Top 10 of 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HONORABLE MENTION

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

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

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

10.  MID-AUGUST LUNCH (PRANZO DI FERRAGOSTO)

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

9. 127 HOURS

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $18 million.

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

8. TRUE GRIT

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $38 million.

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

7. ALICE IN WONDERLAND

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $200 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

6. THE WHITE RIBBON (DAS WIESSE BAND)

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $18 million

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

5. WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN”

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: Not available.

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

4. THE FIGHTER

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $25 million.

STATUS: Currently in wide release.

3. WINTER’S BONE

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $2 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

2.  FLIPPED

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $14 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video.

1. THE KING’S SPEECH

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

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

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

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

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

BUDGET: $15 million.

STATUS: Currently in wide release.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Michael Cera

Game on, Michael Cera!

(Universal) Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill, Ellen Wong, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, Bill Hader (voice). Directed by Edgar Wright

There’s something about videogames that appeals to most of us; the clear delineation between good and evil, the use of skill and deduction to be successful, the ability to explore amazing places and live vicariously through the characters in the game. We can become anyone, defeat anything, but we can’t escape love.

Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a 22-year-old slacker who has broken up with his girlfriend Envy Adams (Larson) for some time and hasn’t really gotten over her. He’s dating a 17-year-old high school Asian chick named Knives Chau (Wong) who worships the ground the Scott walks on. He’s also playing bass in a trio known as Sex Bob-omb along with fellow slackers Steven Stills (Webber), drummer Kim Pine (Pill) who Scott once dated and Young Neil (Simmons), who subs for Scott on bass when he isn’t in the mood to play. Knives also worships the ground they rock on.

Then, into Scott’s life comes Ramona Flowers (Winstead), a lively red/blue/green-headed hipster who recently moved to Toronto from New York City. Scott falls immediately and implacably in love with her, much to the disgust of his sister Stacey (Kendrick) and gay roommate Wallace Wells (Culkin). At first, things are a little rough between Scott and Ramona; she’s getting over some fairly rough times and is inclined not to trust anyone. Gradually, Scott’s charm wins her over.

That’s when Scott’s problems really begin. It turns out that Ramona has seven evil exes, people she dated with super powers and evil intentions. Scott will need not only to fight all seven of them, he’ll have to defeat them in order to win the hand of the woman he loves.

It’s a simple enough concept, but under the guidance of director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) the execution is imaginative and clever. You know from the 8-bit version of the iconic opening of Universal Studios that you’re in for something special. Videogame conceits order the action, from the onscreen graphics to the extra lives to even the look of the movie.

There are a lot of homages to various classic and current videogames, from Pac-Man to Dance Dance Revolution to Mortal Kombat to Sonic the Hedgehog. There are also lots of pop culture references, from the graphic novel culture from where this project originated, but also the indie music and movie scene as well. However it is videogames that are the primary inspiration for this movie and those who aren’t at least aware of some of the conventions of videogames aren’t going to be able to follow the movie very well, or at least get some of the humor.

Much of the movie rests on the skinny shoulders of Everytwerp Michael Cera. I have never been a huge fan of his mainly because of what I perceive as a sameness of the characters he plays in movies like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Juno and Superbad not to mention his role in the cable series “Arrested Development.” Cera tends to speak in the same annoying, mousy tones and plays guys who get women way out of their leagues. Here, he has a bit more of a crafty undertone to him; we find out during the course of the movie that he’s a little bit of a player when it comes to women.

Most of the critical brickbats have focused in on Winstead’s Ramona Flowers and I can understand some of the criticism. She’s a bit aloof emotionally (as is Cera’s Scott to a very large extent) and that creates a bit of a gulf between the audience and the action. It’s hard to want a relationship to succeed if you aren’t feeling that the love is genuine; Cera and Winstead never convince that there’s a real deep emotional bond between Scott and Ramona.

That’s what keeps me from giving the movie a higher score, but the clever visuals and the frenetic pacing are what elevate the movie to something better than standard summer action fare. The fight sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in a movie that didn’t come from Asia, and the humor throughout appeals not just to the videogame crowd but for general audiences as well. This is one of those movies that seem much shorter than it is; you’re enjoying yourself so much you don’t notice how time is passing by.

My son Jacob has been looking forward to the movie for eons. He is a big fan of the original graphic novel which I haven’t read yet; he is also a nutcase about videogames. This is HIS movie, and these are HIS people. The movie speaks to him and his friends in ways I can’t; it relates to him in ways I won’t either. It speaks his language and knows his shorthand. I suspect this will be a cultural touchstone for him and his generation for years to come.

REASONS TO GO: A pop culture icon for the digital generation. Cleverly designed and executed, the movie moves along at a frenetic pace.

REASONS TO STAY: There are times when the characters get a little hipper-than-thou, and Cera is playing yet another Michael Cera role, so if you don’t like Michael Cera you won’t like him any better here.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some stylized videogame-like violence and a few bad words here and there. There are also some sexuality and drug references. Pretty much okay for everyone, although parents may want to decide if it’s suitable for their younger children.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Whitman, who plays one of the evil exes here, previously played the girlfriend of Michael Cera’s character in “Arrested Development.”

HOME OR THEATER: This should be seen in a theater with a bunch of cheering fans, but if you can’t get there, a roomful of videogame addicts at home will do just as well.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: Drillbit Taylor

New Releases for the Week of August 13, 2010


August 13, 2010

One of the evil ex-Boyfriends eats some Kroww.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

(Universal) Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Alison Pill. Directed by Edgar Wright

When a slacker falls in love with a girl he should rightly have no chance with, to his delight it turns out she has feelings for him as well. Unfortunately, she has seven evil ex-Boyfriends who don’t take kindly to a bass-playing interloper, so Scott Pilgrim is going to need to nut up and take on the world…or at least, seven evil ex-Boyfriends. Fortunately, he has genius director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) guiding his way.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references)

Countdown to Zero

(Magnolia) Jimmy Carter, James Baker III, Tony Blair, Valerie Plame Wilson. Most people believe that when the Cold War ended, so did the threat of nuclear annihilation. After all, both superpowers have embarked on a mutual disarmament program. However, the fact of the matter is that more nations have nuclear weapons than ever before and many more have the technical capabilities of manufacturing their own. Terrorist groups are actively seeking fissionable material to construct their own Weapons of Mass Destruction and the possibility of a dreadful accident caused by human error grows every day. This documentary serves to educate people on the remaining nuclear threat – and to urge the world to demand zero nuclear weapons on the planet.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for thematic material, images of destruction and incidental smoking)

Eat Pray Love

(Columbia) Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Viola Davis. A woman trapped in an unfulfilling marriage – heck, an unfulfilling life – decides to chuck everything in an attempt to go find herself. Apparently herself is hiding in India, Italy or Indonesia. It’s always in the last place you look, I say. In any case, it’s based on the bestselling book of the same name.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity)

The Expendables

(Lionsgate) Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis. A highly skilled mercenary team goes on what seems to be a routine mission; to overthrow the bloodthirsty dictator of a small South American island nation. Betrayed by a rogue CIA agent, the team is forced to leave behind an innocent woman who will surely die for helping them. They must either walk away or turn around and finish what they started. In addition to the guys listed above, the cast reads like a who’s who of action movie stars, including the Governator himself – Arnold Schwarzenegger – in a cameo role.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language)

Nora’s Will

(Menemsha) Fernando Lujan, Veronica Langer, Silvia Mariscal, Juan Pablo Medina. A man finds out that his wife of 30 years whom he lost contact with after an acrimonious divorce has committed suicide and left him executor of her estate. Due to religious obligations, the burial must take place immediately or else wait five days before she can be laid to rest. Preparing for the funeral, the man finds a mysterious photograph that will take him on an unexpected journey.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: August 2010


Four-Warned: August 2010

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE 

1. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (1.5)
2. THE EXPENDABLES (2.4)
3. NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS (2.5)
4. THE OTHER GUYS (2.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE) 

1. LEBANON (1.9)
TIE. TALES FROM EARTHSEA (1.9)
3. THE TILLMAN STORY (2.2)
4. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (2.4)

TIE. THE WILDEST DREAM: THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (2.4)
 

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

AUGUST 4, 2010

SICILIAN GIRL (Music Box) Genre: Crime Drama. The true story of a 17-year-old Sicilian girl who broke the Sicilian code of silence by testifying against the Mafia. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.0 Sounds like a powerful drama; hope I can see a trailer for this soon.

AUGUST 6, 2010

CAIRO TIME (IFC) Genre: Romantic Drama. A 40-something fashion editor is assigned to Cairo and finds that the exotic city awakens strong feelings in her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Harlequin romance for the indie film set?
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (Anchor Bay) Genre: British Crime Thriller. A young heiress is kidnapped and held for ransom by two ex-cons, but she doesn’t intend to be used as a pawn. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 This looks to be the sleeper suspense movie of the summer.
FLIPPED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Boy meets girl in grade school. Girl thinks its love, boy thinks she has cooties. Boy and girl grow up. Stuff happens. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening wide on Aug. 27). RATING: 3.0 Could be a really sweet coming-of-age story despite my smart-assed summary.
LEBANON (Sony Classics) Genre: War Drama. An Israeli tank crew gets caught up in a life-or-death situation during the first Lebanese War of 1982. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles on Aug. 13). RATING: 1.9 Could very well be Das Boot for tanks.
MIDDLE MEN (Paramount Vantage) Genre: Comedy. An entrepreneur gets involved with Internet porn and makes a fortune but turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 These “based on a true story” Internet tales are coming thick and fast.
THE OTHER GUYS (Columbia) Genre: Action Comedy. Two deskbound NYPD detectives are called upon to support the department’s reigning supercops. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 Anything that reunites Talladega Nights director Adam McKay with Will Ferrell is aces in my book.
THE OXFORD MURDERS (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A professor of logic and one of his students races against time to solve a string of murders. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 John Hurt is one of my favorite actors so this is a slam dunk for me.
STEP UP 3D (Touchstone) Genre: Urban Drama. A tight-knit break dancing team from the Bronx enters a global competition. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Not a single thing about this movie appeals to me, but then again I’m as far from their demographic as you can get.
THRU THE MOEBIUS STRIP
(Hannover House) Genre: Sci-Fi Animated Feature. Age-old enemies must learn to work together against a common enemy to save their humans. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Supposedly based on the works of Heavy Metal artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud, who I must admit I admire a great deal.
TWELVE
 (Hannover House) Genre: Gritty Urban Drama. A drug dealer on the decadent Upper East Side sees his life turned upside down when his cousin is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 An impressive cast but the trailer held no magic for me.
THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A young British mountaineer attempts to re-create George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 climb to see if it’s possible that he might have summated Mt. Everest before perishing. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 I love these types of documentaries; nobody does ‘em like NatGeo.

AUGUST 13, 2010

ANIMAL KINGDOM (Sony Classics) Genre: Aussie Crime Drama. A young boy is brought into a notorious Melbourne crime family after his mother dies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 This has been getting all sorts of accolades worldwide; might be the real thing.
EAT PRAY LOVE (Columbia) Genre: Dramedy. A married woman chucks her marriage, her house and her life in order to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Despite the presence of Julia Roberts as the lead, I’m thinking this is an ode to self-worship.
THE EXPENDABLES (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A team of mercenaries finds themselves fighting for their lives after a job goes horribly wrong, and may end up having to do the right thing in spite of themselves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Nearly every notable action star of the last 20 years is in this; either it’ll be classic or a real mess.
LA SOGA (7-57 Releasing) Genre: Action Thriller. A sensitive young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his family by a Dominican drug lord; he is eventually transformed into an amoral assassin for the Dominican Secret Police. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.1 Haven’t yet seen a trailer for this, but the concept is intriguing, sort of a Latin La Femme Nikita.
SALT OF THE SEA (Lorber) Genre: Romantic Drama. A Brooklyn-born woman of Palestinian descent returns to her homeland to claim what’s hers. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.3 This could pique my interest, but again I haven’t seen a trailer for this one either.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Universal) Genre: Trendy Comic Book Action Mash-Up. A young dweeb who plays in a band falls hard for a much cooler girl than he deserves and is forced to fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends for the right to woo her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 My son Jacob has an absolute chubby for this movie, which means that seeing it might make me hipper or merely depress me over the state of modern youth culture.
TALES FROM EARTHSEA (Disney) Genre: Fantasy Anime. A young ambitious wizard must right the wrongs he loosed on the world through his own recklessness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The latest from Studio Ghibli and the first from Goro Miyazaki, the son of the legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki; also based on the beloved fantasy novel by Ursula K. LeGuin.

AUGUST 18, 2010

VAMPIRES SUCK (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror Spoof. A young human girl must choose between competing boyfriends – who happen to be vampires. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 I agree that the Twilight saga richly deserves a spoofing but lately these types of movies have been majorly craptacular and at worst, unwatchable.

AUGUST 20, 2010

DOWN TERRACE (Magnet) Genre: Dark Comedy. A father and son struggle to keep a crime family together even while an informant in their midst threatens to tear it apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Sounds a bit like “The Sopranos” on Ritalin.
LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Brothers) Genre: Urban Comedy. A winning lottery ticket puts a quiet neighborhood into an uproar. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 Sorry, the trailer looked kinda awful.
MAO’S LAST DANCER (Goldwyn) Genre: Biography. The story of international ballet star Li Cunxin who overcame tremendous odds to realize his dream. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 I’m not usually a big fan of movies about dancing but the trailer for this one looked very good.
NANCY MCPHEE RETURNS (Universal) Genre: Family. The magical nanny comes to rescue a family whose father is off at war. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 I actually liked the first film very much, so interested in seeing what they do with the second.
PIRANHA 3D (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Mutant flesh-eating fish take over a Spring Break hangout and prepare to munch on a co-ed buffet. Release Strategy: Wide (3D). RATING: 2.9 The original wasn’t John Sayles’ finest hour; did we really need a remake of it?
THE SWITCH (Miramax) Genre: Comedy. A neurotic man switches the donated sperm for his best friend’s baby with his own. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The trailer made this look like 90 minutes of awkward.
THE TILLMAN STORY (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. The story of the pro football star that gave up the NFL to serve his country and would later be killed by friendly fire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 This could well be the Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner.
WHAT IF… (Jenkins Entertainment) Genre: Christian Drama. A man who gave up the cloth and his high school sweetheart for a business career gets to see what his life would have been like if he’d chosen differently. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Sort of like It’s A Wonderful Life for the God squad.

AUGUST 27, 2010

CENTURION (Magnet) Genre: Swords and Sandals. A Roman legion charged with wiping out the savage and terrifying Picts find themselves battling for their own survival behind enemy lines. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like a cross between Gladiator and Last of the Mohicans.
CHANGE OF PLANS (IFC) Genre: Indie Drama. A group of ten friends gather for a summertime dinner party, where their personal issues begin to surface. Release Strategy: New York Only. RATING: 3.3 Yet another look at the failing relationships of a group of 20-somethings.
GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple fall madly in love, then have to continue their relationship via long-distance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 An attractive young couple (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) make this appealing.
THE LAST EXORCISM (Lionsgate) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A priest agrees to document his last exorcism, with unexpected results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Looks like a real good frightfest.
THE MILK OF SORROW (Olive Films) Genre: Indie Drama. A woman is severely affected by the psychological effects of a war on terror in Peru. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles Sept. 3). RATING: 3.3 Not for the squeamish or the sensitive.
TAKERS (Screen Gems) Genre: Action. A group of high-tech bank robbers try to stay one step of the cops as they pull off their biggest heist yet. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The trailer didn’t excite me any.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Other Guys, Middle Men, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nanny McPhee Returns, Going the Distance

2010 Summer Movie Preview


Ah summertime, when living is easy. A time for napping contentedly in the heat of the day, an ice cold glass of lemonade at your side. The days of baseball and beaches, backyard cookouts and pool parties. The pace of life slows down just a little in the heat of the summer, only to pick up on warm summer nights in amphitheaters, nightclubs and concert halls. It is the season of the theme park, when the kids are out on summer vacation and bored out of their minds. It is a time to look forward to.

The cool darkness of a multiplex beckons seductively in the summer heat and the studios make sure you show up in droves by releasing their biggest, baddest movies of the year. These are the blockbusters, the movies that you’ll be talking about all year long and the ones you’ll want to own on DVD or Blu-Ray when they come out at Christmastime.

In 2009, Hollywood set box office records and the summer season was a big reason for that. Movies like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Up, Star Trek and The Hangover all made the cash registers sing at theaters across the world and the studios raked it in like never before. When times get tough, the tough go to the movies…and so do the not-so-tough.

This year promises to be even better with a glut of spectacles that will fire up the imagination, taking us places like ancient Persia, the Old West, modern China and the human mind itself. We will renew acquaintances with Woody, Iron Man, Shrek and Edward Cullen, while making new friends as well. Directors Ridley Scott, M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolan will be showing off their talent and imagination, while stars like Tom Cruise, Leonardo di Caprio, Russell Crowe and Julia Roberts will hope we love them just a little bit more.

Comic books will continue to be big as we see movies like Iron Man 2, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Jonah Hex while videogames will get their due with Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time. There will be remakes of television shows like The A-Team and movies like The Karate Kid. We’ll see legends like Robin Hood and kids shows like The Last Airbender. Comic strip icons like Marmaduke will wrestle for the box office dollar with new pop culture icons like Twilight: Eclipse.

Hollywood will try to make us laugh with Killers and make us cry with Letters to Juliet. They will thrill us with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and appeal to the kid in us with Despicable Me. They will blow our minds with Inception, scare us silly with The Last Exorcism and lighten our wallets with Toy Story 3 (you don’t think you’re going to get away with not getting any Woody and Buzz merch this summer do you?) while transporting us to other worlds with Predators. As always, there will be sequels like Sex and the City 2 and buzz-laden indie films like Winter’s Bone and Get Low.

So if you like Jonah Hex, Get Him to the Greek with The Other Guys so they can have Dinner for Schmucks – try to stay light on the Salt. So whether or not you Eat Pray Love make sure you call Nanny McPhee 2 for the Babies because its Grown Ups only in the cinema and that will make things Just Wright.

MAY

Iron Man 2GRAND SLAM

IRON MAN 2

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Paramount

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

STORY: Now that the world knows Iron Man is Tony Stark, everyone wants his armor but Tony is reluctant to cede control of it to anyone. With his faithful assistant Pepper Potts at his side, he will take on a rival industrialist and a Russian psychopath in this sequel to the 2008 smash.

PROSPECTS: Imprecise as they are, internet polls are saying this is the most-anticipated movie of the summer. Director Jon Favreau did a great job with Iron Man and the fans love him, so they should be flocking to this in droves.

OBSTACLES: There aren’t a lot. Comic fans are notoriously fickle, so Favreau will need to make this one at least as good as the first Iron Man. He should have a talk with Sam Raimi if he doesn’t believe me.

FACTOID: Terrence Howard was replaced as Colonel Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes by Don Cheadle due to a falling out between Howard and Marvel Studios.

HOME RUNS

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2010

STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Jon Hamm, Kathy Griffin, Kristin Schaal

STORY: Shrek meets It’s a Wonderful Life as he discovers what Far Far Away would be like if he had never existed.

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: This will be the first Shrek movie to be released in 3D.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME

RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell, Reece Ritchie

STORY: Based on the 1993 videogame, a young prince of ancient Persia comes into possession of a dagger which when used can reverse time and finds himself allied with a mysterious princess against dark forces that wish to control the dagger and by doing so, rule the world.

PROSPECTS: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has produced two tentpole franchises for Disney; Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure. Judging on the spectacular trailers, this will be his third.

OBSTACLES: Movies based on computer games have traditionally not fared well at the box office.

FACTOID: Rey-Phillip Santos was to have played the part Toby Kebbell plays in the movie, but he was injured in a motorcycle accident while on location and was unable to continue.

INSIDE THE PARK

BABIES

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Focus Films

STARRING: Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, Hattie

STORY: A documentary following the first year of life of four babies in four disparate places – San Francisco, Tokyo, Mongolia and Namibia.

PROSPECTS: The trailer, which has been playing in theaters for months, has been attracting a whole lot of “awwwws” from women everywhere it has been shown.  

OBSTACLES: There isn’t going to be much of a demand for this from those who aren’t interested in babies per se – that means you, teenaged boy.

FACTOID: There is some maternal nudity in this French-made documentary.

INFIELD SINGLES

MAY 7, 2010

MOTHER AND CHILD (Sony Classics) is a trio of tales that all have to do with the effects of adoption on the lives of three different women; one who gave her child away to adoption, another who was adopted as a child and a third considering adoption for herself. Bring plenty of Kleenex.

MAY 14, 2010

JUST WRIGHT (Fox Searchlight) stars Queen Latifah as a personal trainer who is falling for a pro basketball player she’s rehabilitating from a career-threatening injury, only to find that she has competition for his heart from her best friend, a beautiful, sexy playa who’s more interested in the lifestyle than the love. LETTERS TO JULIET (Summit) has a starry-eyed young American volunteer (Amanda Seyfried) to a group that answers letters from the lovelorn to Juliet (the Shakespearean one) getting involved with a 50-year-old love letter that may prove that true love knows no age. The trailer shows plenty of the absolutely intoxicating Italian countryside. ROBIN HOOD (Universal) reunites star Russell Crowe with director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, A Good Year) in a new re-telling of the legend of Robin of Locksley, the bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Ironically, the very rich studios will be getting a whole lot of money from the much less financially stable general public for this one.

MAY 21, 2010

MACGRUBER (Rogue) is based on the Saturday Night Live spoof of MacGyver. Will Forte is the cool-as-lava agent who can defuse a bomb (as long as it only has three wires) or make one himself out of duct tape and Twinkies. He is called to face down his long-time nemesis who has smuggled nuclear weapons into the United States and intends to detonate them…unless MacGruber can save the day!

MAY 27, 2010

Carrie and her friends once again get into mischief and talk fashion, New York City and sex – and take their act on the road in the chick-est of chick flicks, SEX AND THE CITY 2 (New Line).

MAY 28, 2010

GEORGE A. ROMERO’S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (Magnet) is the latest in the horror master’s Living Dead series. Here, two families on a remote island clash over their philosophies on how to deal with the zombies, leading to a remarkably violent confrontation.

JUNE

Toy Story 3GRAND SLAM

TOY STORY 3

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2009

STUDIO: Disney/Pixar

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Keaton

STORY: When Andy goes off to college, his toys are donated to a child care center. Woody and Buzz find themselves trying to adjust to a new and unfamiliar situation.

PROSPECTS: The movie that started it all gets its third installment, and the Disney publicity machine will leave no stone unturned to make sure a whole new generation of kids gets caught up in Toy Story Mania.

OBSTACLES: Most of the kids who grew up with the Toy Story movies are less likely to see this more than once, if that. Disney will have to rely on attracting new viewers for this to be the massive hit they’re anticipating it will be.

FACTOID: Blake Clark is the new voice of Slinky Dog, replacing the late Jim Varney who passed away in 2009.

HOME RUNS

KNIGHT AND DAY

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Maggie Grace, Paul Dano, Olivier Martinez, Mark Blucas

STORY: A blind date turns from Mission: Impossible to The Spy Who Loved Me as an ordinary woman’s life is turned upside down by the spy she is hooked up with.

PROSPECTS: It’s something of a weak month as blockbusters go and this looks to be the best action film in the pack.

OBSTACLES: Cruise doesn’t have the box office cachet he once did, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good for at least a fair number of butts in seats.

FACTOID: Cruise was looking for an espionage thriller that was unlike his Mission: Impossible films and passed on Salt and The Tourist because he felt they were too much like M:I. He said yes to this movie because of the comedic elements.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2010

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed

STORY: As graduation approaches, Bella Swan must choose between her love for vampire Edward Cullen and her friendship with werewolf Jacob Black, even as a rival vampire is plotting revenge and Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings.

PROSPECTS: Summit is wisely striking while the iron is hot, releasing the third film in the series seven months after the last one. Pre-teen girls and their moms have flocked to the first two movies in the series and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t show up in droves for this one.

OBSTACLES: I don’t see a whole lot of them. Backlash? Only among those who aren’t in the target audience so who cares? Burnout? Not likely.

FACTOID: Because Chris Weitz was too busy completing The Twilight Saga: New Moon, he was unable to direct Eclipse because of the fast turn-around that the studio wanted. David Slade was selected instead to become the third different director in the three-film series.

INSIDE THE PARK

JONAH HEX

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, Aidan Quinn, Julia Jones, David Patrick Kelly

STORY: A scarred gunslinger who has one foot in our world and the other in the next is given an offer he can’t refuse from the U.S. government; all his warrants will be forgiven if he can take out a terrorist who is preparing to unleash hell. Jonah Hex, however, has already been there. This is based on a DC graphic novel.

PROSPECTS: Brolin has been on a roll with excellent work in No Country for Old Men, W. and Milk. Fox is a fanboy favorite and her presence alone might draw some folks into the theater.

OBSTACLES: Westerns haven’t fared well at the box office lately and while comic book films have, this isn’t one of DC’s biggest sellers. This is more of a cult favorite and those can blow hot and cold with fans. The buzz about this movie has been positive but not overwhelming.

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

INFIELD SINGLES

JUNE 4, 2010

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) has Russell Brand return to his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall as Aldous Snow, rock legend that intern Jonah Hill is dispatched to fetch to do a show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Of course, with a rock star of Snow’s ilk, nothing is really simple. This is the latest comedy from producer Judd Apatow. KILLERS (Lionsgate) stars Katherine Heigl as a newlywed whose husband Ashton Kutcher has a secret – he’s an international hitman. Now that can raise some trust issues, no? MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) is based on the beloved newspaper comic strip about a lovable Great Dane, with Owen Wilson voicing the title character in this live action flick with CGI elements. Anyone remember Garfield? SPLICE (Warner Brothers) is a dark science fiction thriller which has a couple of brilliant gene splicers creating an ultimate creature using the DNA of animals…and humans. Their new creation turns out to be something uncontrollable as well as deadly. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star.

JUNE 11, 2010

THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox) is a remake of the popular ‘80s television show of the para-military group betrayed and imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, escaping and becoming mercenaries for hire. Liam Neeson, who apparently is in every single movie coming out this year, takes on the George Peppard role. THE KARATE KID (Columbia) is a remake of the iconic ‘80s film with Jackie Chan assaying the Pat Morita role, Jaden Smith (whose dad Will’s Overbrook Films production shingle is one of the producers of the movie) taking over for Ralph Macchio and China subbing for L.A. COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY (Sony Classics) is not a remake but rather a biopic in limited release of the legendary clothes designer and music composer’s torrid romance. Finally, WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions) is a movie I saw at the Florida Film Festival that is marvelous, worth seeking out and also coming out in limited release.

JUNE 18, 2010

I AM LOVE (Magnolia) is a highly acclaimed Italian movie opening in limited release starring Tilda Swinton as the wife of a wealthy industrialist whose affair with her brother-in-law’s partner shakes the family to its core.

JUNE 25, 2010

WILD GRASS (Sony Classics) is the latest from legendary French director Alain Resnais, regarding a lost wallet and the romantic directions it leads both the man who finds it and the woman who lost it. It opens up in limited release only, I’m afraid. GROWN UPS (Columbia) is about the summer reunion of a championship basketball coach whose lives have taken wildly divergent paths and yes, it’s a comedy. It boasts an all-star cast of comic superstars including Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Maya Rudolph, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Maria Bello and Salma Hayek.  

JULY

InceptionGRAND SLAM

INCEPTION

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

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

STORY: Very little detail about this movie has been released thus far but director Christopher Nolan describes it as a contemporary science fiction action movie taking place within the architecture of the mind.

PROSPECTS: Nolan’s last movie was the massive hit The Dark Knight and he has deliberately kept this movie as under wraps as possible in order to build up buzz and he has succeeded in doing that big time. The trailer for the movie looks like it has something to do with a corporate cover-up and the imagery is pretty wild.

OBSTACLES: Sometimes too much secrecy can actually hinder a film’s buzz particularly when it’s up against big summer blockbusters like what you see above.

FACTOID: This is Nolan’s first film to be based on entirely original material since 1998’s Following. All his movies since have been based on graphic novels, short stories or books.

HOME RUNS

DESPICABLE ME

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove

STORY: Gru, the world’s most despicable criminal has another nefarious plan in mind; to steal the moon. Standing in between him and his evil plan are three orphans who see Gru   in a way nobody else does – as a potential father.

PROSPECTS: Everyone who’s seen the trailer has proclaimed this to be one of the funniest animated trailers ever. Universal is promoting the heck out of this.

OBSTACLES: This isn’t coming from an established property (like a children’s book or a graphic novel) and Universal is not used to promoting animated features.

FACTOID: Universal did a special Earth Day trailer for the movie.

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell, Alice Krige, Ethan Peck

STORY: A centuries-old wizard tries to defend Manhattan against his arch-nemesis but realizes that he needs help. He discovers Dave, an average guy with an unusual amount of potential. Together they must face down the forces of evil and, maybe, get Dave a date.

PROSPECTS: This is the team – Disney Studios, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jon Turtletaub and star Cage – that made the successful National Treasure franchise. Early trailers look pretty spectacular.

OBSTACLES: The look reminds me a bit of The Shadow and while I liked that movie a lot, I was pretty much alone. Magical franchises that don’t have Harry Potter in them have not done well box office-wise.

FACTOID: This is loosely inspired by the Mickey Mouse short of the same name.

INSIDE THE PARK

CYRUS

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2010

STUDIO: Fox Searchlight

STARRING: Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly, Matt Wash, Katie Aselton, Tim Guinee

STORY: A young man who lives with his mother isn’t eager to share her with her new boyfriend, who in turn is willing to do anything to win the woman he loves. This battle of wits turns into all-out war.

PROSPECTS: An outstanding cast highlights this movie from the studio that had a major success with (500) Days of Summer at the same time.

OBSTACLES: Improvisational comedies can be very hit or miss.

FACTOID: The Duplass brothers, who wrote and directed this, have a respectable indie resume including Baghead and The Puffy Chair.

INFIELD SINGLES

JULY 2, 2010

THE LAST AIRBENDER (Paramount) is a live action version of the hit Nickelodeon animated series from director M. Night Shyamalan. Here the nations of Air, Water, Earth and Fire are at war with one another, have been for more than a century and there’s no rest in sight. The key to peace lies in the hands of Aang, the last Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. RESTREPO (National Geographic) is a documentary about a year spent with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan in one of the most strategically crucial valleys in the country as the soldiers attempt to push the Taliban back into the mountains. Although listed for wide release, this may come out in limited release when all is said and done.

JULY 7, 2010

PREDATORS (20th Century Fox) reboots the Predator franchise under the aegis of producer Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids, El Mariachi) as elite warriors – and one disgraced physician – find themselves on an alien planet as prey of the Predators. However, these aren’t your daddy’s Predators. Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne star.

JULY 23, 2010

SALT (Columbia) is a spy thriller in which CIA operative Evelyn Salt, played by Angelina Jolie, is fingered by a Russian spy as a sleeper agent. Salt must martial her considerable skills to clear her name and discover why she is being framed, figuring out once and for all whether she is who she thinks she is. DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS (Paramount) stars Paul Rudd as an ambitious career builder who needs to capture the attention of his boss. The perfect opportunity presents itself at the annual Dinner for Extraordinary People, where the employee who brings the most eccentric character to the dinner wins a prize. Rudd’s choice is Steve Carell as a quirky, socially inept sort who has a thing about dressing mice up to imitate famous works of art. Who thinks up this stuff?! RAMONA AND BEEZUS (20th Century Fox) is based on the beloved series of children’s books by Beverly Cleary about an exasperated 10-year-old named Beezus and her 4-year-old sister Ramona who live on Klickitat Street.

JULY 30, 2010

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the sources for Blade Runner and Total Recall, among others) and stars Matt Damon as a Senate candidate who must fight the forces of Fate (yes, with a capital “F”) in order to be with the woman he loves. BEASTLY (CBS) is a retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale set in a contemporary high school milieu. Teen idols Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens star. CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (Warner Brothers) is a sequel to the 2001 film that chronicles the high-tech agents in the never-ending war between cats and dogs for control of the Earth. GET LOW (Sony Classics), based on a true story, is opening in limited release and is about a Tennessee hermit who decides to play his own funeral party – which he plans to attend while still alive. A superb cast includes Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.

AUGUST

Scott Pilgrim vs the WorldGRAND SLAM

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman

STORY: When rock and roll slacker Scott Pilgrim falls in love, at first things are pretty suh-weet. However, he discovers his latest flame – and true love if his dreams are to be believed – has seven evil ex-boyfriends that he must vanquish in order to claim her for his own, well, he does what any self-respecting 21st century guy would do – he kicks ass and takes names.

PROSPECTS: Based on an acclaimed graphic novel and directed by Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), the movie has accumulated an intense buzz factor.

OBSTACLES: Having Michael Cera as your headlining actor is not a guarantee of big numbers; other than Superbad his movies have generated mediocre box office. The fact that Universal is slating this movie for August doesn’t show a whole lot of confidence in the movie’s prospects.

FACTOID: The original comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley was published as six black and white digest editions by Oni Press. The film Whiteout was also based on a comic book published by Oni Press.

HOME RUN

THE OTHER GUYS

RELEASE DATE: August 6, 2010

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Ray Stevenson, Steve Coogan

STORY: You know the cops that always solve the most difficult cases, survive even the most terrifying shootouts and always get that primo parking spot in front of the station? These aren’t those guys – they’re the other guys.

PROSPECTS: Director Adam McKay has Talladega Nights with Ferrell to his credit, and judging from the hysterical trailer, this is a return to form after the whole Step Brothers misstep.

OBSTACLES: Two words: Cop Out.

FACTOID: Paris Hilton has a role in the movie.

THE EXPENDABLES

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, Charisma Carpenter, Eric Roberts, Terry Crews

STORY: A group of mercenaries accept a job overthrowing a military dictatorship in a small South American country, only to discover they’ve been betrayed. They will have to survive enormous odds to…wait a minute, haven’t we already seen this movie?

PROSPECTS: Oh yes, gentle reader, you have indeed but this version has nearly every action hero known to man, including the Governator (you read that right). The trailer for this got louder cheers than the movie it was in front of.

OBSTACLES: Yes, there are a ton of action stars in here but there are also a bunch of second raters. Maybe too many stars?

FACTOID: This was Brittany Murphy’s final feature film. Asked to make cameos but unable to for a variety of reasons included Jean-Claude van Damme, Steven Seagal, Robert Knepper, Denis Leary and Danny Trejo.

INSIDE THE PARK

NANNY MCPHEE 2

RELEASE DATE: August 20, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Asa Butterfield

STORY: In the sequel to the 2005 children’s movie, Thompson returns as the magical nanny who this time comes to the aid of a harried and exhausted mom whose running the family farm while her husband is off at war.

PROSPECTS: Beloved worldwide, the first movie was a big international hit, hence the all-star cast for the second go-round.

OBSTACLES: While the movie was popular overseas, it was only a mild hit here.

FACTOID: Writer/producer Thompson made a sly poke at Pink Floyd’s Animals by flying a pig-shaped battery balloon over Battersea Power Station, just as in the album cover.

INFIELD SINGLES

AUGUST 6, 2010

MIDDLE MEN (Paramount) has a straight arrow businessman develop the first online billing system for the adult entertainment industry, bringing him into a world of porn stars, Russian mobsters, federal agents and fast-talking con man, putting everything he’s built in jeopardy. STEP UP 3D (Touchstone) is the third in the street dancing series and brings the fad global, giving the rest of the world yet another reason to hate us.

AUGUST 13, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE (Columbia) stars Julia Roberts as a discontented housewife who chucks everything – home, marriage, community standing – to find herself as she travels the world. It’s based on the real life story of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote a book on her experiences that gives the movie its title.

AUGUST 20, 2010

THE SWITCH (Miramax) features Jennifer Anniston as a single woman who hears her biological clock ticking down to zero and decides to have a baby on her own, despite the objections of her neurotic best friend. Years later when the little tyke begins to show signs of having the same neuroses as the best friend, the awful truth begins to emerge. TAKERS (Screen Gems) is a heist caper that is being pulled by the best team in the business. Things begin to unravel when suspicions rise about the suave character who set up their latest job and with the police bearing down on them, they need to use all their skills to get away scot free, but can trust each other enough to rely on one another to do it? THE LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Brothers) is an urban comedy about the effects of a winning lottery ticket on an African-American neighborhood and specifically on those closest to the guy holding the winning ticket.

AUGUST 27, 2010

GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) is a romantic comedy that explores that most 21st century of romances – the long distance romance. When the couple involved is Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, you know the cuteness factor is ratcheted up through the roof, even if they are on opposite coasts. THE LAST EXORCISM (Lionsgate) has a fraudulent exorcist bringing a film crew along to document his last “exorcism”. When the possession turns out to be legitimate, the priest – who never believed before – finds that he must find his faith or an innocent child may suffer horrific consequences, and he himself may find himself sharing them. PIRANHA 3D (Dimension) is that most dreaded of horror films, the “re-imagining.” This time, the victim is a cult classic from John Sayles, here unspooled as an outbreak of man-eating prehistoric fish that are unleashed on a resort town full of spring break partiers. Bon appétit.  

So that’s our summer and it’s shaping up to be a pretty good one. 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 think this is it for the blockbusters for 2010, take cheer; the studios are holding several in reserve for the fall which you can check out in our Fall Preview coming out in August. Until then, grab yourself some popcorn and an ice cold soda, settle into your seat and enjoy.