The 30 most-anticipated films of 2010 — Part Two

Posted by Anthony Nicholas on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 7:00 AM

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[Editor's Note: This is the second part of Anthony Nicholas' epic 2010 movie preview. You should be bookmarking this! Go here to check out part one of the preview.]

Yesterday, I covered numbers 30-16 in my most-anticipated films of 2010 preview. Today, the top 15 most interesting films slated for release sometime in 2010. I'll repeat my disclaimer from yesterday: There’s no guarantee the films on the list will be released in 2010. (Some haven't even begun filming yet.) The films on the list consist of festival favorites, announced summer blockbusters and overseas gems. So let’s hope all goes well and these films become widely available this year.

Ok, on to the movies!

15) Mother — Korean master Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Memories of Murder) may have another masterpiece on his hands. This darkly comic fable follows a mother on a desperate search to track down the man who framed her son for murder.

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14) Cyrus — This appears to be the film where Mumblecore goes mainstream. Filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass have cast a bevy of established stars (Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei) for a premise that sounds very Hollywood. It’s about a recently divorced man who finds the woman of his dreams but he first has to deal with her obnoxious son. But don’t expect anything conventional from the Duplass Brothers, whose previous works (Baghead, The Puffy Chair) were hilarious subversions of tried genres.

13) Dogtooth — I would have put this film on the 2009 list of the most-overlooked films, but it has been vigorously celebrated all over the world and received a lot of publicity from film bloggers. Dogtooth is Greece’s official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, so why it doesn’t have U.S. distribution yet is beyond me. Sure, the film contains some disturbing, NC-17 style content, but shouldn’t that spell cult hit? Giorgos Lanthimos’s film follows three teenage siblings in their isolated country estate. They have no connection to the real world and have their own strange language. Their father (the only person allowed to leave the home) inflicts various tortures on then to keep them obedient. That is, until an outside influence starts a rebellion.

12) Black Swan — I’m so completely sold on the idea of a modern-day gothic supernatural ballet-thriller with Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) as director. Aren’t you? There’s no telling how visually daring this film will be. It tells a story of a veteran ballet dancer (Natalie Portman) who is haunted by a rival dancer (Mila Kunis) who could either be real or imagined. If all that doesn’t interest you, then there’s that much-hyped sex scene between Portman and Kunis. So there ya go: A film for everyone. Costars Winona Ryder and Vincent Cassel.

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11) The Illusionist — Sylvain Chomet’s follow-up to his animated 2003 masterpiece Triplets of Bellville is based on an unproduced script by the late French master Jacques Tati. It’s definitely going to be a thrill to see Tati’s iconic Monsieur Hulot character after a nearly 40-year absence, and to see him animated is going to be fascinating. There is little else known about the production, but here’s the IMDB synopsis: “Details the story of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever.”

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10) Wild Grass — This was on my most underrated of 2009 (as were a few others on this list), but I just want to get the name out there. A wildly surreal portrait of love by 87-year-old master filmmaker Alain Resnais, Wild Grass begins with a lost wallet, its owner and the person who finds it. The two become curious about one another, and through many bizarre circumstances begin an unlikely romance. That’s just the starting point to a series of strange and darkly comic scenarios involving various other characters. This all leads to a conclusion that Glenn Kenny considers to be “as daring as Kubrick’s 2001.” I know that’s a terrible synopsis, but there’s no paragraph that could describe what any Resnais film is about; you just have to experience them. The cast features Sabine Azema (Private Fears in Public Places), Andre Dussollier, Anne Consigny, Emmanuelle Devos (A Christmas Tale) and Mathieu Amalric (Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solice).

9) Kick Ass — Just watching the Hit Girl redband trailer (below) got me stoked. The Mathew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) film, an adaptation of the famously crude Mark Miller comic book series of the same name, follows the adventures of an unpopular high school kid and comic book nerd who decides to become a superhero despite having no training whatsoever. His actions then inspire a whole league of average Joes turned superheroes. Belying the film's expensive look, Vaughn made it independently to keep every bit of the comic’s notorious vulgarity. The footage shown at last year’s Comic Con upstaged the first public showing of Avatar footage, and early word out of test screenings over the last few months has been astronomically positive.

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8 ) We Need to Talk About Kevin — Lynn Ramsey hasn’t made a film since 2002’s superb Morvern Callar. She spent much of the last decade attempting to adapt The Lovely Bones, that is until Peter Jackson got attached to the project (which is apparently a disaster). Tilda Swinton plays the adoptive mother of an adolescent boy who went on a Columbine-like killing spree. She has to then deal with the pain and guilt of her horrendous circumstances. It sounds like a standard, hard-hitting indie, but under Ramsey’s hands it could become something completely different. Watch this sequence from Morvern Callar and see what a true master of sound and image Ramsey is:

7) You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger — The title alone makes me want to see this one. As is the case with every Woody Allen film in production, the plot to YWMATDS has been kept under wraps. Internet rumors say the film involves a large family and their troubled love lives, and there's a high-class prostitute in the mix, too. The cast may be Allen’s best in 10 years (which is really saying something): Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Frieda Pinto (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), Lucy Punch, Anthony Hopkins, Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) and Bollywood star Anupam Kher.

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6) Rabbit HoleJohn Cameron Mitchell is one of my heroes. His 2001 glam-rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is my favorite film of the past decade, and his sophomore experiment Shortbus featured real sex and was still popular enough to play at multiplexes across America. Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play (recently staged at Jobsite), is his first stab at the mainstream. It stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married couple grieving over the loss of their young son. Mitchell is said to be drawing from his own experiences with loss and avoiding every Hollywood melodrama cliché in the process.

5) Miral — With a track record that includes Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, director Julian Schnabel has a reputation for making some of the most beautiful films ever. The IMDB synopsis for Miral has it: “A chronicle of Hind Husseini’s efforts to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 petition and the creation of the state of Israel." The international cast includes Hiam Abbass (The Visitor, The Limits of Control) as Husseini, Willem Dafoe, Frieda Pinto and Alexander Siddig (Syriana).

4) Steven Fuckin’ Soderbergh — The prolific filmmaker just came off his most artistically ambitious year yet, with four releases (the two Che Guevara bio-pics, The Girlfriend Experience and The Informant!). He already completed his Spalding Grey documentary And Everything is Going Fine, which is set to debut at the Slamdance Film Festival later this month. Soderbergh is then scheduled to begin filming his Point Blank-meets-Bourne-style thriller Knockout, starring mixed martial artist Gina Carano. The film's supporting cast is full of big names: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas and rising star Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, Hunger, 300). If all goes well there, the director should go straight to filming a Liberace biopic this summer, with Michael Douglas in the title role and Matt Damon as one of his lovers. It’s expected to be finished and released by December. But wait there’s more! It was recently reported (by The Playlist) that Soderbergh has just finished a secret movie in Sydney, Australia. It’s said to be completely improvised and in the vein of his small works, Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience. He filmed it with the cast of his Sydney play Tot Mom last fall. No word yet on story details, but if his recent output is any indication it should be at least a little groundbreaking.

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3) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — The hotly anticipated (for critics and comic book nerds alike) adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's cult comic book series could in fact be an event as big as last year’s Watchmen (though hopefully not as disappointing). It follows the adventures of Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year-old slacker who finds the girl of his dreams but first must fight off her seven ex-boyfriends in a battle to win her heart. Just about everyone involved in the film seems right. The director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), is capable of exhilarating cinematic style that goes hand in hand with comedy. The cast is ridiculous, with Michael Cera in the title role, Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air), Jason Schwartzman, Allison Pill, Mary Elizabeth Winsted, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Kieran Culkin and Marc Webber. Those who’ve read Michal Bacall’s script say it's absolutely hilarious, and even the soundtrack could become classic, with the likes of Beck, Metric, and Broken Social Scene. Will this all add up to hipster nirvana? Enthusiastic early word comes from Up in the Air director Jason Reitman, who tweeted up a storm about the film:

* In London, @edgarwright showed me 30 minutes of "Scott Pilgrim." While sworn to secrecy (so much, I was surprised blood wasn't demanded) I will say this:

* It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves at the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than I've seen in recent cinema.

* SP does what everyone our age has been dreaming about: achieves the first all-encompassing film of the joystick generation.

* I'm in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a Matrix for love and how willing we are to fight for it.

* If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it. Hats off, my friend. Can't get it out of my head.

2) Inception — I can't figure out what the hell this movie is about, but it looks great and Leonardo DiCaprio is usually solid. The preview hints at cool effects and a great supporting cast: Ellen Page, Marion Cottilard, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy (From last year’s Bronson), Cullen Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lucas Haas and Ken Watanabe. But the “From the Director of The Dark Knight” title card may still be the greatest thing about it.

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1) Tree of Life — Shot way back in early 2008 with reportedly 3 million feet of 35 millimeter film, this is Terence Malick’s largest production yet and still only his fifth film since his 1973 debut Badlands. The project had been in the legendary filmmaker’s head for 30 years. Originally titled Q, the film was to be the follow-up to 1978’s Days of Heaven, but Malick took a 20-year hiatus from directing. In the years since his return, Tree of Life was constantly being rumored to be in production, and now it’s a reality. Malick also made an adjacent (Brad Pitt-narrated) documentary to the film called The Voyage of Time, which is supposed to chronicle the “birth and death of the universe” (I’m not sure if both films will be playing together). Here’s the IMDB plot synopsis:

“The film opens documenting the origins of life, through the age of reptiles and mammals and then man. Progressively, we are swept through time until the 1950s, where the birth of life suddenly comes to seemingly pointless sickness and death. Pointless, that is, to young Jack, who is unaware of all that has led to this point and time, only to arrive to the tragedy he must come to grips with. This is the philosophical thrust of older Jack's struggle to coexist in a world that seemingly has little to no value for him. The "tree of life" is the framework of the story, how one thing leads to another, a miracle of growth and evolution, where nature is purposeful, and never random.”

Brad Pitt plays the father (a part originally intended for Heath Ledger) and Sean Penn has the role of the older Jack. It is also rumored that there will be two different versions of the film (one exclusively for IMAX theaters). We also have hot cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The New World) and composer Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Birth) on board. Go ahead, try to top that.

You think this is a lot of movies to look out for? Wait till Sundance in the next week. And this isn’t even counting the films I’m not looking forward to, like David Fincher’s Facebook saga The Social Network and Clint Eastwood’s supernatural thriller Hereafter, as well as the long-awaited (and mangled) Wolfman. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood looks horrendous but may be enjoyable as pure camp, Toy Story 3 could be great but to me it feels like it could be Pixar's Godfather III. Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island looks gorgeous but early word suggests a dopey screenplay. And what is this Alice in Wonderland movie Hot Topic cares so much about?

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