Foote, 'Street' is a packed ensemble of major talent led by three great veterans (Firth, Clarkson, Burstyn) and two pretty young and decently talented thesps (Bloom, Tamblyn). A moustached Bloom decked out in a cop's uniform on the set has been drawing most of the attention thus far from the media.

Scottish stage director John Doyle makes his directorial debut on the Southern drama which was on offer last month at AFM but still hasn't scored a pickup in North America. Festival screenings later this year will likely play a determining factor in the film's theatrical release plans.

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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