Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2009

2008 has come and gone, and, as far as films go, it was incredible year at that. With The Dark Knight stealing the top spot for me from a film that had been out for 15 years, it was already shaping up to be a memorable one for me. The awards season, as usual, brought in its smaller, more independent films. The Wrestler, Gran Torino, The Reader are just a few films that managed to captivate me along with the equally strong blockbusters such as Wall-E, Iron Man, and of course...The Dark Knight.

As 2009 continues, I've yet to see a film that I feel will match the greatness of those released in 2008, but I've still composed this list of ten films coming out this year I have a strong interest in seeing. To be perfectly honest, 2009 does not look nearly as good as 2008 for me. 2008 will likely stick with me for a long time to come as a film lover. No film this year looks like it can match the top 3 films for me of 08, but only time will tell.

Nevertheless, 2009 does look like an interesting year. So, without further adieu...

C-Rav's Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2009

10. 2012
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover and Thandie Newton

At the helm is director Roland Emmerich. The filmmaker behind such brainless, entertaining, popcorn flicks such as Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and the cinematic masterpiece released last year, 10,000 B.C.

I know, you must all be thinking, "what? with that track record why on earth would you want to subject yourself to that film?". The reasons are simple: Fun and interest.

Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow are generic, Hollywood flicks that break no rules and follow very formulaic plots, however they are some of the more fun films I've seen and watched on days where I won't want to think too much. As far as visual spectacles go, Emmerich rarely fails to disappoint. However, its the story and characters in his films, that are unfortunately paper thin.

So why bother seeing this in that case? I'm weird, so therefore Doomsday scenarios such as the Y2K scare and the proposed 2012 apocalypse intrigue me. The notion of the world coming to and end is a scary one, but at the same time I have an interest in knowing how it happen and the science behind those reasons. Do I think we'll see the end of days in 2012? No, however I'll be sure to have an extra good time that day just in case.

Which brings me to the film. While it does look just like "The Day After Tomorrow 2", I'm interested to see if anything new will be added to table, perhaps involving the 2012 notion that it won't just be the end of the world, but the dawn of a new era. Will I be let down? Chances are I will be. Hollywood doesn't like to take risks and if a formula has proven to be successful in the past, you can expect they won't break that rule this time.

I personally would like the see a Doomsday film, that focuses on how ordinary people like you and me would react and take action in such a scenario, and focus on the personal struggles we'd have to go through in watching our home be destroyed and being forced to mix with people of different ideologies to survive, as opposed to big flashy special effects.

2012 probably won't deliver on that, but the 2012 theory connection and the sure to be epic scope of the film, warrant at best...the number 10 spot on my list.

9. Ashecliffe
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams.

Synopsis: Set in 1954, the film revolves around two U.S Marshall's and their investigation into the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane called Ashecliffe on Shutter Island. The investigation takes a turn as deception, a hurricane and inmate riots trap them on the island.

Based on the book Shutter Island by author Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), Ashecliffe reunites director Martin Scorsese with actor Leonardo DiCaprio after their last collaboration in the Academy Award winner for Best Picture: The Departed.
To be perfectly honest, I know nothing about the book and very little about how this film is going about adapting it. However, it is helmed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Martin Scorsese, who is behind some of my favourite films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas, and The Departed. All films which are considered to be amongst the greatest films. ever made.
His involvement in the film alone is enough for me to see this film. Combine that with an interesting thriller premise, and acting talent such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams and you have a potentially great film on your hands.

8. The Road
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron

Synopsis: Based on the 2006 novel of the same name written by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), The Road tells the post-apocalyptic story of a father and his son, and their journey across a landscape blasted years before by an unnamed disaster that destroyed civilization and, apparently, most life on earth.

Directed by John Hillcoat, The Road was originally scheduled for a November 2009 release, with early Oscar buzz surrounding the film. However it was then pushed to a December 2008 release, and then, now, to an undetermined 2009 release date.

Why see this? For the same reasons as 2012. As I said, apocalyptic tales intrigue me, and unlike 2012 this film will be focusing on the characters and their journey for survival, instead of the big visual spectacles. Exactly what I want to see in a movie of this genre.

Additionally, Viggo Mortensen is one of the strongest actors working today and the creative choice to use real world locations as opposed to CGI assisted sets promises to make this film a simple, realistic, but complex character analysis in a situation that one can imagine would test the courage, faith, and mentality of any human being.

7.H2: Halloween 2
Directed by: Rob Zombie
starring: Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, Brea Grant, Brad Dourif, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Tyler Mane

Synopsis: The sequel to Rob Zombie's remake/reboot of John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic, H2: Halloween 2 is set for an August 2009 release date. Taking place directly after the remake, H2 will be told through the eyes of Laurie Strode and instead of focusing on the killer, horror icon Michael Meyers, the film will look more at the psychological consequences for Laurie after the events of the first film.

To be honest, not much about the sequel aside from what was mentioned above is known. However Zombie's statement that the film will look at the downward spiral Laurie takes as the film progresses, and his promise that the film will be very realistic and violent makes for a very intriguing sequel that seems more character based than most horror films today.

I personally believe that while the original remake was not perfect, it did successfully revive the dying franchise. So my liking of the original, and the possibility that Zombie's ideas present a potential sequel that could be better than the original have me excited to see this film.

6.Sherlock Holmes
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams

Synopsis: Little is known about this film aside from the fact this it revolves around Holmes and Watson attempting to stop a conspiracy to destroy Britain in 1891.

Guy Ritchie, the director of such popular films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla, steps behind the camera for the film based on the infamous Sherlock Holmes character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch having achieved critical success and praise from film lovers across the globe, Sherlock Holmes shows alot of promise in the hands of such an accomplished director.

Adding to the creative talent is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as the infamous detective. Having provided a strong performance in the 2008 critical and financial hit, Iron Man, Downey Jr. has also been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance on the Charlie Chaplin biopic, Chaplin, and received his second nomination for his performance in the Ben Stiller directed comedy Tropic Thunder. Clearly an accomplished actor, this combination of a talented director and a highly skilled actor is a good sign for Holmes' most recent adventure on the big screen.

Combine that with the casting of Jude Law as Dr. Watson, Holmes equally famous ally, and Rachel McAdams as Femme Fatale Irene Adler, love interest to Holmes in need of his help, and you have a large pool of talent combined with one the most intriguing and enduring characters all of time, a sure recipe for success.

With the talent behind and in front of the camera, the creative decision to make a more contemporary film in tone, the story choice to explore Holmes' and Watson's friendship to a greater extent than before, and the overall appeal of a good mystery story involving the arguably most famous fictional detective ever...we have a very promising and interesting addition to the slot of films for 2009.

5. Terminator Salvation
Directed by: McG
Starring:Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter and Bryce Dallas Howard

Synopsis: Set in 2018, the fourth film in the Terminator Franchise tells the story of John Connor, leader of the resistance in a war between humanity and Skynet, and how he must decide whether Marcus Wright, a man with the inability to remember anything aside from being on death row, has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past.

T4 is the film already made infamous thanks to Christian Bale's widely released tempter tantrum , however long before that incident fans of the Terminator series were anxious to see how this film would turn out with the absence of not only original director James Cameron (who opted out of T3), but also of the plot change. For the first time, the series would abandon the concept of a Terminator traveling through time to protect or destroy a young John Conner, and instead would focus on the war between man and machine that was only teased in previous installments of the franchise.

The director of the this entry into the Terminator series is McG, the man who helmed the Charlies Angels film series. Not exactly the type of director you'd expect for this kind of film, however the footage in the trailer looks rather spectacular and sheds much doubt on whether or not McG could handle this project seriously.

Another sure sign of greatness is the casting of Christian Bale as John Connor. One of the finest actors today, Christian Bale rarely stars in a film that is bad, especially nowadays. Reportedly, Bale was uninterested in starring in the film in spite of being a fan of the Terminator series. However, after extensive talks with McG and developing the story together, Bale agreed once the project became more character-based instead of focusing on the special effects.

In addition to Bale's supposed involvement in the editing process as well, other talents such as Bryce Dallas Howard co-starring, Danny Elfman providing the film score, and writers such as Paul Haggis (Crash) and Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight) having contributed to the story, Terminator Salvation looks to be a visual extravaganza mixed with dark story elements and character exploration. An excellent combination of entertainment and character study if I do say so myself.

4. Nine
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench
Stacy Ferguson, Kate Hudson, and Sophia Loren.

Synopsis: Famous filmmaker Guido Contini faces a midlife crisis that plagues his creativity and complicates his personal life. Struggling to complete his latest film, Guido is forced to balance the numerous formative women in his life, including his wife Luisa, his mistress Carla, his muse and protégé Claudia, his producer Liliane, and his mother.

This is an interesting one.

Nine is based on the Tony Award winning play of the same name which in itself was derived from an Italian play by Mario Fratti....which was inspired by Federico Fellini's autobiographical film 8½.

On one end of the spectrum, I find that the cinematic masterpiece should not be touched. The 1963 Academy Award winning film for Best Foreign Language Picture was directed by Federico Fellini, with the title referring to the number of films he had directed at the time (a collaboration accounting for the ½ film). A reflection of Fellini's own life, is about the struggles artists face, both technical and personal, while trying to deliver profound work and balance their personal lives and relationships. With a unique style in terms of editing, camerawork, lighting, excellent acting and an overall surreal story flow.... is regarded as a classic and one of the greatest films ever made. A sentiment I highly agree with.

However, the fact that this film is based on a musical version of film promises something most remakes don't: An original take on the source material. The fact that director Rob Marshall has experience directing both artistic and musical films (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) is also a reassuring sign that this film could work.

However more importantly for me, is the A-List cast involved with the project.

The film stars two time Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood) as lead character Guido Contini. With his immense acting skills and variety of roles, mixed with his reported strong singing voice, one can't help but be anxious to see Day-Lewis' take on the character in musical context.

With a primarily female cast, one has to wonder if any better mix of actresses could be picked. Academy Award wining actresses Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose), Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), and Sophia Loren (Two Women) and Academy Award nominee Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) star in the film along side Daniel Day-Lewis...promising for some interesting on screen chemistry between the leading man and women as well as some powerhouse performances.

In spite of being derived from one the greatest films off all time, the musical aspect of the film, the apparent capability of the director to handle such material and the undeniably strong cast give me hope that this will be film to be reckoned with this year.

3. Up
Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Starring (Voice): Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, and Jordan Nagai

Synopsis: When developers threaten to move retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen into an assisted living home, Carl decides to fulfill his promise to his deceased wife, who had always dreamed of visiting South America. To accomplish this, he uses a huge number of balloons to make the house fly - but unwittingly takes a chubby eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell with him. The two opposites match up for thrilling adventures as they encounter wild terrain, unexpected foes, and all the terrifying creatures that wait in the jungle.

One word: Pixar.

The studio behind such masterpieces as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E are back this year with another promising installment in their filmography. Pixar rarely disappoints, with its least popular film, Cars, still being a generally well received entry into the Pixar collection. This looks to be no different.

Up promises to be exciting on the the fact that it will be the first Pixar film to be released in Disney Digital 3-D. Director Peter Docter has stated that the films depiction of Carl and Russell's relationship explores the idea of how very few of us are ready for the "whirlwind" that children are. Additionally, Docter has described Up as a coming of age story and an "unfinished" love story. This being due to the fact that the main character not only goes on an incredible journey, but also regains purpose and learns to deal with the loss of his wife through this epic adventure.

With the filmmakers taking inspiration from such films as Casablanca and A Christmas Carol , this film not only looks visually appealing, not only cute and charming, but also delves into some serious subject matter that older audiences can relate to and reflect on. Thus, Pixar is continuing to do what is has in the past: Create films that appeal to a wide range of audiences of all ages with engaging spectacles and endearing heart.

2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro
Voices only: Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving

Synopsis: Set two years after the events of the first film, when Sam Witwicky discovers valueble information about the origins of the Transformers and their history on Earth, the evil Decepticons attempt to capture him to acquire this data.

Yeah, it's Transformers...I don't care, I'm excited!=D

The original 2007 box office hit, Transformers, was a financial success and many praised the spectacular special effects while most praised the intensity of the epic action sequences. I personally loved the movie. It had humour, awesome action, and interesting characters in my opinion. Were there cliches in terms of story and character identities? Yes, however it was the Transformers themselves as characters and the epic adventure they took that made the films flaws forgivable to me. However, there is no denying that while Michael Bay (the director of such films as Bad Boys, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor) is a master of creating exciting actions sequences and blowing stuff up, he needs to work on his ability to create deep, 3-dimensional characters and stories.

While perhaps working on a smaller, more character driven film would have been better practice for Michael Bay, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen looks like it might be trying to improve on the more negative qualities as the first film.

Yes, we've been promised more action, more robots, and a bigger scope visually...however its recent comments by writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman about that have me interested in how this story will improve on the original. They've stated that the theme of the movie is being away from home. With the character of Sam Wiwicky heading off to college, the writers have stated that the movie will explore what the responsibilities are and the cutting off that goes on when you leave home. Mirroring the fact that the Transformers themselves are unable to return to their home planet after the events of the first film, the film promises to explore what ones responsibilites are when you step out into the world on your own without your support system.

Does this look like mindless, fun, popcorn entertainment? Yes! But everyone has those films we love that we know aren't exactly the most artistic and deep out there. This is the one I want to see for this year! With the writers looking at how sequels such as Terminator 2, The Empire Strikes Back, and Superman 2 managed to improve on their predessecors, the possibilty of fresh ideas being brought to the table with the addition of writer Ehren Kruger (The Ring 2) to the team and Michael Bay pushing for a larger scope and darker tone, this could potentially improve greatly on the original.

The promise of more action, more Transformers, and the potential for much improved character and story development has me excited to see this film. If all else fails, it will at very least be a fun and epically awesome summer blockbuster experience.

1. Where The Wild Things Are
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Starring: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, and Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: From one of the most beloved books written, the film tells the story of a young boy named Max who is sent to bed without supper after causing several mischievious antics out anger towards his mother for inviting her boyfriend over. Feeling angry and unloved, Max imagines a forest bordering a massive ocean, and sails away to an island inhabited by many large imaginary monsters called the Wild Things, who crown him as their ruler. During his time on the island, he befriends the wild thing Carol, who teaches him the meaning of love.

Based on the classic 1964 Caldecott Medal winning childrens picture book of the same name by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are is being helmed by director Spike Jonze. With a directing career of two critically acclaimed films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), this film will certaily not be the shallow, Hollywood-esque visual effects based, popcorn flick that this kind of story could have easily been turned into in the hands of a lesser director.

This film has had a long and perilous journey.

Originally set to be released by Universal, disagreements between Spike Jonze and the studio prompted the director to take the project to Warner Bros., even with a teaser having been released with Universal's other childrens book adaptation, The Grinch, back in 2000. Filming would take place six years later in April and rumours that the studio wanted to reshoot the entire film left many wondering if the film would ever see the light of day. Fortunately, it will.

Several creative choices promise to make this an interesting and unique film compared to most celluloid releases in recent years. Firstly was Jonze's idea to shoot film almost entirely handheld in order to fully capture the "evocative"and "other-worldly" feel of the film. More intriguing however is the combination of technology being used to bring the wild things to life. Using actors in suits up to nine feet tall made of foam, the combination of live action, suitmation, animatronics, and CG will be the magic used to bring the creatures of Sendak's beloved childrens book to life. This decision alone to not soley rely on CGI, as most films today would, promises a unique experience for audiences.

Now.....allow me to be child again=)

I remember being about 5 years old and lying in bed with my mother and younger brother and being read this story before falling alseep. This did not occur once, or twice, but several times. As lame and over-dramatic as it sounds, I don't care, I can remember being transported into a whole new world with this book. Surprising really, given the book is only about ten sentences long. In spite of the short length, the book is about being lonely and homesick, and how much home will always be home even in those moments where you want to run away from it. How you will always want to go back to it. Those memories with my mother and brother will be cherished by me forever, as will this book. So to see the book being adapted respectively, so it seems, is exciting.

Jonze's brilliant idea to expand on the books theme and make it about growing up and learning love only adds to the already significant themes presented in the original story. I can't wait to see a piece of my childhood pop up on a large screen and be transported into that world I imagined as a young child. I'll see it alone if I have to, but I will without a doubt be seeing it. I hope it delivers, with its history how could it not? I just can't wait to see it. I can't wait to smile. Maybe even cry. I can't wait, for just two hours or so...to be a kid again.

When I say that 2009 doesn't look like it will be as good or as memorable as 2008 as far as films go, that doesn't mean it won't be good in its own right. While it's pretty much a fact that 2008 will be the year I will reflect back on as the year that gave me the most brilliant film experiences of my life, 2009 does looks to have a few gems of its own.

We'll have to see which of the films deliver, which will fail, and which might sneak up from off this list and possibly make it into my top ten of 2009 list that you can expect to see this time next year!

Either way, as with all films...you never knew until you finally see it.

Until then, thanks for reading. I'll see on the next one.

Take care,

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