Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Quarter Preview: Slim pickings from January to March

Even though we're still a month and a half away from the end of Awards Season 09-10, we shouldn't forget that there are other movies coming out; movies from the current year. That said, January, February, and March don't offer a whole lot, even on the indie side of things (I'm done with giving Noah Baumbach chances, so I'm not wasting time in the theater on Greenberg). So what of interest is left? Not much. And by not much, I mean that one of the entries on this list is still technically a 2009 film. Please, pleeeeeeeease tell me that 2010 will pick up as the year goes on. That whining aside, here are seven (ish) reasons to go to the theater for something new, and not for whatever Oscar hopefuls are still on your checklist.

7. Last Night dir. Massy Tadjedin: March 19th [Limited]
What's it all about?: A husband and wife, while apart due to the husband being on a business trip, both flirt with temptation as the husband travels with an attractive co-worker and the wife accidentally meets up with a former flame.
Who's in it?: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes, Guillaume Canet
  • Interesting, character-driven premise
  • Young, attractive, and generally talented cast (the verdict's still out on Mendes)
Why Not?:
  • No trailer, no poster, no buzz.
  • Knightley and Worthington can be very good...or very bland.
6. Green Zone dir. Paul Greengrass: March 12th [Wide]
What's it all about?: After discovering faulty intelligence, a US Army officer goes rogue to find WMD's.
Who's in it?: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs
  • Great cast led by the generally reliable Damon, who has proven himself as a quality leading man for action flicks.
  • Greengrass knows how to turn gritty action into thrilling cinema (Bourne 2 and 3).
  • Could be a nice substitute if Bourne 4 never materializes.
Why Not?:
  • The action-packed trailer is curiously uninteresting, despite the subject matter.
  • Could end up trivializing the war angle in favor of bigger, louder, action scenes.
5. The Wolfman dir. Joe Johnston: February 12th [Wide]
What's it all about?: [from Imdb] After returning to his ancestral home, an American is bitten and cursed by a werewolf.
Who's in it?: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving
  • Has the potential to be a classy-yet-gory period horror flick.
  • Wonderful cast, and decent trailer showcasing the moody period ambiance.
  • Anthony Hopkins compared Blunt to a young Jodie Foster during/after filming.
Why Not?:
  • Re-shoots were ordered, and the film has already been pushed back a few times.
  • The design of the wolfman himself has been altered (from being on all fours to a more upright, bipedal form....or it might be the other way around).
  • Decent-to-mixed buzz from test screenings.
4. Alice in Wonderland dir. Tim Burton: March 5th [Wide]
What's it all about?: 10 years after she first went down the rabbit hole, Alice returns to Wonderland after finding out about her arranged marriage, only to find that the Red Queen has taken control.
Who's in it?: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee
  • Wonderful, wonderful cast, filling all of the right roles (Bonham Carter looks hysterical).
  • Not only is it not a direct remake, it's based off of parts of Lewis Carroll's books that weren't featured in the classic Disney cartoon version.
  • The mix of live action and CGI is beautiful, albeit cartoony.
  • Mia Wasikowska has proven her talent on the TV show "In Treatment".
  • Alice wearing battle armor. 'Nuff said.
Why Not?:
  • Is Johnny Depp's role too prominent? The title is ALICE in Wonderland, not The Mad Hatter in Wonderland, after all.
  • Will the CGI/live action blend somehow backfire?
  • It's yet another Burton film that isn't original. Seriously, when is he going to make another Edward Scissorhands-esque movie?
3. Clash of the Titans dir. Louis Leterrier: March 26th [Wide]
What's it all about?: A man born of a god, Perseus, must try to stop the minions of the underworld from breaking free to wreak havoc on the earth.
Who's in it?: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Pete Postlethwaite, Gemma Artreton, Alexa Davalos, Danny Huston
  • Rockin' trailer.
  • Finally, a halfway decent movie rooted in Greek mythology (special effects have come a long way since the original film was made).
  • The studio has enough faith in the film that it's actually being given MORE money to film extras scenes and add in more gods/monsters.
  • Sam Worthington officially takes his place as the new king of sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters.
  • Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as feuding gods: Schindler vs. Goeth was nothing compared to Zeus vs. Hades.
Why Not?:
  • Louis Leterrier isn't the best director, even for action driven films; his Hulk reboot was brain dead when it wasn't in action mode.
  • Could the added gods/monsters result in an overcrowded film with forced appearances from famed mythological creatures?
  • Is Worthington going to deliver the same level of bland "tough leading man" schtick as in Avatar?
2. A Prophet (Un Prophete) dir. Jacques Audiard: February 12th [Limited]
What's it all about?: [from Imdb] A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin.
Who's in it?: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
  • The critically hailed drama, finally making its stateside debut, has earned comparisons to The Godfather.
  • Chilling trailer that promises a combination of character study and blazing guns.
  • Interesting setting/angle (French Muslims).
Why Not?:
  • It could end up being either just "good", or hugely overrated.
1. Shutter Island dir. Martin Scorcese: February 19th [Wide]
What's it all about?: Two federal marshals search for a murderess who somehow escaped a top security facility.
Who's in it?: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kinglsey, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Hayley, Max Von Sydow
  • Great cast, great trailer, great director, great source material.
  • Dennis Lehane novels have a pretty successful track record as far as adaptations go.
  • It wasn't pushed back to finish editing or re-shoot; test screening results have been through the roof.
  • Martin Scorcese directing a psychological mystery/thriller/horror film? Count me in.
Why Not?:
  • The same screenwriter also wrote Oliver Stone's Alexander.
  • It's going to hurt a lot when you realize that the current Oscar season would have been so much more interesting if this film had been released back in October.
  • It's going to hurt even more if the film gets snubbed for next year's awards due to its terrible timing (two weeks before the Oscar ceremony).

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