Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At the Movies – January

Must See in Theatres:

The Book of Eli (The Hughes Bros.) – Action – Jan 15
The action film is about a lone man that must protect a book containing the secrets to save humanity in post-apocalyptic America. The Hughes Brothers return behind the camera after a nine year break. Known for their visual style, fluid camera and dark themed action, the material of this film fits right into their wheelhouse. It should be interesting to see how they collaborate with Don Burgess, who has a history of shooting big set pieces. The film has an awesome cast including Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis. Oldman has a number of classic performances as villains (notably in The Fifth Element and Leon). Hopefully, his performance in this will be another. Check out the trailer.

Worth Checking Out (if not in theatres then at home):

Edge of Darkness (Martin Campbell) – Thriller – Jan 29
The film is about a homicide detective in Boston who investigates the death of his daughter only to uncover her secret life and a corporate cover-up. Director Martin Campbell made two of his better films with his James Bond forays and this film feels like a grittier version. The script was written by William Monahan who wrote the Oscar winner The Departed. Thus, behind the camera the film looks to be good. In front of the camera, Mel Gibson, Ray Winston and Danny Huston star. This represents Gibson’s return to acting, starring in a sort of typical Gibson project. Check out the trailer.

Good for Dates:

Leap Year (Anand Tucker) – Romance – Jan 8
This romantic comedy is about a woman’s elaborate plan to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day. This film stands out because of its leads, Amy Adams (always wonderful) and Matthew Goode. John Lithgow also stars and is in top form as of late (as all that watch Dexter know). Check out the trailer.

When in Rome (Mark Steven Johnson) – Romance – Jan 29
Looking for redemption after the awful Ghost Rider and slightly less terrible Daredevil, Mark Steven Johnson returns with a romantic comedy about a young ambitious woman who is unlucky in love. She throws a coin into a famous fountain of love in Rome and suddenly is pursued by a gang of suitors. The film looks to be good much like Leap Year due to its lead, Kristin Bell, who is making her feature debut as a lead in a Hollywood film. The cast also includes Josh Duhamel, the fantastic Lee Pace and a group of comedians including Will Arnett, Jon Heder and Kristen Schaal. The film also features a score by Christopher Young which should be good, given his awesome work on Drag Me to Hell. Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Daybreakers (The Spierig Brothers) – Horror – Jan 8
In line with the current trend, here is another vampire film, Daybreakers is about a plague in the year 2019 that has transformed almost every human into a vampire, now faced with a dwindling blood supply a group of vamps band together to save humankind. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Isabel Lucas, Willem Defoe, and Sam Neill. The film is touted to be a fun sc-fi action- adventure horror film with groundbreaking effects. Check out the trailer.

Youth in Revolt (Miguel Arteta) – Comedy – Jan 8
A comedy about a boy that meets his dream girl, Nick Twisp creates a new personality in hopes that this cooler version of himself will help him get the girl, in an effort to lose his virginity. After dabbling in TV for awhile, Miguel Arteta returns to features, his last being The Good Girl, and seems to be a good match for the subject material as he does well with subversive comedy. The film stars Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday. Cera starts out playing the role in his typical and really tired manner of wimpy yet supposedly cool. It will be interesting to see how Cera handles the confident and sort of European coolness of his other personality. Check out the trailer.


The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke) – Drama – Jan 1
From the acclaimed director of Cache, The White Ribbon is about a small village north of Germany in which strange events happen just before WWI. The events seem to be ritual punishment with the abused and suppressed children of the village at the center of the mystery. The film is of note as it won the 2009 Golden Palm (top film) at the Cannes Film Festival. Check out the trailer.

Prudent Purchase List – January

New Releases:
1)      Chuck: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray/DVD] – Jan 5
2)      Big Love: The Complete Third Season [DVD] – Jan 5
3)      Robin Hood: Season Three [DVD] – Jan 12
4)      The Brothers Bloom [Blu-ray/DVD] – Jan 12
5)      Weeds: Season Five [Blu-ray/DVD] – Jan 19

Must Buy of the Month:
Big Love: Season Three

Monday, December 28, 2009

Up in the Air (2009) – Review

Up in the Air is funny, insightful and a film for the times, yet ultimately depressing (but still good, not everything needs to leave the viewer happy). The most striking aspect of the film is how well it fits today’s American psyche. The film does have a sense of hope to it, yet lives in the tough times, both personal to the characters but also for America and Americans as a whole. While the film can be appreciated by any audience, it feels like an American film. It is almost a deconstruction of the American Dream or promise, shown remarkably through what appears to be real life videos of employees initially dealing with being terminated. The journey taken by George Clooney’s character is transformative, yet appears to be tried and true terrain of a character set in their ways, not believing in love, who falls in love and that changes everything – yet this film approachs the world as if it were real, and in the real world people are complex and things do not always work out – this leaves Clooney with a choice, and the result up for interpretation by the audience. Leaving an ending up to the audience to determine is a tricky device that often leaves the film feeling incomplete, but a credit to director Jason Reitman Up in the Air’s ending works quite well. It does not let the Clooney character off the hook, but there is a sense of optimism for the future (which again plays into the need for Americans to feel like it is getting better) aided by the employee videos explaining how the change (aka being let go) ended up resulting in something good for them. Technically the film is sound, Reitman makes a few odd decisions, but overall he has made a fine looking film. Most notably odd is his choice to film the wedding scene almost like a home video while the rest of the film is not done in that style, it will not bother most, but just seemed strange and unnecessary. The narrative structure of the film also lags at times in the first half of the film, but once the main story picks up, and the Anna Kendrick character comes into the film it really flows. Rolfe Kent’s score felt a bit underwhelming as well. However, Reitman succeeds at garnering great performances throughout. Clooney sort of glides through the movie playing his typical sort of character/role, but it worked perfectly for what the character and film needed. Vera Farmiga is also quite good. The surprise standout though is Kendrick. She is pitch perfect in her role (I look forward to see how she develops the rest of her career, Twilight films aside). The film also has a number of comedians like Zach Galifianakis, Jason Bateman and Danny McBride, yet it is only Galifianakis that is given any comical work to do (his opening bit is fun). Up in the Air is an American film just at the right time. 8/10

Movie of the Week - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

This week’s movie is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a detective film about a two-bit criminal that mistakenly finds his way to Hollywood only to be mixed up in a 1940s noir detective story. The film is the directorial debut of Lethal Weapon mastermind Shane Black as well as being Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback film (critically at least) and Michele Monaghan’s breakout film. What makes it great is Black’s style, both visual, as he uses color and design surprisingly well, and thematically, the film deconstructs the detective structure while still being a detective story, and is darkly witty, fantastical and lots of fun, while playing off the myth of Hollywood a bit in the process. Val Kilmer gives one of his best performances in the film as well.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [Blu-ray/DVD]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Movie of the Week - Christmas Vacation

This week’s movie is Christmas Vacation (1989).

Christmas Vacation is the third of the four Griswold vacation movies, focusing on their Christmas at home with family. Unlike the other vacation films, this one takes place solely in the Griswold home, yet it is one of the better of the series. The script was written by famous 80s’ filmmaker, John Hughes, and features Chevy Chase at the top of his game, zany as ever teetering on the edge of insanity (classic). The film also features maybe the most famous actors to portray the Griswold children (at least famous now): Juliette Lewis and The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki. The film works best around the holidays as it captures both the fun and craziness of being home with the family for the holidays. The film stars: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, and Randy Quaid.

Christmas Vacation [Blu-ray/DVD]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar (2009), in 3-D – Review

Avatar is more than just a 3-D movie, more than just the graphics and the money spent on its creation, it is a beautifully rich experience, not without flaws, but grand and fulfilling. James Cameron has created one of the best cinematic events of all-time. The film is an epic fashioned in the old Hollywood style, encompassing both spectacle (and their sure is a lot to marvel at in this film) and also story and heart, something few films are able to achieve. Thematically the native peoples of Pandora feel like a representation of what could be called traditional indigenous peoples or tribes during times of colonization by colonial forces, but for American audiences they seem to best correlate to Native Americans, as seen through their spiritual connection to the land, animals and soul of the world. There are also a lot of Green messages in the film – for example the humans have killed all the green life on their world and put profits above the sanctity of nature and life. The story itself is nothing new, just another retelling of what could be called the John Smith story, but it is Cameron’s vision and artistry that makes this particular telling magical. His visual representation of Pandora and its juxtaposition with the human tech-based living is stark and profound. It insights wonder and is just beautiful to behold – sincerely a masterwork of visual and storytelling achievement. Certainly, Avatar is a must see in 3-D, if anything in the format ever has been. Though, while the visuals are stunning, the animation flawless and the story moving (though unoriginal and with stereotypical hackneyed characters), the acting among the humans (most notably Sam Worthington) feels stiff at times and does not hold the same standard of excellence as the rest of the film. But that is not to say it is bad, many of the actors and voice-actors are good, it is just at times not what it could be (or should be). Sigourney Weaver is fun in the film and Zoe Saldana’s voice work brings her character to life and is the soul and emotion of the piece. James Horner’s score is, similar to Worthington’s performance, at times strong and works well, but at others is not up to par. Credit must also be given to cinematographer Mauro Fiore and Weta Workshops for their roles in aiding Cameron in his creation of such a visually iconic and ambitious accomplishment. Avatar is much more than its parts; rather it is the adept amalgamation of all the elements that composes such an astonishing world and film. 10/10 (seen in the theatre in 3-D the first time; 8/10 otherwise)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 10 – The Attic (2009)

The Attic is an episode about facing one’s fears, overcoming them and taking control. This is shown in a very literally manner, as Echo, Victor and Sierra are trapped in the Attic, which is described as being a recurring loop of each character’s worst nightmare. Echo and company must survive their nightmares and somehow escape, and in the process they discover the true nature of the Attic and a weakness of the Rossum Corp. Like Stop-Loss, the episode does a good job of bringing Echo, Victor and Sierra together and really establishing their bond, while solidifying the LA Dollhouse into a cohesive unit, much like what is shown in parts of Epitaph One. First time director John Cassaday (known for being a graphic novel artist, working with Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men) does a great job visualizing the dream world (I especially like the shot of the snow falling on the tree in the middle of the Dollhouse). It both feels real, but there is always a sense that something is off. The visual look of the Attic itself was interesting and creepy. The image of Echo being Saran-wrapped in and container filling with blue mush liquid and then prodded with probes in her head was almost too much (reminded me of the Earth outside the Matrix). Rossum just gets more and more evil with each episode. The purpose of the Attic was also quite interesting (if not Sarah Conner Chroniclesesk), using human minds working on overload fighting nightmares to process information and problem solve. The show throughout has had a theme involving identity and the notion of soul. Using humans merely as computers, and before with the group-think soldiers, Dollhouse continues to invite the argument that average humans are also dolls (if not willingly) possibly void of a soul, yet there is a soul lurking below, if only they were aware. The show would suggest that people take control of their own lives and not buy into the mundane elements of society that would dictate their lives. The Attic is stunning visually at times, which it should be given the director, and like the episodes before, it seems to set up the impending struggle between the LA Dollhouse (now bonded together to fight) and Rossum. 9/10
Dollhouse airs Fridays on Fox or can be seen on Amazon.com

Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 9 – Stop-Loss (2009)

Stop-Loss has a lot going on in it. Primarily it is about love, a love so powerful that it is not fleeting, rather it is within the nature of Victor so much so that even with programming inputted dictating his personality there is still a sense of love for Sierra that is true to a higher degree than the programming can command. This is yet another interesting argument that Dolhouse makes about the existence of a soul, or what makes up the soul. Echo being aware and having a sense of self preservation makes the assertion that the soul is made up of experiences shaping a person. But with the love between Victor and Sierra (be it carnal), the soul seems to be also made up of a deep rooted nature within a person that is not effected by experience. Thus, maybe one’s soul is a combination of both? The episode also sees DeWitt’s dissention into the dregs, seemingly consumed by the moral conflict between her responsibility for the people that populate the dolls and the objectives of Rossum. Finally, we see through the resolution the formation of the true bonds between Echo, Victor and Sierra as a team – which sets up what is to come. Felix Enriquez Alcala directs the episode that feels like Victor is dealing with being on leave (much like the scenes in The Hurt Locker in which Jeremy Renner returns stateside and seemingly cannot wait to get back to the action, as if he no longer fits in to normal society). It makes sense that Victor would want to fall back in with military buddies and action as soon as possible. The idea of group-think is prevalent in business and military. Rossum looking for applicable applications for their tech, it makes sense that this group-think activity would manifest in their military research. The show has been politically liberal in the past, and the depiction of military group-think (and Rossum as an evil corporation almost in the Michael Moore sense) is just another nod in that direction.  The score was quite good in the episode as it has been throughout the show. Stop-Loss is the turning point in the show setting up the final chapter (which looks like it is going to be really good) bringing together Victor Sierra, allowing Echo to make her own mission and DeWitt to make the decision of what side she is on. 8/10
Dollhouse airs Fridays on Fox or can be seen on Amazon.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Invictus (2009) – Review

Invictus is a film about overcoming obstacles, forgiveness and reconciliation. The film has two sections, if not two structures to it – a political biography of Nelson Mandela and a feel good sports film (not unlike Rudy) – both narratives melding together for the third act. Mainly due to the nature of the film and being based on actual events, the characters never really overcome obstacles that seem impossible. Mandela’s greatest barrier was surviving prison and becoming president, yet the film has him already in office at its start. Thus, Mandela’s drama is bringing the divided nation together now in office, which the film argues was done through the success of the rugby team (as well as affairs unseen), yet the rugby team never really faces emotionally provocative obstacles either (at least from the audience’s perspective). Clint Eastwood is not able to convey the hurdles that they did face as being miraculous (even though they were) which effects the overall success of the film dramatically. While a film like Miracle is able to visually communicate the magnitude of the events, Invictus falls short as the viewer never feels like the Springboks might actually lose (again we know they do not, but the film should still make it seem like they might for dramatic effect), nor do the events of the film feel as significant as they actually were, due primarily to the directorial choices made by Eastwood. The film felt distant, especially in the stadium scenes. It felt as if the viewer was not truly emerged in the action and atmosphere of the event. The most moving scenes in the picture are the more personal moments, those involving the interplay of the team, notably the scene in which the team visits the slums, and Mandela’s relationship with his staff. While Mandela is the main character of the film, his involvement seems to be there only to set the stage for the rugby, his most interesting struggle being over once the film has already begun. It would have been quite interesting to see how Mandela transformed the nation. Aside from his involvement in rugby, the affairs of state were mostly glossed over leaving the main character of the film to be there merely to augment the seemingly secondary narrative. Pienaar does not have too much to do as a character, but Matt Damon still plays the role well. In terms of acting, Morgan Freeman has the much more purposeful role, in terms of dramatic work. Despite the narrative and cinematic downfalls of the film, it is still a good movie. It succeeds at telling the story in an entertain fashion, but at times it feeling a bit more like a movie of the week rather than an Oscar contender. 7/10

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Adventures of Johann Sebastian Bach

Chapter 2 - Flunkies is up:

Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 8 – A Love Supreme (2009)

A Love Supreme is a fantastic episode. It has action (sort of a zombie 28 Days Later… feel to it), tension and great performances (Alan Tudyk is brilliant). From the title of the episode, the nature of love and its application to the Dollhouse is explored. On one side, there is a wealthy man that blew his fortune addicted to the Dollhouse (or Echo), and on the other there is Joel Myner that used to Dollhouse to deal with his grief, but has since moved on and found love in the real world. And, there is Alpha, completely obsessed with Echo (psychotically), unable to understand why she does not love him back. Even with his forty or so personalities, he is unable to determine how to control love – what makes someone in love with another. The story also examines the evolving relationship between Ballard and Echo. Is there really love there, or is it obsession as well? The show is looking at the clients as well as the characters within the Dollhouse this season, which poises questions about our own societal needs. Joss Whedon series seem to be able to inject comedy even into tension filled scenes and situations, and this episode is certainly nail-biting for the characters yet comedy still seeps in to ease the moments and make it more accessible for the viewers (great bits from Topher and 20s’ era Sierra). While love may be a dominant theme of the episode, A Love Supreme is one of the most visually violent of the series, and that means that the viewer literally sees the gore and destruction rather than it being discussed or inferred. It is a striking contrast that plays in the favor of the narrative as a whole. Acting wise, this episode is very strong and features maybe Eliza Dushku’s best performance of the series. Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj continue to show their wonderful versatility (I hope they both are used in future Whedon projects, or find good roles on other series/films). And, as mentioned above, Alan Tudyk turns in a (almost Ledger-like Joker) brilliant performance (if only Omega could have played more like this episode). As Dollhouse comes closer to the end, A Love Supreme shows that it is a great show and continues to set up what should be a fantastic finish. 10/10

Dollhouse can be seen Fridays on Fox or on Amazon.com

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dollhouse: Season 2, Episode 7 – Meet Jane Doe (2009)

Meet Jane Doe is focuses on Echo’s growth – Echo now is her own entity, not a doll mindless and obedient. Nor is she preserving her body for Caroline. Rather, she has evolved, an amalgamation of all her imprints, much like Alpha, thus giving her a new persona. What is exciting and interesting about this is that Echo is Echo, not Caroline, nor does Echo wish to return to being Caroline, continuing on the question of what makes up the soul – be it genetics or the summation of experiences or whatever. The fact that Echo as Echo has a sense of mortality and of preservation seems to suggest that the soul is separate from the body and is based on experience and reason (of the individual, be it sound or not) rather than being of a visceral nature. The episode uses a time lapse (3 months) to show the aftermath of Echo’s disappearance after the Perrin incident in D.C. Here, we find the characters in a much different place. Echo, Ballard and Boyd are plotting something, DeWitt is making a power play to regain control (are her motives sound?) and the future looks murkier than ever. The episode is another step to Epitaph One and we continue to see the pieces come together and fall into place. The visualization of the tension between Echo and Ballard and Echo being able to now access her imprints allows this portion of the episode to succeed. The viewer can feel the emotions and see the changes, which works so much better than the past use of extensive exposition. Back in the Dollhouse, the scenes involving the evolution of DeWitt’s relationship with Topher are quite interesting. As before, she seemed a little like a mother figure to him, both in the past and in the future show in the season one finale. But here she crosses him, and it will be engaging to see the ramifications of her actions. Each piece of the puzzle is coming into focus. Season two as is just getting better and better, and Meet Jane Doe is another great story on the path to finishing the puzzle (Epitaph One) and seeing what happens once it is done (Epitaph Two: The Return). 9/10

Dollhouse can be seen Fridays on Fox or on Amazon.com

Movie of the Week - How to Steal a Million

This week’s movie is How to Steal a Million (1966).

The film is a romantic comedy about a woman who must steal a forged statue from a highly guarded Paris museum, and the man who helps her. What makes this movie so great is its credits: directed by William Wyler, music by John Williams, cinematography by Charles Lang, and best of all starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. The film does play a bit old-fashion, but it is quite charming and a lot of fun. It is the only film in which O’Toole and Hepburn star together, and thus is a must see for fans of either. Like Charade, the film is set in Paris, and there are many recognizable sites and locations (including one of my personal favorites place Vendome). The film stars: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Briffith, Charles Boyer, and Jacques Marin.

How to Steal a Million [DVD]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Anticipated Movies of 2010

Director: David Fincher
Release: August, fall 2010
Plot: A story about the founders of Facebook.
Buzz: A movie about Facebook is just what we need…Yeah, it really does not sound too terribly interesting to me either, but hey it is directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin so it has to be good right. Maybe? If not for Fincher and Sorkin this certainly would not make the list. Though on the other hand, who does not want to see a gripping drama about kids at Harvard creating a website, there is no way this is not going to be thrilling, think of all the coding and other cool stuff computer science majors do. But again…David Fincher, director of Seven, Fight Club, The Game, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…It will probably turn out to be good, maybe.

Director: Mike Newell
Release: May 28
Plot: An adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an evil ruler from creating a sandstorm that could destroy the world as they know it.
Buzz: The film is based on the popular series of video games (never a good sign, given past video game to movie releases). Newell did well with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so this should be in his wheelhouse to put out a fun and entertaining film, but do not expect much more than summer-style fun (i.e., real quality, think Transformers not The Dark Knight). The cast is good here (well, minus Jake Gyllenhaal), as Molina has been quite good in recent projects (like An Education) and it is the second major role for Arterton (the first being in Quantum of Solace). All in all, this should be a fun but it is doubtful that Disney will have another franchise like Pirates of the Caribbean with Prince of Persia.

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt and Sean Penn
Release: Fall 2010
Plot: A 1950s period piece, a tale of a Midwestern boy’s transformation from innocence as a boy to disillusionment as an adult and his quest to redeem himself by attaining again the meaning of life.
Buzz: Malick is a very visceral director, exploring emotion through the juxtaposition of images, so who better to be the D.P. than Emmanuel Lubezki (who worked with Malick on The New World). Alexandre Desplat is doing the score as well. And, with Penn and Pitt coming off of an Oscar win and nomination, respectively, on paper, this should be a best picture contender. For fans of what could be called serious thematic cinema, the name Terrence Malick incites excitement. Look for this in a limited release that could be expanded in 2011 if it should be nominated for best picture.

Release: Fall 2010
Plot: A thriller about two rival ballet dancers.
Buzz: Black Swan is another film with a super exciting (can you read the sarcasm?) sounding logline that makes the list due to the film’s director. No doubt, the film will be gritty and complex in its character study of the ballet dancers, and it does not hurt that Aronofsky cast Portman and Kunis (though, not really sure why Ryder is in this). Like many to follow, it is the potential for this film to be great. Locking down a place on the list (however, more interested to see his RoboCop than this).

Director: John Madden
Starring: Keira Knightley
Release: Winter 2010 (could get pushed to summer or winter 2011)
Plot: A musical about snobby professor, Henry Higgins, taking a bet that he can turn a street urchin into a lady of society, but he gets a little more than he bargained for in the process.
Buzz: The 1964 film with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn is wonderful, so why even remake it? Well, if the remake involves Keira Knightley (beating out Scarlet Johansson and Anne Hathaway) and either of rumored actors Daniel Craig or Daniel Day Lewis, remake or update (as Columbia Pictures calls it), this is going to be good. Not to mention that the script is being written by Emma Thompson! On the downside though, John Madden is set to direct. While many like Shakespeare in Love, Madden has not done good work since then, and that was 12 years ago. It is too bad that Danny Boyle and Joe Wright passed on this. (Also, the last Audrey Hepburn movie remake was The Truth About Charlie, which was fairly terrible.)

Director: Ridley Scott
Release: May 14
Plot: Robin Hood, is there much more to write than that?
Buzz: Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe collaborations have been mostly good, though there was a bad patch in there. The good news about Robin Hood is Crowe is no longer playing both Robin and the Sheriff. The film boasts a pretty solid cast (anything is usually better with Mark Strong and Danny Huston). There is a rumor though that Robin may not be the hero of this story, but wait for the trailer to fully hedge your bets. The issue though is do we really need another Robin Hood story, especially with the very good BBC series?

Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Kali Hawk, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Aziz Ansari, and Colm Meaney (plus a bunch of musician cameos)
Release: June 11
Plot: A comedy about a record company intern that must do whatever it takes to get a down and out rock star to his comeback tour’s first gig at the LA Greek Theater
Buzz: Stroller and Jason Segel produced the best comedy of 2008 in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so it only makes sense that Stroller would return to the material, but this time Aldous Snow (Brand) is the focus. The film is produced by Judd Apatow (surprise) and thus should feature his brand of adult comedy with a heart. Hopefully, the loss of screenwriter/star Segel will not leave this spin-off tired and washed-up. The June release implies that Universal has high hopes.

Director: Kevin Smith
Release: February 26
Plot: A comedy about two cops as they protect and serve: solving the case of the missing baseball card, rescuing a woman and thwarting gangsters.
Buzz: Kevin Smith makes his feature directorial debut (having directed the pilot of Reaper) on material not written by him (though it is likely he tinkered with the script upon signing on). With Zack and Miri Make a Porno not living up to his expectations, Smith decided it was time to move on as a filmmaker and try working on something not penned by him, the result…(we shall see). Needless to say, fans of Smith will likely see anything he makes and thus,  this has a built-in box office, but will it finally be his first breakout hit since Clerks – can Bruce Willis push him over the top, can Smith’s famously strict style with actors clash with Willis’ star power (inquiring minds want to know)? By the way, who isn’t excited to see Jason Lee in this? On the studio front, there is a rumor that Warner Bros. does not like the title.

Director: Edgar Wright
Release: Summer 2010
Plot: An action adventure fantasy comedy about Scott Pilgrim, who must defeat his new girlfriend’s villainous ex-boyfriends to win her heart.
Buzz: Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, this is Edgar Wright’s first feature away from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (side note: if you like them, check out Spaced). If anything, this film is going to have good looking action, as Wright has hired Bill Pope (Matrix and Spider-Man movies, 2&3) to shoot the film. The premise (having not read the comics myself) sounds like it will produce an entertaining story, which in Wright’s hands (he did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) will more than likely turn out to be a fun film. The cast is also packed with young talent (though, who else is a little sick of Michael Cera and his one note comedy), which also includes Mark Webber and up-and-coming Aubrey Plaza.

Release: August 20
Plot: An action film about a group of mercenaries that head to South America to deal with a dictator.
Buzz: First off, YES!!! Second, who else wishes Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal were in this too, oh and of course Kurt Russell (who was asked by Stallone, but Kurt Russell does not star in movies unless Kurt Russell is the star). This is the movie that every 80s/90s action movie fan has been waiting for! On a side note, Terry Crews needs to continue to sing/lip-sync to cheesy songs, it is genius. Will any women actually see this? If there ever were a MANFLICK, this is it.

Director: Tim Burton
Release: March 5
Plot: A fantasy film in which, a now 19-year-old, Alice returns to the magical world of her childhood adventure.
Buzz: The cast is pretty awesome. The production design is pretty strange. But, it is Tim Burton after all. What seems like a big enough film to be in the summer is slated for March, which is odd, does Disney know something we do not, or do they not want to crowd their flagship release Toy Story 3? Burton (often vastly overrated) seemingly continues to produce audience alienating fare. Hopefully for him, and us, Alice in Wonderland will be his return to form.

Director: Jon Favreau
Release: May 7
Plot: Iron Man returns to do Iron Manny things.
Buzz: Most are thinking right now, “Iron Man 2, only 19th, it should be way higher,” maybe, but there is a sneaking suspicion that the overall goodness of Iron Man (1) was a fluke: the film had an awful third act, why in the world is Jon Favreau directing these and Robert Downey Jr. is probably the real only reason it is good (well and the cool special effects). And, Mickey Rourke as the villain is a little suspect, did anyone see him in Double Team, yeah, do not need that again. However, the additions of Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are great, and Don Cheadle filling in for Terrence Howard is about a wash. Will the film all come together for another hit (box office is pretty much a sure thing, but critically, and something that holds up well to the three kings of comic book movies, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2, is less than assured).

Director: Clint Eastwood
Release: December 2010
Plot: Supernatural thriller about three people that survive near-death experiences.
Buzz: Not too much detail is out there about this film yet, but it is suppose to be like The Sixth Sense. Given Eastwoods streak of good films and the release date of this, it is likely yet other Oscar type film, though typically Oscar films are not supernatural thrillers. Eastwood must have liked working with Damon on Invictus as he returns. It is also nice to see De France get another role in an American film after her first was in the not so great Around the World in 80 Days, because she is quite good in a number of French films. The film is being produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who produced The Sixth Sense as well (so maybe they have moved on from M. Night and hired an actual quality director to make a supernatural thriller). The script was written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United). It will be interesting to see how he handled a fictional story.

17.) Looper
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: No one cast yet
Release: Fall/winter 2010 or maybe 2011
Plot: A sci-fi film set in present day dealing with hitmen that travel back in time to assassinate their intended victims.
Buzz: While the plot is still mostly unknown, the logline not telling the full story, and no cast, Looper is high on the list for two reasons, A) what is known is awesome (and sounds a bit like Terminator) and intriguing, and B) Johnson’s ability to combine genres makes him one of the most exciting directors working today.

Director: Sophia Coppola
Release: Spring or fall 2010
Plot: A drama about a Hollywood bad-boy, on the decline, who takes a second look at his life when his 11-year-old daughter comes back into his life.
Buzz: “Stephen Dorff stars” is not usually the backbone of a hit, let alone a possibly good movie, and yet there is enough to like here, even despite the overused story of redemption at the discovery of a child. Why? First, the pattern of Sophia Coppola’s career, The Virgin Suicides (not that great), Lost in Translation (top 25 of the decade, film of the year, 2003), Marie Antoinette (again not that great), based on the pattern, this is going to be good (plus, it does not star Kristen Dunst). Second, Michelle Monaghan makes her return to acting after having a baby, one of the most promising talents (go see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and she was great in Mission: Impossible III, Gone Baby Gone and Trucker). Third, the film is shot by Harris Savides, who did great work on Milk. And fourth, doesn’t Stephen Dorff as a hard-living washed-up Hollywood “star” hit the same tone as Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler?

Director: Michel Gondry
Release: December 22
Plot: Britt Reid, newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighter by night.
Buzz: What was once not even a consideration for this list, last summer, the film has now jumped to the 15th spot. How? Nicholas Cage is out as the villain and the superbly awesome Christoph Waltz is in. Plus, the randomly kind of cool casting of the Edwards, and Tom Wilkinson is always good. Now if only Cameron Diaz was recast…(oh well, not likely). The script is by Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg, a team that can do no wrong, or so it seems. And best yet, who on earth ever thought of Seth Rogen – action hero? Or even, Michel Gondry – action director? But one thing is for sure, whether it works or not, it sure should be an interesting experiment (on a side note, who else is glad Kevin Smith ended up not making this?).

Director: James L. Brooks
Release: December 17
Plot: A comedic drama about an executive and baseball player chasing the same girl.
Buzz: This is the sixth film directed by Brooks, of the five previous, three were nominated for best picture (Terms of Endearment winning), and two are not good at all. On which side of the line will this be? Well, the film not being ready for the 2009 Oscar Season, Columbia could have dumped it in January-April, but they delayed it all the way until next year’s Oscar Season, a good sign that it will be good, and with the cast it has, pencil it in for a best picture nod in February 2011 (questioning the Oscar potential of something with Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson? See Rudd in Role Models and Wilson in The Darjeeling Limited. Still not convinced, well this does have Reese Witherspoon and umm Jack Nicholson, so…).

Release: October 1
Plot: A fantasy movie about a heroic strapping young price that must rescue his fair maiden and his father’s kingdom from the evil forces that would destroy it and her, only his loser brother has to come along too.
Buzz: Cast + director + logline = sold. The film is written by Danny McBride and his friend Ben Best, for those that like Eastbound & Down this is something to be excited about. The comedy gold months are usually March/April, August and October, so this seems to have a winning formula.

Director: Joe Carnahan
Release: June 11
Plot: An action film about four Iraqi-conflict vets try to clear their name after being framed for a crime.
Buzz: This is another one that was on the “not anticipated” list for 2010 when it was first announced. Since then, a potentially cool director (at the very least he can make a good movie, see Narc, and yes there is also Smokin’ Aces which is not so good, but focus on the positive here) and a pretty awesome cast has been added (probably the best thing about the cast is the addition of Sharlto Copley). Missing from the details is who plays the villain. The film is currently shooting, so likely the villain has been cast, Jessica Biel (probably playing a love interest or something) and Patrick Wilson are the only other name actors, so it is probably one of them, sort of hope it is Biel just for the change of pace.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Release: April 16
Plot: An action comedy/drama about an unnoticed high school comic book fan that decides that he will become a super-hero, despite not having any powers or training.
Buzz: Based on the comic book series by Mark Miller, Kick-Ass looks to be a lot of fun. Matthew Vaughn’s last film (Stardust) was a great blend of action comedy drama and fantasy making him a perfect choice to handle the material. He also brings his D.P. Ben Davis with him and Stardust co-writer Jane Goldman (which is a good thing). Two potential bad points in the film’s credits are Nicholas Cage and composer Marius De Vries. Normally (with a few exceptions like Adaptation.), if you see the name Nick Cage, you know it is not going to be good, or it will be less good, or you can expect a strange and imprudent performance, but hopefully his antics and overall exaggeration will be beneficial to this (I really hope so, but I am not holding my breath). De Vries, on the other hand, is mostly a songwriter/producer who has worked with Baz Luhrmann (which can be taken either way, depending on whether you like Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge!) and has done limited work scoring films (I was not too big a fan of his Easy Virtue score). Overall though, especially having seen the trailer, this looks to be pretty kick ass (oh come on, you knew that was coming).

Release: January 15
Plot: An action film set in post-apocalyptic America, one man must fight to protect a sacred book that could save mankind.
Buzz: The logline, alone, is pretty tired sounding, but just look at the cast again, or think about how well the Hughes Bros. use their camera and have a flair for cool dark images. Plainly put, if there is only one reason to see this, it is Gary Oldman playing a villain (but really, anything with Oldman, Washington, Gambon, McDowell, and Rome’s Ray Stevenson is very likely to be awesome, or at the very least entertaining).

Director: Lee Unkrich
Release: June 18         
Plot: Andy has grown up and is off to college, what is to be with all his toys? Day-care!
Buzz: The good news here is Lee Unkrich is returning, having directed Toy Story 2, and with a screenplay by Little Miss Sunshine scribe, Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3 has a better than good chance of being able to live up to its predecessors. And, the whole cast, practically, is back as well. Lastly, it is Pixar, who, in the last two years, has put out Up and WALL-E, nothing but blue skies.

Director: Akiva Schaffer
Release: Fall/Winter 2010 (could get pushed back to early 2011)
Plot: A comedy about four friends who decide to ditch their mundane lives for global adventure!
Buzz: This film is either going to be really funny or be like Land of the Lost (Will Ferrell version). Watching Segel, Schwartzman and Hill survive the wilds like Man vs. Wild, adding in SNL and Hot Rod’s Akiva Schaffer to direct, just seems like so much awesome comic potential. Details are still short on this, the full cast is unknown and it has not even started filming, but Jason Segel is just so on his game right now that even with little info, excitement is in the air.

Director: Paul Greengrass
Release: March 12
Plot: A thriller about a committed military officer that aids the CIA in search for WMDs in Iraq, pre-Iraqi War, and instead starts to unravel a conspiracy.
Buzz: Greengrass and Damon’s third collaboration (the first two were quite good, stands to reason that this should be no different, on the other hand…). Why do people cast Greg Kinnear? Aside from Kinnear, the rest of the cast is brilliant. This might be the next good Iraq War film after 2009’s The Hurt Locker. This was lower on the list before the trailer arrived, check it out.

Director: Ben Affleck
Release: September 10
Plot: A crime drama about a thief planning his next job, trying to both balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to a previous score and also deal with a FBI agent out to bring him and his crew down.
Buzz: Reasons to both see a Ben Affleck movie and also to why a Ben Affleck movie is this high on the list: A) Gone Baby Gone, Affleck can direct a solid film, B) the cast is great, C) cinematography by Oscar winner Robert Elswit, D) Affleck is due to star in a good movie after a decade of mediocrity to just plain bad. This has potential to be an Oscars sleeper.

Director: William Monahan
Release: Spring/Fall 2010
Plot: A crime romance drama about an ex-con who is befriended by a movie star, hiding from the world in a Holland Park mansion.
Buzz: William Monahan steps out for his directorial debut; he is also co-writing. Wondering why the name sounds familiar or why this is high on the list, Oscar winner Monahan is the writer behind Kingdom of Heaven (watch director’s cut), The Departed and Body of Lies (all good) and has another script to film coming out in January, Edge of Darkness (narrowly missing this list, Martin Campbell returns to direct Mel Gibson once again seeking revenge). The cast in the film also sparks interest, Keira Knightley is usually good, Colin Farrell has his moments of brilliance, Anna Friel (just watch Pushing Daisies), Ray Winston, David Thewlis and Eddie Marsan are always great, Stephen Graham coming off a fine performance in Public Enemies, and Jamie Campbell Bower (fairly unknown) was a bright spot in the otherwise not so great RocknRolla (he can also be seen in the Harry Potter finales). And for the icing on the cake, Chris Menges is shooting it.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Release: February 19
Plot: A mystery thriller about a cop that goes to investigate a breakout/disappearance of an inmate at Shutter Island’s prison for the criminally insane.
Buzz: Red flag alert! Why on earth did this get pushed from Oscar season 2009 to the box office and Oscar graveyard of February, especially when it is testing so well? Paramount claims that they do not have the money to push the film for awards; maybe they feel The Lovely Bones and Up in the Air have better chances. Either way, and regardless of the reasons, Shutter Island looks like a fantastic psychological thriller; it is Martin Scorsese teaming up with DiCaprio again, strong track record there (Gangs of New York aside).

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Ricky Gervais, and Stephen Merchant
Release: Fall 2010
Plot: A comedy set in the 70s about professionals working at an insurance company.
Buzz: Writer/directors of The Office and Extras return with their first feature film together (Gervais co-directing The Invention of Lying with Matthew Robinson). For fans of Gervais and Merchant, just the mere mention of their names is enough to make this a highly anticipated project. Throw in talent like Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson and just start to wonder, “how great is this going to be!” Gervais has stated that he wants to do more drama, which can be seen in The Invention of Lying. Will Cemetery Junction cross into mostly drama with some comedy thrown in territory? Whatever form the film takes, just looking at who is involved is enough to have high expectations (teaser trailer!).

Release: July 16
Plot: A sci-fi film about a CEO who is blackmailed set within the architecture of the mind.
Buzz: A toss up between this and Death Hallows for the top spot, just consider them both number ones, if that helps. Is there a better working director today than Christopher Nolan? Since 2005 he has made Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. Can you name any director (maybe Clint Eastwood) that has made three movies released since 2005 with the same overall quality as those three (all of which were my film of the year in their respective years). It really does not even matter who is in this film, behind the camera is Nolan and Wally Pfister with music by Hans Zimmer, it could be stick figures and still be in the top 10 films of the year, so add the remarkable cast to the equation and you have a strong contender for another film of the year.

Director: David Yates
Release: November 19
Plot: Harry and company fight to stop Voldemort once and for good, the thrilling conclusion (part 1).
Buzz: For all that saw Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, David Yates can make one heck of a good Potter film, and he says the audience has not seen anything yet! Just about everyone behind the camera is back, Yates, editor Mark Day, production designer Stuart Craig, and screenwriter Steven Kloves, new to the team is cinematographer Eduardo Serra (picking up from the absolute master job done on the last two by Slawomir Idziak and, especially, Bruno Delbonnel, respectively). His work is also very good (see Girl with a Pearl Earring for reference). The Potter films have also featured maybe the greatest cast of British actors ever assembled, and now the stupendous Bill Nighy joins the cast along with the also very good Ciaran Hinds (if only they could squeeze Peter O’Toole in there somehow). If there is only money and time enough for one movie to see this coming year (sneak into, and make time for, Inception too), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is it. For those who wonder, part 2 is scheduled for July 15, 2011.