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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Toy Story 3


Toy Story 3

Buzz and Woody discover that Jessie has a bigger cut at the merchandising than they do.

(Disney/Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Michael Keaton, Ned Beatty, Estelle Harris, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Timothy Dalton, Whoopi Goldberg, Blake Clark, John Morris, Jodi Benson. Directed by Lee Unkrich

For many, the Toy Story movies are a warm reminder of childhood, either experiencing the movies as children themselves or being transported back to childhood as an adult. Eleven years after the second movie in the franchise (still the only sequel Pixar has made, although there are plans for sequels to Cars and Monsters, Inc in the next two years) would there be a demand for Woody, Buzz and the gang after all this time?

Years have passed since the adventures of the first two movies and Andy (Morris) is getting ready to leave for college. As time has gone by, many of his toys have fallen by the wayside – either having been donated, handed down to his sister Molly or thrown out, leaving only a few remaining holdovers; Hamm (Ratzenberger) the caustic piggy bank, Rex (Shawn) the unselfconfident dinosaur, Mr. Potato Head (Rickles) and his wife (Harris), Jessie (Cusack), the rootenist’ tootenist’ cowgirl in the West, Buzz Lightyear (Allen) the greatest toy ever made and of course, his best friend Woody (Hanks).

Andy is cleaning out his room before he leaves and has a hard time deciding what to do with his remaining toys. They’re old and worn-out and most people would throw them into the trash but Andy is not most people. He can’t quite let go just yet so he elects to take Woody with him to college and earmarks the other toys for the attic, but his mom (Metcalf) mistakenly throws them in the trash. Woody manages to help rescue them, and the toys, thinking that Andy no longer wants them, elect to go to Sunnyside Day Care as donations where maybe they might have a future, despite Woody’s attempts to persuade them otherwise.

Sunnyside is run by a strawberry-scented teddy bear named Lotso (Beatty) who seems kindly and welcoming at first. He has quite a set-up where toys will be played with forever in an ownerless world. At first glance, it seems like heaven for the toys but it quickly turns out to be the other place as Lotso assigns them to the Caterpillar Room where the youngest tots are gathered and unspeakable things are done to the toys. Lotso is revealed to be a tyrant running the toys of Sunnyside with an iron fist. Will Woody help his friends – his family – escape? Will Barbie (Benson) find romance with Ken (Keaton)? Why is Buzz speaking Spanish?

I can’t say this is a game-changer when it comes to animated features, but it is a marvelous movie nonetheless. Unkrich has managed to recapture the magic that made the first two movies classics even without the late Jim Varney (who passed on in 2000) as Slinky Dog (Clark, a close friend of Varney’s in real life, takes over the role). There is a bittersweet quality here that is only hinted at in the first two movies (especially the second); the essence of growing up and putting aside childish things. The last scene in the movie is one of the best in the series and should this be the last Toy Story film (and there’s no sign that it will be), it’s a marvelous way to go out, bringing things full circle in a sentimental but not over-the-top way.

The look of the movie is pretty much identical to the first two so in a way this is a step backwards for Pixar in that it doesn’t hold up against the magnificent animation seen in Wall-E for example, but it really doesn’t need to. The look of the movie is like going back home again in a lot of ways and seeing that things are exactly the way you left them.

They did add 3D and IMAX to the mix which to my mind didn’t really enhance the movie overly much; if you can take or leave either of those things I’d advise you to check out the standard version while you can; no need to spend $3-$10 per ticket just for those bells and whistles when the standard version works perfectly well.

I don’t really need to go over the voice characterizations. Most everybody who cares about movies has seen at least one of the Toy Story films and knows how good this cast is. Keaton and Beatty make fine additions and interact with the existing cast very nicely. There are some really clever moments (like a brief appearance of the Pizza Planet truck, or a train full of troll orphans) and some genuinely affecting moments that tug on the heartstrings without being manipulative.

The movie succeeds on all levels. Kids are going to go bananas for it – if you’re a parent, be resigned to demands to see it three or four times this summer. For adults, the underlying themes of memory, loss and growing up will hit home. After setting a Pixar record for the biggest opening weekend, the answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph is a resounding yes. More to the point, this is a summer family movie that will please everyone in the family and bear repeated viewings. Andy may be moving on, but given how good Toy Story 3 is it’s a good bet that the rest of us won’t be.

REASONS TO GO: Recaptures the magic. Ending had Da Queen in full-on bawl mode.

REASONS TO STAY: It doesn’t really break new ground nor does it measure up to Up or Wall-E but that doesn’t mean it’s not terrific.

FAMILY VALUES: Perfectly suitable for every audience.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Unkrich co-directed Toy Story 2 with John Lasseter and edited the first two Toy Story movies prior to being named director on this one.

HOME OR THEATER: Oh, big screen, definitely.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

TOMORROW: Paper Heart

New Releases for the Week of June 18, 2010


June 18, 2010

Woody and Buzz, together again at last.

TOY STORY 3

(Disney/Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, R. Lee Ermey. Directed by Lee Unkrich

If you think that there is a glut of computer animated features, you have Toy Story to blame. That was the very first all-computer animated feature. It established Pixar as a major player in Hollywood and spawned an equally successful sequel; the only one Pixar has made to date. Now, they’re going the three-quel route with Andy having grown up and gone to college. His mom donates the toys to a day care center, which turns out to be bad news as there is some nefarious goings on there. Still, Andy wants Woody back, which seems a little creepy for a college boy. Still, after nearly a decade’s absence, Buzz, Woody and the gang are back which is cause for celebration in itself.

See the trailer, featurettes, clips and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D

Rating: G

Jonah Hex

(Warner Brothers) Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Shannon. This DC comics adaptation pits a disfigured cowboy and bounty hunter out to gain revenge against the man who maimed him and killed his family. There are elements of the supernatural involved in this gritty western which is based on a character not very well known outside of comic book fandom; it’s surprising, given that better known characters like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Arrow and Swamp Thing are all languishing in development hell that this got greenlit, and even more surprising that Warner Brothers has not promoted it very heavily. Still, the trailer looks very promising.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (For intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content)

Please Give

(Sony Classics) Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall. A Manhattan couple purchases the apartment next door in order to eventually expand their own apartment. However, the elderly woman who resides there has to die first, which leads to a good deal of liberal guilt and as the couple begin to get involved with the lives of the elderly woman and her granddaughters, their own lives and ambitions begin the evolve. This is the latest film from director Nicole Holofcener who also directed the wonderful Friends With Money. It opened in limited release elsewhere in April.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, some sexual content and nudity)

Four-Warned: June 2010


Jonah Hex

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. JONAH HEX (1.1)
2. TOY STORY 3 (1.3)
3. KNIGHT AND DAY (1.6)
4. GROWN UPS (2.1)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. WINTER’S BONE (1.0)
2. ONDINE (2.2)
3. COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY (2.4)
TIE. THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2.4)

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

JUNE 4, 2010

CROPSEY (Cinema Purgatorio) Genre: Documentary. A journalist delves into what had been an urban legend about a child murderer that turns out to be frighteningly close to the truth. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.9 Sounds fascinating, but definitely a New York story.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A record label fluky tries to get a rock star from England to a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Aldous Snow was great in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but do I want to see a movie all about him?
KILLERS (Lionsgate) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman discovers that her new husband is actually a trained assassin. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Sort of like Mr. and Mrs. Smith without the Mrs. Smith.
MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family Comedy. A Great Dane discovers that the world is what you make of it, even if you’re just too big. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 The trailer for this actually talked me out of wanting to see this.
ONDINE (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. An Irish fisherman picks up what he believes to be a mermaid in his nets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A little Irish never hurt anybody.
SPLICE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A pair of gene splicers fuse the DNA of humans with animals with horrific results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 The new trailer reminded me of Species and not in a bad way.

JUNE 11, 2010

THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action. A Special Forces team wrongly accused breaks out of military prison and becomes do-gooders for hire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I’m wondering if this concept hasn’t been done to death by now.
COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Drama. A French fashion designer and Russian composer undertake a torrid love affair, Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Gorgeous music, wonderful fashions and a scandalous affair – what more could you want?
JOAN RIVERS – A PIECE OF WORK (IFC) Genre: Documentary. The legendary comedienne undergoes trials and tribulations as she fights to keep her place in the entertainment hierarchy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 I simply am not a fan of Ms. Rivers, so a documentary on her holds no interest for me whatsoever.
THE KARATE KID (Columbia) Genre: Family Action. A young American boy living in China is taken under the wing of a handyman who teaches him Kung Fu – and about life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Was this a movie that really needed to be remade?
KINGS OF THE EVENING (Indican) Genre: Urban Drama. During the Great Depression, men compete in an underground contest for a title and five dollars. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 Don’t know enough about this movie to get excited about it.
MADMOISELLE CHAMBON (Lorber) Genre: Romance. An unlikely relationship blossoms between a shy elementary school teacher and a gruff contractor. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.4 Nobody does great romance movies like the French.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD (Indican) Genre: Horror Comedy. The star of an off-Broadway adaptation of Hamlet is really a vampire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Shakespeare, Vampires and the Holy Grail. Throw in Broadway and you’ve got a deal!
WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Indie Drama. A bleak look at Appalachian meth cookers and a young woman’s fight to keep her land. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best movie I’ve seen this year.

JUNE 18, 2010

8: THE MORMON’S PROPOSITION (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. An examination of how the Mormon Church has been intimately involved with anti-gay legislation, particularly California’s notorious Proposition 8. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m sure that this will make for fascinating viewing, but are the Mormons the only religious organization that battled gay rights legislation?
CYRUS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Indie Comedy. A single mom’s new boyfriend has to contend with her slacker adult son. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 John C. Reilly vs. Jonah Hill for the heart of Marisa Tomei? Sounds like a winner to me!
I AM LOVE (Magnolia) Genre: Indie Drama. A wealthy Milanese family is shaken to its corner when the wife of the patriarch has an affair with her son’s partner. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Yes it sounds a bit on the soap opera side but the trailer looked magnificent.
JONAH HEX (Warner Brothers) Genre: Supernatural Western. DC Comics adaptation about a gunslinger with infernal powers seeking revenge on the rancher who wronged him. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 Josh Brolin is inspired casting for the title character.
THE KILLER INSIDE ME (IFC) Genre: Film Noir. Based on pulp writer Jim Thompson’s novel, a sheriff involved in a love triangle finds his own homicidal tendencies surfacing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Great trailer, but wondering if Casey Affleck is the right guy for Noir.
LET IT RAIN (IFC) Genre: French Drama. A housekeeper’s son decides to film a documentary on the lady of the house’s daughter, a feminist politician – leading to chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 An interesting concept, but haven’t seen a lot of ink on this release yet.
TOY STORY 3 (Disney/Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. When Andy goes off to college, Woody and the gang get donated to a day care center. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.3 It’s been a decade since the last one; is the magic still there?

JUNE 25, 2010

DOGTOOTH (Kino International) Genre: Drama. Three teenagers confined to a country estate by control freak parents are visited by a security guard who shakes the family to its core. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.3 I haven’t seen a whole lot of Greek cinema, so this might well be worth checking out.
GROWN UPS (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A youth championship basketball team reunites as adults at a summer camp to celebrate the passing of their coach. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 An All-Star cast makes this a comedy worth looking into.
KNIGHT AND DAY (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman goes on a blind date with a man who turns out to be a spy who has rescuing the world on his mind. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Tom Cruise needs a hit and this figures to be it.
RESTREPO (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. Acclaimed journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spend a year with a U.S. platoon in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A powerful look at what it’s like to wage war in the 21st century.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Cinema Libre) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Oliver Stone does a documentary on controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Chavez gets excoriated by the Republicans; this is a response from a man who clearly admires him.

WILD GRASS (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A stolen wallet leads to obsession and romance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Director Alain Resnais made some of the most innovative films of the French New Wave.

JUNE 30, 2010

LOVE RANCH (E1 Entertainment) Genre: Period Drama. A heavyweight prizefighter becomes part of a love triangle in one of the first legal brothels in Nevada. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I wonder who cast Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci as a married couple?
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (Summit) Genre: Vampire Romance. Bella is torn between her vampire love and her werewolf friend while an old enemy plots revenge. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 3.3 And the hysteria continues…

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

Killers, Splice, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Winter’s Bone, Jonah Hex, Toy Story 3, Grown Ups, Knight and Day

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.

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.