New Releases for the Week of November 19, 2010


November 19, 2010

Hagrid and Harry pose as Hell's Angels, thinking they'll be inconspicuous.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1

(Warner Brothers) Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Maggie Smith. Directed by David Yates

Why bother? You‘re gonna see it. You know you’re gonna see it. It wouldn’t matter if this was about Harry eating his own weight in Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. You’d still go see it. The fact that this is the first of two parts of the last Harry Potter adventure only means you’re really eager to see it. So don’t bother reading this. It’s a waste of time. Just…go see it.

See the trailer, promos, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG-13 (for some scenes of intense action violence and frightening images)

Fair Game

(Summit) Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Noah Emmerich, Nicholas Sadler. This is based on the true story of Valerie Plame, the CIA Operative who was “outed” by high ranking Bush Administration officials to the New York Times and Washington columnist Robert Novak as a field operative. Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, contend that this was done as a reprisal for Wilson’s public criticism of the invasion of Iraq over phantom weapons of mass destruction.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some language)

Guzaarish

(UTV) Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Ash Chandler. When a stage magician is paralyzed in a tragic accident, he seems to accept his lot, changing his profession to a radio DJ whose popular radio show spreads love and magic throughout the land. He is aided by his devoted nurse and romantic partner. However, fourteen years after his injury, he shocks everyone by petitioning the Indian courts to allow him to die, putting his relationship with his nurse in turmoil.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR

The Next Three Days

(Lionsgate) Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy. When his wife is arrested for murder, John Brennan is shocked but confident that she is innocent and will be acquitted. When she’s convicted of the gruesome crime, he is angered. When he realizes that she will never be able to serve the full length of her sentence, he becomes desperate and determines to break her out of prison, no matter the odds.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements)

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Fall/Holiday 2010 Preview


The difference between summer movies and fall movies are like night and day. Summer is the time of blockbusters, big budgets and megastars. Fall is the time of Oscar contenders, big directors and holiday films. While the biggest movies tend to be released in May and then again right around the July 4th timeframe for the summer season, Hollywood does the opposite in the fall, going with lesser films to begin with and building to release the bigger-splash movies at the end of the year.

That’s not to say there isn’t a share of box office bonanza in the latter half of the year; in fact, the top two box office movies of all time were released in December – which is to say James Cameron’s top two moneymakers, Avatar last year and Titanic in 1997. Nothing on the radar looks to do those kinds of numbers, but the new Harry Potter should do at least $300 million domestically and Tron Legacy may well equal that.

Oscar-watchers are usually busy this time of year keeping an eye out on potential contenders for the most prestigious awards in the film industry. While it’s impossible to know in advance which movies are going to be collecting nominations by the handful – frontrunners can stumble at the gate while dark horses can surprise from out of nowhere – there are always a few safe bets to keep an eye out on. This year is no exception, as Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Mike Leigh’s Another Year and Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech look to be early favorites.

Besides the two blockbusters I already mentioned, there are a few movies that Hollywood is counting on to add to their coffers this year; The Chronicles of Narnia franchise has moved over to Fox from Disney and the third installment, Voyage of the Dawn Treader is going to be on the radar of fantasy enthusiasts and family filmgoers alike. Disney’s Tangled, Zack Snyder’s The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and DreamWorks Animation’s MegaMind all look to capture a good chunk of the animated feature market this fall, while action enthusiasts will look to True Grit, Red, Faster and Machete to get their fix.

Halloween means horror and there are plenty of movies that look to scare up big box office bucks, including Paranormal Activity 2, Buried, Saw 3D The Traps Come Alive, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Let Me In and My Soul to Take. Those looking for a lighter touch will find plenty of laughs in Gulliver’s Travels, Little Fockers and Morning Glory.

The crisp night air brings out plenty of stars, and 2010 will have a galaxy full of them in movies like The American (George Clooney), Burlesque (Cher), Gulliver’s Travels (Jack Black), Little Fockers (Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand and Robert DeNiro), Hereafter (Matt Damon), Morning Glory (Harrison Ford), The Fighter (Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale), Everything You’ve Got (Reese Witherspoon), Life As We Know It (Katherine Heigl), Red (Bruce Willis), Faster (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Conviction (Hilary Swank), The Town (Ben Affleck), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf) and Due Date (Robert Downey, Jr.).

So even as the days begin to get shorter that doesn’t mean that your film choices are as well. There is, as always, something to please everyone at the multiplex this fall and hopefully this will help you find a few to anticipate on your own cinematic shortlist for the fall. By all measures, it was a dismal summer at the movies, with few bright spots on a fairly bleak box office horizon; the studios are almost certainly looking to several key movies to help brighten up their year somewhat. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our monthly Four Warned and weekly Previews for further details about the movies you’ll find herein. Enjoy!

SEPTEMBER

September 2010 Preview

September is usually a time to catch your breath after the summer season. Your post-Labor Day offerings are usually a motley assortment of remainders and leftovers that the studios put out mostly as placeholders, meant to come and go quickly and hit the home video market early in the New Year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few gems among the dross, however.

MUST-SEE

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE

RELEASE DATE: September 24, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ryan Kwanten, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Helen Mirren, Richard Roxburgh, Jim Sturgess

STORY: A young owl, enthralled by the tales of his father about a legendary band of warriors, must summon up the courage of a Guardian to defeat the evil Pure Ones and save his people…er, owls.

PROSPECTS: 2010 has been the year of the family film, given the runaway success of Toy Story 3, How to Train a Dragon and Despicable Me. Given the astonishing animation shown in the trailer, this could well join that elite group. The only other competition this month in the family film sweepstakes is the absolutely awful-looking Alpha and Omega. Plus, the last two films on director Zack Snyder’s resume? 300 and The Watchmen.

OBSTACLES: An all-owl cast doesn’t necessarily make this a box office slam dunk. While there isn’t much competition for the Ga’Hoole, families have a tendency to want to get their kids acclimated to school and movies can be a secondary priority.

FACTOID: The books this was based on were written by Kathryn Lasky. The movie is based on the first three of the fifteen books currently in the series.

HOT TICKET

THE AMERICAN

RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2010

STUDIO: Focus

STARRING: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Irina Bjorklund, Bruce Altman, Samuli Vauramo

STORY: An American assassin, weary of bloodshed and brutality, vows this last assignment will be his last. However, when a potential romance begins to cloud his judgment, he finds himself in a more precarious situation than he ever bargained for.

PROSPECTS: The filmmakers have announced that this will be the last movie in the franchise, so that will get people into the theaters on its own. This is the most popular animated film franchise to date.

OBSTACLES: The public may be getting a bit tired of Shrek as those who were kids when the first one came out are well into their teens and early 20s now.

FACTOID: Director Anton Corbijn is best known as a still photographer for album covers and a director of music videos, especially for Depeche Mode and U2.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS

RELEASE DATE: September 24, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

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

STORY: The sequel to the iconic 1987 film reunites director Oliver Stone and star Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, the disgraced broker who has been released from jail and means to redefine himself and resume his life. He becomes involved with the impressionable young broker who is engaged to marry his estranged daughter.

PROSPECTS: The chicanery of the stock market has never been timelier than now. Certainly, those who made the first movie a hit will be lining up to hear Douglas utter those immortal words “Greed is good.”

OBSTACLES: Some of the issues tackled by the movie may be a little too close to home for an economy-weary audience.

FACTOID: This is the third consecutive non-documentary film directed by Stone whose title begins with the letter “W” (the other two are World Trade Center and W).

RISING STAR

MACHETE

RELEASE DATE: September 3, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan

STORY: A former Mexican Federale roams the streets of a small Texas town after having been double-crossed by a political spin doctor, a drug lord and a politician. Things are gonna get violent.

PROSPECTS: This started out life as a faux trailer on the Grindhouse double feature, now getting a life of its own as a feature film. Those who loved that film, the Robert Rodriguez El Mariachi films and ultra-violent B-movies of the 60s and 70s are going to love this.

OBSTACLES: Trejo is a great character actor but has never carried a film of this magnitude before. None of the movies that look like this have made a significant box office dent.

FACTOID: This is the first movie to be commercially released for Steven Seagal in eight years. Marin and Johnson both starred in the hit television show “Nash Bridges.”

ALSO PLAYING

SEPTEMBER 3, 2010

THE WINNING SEASON (Roadside Attractions) stars Sam Rockwell as a local misfit brought on to coach the high school girls’ basketball team. Hmm, you think there’s going to be an uplifting finale on this one? Either way, it’s opening up in limited release.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2010

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Screen Gems) is the fourth installment in the popular videogame-based franchise, finding Milla Jovovich back to take on the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, but this time she’s going after the head of the snake – judging from the trailer, literally. LEGENDARY (Goldwyn) is a family film about a family torn apart by a tragedy that learns to heal through an unexpected means – high school wrestling. WWE superstar John Cena stars in this, which is also getting a limited release. THE VIRGINITY HIT (Columbia) is produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, who have Talladega Nights and The Other Guys to their credit as well as the online site Funny or Die. Here they give four guys a camera and send them out to show just how bizarre and funny losing one’s virginity can be. And here I thought it was just terrifying.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2010

NEVER LET ME GO (Fox Searchlight) is based on the novel by Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro (“The Remains of the Day”). This movie stars Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man) as three kids at an English boarding school in a reality much like our own but just slightly different learning a secret that changes them forever. This is in limited release.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2010

ALPHA AND OMEGA (Lionsgate) is the first animated feature from the mini-major. Two wolves (one at the apex of the pack, the other at the bottom) must co-operate to find a way home after they’re shipped hundreds of miles away by well-meaning park rangers. DEVIL (Universal) is about a bunch of people trapped on an elevator with Satan. Yes, the Satan. I know – been there, done that. EASY A (Screen Gems) has high school goodie two-shoes Emma Roberts facing the fall-out of a little white lie that she’s not a virgin anymore. She decides to use the new notoriety to her advantage. THE TOWN (Warner Brothers) stars Ben Affleck as a bank robber who falls in love with his hostage, and then tries to create a romance between them once he gets away. And yes, he wore a mask so she doesn’t know who he is. So there. CATFISH (Rogue), opening in limited release, has absolutely the best trailer I’ve seen in a long time. It’s about an Internet romance that is being documented by the young man’s filmmaker brother that turns sinister in the blink of an eye. The buzz at Sundance about this film was deafening.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2010

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Sony Classics) is the newest film from Woody Allen and as is typical for the veteran director, little detail about the plot is available. All we know is it’s about a family dealing with a myriad of romantic issues among several individual members. Also as is typical for Woody Allen, he’s assembled a stellar cast with Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Antonio Banderas among others. This will be out in limited release.

SEPTEMBER 24, 2010

YOU AGAIN (Disney) finds a mother and her daughter dealing with their high school demons in the form of their nemeses when her son proposes to the daughter of the mother’s rival – who is coincidentally the mother of her daughter’s rival. Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristen Bell star. JACK GOES BOATING (Relativity) stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan as a pair of isolated New Yorkers who are introduced and find the courage to come out of their shells, face their fears and come together, even as the couple that introduced them are falling apart. From the new distributor Relativity Media (who recently acquired Overture Films), this is opening in limited release on September 17th before getting a wide release this week.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A look back at how last year’s previewed movies did at the box office. Since we didn’t include September in last year’s Fall Preview, I’ve chosen some movies that I probably would have previewed had I included September. The budgets and box office numbers are courtesy of Box Office Mojo. My verdicts are based on the typical studio formula that for a movie to break even it must make twice its production budget; any movie that achieves that will be labeled as profitable. I define hit movies as those that make three times the production budget and blockbusters as anything that makes $200 million in domestic box office or more, or made five times the production budget with a minimum of $100 million in domestic box office. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (Columbia) Budget: $100 Million. Domestic Gross: $124.8M Total: $243.0M Verdict: Profitable. SURROGATES (Touchstone) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $38.6M Total: $122.4M Verdict: Flop. WHITEOUT (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $10.3M Total: $17.8M Verdict: Flop. EXTRACT (Miramax) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $10.8M Total: $10.8M Verdict: Flop. 9 (Focus) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $31.8M Total: $48.4M Verdict: Flop. GAMER (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $20.5M Total: $40.7M Verdict: Broke Even. ALL ABOUT STEVE (20th Century Fox) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $33.9M Total: $40.1M Verdict: Broke Even. FAME (MGM) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $22.5M Total: $77.2M Verdict: Hit. THE INFORMANT! (Warner Brothers) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $33.3M Total: $41.8 Verdict: Flop.

OCTOBER

October 2010 Preview

October brings fall weather in more properly, as baseball begins its World Series, football is in the midst of their schedule and hockey and basketball are both getting their seasons underway. At the multiplex, the month is usually dominated by horror movies meant to compliment the Halloween festivities, although there are often some counterprogramming moves going on to get audiences that aren’t looking to be frightened into coronaries at the cinema.

MUST SEE

HEREAFTER

RELEASE DATE: October 22, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Steve Schirripa, Jennifer Lewis, Lyndsey Marshall

STORY: The lives of three people who have been touched by death in different ways will intersect and be changed by what they think lies in wait after death.

PROSPECTS: Clint Eastwood is on a hot streak; he is one of the few directors who will bring in box office on name alone. The fact that he is doing a movie that has elements of the supernatural to it will only add extra fanboy frenzy.

OBSTACLES: The plot details have been kept very tightly under wraps, leading to the kind of speculation that might cause failed expectations when the movie opens.

FACTOID: Filming stopped for a month while Damon was shooting his scenes for The Adjustment Bureau.

HOT TICKETS

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

RELEASE DATE: October 1, 2010

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, Joe Mazzello, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara

STORY: A young Harvard student creates a website that will eventually become Facebook.

PROSPECTS: There are more than 500 million Facebook subscribers, and you would think at least a significant fraction of them will want to go see this.

OBSTACLES: There are no real name stars in it, and you have to wonder if there’s any appeal to those who have limited or no connection to the site.

FACTOID: A cousin of Eisenberg works for Facebook.

SECRETARIAT

RELEASE DATE: October 8, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Scott Glenn, Dylan Baker, Margo Martindale, Fred Thompson, James Cromwell, Kevin Connolly

STORY: The story of a horse that came out of an unlikely environment to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and race into legend.

PROSPECTS: With the success of Seabiscuit it was proven that movies about horse racing can win at the box office as well. Disney has made a cottage industry out of these sorts of feel-good sports dramas based on true stories.

OBSTACLES: One wonders how many of these kinds of movies the public is going to line up to see; there are already signs that the market has been oversaturated with them.

FACTOID: The race records that the real Secretariat set in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont still stand today, 37 years after the fact.

RISING STAR

BURIED

RELEASE DATE: October 8, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Tobolowski, Samantha Mathis, Robert Paterson, Anne Lockhart (voice), Erik Palladino

STORY: A contractor working in Iraq awakens to find himself six feet underground but still alive, armed with only a cell phone and a lighter without any idea where he is, why he’s there or who’s responsible. With only 90 minutes of oxygen to sustain him, he must fight panic, despair and delirium to get help, or find a way out.

PROSPECTS: One of the most highly sought-after movies at Sundance instigated a bidding war among the studios. The consensus of those who’ve seen it is that it is one of the most original and gripping thrillers to come along in years.

OBSTACLES: Are audiences ready to see a movie that is essentially Ryan Reynolds in a box for 90 minutes? Certainly claustrophobes won’t be able to sit through this one either.

FACTOID: Thomas Jane and Emile Hirsch were both considered for the title roll until Josh Brolin got the part.

ALSO PLAYING

OCTOBER 1, 2010

LET ME IN (Relativity) stars Kick-Ass breakout star Chloe Moretz as a mysterious young girl who befriends a lonely, bullied young boy. Based on the acclaimed Swedish horror film Let the Right One In. FREAKONOMICS (Magnolia), based on the best-selling book, presents a series of case studies that mix the methods of economic study with pop culture and human behavior. This is to receive a limited release.

OCTOBER 8, 2010

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (Warner Brothers) stars Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as the godparents of a baby who although they don’t particularly like each other, become legal guardians of the baby when their parents die suddenly. NOWHERE BOY (Weinstein) tells the story of a young Englishman who can’t stay out of trouble and is brought up by an aunt when his mum turns out to be unable to handle him. The boy will grow up to be John Lennon. STONE (Relativity) has Edward Norton and Robert De Niro facing off as a man convicted of setting a fire to cover up his grandparents murder, and the parole officer who is reviewing his case. In between them is Milla Jovovich, the con’s wife. Finally, TAMARA DREWE (Sony Classics) will be in limited release; it is based on a graphic novel which is itself loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” and stars Gemma Arterton as a young flirtatious woman who returns to her small country village and stirs up passions among the locals.

OCTOBER 15, 2010

RED (Summit) is based on a DC Comics graphic novel about a group of retired CIA assassins who are being hunted down by their present-day counterparts. With a cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, it looks like quite the romp. CONVICTION (Fox Searchlight) is the true account of Betty Ann Waters’ efforts to free her unjustly convicted brother from prison. Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell star in this early contender for Oscar gold. JACKASS 3D (Paramount) is the return of Johnny Knoxville, Bam Magera, Wee-Man and company for more dumbass stunts, only this time in 3D. Weren’t their 15 minutes up, like, years ago?

OCTOBER 22, 2010

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (Paramount) is the sequel to last Halloween’s surprise hit, this time in a new house with a new family being stalked by the supernatural.

OCTOBER 29, 2010

THE COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) is extremely topical; three men are downsized from their executive positions and are forced to find meaning in their lives that doesn’t revolve around their workplace identities. The trailer for this looked awfully good. MY SOUL TO TAKE (Rogue) is the newest horror offering from genre superstar Wes Craven. Here, a serial killer vows to take revenge on the seven children who were born the night he died. Freddie Kruger, step aside! MONSTERS (Magnet) is a limited release horror film that sees alien life forms taking over half of Mexico, which is now under quarantine. A journalist and a tourist try to make it to the border and safety. Again, a superior trailer has piqued my interest. SAW 3D (Lionsgate) is slated to be the final entry into the billion dollar horror franchise, in which survivors of Jigsaw’s traps get together to talk about old times, unaware that one of them has quite a different agenda in mind.  

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

AMELIA (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $40 Million. Domestic Gross: $14.2M Total: $19.6M Verdict: Flop. SAW VI (Lionsgate) Budget: $11M. Domestic Gross: $27.7M Total: $64.6M Verdict: Blockbuster. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $77.2M Total: $100.1M Verdict: Flop. A SERIOUS MAN (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $9.2M Total: $31.3 Verdict: Broke Even. THE INVENTION OF LYING (Warner Brothers) Budget: $18.5M. Domestic Gross: $18.5M Total: $32.3 Verdict: Flop. CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT (Universal) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $13.9M Total: $39.2 Verdict: Flop. ZOMBIELAND (Columbia) Budget: $23.6M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $102.3M Verdict: Hit. MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $72.1M Total: $261.2M Verdict: Blockbuster. COUPLES RETREAT (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $109.2M Total: $171.8M Verdict: Profitable.

NOVEMBER

November 2010 Preview

Thanksgiving weekend is a major Hollywood seasonal barometer, and usually there are several movies that Hollywood has high hopes for box office success. This is usually when we start to see some of the more anticipated movies, usually with at least one major blockbuster arriving before Turkey Day.

MUST SEE

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Miranda Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson, Warwick Davis, Ciaran Hinds, Julie Walters and every British actor still breathing.

STORY: The final showdown between Harry and Valdemort begins as the war between the Deatheaters and the wizards gets underway and spills over into the Muggle world.

PROSPECTS: This is as near to a slam dunk as you’re going to find out of any movie released this year.

OBSTACLES: Those who grew up with the Boy Who Lived are getting too old for…oh, who am I kidding here?

FACTOID: M. Night Shyamalan and Guillermo del Toro were at one time both considered for the director’s chair for the final two installments before the producers decided to stick with David Yates, who did the last two films.

HOT TICKETS

MEGAMIND

RELEASE DATE: November 5, 2010

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Will Farrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill

STORY: A superhero battle from the viewpoint of the supervillain who, try as he might, can never triumph over the forces of good with his nefarious plans.

PROSPECTS: This could easily become the next Shrek-like franchise for the Second-Best Animated Studio on Earth.

OBSTACLES: The trailer made this look more like a one-trick pony in terms of plot; let’s hope that the finished  has a lot more going for it.

FACTOID: The movie was originally titled Master Mind until it was discovered a TV game show had rights to the name; the title was then changed to Oobermind until it was determined that most people wouldn’t get the reference.

BURLESQUE

RELEASE DATE: November 24, 2010

STUDIO: Screen Gems

STARRING: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci

STORY: A small-town girl with a big voice helps to turn around a financially ailing theater, but her notoriety brings some problems she never could have anticipated.

PROSPECTS: Aguilera is one of the hottest musical stars on the planet and Cher is an icon; the combination sounds unbeatable on paper.

OBSTACLES: Cher hasn’t really done anything musical in years; Aguilera has never starred in a movie before. Will audiences flock to see it as they did with Chicago or stay away in droves as they did with Nine?

FACTOID: Gigandet beat out fellow Twilight stars Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kellan Lutz for his role.

RISING STAR

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS

RELEASE DATE: November 24, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Judy Greer, Gabriel Macht, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt

STORY: The misadventures of a salesman trainee at a pharmaceutical company who’s assigned to push male enhancement drugs.

PROSPECTS: This sounds like one of those quirky movies that emerges from left field to make some real noise.

OBSTACLES: Does anybody really want to see a movie about Viagra?

FACTOID: The movie is based on a novel by Jamie Reidy, who really did work as a Viagra salesman.

ALSO PLAYING

NOVEMBER 5, 2010

DUE DATE (Warner Brothers) stars Robert Downey Jr. as a first-time father trying to get home to be by the side of his wife in time for the birth. Standing in the way is a disaster-prone actor (played by Zach Galifianakis) and a whole lot of country. Shades of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

NOVEMBER 12, 2010

MORNING GLORY (Paramount) stars Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton as feuding morning show hosts, with Rachel McAdams as the producer charged with making the peace – or else! Sounds fairly pedestrian but given the star power will be worth looking into. SKYLINE (Universal) is a sci-fi thriller about a group of people trapped in a high-rise as an alien invasion literally sucks people from the face of the Earth. UNSTOPPABLE (20th Century Fox) stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as the engineer and conductor trying to stop a runaway train carrying toxic chemicals from hitting a small town. FAIR GAME (Summit), opening in limited release the previous weekend, is the story of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose cover was blown by a journalist and became a cause célèbre for the antiwar faction.

NOVEMBER 19, 2010

THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Lionsgate) features Russell Crowe as a man whose wife is imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit. With time running out and his wife suicidal, he determines the only way to save her life is to break her out of prison. Elizabeth Banks and Liam Neeson co-star.

NOVEMBER 24, 2010

THE KING’S SPEECH (Weinstein) chronicles the relationship between speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and King George VI (Colin Firth), whom Logue must help get past a terrible stammer so that he may lead his nation into World War II after the unexpected abdication of his brother Edward. The impressive cast includes Timothy Spall, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon. FASTER (CBS) stars Dwayne Johnson in a welcome return to the action genre. Here, he plays an ex-con out for revenge after his brother dies in the botched robbery attempt that got him sent to prison. TANGLED (Disney) is a sassy animated version of Rapunzel, with a voice cast including Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

NOVEMBER 26, 2010

RED DAWN (MGM) is a remake of the 1984 movie that starred the late Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Beals and C. Thomas Howell, among others. As in that film, the United States is invaded, and a resistance group of high school-aged football players is all that stands between us and total annihilation. Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star. It should be noted that given MGM’s precarious financial position that this movie may or may not see the light of day.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (Summit) Budget: $50 Million. Domestic Gross: $296.6M Total: $709.8M Verdict: Blockbuster. DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Disney) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $137.7M Total: $325.2M Verdict: Flop. NINE (Weinstein) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $19.7M Total: $53.9M Verdict: Flop. THE ROAD (Weinstein) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $8.1M Total: $26.8M Verdict: Flop. 2012 (Columbia) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $166.1M Total: $769.7M Verdict: Hit. PRECIOUS (Lionsgate) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $47.6M Total: $62.9M Verdict: Blockbuster. THE BLIND SIDE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $29M. Domestic Gross: $256.0M Total: $309.1M Verdict: Blockbuster. UP IN THE AIR (Paramount Vantage) Budget: $25M Domestic Gross: $83.8M Total: $163.2M Verdict: Blockbuster. THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (20th Century Fox) Budget: $40M Domestic Gross: $21.0M Total: $46.2M Verdict: Flop.

DECEMBER

December 2010 Preview

The month of December brings fierce competition for the box office dollar, as Hollywood usually releases their big guns. Christmas Day is almost always a big one for movie releases although with it falling on a Saturday this year, there is far more activity going on the preceding Wednesday. Nothing goes with Holiday shopping like an evening at the movie theater as a way to blow off the stress of hitting the malls. Studios are also very well aware that they have to release their films at least in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the month to qualify for Oscar contention, and some of these will hit general release in January.

MUST SEE

TRON LEGACY

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

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

STORY: A young man searches for his father who’s been missing for 20 years. Of course, when your father is Kevin Flynn, we all know where he is and where that search is going to lead – a digital world whose landscape has changed very much since we last saw it.

PROSPECTS: This has a shot at becoming the year’s top grossing film. Only Inception rivaled the buzz of this movie all year long. Director Joe Kosinski and Disney are making all the right moves; great casting, a stellar marketing campaign, a trailer that left all who saw it breathless, and electronic Daft Punk creating the soundtrack. Merry Christmas, everybody.

OBSTACLES: The original Tron, while a groundbreaking movie in its time, is nonetheless 20 years old and may not necessarily speak to its target audience which is far more savvy and sophisticated than the same audience was in 1982.

FACTOID: The movie was shot in just 64 days. However, post-production took 68 weeks due to the pervasive nature of the special effects.

HOT TICKETS

THE FIGHTER

RELEASE DATE: December 10, 2010

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Dendrie Taylor, Jenna Lamia, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Sue Costello

STORY: The true story of boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward, a chronic underachiever who was taken under the wing of his ex-con brother, a former boxer himself, and fought all the way to a championship fight.

PROSPECTS: There is a good deal of Oscar buzz surrounding this movie; true-life boxer movies have a respectable history with the Academy (i.e. Raging Bull, Cinderella Man).

OBSTACLES: The studio hasn’t done a tremendous amount of promotion on this just yet. Sometimes, Oscar buzz doesn’t necessarily translate into box office.

FACTOID: The gym shown in the movie is an actual working gym and is in fact the same one where the real Mickey Ward trained.

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS

RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Amanda Peet, Billy Connelly, James Gorden, Catherine Tate, Chris O’Dowd, Romany Malco

STORY: The classic Jonathan Swift tale is given a modern update, with an aspiring travel writer getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle, only to find himself in a strange land called Lilliput.

PROSPECTS: This looks to appeal to a family audience to at least a certain extent, or at least that’s how the marketing looks as I write this. If it’s done well, it could give Voyage of the Dawn Treader a run for its money.

OBSTACLES: Jack Black as Lemuel Gulliver? I’m not sure that’s precisely what Swift had in mind when he wrote the book.

FACTOID: Emily Blunt turned down Iron Man 2 to do this movie.

RISING STAR

SOMEWHERE

RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2010

STUDIO: Focus

STARRING: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Pontius, Robert Schwartzman, Caitlin Keats

STORY: Actor Johnny Marco lives the high life at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood; a steady stream of girls, a Ferrari, a different party every night and all the pills he can pop. Into that life comes the 11-year-old daughter from his failed marriage and suddenly Johnny is given a choice between two very different lives.

PROSPECTS: Director Sofia Coppola is one of the most respected on the indie scene at the moment; everything she does seems to have legitimate Oscar potential.

OBSTACLES: Her movies may be a little more intellectual than general audiences might accept.

FACTOID: Coppola was the first American woman to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. She also won a Best Screenplay Oscar for Lost in Translation, making the Coppola family only the second to have three generations of Oscar winners (grandfather Carmine, father Francis and cousin Nicolas Cage); the Huston family (grandfather Walter, father John and daughter Angelica) was the first.

ALSO PLAYING

DECEMBER 1, 2010

BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight), opening in limited release, is the latest from director Darren Aronofsky and follows the exploits of Nina, a young dancer in the New York Ballet Company who is tapped to replace the company’s prima ballerina in the upcoming production of Swan Lake. However, competition with another dancer leads to some dark and twisted events. Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder star.

DECEMBER 3, 2010

WARRIOR’S WAY (Rogue) is a new martial arts fantasy from Korea, this time set in the American badlands of the Old West. The impressive cast includes Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston and concerns an Asian assassin who hides out in a small American town, but his past eventually catches up with him.

DECEMBER 10, 2010

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (Fox Walden) is the third in the Chronicles of Narnia franchise and the first not to be made by Disney. Here, Edmund and Lucy are sucked into the Narnian sailing vessel Dawn Treader along with their ne’er do well cousin Eustace. On the voyage they’ll encounter fantastic creatures, terrifying trials and embark on a quest to save Narnia from a ghastly fate. THE TOURIST (Columbia) concerns an American tourist trying to mend a broken heart in Venice – good idea, that – and meeting a lovely, exotic woman. The two are soon caught up in a web of intrigue and suspense, as usually happens in Venice. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie headline, a pairing sure to put quite a few butts in seats.

DECEMBER 17, 2010

THE TEMPEST (Touchstone) is the latest from visionary director Julie Taymor. Here, she takes on Shakespeare – and changes the gender of the lead character from male to female, leaving us with Prospera, a sorceress on a mystical island played by the fabulous Helen Mirren. HOW DO YOU KNOW (Columbia) stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman torn between major league pitcher Owen Wilson and corporate executive Paul Rudd, the latter of whom is going through a rough patch. His father is played by Jack Nicholson, so that’s a big plus right there; the director is James Brooks so that’s another. YOGI BEAR (Warner Brothers) is a live action version of the beloved Hanna Barbera cartoon with the title character computer generated and voiced by Dan Aykroyd, with Tom Cavanaugh as the Ranger. Did we learn nothing from Garfield

DECEMBER 22, 2010

LITTLE FOCKERS (Universal) is the third installment of the hit comedy series and returns Robert de Niro and Ben Stiller as the dysfunctional in-laws. This time, events revolve around the birthday party of Stiller’s twin boys and his ability to be a good dad, a good provider and a good son-in-law. Is this series played out yet? Time will tell.

DECEMBER 25, 2010

THE ILLUSIONIST (Sony Classics), opening in limited release, is an animated feature based on an unproduced script by legendary French comic Jacques Tati. Produced by the same outfit that gave us The Triplets of Belleville, it concerns an old-fashioned stage magician whose livelihood is being marginalized by rock star magicians – until he meets a young fan who will change his career and life forever. TRUE GRIT (Paramount) is a remake of the Oscar-winning John Wayne western by none other than the Coen Brothers. If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, think Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper in the cast. Yeah, this is on my list of must-sees this holiday season too.

DECEMBER 29, 2010

ANOTHER YEAR (Sony Classics) is also opening in limited release. Not much was known about the plot at press time, but the director is the always-fascinating Mike Leigh and the stellar cast includes Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton. THE DEBT (Miramax) stars Helen Mirren as a former Mossad agent who discovers the man she brought in as a war criminal years ago may not have been the right one.

DECEMBER 31, 2010

BLUE VALENTINE (Weinstein) stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks trying to save their relationship in the course of a single night.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

AVATAR (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A but thought to be over $300M. Domestic Gross: $749.8M Total: $2.7B Verdict: MegaSuperGinormousBlockbuster. SHERLOCK HOLMES (Warner Brothers)  Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $209M Total: $523M Verdict: Blockbuster. INVICTUS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $122.2M Verdict: Broke Even. THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (Sony Classics) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $7.7M Total: $61.8M Verdict: Broke Even. IT’S COMPLICATED (Universal) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $112.7M Total: $219.1M Verdict: Profitable. ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (20th Century Fox) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $219.6M Total: $443.1M Verdict: Blockbuster. ARMORED (Screen Gems) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $16M Total: $20.9M Verdict: Flop. DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? (Columbia) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $29.6M Total: $85.3M Verdict: Flop. BROTHERS (Lionsgate) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $28.5M Total: $43M Verdict: Flop. THE LOVELY BONES (DreamWorks/Paramount) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $44M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Flop.

So that’s our fall preview. There’s a fairly diverse set of movies here, and at least a couple of them potential blockbusters. As always, be aware that release dates are subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before going out to the multiplex. For those who have been disappointed with the crop of movies so far, take heart that 2011 is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. You can see for yourself when the 2011 preview comes out at the end of December.

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.