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The Notable Films of 2010: Part Eleven

By Garth Franklin Wednesday January 13th 2010 08:51AM

One month, 280 films and 70,000 words later, my guide to the films of 2010 is now complete. I hope you've enjoyed reading it all - it's been utterly exhausting but an ultimately rewarding venture I've been single-handedly pulling together since early December. If you have liked it, my only request is that you help spread the word about it now that it's all done.

If you're a fellow blogger or site owner, please give it a plug on your site. If you're a reader, give it a mention on Facebook, Twitter or other online places you might venture. A lot of effort went into this, the greatest reward so far has been seeing it talked about and hearing your reactions. I'm glad many of you have gotten a lot of use out of the previous pages, so I hope you enjoy this final part:

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Vincere
Opens: 2010
Cast: Filippo Timi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Corrado Invernizzi, Fausto Russo Alesi
Director: Marco Bellocchio

Summary: Chronicles the secret marriage of Mussolini to Ida Dalser, a woman whom Il Duce met when he was a rising star in the Socialist movement. After giving up all her life and bearing him a son, she discovers he already has another family and will do anything to keep her away from them.

Analysis: Veteran Italian filmmaker's Marco Bellocchio most internationally accessible and commercial feature to date, even if the tragic story of Mussolini's first wife is little known beyond the shores of The Apennine. One of the big contenders for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year alongside "A Prophet" and eventual winner "The White Ribbon", reviews from the Croisette and festivals throughout the second half of 2009 were all raves.

The film may not be the deepest or richest work of the auteur, but many reactions called it a potent and emotionally rousing study of the injustice suffered by the well-intentioned Dalser who too blindly carried a torch for her love even as he became one of history's most ruthless and bloodthirsty dictators. Considering the atrocities to life and liberty committed under Il Duce's reign, Western audiences will be less likely to empathise with a woman so devoted to a monster - then again, look at the box-office of "New Moon".

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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Opens: April 23rd 2010
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Carey Mulligan
Director: Oliver Stone

Summary: June 2008 and the global economy sits on the brink of disaster. A young Wall Street trader partners with his future father-in-law, disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko, to find out who was responsible for the death of his mentor.

Analysis: The follow-up to Oliver Stone's famed Oscar-winning 1987 effort "Wall Street" marks the director's first sequel and the return of Michael Douglas' single most famous character Gordon Gekko. Rather than the villain of the piece like the first film, Gekko here is more of an anti-hero and a Cassandra-like figure warning the world of disaster but essentially being ignored by everyone around him.

Originally conceived long before the global economic downturn began to really hit in the second half of 2008, the project had little interest until the recession when it took on a whole new level of importance. Allan Loeb ("21," "Things We Lost in the Fire"), who also happens to be a licensed stock broker, was hired to pen the script in late 2008 and his first draft enthused Stone enough that he officially signed to direct last April.

Both Loeb and Stone had extensive meetings about the financial crisis with economic professors, hedge fund managers and senior banking officials to gather research on the project. Due to its prominent involvement with events surrounding the Stock Market Crash, New York's Federal Reserve Bank became a key setting for the film rather than New York Stock Exchange where much of the first film was set.

Javier Bardem was the original favourite for the villain though was later replaced by Josh Brolin who had to lose 30 pounds in a month to prepare for his role. Charlie Sheen, Chuck Pfeiffer and Sylvia Miles are expected to reprise their roles from the original film in cameo appearances.

The concern here is that film production takes time, this one itself hit several delays. Despite onscreen events taking place in mid-2008 and filming taking place in late 2009, facts could emerge in the interim that might undermine the film's relevance before it hits theatres. Also the more recent efforts of Stone ("W.," "Alexander," "World Trade Center") have met with mixed reaction, will this continue that trend?

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The Warlords
Opens: April 2nd 2010
Cast: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu Jinglei
Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan

Summary: During the Taiping Rebellion of the 1860s, General Pang barely survives a brutal massacre. He soon becomes a blood brother with the two leaders of a band of bandits - an oath that falls apart when the trio are caught up in a web of political deceit, and a love triangle with a courtesan.

Analysis: Scoring big wins at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards, this 2007 Chinese/Hong Kong war epic is finally getting a States-side release several years on. Loosely influenced by Chang Cheh's 1973 film "The Blood Brothers" and the real-life 1870 assassination of a region governor, the US$40 million film was shot in Beijing and Shanghai in early 2007.

Li's large $15 million salary was apparently justified by ensuring the film scored a global distribution, which it did in late 2008 across several international territories. Peter Chan, who rose to fame directing romance films, took on the project in an effort to make a film centered on men's affection along the lines of John Woo's "A Better Tomorrow". Reviews both in Asia and from Asian film fans were strong, amongst more general critics however it was mixed with complaints about the cumbersome length and uninvolving story. Almost all praised Jet Li's dramatic chops as easily the best of the three stars.

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Warrior
Opens: September 17th 2010
Cast: Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison
Director: Gavin O'Connor

Summary: A mixed-martial-arts saga about two estranged brothers on a collision course to fight in a tournament for the heavyweight championship.

Analysis: His last film, 2008's family cop drama "Pride and Glory", suffered major delays and problems with its distributor. This time out though director Gavin O'Connor hasn't had such issues with this $30 million mixed martial arts action drama which Lionsgate is opening in the early Fall. Shot in Pittsburgh, the main draw here is "Bronson" star Tom Hardy who is proving himself one of the strongest upcoming talents out there to watch.

The rest of the cast (Nolte, Edgerton) are fine but depend upon the material which O'Connor will likely treat with a proper dramatic tone. There's a good chance this might work as mixed martial arts dramas have general been poor affairs on-screen thus far. With efforts ranging from David Mamet's decent "Redbelt" to the utterly ridiculous "Never Back Down", this may just be the kick in the pants the genre needs.

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Waska
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jeremy Piven, Lynn Collins, Thomas Dekker, Kate Walsh, Mira Sorvino
Director: Gaby Dellal

Summary: The story follows a young father whose 3-year-old son freezes to death during a fishing trip. As a local prosecutor goes after him, townspeople like his ex-wife rage at him and others support him as he attempts to makes sense of what happened.

Analysis: An indie drama currently filming in Calgary, the main draw here is some notable TV talent - "Entourage" star Piven and "Private Practice" lead Walsh - teaming for this adaptation of Leslie Schwartz's novel "Angel's Crest". Joined by a strong supporting cast (Dekker, Collins, McGovern), the project comes from director Gaby Dellal whose 2005 indie "On a Clear Day" was a charming little British flick. Here the storyline sounds more dramatic, albeit Lifetime TV movie in tone, but it does take Piven out of his comfort zone of comedy which should be worth a look.

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The Way Back
Opens: 2010
Cast: Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong, Saoirse Ronan
Director: Peter Weir

Summary: When they escape a Siberian labor camp in 1940, seven courageous multi-national prisoners discover the true meaning of friendship as their epic journey takes them across thousands of miles of hostile terrain en-route to India and their freedom.

Analysis: Australian filmmakers are like Hollywood filmmakers - there's a distinct variation of style. If you want gaudy and cheesy spectacle go to Baz Luhrmann. Intelligent action thrillers or period dramas with strong performances and subtext, get Phil Noyce or Bruce Beresford. Wide-appealing genre action or family comedy is tailor made for George Miller. One filmmaker though embodies epic, classy historical drama like no other. A man with a near flawless track record of not just great Australian films but international cinematic masterpieces. That man is Peter Weir.

"Picnic at Hanging Rock," "Gallipoli," "Witness," "Dead Poets Society," "The Truman Show," "Fearless," "Green Card," "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "The Mosquito Coast" amongst others all sit high in the hearts of serious film fans and critics. Even Weir's last film, 2003's potential franchise starter "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World", opened to great reviews and has only grown in estimation. These days 'Master' has found itself quite high on a lot of 'Best of the Decade' lists, and usually at the top of lists about film franchises that deserved sequels but didn't get them.

After seven long years Weir returns with this POW escapee drama based on Slavomir Rawicz's popular book "The Long Walk". The authenticity of the book itself has come into question in recent years due to facts confirming only some of the story while contradicting other elements. The story itself, whether it be true or not, has inspired many adventurers and has been critically acclaimed around the world. Essentially a road movie traversing Central Asia, Weir's almost unmatched skill for beautiful wide location photography will certainly make this one of the best looking films of the year.

Shot in Bulgaria, India and Morocco early in 2009, the cast is excellent and the first photos look great. Still no word on a more specific release plan as yet, a festival debut at either Cannes, Venice or Toronto may be on the cards and if so it will likely be one of the major events on offer. Hopefully it will finally give Weir a long overdue Oscar, an honor long deserved after numerous nominations over the past three decades.

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Welcome to the Rileys
Opens: 2010
Cast: Kristen Stewart, James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, David Jensen
Director: Jake Scott

Summary: Set in New Orleans, the story follows a couple driven apart by grief after losing their daughter. A troubled 16-year-old stripper becomes a pseudo-surrogate daughter for the pair, but she soon rebels against their misdirected affection.

Analysis: No matter their pedigree, some festival films are labeled by a single sentence, "Hounddog" was 'the Dakota Fanning rape movie' for example. Now, whether it likes it or not, 'Rileys' has become known as the 'Bella stripper movie' named after Stewart's "Twilight" character. It's understandable, the promise of Stewart getting some of her gear off will likely bring in an audience who otherwise wouldn't be caught dead seeing this kind of low-budget indie drama.

Despite plenty of music video experience, director Jake Scott's sole feature film credit is 1999's Brit highwayman cult effort "Plunkett and Macleane" which has generally disappeared off the radar in ensuing years. Ken Hixon's script has scored solid reviews, especially for the character dynamics between the father and stripper, but has been criticised for a somewhat too tidy last act. Five screenings at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival for the film, where it is in competition, have all sold out which is certainly a good sign for its profitability if not for its critical prospects.

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What's Wrong With Virginia
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Emma Roberts, Amy Madigan, Paul Walter Hauser
Director: Dustin Lance Black

Summary: A sheriff sees his state senate bid slide out onto the ice when his daughter begins to date the son of a charming but psychologically disturbed woman with whom the sheriff has engaged in a two-decades-long affair.

Analysis: Dustin Lance Black's first effort since winning the Oscar for his "Milk" script, the project is also drawing headlines as being a possible last pre-hiatus effort from actress Jennifer Connelly who apparently wants to focus on her family for the next few years. She will certainly be going out with a familiar face, the project marks the fourth time she and Ed Harris have teamed together. Harris replaced Liam Neeson who left due to scheduling difficulties. Shot over six weeks late last year, it's expected this will get a limited run sometime late in 2010 after a festival debut.

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When in Rome
Opens: January 29th 2010
Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Alexis Dziena, Jon Heder
Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Summary: A young New Yorker, disillusioned with romance, plucks magic coins from a "foolish" fountain of love while visiting Rome and inexplicably ignites the passion of an odd group of suitors: a sausage magnate, a street magician, an adoring painter, a self-admiring model and a charming reporter.

Analysis: Having not had much success with his comic book adaptations "Ghost Rider" and "Daredevil", Mark Steven Johnson tries out romantic comedy with this loose remake of 1954's "Three Coins in the Fountain". The Rome-shot locations and a great supporting cast including Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Lee Pace and many more definitely offer at least something in the way of a nice distraction from very atypical Hollywood rom-com hijinks. The Bell/Duhamel pairing though, sorry I just don't buy it. Formula nonsense that should appeal to the usual market.

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The Whistleblower
Opens: 2010
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci, Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn, Luke Treadaway
Director: Larysa Kondracki

Summary: A drama based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper and uncovered a sex scandal surrounding American contractors and crooked United Nation types in postwar Bosnia.

Analysis: Scoring awards and strong reviews for her short "Viko" about a young Slavic boy's induction into a sex-trafficking ring, Larysa Kondracki directs this Budapest-shot political drama for HBO Films. With Weisz onboard to star, the aim will likely be something along "The Constant Gardener" lines but with true story aspects and an even grittier and more hard-hitting approach to its material.

Shot late last year, the film's subject matter - a potential cover-up of UN peacekeepers involved in sex-trafficking without fear of prosecution - will incite a lot of debate, which in fact can only help the film's publicity. For Weisz it could mean another potential Oscar nomination come year's end if the material is handled right.

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Wild Grass
Opens: 2010
Cast: Sabine Azema, Andre Dussollier, Anne Consigny, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric
Director: Alain Resnais

Summary: Marguerite hadn't planned for her handbag to be stolen when she walked out of a shop. As for Georges, if he could have suspected what would happen, he would never have bent down to pick the contents up.

Analysis: French New Wave veteran Alain Resnais ("Private Fears in Public Places") helms this old-fashioned idiosyncratic romantic fantasy about indecisive people whose hesitancy is their biggest obstacle to finding happiness. Reviews out of various film festivals last year have been mixed despite the talent in front of and behind the camera. Mathieu Amalric's work as a desk cop scored notices for its humanism, but otherwise Resnais goes confidently off on his own increasingly bizarre tangents which arthouse fans will adore but will alienate those not familiar with his work.

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The Winning Season
Opens: 2010
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts, Rob Corddry, Shareeka Epps, Emily Rios
Director: James C. Strouse

Summary: An alcoholic ex-basketball star, who is currently occupied busing tables, is handed the reins of a girl's varsity team by the school's principal. What ensues is tempestuous and trying for all concerned.

Analysis: The third effort from "Lonesome Jim" and "Grace is Gone" director James C. Strouse, 'Season' premiered at last year's Sundance to good reviews and inevitable comparisons to "The Bad News Bears". An old-fashioned underdog sports comedy steeped in a more serious tone, Strouse's focus is on the characters rather than the sport with Rockwell's misanthropic coach proving a fun turn for the actor. The comedy however may be too slight for mainstream audiences who like their sports comedies with big, broad and brassy laughs instead of the subtler character work on display here.

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Winter's Bone
Opens: 2010
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Kevin Breznahan, Isaiah Stone
Director: Debra Granik

Summary: An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Analysis: Debra Granik ("Down to the Bone") returns to the Sundance Film Festival this month with this coming of age drama that's in competition. The premise has some oddly compelling thriller aspects to it, from lying relatives to high stakes, while the cast of relative unknowns should make the drama more compelling. One of the least talked about entries at Sundance, this could well surprise and prove a big winner with the critics. Audiences though is another matter as Granik's 'Bone' in 2004 didn't fly beyond arthouse circles.

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The Wolfman
Opens: February 12th 2010
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston

Summary: A haunted nobleman is lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father, he soon discovers a horrifying destiny for himself - that when the moon is full he becomes a vicious creature in the woods surrounding the village.

Analysis: Delays of well over a year, crew changes galore during production, reshoots, dodgy visual effects, and a tone that was still undecided throughout post-production. Whatever the eventual result on screen, nothing can compare to the behind-the-scenes problems with Universal's $85 million remake of the classic 1941 Lon Chaney monster movie.

Early on everything seemed to go fine. Benicio Del Toro signed on right from the start while "One Hour Photo" helmer Mark Romanek became attached in early 2007 and spent nearly a year with the project, developing it for a planned shoot in late 2007. Then the delays started. Romanek dropped out due to 'creative differences' with several names from Frank Darabont and Bill Condon to Brett Ratner and Martin Campbell expressing interest before Joe Johnston ("Jurassic Park III," "Hidalgo") finally came onboard. David Self was hired to re-write Andrew Kevin Walker's script

Filming got underway in the second-quarter of 2008 in the UK and according to reports things actually went well. Makeup guru Rick Baker helped create the wolf designs with del Toro who endured three hours of make-up daily for his scenes as the beast. Baker however was vocally upset that the transformation scenes from man-to-beast would be entirely computer animated and thus wouldn't be as realistic had some practical elements been involved as well.

A presentation at Comic Con in 2008 showed some impressive old school style horror footage which sadly didn't go over as well as the studio hoped with the crowd and other web critics I talked to. Release date delays ensued with the film pushed back to late 2009. It was May last year however that things changed again as Dark Horizons first broke word from legendary stunt director Vic Armstrong that reshoots were underway in the UK which were to incorporate more computer-animated wolf action into the film.

How extensive those reshoots were to this day remain a mystery as the official and unofficial reports notably differ. The film was delayed again to February 2010. A first trailer came out to modest reaction, causing a second more rock-heavy preview to quickly get pushed out and scored a better response. Mark Goldblatt and Walter Murch were hired to re-edit the film after the original cut didn't go well, talk stirred up of two alternate cuts (a PG-13 and an R) which the studio denied. Composer Danny Elfman left the film, replaced by Tangerine Dream's Paul Haslinger.

Even now with a month to go, no-one seems quite sure what the end product will be. Universal has proudly publicised the film's R-rating for violence and gore, something that seems like pandering to the torture porn crowd considering the Universal Monsters were always much more about atmosphere than splatter. The casting is fine, Weaving in particular looks pitch perfect with his mutton chops, but every day this sounds more and more like a 'what could've been' project. What initially set out to be a rich, classy throwback to a once great genre may have become a cheap, CG effects-heavy, gory bit of nonsense. I truly hope I'm wrong and what's there will surprise everyone, but we won't know until the first reviews start popping up towards the end of the month.

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Womb
Opens: 2010
Cast: Eva Green, Matt Smith, Lesley Manville, Peter Wight, Hannah Murray
Director: Benedek Fliegauf

Summary: Reunited childhood sweethearts Rebecca and Thomas pick up where they left off, that is until he dies in a car accident. The distraught Rebecca finds solace in plans to give birth to a clone of Thomas who grows up believing his father died. Then a woman whom Thomas had been seeing before Rebecca returned finds out about his clone.

Analysis: Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf's first English-language feature is this intriguing concept which explores the emotional and societal reaction to the resurrection of a dead love one - a possibility not that far off. Whereas human cloning is generally wrapped up in science fiction escapism, this one avoids the genre cliches as much possible and keeps the focus entirely on the human element. The filmmaker's previous films have a hypnotic, dreamlike quality to them but this is expected to follow a more traditional narrative.

Shot along Germany's North Coast early last year, genre fans will be pulled in by the casting of the most memorable Bond girl of the last decade (Green) and the latest incarnation of The Doctor from "Doctor Who" (Smith). Both have proven themselves intriguing actors in their own right, so the pairing should make for a potent mix. The trailer is artistic and dreamy, not to mention some nice skinny dipping scenes with a surprisingly perky ass for a Time Lord on display.

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Wonderful World
Opens: January 8th 2010
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Sanaa Lathan, Jodelle Ferland, Philip Baker Hall
Director: Josh Goldin

Summary: A failed children's folk singer and pothead is also the most negative man alive. When his Senegalese roommate is suddenly struck ill, Ben's pessimistic worldview seems unequivocally confirmed. His only recourse is to pour his energies into a frivolous lawsuit against the city for depraved indifference and he soon finds that cynicism may be all a matter of perspective.

Analysis: Opening this past Friday to generally mixed or negative reviews and a miserable $1,146 per screen average in limited release, Magnolia essentially dumped this Louisiana-shot tale of a cynic finding his inner optimist. The script was dismissed as trite and cliched, a kind of lesser version of 2008's Oscar-nominated effort "The Visitor". Performances however were generally good, the cast credited for improving on what little material they had. Will disappear from many's memory by the end of the month.

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The Yellow Handkerchief
Opens: February 12th 2010
Cast: William Hurt, Maria Bello, Kristen Stewart, Eddie Redmayne
Director: Udayan Prasad

Summary: A man dealing with a painful past crosses paths with a troubled teenager and her new 'ride'. The trio embark on a road trip through post Katrina Louisiana, each motivated by their own reasons. Along the way, relationships forge and change in a myriad of ways, leading to the possibility of second chances at life and love.

Analysis: Finally getting a theatrical release in the US next month, this $15 million indie road movie remakes the Japanese 1977 original and transports the setting to post-Katrina Louisiana. Playing festivals in 2008 and released in several international territories last year, reviews were generally good with performances from William Hurt and Eddie Redmayne in particular scoring good notices.

Indian helmer Udayan Prasad ("Opa!," "Gabriel and Me") directs the film which is very much an indie arthouse work - little in the way of plot, long poignant moments and plenty of time spent just letting the actors play out scenes as their apparently quite fleshed out characters. The drawn out tone and glacial pacing scored the most criticism and will likely keep most mainstream audiences away. Sounds like a DVD rental for a lazy afternoon.

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Yogi Bear
Opens: December 17th 2010
Cast: Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris, Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Andy Daly
Director: Eric Brevig

Summary: Jellystone Park has been losing business, so greedy Mayor Brown decides to shut it down and sell the land. With Yogi and Boo Boo threatened to be tossed out of the only home they know, they join forces with their old nemesis Ranger Smith to find a way to save Jellystone Park

Analysis: A 3-D live-action/CGI film adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera series which, much like "Garfield" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks", will mix computer-generated animal characters with humans. It's a mix that often works - the films all cost an economical $60-70 million to make, and even the worst ones generate at least 2-3 times that in box-office revenue alone thanks to brand name recognition and being toddler-friendly.

In the mid-December release slot, Fox's 'Alvin' films have truly hit gold with both hauling in well over $300 million worldwide each. It comes as no surprise then that Warners is moving this film into the same slot at the end of this year. Though Oscar-winning animation director Ash Brannon was originally scheduled to helm, he was replaced by Eric Brevig ("Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D") when the project became 3D. Shooting is currently underway in my neighbouring country of New Zealand and word is it's all going quite well.

Anna Faris and Justin Timberlake are the most interesting names on the cast list, the former proving an adept comedy star in recent years and here she plays a nature-documentary filmmaker and potential love interest for Ranger Smith. The latter is Boo-Boo, Yogi's short companion bear who's always with him. Timberlake has also shown a knack for comedy with his various SNL appearances, how he'll do here though is anyone's guess. Have to admit that Boo-Boo is hard to take seriously anymore after his brilliant skewering on "Harvey Birdman" which painted him as a mad bomber.

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You Again
Opens: September 24th 2010
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kristin Chenoweth
Director: Andy Fickman

Summary: Marni is a successful PR woman who heads home for her older brother's wedding and discovers that he's marrying her high school arch nemesis. Then the bride's jet-setting aunt bursts in and Marni's mother comes face to face with her own high school rival - the claws come out.

Analysis: The premise is fine, director Andy Fickman's previous films include "She's the Man" and "Race to Witch Mountain" which made money despite being disappointing, while the biggest credit to date between the two writers is an episode of "Jake 2.0". On pure material alone one wonders why in the world did Disney bother? The answer is simple - the cast. Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman will pull in the young guys, but the story here is some great female acting veterans with a good knack for comedy teaming for cat fights extraordinaire.

Specifically Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver appearing together as ex high school rivals has many excited. Throw in support from Kristin Chenoweth, Betty White and Victor Garber and you've pretty much got every gay man in the world joining their female friends to see it along with the older female demographic who would otherwise avoid formulaic rom-coms. As it's a Disney picture, I just hope the edge of the comedy won't be too toned down.

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You May Not Kiss the Bride
Opens: 2010
Cast: Dave Annable, Katharine McPhee, Vinnie Jones, Mena Suvari, Ken Davitian
Director: Rob Hedden

Summary: A pet photographer gets mixed up with a mobster and his daughter, who is angling for American citizenship. Things go terribly awry on their forced honeymoon.

Analysis: One of those projects that looks made for DVD rental so you're not quite sure how it's getting a theatrical release. "Brothers and Sisters" nice guy Dave Annable and singer Katharine McPhee are the romantic couple here, pleasant if bland choices who will depend greatly upon the strength of the material. The general premise seems fine, but as more details are coming out the less appealing it is sounding.

Mena Suvari, Vinnie Jones and the still lovely Tia Carrere in supporting roles combined with the Hawaiian photography should make this visually a notch above your average LA-set rom-com. The big surprise is that the director is Rob Hedden, an odd choice best known for writing actioneers like "The Condemned" and "Clockstoppers", while his biggest directing credit was "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" twenty years ago. Jason Voorhees Goes Tropical? That's a movie I'd pay to see.

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Young Americans
Opens: 2010
Cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Michael Ian Black
Director: Michael Dowse

Summary: Follows an aimless college grad who pursues his dream girl at a wild Labor Day weekend party. He, his twin sister and their best friend struggle with their burgeoning adulthood over the course of the night.

Analysis: Hollywood is always looking into old properties to find material to adapt to the big screen, but a song from the 70's? Admittedly you could do a lot worse than the Thin White Duke himself. Still that song in particular dealt with the likes of the Watergate Scandal whereas this film is one of those 80's retro coming of age comedies from the guys who did "That '70s Show". Sitcom style laughs and nostalgia trips ensue no doubt.

The release of this film however is an utter mess, despite the backing of a major distributor (Universal). Shot in early 2007 and previously titled "Kids in America", the project has sat on a shelf for several years and no-one is quite sure when the hell this is coming out. There's talk of a theatrical in the first half of the year (some schedules still have it listed for last Friday), but even then it's going to be a quick and quiet release that's probably only going theatrical to appease a contract. You want a great piece of entertainment with a Bowie song for a title? Try the original UK "Life on Mars".

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You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Opens: 2010
Cast: Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto
Director: Woody Allen

Summary: The film revolves around different members of a family, their tangled love lives and their attempts to try to solve their problems.

Analysis: If there's one thing you can give Woody Allen credit for, it's his consistency. Since 1988's "Another Woman", the man has directed a feature film each and every year even as the quality has varied considerably. Still riding high on his biggest successes of the past decade, "Match Point" in 2005 and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" in 2008, he returns with his fourth London-set project following on from 'Match' and disappointments "Scoop" and "Cassandra's Dream".

The first of a three-picture deal he signed with Mediapro in the wake of the success of 'Vicky', what's exciting here is that he's assembled a hell of a cast, even by Allen's standards. Watts, Hopkins, Brolin, Banderas amongst others should ensure a healthy interest amongst casual cinemagoers who rarely turn out for one of his films. There was a brief ruckus when Nicole Kidman was cast in the lead role and dropped out, she was eventually replaced by rising British actress Lucy Punch.

The storyline details are being kept under wraps as per usual, so the tone here (comedy/drama/thriller) is hard to say even though it apparently deals with an affair. Allen's last film, "Whatever Works", scored mixed reviews and a mere $21 million in box-office - it'll be a shock if this doesn't improve on that.

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Your Highness
Opens: October 1st 2010
Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux
Director: David Gordon Green

Summary: In a fantastical world of knights and dragons, the king sends the heroic prince Fabious and his slovenly brother Thadeous on a quest to rescue the prince's fiancee from an evil wizard. Along with an elusive female warrior, Thadeous must find his inner hero.

Analysis: "Pineapple Express" director David Gordon Green and co-stars James Franco and Danny McBride re-team for this fantasy comedy mixing stoner humor and dragon fighting with the standard familial black sheep theme. Period comedy is a tricky thing, the humor has to work for a contemporary audience despite the strange setting and costumes. In the right hands you get something like the brilliant "Blackadder" or "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" which both still work superbly. In the wrong hands though we get "Year One", a film that despite a few strong key talents just stank to high heaven.

Unlike some of his other contemporaries though, Green's track record is solid and has only improved so far - so the chances of this being at least good are high. Here he's kept the comedy essentially in-house using a script by Danny McBride and Ben Best, the trio having worked together on numerous episodes of HBO's "Eastbound & Down". Shot in the early Fall in Ireland and armed with a strong supporting cast, expect this to be one of the few shining lights in the otherwise usually pretty dull month of October.

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Youth in Revolt
Opens: January 8th 2010
Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Justin Long
Director: Miguel Arteta

Summary: An affable teen with a taste for the finer things in life falls in love with a free-spirited girl on vacation. As family, geography and jealous ex-lovers conspire to keep these two apart, he develops a rebellious alter ego who will stop at nothing to be with her.

Analysis: Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival to good but not great reviews, 'Youth' found itself quickly pushed back from a planned Halloween release by the Weinsteins to the dumping ground of the first weekend of January. The $18 million comedy from Miguel Arteta, his first film since 2002's "The Good Girl", scored similar good albeit slightly tepid reviews from critics and a ninth place opening weekend the other day which came in at a disappointing but hardly disastrous $7 million.

Performances and the comedy of the piece were generally given the thumbs up, but its expected that this will quickly disappear from memory in a few weeks without much impact (good or bad) on anyone involved. As this was an adaptation of the first of C.D. Payne's three novels about Nick Twisp, the filmmakers were probably hoping for a potential trilogy. That ain't gonna happen.

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The Zookeeper
Opens: October 8th 2010
Cast: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Adam Sandler, Cher, Jon Favreau
Director: Frank Coraci

Summary: A kind-hearted zookeeper is convinced the only way to get a girl in his life is to quit his job. The zoo animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honored rule of not talking to humans and teach Griffin the ways of the wild so he can stay at the zoo.

Analysis: Coming off the surprise success of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", the heavily panned low-brow comedy which went on to post a $146 million domestic gross, Kevin James returns with this even more odious looking escapade. On premise alone this sounds like it could sit alongside the Brendan Fraser-led "Furry Vengeance" on many 'Worst Films of 2010' lists. However with celebrities galore voicing the animals and Scot Armstrong ("Old School," "Road Trip") co-writing the screenplay, maybe there's a glimmer of hope. Oh who am I kidding, expect scathing reviews and fat box-office.

The Complete Notable Films of 2010 Guide

Part One: 13, 44 Inch Chest, The A-Team, Abel, The Adjustment Bureau, After.Life, Agora, Alice in Wonderland, Alpha and Omega 3D, The American, And Soon the Darkness, Animal Kingdom, Area 51, The Back-Up Plan, The Baster, Beastly, The Beaver, Bitch Slap, Biutiful, Black Death, Black Swan, Blitz, Blue Valentine, The Book of Eli, Born to Be A Star, The Bounty Hunter

Part Two: Bran Nue Dae, Breaking Upwards, Brighton Rock, Brooklyn's Finest, Buried, Burlesque, Carlos the Jackal, Case 39, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Cemetery Junction, Centurion, Chloe, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Clash of the Titans, The Company Men, Confucius, The Conspirator, Cop Out, Cracks, The Crazies, Crazy on the Outside, Creation, Cyrus, Date Night, Daybreakers

Part Three: Dear John, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, Death at a Funeral, The Debt, The Descent: Part II, Despicable Me, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dinner for Schmucks, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, District 13 Ultimatum, Don McKay, Dorian Gray, The Dry Land, Due Date, The Eagle of the Ninth, Easy A, Eat Pray Love, Edge of Darkness, Enter the Void, The Exam, The Expendables, The Experiment, The Extra Man, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Extraordinary Measures

Part Four: Fair Game, The Fighter, The First Gun, Fish Tank, Flipped, From Paris with Love, Frozen, Furry Vengeance, Georgia, Get Low, Get Me to the Gig, The Ghost Writer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Glorious 39, Going the Distance, The Good Guy, The Greatest, Greenberg, The Green Hornet, Green Zone, Grown Ups, Guardians of Ga'Hoole 3D, Gulliver's Travels, Happy Tears, Harry Brown

Part Five: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Heartless, Henry's Crime, Hereafter, Hesher, High School, Hippie Hippie Shake, Holy Rollers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Howl, How to Train Your Dragon, The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, I Am Love, I Love You Phillip Morris, Inception, The Irishman, Ironclad, Iron Man 2, It's Kind of a Funny Story, It's A Wonderful Afterlife, Jackass 3D, Jack Goes Boating, John Rabe, Jonah Hex, The Joneses, The Karate Kid

Part Six: Kick Ass, The Kids Are All Right, The Killer Inside Me, Killers, The King's Speech, Knight and Day, The Last Airbender, The Last Song, The Last Word, Leap Year, Legion, Let Me In, Letters to Juliet, Life as We Know It, Life During Wartime, Little Fockers, London Boulevard, The Losers, The Lottery Ticket, Love and Other Drugs, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Love Ranch, MacGruber, Machete, Main Street

Part Seven: Marmaduke, The Mechanic, Megamind, Micmacs, Middle Men, Morning Glory, Mother, Mother's Day, Mother and Child, Mr. Nobody, Multiple Sarcasms, My Own Love Song, My Soul to Take, Nailed, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Never Let Me Go, The Next Three Days, A Nightmare on Elm Street, North Face, Nowhere Boy, Oceans, Once Fallen, Ondine, The Other Guys, Our Family Wedding, Paul

Part Eight: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, Perrier's Bounty, Piranha 3-D, Please Give, Predators, Priest, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, A Prophet, Rabbit Hole, Ramona and Beezus, Rapunzel, Red, Red Dawn, Red Riding, Red Tails, Remember Me, Repo Men, The Resident, Robin Hood, The Romantics, The Roommate, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, The Rum Diary, The Runaways, Saint John of Las Vegas

Part Nine: Salt, Sanctum, Saw VII 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Season of the Witch, Secretariat, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Sex and the City 2, Shanghai, Shelter, She's Out of My League, Shrek Forever After, Shutter Island, Skateland, The Social Network, Solitary Man, Solomon Kane, Somewhere, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Special Relationship, Splice, The Spy Next Door, The Square, Stay Cool, Step Up 3D, Stone

Part Ten: St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, Sympathy for Delicious, Takers, Tamara Drewe, Tell Me, The Tempest, Three Backyards, Toe to Toe, The Tooth Fairy, The Town, To Save a Life, Toy Story 3, The Tree of Life, Triage, Tron: Legacy, True Legend, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Twelve, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too, Unstoppable, Unthinkable, Untitled Mike Leigh Project, Valentine's Day, Valhalla Rising

Part Eleven: Vincere, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Warlords, Warrior, Waska, The Way Back, Welcome to the Rileys, What's Wrong With Virginia, When in Rome, The Whistleblower, Wild Grass, The Winning Season, Winter's Bone, The Wolfman, Womb, Wonderful World, The Yellow Handkerchief, Yogi Bear, You Again, You May Not Kiss the Bride, Young Americans, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Your Highness, Youth in Revolt, The Zookeeper

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