Saturday, January 3, 2009

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Looking Ahead

In the great tradition of making as many lists as possible, I want to take a look at the 25 Most Anticipated Films of the Year. But, you know, not the world's. Just mine.

I did this in April of 2008, too, but what's the point of doing a most-anticipated of the year when three months' worth of films has already come and gone? I did pretty well, though. My Top 25 last year looked like this:

25. Burn After Reading
24. Pineapple Express
23. Leatherheads
22. Speed Racer
21. Prom Night
20. Synecdoche, NY
19. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
18. The Argentine AND Guerrilla
17. Young @ Heart
16. Get Smart
15. The Women
14. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
13. Frost/Nixon
12. WALL-E
11. Revolutionary Road
10. Snow Angels
9. Doubt
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
7. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
6. Quantum of Solace
5. The Dark Knight
4. Iron Man
3. Milk
2. Savage Grace
1. Mamma Mia!

Not a bad list, certainly. I actually saw 21 of these bad boys in 2008, too. I've still yet to see Prom Night, Che (The Argentine/Guerilla), The Women, or Revolutionary Road. Seven of these films made it to my Top Ten of 2008. The other three: Valkyrie kept changing its release date, Married Life I had already seen, and Rachel Getting Married just surprised me.

And now, before we're fully into the new year, it's time to make a new list. It's getting close, too, to Hollmann Awards Time. Nominations will be announced January 21st, the day before the Academy announces its nominees. Anyway....

25. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

DIRECTOR: Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition)
WRITER: David Benioff (Troy, The Kite Runner)
CAST: Oscar host Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber, Dominic Monaghan, Danny Huston
PLOT: Wolverine (Jackman) lives a mutant life, seeks revenge against Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber)--who will later become Sabertooth--for the death of his girlfriend, and ultimately ends up going through the mutant Weapon X program.
WHAT I THINK: A chance to pretend The Last Stand didn't happen. Also, Jackman's the fucking man. And Gambit finally shows up!

24. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

DIRECTOR: David Yates (the last one)
WRITER: Steve Kloves (all but the last one), from the novel by J.K. Rowling
CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Alan Rickman
PLOT: As Harry Potter (Radcliffe) begins his 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he discovers an old book marked mysteriously "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) dark past.
WHAT I THINK: It's about damn time. Although I am upset that they took away Broadbent's moustache.

23. Monsters vs. Aliens

DIRECTOR: Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) & Conrad Verdon (Shrek 2)
CAST: Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Stephen Colbert
PLOT: When a meteorite from outer space hits a young girl (Witherspoon) and turns her into a giant monster, she is taken to a secret government compound where she meets a ragtag group of monsters also rounded up over the years.
WHAT I THINK: HOLY SHIT STEPHEN COLBERT IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE USA! Also, how cute does this look? Oh so very cute.

22. The Box

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales), from the short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson
CAST: James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Lisa K. Wyatt
PLOT: A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple (Marsden & Diaz), who open it and become instantly wealthy. Little do they realize that opening the box also kills someone they do not know.
WHAT I THINK: I think Marsden -- and let me a little gay here -- looks adorable with that 70s hair. But I also think I love everything Kelly does, and Frank Langella is the fucking man.

21. New York, I Love You

DIRECTORS: Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon), Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, The Keepsake), Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age), etc.
WRITERS: Emmanuel Benbihy, Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman, Faith Akin, Stephen Winter, etc.
CAST: Kevin Bacon, James Caan, Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Hollmann Award Nominee Eli Wallach
PLOT: An anthology film joining several love stories set in one of the most loved cities of the world, New York.
WHAT I THINK: I love Paris, je t'aime, so I'm really looking forward to this one. Kevin Bacon's the effing man. If only Woody Allen could have done one....

20. Shutter Island (aka Ashcliffe)

DIRECTOR: Hollmann Award Nominee Martin Scorsese (The Departed, The Aviator)
WRITER: Laeta Kalgridis, from the novel by Dennis Lehane
CAST: Hollmann Award Nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, Hollmann Awards Host Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo
PLOT: In 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.
WHAT I THINK: I need to read this book. I love the Scorsese-DiCaprio team, always. I love Patty Clarkson, always. And I'm always ready for some island murdering. Sign me up!

19. Coraline

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Henry Selick (The Nightmare before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach), from the book by Neil Gaiman
CAST: Dakota Fanning, Keith David, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Teri Hatcher
PLOT: A young girl (Fanning) walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life.
WHAT I THINK: It looks beautiful and haunting. Selick is great, and it reteams French and Saunders. Excitement city!

18. Duplicity

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)
CAST: Julia Roberts, Hollmann Award Nominee Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Thomas McCarthy
PLOT: A pair of corporate spies (Roberts, Owen) who share a steamy past hook up to pull off the ultimate con job on their respective bosses (Wilkinson, Giamatti).
WHAT I THINK: The trailer is the right amount of BAM WOW COOL! Julia's growing on me. There's nothing quite like a good ol' Wilkinson flick.

17. The Informant

DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's 11, The Good German)
WRITER: Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), from the book by Kurt Eichenwald
CAST: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Frank Welker, Candy Clark, Patton Oswalt
PLOT: The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre (Damon).
WHAT I THINK: Look at that! That's Matt Damon! How? God, I love all things Soderbergh touches that I've seen that I've liked.

16. Funny People

CAST: Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Hollmann Award Nominee Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman
PLOT: When seasoned comedian George Simmons (Sandler) learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, his desire to form a genuine friendship cause him to take a relatively green performer (Rogen) under his wing as his opening act.
WHAT I THINK: Apatow has the chops to do a drama. Sandler has always impressed me, and he's done this kind of balance in Punch-Drunk Love. Oscar, maybe? Finally?

15. My Bloody Valentine 3D

DIRECTOR: Patrick Lussier
WRITERS: Todd Farmer & Zane Smith
CAST: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King
PLOT: Tom (Ackles) returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people.
WHAT I THINK: I think nothing says date movie like a 3D ride to hell. Muthafucka.

14. Inglourious Basterds

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Quentin Tarantino
CAST: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, B.J. Novak, Eli Roth, Mike Myers
PLOT: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
WHAT I THINK: Finally, the movie Tarantino fans have been waiting for! I love Jews, and I also love bloody vengeance! Yay!

13. The Tempest

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Julie Taymor (Across the Universe, Titus), from the play by William Shakespeare
CAST: Hollmann Award Winner Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Djimon Hounsou, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper
PLOT: In Taymor's re-imagining, Mirren is Prospera, who rules an island with ehr magic after being banished by her brother (Molina?).
WHAT I THINK: Ooh interesting, turning Shakespeare (he can be a little misogynistic) into an examination of the sacred feminine. You've piqued my interest, Mrs. Goldenthal.

12. A Christmas Carol

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Beowulf), from the book by Charles Dickens
CAST: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes
PLOT: Yeah, because no one knows the plot to this. Give me a break.
WHAT I THINK: I love Christmas!!!

11. Up

DIRECTOR: Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) & Bob Petersen
WRITER: Bob Petersen (Finding Nemo)
CAST: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Delroy Lindo
PLOT: By tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America.
WHAT I THINK: Yay, a Pixar fantasy about old people! Dream come true!

10. 500 Days of Summer

WRITERS: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
PLOT: An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman (Deschanel) who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man (Gordon-Levitt) who falls for her.
WHAT I THINK: What that synopsis doesn't mention is that JGL loves music, and breaks out into song periodically. So....they made my life story? Awesome.

9. Julie & Julia

DIRECTOR/WRITER: Nora Ephron (Bewitched, Michael), from the books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
CAST: Hollmann Award Winner Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Jane Lynch, Stanley Tucci
PLOT: As Julie Powell cooks her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Julia Child experiences France!
WHAT I THINK: Oh, I fondly remember watching Julia Child on TV when I was a boy. And oh, I fondly love watching Meryl Streep and Amy Adams now that I'm a man. think the only thing that could make this better is if they include Julia Child's CIA missions.

8. Where the Wild Things Are

DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation.)
WRITERS: Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers, from the book by Maurice Sendak
CAST: Catherine O'Hara, Catherine Keener, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano, James Gandolfini
PLOT: An adaptation of the children's classic about Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world--a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler.
WHAT I THINK: It's about the damn gosh darn time! Jonze is a genius (there, I said it!), and I canna wait for this!

7. State of Play

DIRECTOR: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland)
WRITERS: Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs), Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Supremacy) & Billy Ray (Breach), from the BBC miniseries by Paul Abbott
CAST: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Hollmann Award Winner Helen Mirren
PLOT: A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman's mistress.
WHAT I THINK: Mm, the sweet, sweet smell of a political thriller involving investigative journalism. And Helen Mirren. It smells like victory.

6. Notorious

DIRECTOR: George Tillman, Jr.
WRITERS: Reggie Rock Bythewood & Cheo Hodari Coker
CAST: Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, Angela Basset
PLOT: Biopic depicting the life of Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard)
WHAT I THINK: I like that a biopic is being made from someone I was alive to appreciate. The trailer is fantastic, I like Derek Luke, and it's a great way to bond with my sister.

5. Public Enemies

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann (Miami Vice)
WRITERS: Ronan Bennett, Ann Biderman (Primal Fear) & Michael Mann (Heat), from the book by Bryan Burrough
CAST: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Billy Crudup, Hollmann Award Winner Marion Cotillard
PLOT: The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger (Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Tatum) during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
WHAT I THINK: I think that if Bale and Depp starred in a series of monologues consisting of phone book entries, I would see it twice in theatres.

4. Watchmen

DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead)
WRITERS: David Hayter (X-Men, X2) & Alex Tse, from the graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore
CAST: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Carla Gugino
PLOT: When an ex-superhero (Morgan) is murdered, a vigilante named Rorshach (Haley) begins an investigation into the murder, which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion.
WHAT I THINK: The graphic novel was EPIC. The trailer was EPIC. Everything about this just screams, "WALTER! LOVE ME!" And I will.

3. Sherlock Holmes

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie (RockNRolla, Snatch)
WRITERS: Mike Johnson, Simon Kinberg, Anthony Peckham & Guy Ritchie, from the comic by Lionel Wigram and characters by Arthur Conan Doyle
CAST: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan, Mark Strong
PLOT: Detective Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr.) and his stalwart partner Watson (Law) engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.
WHAT I THINK: At last, the return of a popular detective, with a number of great actors thrown into the mix! What's next--Agatha Christie? (Please?)

2. Nine

DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago)
WRITERS: Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) & Michael Tolkin (The Player), from the musical by Arthur L. Kopit and Maury Yeston
CAST: Hollmann Award Winner Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Hollmann Award Winner Marion Cotillard, Hollmann Award Nominee Judi Dench
PLOT: Famous film director Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) struggles to find harmony in his professional and personal lives, as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife (Cotillard), his mistress (Cruz), his muse (Kidman), his agent (Dench), and his mother (Loren).
WHAT I THINK: I love musicals. I love this cast. It's like who I would cast in every musical ever made. Sexy, sexy Penelope is there. Incandescently beautiful Marion is there. Ultimate bad-ass Judi is there. Heaven! I'm in Heaven!

1. The Wolf Man

DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston (Jumanji, October Sky)
WRITERS: Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en, Sleepy Hollow) & David Self (Road to Perdition, Thirteen Days)
CAST: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Geraldine Chaplin
PLOT: Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man (Del Toro) is bitten, and subsequently cursed, by a werewolf.
WHAT I THINK: The original was one of my favorite movies growing up. I must have watched it three times a week for a year. Walker and Self both have a number of films to their credit that I adore, and Johnston clearly knows both the spectacular and the subtle. What a cast! It's a remake that appears to build on the themes of the original, giving it an epic scope that speaks to more than just the horror fan. Epic.

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