St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold
Cast: Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, David Tennant, Gemma Arterton, Talulah Riley
Director: Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson
Summary: A rollercoaster-style treasure hunt for the legendary Fritton's Gold ensues as the feisty and ever-resourceful schoolgirls of St Trinian's face their most fearsome establishment rivals yet - the villainous Pomfrey and his sidekicks from the women-hating secret society known as AD1.
Analysis: While it didn't travel much beyond the UK, 2007's reboot of the "St Trinian's" franchise nearly doubled its £7 million production budget in sales in the UK alone - making it one of the top grossing independent British films of the past decade. Reviews were decidedly mixed but generally pretty weak at the time, so the greenlighting of a sequel surprised quite a few.
Despite a critical drubbing, the core audience of young British teenage girls seemed to be satisfied by this second romp judging from user reviews online. Certainly the presence of some great British talent hamming it up like Colin Firth, Gemma Arterton, Rupert Everett in drag again and outgoing "Doctor Who" star David Tennant as an evil millionaire offers some camp appeal. With the first one having only just hit States-side, this sequel will hopefully be rushed across the Atlantic a lot quicker.
Sympathy for Delicious
Cast: Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Mark Ruffalo
Summary: The story follows a paralyzed DJ, struggling to survive on the streets of L.A., who turns to faith healing and mysteriously develops the ability to cure the sick - although not himself. The DJ then decides to cash in on his gift in exchange for his rock 'n' roll dreams.
Analysis: The numerous paparazzi photos of Orlando Bloom dressed as a shirtless, full-body tattooed grungy rock band member in the film has taken much of the attention off 'Sympathy' itself which may surprise people when it premieres at Sundance in competition. Actor Mark Ruffalo makes his directing debut on the story penned and starring Christopher Thornton as the titular DJ, and though the story sounds somewhat like a Lifetime telemovie, this should pack more promise.
Opens: February 26th 2010
Cast: Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Chris Brown
Director: John Luessenhop
Summary: A notorious group of criminals continue to baffle police by pulling off perfectly executed bank robberies. When they attempt to pull off one last job, the crew find their plans interrupted by a hardened detective hell-bent on solving the case.
Analysis: A poor man's rip-off of "Heat"? That's a given and no surprise considering four scribes, none with any real writing credits to their name, were required to cobble together the script. Director John Luessenhop's only previous film was 2000's little seen "Lockdown" with Richard T. Jones, Master P and Sticky Fingaz.
The only real curiosity about this project is the casting and what effect it will have at the box-office. On the one hand there's some quite strong talent here like Zoe Saldana, Matt Dillon, Idris Elba and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. There's also a couple of spunky guys with pretty good acting chops as well like Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, and the slightly unexpected but welcome inclusion of Paul Walker.
The two however that make this a strange movie couldn't be any more different. On the one hand you have Hayden Christensen, the "Star Wars" actor who has generally kept to arthouse projects aside from 2008's highly panned "Jumper". Despite arguments about his level of talent, the guy is still an above the credits kind of star which makes the skinny white boy's only modestly advertised presence seem both out of place and a step down for him.
The other of course is Chris Brown. While he isn't the only rapper of the cast (T.I. actually looks not half-bad as the bad guy of the piece), he has become a household name for all the wrong reasons in the past year and his presence will no doubt be underplayed as much as possible in the publicity/marketing lead-up to the film's release.
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Luke Evans, Bill Camp
Director: Stephen Frears
Summary: Drewe is a young newspaper writer and a sexy flirt who returns to her small English countryside village where her childhood home is being prepped for sale. She soon stirs up dark passions among the locals.
Analysis: Posy Simmonds' eccentric British comic strip, a kind of modern interpretation of Thomas Hardy's literary classic "Far from the Madding Crowd", gets a highly anticipated film adaptation by "The Queen" and "Dirty Pretty Things" director Stephen Frears. Moira Buffini, who is also adapting the upcoming more gothic reinterpretation of "Jane Eyre", adapted the property which already has some high profile names attached like veteran Roger Allam, hunky Dominic Cooper, and quickly rising young thesps Luke Evans and Tamsin Greig in key supporting roles.
Arterton however is the star here and though having already been a part of several major Hollywood and British film franchises, this looks like it'll be the one to really show off just how talented the 23-year-old actress really is. Already in post-production, release dates have not yet been set but it will likely see a bow sometime in late 2010.
Opens: March 19th 2010
Cast: Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes, Guillaume Canet, Griffin Dunne
Director: Massy Tadjedin
Summary: The story follows a married couple, apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague to whom he's attracted. While he's resisting temptation, his wife encounters her past love.
Analysis: Still deciding between this title and "Last Night", the Manhattan-set drama about fidelity and the lies people tell themselves and their partners comes from "The Jacket" writer Massy Tadjedin. A French/US co-production of Gaumont and Miramax Films, what's interesting here is the mix of international talent - a Brit (Knightley), an Aussie (Worthington), a Frenchman (Canet) and an American (Mendes).
In particular it's the involvement of the two guys - Canet making his first major non-French film since 2000's "The Beach", and Worthington who hasn't really tackled relationship drama onscreen since his work on 2004's "Somersault" and TV's "Love My Way" back in Australia. No materials have yet come out for the film despite being only two months away, meaning its March release date will either be pushed or the film itself will sadly receive little effort by the studio to promote it.
Cast: Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsou, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper
Director: Julie Taymor
Summary: An adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Having been exiled to an island for over a decade, the witch Prospera manages to shipwreck those behind her betrayal and a tangled web of romance, forgiveness and magic play out.
Analysis: One of Shakespeare's most famous but least cinematically adapted plays gets an all star feature film treatment from famed stage director Julie Taymor. The project marks the second time Taymor ("Across the Universe," "Frida") has adapted the Bard, the first being 1999's "Titus" based on the goriest of his works "Titus Andronicus". Despite critical success and all-star cast, that film financially was a flop.
Yet Taymor's films have always been striking and admittedly indulgent, which generally makes them memorable. "Titus" with its strange anachronistic fusion of Ancient Rome, Mussolini's Italy and the modern day worked better than it had any right to. 'Tempest' with its elements of sorcery and romance seem even more in tune with Taymor's style, while the gender switch of Prospero to Prospera so that Helen Mirren could play the role is one of those surprises that has already infuriated traditionalists but will excite others with how it shifts the relationship dynamics of one of English literature's most famous characters.
Shot in Hawaii through late 2008 and early last year on a $20 million budget (same as "Titus"), the film was expected to be released before Christmas 2009 but more extensive special effects than expected have pushed it back to sometime in 2010. The casting is impeccable, along with those mentioned above there's also Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw, David Strathairn, Felicity Jones and Tom Conti.
While 1956's "Forbidden Planet" is the most famous cinematic spin on the story, Peter Greenaway's 1991 film "Prospero's Books" was the last significant attempt at an adaptation. It was generally dismissed aside from the work of the late Sir John Gielgud whose stage performances as Prospero is still considered the benchmark for any actor attempting the character. Taymor's films rarely form a consensus of opinion, but the reactions are never dull which should make this one of the more discussed and debated about arthouse films of the year.
Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, Rachel Resheff, Kathryn Erbe
Director: Eric Mendelsohn
Summary: In a complacent suburban neighborhood, an emotionally troubled businessman wanders around his hometown, a starstruck housewife gives her famous neighbor a ride, and a young girl takes a wrong turn and finds herself in an unexpected adult realm.
Analysis: An unknown quantity having its world premiere at Sundance in a few weeks, the project marks the first film from director Eric Mendelsohn since 1999's "Judy Berlin". The involvement of Falco and Davidtz is what's causing most of the talk, Falco coming off cable success in "Nurse Jackie" and this marks her first film since 2006's "Freedomland"
The synopsis available however sounds like a fairly standard domestic drama with an air of suspense and menace. Three separate subplots that will no doubt intertwine by the end - the most predictable situation here is a car accident with the girl involved (that or Koteas's character is a child killer). Yet the film managed to be included the in the short sixteen film dramatic competition list at Sundance, meaning there's more to it than probably meets the eye. Reviews from the festival will tell the tale.
Toe to Toe
Cast: Louisa Krause, Sonequa Martin, Hina Abdullah, Sarah Aschenbach, Dionne Audain
Director: Emily Abt
Summary: The genuine friendship on the field between lacrosse mates Tosha and Jesse - a fiercely determined black student from poorer DC area, and a privileged but troubled white girl from Bethesda - is tested when societal circumstances threaten to tear them apart.
Analysis: Despite a so-so critical reaction to Emily Abt's all too earnest coming-of-age tale at Sundance last year, Strand Releasing picked it up and is planning a small theatrical release before a bigger push on video. At the time of the reviews, what praise it did garner was for the leading actresses and their chemistry which could yield promising futures for both Sonequa Martin and Louisa Krause.
Its racially charged examination of the youth culture in the Washington DC area may generate its own interest, especially among girls of the same age, but the standard troubled teen elements sound trite and convenient enough that many will dismiss it out of hand. It is nice to see a film at least give lacrosse some time in the sun though.
Tomorrow, When the War Began
Cast: Rachel Hurd-Wood, Phoebe Tonkin, Lincoln Lewis, Caitlin Stasey, Matthew Dale
Director: Stuart Beattie
Summary: When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight unlikely Australian high school teenagers band together to fight.
Analysis: On the surface sounding like "Red Dawn" set in a small Australian town, John Marsden's seven book 'coming-of-age in a war zone' series was sold on the pitch of it being one of the most popular Australian series ever published. As someone who has lived in Sydney almost all my life, I'd never heard even a mention of it until the film announcement - and I read a lot. However the series didn't start until the late 90's, after my time at school, so its fanbase is very much the teenagers and early twenty-somethings of today.
Screen Australia and Paramount Vantage are teaming for this purely Aussie production that hopes to be the first in a trilogy and is helped immensely by a big fat tax break for keeping its shoot local. Stuart Beattie, best known for his scripts for the likes of "Australia," "Collateral" and "G.I. Joe", is adapting and directing the film which hopes to be the first fully Australian commercial action movie since the "Mad Max" films. Certainly its budget, around $54 million U.S. dollars, is quite considerable for a 'purely local' film.
The cast is made up of a few soap stars (Lewis, Stasey) and some young unknowns aside from British actress Rachel Hurd-Wood who worked Down Under before on 2003's "Peter Pan". Tone wise don't expect the seriousness of "Red Dawn", Beattie saying if 'Dawn' is "Striptease", then 'Tomorrow' is more like "The Full Monty" - similar premise, completely different approaches. Shot around the Hunter Region in New South Wales over October and November last year, the film is already in post.
Several questions come up here. First is tone, the books are apparently quite realistic and dark which makes the film's rating likely to be higher but could alienate the core audience of young teenagers. Second is the enemy troops whose country of origin goes unnamed in the books, an idea that simply doesn't work on film - how will that be handled? Finally there's appeal - can a story like this cross over with international audiences. We'll know more around the end of the year.
The Tooth Fairy
Opens: January 22nd 2010
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews, Stephen Merchant, Ryan Sheckler
Director: Michael Lembeck
Summary: When a hard-charging hockey player discourages a youngster's hopes, he's sentenced to a week's hard labor as a tooth fairy, complete with the requisite wings and wand. As he adapts to his new position, he rediscovers his own forgotten dreams.
Analysis: What can I say? If you laughed at the first time you heard about the concept of The Rock as a Tooth Fairy, and can't stop giggling at the sight of the former wrestler in angel wings, this film is for you. If you count your age in single digits, I hope you have a good time and get a laugh.
If you count your age in double digits and aren't being dragged kicking and screaming to this by your kid then I implore you to please develop the rudimentary mental facility called 'taste'. You will need it in order to function in human society, it's something even your everyday cat rapist and VH1 reality show skank has developed to at least to some degree.
Opens: September 10th 2010
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper
Director: Ben Affleck
Summary: After briefly being taken hostage, a female bank manager lets her guard down when she meets an unassuming and rather charming man... not realizing he is the same man who led the gang of thieves that terrorised her days earlier.
Analysis: Scoring critical acclaim with his directorial debut "Gone Baby Gone", actor Ben Affleck stays within the realm of Massachusetts-set crime drama with this drama based on Chuck Hogan's "Prince of Thieves". A strange spin on the concept of Stockholm Syndrome, Affleck has assembled a strong cast in the supporting roles and a story that could have a lot of dramatic potential.
How he'll do in the main acting role is a lingering question, but the thesp has chosen quite well in recent years with quality projects that generally fit his style. Hogan's work is also more of an unknown quantity than Lehane's 'Gone', though the few reviews available for it praised it highly. Could be a surprise awards contender come late next year.
To Save a Life
Opens: January 22nd 2010
Cast: Randy Wayne, Deja Kreutzberg, Joshua Weigel, Steven Crowder, D. David Morin
Director: Brian Baugh
Summary: Jake Taylor, a young student who has it all, is devastated when his childhood best friend commits suicide. He finds himself deeply compelled to reach out to kids on the fringe - a decision that may lose him his perfect life.
Analysis: Cinematographer Brian Baugh makes his directorial debut on this faith-based drama that Samuel Goldwyn Films is no doubt hoping will become the next breakthrough heartland hit for them in the way 2008's Kirk Cameron-led "Fireproof" became a surprising $33 million grosser. This title is the first of their 'New Song' banner, so expect a few more films along these lines in the near future.
The trailer looks decidedly bland and will likely confuse its intended market and Church-based grass roots promoters who want more direct representation of their faith on screen. In fact instead of being about a young devout man smashing down the barriers between cliques, the trailer looks like a blossoming romance tale between an effeminate blond jock and the new Asian student who doesn't fit in with the over-privileged dickless wonders that inhabit the school. The central message may be heartfelt and sincere, but the release itself is cynical cash-grabbing at its most blatant.
Toy Story 3
Opens: June 18th 2010
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn
Director: Lee Unkrich
Summary: As Andy prepares to depart for college, Buzz, Woody and the rest of his loyal toys are troubled about their uncertain future which soon lands them in a room full of untamed tots who can't wait to get their sticky little fingers on these "new" toys.
Analysis: Hard to believe that at one time years ago, "Toy Story 2" was originally planned as a direct-to-video follow-up to the original 1995 hit. Early development was so good that they decided to go theatrical with it, the resulting sequel in 1999 is a film that many critics and filmgoers still consider the very best of Pixar's stellar work. Thus to say that anticipation for a third film is considerable would be among the biggest understatements of all time.
Originally developed at Disney alone, the Disney/Pixar deal caused the previous version of the script - in which the toys go to Taiwan to rescue a recalled Buzz Lightyear - to be scrapped. Instead the film was developed in-house as usual, starting with a script getting underway in late 2006 with contributions from Oscar-winning scribe Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine"). From there work began in earnest, and in an unusual move the voice actors were all shown a complete story reel of the entire movie using temp voices and music with everyone essentially signing on immediately after.
There's always the possibility that Pixar could disappoint? Ha ha ha, yeah didn't believe that one either. The question won't be if it's any good, but rather how good. If it can equal or dare say top the second film, expect to not only see this amongst the biggest box-office earners next year, but also extremely high up on many a film critic's Yearly Top Ten lists.
The Tree of Life
Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, Jackson Hurst
Director: Terrence Malick
Summary: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence.
Analysis: Perhaps the single most deliberate and patient director alive today, Terrence Malick certainly takes his time between projects. The resulting films though, his two most recent being 1998's "The Thin Red Line" and 2005's "The New World", always inspire a lot of anticipation, talk and eventual division amongst high-minded cinemaphiles. This year comes this generational family drama which is still one of the most top secret movies on the schedule.
Apparition picked up the rights to the film a while back and were originally scheduling it for a release around this past Christmas. However Malick can't be rushed and has been in post on the film for a long time, as he's known to do. Thus talk recently is hinting towards a world premiere at Cannes followed by a release sometime in the Fall.
Malick himself came up with the initial story thirty years ago and the few scant plot details that have leaked out hint at some rather ambitious ideas in play, such as the film starting out with an extensive natural history segment about life on Earth. In fact Malick shot the documentary "Voyage of Time", a Brad Pitt-narrated IMAX film that chronicles the birth and death of the universe, at the same time. Definitely one of 2010's strangest but potentially most talked about films.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Paz Vega, Christopher Lee, Kelly Reilly, Jamie Sives
Director: Danis Tanovic
Summary: An Irish photojournalist on a dangerous assignment during the Kurd-Iraqi conflict in 1988 returns home a shell of his former self. His girlfriend sets out to find out what exactly happened out there to him and his friend David who never returned.
Analysis: Like "The Machinist" with Christian Bale, "Triage" will probably be remembered long after as the film in which Colin Farrell went anorexic. Having kept in pretty good shape beforehand, the Irishman lost a drastic 20 kilos (44 lbs.) to play the war photojournalist suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in this $20 million project based on a novel by American veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson.
Oscar-winning Bosnian director Danis Tanovic ("No Man's Land") premiered his film at the Toronto Film Festival, however reviews essentially dismissed it as an unrelentingly dour, unremarkable and overly verbose snoozer. This is a shame considering the trailer was promising even if the storyline with its central mystery of David's fate is extremely predictable.
Farrell certainly seems to have gone all out for this, but even his work wasn't nearly as highly regarded as the supporting performance by veteran Christopher Lee as Farrell's grandfather-in-law and shrink. Lee had to learn more lines of dialogue for his role here than for any one of the previous 300 films he's done over the past six decades. A limited theatrical release within the US is likely sometime this year, but still uncertain for now.
Opens: December 17th 2010
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Summary: The son of Kevin Flynn looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs his father has been living in for 25 years. The pair embark on a perilous journey across a cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.
Analysis: Though the big-budget and ground-breaking 1982 original was a famous box-office disappointment, it has retained cult status throughout the years even as your average home computer became able to produce superior effects for one-hundredth the cost and time. Rumors of a sequel have been flying ever since the late 90's, though it wasn't until 2005 that a script was commissioned.
Even then nobody considered the film anything more than a pipe dream until Comic Con in 2008 when a proof-of-concept visual effects test reel that was shown to the studio was aired to a surprised audience and stole the show that year. The project was greenlit soon after and began shooting last April. A few months later in San Diego the official title and first bit of footage was revealed.
Elements from the original are returning, most notably Jeff Bridges reprising his role as Kevin Flynn while Bruce Boxleitner will cameo as Alan Bradley and Tron. Familiar elements are coming back and will be updated including the light cycle, the Recogniser, and the Disc Wars game. There will also be spins on the old tech including a two-seater version of the light cycle called a 'light runner', and a second-generation light cycle designed by Flynn.
Michael Sheen will serve as the film's villain, a night club owner inside the Tron world rather than a new version of the MCP as previously rumoured. Shot for a Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3D release, Joseph Kosinski takes over directing duties while the original film's director Steven Lisberger will serve as producer. Legendary electronic music duo Daft Punk will be composing the film score and will cameo on screen.
Will it work though? The studio has set this as a tentpole film and there's a certain small part of the population that will definitely have an interest, but most people are still unaware of the first film and so as sequels go this one will essentially have to work as a stand alone. Can it be as revolutionary as the original? We'll see.
Cast: Man Cheuk Chiu, Michelle Yeoh, David Carradine, Cung Le, Andy On
Director: Woo-ping Yuen
Summary: Su Qi-Er, a wealthy man living during the Qing Dynasty who loses his fortune and reputation as a result of a conspiracy against him. After being forced out onto the streets, Su dedicates his life to martial arts and reemerges as a patriotic hero.
Analysis: Though initially rising to fame in Asia as director of several important action films like the "Iron Monkey" and "Drunken Master" series, Yuen seemingly retired from the directing chair in 1996 to focus on action choreography in such international hits as "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," "The Matrix" and "Kill Bill".
This Chinese-Hong Kong martial arts effort though marks his first time in the director's chair in nearly fifteen years. At last report in the midst of a lengthy post-production period, the film is set to debut in China next month and will likely open across global territories later in the year though Focus Features.
The first trailers are pure action with some impressive fist fight and stunts, however the fantasy elements look decidedly on the silly side. The late David Carradine has a supporting role in this which will be bittersweet, but it's Michelle Yeoh's involvement that widens the film's Western appeal beyond the Asian action fanboy crowd contingent.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowen, Jesse Moss, Christie Lang
Director: Eli Craig
Summary: Two good-natured hillbillies find themselves mistakenly accused of being psycho killers by a group of college kids camping at the same lake where the hillbillies have just acquired a dilapidated cabin as their "summer home."
Analysis: The story conceit is clever and the trailer sells this slasher satire so well that it could surprise at the box-office if given the right release platform. The role reversal is a smart starting point, but much of the humor here depends on a matter of credible timing and outrageousness.
Thankfully everything seems to hit right on target judging from the early footage which is delightfully farcical without a smug self-aware attitude ("Scream") or painfully dumb pop culture references ("Scary Movie"), while the often under-rated Labine and Tudyk as the titular sons of the soil looks like great casting. The upcoming midnight screening at Sundance, should it go as well as hoped, could help turn it into a hit.
Cast: Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Curtis Jackson, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Joel Schumacher
Summary: The story follows a high school dropout-turned-drug dealer on New York's Upper East Side. His lucrative life sours when the dealer's cousin is brutally murdered on an East Harlem playground and his best friend is arrested for the crime.
Analysis: The official closing night film of the Sundance Film Festival this year, the story adapts Nick McDonell's best-selling novel that frankly depicted the drug use, sex and violence amongst wealthy teenagers from Manhattan's Upper East Side. The story of privileged teens indulging themselves is often a mixed bag as many find it impossible to sympathise with these spoiled children, just look at the dismal failure of "The Informers" at last year's Sundance for example.
While "Gossip Girl" fans love him, Chace Crawford has yet to prove himself as capable on the big screen unlike say his co-stars like Penn Badgley or Blake Lively who at least have some more experience under their belt. This could be a breakthrough for him, but reviews out of the premiere of both his performance and the film itself could have a larger than expected impact on his future fortunes.
Director Joel Schumacher is no guarantee either, the quality of his efforts often unpredictable. His last six films for example are split right down the middle running from the greats like "Tigerland" and "Phone Booth" to the duds like "The Number 23" and the direct-to-DVD "Blood Creek". Reviewers still hold petulant grudges against him for 'over-gaying' Batman which will make objective reviews that much harder to come by.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Opens: June 30th 2010
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke
Director: David Slade
Summary: As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings, Bella is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.
Analysis: Everyone subscribes to at least one kind of fandom - a show, film, genre or filmmaker where they really respond to and relish in the little details of the work presented. It's an interesting phenomenon because its entirely subjective, others will look at the same work and might even like it but simply don't share the same zealotry admiration that you may have. What seems exciting to you is tired or silly to them, it's not a matter of "not getting it" but rather a mix of taste, experience and often indefiniable qualities completely different to each individual.
Certain fandoms though pull in a large consensus of like minded people, usually of the same demographic. "Twilight" is one such case, fuelled almost entirely by a massive fanbase of women who have normally not associated themselves with vampire-related subject matter in the past and thus the work feels fresh to them. Men on the other hand are usually well-associated with vampire films/shows and, combined with the admittedly overcooked romance angle, find the whole craze tedious.
Critical dismissals are no surprise as it's a male-dominated occupation and the few females who do it full time tend to be older. Money however can't be dismissed and with the record-shattering opening of "New Moon", anyone who simply ignores this phenomenon does so at their own peril. An article on CHUD the other month which essentially cut and pasted the "Breaking Dawn" wikipedia synopsis and added a few snarky comments became an online sensation, which goes to show you the power that just the "Twilight" name itself has.
'Eclipse' in many ways marks the most interesting test for this franchise. It's the most action heavy of the four and from anecdotal reports and comments it seems to be the one voted the 'best' of the books by fans even if the first or fourth book are their personal favourites. Story wise it certainly sounds the strongest of the four, while the inclusion of the truly edgy and potent director David Slade ("30 Days of Night," "Hard Candy") actually has some outside of the franchise's fanbase at least somewhat curious.
The leak the other week of the script online means nothing, only fans will read it and the only thing spoiled are the changes made to the film from the book which no doubt someone will go into extensively on a blog somewhere. Nothing and no-one will stop this film from destroying records next year, with the "Iron Man" and "Harry Potter" sequels will prove its only serious challenges for box-office domination. Get ready for more Team Edward/Jacob merchandise everywhere and whinging guys bitching about how these books and films are the main cause for the decline of Western civilisation.
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Tyler Perry, Sharon Leal, Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott
Director: Tyler Perry
Summary: Gathered together in the Bahamas for their annual one-week reunion, four close couples eagerly reconnect, sharing news about their lives and relationships. But their intimate week in paradise is disrupted as they realize they aren't immune to the challenges of commitment and fidelity.
Analysis: The one man industry that is Tyler Perry returns with a sequel to the low-budget 2007 film adaptation of his stage play which scored a solid $55 million box-office taking just over two years ago. All the cast reprised their roles, even Janet Jackson who carried on with her work here despite her brother's death during production.
The Bahamas setting should at least provide a slightly more interesting visual flair than usual, but otherwise expect the same overcooked melodrama and homespun morality tales common to all of Perry's films. The first trailer the other month has caused a bevy of confusion however with the film being sold as a paradise-set serial killer thriller (thankfully it's not Madea in a remake of "A Perfect Getaway"). In reality it's sadly nowhere near that exciting, but the audience is going to come anyway.
Opens: November 12th 2010
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Chapman
Director: Tony Scott
Summary: An engineer and his conductor in a separate locomotive are in a race against time to stop a runaway train carrying a cargo of combustible liquids and poisonous gas. If they can't bring it under control before it derails on a curve, the toxic spill will decimate a city.
Analysis: Despite "The Taking of Pelham 123" remake scoring mixed reviews and disappointing box-office, both director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington immediately hopped onto another train-related action feature, albeit one with a faster pace and different setting. Hitting numerous budgetary and production hurdles early on, the project's status often changed daily due to demands for salary cuts and production cutbacks.
Despite the many issues, everything was sorted out and filming finally got away early this past Fall with only a brief derailment during the shoot causing any further delays. Will it be any good though? The script is by Mark Bomback who has written a few stinkers ("Deception," "Godsend," "Race to Witch Mountain") and one mediocre effort ("Live Free or Die Hard") so that doesn't hold out much hope. Said to be 'loosely inspired' by a real life runaway train story (not to mention countless novels and B-movies), the premise certainly sounds tedious.
Yet stripped down, high concept kinetic action is what Scott does best and he can work wonders if he nails the pacing and doesn't overdo it on the stylised visuals. The teaming of Pine and Washington is definitely an odd pairing, but the "Star Trek" hunk and the veteran star could make for a fun mentor/apprentice buddy team. A trailer, likely sometime in the early Summer, will give us the best clue as to whether this will work or not.
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Michael Sheen, Brandon Routh, Martin Donovan
Director: Gregor Jordan
Summary: Somewhere in the US, three nuclear weapons are about to detonate. Younger has hidden the devices and the authorities lead by FBI agent Brody with the help of "H", an interrogation specialist, must find them before time runs out. How far will they go to get the information?
Analysis: Originally showing such great promise with Heath Ledger-led "Two Hands" and the army-set black comedy "Buffalo Soldiers", Australian film director Gregor Jordan had far less success with his follow-up features. In fact last year's Bret Easton Ellis adaptation "The Informers" topped many a critic's list of 'Worst Films of the Year'.
Thus this $15 million suspense thriller stands at a crossroads, it could either cement the notion his best work is behind him, or prove a dynamic resurgence from an admittedly strong talent if the material is right. Jordan says that on the surface it might resemble a "Tom Clancy international thriller", but "it quickly turns into something else" and cites the script as one of the best he's ever read. We'll see.
Originally slated to be released through the now defunct Senator Distribution, the project went on the block at the AFM in November. Several international territories are set, but the film has yet to be picked up for US distribution inspite of the involvement of the likes of Sheen and Jackson.
Untitled Mike Leigh Project
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Philip Davis, David Bradley, Stuart McQuarrie
Director: Mike Leigh
Summary: Leigh will employ his unique improvisational techniques to construct an intimate portrait of people's lives.
Analysis: Coming off great success with 2008's "Happy-Go-Lucky", the steadfastly non-conformist British director has assembled some great acting veterans for this generally improvised relationship drama - most notably Broadbent and Davis who are each working with him for a fourth time. Very little is known about the £10 million project, not even the title, as Leigh generally keeps his films very private until their initial screening at one of the big film festivals in the Fall. It's wait and see for now.
Opens: February 12th 2010
Cast: Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Shirley MacLaine, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah
Director: Garry Marshall
Summary: A comedy about intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles who break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine's Day. As these ten people's lives intersect on the romantic holiday, things will never be the same again for any of them.
Analysis: After the success of the generally panned "He's Just Not That Into You" in February this year for New Line, the former studio turned Warner label realised it had found a hell of a niche and so raced into production on 'Day' in the hopes of having it out in time for the titular holiday weekend.
While not a direct sequel as such, it may as well be as the formula is almost a carbon copy, just with some extra padding this time around. 'You' scribes Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn penned the film's story which "Army Wives" creator Katherine Fugate polished. 'You' director Ken Kwapis ("License to Wed," "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") has been upgraded to Garry Marshall ("The Princess Diaries," "Runaway Bride").
The ensemble is even more star powered than before with almost every major Hollywood female talent (and quite a few famous male ones too) who didn't appear in 'You' turning up here, alongside man of the moment Bradley Cooper who stars in both films - albeit this time playing a gay man who gets it on with McSteamy from "Grey's Anatomy". The story revolves around the romantic holiday but otherwise is pretty much the same standalone subplots that occasionally cross over formula, which means some will prove decent while others will simply drag.
These kinds of films adore reinforcing the idea that all couples are flawlessly happy and all singles are desperately lonely train wrecks, something made all the more unbelievable here as Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba are portrayed as desperate loners. As this is a film targeted entirely at women it sends a message almost every bit as bad as the "Twilight" films that they are nothing without a man. Nevertheless the formula works for the Carrie Bradshaw-wannabes of this world and you can't really blame them seeing as little to no other films that really cater to them for the rest of the month.
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Gary Lewis, Jamie Sives, Ewan Stewart, Alexander Morton
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Summary: With the help of a young boy, a mute warrior escapes imprisonment by a cruel chieftain and together they board a Viking vessel for Norway. Their dark journey takes them through a sinister fog an undiscovered dark land which will lead to the warrior discovering his true self.
Analysis: "Pusher" film series writer/director Nicholas Winding Refn scored a lot of new fans with his Brit indie biopic hit "Bronson" last year. That film however was just a side project made during production on this long-awaited viking opus from the Danish helmer. Sadly for him, festival screenings of 'Valhalla' have yielded very mixed reviews - mostly for its underdeveloped screenplay.
Vividly shot and richly atmospheric thanks to some stunning location shooting in the Scottish Highlands, the visual and aesthetics of this historical tale were highly praised but the slow and deliberate pacing were not. The film's eerie beauty is apparently let down by a weak story, poor characterisation and tin-eared dialogue - only the initial act and odd moments of violence offering any real glimpse of life.
Those going in expecting either the same kind of energy as "Bronson" or the more brutish action spectacle of viking movies past will leave quite disappointed. Those however seeking something more arthouse and deliberate may find rewards in this that will skip most by. Expect a disappointing theatrical run followed by a healthy cult audience reception on DVD and Blu-ray later in the year.
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