Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief
Opens: February 12th 2010
Cast: Logan Lerman, Catherine Keener, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman
Director: Chris Columbus
Summary: Poseidon's son, a 12-year-old boy, sets out on a quest in present-day America to rescue his mother, return Zeus' stolen lightning bolt and prevent a civil war from erupting among the gods. Based on Rick Riordan's best-selling children's novel.
Analysis: Hitting a little over a month before the more adult-oriented "Clash of Titans" rocks into cinemas featuring many of the same Greek deities as characters, 'Percy' on the surface looks less like a rival and more like a cash-in. Pretty much every teen fantasy book series has sold its film rights in recent years with studios desperately wanting to push out a moneymaker of "Harry Potter" or "Twilight" size.
The fact of the matter is though that the genre has produced more flops than successes. The first "Narnia" was a huge money spinner but the second certainly wasn't. The watered down film adaptation of "The Golden Compass" basically bankrupted a mini-major, while movies like "Lemony Snicket," "Eragon," "The Seeker: The Dark is Rising," "City of Ember," "Inkheart," and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" all hoped to become franchises and all disappointed at the box-office.
While Fox 2000's take on the best of the Narnia novels, 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader', opens a few months later - 'Percy' marks their first film out of the gate this year. Early trailers looked very underwhelming, but the more recent previews promise some interesting FX spectacle and at the very least an all-star line-up of talent as the Greek Gods including Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Rosario Dawson, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan and a few recognisable TV actors.
Chris Columbus in the director's chair could go either way, certainly it promises a family-safe adventure that doesn't really take much in the way of chances. A script by Craig Titley ("See Spot Run," "Cheaper by the Dozen") also means that this will likely be quite bland. The one who might come out the best from all this is teen star Logan Lerman ("Jack & Bobby," "Gamer") who doesn't look half bad as a teen movie lead.
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, Jodie Whittaker
Director: Ian Fitzgibbon
Summary: A gangster comedy about Michael, a man in debt to Dublin kingpin Darren Perrier. With only 24 hours to pay up he goes on the run with his father and his best friend and in the process must make amends with both before Perrier and his gang catch up to them.
Analysis: Despite a title that sounds more like a designer brand of mineral water than a film, 'Bounty' is essentially a fun Irish Guy Ritchie-style gangster caper with three strong British talents acting out a rather contrived sounding story. Reviews out of its Toronto Film Festival premiere were mixed to mildly positive, but all following the same complaint of predictable and tired material that lacks the smarts and humor it desperately struggles to achieve.
Audiences however seem to be more enthusiastic judging by audience feedback reports from festivals and its general release in Ireland. Certainly the actors and the 'popcorn entertainment value' were praised while even some naysaying critics admit in their reviews they'd definitely like to see it again. Of course due to timing it unfortunately finds itself living in the shadow of 2008's superb black comedy "In Bruges" and the director's previous film "Boy A", comparisons to which it will sadly only come out the poorer.
Opens: April 16th 2010
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O'Connell
Director: Alexandre Aja
Summary: After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for Lake Victoria's new razor-toothed residents. But with only one chance to save her family from totally being devoured, our heroine must risk everything to destroy them.
Analysis: With the horror genre having devolved into tedious torture porn, neutered ghost stories or sleep-inducing slasher remakes, it's about time someone brought back the classic creature feature. A remake of "Gremlins" and "Innerspace" director Joe Dante's 1978 Jaws-spoof "Piranha", this is one of the few times a redo is justified as the original isn't really seen as a classic while the basic premise is open to all sorts of possibilities.
Hitting the scene with the impressive "Haute Tension", director Alexandre Aja surprised quite a few people with 2006's remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" which managed to be one of the better examples of a horror retread that works. His 2008 effort "Mirrors" was a stinker, but the concept itself was stupid. Here though the tone is both fun and frightening, the gore is said to be extremely graphic, and the 3D potential is far more promising than it was for the likes of "My Bloody Valentine" or "The Final Destination".
Cast: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steel
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Summary: A single-child family purchase the apartment next door in order to expand, however they've got to wait for the old cranky lady inside to die. Things become complicated when their lives and those of the lady's two granddaughters intersect.
Analysis: Having delivered two indie hits in the form of 2001's "Lovely and Amazing" and 2006's "Friends with Money", director Nicole Holofcener returns to Sundance in January with this world premiere of her new ensemble family comedy/drama that avoids moralising in favour of the more adult approach allowing audiences to make up their own minds. Certainly she's got some good actors on hand here to help her out, but those early Park City reviews will play an important part in how the film's release pans out.
Opens: July 7th 2010
Cast: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo
Director: Nimrod Antal
Summary: A follow-up to 1987's acclaimed Arnold Schwarzenegger-led sci-fi action classic. The story follows a group of elite warrior-types who are being hunted by members of a race of merciless alien trackers called Predators.
Analysis: I don't feel envious of Robert Rodriguez because as of right now he has a lot to prove with this project and so far hasn't demonstrated anything yet to give us faith in its justification. The concern right now isn't as high as it could be as this isn't a reboot but rather a sequel. After the two terrible "Alien vs. Predator" movies, something quality-wise akin to the half-decent Stephen Hopkins-directed "Predator 2" could actually be seen as a return to form.
Yet 1987's "Predator" has become a modern classic for a whole generation and set the bar high enough in its particular genre that it would take a lot to surmount it. That film had the advantage of director John McTiernan in his prime, a cast of future Governors, nearly all practical effects, a great score, strong but well-utilised gore, and one of the most effective and atmospheric jungle location shoots realised on screen.
So far some of the elements are being done right - it keeps the R-rating of the previous stand-alone films, it did quite a bit of location shooting (albeit Hawaii instead of Mexico), and its using the classic Stan Winston design and hopefully practical effects as much as possible. Rodriguez does like to go over the top with his tone and computer animation, I hope he reigns it in somewhat for this.
The casting of the likes of Adrien Brody and Topher Grace have caused a bit of a fanboy uproar, but it's too early to tell especially as we know only very little about their characters. Same with director Nimrod Antal who managed to make pedestrian horror and action films like "Vacancy" and "Armored" into more atmospheric and effective little films than they really deserved to be. I have hope but Fox needs to give us something soon to wipe away any doubts. A great trailer would help considerably in this case.
Opens: August 20th 2010
Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins
Director: Scott Stewart
Summary: A warrior priest disobeys Church law by teaming with a young sheriff and a beautiful priestess. The three band together to track down a band of renegade vampires who have kidnapped the priest's niece before they turn her into one of them.
Analysis: After playing an archangel for director Scott Stewart in next month's "Legion", Paul Bettany finds himself demoted on Christianity's corporate ladder to being merely a humble priest, not the first or likely last time the Brit will play a man of the cloth.
What sounds like yet another vampire movie actually resembles a classic Western in tone, albeit one with supernatural elements and Gun fu. Though its based on the Korean comic series, the film bares very little resemblance to its rich and very complicated source material where fallen angels and zombies are key components of the story.
Work on the project began a few years ago and initially Sam Raimi was to produce, Andrew Douglas ("The Amityville Horror") was to direct, and both Gerard Butler and Steven Strait were to star. That incarnation fell apart and the project started over from scratch earlier this year, though Raimi remains attached to produce alongside Michael DeLuca.
How this version will go though is hard to say. Comparisons will be made to other efforts the genre, such as "John Carpenter's Vampires", though as long as it keeps a certain sense of gravity to it the film could prove a cult hit.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Opens: May 28th 2010
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
Director: Mike Newell
Summary: A fantasy adventure based on the popular video game. Set in medieval Persia, an adventurous prince teams up with a rival princess to find a time-manipulating dagger to help stop an angry vizier from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world.
Analysis: Disney may be targeting families with its next Bruckheimer period action/fantasy potential franchise, but no single demographic anticipates this early Summer epic more than gay men. No matter which way he tiles his teeth, star Jake Gyllenhaal is to that demo what Robert Pattinson is to teenage girls - the unmatched pin-up fantasy and one of the leading causes of non-work/sport-related carpal tunnel syndrome.
Armed with about 20-30 pounds of extra muscle and leather pants, the first look publicity stills and set videos revolved entirely around him being shirtless. With films so often marketed on their actresses in tight bikinis, it's good to see a major blockbuster take a more equal opportunity approach - hell it's rare to see a studio confident enough in its star that they don't force him to wax his chest.
Yet no matter how you cut it, Jake doesn't look even the slightest bit Middle Eastern which has already drawn a lot of controversy. Together with a haircut and British accent that really don't suit him, the worry is that the whole thing simply will not work.
Not helping that belief is that action movies based on video games have all been critical pariahs and commercially only modestly successful at best. The closest example to this in terms of size and style are the generally derided "Tomb Raider" films which themselves were based around a star (Angelina Jolie) who perfectly suited the role - the script and direction just never came anywhere near close enough to support her.
This one has a strong pedigree at the helm in the form of director Mike Newell ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") which explains why some of the visuals of the trailer looked quite promising. Ben Kingsley also seems well cast as an evil vizier.
Yet the script comes from two scribes whose only previous credits are "The Uninvited" and "The Great Raid", both of which were considered flops. Hopefully under Bruckheimer's guidance they've created something that works, either way Disney certainly knows how to market a property like this well. Could the doubts be disproven? I'll definitely give it a shot.
Opens: February 12th 2010
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi, Reda Kateb
Director: Jacques Audiard
Summary: Sent to prison, Malik El Djebena falls under the sway of a group of Corsicans who enforce their rule in the prison. As the 'missions' go by, he toughens himself and wins their confidence but uses his intelligence to discreetly develop his own network.
Analysis: Finally scoring a limited release in the US in February, Jacques Audiard's violent and hard-edged prison drama won the Grand Prix at Cannes, scored Best Film at the London Film Festival, and is already the hotly tipped favourite to take the Oscar for Best Foreign Film late next month.
Reviews have been stellar around the world for the film which quickly became the most universally admired entry in the often hotly contentious first week of Cannes back in May. From a breakout performance by Tahar Rahim, to a well-regarded and complex screenplay, praise has been thrown with abandon at its mix of both deeper social issues and crowd-friendly genre entertainment.
There's also a strong level of realism helped by the hiring of former convicts as consultants. Many are expecting this to top both the acclaim level and box-office of 2008 Cannes crime hit "Gomorrah" which did great business in various international territories in 2009. The 150-minute runtime may sound a little daunting but considering the quality on offer, you're likely to leave this thinking that's simply not enough.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Sandra Oh, Tammy Blanchard, Dianne Wiest
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Summary: A couple try to cope with the death of their four-year-old child in a car accident. As the wife's well-meaning mother and off-kilter sister attempt to lift their spirits, the young driver who killed their son contacts them to seek some meaning and redemption.
Analysis: Though his two film scripts were stinkers ("Robots," "Inkheart"), David Lindsay-Abaire has received a lot of acclaim for his work as a playwright, most notably his 2006 production "Rabbit Hole" which scored the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. With recent film adaptations of other plays that have scored the same award like "Doubt," "Rent" and "Proof," it's no surprise that 'Rabbit' is getting the cinematic treatment.
What's most exciting though is that award-winning "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Shortbus" director John Cameron Mitchell is helming the $10 million project. With his rather unique sensibilities, why he opted to direct a relatively conventional story is an interesting question but is probably explained by a personal loss along similar lines he suffered as a teenager.
With a solid cast including Nicole Kidman in both a starring and producing capacity, all the ingredients are in place for a great adaptation - but can a play that some thought was too theatrical for the stage work on a film medium? Good stage play film adaptations win awards, bad ones are generally ignored and left forgotten - I sincerely hope it's the former in this case.
Ramona and Beezus
Opens: August 13th 2010
Cast: Joey King, Selena Gomez, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan
Director: Elizabeth Allen
Summary: Ramona Quimby has always been a menace to Beezus, her older sister, thanks to having more imagination than is healthy. When she winds up inviting her entire kindergarten class to a party at her home without mentioning it to her mother, a hilarious riot ensues.
Analysis: Fox 2000 and Walden Media try a kid-lit adaptation that's a little less fantasy-based than their norm with this first in a potential franchise based on the Beverly Cleary-penned Ramona book series. Though already adapted for TV two decades ago with a then unknown Sarah Polley as Ramona, the books have remained popular among several generations and so their filmmaking and money-making potential remain as high as ever.
Nine-year-old King won a nationwide casting call to play Ramona, the youngster having performed on-camera since she was four years old and has already guest starred on numerous prime time shows. Her on-screen sibling Gomez is a tween favourite, one of the Disney Channel's pin-up stars which automatically brings with her a built-in audience.
Elizabeth Allen helmed the studio's 2006 effort "Aquamarine" and she's back in the director's chair here, one of several in-house hirings by Walden to keep costs down after a series of expensive under performers in recent years. 'Ramona' should perform better, but still seems too limited in its audience appeal at present and will need to market to a much broader field if it hopes to become a family hit.
Opens: November 24th 2010
Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Carol Burnett, Jason Alexander, David Cross
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Summary: The long-haired Princess Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but when she falls in love with a bandit who was passing by she must venture into the outside world for the first time to find him.
Analysis: It's surprising Disney has taken this long to get around to adapting the Grimm's fairy tale as it's one of their most famous works, while the studio has already adapted several of their lesser stories. Of course they generally embellish the stories quite a bit to fill out a feature-length runtime, but in this case a far too ambitious plan to make this a quasi-sequel to "Enchanted" was thankfully ditched in favour of a fun and fantastical old school fairytale.
Visually speaking it's traditional animation with a very romantic and painterly feel, attempting to essentially create a moving three-dimensional oil painting. Though computer-effects are used extensively, animation director Glen Keane has talked at length about the process that aimed to keep the "soft, round curves of the brushstrokes of water-colour" but allow it to have movement and dimension, bringing the "warmth and intuitive feel of the hand-drawn to CGI".
A few sketches so far show a visually lush film, but the real test will be seeing the first footage in motion which will likely happen with a teaser trailer sometime in the next few months. Along with a fun adventure romp tone there's a score based on 1960s rock and thankfully a cast of strong stage and comedy talents rather than 'celebrities'. If Disney can pull off what they hope to achieve, this will definitely be worth a look and if they can pull together a strong script to assist, that upgrades it to a must-see.
Opens: November 19th 2010
Cast: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, John C. Reilly
Director: Robert Schwentke
Summary: Frank Moses, a former black-ops CIA agent, is now living a quiet life until the day a hi-tech assassin shows up intent on killing him. With his secret identity compromised, Frank must reassemble his old team to figure out who is out to get them.
Analysis: Filming kicks off in just under a fortnight on this extremely well cast graphic novel adaptation from Summit that is aiming to become a spy franchise along Bond and Bourne lines. Whereas those series mined acclaimed novels for story ideas, "Red" comes from a 2003 three-issue comic book mini-series that was generally well-received despite the very familiar and already cliched story of a burned spy getting revenge.
A little worrying is the fact that scribes Erich and Jon Hoeber's previous credit was "Whiteout", an acclaimed graphic novel that became one of 2009's worst films. Director Robert Schwentke holds more promise but both "Flightplan" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" were strong ideas that became rather average films. A half-hearted effort with the likes of this cast - one said to include Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss as well mind you - would in many ways be worse than a straight out piece of sh*t. If they get it right though, it could one of the biggest hits of the Fall.
Opens: November 26th 2010
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Director: Dan Bradley
Summary: A group of students find their small American hometown suddenly becoming the foothold for a foreign invasion. Now under enemy occupation, they seek refuge in the surrounding woods and reorganise themselves into a guerilla group of fighters
Analysis: Maybe it was the blatant militarism and teenage recruitment themes but John Milius' 1984 cult hit "Red Dawn" never really took off here in Australia or in other international territories in the way other film staples of that year like "Beverly Hills Cop," "Gremlins," "Ghostbusters" or even "The Karate Kid" did.
For its time during the height of the Cold War's second phase, the conceit was simple but effective in playing on the very real fear of Soviet insurgents and using a cast of then rising young stars to help teens empathise with their plight and essentially radicalise them into taking up arms. Then of course the world changed and these days 'Dawn' looks like a highly outdated and quaint anachronism. So why bother to remake it?
In many ways this 'Dawn' was a test of the waters, a time back in 2008 when MGM still had hope for its future and planned an ambitious strategy to remake and/or spawn sequels out of its various successful films of the past several decades. Of course now the studio is like a catatonic leper waiting for someone to come and euthanise it before it falls apart on its own. This 'Dawn' still got made, and at a considerable $75 million cost mind you, but in what state it'll be when it hits the multiplexes is anybody's guess right now.
The question still stands though - what's the point? While China and India are set to become the superpowers to dominate the 21st century, the idea of the Chinese launching an outright invasion of the United States isn't just ridiculous but paranoid war-mongering of the worst kind. You also have a global audience fatigued by Iraq and Afghanistan who have little taste for war drama (even those set on their home soil).
Maybe if strong filmmakers were onboard they could craft a plausible story out of it, or better yet a scathing satire. What we have though is a somewhat above-average thriller writer Carl Ellsworth ("Red Eye," "Disturbia"), and second-unit action director turned helmer Dan Bradley whom I still haven't forgiven for using his nauseating shaky cam techniques to eviscerate any thrill from the action sequences of "Quantum of Solace".
The casting of Aussie soap stars and former real-life flames Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas is an odd one, but one of the least strange choices for a film that on the surface offers little more than masturbation material for overly nostalgic fanboys and the gun nuts who regard "Wanted" as the "Casablanca" of today. Maybe a trailer will come along and surprise, for now it has a hell of a lot to prove in order to simply justify its existence.
Opens: February 5th 2010
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, David Morrissey, Paddy Considine, Rebecca Hall
Director: Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker
Summary: A trilogy of made-for-TV movies with several recurring characters across them. The story deals with multi-layered corruption in the 70's and 80's set against a backdrop of serial murders, including the Yorkshire Ripper case.
Analysis: Though already out on DVD & Blu-ray in Europe, UK Channel 4's three telemovie adaptations of English author David Peace's Red Riding Quartet novels are scoring a limited theatrical and VOD day-and-date release in early February States-side through IFC Films. Clocking in at five hours total, the films feature real crimes though are fictionalised and dramatised versions of events rather than factual accounts.
What's interesting here is the experimental approach with the film's look as each of the three parts was done by a different film director using a different style of shooting. The 1974-set first film was shot on old-fashioned 16mm film in 16x9 widescreen by Julian Jarold ("Brideshead Revisited," "Becoming Jane"); the 1980-set second film on regular 35mm film in cinemascope (2.35:1) by James Marsh ("Man on Wire," "The King"); and the 1983-set third film on the digital HD Red One camera by Anand Tucker ("Shopgirl," "Leap Year").
Described as grim, extremely violent and "unrelentingly bleak", reviews for the series were mixed but generally positive. Though distinctly set and focusing on Yorkshire for over a decade-long period, the most common complaints were the constant use of the cliched and all too familiar police procedural tropes that have become a staple of American and British television in the past decade. With reviewer standards for British mini-series sky high thanks to brilliant efforts like the original "State of Play" and "House of Cards", 'Riding' just doesn't reach those levels of greatness.
Still that makes it a lot better than many things on the small and big screen of late, making IFC's plan not an unexpected one. New Yorkers will get to see it theatrically in February, but the best option is to either watch through IFC's On Demand service or just import it from Amazon UK for about $23 plus shipping. Either way it'll be interesting to check out before Ridley Scott's single-film Hollywood remake for Sony Pictures goes into production.
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo
Director: Anthony Hemingway
Summary: As WW2 takes a dire toll on Allied forces, the black pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training find discrimination keeping them grounded. When a mission so dangerous comes up no-one wants it, these airmen finally get to prove their mettle.
Analysis: After twenty years of development, George Lucas' Tuskegee Airmen film finally got off the ground and filmed throughout the second half of 2009 in the Czech Republic. Though "Ali" and "The Manchurian Candidate" first A.D. Anthony Hemingway makes his directing debut on the project, this is very much a Lucas/McCallum project and thus will have their fingers all over it and their full resources behind it.
John Ridley ("Bobby," "Undercover Brother") adapted Lucas' outline into a script based on a fascinating true story that sounds like its been homogenised into a feel good anti-racism studio picture from the press releases. What it should excel at though is showing off period aerial combat to an extent we've never really seen realised on screen. The cast has some odd choices, most interesting is that no less than five actors on this were also cast members on "The Wire".
The other thing of interest will be the shooting techniques. High defintion digital Sony F35 cameras were used for the main shoot, but a series of pickup shots and reshoots to take place in the next 2-3 months will experiment with consumer-level DSLR digital cameras to film some of the flying and cockpit sequences where the larger cameras are just inappropriate. Will it work? We'll find out either at the end of this year or sometime in 2011.
Opens: March 12th 2010
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin
Director: Allen Coulter
Summary: A rebellious young man in New York City has a strained relationship with his father ever since tragedy separated their family. A twist of fate bring him in contact with a young woman whose spirit unexpectedly heals and inspires him.
Analysis: Girl #1: "OMG did you hear? Edward, I mean Robert Pattinson, has a new movie"
Girl #2: "Seriously? God he's so hot. You mean it's not the next Twilight?"
Girl #1: "Uh-uh, its like a love story"
Girl #2: "It's not that Spanish gay sh*t again, that stuff was gross"
Girl #1: "Nah, it's him and that Aussie girl from 'Lost' and they totally make out, she's such a lucky cow"
Girl #2: "Bitch, doesn't she know he's mine. I'm so there, text me the details"
We're still very much in the eye of the storm when it comes to Robert Pattinson. The scruffy, unassuming 23-year-old Brit didn't really ask for the media storm and fangirl craze surrounding him, but he has it anyway. The one good thing about it is that he can use it to push non-"Twilight" films of his that would otherwise go unnoticed at the box-office.
Whether he has the goods to become a strong actor however remains in question as his performances in the likes of "Little Ashes" and the "Twilight" films haven't met with acclaim. The former however was a far too ambitious role beyond his depth as yet, the latter is a character with an admittedly limited range of playability. 'Remember' at last gives us a vehicle that seems suitable for him and could crossover into "A Walk to Remember" or "The Notebook" style sleeper hit.
He's also got some strong support on hand with a screenplay by "Rachel Getting Married" scribe Jenny Lumet, and direction from TV directing great Allen Coulter ("Hollywoodland," "Rome," "The Sopranos"). Should Lumet's script keep the genuine and raw emotional power of 'Rachel', combined with the impressive supporting cast on offer, we should have good drama. Will Pattinson fit comfortably into that or be the weak link in the chain along the lines of Zac Efron in "Me and Orson Welles" or Ben Affleck in "The Sum of All Fears"?
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice van Houten
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Summary: In the future, highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical replacement organs have extended lifespans. However if you don't pay your bill, skilled repo men will come to take it back regardless of your comfort or survival.
Analysis: Shot in late 2007 under the more interesting title "Repossession Mambo", the sci-fi action thriller that Leonardo DiCaprio was at one point attached to star in is finally getting a release around early April nearly three years on. Usually that's a sign that the studio is essentially off-loading a not particularly good piece of product.
Story-wise the setup has more than a passing similarity to not just that great sketch from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life", but the stage play "Repo! The Genetic Opera" which became a rock opera-musical film in 2008. At the time there was concern about competing projects in theatres, now the concern on the part of the 'Men' filmmakers is purely making a buck considering 'Opera' didn't extended beyond a very limited but loyal cult audience.
The main thrust of the plot is far more familiar - a man who is exceptional at hunting finds himself becoming the hunted. Throw in some martial arts fighting and running with glossy sci-fi interiors and you've got yourself another "Equilibrium" albeit with less gunfu. A trailer showed some interesting visuals from first-time director Miguel Sapochnik, not to mention a great cast led by Jude Law looking buffer and more tanned than he ever has before, but even a sci-fi fan like myself sees little of interest here.
Cast: Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee
Director: Antti J. Jokinen
Summary: A recently separated young female doctor moves to Brooklyn and settles into a stunning and spacious loft. Mysterious occurrences however lead her to discover her charming young landlord has developed a dangerous obsession with her.
Analysis: The first feature of the restarted Hammer Films label, a company responsible for so much classic horror of the 50's-70's, is this rather bland sounding stalker thriller. Yet don't dismiss it so quickly - the script is co-written by scribe Erin Cressida Wilson ("Chloe," "Secretary"), while acclaimed and quickly rising Finnish music video director Antti Jokinen helms.
Stars Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan had a solid chemistry together in 2007's "P.S. I Love You" which should make for an interesting match-up here, while Hammer great Christopher Lee has a supporting role. Without a trailer or promotional material to elaborate on the story yet, there's little to go on here. Still, compared with the similar sounding but sillier and younger-skewing "The Roommate" opening a few months later, I think this one has a chance of being at least respectable.
Opens: May 14th 2010
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Matthew Macfadyen, William Hurt
Director: Ridley Scott
Summary: In 13th century England, a former archer in the late King Richard's army assembles a band of marauders to confront corruption in the local town of Nottingham and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power.
Analysis: Originally conceived back in 2007, "Nottingham" proposed the interesting and ambitious idea of a love triangle between Maid Marian, a more sympathetic Sheriff of Nottingham and a less than virtuous Robin Hood. It was that idea that Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott initially signed up for, and then Scott brought in Brian Helgeland to re-write the script to elaborate on Crowe's wrongly maligned Sheriff character.
Then the writer's strike put everything on hold until a planned shoot mid-2008. A further near year-long delay ensued with more script rewrites playing up the idea of Crowe as both Robin and the Sheriff (Hood briefly takes over the Sheriff's identity when the latter is killed in the film's opening). Ultimately though the story reverted to the classic mold with Robin (Crowe) becoming an outlaw to stop the despotic Sheriff, a role finally filled by "Spooks" and "Pride & Prejudice" star Matthew Macfadyen.
Scott's aim is to deliver a definitive version of the tale as he's vocally not been a fan of any of the previous multitudes of adaptations from the 1938 Errol Flynn film and 1991's Kevin Costner-led 'Prince of Thieves' to the recent family-targeted BBC TV series production. In fact Mel Brooks' "Men in Tights" seemed to be the only one Scott didn't mind due to its comedy value. With his 'Hood' though, the aim seems to be to deliver a serious epic blockbuster with a realistic historical tone like he did with 2000's "Gladiator" and 2005's "Kingdom of Heaven".
He may not have liked the earlier films, but there has been so many incarnations of "Robin Hood" that quite frankly one has to wonder what's the point? Admittedly the production values will be brilliant (as demonstrated in the trailer), Scott can make films like this in his sleep, and the casting is spectacular with the only previous weak link, Sienna Miller, having been replaced by the more appropriate and talented Cate Blanchett.
Yet one can't help but get the feeling that sheer overfamiliarity could hamper its critical and box-office potential. Certainly the idea of another 'Hood' movie isn't something that makes one want to rush out to the cinema, especially one that's opening early Summer and is upfront about taking its material very seriously. On the other hand considering the product also set for release over that period, Scott's work could be one of the few thinking adult-friendly options out there amidst a sea of sequels, remakes and adaptations aimed generally at teenagers.
Cast: Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Josh Duhamel, Elijah Wood, Adam Brody
Director: Galt Niederhoffer
Summary: The story revolves around eight friends from college who reunite for a wedding. Holmes will play Laura, the maid of honor to Paquin's Lila, the bride. Laura and Lila are best friends who both have a past with the groom.
Analysis: With its impressive ensemble of young Hollywood stars, it's no surprise the paparazzi loved hanging around the set of this rom-com. Having produced some strong indie dramas in recent years like "Truckers," "Grace is Gone" and "Lonesome Jim", Galt Niederhoffer returns to directing with 'Romantics' which scored a late addition to this year's Sundance Film Festival where its world premiere will screen out of competition. That's a fast turnaround as shooting ran from early November to mid-December so don't be surprised if the Sundance version is a rough cut. Nevertheless opinions from that screening will be crucial.
Opens: September 17th 2010
Cast: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet, Matt Lanter, Danneel Harris
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Summary: College freshman Sara is randomly assigned to live in a dorm with another girl named Rebecca who outwardly seems sweet and normal. She soon finds her safety and the lives of those closest to her jeopardized as Rebecca's strange and increasingly murderous true personality emerges.
Analysis: Early Fall means only one thing - time for another poor man's PG-13 thriller featuring a "Gossip Girl" star. Chace Crawford's "The Haunting of Molly Hartley" in 2008, Penn Badgley's "The Stepfather" in 2009, and in 2010 we get this "Single White Female" for today's generation with Leighton Meester as the creepy and ultimately murderous stalker chick. Added to that a supporting cast almost entirely from shows on The CW and you've got cross-promotion heaven.
The big question here is what the hell is Oscar-nominated Danish film director Christian E. Christiansen ("Nynne," "Razone," "At Night") doing directing this? I understand the desire of foreign film directors to break into Hollywood anyway they can, but even hits in this genre like John Polson's "Swimfan" didn't exactly help him out much on scoring future jobs.
A few script reviews have popped up online and sound atrocious, with the biggest thing of note being essentially a variation on Fatal Attraction's 'bunny-in-the-boiler' scene albeit with a different appliance and pet. Meester's psycho bitch character gets some fun antics, but nothing as creative as Steven Weber's skull-piercing stiletto heel death in 'Female'. Wait for the cable re-run.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead
Opens: April 16th 2010
Cast: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, Kris Lemche, Ralph Macchio, Jeremy Sisto
Director: Jordan Galland
Summary: An indie comedic horror film about an unemployed film director who scores a break as the helmer of an off-Broadway play, a bizarre adaptation of Hamlet written by a pale Romanian who is actually a master vampire.
Analysis: A rather bizarre looking little existential indie comedy fusing relationship quirks, vampire conspiracies, even the Holy Grail thrown in for good measure. Highly self-referential to many films before it, award-winning music video and shorts director Galland plays this as a self-aware farce of macabre overtones and showed it at packed screenings at almost every film festival under the sun last year. John Lennon's son Sean does the mostly instrumental score of the film and a limited theatrical release has already been scheduled for April 16th.
Cast: John Bishop, Mark Womack, Stephen Lord, Andrea Lowe, Trevor Williams
Director: Ken Loach
Summary: The story of a private security contractor in Iraq who rejected the official explanation of his friend's death and set out to discover the truth - risking their lives in a city awash with violence and greed.
Analysis: Still resolutely avoiding Hollywood, British art house darling Ken Loach ("Looking for Eric," "The Wind That Shakes the Barley") returns with this Iraqi road trip feature he and his longtime writing partner Paul Laverty co-wrote. Named after the stretches of road between Baghdad Airport and the International Green Zone, Loach's knack for realism should yield a hard-hitting and emotional piece about grief while also exploring a tense love triangle scenario with the main trio of actors. Expect a launch at Cannes where his last few films have bowed.
The Rum Diary
Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Bruce Robinson
Summary: The increasingly unhinged story of itinerant journalist Paul Kemp who left late 1950's New York City to start a more relaxed lifestyle working for a downtrodden newspaper in San Juan and becomes obsessed with the fiancee of a shady property dealer.
Analysis: Having essentially played legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson in the autobiographical "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", it's no surprise that Depp would chose to star in the film adaptation of the gonzo journo's other famous novel. Written in 1959 but not published until 1998, development on this began back in 2000 with Depp signed on to star and produce. However, after two failed attempts (including a version with Josh Hartnett and Benicio del Toro) it wasn't until 2009 that financing got locked down and production got underway in Puerto Rico.
'Loathing' benefited greatly from the direction of Terry Gilliam who seemed very well suited to Thompson's style. 'Diary' however isn't getting the short shrift as it brought "Withnail and I" helmer Bruce Robinson out of retirement - his first directing job since 1992's "Jennifer 8" and first script since Neil Jordan's "In Dreams" in 1999. Robinson actually seems a good fit for the material which is not as eccentric as 'Loathing' but still somewhat unique. There's a great supporting cast on hand as well which leaves only one question that everyone wants the answer to - when will this be getting a release? This year is certain, but beyond that your guess is as good as mine.
Opens: March 19th 2010
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor-Compton
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Summary: The story of the hugely influential and first successful all-girl hard rock band which began in late 1975 as a novelty act of teenaged girls performing in leather and lace. The girls ended up proving to be serious and influential musicians over the next four years.
Analysis: A curious cultural oddity in that very few of the teenage girls this film will be targeted at will have ever heard of the band or its songs. Certainly most are far more familiar with Joan Jett's 80's work like "I Love Rock N' Roll" (long before Britney did that awful cover version) than her time with The Runaways. Nevertheless the draw of two "New Moon" stars, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, as full on 70's punk chicks should be enough to get people to this biopic from acclaimed music video helmer Floria Sigismondi.
A trailer released not that long ago showed a grittier and more period-specific look than expected but also offered up hope of something with weight to it. Certainly the idea of "Revolutionary Road" scene-stealer Michael Shannon as recording producer and impresario Kim Fowley has my interest piqued. The reaction from the upcoming world premiere at Sundance however will be a bellwether, and if it goes well expect a decent sized opening for the genre.
Saint John of Las Vegas
Opens: January 29th 2010
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, Peter Dinklage, Emmanuelle Chirqui
Director: Hue Rhodes
Summary: A compulsive gambler runs away from Las Vegas and toward a normal life. Forced to return with a co-worker on an assignment, their road trip turns into encounters with a series of offbeat characters that help him come to grips with his addiction.
Analysis: Kicking off the Cinevegas Film Festival in June, reviews were decidedly mixed for the low-budget indie road comedy that was pegged as too hollow and falsely quirky. That said the raft of cameos from the likes of Peter Dinklage and Sarah Silverman scored thumbs up, as did Buscemi's performance and some of the dark humor. Sounds like a decent rental.
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