Sunday, December 13, 2009
It’s an uncertain business, trying to predict next December's ‘Movie Of The Year’ list. This year, it’s trickier than ever, as the reverberations of the credit crunch continue to shake the capricious world of film finance. Even a minor hiccup in funding can delay a film for months or even years until a suitable release slot can be found.
If there’s an overarching theme to next year’s movies it's the 1980s. We have remakes of 1980s movies, adaptations of 1980s TV shows and videogames, even a new film bringing together the biggest action stars of that pumped-up decade.
Coincidence? Or nostalgia for a more innocent and less cash-strapped time?
Here are the films I think will attract the biggest audiences over the next 12 months. Other productions may be announced before the year is out. If you spot a winner I’ve missed, please leave a note in the comments.
50 Red Sonja
The most likely candidate on this list to slip into 2011, Red Sonja has, like her male counterpart Conan, been knocking around Hollywood for quite some time, with a star (Rose McGowan) and a script, but no firm shooting schedule. Current wisdom indicates an uncompromisingly adult-themed Hyborian epic with nudity, violence and swordplay. And, if brunette McGowan is still in it, wigs.
49 Red Dawn
The guilty pleasure 1980s classic is back. This time, instead of the rather implausible plot of teenagers fighting back against Soviet invaders, we have the slightly more implausible plot of teenagers fighting back against Chinese invaders. Captain Kirk’s dad (and future Thor) Chris Hemsworth leads the charge against those pesky reds, and former stuntman Dan Bradley steps bravely into the director’s chair.
48 Clash of The Titans
The 1981 fantasy epic comes roaring back into cinemas to infuriate Mary Beard and entertain those of us who maintain a sketchier handle on Greek myth. Louis Leterrier, who gave us the ‘good’ Hulk movie and helped shape the Transporter series assembles a cracking cast including Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson and Pete Postlethwaite to lend thespian authenticity to his freewheeling take on the story of Perseus. Sam Worthington is the suspiciously buzz-cut warrior who takes on Medusa and the Kraken.
47 Date Night
Coming across as a mélange of The Honeymooners and underrated 1985 comedy After Hours, this sounds like an efficient mid-table comedy until you take a look at the cast, which combines tireless US Office star Steve Carrell and Sarah Palin’s personal favourite, 30 Rock's Tina Fey. Ray Liotta and Mark Wahlberg are also along for what promises to be an hilarious, if sometimes downright uncomfortable, ride.
46 London Boulevard
With a plot that sounds like a rerun of Performance, a stellar British cast and spectacular London locations, this promises to be a British gangster flick in the classic mould. Ray Winstone, Colin Farrell, David Thewlis and Anna Friel feature in the story of a reclusive actress (Kiera Knightley) who ends up playing host to a recently released former convict. How well that will play overseas is anybody’s guess but support for the home team should make this movie a very strong contender on UK release.
A modern take on the Beauty And The Beast fairytale, Beastly has High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens forced to live in the home of bewitched prom king Alex Pettyfer. Although ostensibly a fantasy teen romance, this is the kind of property, like Enchanted or Stefanie Meyer’s Twilight series, that could break out into a far wider demographic. We’ll find out if I’m right or not in July. Official site
44 The Green Hornet
Will this first outing for a little-known superhero be another Iron Man? Or another Spirit? Like The Spirit, The Green Hornet is a classic 1930s crimefighter. The character first appeared on radio, before transferring to weekly cinema serial and ultimately a TV show that ran alongside and sometimes through the marvellously daft Batman show.
The TV show now is best remembered as an early break for the young Bruce Lee, who used his martial arts expertise to intimidate Burt Ward, who played Batman’s sidekick Robin.
Trivia fans might care to know that Brett Reid, the newspaper editor who fights crime as the Green Hornet, is a descendant of that other masked crimefighter the Lone Ranger. A bit of a longshot for major success. Official Site
43 Resident Evil: Afterlife
Continuing the apparently deathless series based on the popular survival horror videogame. This time, of course, it’s in 3D. Milla Jovovitch returns as Alice (and a handful of her clones) to combat the evil Umbrella Corporation. If you’ve seen one of these movies before and liked it, you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect. If you haven’t, then brace yourselves for an army of zombies, some futuristic guns and gallons of gore.
42 The Losers
Another comic book adaptation, but this time super-secret-agents rather than superheroes. The Losers are a squad of maverick CIA operatives, each one of which happens to conform to a recognisable videogame or movie archetype. Accused, of course, of a crime they did not commit they go undercover and ... well you know the rest. With both Salt and The A Team out in 2010 this will be well-trodden ground. Probably less silly than 2009’s GI Joe but no less entertaining for all that, The Losers should provide some undemanding cinema fun in April.
41 The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp’s star power should ensure that this adaptation of an early unsuccessful novel by his hero, Hunter S Thompson, gets plenty of attention. Adapted and directed by Bruce Robinson, who gave us Withnail and I, this take of unruly and perilously thirsty journalists will be near-unavoidable this spring, if only because we journalists love films about journalists.
The runaway train came down the track and she blew. Luckily, Denzel Washington was there to stop her, because this particular train was loaded with all manner of toxic nastiness and headed straight for a Pennysylvania town. Based on a real event that took place in 2001 near Columbus, Ohio, Unstoppable will be putting us all off rail travel in November 2010.
39 Wall Street 2
Michael Douglas’s unscrupulous stock market trader, jailed at the end of Wall Street, has served his 20 year sentence and is back on the street. It’s 2008 and he wants to prevent a global financial crash. We all know how that turns out. He’ll need an impressionable young trader to explain things to so that those of us who don’t know anything about big business (and that includes quite a few hedge fund managers) can understand the plot. Cue Shia LeBoef, who seems to specialise in these roles. It will be interesting to see whether the global financial hullabaloo will sharpen interest in this belated sequel, or whether the overdose of real financial news we’ve been exposed to of late will make Wall Street 2 an irrelevance.
38 When In Rome
Older readers, and I include myself in that cohort, may remember Three Coins In The Fountain, a 1950s romantic drama with a devilishly memorable theme song that seemed to be on TV every afternoon throughout the Sxities. When In Rome is the same story brought up to date and with a few extra chuckles added for good measure. Starring Kristen Bell and featuring Danny Devito and Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder, this sounds like an agreeable enough romcom but one which will struggle to compete with Sex And The City 2, which is released at around the same time. Official Site
37 The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Nicolas Cage, seemingly the busiest man in cinema right now, heads up a live-action junior wizard story inspired by the Mickey Mouse segment in Disney’s Fantasia. He reunites here with director Jon Tureltaub, with whom he combined so effectively on the National Treasure movies. Set apparently in the present day and co-starring the exquisitely vampy Monica Bellucci, this film is likely to capitalise on the younger cinemagoers’ seemingly inexhaustible appetite for boy wizard stories.
36 A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
The irrepressible marijuana enthusiasts get a third outing despite Kal Penn (who plays Kumar) securing a White House staff post. Only about three million or so Britons have used marijuana in the last year but the respectable box office figures of the previous Harold and Kumar movies demonstrate that the rest of us find drug use somewhat amusing as a spectator sport. If you enjoyed the gormless antics of Bill and Ted or Wayne and Garth and you would like to see one of President Obama’s staff make a potentially career-ending mistake, this is the film for you.
There can be only one. Or, in this case, dozens. Shorn of the egregious accent work from Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, what kind of immortal Scot swordplay movie can we expect? Justin Lin, director of Fast & Furious, has been tasked with reinventing the 1986 fantasy action flick that spawned a decreasingly sensible movie franchise and an impossibly daft TV series. No cast has been set at time of writing but expect mystical dialogue and as many beheadings as a PG13 certificate will allow.
34 Grown Ups
Adam Sandler assembles a stellar collection of Saturday Night Live alumni to portray a group of old high school chums meeting at their old basketball coach’s funeral. Sandler’s work is very much a thing to either love or hate. I personally regard You Don’t Mess With The Zohan as the worst film in celluloid history. Nevertheless, he’s a very popular comedian and I’m sure this will do reasonably well. After all, Salma Hayek and Steve Buscemi are in it. How bad can it be?
33 Hot Tub Time Machine
John Cusack, Chevy Chase and curiously spelled TV stalwart Lyndsy Fonseca star in a lighthearted time travel fantasy that is more Peggy Sue Got Married than The Terminator. Four pals climb into a jacuzzi, start reminiscing and find that they’ve fallen back into 1987. Fonseca play the sweetheart that slipped through Cusack’s fingers first time around. Official Site Trailer (strong language)
32 Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex started life, as so many movie heroes seem to these days, in a comic book. Although the spooky gunfighter is an Old West character, he has cropped up in a number of DC Comics’ nominally contemporary series such as Batman and The Justice League Of America. In the film, though, he’s expected to be firmly rooted in his post-Civil War milieu sparring with Quentin Turnbull, the man with the eagle-topped cane. Turnbull, played by John Malkovitch in the film, is a Confederate sympathiser trying to reignite the conflict that nearly tore America apart. The always delightfully off-message Megan Fox is Leila, a gun-toting tart with a heart who supplies Hex with extra backup and the film with extra glamour. Official Site
31 Edge of Darkness
This Hollywood version of the 1985 conspiracy thriller made by the BBC stars Mel Gibson as Thomas Craven, a Boston cop who tried to solve his daughter’s murder only to have an enormous political conspiracy unravel in his hands. Ray Winstone turns up as a CIA operative and the original TV show’s director, Martin Campbell, is back in the big chair. Official Site Trailer
The basic premise of Legion is this: God, specifically the God of the Christians, is the bad guy. As he periodically does, he’s decided to kill everyone on Earth. A fallen angel is humanity's only defence against a horde of destroying angels, a foul-mouthed old lady vampire thing and a demonic ice cream man. It's three parts Dogma to one part I am Legend with a dash of Left Behind. The angels appear to be armed with maces. The plucky American resistance holed up in a diner have guns. Lots of guns. How this will play to traditionally rather conservative US audiences I wouldn't like to say but for more playful British sensibilities this looks like the guilty pleasure treat of 2010. Official Site Trailer.
29 Season of the Witch
Rather strange casting for this 14th-century adventure: Nicolas Cage, loved for his diverse roles such as the manic wild-eyed American agent in The Rock and the manic wild-eyed American historian in National Treasure, plays a medieval knight escorting a prisoner accused of witchcraft to her trial. Containing (according to Cage) allusions to The Wages of Fear and (according to me) The Last Detail, this movie is bound to irritate historians. To what extent it thrills mainstream audiences is more open to question. You’ll have to wait until March to find out. Official Site
28 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Movies based on video games are rarely classics. Prince of Persia stands a better chance than most, roping in Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous prince with Alfred Molina as his father figure and Ben Kingsley as the villainous Grand Vizier. The 1989 game is still spawning sequels, whether the film adaptation will do the same remains to be seen. Trailer
27 Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
Emma Thompson’s supernatural childcare expert visits a new family. This time it’s to help overworked parent Maggie Gyllenhaal while her soldier husband is away. Expect motorcycles to fly, statues to come to life and piglets to climb trees. It’ll definitely be a heartwarming family adventure. Just don’t mention Mary Poppins. Trailer
What, more vampires? Daybreakers is not your average vampire movie. Starting where the bleakest vampire stories end, it posits a world where the bloodsuckers won. A few regular people are being kept alive as a food source. It's not a sustainable policy. Cue a colossal firearms jamboree with machine-pistol toting vamps fighting crossbow-equipped humans. With a weaker cast it would probably end up in straight-to-DVD hell but some fine scenery-chewing work from Sam Neill and some classic laconic hero stuff from Ethan Hawke should lift this antidote to Twilight out of the genre ghetto and into the upper reaches of box-office charts. Official Site Trailer
25 The Wolfman
Benicio Del Toro’s long-delayed classic horror remake is supposedly howling into cinemas in February. Set in late-19th-century Britain, this gothic horror will either be a cracking update of the 1941 Universal creature feature that, with Dracula and Frankenstein, established the horror genre or a big over-CGI’d mess. Director Joe Johnston brings a respectable pedigree of Star Wars and Indiana Jones effects work as well as directing credits on some kid-friendly adventures such as Jumanji and The Rocketeer. If you’re looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day date movie, and neither of the participants are conspicuously hairy, this one might be it. Official Site Trailer
24 Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The bestselling children's book makes the jump to the silver screen courtesy of director Thor Freudenthal, who previously helmed Hotel For Dogs. Few details are available on this movie as yet but as the books evoke the thoughts of a teenager through diary extracts and comic strips you should expect a certain amount of Adrian Mole and a degree of playful animation. You should also expect your young relatives to know all about this film already and be desperate to see it. Wimpy Kid Site.
23 Green Zone
Bourne director Paul Greengrass reconnects with Matt Damon to make this searching drama about the war in Iraq. As he did with United 93, which depicted the events of September 11 2001, Greengrass shows no fear of touching on contemporary events to inform his work. Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the movie is likely to express a somewhat jaundiced view of America’s involvement in Iraq. Trailer
22 Gulliver's Travels
Jack Black stars in a big-budget adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s 1726 satire. Black will be raising his talented eyebrow at Billy Connolly, King of the Lilliputians as well as an appropriate number of other computer-rendered midgets, giants and talking horses.
With a look that recalls Dreamworks’ excellent Monsters Versus Aliens and a plot reminiscent of Pixar’s The Incredibles and cult web series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Oobermind could hardly be described as ground-breaking. Nevertheless, with Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey providing voices this Ben Stiller-produced film will undoubtedly make a serious dent in the box office charts next November.
20 Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
One of a number of film properties trying to position themselves in the huge gap that will be left by the conclusion of the Harry Potter franchise. An ordinary boy called Percy Jackson discovers that he is not so ordinary after all. He’s not the son of a famous wizard though, he’s the son of Greek god Poseidon. He teams up with another couple of supernatural teens to investigate the theft of top god Zeus’s lightning and prevent an Olympian war. Sean Bean plays the irascible Zeus but most of the focus will be on young actors Logan Lerman (in the title role), Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T Jackson. Official Site Trailer
Phillip Noyce, best known for his Jack Ryan movies, directs Angelina Jolie in an ‘agent on the run’ thriller that suggest echoes of the Bourne trilogy. A CIA operative (Angelina Jolie) is wrongly accused of being a double agent and is forced to go undercover to clear her name. Tom Cruise ceded the lead role to Jolie, giving the rather well-used plot a welcome gender twist. We know Noyce can do espionage (Clear And Present Danger) and thrills (Dead Calm) and we know Jolie can do action (Wanted). Salt (which alludes to the protagonist's name rather than any 1980s arms treaty) seems set to be an efficient if perhaps rather unoriginal thrill ride. Trailer
The classic 1980s sci-fi actioner comes back to life in the hands of Quentin Tarantino’s pal Robert Rodriguez. The man who brought us Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror and Spy Kids has chosen not to direct this one but is retaining a strong grip behind the scenes. The story involves a group of the toughest humans alive abducted and taken to the home planet of the invisible super-hunters. Pursued through the strange alien jungle they are picked off one by one until only one survives. A rumoured cameo from original Predator star Arnold Schwarzenegger makes this a must-see for anyone who loved the original film and has miraculously not had their memories soured by the thoroughly awful Alien Versus Predator farragos.
17 The Book of Eli
The first couple of months of the new year can often be a graveyard for unfancied properties that the parent studio is unhappy with. The Book Of Eli, though, stands a chance of breaking through to be one of the hits of the year: With a stellar cast which features the always likeable Denzel Washington alongside British stalwarts such as Michael Gambon, Frances de la Tour and Ray Stevenson, the post-apocalyptic adventure would always have attracted interest. Factor in Gary Oldman as a scenery-chewing villain and it’s almost enough to make you forget about the obstinate non-appearance of Mad Max 4. Official Site Trailer
16 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
One of a number of franchises jostling for the soon-to-be vacated Harry Potter spot, the Narnia series suffered something of a setback with Prince Caspian’s lacklustre performance. Dawn Treader is, though, considered by the Narnia faithful to be one of the best books of the set. The best known names in the film, Liam Neeson and Eddie Izzard, don’t actually appear onscreen, but lend their voices to two of the fanciful characters encountered by the young cast as they seek the Seven Lost Lords of Narnia. For good or for ill, this will be a turning point in this series. If it succeeds, The Silver Chair and other Narnia movies will win an enormous worldwide audience. If receipts are broadly similar to those of its predecessor, it could well be the last of the Narnia films.
15 Shrek Forever After
The jolly green ogre bounces back from the curse of the threequel with a fourth (and perhaps also a fifth) instalment of the twisted fairytale franchise. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and all of the other principal voice actors will be back to subvert the nursery classics. Shrek 3 was thought by many to have over-egged the knowing pop-culture references and so we should probably expect a return to the more kiddie-friendly style of the first movie. With the original fans of the first film now entering their teens, Dreamworks will be hoping for a new generation. We will find out in July whether guest appearances from Paul McCartney, Eric Idle and Julie Andrews will mean anything to those fans, or even their parents.
14 Sex and the City 2
Expect SATC business as usual as Carrie and her gang encounter a host of guest stars. Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand , Penelope Cruz and Miley Cyrus are all (last minute edits permitting) set to appear, although Britain’s own Katie Price failed to secure a role. If you like shoes, romantic misunderstandings, shopping and more shoes you’ll love this film. If you don’t, but agree to see it for the sake of a quiet life, expect some very pretty views of New York, and shoes.
13 Tron Legacy
Shooting for the ‘longest wait for a sequel award’ comes this return to the computer world that captured Jeff Bridges in 1982. Now the son of Jeff’s character, Kevin Flynn, decides to investigate his father’s disappearance. There’s little doubt that this film will look extraordinary, with the latest 3D and CGI techniques used in conjunction with IMAX screens (wherever possible). Fans of the original film will join devotees of robotic dance music duo Daft Punk (who will be making some sort of unspecified appearance) in flocking to the movie’s December 2010 opening. Probably released too late to feature very strongly on the 2010 box office charts, it will still be one of the key films of next winter. Official Site
Another superhero flick? Not just any superhero. Kick Ass isn’t a super-powered character and has more in common with the real costumed heroes currently plying their trade in US cities right now. Created by Mark Millar, the comic is brutal, dirty and not a little bit funny. You can expect the film to run along broadly similar lines. Jane Goldman, the scarlet-haired lady one often sees next to Jonathan Ross at film premieres, is producing and her influence will probably see this film occupying every available column inch this April. Obviously, as it’s a 2010 movie, Nicolas Cage is in it.
Disney plunders the fairytale books one more time. Rapunzel promises to be a sassier, more self-reliant heroine than some of the earlier Disney princesses. Her prehensile hair is a superpower on its own, giving the scriptwriters scope for some neat new twists and the animators scope for some cracking sight gags. Mandy Moore is the voice of Rapunzel and the look of the film, supervised by Pixar mastermind John Lasseter, is a unique ‘living painting’ style that will surely reward multiple viewings.
The huge success of the Twilight teen-vamp series shows no sign of abating. This next episode dwells on a war between vampires and werewolves as doe-eyed mortal Bella gets caught in the middle. Why can’t vampires and werewolves get along? This is about the third film I’ve seen with this plot. The Twilight saga’s growing legion of fans will flock to this in their black-clad droves knowing exactly what to expect. It’s a new director again: David Slade this time, because New Moon director Chris Weitz was still hard at work on the second episode when production on this one started. It’s reasonable to expect a Stephenie Meyer film every year until 2012 at the very least. Blockbuster Buzz Twilight special
9 Alice in Wonderland
Tim Burton assembles his informal repertory company – Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, composer Danny Elfman – for this brightly-coloured reinvention of the Lewis Carroll story. Effectively a sequel to the original book, it employs a galaxy of British thesps to portray the denizens of Wonderland. Look for Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Frances de la Tour and Barbara Windsor beneath the layers of CGI and prosthetics. Out in March, it should dominate cinemas over the Easter break. Official Site
Following his huge success with The Dark Knight, Writer-director Christopher Nolan steps away from Gotham City for a brainy science fiction thriller. Leonardo Di Caprio plays a businessman being blackmailed by (minor) Batman Begins villain Ken Watanabe. Also rejoining Nolan from the Batman series are Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. Official Site Trailer
7 The Expendables
It’s the best 1980s action film ever made, albeit 20 years late. Sylvester Stallone recruits former rivals Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, alongside upstarts Jet Li and Jason Statham, for a story about a crack team of mercenaries sent on a mission to terminate a South American warlord. This August every red-blooded male action movie fan will be reminding their missus that they endured Sex And The City 2, and buying a pair of tickets for this testosterone-drenched romp. Official Site Trailer
6 The A Team
The fondly remembered adventure comedy series will need no introduction for readers over 30. Original cast member Mr.T still exploits his BA Baracus character (who in fairness was a thinly disguised T anyway) for TV commercials. Liam Neeson heads the new team with Jessica Biel and Watchmen star Patrick Wilson coming along for a ride in that van. There’s a suggestion that this modern take on the 1980s favourite will have a harder edge but you should still expect preposterous disguises, corny quips and wildly inaccurate gunfire. Not forgetting some sort of hastily-improvised.
5 Toy Story 3
There’s considerable buzz around this long-awaited return of the original CGI animated franchise. Instalments 1 and 2 looked spectacular when converted to 3D, arguably better than many of the more sophisticated animations that came after them. There’s no doubt that Toy Story 3 will be at least as eye-poppingly pretty. What it all boils down to, though, is the quality of the story. Pixar is celebrated for the quality of writing that it maintains. Set ten years after the last movie, this script has the toys seeking out a new home after their original owner has binned them and left for college. Expect the usual high standard from Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the rest of the gang. As well as at least one incredibly sad song from Randy Newman.
4 Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCaprio, the thinking woman’s Norman Lamont, finally sheds his teen idol image in this eerie psycho-chiller from Martin Scorsese. It’s a change of pace from Scorsese too, with nary a gangster (or theocratic boy-king or 19th-century social outcast) to be seen. Just what is the mysterious conspiracy that surrounds the missing patient at the mental hospital? Is Ben Kingsley as sinister as he acts? Or even more sinister than that? Official Site Trailer
3 Robin Hood
Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe in a revisionist take on the classic English legend. Matthew McFadyen is the Sherriff of Nottingham, confounding earlier rumours that Crowe would play both outlaw and oppressor. Cate Blanchett replaces Sienna Miller as a widowed Maid Marian. The title ‘Maid’ may raise some eyebrows there. Due in mid-May this will almost certainly be one of the most talked-about film releases of the year.
2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Part one of the final Harry Potter movie. Part two will follow in July 2011. Devoted fans have known what happens in the story since 2007; for newcomers, Harry and his pals Ron and Hermione search for some magical artefacts called Horcruxes. The plot takes the trainee wizards out of Hogwarts for much of the movie, resulting in a marked change of atmosphere compared to its predecessors.
1 Iron Man 2
Everyone who saw Iron Man, with the possible exception of Terence Howard, is aching to see the sequel. The 2008 superhero flick maintained a fine balance between the sombre tone of The Dark Knight and more fluffy comic book fare such as Fantastic 4. Mickey Rourke is the cybernetically enhanced villain Whiplash and Scarlett Johansson appears as Black Widow, a Russian assassin who may also be joining Gwyneth Paltrow as potential love interest. Don Cheadle replaces Terence Howard as Colonel James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, who later becomes Iron Man’s heavily armed back up, War Machine. Official Site