Malice in Wonderland


The eyes have it.

The eyes have it.

(2009) Fantasy (Magnet) Maggie Grace, Danny Dyer, Matt King, Nathaniel Parker, Bronagh Gallagher, Anthony Higgins, Steve Haze, Christian Patterson, Dave Lynn, Gary Beadle, Amanda Boxer, Paul Kaye, Matthew Stirling, Alan McKenna, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Steve Furst, Pam Ferris, Garrick Hagon, Sandra Dickinson, Elizabeth Goram-Smith. Directed by Simon Fellows

The rabbit hole isn’t what it used to be. This re-imagining of the Lewis Carroll classic translocates Wonderland into a seedy urban/suburban Manchester, populated with basically every Brit gangster film actor of the last few years. Would Guy Ritchie approve?

Alice (Grace) is an American studying law in London. She’s returning home from a study session when she’s knocked down by a sinister black cab driven by Whitey (Dyer), a pill-procuring cabby who is obsessively concerned about tardiness, which seems to bother him more than you’d think it should. Sound familiar?

When she comes to, she’s forgotten who she is and what she’s doing there. Whitey seems to be her only link to finding out who she is. Whitey is mostly disinterested; as with everyone in a Lewis Carroll tale (or a British gangster movie for that matter) his priority is to take care of his own business. However eventually he begins to feel something for Alice who is pretty much a pawn in a much larger game that she is completely clueless is even being played.

The visuals here are pretty nifty and I like the mash-up of fantasy and gangster concept. Unfortunately it isn’t executed particularly well. It can be hard making sense of the various and sundry characters that come and go – I suppose those who are really up on the Wonderland books will be able to figure out the corresponding characters here, some obvious (Whitey = White Rabbit), some not so much (Harry Hunt = the King and maybe the Queen as well). However, I get the sense that the writers spent a great deal of energy fitting Alice into the new milieu without really asking the question of whether she belongs there in the first place – I think she does although perhaps not in the way they had in mind.

Grace, who had just finished her work in Lost when she filmed this, can be a marvelous actress but I got the sense that she was floundering here. Part of the problem is the writers turned Alice from a plucky heroine into a whiny drug-addled victim who bounces from the clutches of one nefarious villain to another. Part of the appeal of the Carroll story is the strength of character that Alice possesses that allow her to navigate the treacherous landscape whose rules defy not only what Alice is used to but of common sense and logic as well.

The story is occasionally hard to follow even knowing the tale of Alice from childhood. All the rivalries and alliances among the denizens of Wonderland are often tangled and obscure, while the motivations are even more so. I found myself with a great big headache trying to make sense of all this. Granted, Alice in Wonderland has always struck me as kind of a kid’s version of an acid trip without actually ingesting any drugs, but unfortunately this version turns out to be more of a bummer than anything else.

WHY RENT THIS: Creative concept. Some nice visuals.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A confusing mess.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of bad language, a little bit of violence and sexuality and some brief drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Most of Fellows’ credits previous to this were direct-to-video action films starring Jean-Claude van Damme.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Forbidden Zone

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Seabiscuit

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Top 10 of 2010


It’s that time of year again, the time when critics both well-known and unknown create their lists of movies that were the very best of the year just ended. People seem to love these sorts of things – my top 10 for 2009 remains one of my most popular pages in terms of visits on my site. I expect that this page will probably do even better.

As I said last year, these lists are entirely arbitrary and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. For one thing, people’s tastes are different. A movie that may affect me deeply might seem manipulative to you. A movie that floats your boat may seem a waste of time to me. We all have our buttons.

The truth is, assigning a “best of” tag to anything is a highly fluid process. I’ve given these movies a position on the list but the truth is ask me what my top ten is a few weeks from now and it likely won’t be the same as it is here. It might also include one or two movies that I might have missed during the course of the year, or others that I have seen again recently and re-adjusted my opinion of. Hey, it happens – as with women, it is a critic’s prerogative to change their minds.

What gets a movie on this list? The basic qualifier is whether I liked or not. After that, I’m looking at movies that affected me emotionally, or that I thought was innovative either in its storytelling techniques, its look or its approach. While special effects continue to improve and push the boundaries, nothing this year rivaled the complete game changer that was Avatar last year, so you won’t see a lot of special effects-heavy movies on this year’s list, although Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World both came very close indeed.

Some critics limit their list to five movies; others go larger, with 20, 25, sometimes even 50 movies on their list. I’m limiting it to ten; it’s an arbitrary number, and seems to be something of a standard. Five isn’t enough and twenty is too many. Ten seems suitable for a list of movies that I think is worth honoring above and beyond all the rest.

Most of these movies are either in general release at the moment or are available on home video, on demand or on cable. You may not agree with all my choices. You may wonder why I didn’t choose, say, Toy Story 3 or The Social Network (which might be the most controversial omission) or why I did choose the ones I did. As I said, ask me again later and my mind may have changed.

This is meant to invite discussion or at least some thought. You may not agree on all of these films being the ten very best – you may not agree on the order. However, I think that we can all agree that these are all quality movies that have something to offer nearly everyone. If you’re looking to see a good movie, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t walk out of any of these feeling disappointed.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. In no particular order;

The Social Network, Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Inception, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, Waking Sleeping Beauty, Get Low, Love and Other Drugs, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Shutter Island, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Secret of Kells, Leaves of Grass, Warlords, A Prophet, Cyrus, The Kids are All Right, The American, Let Me In, MegaMind, I Remember, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.

Also a special shout-out must be made for Montana Amazon, an amazing little indie film that certainly would have made a good case for the top ten but is not scheduled for theatrical release until 2011. If it comes to your town, by all means seek it out. If you’re interested in reading the original reviews, just click on the title.

10.  MID-AUGUST LUNCH (PRANZO DI FERRAGOSTO)

(Zeitgeist) Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Cali, Grazia Csarini Storza, Alfonso Santagata, Luigi Marchetti, Marcello Ottolenghi, Petre Rosu. Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio

Released March 17, 2010 I first saw this at the Florida Film Festival and was overwhelmed by its charm and gentle nature. Here was a movie whose only aspiration was to make those watching it feel better, with perhaps a comment or two on aging in general. Genial Gianni takes on several older women along with his mother for a mid-August holiday in the oppressive heat of Rome. Gianni, chronically unemployed, is swept through life rather than sweeping through it, wanting no more than a good glass of white wine and the ability to cook a good meal.

WHY IT IS HERE: Gianni Di Gregorio wrote, directed and starred in this highly personal project which was based on his recollections of caring for his own elderly mother in the last years of her life. He also filmed it in his own apartment and utilized personal friends in the cast. The end result is a film that feels more like you’ve been invited to lunch by Italian friends, and are sitting around the table talking about this and that with them. Who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Aunt Maria decides to run away and have a glass of wine or three or more. Drunk off her ass, she makes a pass at Gianni when he retrieves her but not before displaying a vulnerable side that comes out of left field.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $675,299 domestic (as of 1/6/11), $9.3 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

9. 127 HOURS

(Fox Searchlight) James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clement Posey, Kate Burton, Lizzy Caplan, Treat Williams, Sean Bott, John Lawrence, Rebecca Olson, Pieter Jan Brugge, Jeffrey Wood. Directed by Danny Boyle

Released November 5, 2010 Danny Boyle won an Oscar with his previous movie Slumdog Millionaire and is in serious contention once again with this movie. He could have gone with a big budget film as his follow-up, done any one of dozens of projects but this was what he chose to follow-up his Oscar party with, the story of a cocky type-A personality who gets into a pickle and has to resort to extreme measures to get himself out. These types of true-life stories may be inspirational on paper but they don’t often translate to Hollywood box office gold, so choosing this project was a brave move in and of itself.

WHY IT IS HERE: Most of the movie takes place in a narrow canyon with Aron’s arm pinned to the wall with a boulder. It’s almost all Franco for the bulk of the movie and Franco delivers with a memorable performance that has to be a major contender for the Best Actor Oscar this year. Nominations for director and screenplay are probably not out of the realm of possibility either. The film takes essentially one person in a confined space for about an hour of screen time and makes it riveting, making this as good a piece of filmmaking as you are ever likely to see.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aron imagines himself as a guest on a talk show, in which the host asks him some pointed questions is humorous and poignant simultaneously.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.6 million domestic (as of 1/5/11), $10.6M total.

BUDGET: $18 million.

STATUS: Theatrical run has been completed for the most part; you may be able to find it in second run theaters. Home video release is tentatively scheduled for March 2011.

8. TRUE GRIT

(Paramount) Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Dakin Mathews, Jarlath Conroy, Elizabeth Marvel, Roy Lee Jones, Ed Corbin, Leon Russom. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Released December 22, 2010 I was none too pleased to find out that one of my all-time favorite westerns was being remade. I’m a big believer that if something ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix it. Most Hollywood attempts to remake classics had ended up in disaster – ask Gus Van Sant about his fling with Psycho sometime. On top of that all, Westerns haven’t been in vogue since, well 1969 when True Grit was first released. I had plenty of misgivings all right – and then I heard it was the Coen Brothers that would be directing it. Sigh. Everything is going to be all right.

WHY IT IS HERE: While this is still the basic plot and the same characters, the whole feel is different. The movie is said to be more in line with the Charles Portis novel the original was based on, and certainly feels more authentic to the time period of the original. The language is very much in line with the way people spoke during that time in history. That said, it isn’t The Duke and it isn’t the original and it will never really replace them, but given that Bridges turns in a performance that is as good as any actor turned in this year, it stands on its own.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Mattie in the pit. ‘Nuff said.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $95.4 million domestic (as of 1/6/11), $95.4 total.

BUDGET: $38 million.

STATUS: The movie is still out in general release in the United States and Canada; overseas release is planned for the early part of 2011. Home video release is tentatively scheduled for May of this year.

7. ALICE IN WONDERLAND

(Disney) Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman (voice), Timothy Spall (voice), Stephen Fry (voice), Christopher Lee (voice), Michael Gough (voice), Michael Sheen (voice). Directed by Tim Burton

Released March 5, 2010 From the beginning I thought this was a perfect match. Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll are much like peanut butter and chocolate; two great tastes that taste great together. Burton is one of the few modern directors that has the vision that is even in the same ballpark as Carroll’s.  

WHY IT IS HERE: This is one of the most visually impressive movies of the year. The vision of Underland is whimsical to be sure, sort of like an English garden as seen through a kaleidoscope while smoking a hookah. However, the thing to remember about this Alice is that this isn’t Lewis Carroll’s Alice. This is a different story based on Lewis Carroll’s characters. I guess they decided to keep the name for marketing value.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The Mad Hatter’s victory dance. You’ll know it when you see it.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $334.2 million domestic (as of 1/8/11), $1.0 billion total.

BUDGET: $200 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

6. THE WHITE RIBBON (DAS WIESSE BAND)

(Sony Classics) Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Burghart Klaussner, Ursina Lardi, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Susanne Lothar, Rainier Bock, Branko Samarovsky. Directed by Michael Haneke

Released December 30, 2009 Although this was released in 2009 in New York and Los Angeles, most of the rest of the country didn’t get to see this until January of 2010. An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, this movie looked at the nature of evil and how it can appear in the most innocuous of places. Filmed in black and white, the movie never really attracted much of an audience which is a shame. It deserved better.

WHY IT IS HERE: The realization of a pre-World War I Germany is one of the best I’ve seen from a modern movie. It captures the nuances of a different era, from the politeness of the children to the monstrous discipline imposed on them. The last vestiges of feudal society are shown in this very chilling and very thought-provoking film.  

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene when the Baroness discovers the ruined cabbage patch is priceless.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2.2 million domestic (as of 1/11/11), $19.2 million total.

BUDGET: $18 million

STATUS: Available on DVD/Blu-Ray at most online and local home video outlets.

5. WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN”

(Paramount Vantage) Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, Anthony Black, Daisy Esparza, Bianca Hill, Bill Strickland, Randi Weingarten, Bill Gates, George Reeves, Davis Guggenheim (voice). Directed by Davis Guggenheim

Released September 24, 2010 Guggenheim came into prominence after directing the acclaimed documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Although some decried it, it did bring global warming into national consciousness and made Al Gore hip (briefly). Now, Guggenheim turns his attention on the American public school system, noting that almost everyone agrees it is badly in need of fixing.

WHY IT IS HERE: The movie shows the importance of education and suggests some means of fixing the public school system. While I don’t agree with all of the film’s conclusions (I think that the problem is much more complicated than blaming it on the teacher unions’ refusal to get rid of tenure), it certainly opens up the opportunity for dialogue and hopefully, focuses the attention of more Americans on the problems facing our students who at this point are going to be competing in a global economy insufficiently prepared for it.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The interweaving lottery results as the students being followed throughout the movie await their fate on which their future hangs in the balance.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $6.4 million domestic (as of 1/24/11), $6.4 million worldwide.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Scheduled for home DVD/Blu-Ray release on February 15, 2011.

4. THE FIGHTER

(Paramount) Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Mickey O’Keefe, Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Taylor, Kate O’Brien. Directed by David O. Russell

Released December 17, 2010 Six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Adams and Leo) show the members of the Academy were high on this movie and critics gave it high praise as well. The story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward resonated with everyone who’s ever had to struggle to get out of a family member’s shadow.

WHY IT IS HERE: Great performances (Wahlberg didn’t get a Best Actor nomination but many felt he should have) and a terrific story made this one of the year’s highlights. Casting is definitely the key, as the chemistry between the various characters is authentic and compelling. Is it as good as classic boxing films like Raging Bull? No, but it’s damn close!

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The catfight between Amy Adams and the sisters. Classic!

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $72.7 million domestic (as of 1/23/11), $73.4 total.

BUDGET: $25 million.

STATUS: Currently in wide release.

3. WINTER’S BONE

(Roadside Attractions) Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, Lauren Sweetser, Shelley Waggener, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Isaiah Stone, Tate Taylor, Sheryl Lee, Ronnie Hall, Ashlee Thompson. Directed by Debra Granik

Released June 18, 2010 Every year at the Florida Film Festival, there is always one movie that just seems to capture my attention and imagination, and one that just is so good that it cannot be ignored. This year, even Oscar didn’t ignore it – the movie wound up receiving a nomination for Best Picture, as well as Lawrence for Best Actress and Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor. This is as high-quality an indie film as you are ever likely to see.

WHY IT IS HERE: In some ways, this is a grueling movie to watch. Ree Dolly, as played by Jennifer Lawrence, searches for her wayward drug dealing dad who has put her home at risk. With her mother suffering from mental illness, Ree is it when it comes to her younger siblings and it has cost Ree plenty. She yearns for a normal teenage life, one she knows she will never have. It’s heartbreaking, it’s compelling, it’s a look at the dark side of the mountain people to whom loyalty is a given but truth isn’t necessarily so.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A scene where Ree crashes a party where the people there are singing; it is both awkward and eloquent at once.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $6.3 million domestic (as of 1/23/11), $7.8 million total.

BUDGET: $2 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

2.  FLIPPED

(Warner Brothers) Madeline Carroll, Callum McAuliffe, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca de Mornay, Penelope Ann Miller, Kevin Weisman, Ashley Taylor, Israel Broussard, Cody Horn, Ruth Crawford. Directed by Rob Reiner

Released August 6, 2010 First love is very special, very frightening and unforgettable. We remember it our entire lives and yet no movie has captured it so beautifully and as touchingly as this one. Director Rob Reiner makes his best movie in years, aided by a wonderful supporting cast (particularly Mahoney) and a pair of juvenile actors who are as good as anybody out there.

WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that flew below everybody’s radar. Critics missed it and audiences certainly did, as the studio gave it a microscopic release. It missed out on major award and fell between every crack that Hollywood has. That makes this a hidden gem just waiting for audiences to discover it. No movie left me feeling as good when I left the theater this year. I highly recommend you seek this one out – you’ll thank me for it later.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The conversation between Juli and Chet…or the one between Bryce and Chet…or the uncomfortable dinner scene with the Loskis and the Bakers…Oh hell, any scene that has Mahoney in it.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $1.3 million domestic (as of 8/6/10), $1.8 million total.

BUDGET: $14 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

1. THE KING’S SPEECH

(Weinstein) Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Claire Bloom, Timothy Spall, Eve West, Roger Parrott, Anthony Edwards, Patrick Ryecart. Directed by Tom Hooper

Released November 26, 2010 The Royal Family is much in the news and on the silver screen lately, with the Royal Wedding set for this year as well as films such as The Queen showing the human side of the family which has often been de-humanized by their status, not entirely of their own doing. Here, we see the courage of habitual stutterer George VI (father to current monarch Elizabeth II) who learns to overcome his affliction with the help of unorthodox Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue. Rush, who plays Logue, was a producer on the film which received more Oscar nominations (12) than any other this year. Firth has a Golden Globe for best dramatic actor already on his mantle; he’s an odds-on favorite to add an Oscar to his collection.

WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that displays unusual courage and charm, given the subject matter. Some movies just grab your attention from the moment the projector lights up the screen and keep it until the theater employees come in to clean up the theater. This is one of those films. Every performance here is nothing short of amazing, led by Firth and Rush, as well as Carter – all of whom will be competing for acting Oscars in February. Director Tom Hooper brings you into the Royal Family’s boudoir and you feel like a fly on the wall in the palace halls, and that works for me. This is a quality production, from the set design to the costumes to the score and especially to the acting performances. I honestly thought the top three movies this year were very close in terms of quality – I could have been just as happy with either #2 or #3 in this spot – but at the end of the day, if there was one movie from 2010 that you should see for sure, this is it.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Some have mentioned the climactic scene where the King gives his radio address, but I much prefer the scene when George and Elizabeth are revealed to Myrtle Logue as her husband’s clients; it’s charming and shows as much heart as any scene in the movie.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $59.0 million domestic (as of 1/25/11), $108.8 total.

BUDGET: $15 million.

STATUS: Currently in wide release.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)


Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Let it be said that too much time in Hollywood can give you a big head.

(Disney) Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman (voice), Stephen Fry (voice), Timothy Spall (voice), Michael Gough (voice), Michael Sheen (voice), Christopher Lee (voice). Directed by Tim Burton

The world as we know it is a crazy place. Sometimes we do things for reasons even we can’t fathom. There are times that the craziest people of all are truly the sanest.

Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) is the daughter of a visionary. Her father Charles (Marton Csokas) founded a successful import company on the premise of pushing beyond the boundaries of what is considered reasonable. “I often do six impossible things before breakfast” he tells his adoring daughter, soothing her whenever she has one of her frequent nightmares.

But it’s always the same nightmare, falling down an endless hole into an impossible place with strange creatures. That nightmare continues to occur even when she is a young lady, her father prematurely dead and now her mother determined to see her wed to the impossibly haughty Lord Hamish (Leo Bill). This doesn’t sit well with the plucky and intelligent Alice who can’t see being married to an absolute twit, but at the same time the marriage may be necessary to the survival of her family.

She follows a rabbit racing through the underbrush at the Ascot Manor until she finds a convenient hole to fall in. There she reaches a strange place, a kind of underbrush below the world, where potions can shrink her and little tea cakes can make her grow to gigantic dimensions.

This isn’t the Wonderland that Lewis Carroll told us about. The Red Queen (Carter) has taken over, ruling the land by intimidation. Her Knave (Glover) leads a pack of mechanical-looking soldiers throughout Wonderland to intimidate and wipe out any resistance. Her iron will is enforced by the Jabberwocky (Lee) which is far too powerful for anyone in Wonderland to overcome and the only weapon that is capable of slaying it, the Vorpal Sword, is in the hands of the Red Queen.

Alice believes this is all a dream and despite her many attempts to awaken, remains dreaming. She is taken to the caterpillar Absalom (Rickman) who proclaims that she’s “not hardly” the right Alice that the denizens of Wonderland are awaiting to slay the Jabberwocky. When the Knave attacks along with the terrifying Bandersnatch, she finds her way to the Mad Hatter (Depp), once the haberdasher to the White Queen (Hathaway) but now completely insane and harmless, although he harbors much ill will towards the Red Queen. His little group of followers includes the Cheshire Cat (Fry) – an expert in evaporation, the plucky Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the nearly-as-mad March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) and the loyal bloodhound Bayard (Spall).

Forces are gathering with the fate of Wonderland itself in the balance as the Frabjuous Day approaches, the day that Alice is fated to slay the Jabberwocky. Is she the right Alice? Or is she merely a plucky girl lost in a strange dream?

Tim Burton has always been one of the most imaginative directors in Hollywood from a visual standpoint with only Terry Gilliam to rival him. With movies like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Ed Wood to his credit, he has long been a director whose work is so interesting that he has become a brand name unto himself. Quite frankly, his version of a children’s story that he never particularly connected to as a child will end up ranking as one of the very best works of his illustrious career.

This Wonderland is amazing to look at, with creatures that are both strange and terrifying wandering around the landscape. The characters are mostly grotesques, with the bulbous-headed Red Queen leading the pack looking not unlike a forced perspective illusion.

This is a fabulous cast, and Depp is terrific as the Hatter, lending the character depth that it was never accorded either in the Lewis Carroll book or in the many film and animation versions that follow. His madness isn’t just a joke; it is hard-won by devastating events in his life. As good as Depp is, he doesn’t overwhelm the movie and is content to be a cog in the wheel rather than the straw that stirs the drink. Carter is also clearly having a great time as the Red Queen and screams “Off with their heads!!!” with great gusto.

The story isn’t taken straight from the Alice books that Lewis Carroll wrote but is rather inspired by them. Burton chooses to take a route that ages Alice into young womanhood and while he keeps the Victorian era (which in many ways seems as strange to us as Wonderland itself does) he gives the story a logical flow that makes sense within the confines of the universe created by Carroll, and still works for modern audiences. The writing is absolutely audacious and brilliant.

Some critics have groused about the action sequences in the final act but I find that a bit prissy. Certainly Burton could have come up with something a little more talky or prosaic but I found the action curiously satisfying. It helps wrap things up from a Wonderland standpoint, and gives Alice the necessary courage to finally embrace her own strengths.

Not everyone is going to love this movie as much as I did. Certainly purists are going to grumble at the liberties taken with Carroll’s story and those expecting a live action version of Disney’s animated feature of Alice are going to be extremely disappointed. There are those who won’t like Burton’s vision and may find it too esoteric and too fantastic.

Never mind them. I admire imagination in all its forms and even when I don’t get it, I at least try to give props for the attempt. Here I clearly connected with what Burton was trying to do and I wasn’t the only one. This is a marvelous movie that has only a few minor flaws that keep it from my highest rating possible. I can recommend it without reservation to anyone except those who like their fantasies safe and spoon-fed. Those sorts probably shouldn’t be reading my blog anyway.

REASONS TO GO: Completely imaginative, this is a movie that actually improves on a classic. Great acting, a believable story and impressive visuals make this one of the year’s top movies early on.  

REASONS TO STAY: Wasikowska is at times a little bland as Alice. Purists will shudder at the liberties taken with Carroll’s work.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some mildly disturbing images and the wee small tykes may be a bit frightened by some of the fiercer creatures, but otherwise suitable for everyone.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: If you look carefully at images of the Mad Hatter, one of his pupils is dilated and the other is not, which implies a serious brain injury.

HOME OR THEATER: This is best served on a big screen in 3D; even better in IMAX if that’s available near you.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

TOMORROW: Body of Lies

2010 Preview


2009 is nearly over and with that we have the simultaneous opportunity to look forward and look ahead. Looking back will take place in a couple of weeks when I let you know what my top ten movies of 2009 are; there are a few more yet for me to see before I put the list together.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what to expect in 2010. We’ll be taking a detailed look at the first four months of the year, and then general looks at the summer and fall (since we’ll be doing detailed previews of those seasons later on). There are some big movies coming out next year – the sequel to Iron Man, the first installment in the final book of the Harry Potter series, the third film in the Twilight series, the first new Toy Story film in eleven years, Tim Burton’s take on a classic fairy tale and the return of the Narnia, Tron and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.

We’ll continue to be busy reviewing not only the major releases but also the lesser known indie and foreign releases out on DVD/Blu-Ray. Hopefully we’ll be adding some new features to the blog and newsletter – details for which will be coming soon. In the meantime, let’s take a sneak peak as to what to expect in 2010.

Please note that some of the movies previewed here will already have opened in limited release or just in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration. Since they are not coming to Orlando until 2010 they are getting previewed here.

As always, release dates are extremely subject to change and chances are that several of these movies will be moved up or back on the release schedule, and maybe some may not be released at all. The farther out the movie is scheduled for, the more likely for change there is. Do consult your local theater listings to make sure the movie is playing in your area before heading out to the multiplex. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

JANUARY

January is usually the time of holiday holdovers, movies that debuted during the Holiday season and remain in theaters. Most of the movies released during this month are those the studio has little confidence in. Occasionally, studios will release a low-budget movie that connects, like Cloverfield.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

THE LOVELY BONES

RELEASE DATE: January 15, 2010

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan

STORY: This is a story seen through the eyes of a murdered 14-year-old girl who watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. Her desire for vengeance is weighed against her desire for her family to heal and move on.

PROSPECTS: This is the first movie for director Peter Jackson since King Kong. It’s getting a great deal of Oscar buzz already and is based on a popular novel by Alice Sebold.

OBSTACLES: The novel is not an easy one to film and it remains to be seen if Jackson can bring this story to the screen properly. The serial killer preying on young girls may be a little too intense for some.

FACTOID: Ronan, who takes the central role of Susie, was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Atonement shortly after being cast for this movie.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

BOOK OF ELI

RELEASE DATE: January 15, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones

STORY: In a post-apocalyptic landscape a lone warrior guards a book of knowledge from those who would use it for their own ends.

PROSPECTS: Washington is money in the bank, one of the most popular stars in Hollywood. The trailer makes Eli look like Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name a little bit.

OBSTACLES: It will mostly be up against holiday holdovers like Avatar and Sherlock Holmes and if The Road does badly folks might not want to see another bleak post-apocalypse movie.

FACTOID: Kristen Stewart was originally cast but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts with her Twilight movies. Mila Kunis inherited the role.

EDGE OF DARKNESS

RELEASE DATE: January 29, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Bojana Novakovic, Frank Grillo, Gbenga Akinnagbe

STORY: A rough-and-tumble Boston homicide detective sees his daughter murdered in front of him on his doorstep. His investigation uncovers a shadowy government conspiracy that he will do anything to bring to the light of day.

PROSPECTS: A dazzling trailer indicates this might be a return to Gibson’s Lethal Weapon form.

OBSTACLES: This is Gibson’s first onscreen appearance since his anti-Semitic remarks during his DUI arrest a couple of years back and there will be some that haven’t forgiven him for that.

FACTOID: Winstone and Huston most recently teamed in the independent Western The Proposition.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES

RELEASE DATE: January 22, 2010

STUDIO: CBS Films

STARRING: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, Courtney B. Vance, Jared Harris, Dee Wallace

STORY: This is based on the true story of John Crowley, a corporate type whose two children developed an incurable – and fatal – disease. Stymied by the medical profession, he approaches a brilliant but unconventional genetic researcher and forms a biotech company devoted to finding a cure, but it is a race in which time is against them.

PROSPECTS: A high-powered cast will certainly bring in a certain amount of attention as will the compelling true story.

OBSTACLES: Bad word of mouth can kill a film like this and while the competition isn’t exactly killer this time of year, nonetheless it will be coming out in a crowded release market.

FACTOID: This will be the first wide release from the new studio formed by the television network.

ALSO IN THEATERS

January 8, 2010

LEAP YEAR (Universal) sends Amy Adams to Ireland, determined to propose to her commitment-phobic boyfriend on the only day when a woman can propose to a man, Leap Day (it’s one of those folky traditions that nobody’s ever heard of). However, getting to where she has to go might prove to be more complicated than she imagined. DAYBREAKERS (Lionsgate) stars Ethan Hawke as a medical researcher in 2019 when the world has been overcome by a plague that has turned the majority of the population into vampires. With human blood becoming the most endangered natural resource of all it’s a bad time to be a human. No word on whether Team Edward is endorsing this or not. YOUTH IN REVOLT (Dimension) was relocated to this date from last fall and stars Michael Cera in dual roles as a socially awkward teen and his altar ego, a suave lady’s man as he tries to woo a beautiful free-spirited young woman who finds his actual personality boring. This sounds too much like Michael Cera’s real life to me. CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE (Freestyle Releasing) marks comedian Tim Allen’s directing debut. This is about an ex-con trying to make a fresh start but having to combat an eccentric family, his ex partner-in-crime and an unpredictable girlfriend. Tim Allen as an ex-con…it’s not much of a stretch is it? A SINGLE MAN (Weinstein) is opening in limited release. It’s a much-acclaimed drama about a gay Englishman in Los Angeles in the early 1960s coping with the death of his long-time partner. It’s said to be generating some Oscar buzz for Colin Firth in the lead role.

January 15, 2010

THE SPY NEXT DOOR (Lionsgate) stars Jacky Chan in a role that is a combination of Vin Diesel in The Pacifier and Chan’s own The Tuxedo as an international spy on assignment must perform the most dangerous duty of all – babysitting his neighbor’s kids. Me, I say turn Jet Li on ‘em.

January 22, 2010

LEGION (Screen Gems) finds God losing his faith in mankind. He sends his angels to Earth to wreak the Apocalypse. Only an angel sympathetic to the human race and a group of unlikely heroes in an out-of-the-way diner stand between humanity and the abyss. Of course if the angel has the blue plate special then humanity is pretty much screwed. TOOTH FAIRY (20th Century Fox) stars Dwayne Johnson as a minor league hockey player prone to violence and cruelty. When he dashes a child’s hopes, he is sentenced to act as the Tooth Fairy for a week. I think The Rock needs to lay the smack down on his agent. TO SAVE A LIFE (Goldwyn) is about a star high school athlete who is faced with the decision of changing his life and sacrificing his dreams to save the lives of others. This one will likely be opening in limited release.

January 29, 2010

WHEN IN ROME (Touchstone) stars Kristen Bell as an ambitious but romantically challenged New Yorker who, while on a trip to Rome, defiantly takes some coins out of a “foolish fountain” that is supposed to bring love to those who throw coins into it. She is surprised when four men begin to woo her rather aggressively. When she begins to fall for a charming journalist, she begins to wonder if his affections are real or as a result of the magic fountain. Personally girl, if you have Josh Duhamel chasing after you who cares if it’s real or magic? Just go with it! AFTER DARK HORRORFEST (After Dark/Lionsgate) is the fourth installment of the world’s largest film festival, as eight more films “to die for” will compete to scare the living hell out of you.

 FEBRUARY

With Valentine’s Day in the middle of the month, traditionally romantic comedies do well – as do horror movies. Date movies are the rule of the day as the release schedule for 2010 begins in earnest.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

SHUTTER ISLAND

RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2010

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Max von Sydow.

STORY: Set in the 1950s, a pair of jaded U.S. Marshals treks to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance and possible escape of a woman convicted of a heinous murder from a fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane. The two become ensnared in a plot that may be more malevolent than the actions of the criminals locked away inside.

PROSPECTS: This is director Martin Scorsese’s first major feature film since The Departed won him his long-overdue Oscar. The movie has been in the public eye since Paramount began pushing the movie last summer.

OBSTACLES: The studio delayed release from Oscar season to now, which may indicate they aren’t confident in the quality of the work. This is a departure from Scorsese’s normal playground as he moves into a psychological horror vein he hasn’t traversed before.

FACTOID: Some scenes were filmed at the old Massachusetts State Mental Hospital in Medfield, MA.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF

RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Ray Winstone, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario

STORY: A young high school student discovers that the ancient Greek gods are real and that he is the son of Poseidon. And you thought your high school years were rough. Anyway, he’s the chief suspect in the theft of Zeus’ lightning bolt and sets out to clear his name with a pair of other kids who are also, like him, half-divine.

PROSPECTS: The last franchise that director Chris Columbus launched was merely Harry Potter and this series of young adult fantasy numbers (six installments to date) has many similarities; a two boy and one girl trio of leads, a plethora of respected character actor adult supporting roles and so on. The new trailer promises big time special effects.

OBSTACLES: This movie doesn’t have the kind of fan base that the Potter films started out with. Mid-winter is not the best time to launch a tentpole franchise, which indicates the studio is not exactly endorsing the movie with guns blazing.

FACTOID: The character of Percy Jackson is largely based on author Rick Riordan’s own son, who has ADHD like the lead character. The book began as bedtime stories for his son based on mythological characters that his son was studying in school.

THE WOLFMAN

RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Art Malik, Geraldine Chaplin, Elizabeth Croft

STORY: Laurence Talbot, son of a nobleman, returns to the family estate after his older brother vanishes. He discovers a legacy that involves more than property and title, a horrible secret that has been haunting the village of Blackmoor for years. How much of Talbot is the beast…and how much the man?

PROSPECTS: The trailer for this one looks killer. Hey, it got non-horror fan Da Queen excited to see the movie. It gets a leg up on horror/action movies Shutter Island and The Crazies both of which come out after it.

OBSTACLES: Director Joe Johnston’s foray into horror was Jurassic Park III which may or may not prepare him for the kind of atmosphere he’ll need to create for this gothic tale. Universal has had mixed success with the re-invention of its classic horror properties, finding success with The Mummy and disappointment with Van Helsing.

FACTOID: The Wolfman’s howl in the movie was performed by Gene Simmons of KISS, while the wolf makeup was created by Rick Baker, who also did the make-up for An American Werewolf in London.

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE

RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Amber Rose Revah, Melissa Mars, Richard Durden, Farid Elouardi, Chems Dahmani

STORY: An inexperienced Embassy worker at the U.S. Embassy in Paris is paired with a slick, shoot first and ask questions later sort in a field operation in an attempt to thwart a terrorist attack in Paris.

PROSPECTS: Travolta is on a hot streak, having had a great deal of success with The Taking of Pelham 123 and Old Dogs last year.

OBSTACLES: Luc Besson-produced action movies have had inconsistent success in the United States.

FACTOID: Co-star Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as King Henry VIII in the hit Showtime cable TV series “The Tudors.”

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

A COUPLE OF DICKS

RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Bruce Willis, Michelle Trachtenberg, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee, Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody, Mark Consuelos

STORY: A pair of mismatched detectives tracks down a stolen baseball card. Along the way they rescue a beautiful Mexican national and contend with money laundering by a drug cartel.

PROSPECTS: Director Kevin Smith has a rabid following that will see anything he directs. Cop buddy movies traditionally resonate with American audiences.  

OBSTACLES: Smith’s following hasn’t yet translated into big box office bucks.

FACTOID: This is the first movie that Smith has directed that he hasn’t written. Prior to accepting this directing assignment, Smith was attached to the new Green Hornet movie but decided he wouldn’t be able to do the movie justice.

ALSO IN THEATERS

February 5, 2010

DEAR JOHN (Screen Gems) is about a young soldier on leave who meets an idealistic college student and then falls in love with her. The two continue to correspond throughout his increasingly more dangerous deployments, correspondence that will have devastating consequences. It’s a shame these two never discovered e-mail. Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried topline as the star-crossed lovers in this Lasse Hallstrom-directed effort. Released in limited markets, DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM (Magnet/Magnolia) is the sequel to the Luc Besson-produced cult action movie from France set in the not too distant future as conditions in Paris continue to deteriorate as gang violence further erodes the rule of law. No wonder the French are pissed at America – they’re becoming just like us.

February 12, 2010

VALENTINE’S DAY (New Line) has an all-star cast (including Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper and Shirley MacLaine) as Los Angelenos whose lives intersect in unusual ways on the holiday of the same name. Fellas, be prepared to be dragged to this by your girlfriends or wives and no, you DON’T have any say in the matter. MY NAME IS KHAN (Fox Searchlight) takes a Muslim man from India on a journey from San Francisco across the United States where he inspires and invites debate, changing the minds of many about what it means to be a Muslim. Sorry Trekkies, this isn’t the sequel to the Star Trek movie.  I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (Freestyle) stars Jim Carey as a married father who falls afoul of the law and winds up in a Texas prison. While there he falls madly in love with his cellmate, escaping four times after the object of his affections is paroled. This tale is so improbable that you know it has to be based on a true story, which it is.

February 26, 2010

THE CRAZIES (Overture) is a remake of a George R. Romero movie that doesn’t feature zombies. In this one, the population of a small town one by one goes insane and homicidal. The remaining uninfected townsfolk try to survive the night in a town gone insane on the inside, while the government is quarantining it with deadly force on the outside. TAKERS (Screen Gems) is about a group of professional criminals who have been baffling police with perfectly executed bank robberies. A dogged police detective is determined to bust the lot of ‘em which, as we all know, will never happen since criminals are soooo much smarter than the police in real life.

MARCH

March usually brings us the first signs of box office bonanza in the New Year as the studios, trying to avoid overcrowding during the summer months that could cause a $100 million movie to crash and burn by scheduling it during March when the competition is less fierce.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Geraldine James.

STORY: The Lewis Carroll story, which has been made for the screen many times and in many formats, gets the Tim Burton treatment as a young lady falls down a rabbit hole and into a strange, magical land where nothing is as it seems and everything is…wondrous.

PROSPECTS: While Burton straddles the line between mainstream success and cult favorite, this could well be his biggest hit since the first Batman. His imagination and sense of whimsy seem perfectly suited for this somewhat psychedelic tale which has in recent decades become something of a symbol of the ‘60s. No word on whether he plans on using the Jefferson Airplane song though. For what it’s worth, the trailer looks pretty dang spectacular. The cast is also not too shabby.

OBSTACLES: Burton can be something of an acquired taste and while he’s done hits in the fantasy genre (such as Beetle Juice and Edward Scissorhands) one gets the impression that he isn’t entirely comfortable in the big-budget studio environment. The recent association of Alice with the drug culture might wind up causing misinterpretations by well-meaning bluenoses.

FACTOID: Wasikowska, most recently in a supporting role in Amelia, beat out Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Dakota Blue Richards for the title role. Ironically, Richards was declined because Burton wanted an adult actress for the role, but Wasikowska is only four years older than her.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

CLASH OF THE TITANS

RELEASE DATE: March 26, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Jason Flemyng, Pete Posthlewaite, Alexa Davolos, Nicholas Hoult, Gemma Arterton

STORY: The classic Greek myth of Perseus is brought to life as a demi-God’s family is taken by a vengeful Hades and he must brave the most fearsome of monsters in order to restore order and save humanity from a potentially devastating war of the Gods.

PROSPECTS: Could benefit from Worthington’s participation in Avatar if that becomes the monster hit everyone anticipates it will. Trailers look pretty eye-popping in the effects department. Director Louis Leterrier last directed The Incredible Hulk which got much approval from fanboy sorts.

OBSTACLES: This is a remake of a Ray Harryhausen classic of the 1980s and will have to deal with the repercussions of ticking off purists who object to an updated special effects bonanza, or with cynics who remember the cheese factor of the stop-motion animated creatures.

FACTOID: Leterrier attempted to lure Harryhausen out of retirement to serve as a producer/advisor for the film but was unsuccessful in doing so.

GREEN ZONE

RELEASE DATE: March 12, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Said Faraj, Antoni Corone

STORY: A U.S. Army Officer during the early days of the Iraqi War goes in search of weapons of mass destruction and discovers an elaborate ruse that calls into question the morality of their actions.

PROSPECTS: The team of director Paul Greengrass and Damon has combined for two Bourne movies that have done quite well at the box office.

OBSTACLES: Movies on the Iraqi War have performed quite poorly at the box office.

FACTOID: Damon went from his role in The Informant! directly to filming this movie which caused some medical problems because of his rapid change from an overweight executive to a lean and trim soldier.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

CHLOE

RELEASE DATE: March 19, 2010

STUDIO: Sony Classics

STARRING: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Theriot, Nina Dobrev, Meghan Heffern, Laura deCarteret

STORY: This is an English-language remake of the French thriller Nathalie in which a woman who hires a prostitute to test her husband whom she suspects of cheating on her. However, when the hooker lies about the results of the test, the family is thrown into turmoil.

PROSPECTS: Director Atom Egoyan has an impressive resume for indie cred, including The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat and Felicia’s Journey.

OBSTACLES: American audiences tend to be uncomfortable with movies about prostitutes unless they look like Julia Roberts.

FACTOID: Neeson had to interrupt filming to be at the side of his wife Natasha Richardson, who would die of injuries incurred in a skiing accident in March 2009. He completed his filming after a brief period of mourning.

ALSO IN THEATERS

March 5, 2010

BROOKLYN’S FINEST (Overture) is a limited release comprised of three overlapping stories, all involving police officers from the borough of Brooklyn. This was originally scheduled to be released last fall.

March 12, 2010

HARD 10 (DreamWorks) stars Jay Baruchel as an airport security guard who gets a girl completely out of his league to fall for him. He has to learn how to make the relationship work, resorting to increasingly bizarre and extreme methods to prove himself worthy of a hard ten. I’ve seen Baruchel; he’d be hard-pressed to score a soft three. OUR FAMILY WEDDING (Fox Searchlight) stars Carlos Mencia and Forrest Whitaker as two overbearing fathers whose children are planning to wed. They must learn to co-exist for the sake of their children with the wedding only two weeks away, but that’s far from easy. I predict awful things will happen to the wedding cake. REMEMBER ME (Summit) stars Robert Pattinson of the Twilight Saga as a mere mortal this time, but involved in a star-crossed romance none-the-less. This time the object of his affections is Emelie de Ravin from television’s “Lost.” I can hear the heartfelt sighs already.

March 19, 2010

THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Columbia) features Gerard Butler in the title role who now must chase down his ex-wife who has skipped out on her bail. Of course, if my ex-wife was Jennifer Anniston I’d probably chase her down too.  HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (MGM) is about a bunch of men who, back in the day, were what are called playas these days. Now, fueled by Red Bull, vodka and regret, they get into a hot tub that allows them to travel in time (hey, if you can time travel in a Delorean, why not a hot tub?) to reclaim their mojo. Since one of the men is John Cusack, I’m there. HUBBLE 3-D (Warner Brothers) is an IMAX 3-D documentary about the repair of the space telescope on a recent mission by the Shuttle Atlantis. Combining footage from the mission along with astonishing pictures taken from the Hubble itself of the distant reaches of the universe makes this a 3D documentary worth watching. SEASON OF THE WITCH (Lionsgate) is yet another Nicolas Cage movie for Lionsgate, this time set in the Middle Ages with Cage as a knight from the Crusades charged with transporting a suspected witch to a remote abbey. At first he is dubious about her guilt but as the journey goes on his suspicions grow about the girl’s true nature.

March 26, 2010

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (DreamWorks) is a feature 3D animation about a Viking teenager named Hiccup who dreams of being a dragon slayer in a tribe that has made an art of it. However, when he encounters an actual dragon, his view of the world – and the view of his tribe – will be altered forever when it is discovered that dragons aren’t exactly what they thought they were.  

APRIL

The last month before the summer blockbuster season is usually a good one for action enthusiasts as summer-like movies open up that didn’t quite fit in to the busy summer schedule.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

DATE NIGHT

RELEASE DATE: April 9, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Leighton Meester, Common, Taraji Henson, Kristen Wiig, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo

STORY: A married couple out on a date night gets far more than they bargain for when they impulsively steal someone else’s dinner reservation. Their identities are then mistaken for petty criminals who have pissed off a much more dangerous criminal and spend the night on the run from cops, criminals, cabbies and a lecherous security expert who has the hots for the wife.

PROSPECTS: Carrell and Fey are two of the hottest and most talented comic actors in Hollywood, and both of them have an impressive list of comedy hits behind them. Director Shawn Levy has the Night at the Museum movies on his resume, so the talent both behind and in front of the camera knows how to make hit movies.

OBSTACLES: Comedies like this one have got to be funny or else word of mouth will kill them.

FACTOID: Writer Josh Klausner also wrote the upcoming Shrek Goes Forth.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

KICK-ASS

RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz, Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Lindsy Fonseca

STORY: A young comic book fanboy decides to become a superhero despite the slight obstacle of having no superpowers. However, he plows on undeterred and in doing so creates a violent subculture of copycats and wannabes.

PROSPECTS: The footage of this at last year’s Comic-Con spurred a huge bidding war for the film. Movies that get this kind of buzz out of Comic-Con normally do exceedingly well at the box-office.

OBSTACLES: This is a very different, very violent take on superhero movies. Although it hasn’t received an MPAA rating yet, an R rating is very likely which may keep a good deal of its core audience out of the multiplex.

FACTOID: The comic book on which this was based was written and drawn by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS

RELEASE DATE: April 23, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, Charlie Sheen

STORY: Gordon Gekko, the poster boy for business greed, exits his jail sentence determined to redeem himself.

PROSPECTS: This was one of the iconic movies of the 1980s and Oliver Stone is directing, as he did the original. LaBeouf is one of the most bankable young stars in the industry.

OBSTACLES: Did anybody really want to see a sequel to Wall Street? Given the current economic climate, it might be difficult to find anyone willing to root for anybody in big business.

FACTOID: Wall Street came out in 1987, marking a 23 year gap between the original and the sequel. Only The Hustler and its sequel The Color of Money had a larger gap between sequels, going 25 years.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

BABIES

RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2010

STUDIO: Focus

STARRING: Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, Hattie

STORY: A documentary about a year in the life of four babies in disparate parts of the world – Mongolia, Namibia, Tokyo and San Francisco.

PROSPECTS: The studio has been pushing the trailer in theaters, and audience reaction has been strong, particularly among women.

OBSTACLES: Not many guys, particularly younger men are going to want to see a two hour documentary about babies.

FACTOID: This is a French production originally intended for television.

ALSO IN THEATERS

April 2, 2010

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (20th Century Fox) is the misadventures of a wisecracking middle school kid as seen through his diary and hand-drawn cartoons. I’m guessing from the title that we’re not talking about the All-American jock? FURRY VENGEANCE (Summit) stars Brendan Fraser in a tale where the furry denizens of a forest threatened by a real estate development go to war with the developer. A squirrel with a bazooka? Now that would be interesting! THE LAST SONG (Touchstone) stars tween idol Miley Cyrus as a daughter stuck in South Carolina for the summer with her estranged father when she’d much rather be in New York. From Nicholas Sparks, the king of South Carolina romantic dramas. MARY, MOTHER OF CHRIST (MGM) is the story of the Virgin Mary, as told with an all-star cast and a sizable budget. REPO MEN (Universal) is set in the near-future when organ transplants can be bought and sold on credit. When a heart transplant patient gets behind on his payments, the title characters go to repossess the heart. And I thought those credit card bill collection calls were nasty! TYLER PERRY’S WHY DID I HAVE TO GET MARRIED TOO  (Lionsgate) is the sequel to his hit dramedy about the state of marriage, this time taking place in the Bahamas as the four couples get together for their annual one-week reunion. Fidelity issues, anyone?

April 9, 2010

THE LOSERS (Warner Brothers) is based on the DC Comic about an elite U.S. Special Forces team that is betrayed from within and given up for dead in the Bolivian jungle. Not quite dead yet, they head back to find the elusive mole who is hell-bent on embroiling the world in a high-tech war. Does that mean a war that’s fought on the Internet?  

April 16, 2010

THE BACK-UP PLAN (CBS) is a romantic comedy about a woman (Jennifer Lopez) who tries at first to hide her early pregnancy from her new boyfriend but when he finds out and commits fully to her, the real chaos ensues. DEATH AT A FUNERAL (Screen Gems) is a remake of the British black comedy about the goings on at the funeral of a beloved patriarch. This is not for those who think funerals should be a somber ceremony of reflection and decorum. PIRANHA 3-D (Dimension) is about one family’s fight to overcome thousands of carnivorous piranha from making lunchmeat out of them. This is yet another horror film remake of the type that have been popular in Hollywood lately. Next: Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

April 22, 2010

OCEANS (Disneynature) is the second film from the new nature documentary arm of Disney, this time focusing on life below the waves. The first, Earth, was quite good so that bodes well for the success of this one.

April 23, 2010

MAC GRUBER (Rogue) is based on a series of SNL skits spoofing the ‘80s TV show “MacGyver.” A movie based on a skit based on a TV show: does that smell like success or not? Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical.

April 30, 2010

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (New Line) is a reboot of the ‘80s horror film franchise from the production company that brought you the reboots of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. They did get Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley to take on the Freddie Krueger role so there’s at least something intriguing about this project.

SUMMER

Blockbuster, this is thy season. Summer is a world of sequels, of star vehicles, of action and science fiction. This is the time of big budgets, tentpole franchises and Internet buzz. This is when the cool of the air-conditioned multiplex beckons on hot summer days.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

IRON MAN 2

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, Kate Mara

STORY: Details of the plot have been kept strictly under wraps, but it is known that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man will be battling Whiplash and Justin Hammer, a Soviet-era villain and a multi-billionaire industrialist respectively.

PROSPECTS: The first Iron Man did amazing box office, second in 2008 only to The Dark Knight. Director Jon Favreau is a current God of Geeks and Internet buzz is as high for this movie as any coming out in 2010.

OBSTACLES: Comic book fanboys are notoriously fickle and can turn on the franchise as quickly as they warmed to it. The first movie set a high bar, meaning that if the filmmakers falter it can mean box office disappointment.

FACTOID: The Whiplash character is actually an amalgam of two different villains in the comic book; Whiplash, from which he takes his nickname and weapon and Crimson Dynamo, from which he takes his civilian name and nationality.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

TOY STORY 3

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2010

STUDIO: Disney/Pixar

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, R. Lee Ermey, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy Dalton

STORY: After Andy grows up and departs for college, his toys are donated to a day care center where they quickly find a completely different environment than they’re used to.

PROSPECTS: Pixar seems incapable of making a movie that isn’t a huge hit and there’s no reason to believe that this won’t be another one. Of all the animated features opening in 2010 (and there are a great many of them), this one is the most anticipated.

OBSTACLES: It’s been ten years since the last Toy Story movie which is a very long time in Hollywood terms; it remains to be seen if the target audience of 2010 is as eager to see it as they might have been in 2002. The re-release of Toy Story/Toy Story 2 in 3D earlier this year didn’t exactly have them busting down the doors.

FACTOID: Toy Story 2 was the first sequel to be produced by Pixar and is the only one to date until Cars 2: World Grand Prix debuts on June 24, 2011. This will be the first occasion that Pixar has done a trilogy.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Bryce Dallas Howard, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Dakota Fanning

STORY: As Seattle is beset by a string of senseless unsolved murders, Bella is in a position where she must soon choose between Jacob and Edward. In the meantime, a vengeful vampire is out to make her life miserable and an ancient war between vampire and werewolf is on the verge of being igniting. Ain’t senior year in high school a bitch?

PROSPECTS: Twilight: New Moon was one of the biggest hits of 2009 and the franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. Even while New Moon was in theaters, the frenzy for the third film in the series was already beginning.

OBSTACLES: Due to the rabid nature of the fans of the series and the omnipresent hype surrounding New Moon there is always the remote possibility of backlash.

FACTOID: Kristen Stewart wore a wig because she needed to have her hair cut short for her role in The Runaways.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2010

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Justin Timberlake, Eric Idle, Amy Sedaris, Jon Hamm, Kathy Griffin

STORY: The irreverent animated feature series continues with its fourth installment where a domesticated Shrek rebels against his un-ogre-ish life and strikes a pact with Rumpelstiltskin that goes horribly awry. Now, Shrek discovers that he really does have a wonderful life and must put things to rights in order to get it back.

PROSPECTS: Opening a full month before Toy Story 3 is an advantage that should keep the family audiences firmly in Shrek’s corner basically through the important Memorial Day weekend and into mid-June.

OBSTACLES: It is difficult to keep any long-running series fresh and interesting and with Shrek hitting its fourth installment, it makes one wonder how good the movie could be. While the movie will pull in good box office regardless, a low-quality effort will prevent repeat business.

FACTOID: This will be the first movie in the series to be released in the IMAX format.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

INCEPTION

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Dileep Rao

STORY: Described only as a sci-fi action movie set in the architecture of the human mind, the plot for the movie is a closely guarded secret.

PROSPECTS: Director Christopher Nolan is a fanboy darling and his name on the credits pretty much guarantees an audience. The teaser trailer for the film is mind-blowing.

OBSTACLES: Science fiction films that are more inward-looking have been a tough sell to summer audiences.

FACTOID: This is the first film that Nolan has directed since Following in 1998 that is based on an original screenplay; all of his other films since then have been adapted from other sources.

ALSO IN THEATERS

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (Disney) is based on the popular video game and features a rogue prince trying to keep a weapon of unimaginable power out of the hands of a wicked vizier (May 28). ROBIN HOOD (Universal) is the most recent take on the brigand of Sherwood Forest, starring Russell Crowe in the title role and director Ridley Scott behind the camera (May 14).  SEX AND THE CITY 2 (New Line) is the sequel to the megahit that was based on a hit HBO series (May 28). LETTERS TO JULIET (Summit) features Amanda Seyfried as a young American in Verona caught up in a 50-year-old romance (May 7). MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) is a live-action/animated hybrid (along the lines of Garfield or G-Force) that follows the mis-adventures of a high-spirited Great Dane (June 4). THE A TEAM (20th Century Fox) is an update and remake of the popular series of the 1980s about four outlaw military veterans who become do-gooders for hire (June 11). JONAH HEX (Warner Brothers) is based on the DC Comic about a gunslinger with one foot in our world and the other in the world of the supernatural. Josh Brolin stars in the title role (June 18).  FOOTLOOSE (Paramount) remakes the iconic 1984 hit about a young man who defies a ban against dancing in a conservative Midwestern town (June 18). THE KARATE KID (Columbia) is also a remake of a 1984 hit film, with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith in the roles made famous by Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio, respectively (June 11). GROWN UPS (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler in a bittersweet comedy about a championship basketball team that reunites at a lake house to honor the passing of their childhood coach (June 25). KILLERS (Lionsgate) is about a superspy who leaves the game to settle down for a life of domestic bliss. Three years later, he and his wife discover he’s the target of a multi-million dollar hit and that anyone in their neighborhood is potentially a killer. (June 4). GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) is a comedy about a record company intern (Jonah Hill) tasked with getting a reluctant rock star (Russell Brand) to a concert he doesn’t want to play (June 11). DESPICABLE ME (Universal) is an animated feature starring the voice of Steve Carrell as the world’s most notorious supervillain who discovers that he isn’t the worst of the worst and sets out to reclaim his title (July 9). THE LAST AIRBENDER (Paramount) is based on a Nickelodeon animated series, brought to live action by M. Night Shyamalan. Huh? (July 2) THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (Disney) stars Nicolas Cage as an ageless sorcerer defending the world against his arch-nemesis while training a new apprentice. (July 16)  SALT (Columbia) stars Angelina Jolie as a CIA agent fingered as a Russian sleeper spy who must go underground to prove her innocence and protect her family from terrifying forces (July 23). DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (Paramount) is a comedy about a nightmarish dinner party starring Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis (July 23). KNIGHT AND DAY (20th Century Fox) stars Cameron Diaz as a woman set up on a blind date with a superspy who enlists her help on a worldwide journey to protect a battery of unlimited power. Girls, if your blind date looks like Tom Cruise, chances are its too good to be true (July 2). ROBERT RODRIGUEZ’ PREDATORS (20th Century Fox) is a reboot of the sci-fi action series courtesy of the director of such disparate fare as Spy Kids and Sin City – accept that he is not directing this movie. He’s the producer. Make sense? Didn’t think so (July 7).  BEASTLY (CBS) is a modern-day retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story with Disney Channel stars (July 30). CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (Warner Brothers) continues the ongoing war between our four-footed house pets for control of the planet with almost none of the cast of the first movie returning (July 30).  LITTLE FOCKERS (Universal) is the third installment of the Meet the Parents franchise with Ben Stiller dealing with parenthood – and the machinations of his ex-CIA father-in-law (July 30). HAIRSPRAY 2 (New Line) continues the musical adventures of the Turnblad family, although at this moment it seems highly unlikely that this movie which has yet to be cast or even written will get off the ground, at least in time for its release date (July TBA). MORNING GLORY (Paramount) is about an aspiring morning news producer who tries to save a morning show that is disintegrating by gaining control of the feuding co-hosts (July 30). THE EXPENDABLES (Lionsgate) boasts an all-star cast of action stars (including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke) as a crew of mercenaries bent on overthrowing a South American dictator (August 13). THE OTHER GUYS (Columbia) is about a couple of cop foul-ups who idolize a team of top cops that find that when their turn comes to shine, things don’t quite go as planned (August 6). EAT PRAY LOVE (Columbia) stars Julia Roberts as a married woman dissatisfied with her life who divorces her husband and goes on a global journey of self-discovery (August 13). RAMONA AND BEEZUS (20th Century Fox) is a family movie based on the Ramona novels by Beverly Cleary (August 13). PRIEST (Screen Gems) is a comic book adaptation about a warrior priest who goes against the church to track down a gang of vampires that has kidnapped his sister in an alternate world where men and vampires have been at war for centuries (August 27). THE BASTER (Miramax) is a comedy about artificial insemination starring Jennifer Anniston (August 20). THE LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Brothers) is an urban comedy about a young man from the hood who has to survive a three-day weekend when his neighbors discover he is holding on to a winning lottery ticket worth $350 million (August TBA). DISNEY’S HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: CHINA (Disney) is a similar story to the hit Disney movie series set in China and with Chinese sensibilities (Summer TBA).

FALL

As children return to school and the backyard barbecue grill is locked away for the winter, the studios turn to Oscar contenders to lure audiences into theaters but that doesn’t mean that we’re done with blockbusters quite yet; there are always a few in reserve for the end of the year. This schedule is the least set in stone; there will be many changes to it before this time of year arrives, with some of the films listed being moved to another date or direct to DVD, while some films won’t get made at all; still others, not mentioned here, will join the Fall release party. Below is a taste of what’s to come.

MAJOR ANTICIPATION

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Ciaran Hinds, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Wright, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Michael Gambon, Jason Isaacs, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Warwick Davis et al.

STORY: The Harry Potter saga approaches its conclusion as the first movie of a two-movie set that make up the final book of the seven-book series comes to the theaters (the second part comes out July 15, 2011). The inevitable showdown with Lord Valdemort approaches as Harry races against time to discover how to beat the most powerful wizard in the world and with Dumbledore out of the way, it appears Valdemort has already won before a single spell has been cast.

PROSPECTS: One of the most profitable film franchises of all time is going as strongly as ever – this summer’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince received high critical praise and was once again one of the year’s top box office smashes. Only a clueless Muggle would think that the two Deathly Hallows movies will do anything less.

OBSTACLES: The core audience of the Harry Potter series has grown up and many may no longer be interested in the boy wizard who is now, like them, grown up as well. Competing with franchises like Twilight for the hearts and minds of teens may be a bit too much to ask for the Hogwarts crew.

FACTOID: When director David Yates completes the second installment of The Deathly Hallows, he will have directed more films in the Harry Potter series (four) than any other director.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

TRON LEGACY

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen

STORY: The son of programmer Kevin Flynn searches for his father and finds him in the digital landscape where he has been living for the past 25 years, a landscape that has grown exponentially more dangerous.

PROSPECTS: The first Tron was one of the first movies to use computer graphics to an extensive degree and remains one of the iconic movies of the ‘80s. The themes of the first movie are perfect for the modern jacked-in and plugged-in generation of cyber-youth.

OBSTACLES: Not many of the kids today care one way or another about Tron and the graphics from that movie look clunky by today’s standards. 25 years is a very long time to wait for a sequel.

FACTOID: As a means of continuity with the first film, the classic rock band Journey will contribute at least one song to the soundtrack.

THE GREEN HORNET

RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2010

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, Edward Furlong

STORY: The pulp action hero returns to the big screen, with Rogen supplying the script and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) directing.

PROSPECTS: Gondry is a bit on the quirky side but he has delivered some fine movies nonetheless. Rogen is one of the big stars of comedy right now; it will be interesting to see how he handles the action sequences that his character will be called upon to perform in.

OBSTACLES: This is said to be a comedic perspective on the pulp hero and that kind of thing tends to turn purists off. Rogen had a good deal of difficulty getting the movie off the ground despite his presence, never a good sign.

FACTOID: The role of Kato was originally going to be played by Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) who was also attached to direct, but dropped from the director’s chair over creative differences with the producers. He was intending to stay on as an actor, but eventually pulled out of that gig as well.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER

RELEASE DATE: December 10, 2010

STUDIO: Fox Walden

STARRING: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Eddie Izzard (voice), Liam Neeson (voice), Gary Sweet, Bruce Spence

STORY: The third book of the Narnia series comes to life as Edward and Lucy Pevensie, along with a pesky cousin, return to the magic land of Narnia to journey far beyond its borders in an attempt to save it and its wondrous creatures from a danger beyond comprehension.

PROSPECTS: The Narnia series is one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, and the first two movies have the box office to reflect that.

OBSTACLES: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian underperformed at the box office which some attributed to heavier competition in the summer. The high budget for the movie caused Disney to release the distribution rights. Disney seemed a more perfect fit to sell the movie than Fox, which hasn’t fared well traditionally with family movies.

FACTOID: While Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the third book of the series to be published, it actually falls fifth when considered chronologically in the Narnia mythos.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

RED

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 2010

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly, Mary-Louise Parker, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, James Remar

STORY: A former black ops CIA agent lives a life of quiet retirement until a trio of high tech assassins show up to kill him.

PROSPECTS: An impressive cast and an intriguing concept always make for a good combination.

OBSTACLES: Willis’ last film, Surrogates didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.

FACTOID: This is the first movie based on a DC Comic book character to be made at a studio other than Warner Brothers.

ALSO IN THEATERS

GUARDIANS OF GA’HOOLE (Warner Brothers) is the first animated feature from director Zack Snyder (300, The Watchmen) and is based on the series of children’s books by Kathryn Lasky about a group of courageous owls (September 24). THE TOWN (Warner Brothers) is about a career criminal who becomes infatuated with the manager of a bank he’s about to rob. Ben Affleck stars and directs (September 10). THE AMERICAN (Focus) stars George Clooney as a master assassin who waits for his next assignment in an idyllic town (September 1). WARRIOR (Lionsgate) is a mixed martial arts saga about two brothers on a collision to fight in the finals of a brutal tournament (September 17). BORN TO BE A STAR (Columbia) is about a small-town nebbish who discovers his parents were well-known porn stars in the ‘70s (September 3). YOU AGAIN (Disney) is about a successful woman whose brother is about to unknowingly marry her arch-nemesis in high school (September 24). THE ROOMMATE (Screen Gems) is about a deranged college freshman who becomes obsessed with her new roommate (September 17). ALPHA & OMEGA (Lionsgate) is an animated feature about two wolves struggling to get back to their home in Canada after being relocated to the United States (October 1). THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Columbia) is the story of how Facebook came to be as brought to you by director David Fincher. Y’know, the guy who made Se7en. My head spins just thinking about it (October 15). SECRETARIAT (Disney) is the story of the plucky racehorse who went on to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years despite the inexperience of his owner (October 8). SAW VII (Lionsgate) is about…well, heck you know what it’s about. The question is if you’re still interested enough to buy a ticket to see it (October 22). THE ZOOKEEPER (MGM) stars Kevin James as a kindly zookeeper who gets dating advice from the animals in his care (October 8). FASTER (CBS) brings back Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson back to the action genre as an ex-con hell-bent on avenging his brother’s death (October 15). GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as two people in a long-distance romance who gradually come to the realization that they would be happier dating someone closer to home (October 8). JACKASS 3D (Paramount) brings back Johnny Knoxville and the gang in another series of idiotic stunts, only this time in big bold 3D, which makes it another movie you can ignore three-dimensionally (October 15). YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) stars Danny McBride as a slacker who happens to be the brother of a noble, courageous prince. Forced to accompany his brother on a quest to rescue a princess, he discovers that he might have to actually grow a pair or risk his father’s kingdom falling into the hands of a depraved warlord (October 1). RAPUNZEL (Disney) continues what was begun with The Princess and the Frog as the 2D animators at Disney take on another fairy tale with hand drawn animation rather than the computer-generated kind. That’s what I call old school (November 24). DUE DATE (Warner Brothers) stars Robert Downey Jr. in a comedy about a man trying to get home in time for the birth of his child only to be frustrated by a fellow traveler (November 5). RED DAWN (MGM) is the remake of the 1984 movie about the invasion of the United States and a group of high school students who become guerilla partisans (November 26). MEGAMIND (DreamWorks) is about a supervillain who has vanquished his archrival but with nobody left to fight must find a different way to occupy his time (November 5). BURLESQUE (Screen Gems) stars Christina Aguilera and Cher in a musical about a small-town girl who makes it big in a burlesque club (November 24). UNSTOPPABLE (20th Century Fox) features Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as the engineer and conductor trying to stop a runaway train filled with toxic chemicals headed for a small town (November 12). LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (Columbia) is a drama about a Viagra salesman. No, really – I couldn’t make that kind of thing up (November 24). IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Focus) is about a stressed-out teenager who checks himself into a mental health facility, only to discover that the youth wing has been shut down and that he must now survive with the adult loonies. That’s the technical term, loonies (November TBA). GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (20th Century Fox) stars Jack Black in the title role as an 18th century traveler to far-off places that are filled with wonders unseen (December 22). YOGI BEAR (Warner Brothers) is a live action/animated hybrid about the beloved Hanna-Barbera character. Dan Aykroyd will voice the smarter than the average bear picnic basket thief (December 15). LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (Warner Brothers) is about two carefree unattached adults who inherit the children of mutual friends who recently perished in a crash (December 22). HEREAFTER (Warner Brothers) is director Clint Eastwood’s first supernatural drama (December TBA). THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH (Focus) is about a young Roman centurion seeking the answers to the mystery of the disappearance of his father’s legion some 20 years earlier (Fall TBA). PRISONERS (Warner Brothers) is about a desperate father who captures the man he believes responsible for the kidnapping of his wife and daughter, resorting to any means necessary to get the truth of their whereabouts from him (Fall TBA). FLIPPED (Warner Brothers) is the latest from director Rob Reiner as he explores the history of a bumpy romantic relationship that starts when the protagonists are just seven years old (Fall TBA).

And there you have it. There’s a whole lot to look forward to in 2010 and given that the studios had some great success in 2009, we should be seeing a lot of movies that will blow the boundaries of special effects even further, as well as indie movies that will continue to alter our perception of life. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to spending many hours in the cool, quiet darkness of the multiplex next year.