Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hot Tickets for 2010

By Steve Evans

It’s never too early to handicap the slate of pictures coming this year to a theater near you. Here are 11 films in order of release date that either look promising or promise to lure massive crowds. The ineviotable blockbusters can be found among one or two smaller pictures that I suspect will find an audience and become sleeper hits.

Edge of Darkness (Jan. 29) Mel Gibson makes his first appearance in front of a camera since the po’lice took his mug shot after the middle-aged Lethal Weapon was popped for drunken driving and making inappropriate remarks about Jews. In his upcoming thriller, Gibson plays a homicide detective investigating the murder of his daughter. He’s also looking on the chunky side these days. Screenplay by William Monahan, who penned The Departed for Martin Scorsese.

Shutter Island (Feb. 19) may be the most anticipated movie of 2009. That’s right, Martin Scorsese's new thriller from the Dennis Lehane novel was slated for an Oct. 2 release last year in time for Oscar season, but Paramount bumped the picture back 4 ½ months claiming the studio had no money for a proper promotional campaign. Whatever. Scorsese works for the fourth straight collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, as a U.S. Marshall sent to the titular island to investigate a missing person. Shutter Island is the home of Ashcliffe, a hospital for the criminally insane where DiCaprio and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) begin to suspect sinister psychiatric practices are underway. The perfect cast includes “Sir” Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max Von Sydow. Helluva trailer for this one:

A Prophet (March 5) explores prison life in France by director Jacques Audiard ("The Beat That My Heart Skipped"). Expect a Foreign Film Oscar nomination. This film is reputedly so realistic and sobering in its portrayal of the French penal system that the government has responded with legislation to reform the country’s prisons.

Chloe (March 19) Director Atom Egoyan helms this adult drama about seemingly happy-loving couple Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson. When the wife develops a jealous streak, she tests her hubby’s love by placing him on a collision course with call-girl Chloe (doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried) to see if her husband can keep his pants cinched around his waist. This may not be the best pick for a first-date flick.

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (April 23) Director Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas reunite in this sequel to the 1987 paean to greed that won Douglas the Oscar for best actor. Love him or hate him, you gotta admire Oliver Stone’s timing. Here’s hoping he scores a direct hit on all the illegitimate MBA sonsofbitches roaming Noo Yawk’s financial district after the dismal failure of his last picture, W. Douglas returns as money obsessed Gordon Gekko, fresh from a prison stretch for playing shell games with arbitrage investments. He joins a young financial hotshot (Shia LaBeouf, to broaden the demographic for this picture) and together they try to warn The Street about a looming financial crisis. The plot clots when the younger man gets hot and heavy with Gekko’s daughter (Carey Mulligan from An Education). Despite the ridiculous subtitle, Wall Street 2 has all the right socio-economic conditions working in its favor.

Iron Man 2 (May 7) Okay, so Batman is too damn brooding, Superman too square and the Hulk is just a rambunctious pain in the ass. If the question is, “do we really need another summer superhero move?” the answer has got to be, yep, if it’s Iron Man 2, the eagerly awaited sequel to the 2008 hit. Robert Downey Jr. as alcoholic playboy/billionaire Tony Stark, who sometimes toots around in a metal exoskeleton, gets off some terrific hipster dialog without once making his audience impatient. Lots of explosions in the trailer, of course, but it’s Downey’s show all the way. Watch how he addresses a U.S. senator on a congressional committee that wants Iron Man to give up his military secrets, and you’ll be standing in line for a ticket, too. Gwyneth Paltrow returns; Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell give support. Mickey Rourke looks suitably menacing as main nemesis Whiplash. Check out the trailer:

Robin Hood (May 14) Russell Crowe won an Oscar for prancing around in a toga a decade ago in Gladiator and his work since then has been a mixed bag at best. No surprise, then, that the angry Aussie would pull on a pair of green leotards and take to Sherwood Forest for this umpteenth retelling of the English legend. Of course, Ridley Scott hasn’t had a hit since he directed Gladiator, so he’s reteamed with Crowe to helm this tale of a young Robin in the service of King Richard, the Lionheart. Cate Blanchett plays love interest Lady Marion.

Sex and the City 2 (May 28) Carrie and Mr. Big got married at the end of the last installment of this would-be franchise about the joys of sex and shopping (though not necessarily in that order). Expect Carrie and Mr. Big to get into a squabble so they can get back together again, since the plot demands it. Expect Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda to gab at length about shoes and skirts while sipping tall Cosmopolitans.

Toy Story 3 (June 18) Pixar returns to the well with Buzz Lightyear, Woody and the rest of the toy gang in a 3D computer-generated tale of loss, nostalgia and longing. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks return with principal voice-talent duties. Michael Keaton, Timothy Dalton and Joan Cusack are in there somewhere as well.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Nov. 19) Warner Bros. plans to burn maximum mileage out of J.K Rowling’s final installment of the boy-wizard saga by splitting the film adaptation into two parts separated by a year. Harry, Hermone and Ron face ongoing peril from the Death Eaters and Ralph Fiennes without a nose shows up as malevolent Lord Voldemort, he whose name must not be spoken, but often is, anyway. This series delivers amazing special effects and endearing performances by the young actors, although the sense of wonder is waning with the increased emphasis on hormones and tiresome romantic subplots that bring the Potter pictures to a crashing halt until the magic picks up again.

The Tree of Life (No release date announced) Director Terrence (Badlands) Malick is about as prolific as the late Stanley Kubrick, but the five films he’s managed to release (in a career spanning nearly 40 years) are as analyzed, dissected and discussed as the work of the great Kubrick himself. Set in the 1950s, Tree of Life follows the split story of Midwestern family (Brad Pitt and newcomer Jessica Chastain), and some years later their adult son Sean Penn who (surprise!) is a tormented man. The film juxtaposes Penn’s childhood family life with his contemporary conundrums. Expect a stately, meditative film from the cerebral, wildly inconsistent and always-interesting Malick.

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