Thursday, November 12, 2009

Most Wanted 2010

The best thing about loving movies? Definitely one of the best things.
I could have listed about 60 movies I'm looking forward to next year in this post, but I got to thirty-odd before deciding to call it a day. And there are all sorts in here - big Hollywood blockbusters, Art cinema, Martial arts epics, indies, British political comedy...I try not to differentiate. I just love Movies. And anticipating Movies.

Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
I would look forward to any project from Terence Malick, and this - a drama set across two time periods following a man struggling in his relationship with his father and its affect upon his adult life, starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt - is no different. The rumours of a separate/related project featuring CGI footage of dinosaurs to be released in IMAX cinemas, and the connections that project might have with Malick's abandoned 70s Epic about the creation of life only makes it all the more intriguing. But its Malick. Odds are it'll be a beautiful poetic-philosophical inquiry into life and meaning and the whole damn thing. With voiceovers.

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott)
Its not even called Robin Hood yet. For most of its pre-production history it was known as Nottingham, but the script has been extensively rewritten. No matter- I love Robin Hood stories. Richard Lester's Robin and Marian is one of my favourite ever films and Michael Curtiz's The Adventures of Robin Hood was a childhood favourite with plenty of pleasures awaiting any adults revisiting it. This reunites Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe from Gladiator, and (far less impressively) A Good Year and Body of Lies and American Gangster. But here Scott will be creating a world, the thing he truly excels at, and there should be plenty of action, romance and derring-do. Plus Cate Blanchett, more than a match for Crowe, as Marian, and the fantastic Mark Strong as the Guy de Gisburne equivalent, with Matthew MacFadden as the Sherrif. The most beautiful moments in both Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven were when Scott was stuck in dirty, wintry Northern Europe, all mud and blueish twilight, and this should be a whole film of that. If nothing else, it'll look great...

A Prophet (Jacques Audiard)
Audiard's strike-rate is damn near perfect, and he has been improving with each film. Considering that his last was the brilliant The Beat that My Heart Skipped, then the chances of his new film, A Prophet, being a masterpiece are pretty good. It details the life in a French Prison of a minor North African criminal and his gradual rise to power and influence. Its long and intense and serious like all Audiard's films, but Festival reviews have been glowing, its the front runner at the European Film Awards, and my expectations are very very high.

Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
Ben Stiller plays a troubled New Yorker housesitting for his brother in Los Angeles and becoming involved with his brother's assistant. Yes, Stiller in one of his occasional roles beyond Kids Movies, and here its written and directed by Noah Baumbach, which almost guarantees that it'll be a messily realist comedy-drama with tons of brilliantly-observed but painful to watch moments and some great one-liners. Baumbach has been watching some Mumblecore films if his casting is anything to go by - Greta Gerwig, best known for a couple of Joe Swanberg films, is apparently the female lead, while the likes of Rhys Ifans, Chris Messina and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Co-writer and Baumbach's wife) fill out the cast. Its good to see that Stiller still has some ambition to do interesting work as an actor.

The Way Back (Peter Weir)
Peter Weir returns with a story about a group of soldiers escaping from a Siberian Gulag during WW2. Based on historical events, the escape takes the men across the Siberian Arctic tundra, the Gobi desert and the Himalayas and the film will star Colin Farrell, Ed Harris and Jim Sturgess. Weir's love of heroic historical stories was evident as far back as Gallipoli, but had seemed dormant until Master and Commander obviously reawakened it. Weir is a classy director who fashions mainstream entertainments for thinking adults, an endangered species these days, and anything hes involved in is worth waiting for.

Solomon Kane (Michael J Bassett)
It obviously could be awful. The character was one of the big inspirations for the dreadful Van Helsing, and the nightmare scenario is that this could be drek of the same variety. But I have some hope. Firstly; in the power of Robert E Howard's character. Solomon Kane is a borderline psychotic 16th Century Puritan Swordsman who is also quick on the draw with his pistols and absolutely obsessively devoted to fighting evil in all its forms. In Howard's later stories, Kane journeys to Africa, where he battles slave traders and black magic. Visually, he set the template for the mysterious hero in a slouch hat, taken up by van Helsing and Vampire Hunter D, but the character is granted some depth, and a strange resonance, by his dour, single-minded attachment to his faith. Director Bassett is known for a couple of low budget British horror films, Wilderness and Deathwatch (I've only seen Deathwatch and it wasn't bad, certainly full of promise) and his blog suggests an affinity with the character. The trailer, though full of some of the more irritating tropes of modern genre cinema, is still pretty good. And then there is the lead, James Purefoy, who was teh standout in HBO's Rome, and has deserved a big role for some time now. Here he has it and by all accounts he is fantastic. anyway, in a year when the Summer's big blockbusters all look second-hand or second rate, this is the kind of film to look to to placate your inner geek.

Four Lions (Chris Morris)
Chris Morris is a genius, but he's never made a feature film before. And I don't think anyone has ever had the balls to make a comedy about British Jihadis before, which is what Morris is attempting here. He has described the film as showing the "Dad's Army side to terrorism", and if it works, as most of Morris' material does, it'll be thrilling and hilarious and yet important and political. If it doesn't it'll be a disaster. Knowing Morris though, it'll work.

This Must Be the Place (Paolo Sorrentino)
Sorrentino is one of the great stylists in Modern cinema, and each of his films has been just pure pleasure for me. This, his first English language film, stars Sean Penn as a wealthy rock star who decides in his boredom to track down the Nazi War Criminal responsible for the death of his father. Which sounds bizarre, and could be a thriller, a comedy or a drama. Knowing Sorrentino, it'll be all three. With a series of dynamic, beautifully choreographed sequences cut to perfectly-chosen pop music. And Penn, emoting over-intensely.

A Single Man (Tom Ford)
Based on Christopher Isherwod's novel, Ford's debut follows a few days in the life of a suicidal gay man as he mourns the death of his longtime lover in a car accident. The terrific trailer makes it look sort of like a Wong Kar Wai film in its visual style and stately poetry, the Festival buzz has been deafening and lead Colin Firth is outstanding, by all accounts.

Green Zone (Paul Greengrass)
I read the book a couple of years ago, and I really have no idea where they took the whole action-thriller-Bourne stuff which fills the trailer from. It seems like adapting A Brief History of Time and filling it with Space armadas. The book is an at times comedic, at times appalled look at the way the US governed Iraq in the first few months after the fall of Saddam. Its more concerned with Civil Servants and contractors than with soldiers. Anyway, I have faith in Greengrass based on his last 3 films, and even in Damon, who is in the middle of a real hot streak, even if the troubled production history and ever-changing release dates speak of a film with big problems...

Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
A real change of pace for Assayas, this biopic of Venezuelan assassin, terrorist and formerly the World's most wanted man Carlos the Jackal will be shown on television in some countries as three 90 minute films and cinematically in others as two (edited, presumably) longer features. Edgar Ramirez (Domino, The Bourne Ultimatum) plays the title character in what has the potential to be a fascinating film. Assayas is a great, intelligent and cine-literate director, and my only real fear is that this project maybe too ambitious for him, as its so different to anything he's done before. The closest he has come was in Boarding Gate, which, while purportedly a globe-trotting thriller was in fact a globe-trotting arthouse drama with guns. He has a second film due in 2010 too, a semi-sequel to Summer Hours with Juliette Binoche, named Times to Come, which will also be worth a look.

Inception (Christopher Nolan)
Dark Knight basically gave Nolan carte blanche with studio funds. He could make a slapstick Holocaust comedy starring Gary Glitter and Warners would happily give him $200 Million to do so. But hes an ambitious director, and Inception is instead a sci-fi film concerning a team who invade people's dreams (or "the architecture of the mind" as the official write-up has it) in order to carry out corporate espionage. Or something. That Big budget means Nolan could shoot in London, Paris, Tokyo, LA, Tangiers and Calgary, and employ a youngish cast including the likes of (the dreaded) Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. The teaser revealed enough to make me interested in seeing more, and for all Dark Knight's flaws, Nolan is one of the more interesting directors working in the US mainstream right now.

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao Hsien)
Hou Hsiao Hsien finally gets to make the Martial Arts film he's been talking about making for about a decade. Starring his favourite leading lady, Shu Qi, along with her Three Times co-star Chang Chen, its an adaptation of a 9th Century novel about a female Assassin trained by nuns who wants to leave her life behind. Its got by far the largest budget Hou has ever worked with but its so far removed from what he normally does, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Something strange and beautiful along the lines of Ashes of Time Redux, perhaps.

Your Highness (David Gordon Green)
After my first viewing of his incredibly assured and poetic first film George Washington, I never would have predicted that David Gordon Green would someday be directing 80s-referencing bromance stoner action comedies. But here he is. Your Highness reunites him with two of Pineapple Express' leads - James Franco and Danny McBride - in a Medieval action comedy about two Princes embarking on an Epic quest to save a fair Princess (Zooey Deschanel) from an Evil Wizard (Justin Theroux). Co-written by McBride, who is currently riding high on the success of his HBO hit Eastbound and Down, and also starring Natalie Portman, Damian Lewis and Charles Dance, I'm hoping for a slightly older-skewing Princess Bride. Pineapple Express promised great things but I still want to see Green return to his artier mode someday...

Hiroshima (Pablo Stoll)
In the 00s, Uruguayan Stoll has been partly responsible for two great little films - 25 Watts and Whisky, both International festival and arthouse hits. In 2006, however, his collaborator (they co-wrote and co-directed each film) Juan Pablo Rebella committed suicide, and this is Stoll's first subsequent project. A near-silent film following the passage of an intense young Montevideo musician through his daily life, Festival reviews have highlighted its sense of experimentalism and its fantastic soundtrack, but Stoll's presence is enough for me to look forward to it.

Centurion (Neil Marshall)
According to writer-director Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday) this is effectively a chase Western, only one thats set in Pictish Scotland and follows the survivors of the famed Roman Ninth Legion as they flee after their comrades are massacred, pursued by terrifying Picts across the hostile Scottish landscape. Already sounds ace to me, and if you add in the fact that Michael Fassbender - who has been great in everything I've seen him in - is in the lead, and that Marshall on his game is a great young genre director, then this surely can't go wrong...

Into the Void (Gaspar Noe)
Noe is an absolutely singular and unique talent who seems to play only by his personal rules, and if the completely polarised reviews from Cannes are anything to go by, then he has done it again with this film. A love-it-or-hate-it tale of a drug dealer in Tokyo, his death, afterlife and eventual reincarnation, it is meant to be a mindbending experience on a par with the likes of 2001. If anyone is capable of that from this generation of Directors, it is Noe...

The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone)
Stallone writing, directing and starring on the back of the success of Rambo. Jason "the Stat" Statham. Jet "the Fred Astaire of Kung Fu" Li. Dolph "I Will Brake Yoo" Lundgren. Mickey Rourke. Eric Roberts. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in cameos. It truly is 1986. The story? A group of Mercenaries - the nice kind, obviously, not the sort still in the news occasionally for their hijinks in Iraq - go to a South American country to overthrow a nasty dictator. Violence ensues. Of the big explosion variety. And the fisticuffs variety. And the gunplay variety. I cannot wait. I say that with no irony whatsoever.

White Material (Clare Denis)
Denis is on an amazing run of form at the moment which makes her every film a must-see, and this one, a return to Africa and Colonialism as setting and subject, also benefits from a great cast (Isabelle Huppert, Isaach de Bankole, Christopher Lambert!). The story follows the fortunes of a French Coffee plantation owner in an African country falling apart under the strain of a revolution, and knowing Denis' work it will be beautiful and challenging. A score by Stuart staples, too.

Valhalla Rising (Nicholas Winding Refn)
By all accounts Refn has turned what sounds like it should be a muddy Viking Battle Epic into a Malickian tone poem and mood piece, which is just fine by me. Mads Mikkelsen as a ferocious Warrior joins a group of Vikings on a quest to a mysterious New World. Refn has never made a bad film, and I don't expect this to be one, either.

The Cry of the Owl (Jamie Thraves)
Waaay back in 2000, Thraves wrote and directed an excellent drama of young adults adrift in London called The Low Down, which, while in part a meandering, smug tale of feckless youth, is also a beautifully shot piece of cinema. Many films in that sub-genre are glorified TV, but Thraves directed with a feel for cinema in his compositions and editing choices, and it elevated his little film considerably. This, his first feature since then, is a Patricia Highsmith adaptation starring Paddy Considine and Julia Styles about a young man who sheds his life in the big city to move to a small town, only to become quickly embroiled in a murder investigation. The story sounds ho-hum, but Thraves gets another shot with me due to The Low Down.

The Kids Are Alright (Lisa Chodolenko)
Chodolenko is the writer director of one of my personal favourites from this decade - Laurel Canyon, a nice little family drama/rock comedy with an amazing cast (Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Frances McDormand, Natatsha McIlhone, Allesandro Nivola) which she handles with expertise. Her new film also has an impressive cast (the always great Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening) and sounds interesting - the twin children of a Lesbian couple decide to seek out their biological father, but his presence disrupts the lives of everyone involved. Chodolenko is a real talent, with a fine visual sense, a great sense of place and mood, and a way with authentic emotional situations rare in American directors of her generation. Shes building an interesting body of work, and her new film only looks like adding to it.

The Warrior and the Wolf (Tian Zhuangzhuang)
I've only seen two of Zhuangzhuang's previous films, but since one of those films was The Horse Thief, and it is one of the greatest films I have ever seen, and the other was the excellent Springtime In a Small Town, I'm interested in seeing anything else hes done. His new film sees him seemingly edge into Wuxia territory which has slowly claimed all of the Fifth Generation filmmakers over the last decade or so. Opening with a portrayal of a young shepherd boy's introduction to Warfare, reviews have complained that the film eventually resolves itself into an intense, slow-burning romance rather than he battle epic much of the publicity suggests it is. Sounds good to me, especially with the lovely Maggie Q starring.

True Grit (Joel & Ethan Coen)
How can this go wrong? Great, blackly comic but gripping novel as raw material. The Coens, operating near the peak of their powers, adapting and directing, and making their first Western . Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin in the supporting roles.
It almost sounds too good to be true...

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek)
Romanek is the only celebrated Music Video director of his generation not to have made a real impact on Feature films as of yet. He co-directed Static with Keith Gordon and then made One Hour Photo a few years ago, but relative to the reputation many of his videos have deservedly attracted for him, he is a minnow in cinema. This Alex Garland-adapted film of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel may just change that. It is basically a College romance with a dark, heartbreaking sci-fi twist, and the cast are correspondingly pretty (Keira Knightly, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield). Its not obviously the kind of thing anyone would expect from Romanek, who was fired from the upcoming The Wolf Man during pre-production, but his interest in it is heartening for the film's future survival as anything could be.

The American (Anton Corbijn)
Corbijn follows up Control with an odd-sounding comedy-drama observing Assassin George Clooney when he tries to hide out between jobs in a small Italian village and finds his life instantly changed by the people he meets there. That synopsis sounds utterly unimaginitive and second hand, i know, but the Corbijn-Clooney team, one would hope, ought to be working on something unusual, stylish and bold. Not just an Assassin in a fish out of water scenario, taught to respect life anew through exposure to the older values of a more sensual people. Which is how this sounds



Blogger Beezer B said...

Oh swell. So swell. I might actually see some of these. ;-)

1:06 am  
Blogger David N said...

You should. Maybe some others that I forgot too.

2:39 pm  
Blogger Will Shyne said...

Wow! You paint a very optimistic picture for moving pictures in 2010.
Just wish the cinema was cheaper to take advantage of the spectacle more.
I'd kill for a UGC here in BCN.

4:40 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Its only optimistic because I only listed the stuff that I'm really interested in. I could do longer lists of stuff I'm mildly interested in (Scott Pilgrim, Shutter Island, Tron 2, The A Team etc) and an endless list of all the crap thats going to swamp everything else and fill all the screens of most of the world's cinemas for weeks on end. But that would depress me too.

I've been in a Barcelona Plex, I think. In a Shopping Centre near the seafront..? Was ok.

12:34 am  
Blogger Ross said...

Little magazine features covering just such a thing are ten a penny, but rarely with such depth and enthusiasm.
Admittedly most will only cover the big-budget releases that people won't fail to notice anyway, but there must be a place for you in the world of paid-for journalism?

This is one of the rare times I look back at the past with fondness - if we dead fish were together as we are but say, 15 years ago, when the internet was not ubiquitous, we could create the best film magazine ever, with Bones providing some skewed pieces, fantastic artwork and short stories, yourself bringing in an overall editorial style with numerous engaging and fantastic pieces and myself filling in with some donkey work for all the bits that the two of you don't have time for.

Also, I don't have the anticipation much any more, I don't seek out the new of things upcoming in months or years time - quite often I'll go into the movie almost blind, as with Cold Souls this week.
But most of this is making me salivate.

1:18 pm  
Blogger David N said...

I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a movie totally "blind". I always know something. Its a sickness, in a way.

12:36 am  
Blogger Ross said...

I knew nothing of the new Thraves until your post. Considine? Styles in a proper film? Even without loving the Lowdown I'm there.

11:28 pm  

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