I Am Number Four
Opens: February 18th 2011
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand, Teresa Palmer
Director: D.J. Caruso
Summary: Nine infant aliens flee their home planet to hide out on Earth. The species that destroyed their planet however has followed them and sets out to hunt them down. As the infants grow into teenagers with special powers, three of them are killed. A fourth has fallen in love and now has something to stand up and fight for.
Analysis: In premise and look, this sounds like a big budget and more action-oriented reboot of late sci-fi teen drama "Roswell". Though based on a young adult novel series, it was another title in this category that was the impetus for this adaptation - Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series. Any novels with a focus on teen romance and an other worldly touch are presently being bought up right and left in the hopes of becoming the next great cash spinner. Most will crash and burn along the way.
This one however is being sanctioned by the two big names behind the "Transformers" franchise, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg, who are both producing through the restructured DreamWorks. Bay himself was originally attached to possibly direct the project, but the job ultimately landed in the hands of D.J. Caruso whose thrillers "Disturbia" and "Eagle Eye" became solid earners for the company.
While "Smallville" creators Al Gough and Miles Millar along with "Buffy" scribe Marti Noxon adapted the script, Spielberg himself apparently contributed to the film's characters. The budget is said to fall into the sizeable $50-60 million range with a decent portion likely going on the visual effects from ILM, not to mention a solid supporting cast including "Glee" star Dianna Agron and "Justified" lead Timothy Olyphant. Twenty-year-old British actor Alex Pettyfer is the lead, though there may be some confusion as he also stars in the even more blatantly "Twilight"-esque "Beastly" opening a month later.
'Four' marks the first in a thirty-picture pact that Dreamworks signed with Disney's Touchstone Pictures label who plan to distribute their works. Thus it's not a huge shock that the box-office will be watched very closely to see how it performs. Despite Caruso's involvement and a marketing campaign designed to attract both genders, it's tough to see this appealing beyond the teenage market. The story is familiar, but very little in the trailer excites.
I Melt With You
Cast: Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, Christian McKay, Carla Gugino
Director: Mark Pellington
Summary: Four friends gather every year to celebrate their friendship. This year they are unexpectedly forced to confront a forgotten promise they made 25 years earlier. As they examine choices they've made, they realize that what they said they would do with their lives and what they have done are entirely different.
Analysis: On the surface, this indie film sounds like a modern-day take on "The Big Chill". However, a five-minute extended trailer shows something much more trippy as it uses split screen to simultaneously display beautiful coastal imagery with a dishevelled, unshaven Thomas Jane angrily emoting.
An interview with scribe Glenn Porter indicates the film looks at a group of men united in their disillusionment, a point many hit in their 30's-50's where "you wake up and realize that you've take a course in life and you'd do anything to hit the re-set button and do it again." It's an interesting topic to tackle, one that doesn't get spoken about a lot as men are generally tight-lipped when it comes to depression and regret.
"The Mothman Prophecies" and "Henry Poole Is Here" director Mark Pellington shot this over the Summer and is hastily getting ready to premiere it later this month at Sundance. How it will go down with the festival crowds, or more importantly with a larger audience, remains to be seen.
The Ides of March
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: George Clooney
Summary: An idealistic staffer for a U.S. presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.
Analysis: Perhaps the most obvious awards contender at the end of the year, George Clooney directs and co-adapted the script with his Smoke House producing partner Grant Heslov - essentially the same configuration behind 2005's acclaimed "Good Night and Good Luck". This time the basis is Beau Willimon's acclaimed play "Farragut North" which itself is loosely based on Howard Dean's 2004 Democratic Primary run.
According to reports, Sony wanted to keep the play's original title whereas Clooney insisted it be changed to the famous portent of Julius Caesar's death. Domestically Sony's argument makes sense as they want to cash in on the play's recognisable name. Outside the U.S. though, neither the play or the DC metro station which it's named after means anything. In fact it makes the project sound like some biopic about an Alaskan explorer and his huskies.
The casting is impeccable - along with Ryan Gosling as the staffer and Clooney as the candidate, there's Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and Max Minghella. Leonardo DiCaprio and Chris Pine both passed on offers for the lead, Pine himself having played the role on stage. Shooting doesn't kick off until February so it'll be a race to finish it in time for awards qualification. Sony and Smoke House plan to get this out in a limited release starting in December before expanding wide next January.
Opens: November 11th 2011
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, John Hurt
Director: Tarsem Singh
Summary: The power hungry King Hyperion is destroying all before him in his quest to possesses an artifact that can unleash the Titans, the race of beings imprisoned by the Olympian Gods deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros. As the Gods can not intervene in man's conflict, a young peasant is secretly chosen to save his people from Hyperion and his hordes.
Analysis: A few years ago, 2010 was shaping up to be the battle of ancient Greek epics with Warners $70 million "Clash of the Titans" remake and Relativity's $85 million "War of the Gods" set to duke it out. It was a race to the finishing line that 'Clash' quickly got the upper hand in when 'War' hit some major production delays. Changing its title from 'War' to "Immortals", the project didn't end up shooting until over a year after originally planned, in fact just after 'Clash' hit cinemas.
First in this race however doesn't always mean you win. Despite strong global box-office, 'Clash' was a critical fizzer and a decision to rush it through the 3D post-conversion process led to it becoming the poster child for how to do 3D badly. Even though Warners has greenlit a sequel, even those involved seem to realise how much of a dud the first one was and how it will have to seriously improve in its second outing.
"Immortals" meanwhile has calmly and quietly moved into place and could end up getting not just the financial rewards, but a smidgeon more of the critical respect that both 'Clash' and Zack Snyder's "300" failed to receive. It's helmed by Tarsem Singh who is one of the most striking visual directors working today and when given the right material, like 2006's "The Fall", he can make a great yarn.
Visually, Tarsem says the film will be "Caravaggio meets Fight Club. It's a really hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting style". Don't expect historical accuracy either, Tarsem floated the idea back in 2009 that the film will be partly contemporary - "Renaissance time with electricity" he calls it, much like the way Julie Taymor blended 30's-era technology into her ancient Rome-set film adaptation of "Titus Andronicus".
The lead is Henry Cavill, the rising British hunk famed for being one of the three finalists for James Bond in "Casino Royale". The other two were Daniel Craig of course, and 'Clash' lead Sam Worthington. Cavill's performance here has one advantage over Worthington's turn in 'Clash', he gets his shirt off and plenty. Sadly though, he also seems to be wearing pants (Sam was at least up for some 'up kilt camera' action).
The supporting cast includes a surprisingly young batch of Greek gods including "Tamara Drewe" piece of crumpet Luke Evans as Zeus, "Twilight" & Calvin Klein model Kellan Lutz as Poseidon, Aussie soap babe Isabel Lucas as Athena, and Corey Sevier as Apollo. Other roles consist more of seasoned veterans including Mickey Rourke, John Hurt and Stephen Dorff, while "Slumdog Millionaire" actress Freida Pinto is the female lead. Dorff recently claimed in an interview that "So much of that movie is going to be done in post-production" and so he has no idea what the final result will look like.
Though Cavill is playing Theseus, this is not an adaptation of that particular story with the labyrinth and the minotaur. Scribes Chris and Vlas Parlapanides claim the film will be an original piece that will interweave various story elements from Greek mythology against both the personal story of the main character, and the backdrop of the war between the Titans and the Olympian Gods - a setting many video gamers will be familiar with thanks to the "God of War" series.
Universal is scheduled to release the film mid-November, so we won't likely get a good glimpse at what the film will ultimately look like until a first trailer in the early Summer. I'd expect a big promotion at Comic Con in July as well.
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Gitte Julsrud, Marta Etura
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Summary: An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time - the tsunami that hit the coast of Thailand in 2004.
Analysis: Much of the same team behind 2007's impressive Spanish-language supernatural tale "The Orphanage" have returned for this English-language effort based around events related to the disaster that reeked havoc along the coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. In fact it's the same director, writer, production manager, cinematographer, composer and editor which gives us a good idea as to the look and feel of the film.
Shot in Alicante, Spain and on location in Thailand throughout much of the last half of 2010, Bayona describes the project as an "ambitious, high-quality European film" which will be "competitive on an international market". In terms of authenticity, many of the extras in the film are actual survivors of the tsunami.
McGregor's stand-in however got a little too comfortable and wrote a poem to the actor that halted production briefly as it was deemed a possible death threat. Though Warner Bros. Pictures will be handling distribution in certain countries, Summit Entertainment has scored the domestic rights and will be opening the film later in the year.
In A Better World
Cast: Mikael Persbrandt, Ulrich Thomsen, Trine Dyrholm, William Jøhnk Nielsen
Director: Susanne Bier
Summary: The lives of two Danish families cross each other, and an extraordinary but risky friendship begins to bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait.
Analysis: The Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year comes as little surprise considering it's the new effort from Susanne Bier. The filmmaker has managed to find cross over appeal outside of Europe thanks to her most recent films like the original "Brothers" and the Oscar nominated "After the Wedding". This film went out on offer at Cannes last year and was quickly picked up by distributors all over the world.
After her first attempt at a Hollywood picture, the little seen and somewhat disappointing "Things We Lost in the Fire", Bier has returned to Denmark and the realistic melodrama genre she knows best. A local trailer is tense, fast and exciting as it juxtaposes themes of violence and pacifism in both the father's medical work in rural Africa and the familial discord amidst the idyllic beauty of the Danish scenery.
Reviews have been superb across the board. While the plot machinations are somewhat more obvious than her slightly more subtle work in the past, Bier's robust direction and knack for getting strong performances out of her cast apparently helps gloss over a lot (but not all) of its contrivances. From the strong characterisation to some impressive stand-alone sequences, the only faults here seemingly lie in a slightly drawn out third act. No issue though as this will likely be one to watch out for.
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Summary: A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their lost father and the brother they never knew they had. The only way to find them is to dive into their mother's tangled past, a journey that will question their very idea of family.
Analysis: Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's acclaimed 2005 play "Scorched" and Canada's official Best Foreign Language Film entry for the Oscars, this premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews, calling it Quebec filmmaker Villeneuve's best work to date. The film's trailer is highly impressive, the sheer scope on offer makes you wonder how in the world this was a stage play as it's so cinematic.
Further investigation reveal the film itself has made some major changes to the play, cutting down some of his more extended monologues in favour of a stripped down investigative story of past secrets, terrorism and genocide in a Lebanon-esque fictional Middle Eastern country named Fuad.
The pace is slow which may keep the audience restricted to the art house crowd, but the performances are stellar and as an adaptation it stands strongly on its own. The only complaint seems to be a few minor plot holes towards the end not quite coming together. A must-see that'll probably rate highly on many best of lists next year.
Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle
Director: Ti West
Summary: After a century of business, the Yankee Pedlar Hotel is about to close its doors for good. The last remaining clerks are convinced that the hotel is haunted and are determined to prove it. Mysterious guests soon check in, while several strange occurrences begin to add up to a frightening conclusion.
Analysis: Most modern horror films rarely fare well with critics, though one exception recently was writer/director Ti West's 2009 effort "The House of the Devil" which is currently sitting at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. A throwback to the classic horror of the late 70's and early 80's, the film was not only set in but shot in a way that resembles films of that period. As you can see by the trailer, the illusion is astonishingly authentic.
It was certainly enough to catch the attention of horror buffs and critics alike who are now keenly awaiting his next feature, this ghost story about a soon to close Connecticut hotel and the clerks who think it's haunted. West says that the hotel is the one he and his crew used while shooting "The House of the Devil" and so the storyline will be informed by a lot of his experiences there.
Though there'll be a few jokes, 'Innkeepers' aims to be both more commercial and scarier than 'House' was. It's more dialogue driven as this follows a group of people throughout, but his style of slow-build suspense and genuine scares rather than quick cutting or gory interludes will remain. One bit of casting that has me excited is 80's babe Kelly McGillis as a former TV actress turned psychic. A release is expected sometime in the first half of the year.
Opens: April 1st 2011
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor
Director: James Wan
Summary: A young family discovers that the body of their comatose boy has become a magnet for malevolent entities, while the boy's mind is trapped in a dark and insidious realm known as The Further.
Analysis: The duo behind the original first "Saw" film, Australian writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan, have re-teamed for this supernatural horror tale which went through various title changes ("The Further" and "The Astral" among the other potentials). The producers of "Paranormal Activity" also signed onboard for what Wan calls a "haunted house movie which takes all the usual conventions and twists them on their head".
While the clever "Saw" struck gold in terms of timing and originality, their much touted second team-up was 2007's $20 million ventriloquist horror tale "Dead Silence" which flopped at the box-office and scored weak reviews. "Saw" itself became the biggest horror franchise of all time earnings wise, but along the way the increasingly poor sequels have robbed the original of a good bit of its lustre - a common occurrence with horror franchises.
This spook tale was shot in Los Angeles early last year on a relatively tight budget and word on Whannell's script was strong. The film premiered in Toronto to pretty good reviews. The crowd-pleasing feature scored praised for its suspense and dark humour, especially across the first two acts which avoids the overused jump scares of so many films of this ilk. It also puts a clever twist on the obvious question in all haunted house films - why doesn't the family just move?
Criticisms were levelled at the last act where the budget constraints have rendered both The Further and the creature itself somewhat disappointing according to reports. The homages to "Poltergeist" and "Carnival of Souls" to a lesser extent are slavish to the point that this probably won't become a hallmark of the genre for today's generation. The focus on honest scares and a preference of atmosphere over terror is a welcome one, as is Wan relying on classic 80's filmmaking techniques of long takes rather than the ADD "kinetic" bullshit that many of his ilk, and he himself, fall back on far too often.
Cast: Clive Owen, Daniel Brühl, Carice van Houten, Kerry Fox, Ella Purnel
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Summary: In Madrid, a young boy's nightmares have led his mother to seek guidance from a priest. In London, a young girl's nightmares have led her parents to consult a psychologist. Both are linked by visions of a sinister intruder in their homes with designs on the children.
Analysis: A $13 million American, British and Spanish co-production shot in London and Madrid over three months, this English-language supernatural thriller marks Fresnadillo's first feature since the well-received sequel "28 Weeks Later" back in 2007. Fresnadillo is something of a perfectionist, spending a great deal of time composing shots according to reports, but the results are usually worth it.
In this case little is known about the story, Fresnadillo calls it "a supernatural thriller, fantasy and psychological rather than a horror movie" with the themes of how parents pass on their personal fears to their offspring. The splitting of the action between events in Madrid and London allows him to show how people from different backgrounds and cultures tackle the same fear - one turning to religion, the other to science.
Fresnadillo, Jaime Marques and Nico Casariego penned the script over a year and half ago, the time spent was worth it though as distributor Universal ended up providing much of the budget as they believe heavily in the project. At present an October release in the UK and Spain is being targeted which means a likely U.S. release around late Fall.
In Your Hands
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Pio Marmaï, Jean-Philippe Écoffey, Marie-Sohna Conde
Director: Lola Doillon
Summary: Parisian surgeon Anna has been kidnapped by a young man whose life fell apart after the death of his pregnant wife a few years ago on her operating table. What starts out angry changes into something different altogether as time progresses.
Analysis: At a brisk 80 minutes, this steamy Gallic tale explores the effect of Stockholm Syndrome on that demographic that society likes to not think about - the single, professional older woman. The always stellar Kristin Scott Thomas, once again speaking perfect French, is an emotionally detached but successful surgeon who lives alone and is consumed by her work. So, according to movie logic, it comes as no surprise that she'll fall for the first man who shows her any interest, even if he's a grieving widow bent on hurting her.
Anyone with any decent life experience understands that though common and reinforced by culture, 'pairing up' is an ideal that's far from absolute. The human spectrum is vast and everyone's goals and comfort levels are different. Just as many don't need a spiritual entity to worship, not everyone shares the desire to go through life saddled with a fixed partner and/or offspring. Solitary loners suddenly becoming emotionally needy people overnight in films like "Up in the Air" is as much a laughable fallacy as resolute seed-spraying bachelors becoming commitment advocates in practically every rom-com ever invented.
In this, Lola Doillon's second feature after 2007's "Et toi t'es sur qui", an emotionally detached but upper class woman finds happiness in the arms of a dead patient's disturbed husband after he keeps her confined and psychologically abuses her. Lost souls finding comfort in each other's arms is one thing, in this scenario however it's anything but plausible. Reviews pretty much agree, though the performances and chemistry of the duo is said to be so good as to overcome many of those issues. We'll wait and see, though presently no U.S. distributor has taken a gamble with this.
Cast: James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, Charles Dance
Director: Jonathan English
Summary: Follows the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 when the despised King John reneged on his signing of the Magna Carta and led a mercenary army to force the rebel barons of England to come back under his tyrannical rule.
Analysis: A big old castle under siege movie about one of the bloodiest battles in world history, this $25 million British indie production shot in Wales takes the knights genre and gives it "visceral and stylized action combined with impassionate heroism and romance" according to producers ContentFilm.
The cast is richly stacked including Paul Giamatti as the weasely King John, to some strong supporting talents like Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Brian Cox, James Purefoy, Mackenzie Crook, Kate Mara and Jason Flemyng. Director Jonathan English has experience in the genre, shooting 2006's not-so-well received "Minotaur" with Tom Hardy and Tony Todd, but remains the most uncertain aspect in play here.
The filmmakers strove to make this historically accurate as possible while delivering it in a gritty way that will click with modern audiences. An early promo trailer consisting of dailies from the first two weeks of shooting looks like they may have just done it, while another clip shows Giamatti chewing the scenery as Cox gets to deliver some fun lines.
ContentFilm had one hell of a time getting financing for the project, and ultimately are crediting eighteen executive producers. Launched at AFM in late 2009, buyers flocked to the epic with international rights quickly snapped up across the globe. At last report the film is slated to get a March 4th release in the UK, though no word of further dates beyond that.
Jack and Diane
Cast: Riley Keough, Juno Temple, Jena Malone, Cara Seymour, Kylie Minogue
Director: Bradley Rust Gray
Summary: Two New York City teenage girls - the charmingly innocent Diane and the tough and closed off Jack - fall in love. Diane struggles with the fact her newly awakened sexual desire has given her werewolf-like visions.
Analysis: A lycan lesbian drama. As a concept it sells itself with the teen, gay and dirty old man demographics all likely to line-up to get tickets, or in the latter case sit at home in a raincoat and watch it on disc. Yet this indie genre tale was stuck in development for seven years as a revolving door of cast members came and went including Ellen Page, Allison Pill and Olivia Thirlby. Ultimately Riley Keough and Juno Temple were locked into the titular roles.
Back in 2007 when Thirlby and Page were attached, Thirlby said part of the trouble securing financing for the project is that "people are just intimidated by the subject matter", and even the success of the conceptually similar "Ginger Snaps" a decade ago has done little to change the attitude. Studios certainly love to flirt the sexual orientation divide in their monster films, but challenge them with the idea of an outright gay genre film and they scurry back to their corners reaching for the nearest kiddie cartoon adaptation.
Gay genre fans have to look for what they're after wherever they can find it, be it the suggestiveness of the Edward/Jacob tent scene in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse", the light garnishing of hot homo haemovore action in HBO's "True Blood", or the zero-budget fun of David DeCoteau's films which generally consist of young Abercrombie models stuck at spooky boarding schools wearing only tighty whities that seem to need constant re-adjusting.
Filmmaker Bradley Rust Gray has been persistent, so much so that two further projects he has shot in the interim - 2007's "In Between Days" and last year's "The Exploding Girl" - have achieved enough success that he was finally able to get the financing he needed and get the film into production in New York City this past Summer. Aussie singer Kylie Minogue puts in a cameo as the owner of a tattoo parlour and the ex-girlfriend of Jack's character. For those wondering, she does have a kissing scene.
The title allusion to the John Mellencamp song isn't the only thing causing confusion. The actual amount of werewolvism in the film is minimal - far more metaphorical than literal aside from at least one nightmare sequence. Diane's emotional turmoil "begins to cause unexplainable violent changes to her body" according to the officially synopsis, hinting that we might be seeing something akin to Natalie Portman's delusions of transforming into a swan as her inhibitions leave her in "Black Swan". No word on a distributor or release date as yet.
Jack and Jill
Opens: November 11th 2011
Cast: Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Dana Carvey, Regis Philbin
Director: Dennis Dugan
Summary: A family man is forced to deal with his twin sister when she comes to visit and won't leave.
Analysis: Hard to believe there was a time I actually didn't mind Adam Sandler - those carefree days when "The Wedding Singer" and "Big Daddy" signalled a potentially less fratboy tone to his comedies, while "Punch Drunk Love" showed off a surprisingly capable dramatic actor. Of course, that was nearly a decade ago now. These days what do we have? The odious "Grown Ups", the ridiculous "You Don't Mess with the Zohan", and the hate crime that is "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry".
There was comfort in the knowledge that it couldn't get much worse, that was until this Sandler-in-drag comedy was announced. Sandler plays Jack, an L.A. family man who is visited by his twin sister Jill (also played by Sandler) from the Bronx. Once again there's a love interest way out of his league, this time Katie Holmes, and for who knows what reason Al Pacino is in this playing himself.
Drag comedies seem painfully outdated these day, its material that a few keep plugging away at but the results are usually along the lines of "White Chicks," "Big Momma's House" and "Sorority Boys" - films one would rather forget ever existed. Had this been in the hands of a strong writer or director who might find something fresh to do with the material, there might have been a smidgen of hope. Instead though, it's Sandler stand-by Dennis Dugan at the helm so don't expect anything outside of the comedian's comfort zone or our usual level of pain tolerance.
Opens: March 11th 2011
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Summary: After a loveless and often abusive upbringing, orphan Jane Eyre becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, the manor of the moody and wilful Edward Rochester. As a romance blooms, mysterious and sinister events threaten to uncover the dark truth about her employer.
Analysis: Putting the emphasis on the gothicism rather than the romanticism of Charlotte Bronte's literary classic, acclaimed "Sin Nombre" helmer Cary Fukunaga delivers this energetic looking adaptation, the sixteenth such film version of the work not including those heavily inspired by it such as Alfred Hitchcock's Best Picture Oscar winner "Rebecca".
Part of the reason for emphasising the darker aspects of the story is that previous adaptations generally shied away from it. Fukunaga says "I'm a stickler for raw authenticity...that sort of spookiness that plagues the entire story... there's been something like 24 adaptations, and it's very rare that you see those sorts of darker sides. They treat it like it's just a period romance, and I think it's much more than that".
His approach was revealed in the film's trailer which is also one of the single best previews released last year. Reactions to that trailer seemed to be exactly what the filmmakers were hoping for - those who would have dismissed the project on title alone as some dull period tale were suddenly curious and even keen to check it out.
Moira Buffini's Brit List-making screenplay appears quite faithful to the original text, though the director's emphasis on the tension and atmosphere will hopefully imbue this with an energy and pace often missing from earlier versions. Part of this was shot at Haddon Hall, an estate used by at least two previous adaptations of the book including the most recent - the BBC's excellent 2006 mini-series take with the striking Ruth Wilson and a career-best performance from the under-appreciated Toby Stephens.
The casting here is impressive, from the adorable Sally Hawkins playing the bitchy Mrs. Reed to Jamie Bell as secondary love interest St. John Rivers. Most importantly though is the leads, rising stars Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska make for an excellent pairing that's more in tune with the novel (other adaptations tend to cast Jane older to make the age gap less obvious). Easily one of the highlights of the otherwise quiet first few months of the year.
Jeff Who Lives At Home
Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong
Director: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Summary: When he leaves his house on a seemingly banal errand for his disgruntled mother, Jeff discovers that the universe might be sending him signals about the nature of his destiny.
Analysis: After decent success with their first studio effort "Cyrus", indie film comedy darlings Mark and Jay Duplass have moved right along to this stoner-esque comedy shot in New Orleans back in April. The premise sounds somewhat cryptic with Jason Segel and Ed Helms as two brothers with very different work ethics and personalities.
However with Jason Reitman and John Malkovich producing, along with Greer and Sarandon in supporting roles, there's certainly more on offer here. The Duplass' claim that they've held onto the script for years in the hopes of doing it one day, and now with the bigger budget on offer they can do it the way they intended. Should be worth a look if the reviews are good.
Johnny English Reborn
Opens: October 7th 2011
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike
Director: Oliver Parker
Summary: Johnny English, a clumsy British MI7 Special Agent, becomes embroiled in a plot by a band of assassins to kill the Chinese Premier.
Analysis: It's sad that some people's only exposure to Rowan Atkinson is through film. Like many of the great comedians, his best work is either his live shows or small screen works of genius such as the timeless savage wit of "Blackadder". On film however, he's stuck playing bumbling idiots such as 2003's decent but unremarkable James Bond parody "Johnny English".
Despite negative reviews and weak interest in the United States, Universal and Working Title managed to take in four times the film's $40 million budget at the global box-office. In these tight economic times, and with both Universal and Working Title in need of solid cash earners after recent costly disappointments like "Green Zone" and "The Boat That Rocked", the green lighting of a safe and relatively low-cost sequel is hardly a shock.
Replacing Natalie Imbruglia as the female lead, this time we get Gillian Anderson as MI7 agent Pamela Head - a name that will no doubt lead to many an obvious joke. Rik Mayall has been cast as 'Dirty Finger', while "The Wire" star Dominic West, former Bond girl Rosamund Pike, and great Brit talents like Ben Miller and Tim McInnerny are also onboard.
Oliver Parker ("St. Trinian's") directed the film which was shot around London and Hong Kong back in September. No word yet on who'll do the opening credits song number, though Robbie Williams' "A Man for All Seasons" from the first film was better than quite a few of the recent official Bond song numbers.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis
Director: Brad Peyton
Summary: Sean Anderson partners with his mom's boyfriend on a mission to find his grandfather, who is allegedly missing on a mythical island.
Analysis: Though resembling the Jules Verne classic story pretty much in name only, 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" scored decent reviews and an impressive $242 million worldwide, helped greatly by being one of the first major live-action films to make use of the then brand new Real-D 3D technology. Walden and New Line however were already considering a sequel with the early idea of an Atlantis-based tale ruled out due to expense.
Early 2009 is when serious development began after the companies picked up Richard Outten's spec script "Mysterious Travels" and had him retrofit it to serve as a sequel to 'Journey'. The story is informed by Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island", Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and Verne's own "Mysterious Island" with the first film's nephew character Sean (Josh Hutcherson) setting out in search of his missing grandfather (Michael Caine).
There was a casting issue as two of the three lead characters, Brendan Fraser's volcanologist uncle and Anita Briem's guide, weren't going to come back due to scheduling issues and the script had Fraser's character heavily involved. The solution was to replace Fraser's character with Sam's stepfather (Dwayne Johnson) while a new love interest/guide character (Vanessa Hudgens) was also locked in. The project began filming in November in Hawaii before moving to North Carolina this month.
The original Verne novel dealt with pirates and strange happenings on a remote South Pacific island, however the solution to the mystery ends up turning the work into a direct sequel to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" with an elderly Captain Nemo on his deathbed explaining his backstory. There's also an orangutan that falls to its death towards the end which probably won't go down well with family audiences. Much of that last act will likely be ripped out, or altered with Caine's character serving as a substitute for Nemo.
Jumping the Broom
Opens: May 6th 2011
Cast: Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Julie Bowen
Director: Salim Akil
Summary: Two very different African American families converge on Martha's Vineyard one weekend for a wedding.
Analysis: Could also be fairly titled "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Martha's Vineyard", this comedy about two African-American families from very different socio-economic backgrounds coming together could've made for a biting and deeper than usual look at the rich-poor divide.
Instead we get something from the writer of "Beauty Shop" and "The Fighting Temptations", and judging by some of the clunky dialogue in the trailer, her skills haven't progressed much. The result will likely be better than many a Tyler Perry movie, especially with some of the great talents like Bassett, Bowen, Patton and Devine onboard, however it just seems a shame as this could have been so much more.
Bowen seems stuck as a token white comic relief style character, Bassett playing Patton's mother seems quite odd considering the age difference is barely enough for that to be the case. The plotting is predictable with family dilemmas solved entirely by cliches, but the setting is picturesque and the two young leads do seem to have a decent chemistry.
Just Go With It
Opens: February 11th 2011
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Dave Matthews
Director: Dennis Dugan
Summary: A successful plastic surgeon pretends to be unhappily married to get women. When he finally meets a girl he believes to be the woman of his dreams and is afraid of telling her the truth, he lies and says he's in the midst of finalising a divorce to which she requests to meet his soon-to-be ex. He ends up asking his office manager to pose as his wife.
Analysis: Just in time for Valentine's Day comes this Hawaii-set Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston rom-com about a guy getting his assistant to pose as his imaginary ex-wife in order to get the woman of his dreams. Sound familiar? It should. It's an unauthorized remake of a 2005 Bollywood film, itself a remake of the 1969 Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman comedy "Cactus Flower", which was adapted from an earlier Broadway stage play, which itself was based on the French play "Fleur de cactus". Quite frankly whomever came up with the original idea is probably dead from suffocating on all the money being paid to him in royalties.
In any case you can tell exactly where this film is going, which leaves only the question of its quality. If you're expecting a film above the usual Sandler-level shite, think again as the director and writers are Happy Madison staples like Dennis Dugan, Tim Herlihy, and so forth. The surprise here is two casting choices - Nicole Kidman and musician Dave Matthews in key supporting roles as a yuppie couple.
Sandler and Aniston as friends is easy to buy, the two have actually known each other for over twenty years so their scenes in the trailer play out with a pretty good chemistry. As a romantic pairing however, I'm just not that sold though it more plausible than the supermodel-esque character showing anything close to an interest in a schlub like Sandler. Test screening reviews have hardly been glowing about the film which will likely be as quickly forgotten as other paradise-set rom-com trash like "Fool's Gold".
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Opens: February 11th 2011
Cast: Justin Bieber, Jaden Smith, Usher Raymond, Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris
Director: Jon Chu
Summary: 3D documentary concert movie that follows Justin Bieber with some footage of performances from his 2010 tour.
Analysis: What can one say about the Canadian pop singer that hasn't already been said? From the tween crowds that flock in their countless thousands to his concerts, to the enduring popularity of satire site Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, whatever you think of the little oik he's certainly one of the more successful marketing stories of recent times.
Now, following on from Disney's "Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds" and "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" films and Sony's Michael Jackson tribute "This Is It", MTV and Paramount Pictures are dabbling their toe in the concert tour movie genre by getting the Beeb on the big screen in 3D. One can understand the appeal on the studio's part - the film costs next to nothing to produce while it should guarantee at least one very solid weekend of business for them during the otherwise rather quiet Spring season.
It's also a lot easier to put together - a narrative-driven biopic of the singer is pointless because, unless you find middle class single mothers uploading Youtube videos riveting, his life story is hardly "8 Mile" or "Walk the Line". The social networks are abuzz about this film already, detractors coming up with clever quips while supporters tell them to either lay off or that they consider this an even more important piece of cinema than "Schindler's List".
A trailer in April shows exactly what you expect - a mix of blurry kiddie online videos, borderline pedo shirtless fan service, and behind-the-scenes featurettes that really belong on a DVD not in a theatre. Yet considering how "This Is It" made a quarter-of-a-billion for Sony Pictures, it's hard to argue matters of good taste here.
The Complete Notable Films of 2011 Guide
Part One: 5 Days of August, 11-11-11, 13 Assassins, 30 Minutes or Less, Abduction, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Albert Nobbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Amigo, Anonymous, Apollo 18, The Apparition, Arthur, Arthur Christmas, Atlas Shrugged: Part One, Bad Teacher, Barney's Version, Battle: Los Angeles, Beastly
Part Two: The Beaver, Beginners, Bel Ami, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, The Big Year, Black Gold, Blackthorn, The Black Tulip, Blitz, Born to Be a Star, The Borrower Arrietty, Bridesmaids, Brighton Rock, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Caesar: Rise of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cars 2
Part Three: Catch .44, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cedar Rapids, Ceremony, Certified Copy, Chalet Girl, The Change-Up, Clean Skin, The Cold Light of Day, Cold Weather, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, The Conspirator, Contagion, The Convincer, Coriolanus, Courageous, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Cup
Part Four: Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, The Darkest Hour, The Debt, The Deep Blue Sea, The Descendants, The Details, The Devil's Double, Dibbuk Box, The Dilemma, Dolphin Tale 3D, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Drive, Drive Angry 3D, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, The Eagle, Even the Rain, Every Day, Everything Must Go, The Eye of the Storm
Part Five: The Factory, Fast Five, The Fields, Final Destination 5, Flypaper, Footloose, Friends with Benefits, Friends with Kids, Fright Night, From Prada to Nada, The Future, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gnomeo and Juliet 3D, Goon, The Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Griff the Invisible, The Guard, Guns Girls and Gambling, Hall Pass
Part Six: The Hangover: Part Two, Hanna, Happy Feet 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, Haywire, A Heartbeat Away, The Help, Henry's Crime, HERE, Higher Ground, Hobo with a Shotgun, Homework, Hop, Horrible Bosses, The Housemaid, House of My Father, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Hugo Cabret, The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, The Hunter
Part Seven: I Am Number Four, I Melt With You, The Ides of March, Immortals, The Impossible, In A Better World, Incendies, The Innkeepers, Insidious, Intruders, In Your Hands, Ironclad, Jack and Diane, Jack and Jill, Jane Eyre, Jeff Who Lives At Home, Johnny English Reborn, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Jumping the Broom, Just Go With It, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Part Eight: Kaboom, The Killer Elite, Killer Joe, Kill The Irishman, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Lady, Larry Crowne, Last Night, The Ledge, Life in a Day, Like Crazy, Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Little Birds, A Little Bit of Heaven, Little White Lies, Live With It, London Boulevard, The Loneliest Planet, Love and Bruises, The Lucky One
Part Nine: Machine Gun Preacher, Mad Bastards, Man on a Ledge, The Man with the Iron Fist, Margin Call, Mars Needs Moms!, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Mechanic, Meek's Cutoff, Melancholia, Midnight in Paris, The Mill and the Cross, Miral, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Moneyball, The Monk, Monte Carlo, Mother's Day, Movie 43, Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Muppets
Part Ten: My Idiot Brother, My Week with Marilyn, Neds, New Year's Eve, No Strings Attached, Now, Of Gods and Men, On the Road, One Day, One for the Money, Oranges and Sunshine, The Other Woman, Paranormal Activity 3, Passion Play, Paul, Peace Love and Misunderstanding, Peep World, Perfect Sense, Piranha 3DD, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Priest, Project X
Part Eleven: Prom, Puss in Boots, Rampart, Rango, The Raven, Real Steel, Red Dawn, Red Dog, Red Riding Hood, Red State, Red Tails, Restless, Retreat, Rio, Route Irish, The Rum Diary, Safe, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Salvation Boulevard, Say Nothing
Part Twelve: Scream 4, A Serbian Film, Serge Gainsbourg: A Life Heroic, Shame, Shaolin, Shark Night 3D, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Shelter, The Silent House, The Sitter, The Skin That I Inhabit, Sleeping Beauty, The Smurfs, Snabba Cash, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Snowtown, Soldiers of Fortune, Something Borrowed, Son of No One, Soul Surfer