10) I LOVE YOU, PHILIP MORRIS - John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
I kind of feel sorry for this movie. Not because anything to do with the subject matter, which sounds to be like a hoot and a half, but at its release difficulties. It was finished, technically, last year. Then its release was scheduled, then pushed back to this year July... then pushed back to wheneversville after the distributor pulled out. But despite the risky subject matter- such as, you know, GAY PEOPLE!! And one of them is JIM CARREY! Heavens no, not Lemony Snicket! - it finally got picked up for distribution, and it's coming out this December. What I hope for is that it lives up to its dark comedy premise (that, and it's from the writers of the cult comedy Bad Santa), and that, ultimately, it's a return to the kind of challenging roles that Carrey seems to take in-between huge-ass paychecks for movies like A Christmas Carol and Yes Man. And maybe Ewan McGregor will be good in it too, who knows.
9) ANOTHER YEAR - Mike Leigh
It's probably something criminal, punishable by mandatory placement in a theater while his entire oeuvre goes on and on, that I've only seen two Mike Leigh films (Happy Go Lucky, which I liked but didn't love, and Naked, which is one of the best films of the 90's). He seems to be one of the few auteurs of his kind left - a filmmaker, like Woody Allen, who solely writes and directs his films, and has the creative freedom to shoot how long he likes and improvise where he wants - and it's this that I ultimately respect. Whether this film, which screened at Cannes and will screen at NYFF to positive if not overwhelming buzz, remains to be seen. But I can only hope the best with a movie that is (SHOCK) about 'average' people just trying to get by, in this case about a married couple witnessing the craziness around them.
8) TRUE GRIT - Joel/Ethan Coen
The greatest two-headed director in cinema history are making their first (official) Western! And it's a remake... kind of. By that I mean, yes, there was a movie called True Grit with John Wayne in a much touted career-high performance, and it's one of those Western classics we all hear about and don't see. It's also based on a book, so the Coens can go to that ala McCarthy style and maybe bring something of their own to the table. That Jeff Bridges is playing the Rooster Cogburn role would have me in my seat anyway (well, maybe if Uwe Boll was at the helm I'd have a moment of pause). The combination of The Dude returning to Coens for a very-un-Dude character tickles the mind.
PS: Steven Spielberg producing. Never would've thought Coens and Spielberg together. Hope it works.
7) THE FIGHTER - David O. Russell
After being a kind of unintentional Youtube sensation, Russell tried to bounce back with a romantic comedy about a guy with a nail stuck in his head, co-written by Al Gore's daugther(?) While that movie faced many production difficulties (and, apparently, not so much by Russell's notorious on-set behavior), he did a work-for-hire after Darren Aronofsky left the project (guess The Wrestler was enough) and it turns out to be this. Which, by the looks of the trailer, could be a return to form for Russel. What form I mean is, perhaps, the gritty approach he had to Three Kings, his best film. It certainly looks like a change of pace for him, which could be a good thing. That Bale looks to also be back in good acting shape (not physical, mind you, as he returns to near Machinist proportions) is a big plus as well. Very promising trailer here.
6) RED - Robert Schwentke
No relation to the Kieslowski film of the same name, this is the very first comic-book adaptation from a work by the very great writer Warren Ellis (responsible for one of the masterpieces of "adult" comics, Transmetropolitan). This alone would, again, be the factor to have my ass in seat the day of opening. The cast, too, is compelling, mostly by giving Oscar winner for The Queen Helen Mirren a big fucking gun firing all over the place, and John Malkovich another "craaazy" performance that could be irrisistible. How the film ultimately turns out could be anyone's guess; to be candid my enthusiasm for Ellis' contribution is only to his other works as I've yet to read the original series the movie's based on. But the trailer looks to be just a lot of unapologetic action movie fun. And for Willis, that could be something special after some time with hits and misses. Trailer here.
5) INSPECTOR BELLAMY - Claude Chabrol
As the now late director's final film, I should note that I really don't have any idea as to the full quality of the film. I haven't seen a trailer, and only read the premise linked from the IFC Center's website, which will release the film sometime next month. But whether Chabrol knew it would be his last film, it seems like a fitting end, a Hitchcockian story of an inspector and his wife in a quiet village and then some mysterious things happen (by that I mean not the Lynchian way, just more like the serene bourgeois but dangerous settings of many Chabrol films). At the least, a pair up of director with famous French star Gerard Depardieu should have some interest. NY Times calls it "Diabolically witty." Sounds like Chabrol. Trailer here.
4) THE ILLUSIONIST - Sylvain Chomet
No relation to the Edwards Norton film, this comes from the director of The Triplets of Belleville, his second feature animated film, adapting a never-produced screenplay by Jacques Tati, about magic. If anyone has ever seen this:
And then watch this:
I can't imagine *not* feeling giddy at the possibilities
3) BLACK SWAN - Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky could film a puddle of water and I would be there first day it opened, or for that matter the first critic screening available (and really, wouldn't a puddle of water be given such a radical cinematic treatment by Aronofsky that it would render all other cinematic puddles inferior by comparison). But this sounds especially intriguing: another film that he, apparently, didn't write or co-write, and has two female leads- Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis- as ballet dancers in very rigorous competiton with one another. The trailer seems to suggest a kind of rivalry that brings one back to The Red Shoes. And in a way maybe this is Aronofsky's Red Shoes: a tale of professional one-upmanship that takes some surreal turns (watch for the last shot in the trailer here.
2) THE SOCIAL NETWORK - David Fincher
Some of you may already be crying foul: "It's not #1? How DARE you sir!" (Some, on the other hand, may wonder where the frak other movies like Harry Potter 7pt1 or Tron Legacy are, which are honorable mentions on this list). But this does certainly have so much going for it to be touted as one of the years triumphs before it comes out (or "the film of a generation" or something like that). Fincher called it his "John Hughes for 21st Century) film. It has Aaron Sorkin as screenwriter (and from the grapevine the script is supposed to be stupendous and all those other adjectives). Jesse Eisenberg and the next Spider-Man seem to have top-tier performances. And it's David Fincher for Pete's sake! The trailer, by this point, has attained a kind of iconic status. It might be a shame if the movie just turns out to he 'good'.
1) 127 HOURS - Danny Boyle
OK, this one might not be entirely fair to include here because I happened to have seen the film already (not at any festival, but at a "test" screening with the director Danny Boyle in attendance. As it was a "test" screening and actually the first time it screened to an audience, it's hard to say if it will be exactly how I saw it then as it will be when released this fall. I can only hope that it will remain mostly intact, as at the time it was the best film (albeit unreleased) I'd seen this calendar year. If it can live up to its original pre-screen promise, one might write this in as something extra special: an Oscar-winning director's follow-up that is just as good, if not superior, to the work he made before.
It's about an ordinary guy, Aaron Ralston, who goes climbing at the rocks in a desert in Colorado, and gets stuck - literally, he falls and a giant boulder crushes his arm. From here we get the most provocative kind of challenge that few directors- i.e. Boyle- could pull off: make a whole exhilirating, exciting, tragic and really sickening experience both viscerally and visually out of the experience Ralston had for five days in the canyon. Those who know the real-life story may already be spoiled (for the sanctity of this blog, I won't, though if you just glance at a review you may find out anyway). But it really is the kind of film that inspires and moves someone, an experience that is all about the triumph of the human spirit and all that jazz - plus James Franco's real high-point as an actor. Trailer here.
And a GUILTY PLEASURE #11 PICK:
UNSTOPPABLE - Tony Scott
Here's the deal: I am by no means a big Tony Scott fan, not much at all really. I'll watch his films if they come out, and I have some spare cash (or if I feel the need to kick myself in the balls as with the exploitation vomit Domino), but every so often he'll come out with something - usually attributable to some restraint (Crimson Tide) or some actual talent behind it (True Romance) - that makes me go wow. Hell, even Man on Fire, which was the start of his super-twitchy-vision style, has its moments.
But this looks to be something that is just so stupid, so over-the-top, and yet with such likable stars and a WTF premise that I can't let it go from my mind. It's like the anti Devil trailer; instead of a groan coming out with every passing repeated viewing, I smile and clap like a seal and can't wait for the trashy fun. I don't expect it to be a very *good* movie, but at least it doesn't look boring, which is usually Scott's ultimate crime when indulging in his cine-madness.
Honorable mentions (those I look forward to, more or less, but didn't make the cut):
Wes Craven's MY SOUL TO TAKE (his return to horror)
John Carpenter's THE WARD (his return to filmmaking)
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (hope it's, you know, dark)
Rodrigo Cortes' BURIED (a filmmaking challenge I hope to see pulled off, with Ryan Reynolds!)
CATFISH (heard good things, but not sure yet if it'll live up to it ridiculous hype)
Clint Eastwood's HEREAFTER (just barely missed the cut, it's Clint, so you know, I'm there)
Todd Phillips' DUE DATE (Downey Jr and Galifianakis should make for a good pairing, even if familiar premise)
TRON LEGACY (eh, why not, again it's got Bridges, and a very hot Olivia Wilde in tight clothing)
Jean-Luc Godard's FILM SOCIALISME (don't know if it'll be *good*, but it's Godard so hopefully it doesn't suck too much... I hope...)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's THE TOURIST (trailer looks like possible fun, Depp back to playing a real guy again, and it's the director of The Lives of Others)