SOME FILMS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2009
There are plenty of Hollywood blockbusters to look forward to in 2009 like G.I. Joe or Star Trek, and plenty of Oscar-grubbing Fall products like the Meryl Streep-hemmed Julie & Julia, but what I'm writing about here are films that I'm particularly looking forward to. These ten films are ones that I can't possibly wait long enough to see.
With the sudden retirement of Joaquin Phoenix, it seems that Two Lovers will become the last time to see him on the silver screen if he follows through on his promise. The premise is about a young man (Phoenix) who is having trouble choosing between a strait-laced woman his parents adore (Vanessa Shaw), and the beautiful, scatter-brained neighbor across the street (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sure, Phoenix is the story, but I'm more interested in seeing Paltrow and Shaw. Gwyneth seemed to rejuvenate her career with the tender, but glorious performance in Iron Man, but Shaw is a talented actress who has always toiled in b-films like Corky Romano or Ladybugs, but she seems to be given a vital opportunity to show her gifts in this film. Directed by James Gray.
The controversy revolving around the film's release is still alive and well (Warner has decided to let the case's judge decide the film's fate), but that aside, this is easily the most anticipated movie of early 2009. Adapted from the classic graphic novel, the early word is that the film is unbelievably faithful, behind the direction of 300's Zack Snyder, and perfectly encompasses the look and tone that made the comic such a masterpiece. The story deals with costumed vigilantes brought down by the government, and when one of them is murdered, an investigator named Rorshach (Jackie Earle Haley) uncovers terrifying facts. A chance to be a Dark Knight-sized hit.
When you're told that you are watching a film from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, there are certain connotations that go hand-in-hand with that. We are meant to believe we will be watching an unbelievably quirky dramedy, featuring emotionally scarred characters who defend themselves with their abrasive sense of humors. Okay, well Sunshine Cleaning doesn't seem to do anything to break that stereotype, but it does have a wonderful cast that includes Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, and Steve Zahn. We have two sisters (Adams and Blunt) who have underachieved at life, and have taken up a job cleaning up the mess after gruesome murders. Could be a very endearing indie nugget early in the year.
This film was pushed back from an initial November 21st release, because they'd given up on the film as an Oscar contender, and thought April would give the film a better oppurtunity to be successful, box office-wise. It's directed by Atonement's Joe Wright, and is about a troubled journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) who takes up a friendship with schizophrenic homeless man (Jamie Foxx), who was an incredibly gifted cello player once upon a time. The film seems like a total sentimental weepie at first glance, but if you look at the film's pedigree (Downey Jr., Foxx, Wright), there is no reason to think that this film won't be anything less than a moving, wonderfully crafted tale of redemption.
THE BROTHERS BLOOM
When it was entertaining audiences in the film festival circuit last Fall most of the talk was about how director Rian Johnson's follow-up to the indie smash Brick was eerily similar to the films of Wes Anderson. That being said, nobody ever mentioned the resemblance in a negative tone, so I believe that he only borrowed the good aspects of Anderson--and when its good, its not a rip-off, but an homage. It's about two brothers (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo) and their attempt to scam an insanely rich, but reticent heiress (Rachel Weisz). Supporting cast includes Rinko Kikuchi and Maximillian Schell, and the film overall looks like a wonderfully witty caper.
I've said repeatedly that Michael Mann, based on style alone, is the greatest film director in the business today. Heat and Collateral are modern masterpieces, while Manhunter and The Insider are wonderful films thematically and comprehensively. For the first time since The Last of the Mohicans, Mann is tackling a period piece in this film about the rise of organized crime during Prohibition, and the FBI's attempts to thwart it. The cast includes Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, and Billy Crudup as the various cops and robbers, and behind the keen eye of Michael Mann, I see little reason that this film will be anything less than the cinematic event of the Summer.
For those who saw Paul Thomas Anderson's romantic masterpiece Punch-Drunk Love, we saw a performance from Adam Sandler that defies description, other than beautiful. It was Sandler stripped down to straight adoration and unbridled rage, and it was THE performance of 2002. Since, Sandler has played around a lot in worthless films like Bedtime Stories and Chuck & Larry, or inspired groans in attempts at drama like Reign Over Me and Spanglish. Now, Sandler is giving the comedy-drama genre another shot, but this time he is working with the comedy guru Judd Apatow. Apatow, the best and most intuitive comedic filmmaker today, tells the story of a comedian (Sandler) who learns of his terminal illness, and decides to take a young comedian (Seth Rogen) under his wing. Objectively, the film looks sappy, but in the hands of Apatow, I trust the film will be a success and finally deliver on Sandler's potential.
That Tarantino will have this film ready by Cannes--or by this Aug. 21 premiere, no less--seems like wishful thinking, but because this guy made Pulp Fiction and the two Kill Bill films, we could care less about his notoriously long-winded film productions, and just admire the work. This has been a film that has been long hanging around for Tarantino fans, even before that Grindhouse vacation he took with Robert Rodriguez, and the fact that it is even being filmed now is good enough news for most fans of the eccentric filmmaker. Basterds tells the story of American soldiers during WWII, who are famous for their brutal murders of Nazis. With a cast including Brad Pitt, Mike Myers, Cloris Leachman, and Eli Roth, the film certainly looks to continue Tarantino's half-brained filmmaking style, and hopefully is something to watch.
When Martin Scorsese makes a movie, it is an event. When he makes a film with Leonardo DiCaprio, usually talks of Oscars arise. When he makes a film adapted from the brutal but brilliant novelist Dennis Lehane, you have the highly anticipated Shutter Island. In his first feature film since winning his Oscar for The Departed, Scorsese goes back to the well, telling a dark, disturbing tale that follows a troubled but heroic protagonist. Scorsese turns to his main-stay DiCaprio to play the film's lead Teddy Daniels, but also has a supporting cast with such names as Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Max von Sydow. This film is not only anticipated, but it has enough pedigree to win awards without anyone even seeing.
THE LOVELY BONES
What happened to the Peter Jackson that directed Heavenly Creatures? He got sucked into the vortex that came with directing three mamoth Lord of the Rings films. Six years, several Academy Awards, and one King Kong later, Jackson is returning finally with a much smaller, more personal film. Based on the best-selling novel, The Lovely Bones follows a young girl who is brutally murdered, and watches the developments of her family and her killer from heaven. With young Oscar-nominee Soairse Ronan playing the main role, and Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, and Stanley Tucci taking supporting roles, the film seems to be quaint, but hard-hitting. In other words, this has the chance to be a real beautiful film.