Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Movie Preview

Now that the Oscars are over, everyone starts to look forward to the movies coming out this year. No doubt, we'll have a summer full of blockbusters. I'm almost finished reading The Watchmen, slated to debut in about a week.

We also see revamped versions of Star Trek, Terminator, Harry Potter, X-Men, and Halloween.

There's also a new Woody Allen flick, a Sacha Baron Cohen film starring his alter-ego Bruno, and a Wolfman film starring Benicio Del Toro.

On top of ALL of these, there are ten films coming out this year that I'd like to address specifically. You know, the ones that are shaping up to be the powerhouses of the year. The ones that have names like Scorsese, Depp, Downey Jr., DiCaprio, Day-Lewis, Tarantino, and Pixar involved. These won't necessarily all be good movies, but I'm sure a majority of these will be around in a year for Oscar season. Let's get started:

Public Enemies

Director: Michael Mann (The Insider, Collateral, Heat)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski

Summary: A crime drama set in Chicago during the Great Depression, this centers around bank robbers John Dillinger (Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), and Pretty Boy Floyd (Tatum). Bale portrays the FBI agent Melvin Purvis, hunting them all down and Crudup portrays J. Edgar Hoover, leading the investigation.

My Opinion: With this cast, it's hard not to think Oscars. Gangster movies are great these days, and I think this could be a bit reminiscent of Gangs of New York. Depp and Bale get to showcase their actual acting expertise, after being stuck in niche markets for the last few years. The addition of Cotillard, Ribisi, and Crudup doesn't hurt either.

Shutter Island

Director: Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer

Summary: Adapted from Dennis Lehane's (Mystic River) 2003 novel, this film centers around the psychiatric facility Ashecliffe, where the missing patient Rachel Solando (Mortimer) has committed multiple murders. U.S. Marshalls Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) are searching the island in the midst of a hurricane and deception.

My opinion: Scorsese and DiCaprio, need I say more? We have an island with a murderer on the loose, and a huge storm. Not only that, but it seems like there is a deep web of deception for our heroes to pick through. Dennis Lehane has written storylines for The Wire, not to mention spectacular films like Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Teaming up with Scorsese could be a masterpiece.


Director: Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman

Summary: This is an adaptation from a Tony award-winning musical which is derived from an Italian play inspired by Fellini's 8 1/2. Phew. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini, a film director facing a mid-life crisis where he must balance relationships between his wife Luisa (Cotillard), mistress Carla (Cruz), muse Claudia (Kidman), and his mother (Sophia Loren).

My Opinion: Hugh Jackman said it best: The musical is back! Here we have everyone's favorite actor Daniel Day-Lewis teaming up with a director whose last musical garnered 13 Oscar nominations. I'm not familiar with the storyline, but juggling women in a musical based on a 1950's story seems like an entertaining concept.


Director: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson (Pixar Animation: WALL-E, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles)

Starring (Voices): Ed Asner, John Ratzenberger, Christopher Plummer

Summary: Carl Frederickson (Asner) longs for adventure. He's always wanted to visit the mountains, in remembrance of his late wife. To avoid moving out of his home, he attaches balloons to his house to fly away. However, he accidentally takes 8-year old Wilderness Explorer Russel (Jordan Nagai) along for the ride.

My Opinion: I've come to the realization that every Pixar movie is phenomenal. It's captivating, fun for all ages, and heart-warming. I'm sure Up will live up to expectations.

Inglourious Basterds

Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Mike Myers, Diane Kruger

Summary: Two converging storylines, Tarantino style. Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt) arranges for a group of vengeful Jewish soldiers known as The Basterds to scalp the leaders of the Third Reich. Simultaneously, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) operates a cinema in German-occupied France where she plans to seek revenge on the Nazis that killed her family.

My Opinion: Did Tarantino really call this his "spaghetti-western with World War II iconography"? If so, we should see lots of guns, lots of characters, lots of flashbacks and flash-forwards, and a vengeful Brad Pitt. It would be nice to see Pitt back in form after Benjamin Button and Burn After Reading.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Director: Wes Anderson (Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic)

Starring (Voices): Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman

Summary: Based on Roald Dahl's book, this stop-action tale is about a fox (Clooney) who steals food from three farmers while constantly evading their attempts to stop him. When the farmers band together to get rid of the fox once and for all, they find that he is much more cunning than they thought. This will be in the style of Nightmare Before Christmas, but right now I can't seem to find any images from the film. Keep an eye out for this one.

My Opinion: I have a place in my heart for Wes Anderson. I love to death everything that man has touched, and I expect this childrens' stop-action to follow suit. However, I don't see any production progress, so this might not get released in 2009. Let's see how Anderson does in a different setting.

Sherlock Holmes

Director: Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Summary: Sherlock Holmes (Downey) and Dr. Watson (Law) apprehend Satanic cult leader Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who promises revenge.

My Opinion: Guy Ritchie has lost his luster lately and I think this may be just the film to bring him back to prominence. Robert Downey Jr. in a film noir, with Jude Law as a sidekick and Rachel McAdams as the femme fatale. I'm not sure which Holmes story they plan to adapt, if any, but it sounds like this has the potential to be pretty captivating. I'm counting on Downey to make this a worthwhile endeavor.

Taking Woodstock

Director: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)

Starring: Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Paul Dano

Summary: True life tale of Elliot Tiber (Martin), a Greenwich Village resident whose parents held the only music festival permit in all of upstate New York. Also tells of Tiber's struggles of being a closet homosexual and his experiences with the Stonewall Riots of the 1960's.

My Opinion: Fresh off of my second viewing of Milk, I'm gung-ho for movies with social revolution and upheaval. Here we have the origins of Woodstock and a struggle for gay rights. Musical revolution? Check. Social revolution? Check. Up-and-coming comedic genius? Check. What more could this film ask for? I guess an award-winning director wouldn't hurt.

The Road

Director: John Hillcoat (The Proposition)
Writer: Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, Blood Meridian)

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron

Summary: In post-apocalyptic America, a man (Mortensen) and his son (Smit-McPhee) struggle to survive amidst starvation, cannibals, and a barren landscape of ash. Soundtrack rumored to be written by Nick Cave.

My Opinion: This book is probably the most depressing and moving tales I've ever read. Desolate, hopeless, and bleak. The story is held together solely by the father-son relationship, and their struggles are depicted perfectly on paper. I hope this will translate to the screen as well, especially with a Nick Cave soundtrack. This has potential to fail, but I really hope it doesn't.

The Informant

Director: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Che, Oceans Movies)

Starring: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt

Summary: Based on the 2000 novel of the same name, this film is about high-ranking ADM executive Mark Whitacre (Damon) who confessed to the FBI of his companies' intentions to fix the price of the food additive Lysine. He was the highest ranking whistle-blower in U.S. history, working undercover for three years and gathering hundreds of hours of video and audio evidence. We also see his struggle with bipolar disorder, and the bizarre behavior that landed Whitacre with a much longer prison sentence than the people he helped to stop.

My Opinion: This is Matt Damon's movie. He is living the life of troubled Mark Whitacre, and he alone will make or break this movie. It's a true story, and it has an interesting protagonist. I think Damon could really showcase his abilities here. He's been overshadowed by ensemble casts lately, and this is his time to shine. Let's see what he can do with it.

As the year progresses, I'm sure there will be other contenders I haven't even thought of, and I'm sure some of these will fall flat for one reason or another. Hell, I thought Australia would definitely be up for best picture, judging by the first few images I saw last year. This just goes to show how deceiving the previews can be.

Any films I missed that you would like to add? Drop me a comment!

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