Personally I have many nice things to say about 2009, and maybe in the future 2009 will be regarded as a second 1979. I suppose that depends on this next decade. As increasing external pressures push the film industry into new directions and a general, to-be-expected panic agitates conventional views of the market, and the future of film now involves questions about size, shape, and sustainability, filmmakers should simply continue to worry about making films and nothing else. What kind of a filmmaker worries about the market anyway (one within the market, probably). I think this year's Oscars are going to be embarrassing, like this year's Independent Spirit Awards, but that's because none of the films I loved are being recognized! Drag Me to Hell should win best picture but it won't even be nominated. How serious I am I'm not sure. But anyway this year saw Goodbye Solo, Moscow Belgium, The Maid, Two Lovers, Broken Embraces, Beeswax, Antichrist, Baader Meinhof Complex, Extract, Three Monkeys, Bad Lieutenant, House of the Devil, Thirst, The Informant, Bruno, In the Loop, Lion's Den, Ponyo, Lorna's Silence, Whatever Works, etc I forgot or didn't see. Not to mention more obvious titles.
Here comes 2010. I'm ready. I think it's going to be a great year, and I'm sorry for anyone who isn't enjoying the theaters anymore. I've culled together some of my most anticipated, taken from this list. I was pretty selective, so you should browse the list yourself. A lot to look forward to. I think only Your Highness was also on my last year's list.
Their list is missing at least Enter the Void, The Details, and Micmacs. For whatever reason (festival releases?).
“The Tourist” - Columbia – Dir. Alfonso Cuaron
Synopsis: An American tourist is used by an Interpol agent in an attempt to flush out a criminal with whom she once had an affair.
What You Need To Know: The cast and director have changed enough times to make this worrisome, but the mere fact that Florian von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others") was attached to direct at one point has us pretty pumped none-the-less. It's true, action flicks with Angelina Jolie in them have been a superbly consistent snoozefest ("Mr. and Mrs Smith," "Tomb Raider," "Wanted," the upcoming computer-program-generated-action-flick "movies.," etc.) but who could replace Donnersmarck and keep us afloat with anticipation if not the equally amazing Alfonso Cuaron at the helm and Johnny Depp in front of the camera? With a script we liked, an intriguing cast, and a director you can't not trust, we're keeping our eyes out for this one.
Release Date: TBD, but shooting could start as early as February.
"Savage Innocent" (aka "Wild Child") - TBD - dir. Larry Clark
Synopsis: SHOCKER: it's a teenage disaffected youth film; a teenage boy in LA who runs out on an abusive family.
What You Need To Know: Degenerate sleazebag American filmmaker Clark hasn't directed a film since 2005's shockingly innocent, "Wassup Rockers" and this time he co-scripted the screenplay with Evan Wiener, the guy who co-wrote the documentary, "Murderball." The film was supposed to start lensing in the fall of 2009, but apparently was delayed and is still in pre-production. IMDB says 29-year-old British actor Paul Rawson will play Brent Holmes, who we kinda presume is too old to play the main boy. A remake of the romantic gangster film, "Mona Lisa," possibly with Mickey Rourke in the lead is on tap as well, but that probably won't get off the ground until 2011 and after 'Savage' finally shoots.
Release Date: TBD
"The Other Guys" (formerly "The B-Team") - Sony - Dir. Adam McKay
Synopsis: Two New York City Police detectives attempt to fill the shoes of their “super-cop” predecessors.
What You Need to Know: While, in our opinion, the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay films have been slightly inferior with each outing since the brilliant insanity of "Anchorman", the duo still manage to provide unparalleled moments of absurd hilarity, and that’s reason enough to look forward to this film. As popular as he may be, Ferrell could use a hit after 2009’s disastrous "Land of the Lost." We're fans and all, but it seems a backlash is overdue at this point, so let’s hope the all-star cast including Mark Wahlberg (as Ferrell's partner), Dwayne Johnson, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Steve Coogan can bring some new energy to the McKay/Ferrell formula and keep the funny train rollin'. The duo have revealed trained thespians like John C. Reilly and Richard Jenkins for the comic geniuses they are, so we look forward to seeing what they can do with the likes of Wahlberg and co. It's worth noting that "Eastbound & Down" producer Chris Henchy served as co-writer with McKay this time around, in place of Ferrell (who we assume was busy making bad movies).
Release Date: August 6, 2010
“What’s Wrong With Virginia?” - TBD - dir. Dustin Lance Black
Synopsis: A charming but psychologically disturbed mother holds a secret 20 year affair with a sheriff now running for state senate. Their relationship is tested, however, when the mother's 16 year old son begins a relationship with the sheriff's daughter.
What You Need To Know: The mainstream directorial debut of Oscar-winning scribe Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) of course has Gus Van Sant on board as an executive producer but also scored Jennifer Connelly and Liam Neeson as the leading adults as well as Ed Harris and Emma Roberts. Other than a few early lo-fi sexuality-fueled works, Black has also worked as a writer/producer on HBO’s “Big Love” so expect something in that vein.
Release Date: TBD
"Meek's Cutoff" - TBD - dir. Kelly Reichardt
Synopsis: Based on the true story, experienced mountaineer Stephen Meek leads an ill-fated wagon train through a shortcut on the Oregon Trail, turning into a the tale that includes starvation, a legendary lost gold mine and a Native American scout who might or might not be inclined to save the day.
What You Need To Know: Reichardt's no-budget take on a Western and follow-up to "Old Joy" and "Wendy And Lucy" is scribed by Jon Raymond and has somehow managed to draw an impressive cast consisting of the likes of Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Bruce Greenwood and Shirley Henderson. Incidentally, this entire project somehow slipped underneath everyone's radar and shooting already took place in desolate Harney County in Oregon whose isolation should mirror that of the characters in the film.
Release Date: TBD
"Rabbit Hole" - Fox Searchlight - Dir. John Cameron Mitchell
Synopsis: A couple struggles to cope with the death of their four-year-old son.
What You Need To Know: Adapted for the screen by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in the self-described anti-Hollywood production which co-stars Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard and Sandra Oh. Cameron Mitchell draws from his own experiences of losing a four-year-old brother for the film.
Release Date: TBD
“The Killer Inside Me” - dir. Michael Winterbottom
Synopsis: A West Texas sheriff goes on a downward spiral from a boring small-town cop into a ruthless, sociopathic murderer continually trying to cement his innocence when evidence may suspiciously suggest otherwise.
What You Need To Know: Based on a novel of the same name by Jim Thompson — who among other achievements, co-wrote Stanley Kubrick’s classic-heist-caper “The Killing” — this 1950’s period film shot in Oklahoma in the summer of ‘09 features Casey Affleck as the protagonist, Simon Baker as the attorney on his tail, Kate Hudson as Affleck’s girlfriend, Jessica Alba as a prostitute and Ned Beatty and Bill Pullman in unknown roles.
Release Date: Summer 2010
"The Grand Master" - TBD - dir. Wong Kar-Wai
Synopsis: It's a biopic of Ip Man, Bruce Lee's mentor, starring Wong Kar-Wai regular, Tony Leung.
What You Need To Know: As a follow-up to 2008's disappointing "My Blueberry Nights" (Wong's visually sumptuous but empty English-language debut) and 2005's overly-ambitious, romantic melodrama/sci-fi pastiche, "2046," Wong's first film of the new decade could either signify a return to the glory of his '90s output (when he didn't release even one mediocre picture), or could confirm the belief some of us have — that his most vibrant and alive filmmaking is behind him. Production on "Master" was delayed for a few months when Leung broke his arm while training for his part. In the interim, more cast members were added (Chang Chen, Zhang Ziyi, Hye-kyo Song), and rumors were started that have yet to be cleared up (is Gong Li in this thing or what? How about Brigitte Lin?), but as of late November, production seems to be back on track.
Release Date/Status: Shooting scheduled to take place between December and April.
"Miral" - TBD - dir. Julian Schnabel
Synopsis: A chronicle of Hind Husseini's effort to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.
What You Need To Know: Even compared to twin abstract biographies "Before Night Falls" (featuring a sterling turn from Javier Bardem) and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (likewise, Mathieu Amalric), painter cum filmmaker Julian Schnabel's latest sounds ambitious and a little crazy. "Miral," the director's first film since his 2008 concert doc "Lou Reed's Berlin," and first narrative since 2007's 'Diving Bell,' boldly attempts to explore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was shot on location. The film stars Israel's own Hiam Abbas, who just last year played the lead in Eran Riklis's "Lemon Tree," itself about the frictions between Israeli and Palestinian territories. But while Riklis's film is set in present times, Schnabel's "Miral" takes place in 1948. Other actors involved include Willem Dafoe and "Slumdog Millionaire" actress Freida Pinto.
Release Date: IMDB lists that this is in post-production. Hopefully someone picks this up in time for Oscar season 2010?
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" – BBC Films – Dir. Lynne Ramsay
Synopsis: A Columbine-like tragedy drama about a smart, educated New York mother (Tilda Swinton) who does her best to raise a difficult, unwanted son – who eventually breaks down her marriage – and then goes on a murderous crossbow-killing rampage at his high school just before his 16th birthday. She then has to deal with the grief and aftermath, questioning if she ever really loved the boy to begin with.
What You Need To Know: Having not directed a film since "Morvern Callar" in 2002, gifted Scottish director Lynne Ramsay then spent two years trying to adapt Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones," before it was released and became a best seller. While she never quite said why, she's suggested the popularity of the book steered it away from the dark adaptation she had envisioned (and look how poorly the Peter Jackson version turned out). She then set her eyes on adapting and directing Lionel Shriver's disturbing novel about a school massacre and while it's taken a long time to get off the ground, Swinton finally freed up her schedule long enough to officially join the cast in the fall of 2009, and Luc Roeg's Independent Film Company picked up the international rights.
Release Date: TBD. Filming is set to start in early 2010 so hopefully we'll see a picture before the year's end. Steven Soderbergh is an executive producer.
"The Descendants" - Fox Searchlight - Dir. Alexander Payne
Synopsis: A tragicomedy that centers on the story of an attorney (George Clooney) who finds his life at a crossroads after the death of his wife, and decides to take a trip with his two daughters to find the man she was having an affair with. Essentially it's an unconventional tale about fatherhood.
What You Need To Know: The world has sorely missed Alexander Payne, who hasn't directed a feature length film since 2004's "Sideways" (though he did a short in "Paris Je T'aime"). Payne's had this one set up over at Fox Searchlight since 2007, and seemed to be ready to jump on "Downsizing" instead -- a sci-fi-ish dramedy about a miniaturization process that helps Earth reverse the effects of global warming and food shortage by shrinking its population and therefore using and consuming less. Budget concerns forced Payne go back to the drawing board, where he decided to pick up the already-complete script by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. No other cast has been secured, but the film is expected to shoot in early 2010, so look for an announcement soon.
Release Date: TBD, but we would imagine this would likely be a Fall 2010 Oscar-bait picture ala "Up In The Air."
"Never Let Me Go" - TBD - Dir. Mark Romanek
Synopsis: It's marketed as a "alternate history film" about a woman who discovers (Keira Knightley) her past and therefore dark secrets, but that's hiding the obvious — the film is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's best-selling book of the same name — and it's no major spoiler to say this is a melancholy dystopian tale of a group of young friends who grow up and realize they came of age at a special school for clones.
What You Need To Know: Scripted by Danny Boyle writer Alex Garland, "Never Let Me Go" is dolorous, and while a little dry on paper, should easily be off-set by the excellent British cast of Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling and Andrea Riseborough. Interest will be piqued by geek-heads, but this is more a low-key, emotional British boarding-school drama that happens to have a sci-fi-ish bent, rather than being a full-blown science fiction tale. A friend of ours saw it in mid 2009 and called it gorgeous and visually accomplished. The film also marks the long-awaited return to the big screen for music video director Mark Romanek who is stepping out for the first time since 2002's "One Hour Photo," after he bailed on "The Wolf Man" at the last minute.
Release Date: TBD. Fall would be perfect, but we could also see it hit as a counter-programming move in the summer depending on what's available. This won't be a film that starts out in wide release.
“It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” - Focus Features – dir. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
Synopsis: A 15-year-old boy (relative newcomer Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after battling depression only to find himself admitted into the adult ward. Inside, the boy develops a series of colorful and dramatic relationships with a group of adults and even a girl of his own age (Zoe Kravitz).
What You Need To Know: Fleck and Boden followed their great debut “Half Nelson” with the hearty “Sugar.” The duo are now looking to repeat the adult-child relationship formula -- a dynamic that worked wonders with Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps in “Half Nelson” -- with a more comedic, but ostensibly no less touching tale based on a novel by Ned Vizzini. The rest of the cast is stellar and includes Zach Galifinakis (one of the adult mental patients who befriends the boy), Lauren Graham, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis (a therapist), Jim Gaffigan and Asif Mandvi ("The Daily Show")
Release Date: November, 2010
"Restless" - Sony - Dir. Gus Van Sant
Synopsis: Officially, it's a "tale of a two young people who share a preoccupation with mortality." But it's also the story of a a 16-year-old-girl (Mia Wasikowska) who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and falls in love with an off-beat boy (Henry Hopper) who likes to attend funerals and is suffering from the death of his family — which somehow produces the ghost of a young, Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII (Ryo Kase), no really.
What You Need To Know: Think "Terms of Endearment" meets "Harold & Maude for the emo generation. Jason Lew's script for "Restless" is funny, sad, weird, and in many ways all over the map with lots of interesting tones and tenors. Gus Van Sant will have his work cut out for him, but surely he'll find a way to balance all the disparateness. It's odd, it's unique, and therefore it's one of our most anticipated films of 2010 for sure. In lesser hands however, this thing truly could be a disaster. The lead is actually Dennis Hopper's son in his first starring role and Sissy Spacek's daughter Schuyler Fisk also has a significant part as Wasikowska's older sister.
Release Date: TBD. Filming wrapped December 18. A fall 2010 release seems apropos.
“The Rum Diary” – Warner Bros. – Dir. Bruce Robinson
Synopsis: Paul Kemp is a freelance journalist who finds himself, at a critical turning point in his life, drawn to the Caribbean. Self reflection and destruction ensue.
What You Need to Know: Anyone who's a fan of Johnny Depp in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (is anyone not?) should be looking forward to his long awaited second role as a Hunter S. Thompson surrogate. Cult director Bruce Robinson ("How To Get Ahead In Advertising") — who hasn't helmed a feature length film since "Jennifer Eight" in 1992 — is directing, and he's also a name you may recognize as the mind behind the wonderfully acidic English black comedy, "Withnail and I" – one of Depp's all-time favorite films. Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and the easy-to-look-at Amber Heard co-star.
Release Date: TBD
"Due Date" - Warner Brothers - Dir. Todd Phillips
Synopsis: An uptight, expectant father must team up with a slacker on a road trip in order to reach his wife before she gives birth.
What You Need to Know: One of the more surprising elements of the massive success of Phillips' "The Hangover" is the potential for scene stealer Zach Galifianakis to be the next big comic star. Again teaming up with the director, Galifianakis will star as the slacker alongside Robert Downey, Jr. as the high-strung father-to-be. Though it sounds like a retread of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," remember that "Hangover" sounded like a retread of "Bachelor Party" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" While we’re fans of all involved, we wonder if Galifianakis has his heart in this comic star thing—interviews with him suggest he’d rather be doing his idiosyncratic stand-up and tending to his North Carolina farm than yucking it up with A-listers. But if he really felt that way, couldn’t he just say "no", right? Look for Michelle Monahan to make an appearance as Downey's wife.
Release Date: November 5, 2010
"Paul" - Universal - dir. Greg Mottola
Synopsis: Two British sci-fi nerds attending a comic convention in America get sidetracked when they befriend an alien in the New Mexico desert.
What You Need To Know: Peanut-butter-and-jelly combo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as the nerds, with Frost taking the alpha male role this time, switching up a pretty familiar dynamic. Also changing things will be the American Mottola, director of "Superbad" and 2008's "Adventureland," who seems to be branching out with what looks like sci-fi comedy with traces of "E.T." and "Back To The Future." Normally movies about sci-fi and comic nerds seem shallow and desperate ("Free Enterprise" and "Fanboys" comes to mind), but no one distilled the notion of being a proud nerd quite like Pegg did in co-creating the British sitcom "Spaced," so we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Release Date: Likely Summer 2010
"Your Highness" - Universal - dir. David Gordon Green
Synopsis: In medieval times, a slovenly knight (Danny McBride) must try to save his father's kingdom and a princess (Zooey Deschanel) while also kicking a pot smoking habit. Luckily he has a brother (James Franco) and a warrior princess (Natalie Portman) to abet his quest.
What You Need To Know: Some may not have been fans of "The Foot Fist Way," but the makers of that film have permeated the culture quite a bit with "Eastbound & Down", and 'Foot' co-writers Danny McBride and Ben Best scripting this medieval comedy for "Pineapple Express" director Green seems like it could be interesting, considering it's essentially a send-up of '80s fantasy/sci-fi films like "Krull." McBride is in the lead, and he's promised cheap, but amusing" Ray Harryhausen 'Clash of the Titans' effects." So another genre experiment, and another pot comedy for Green. The one problem? The script is juvenile beyond belief and reads as if it was written by a 15-year-old teenager completely amused with himself. Let's hope there is lots of improvisation off-book.
Release Date: October 1, 2010
"Tree of Life" – Apparition - Dir. Terrence Malick
Synopsis: The story of a family who must come to terms with a devastating loss. In doing so, they discover life's most important lessons of unselfish love and forgiveness.
What You Need To Know: Malick is back again as writer and director with this long-gestating project of over 30 years (it began as something known as "Q" in the '70s). Reuniting with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and legendary Production designer Jack Fisk, the same team who brought us "The New World" in 2006, the epic picture traces the evolution of an eleven-year-old boy named Jack growing up in the midwest during the 1950's. Sean Penn plays the adult Jack while Brad Pitt, in a role originally intended for Heath Ledger, plays the boy's father. Jessica Chastain (pictured) plays the mother, with Fiona Shaw and Jennifer Sipes also starring. Given Malick's track record of making meditative, naturalistic, and down right stunning films, one can assume that we'll have plenty to admire with this one, at the very least, enjoy 'Benjamin Button' composer Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack. Supposedly, over three million feet of 35MM film has been shot and the life-expansive film — which also includes an adjunct documentary called, "The Voyage Of Time" — will also feature sequences in a "hereafter" state that might feature Pitt and Penn together, but evidently they have no actual scenes together in the film.
Release Date: Rumors now peg it for world premiere at Cannes in May and then either a summer or fall release in the U.S., according to the distributors. But we're going to hold out hope for fall, as this is of course Malick — an infamous tinkerer with completion anxiety.