Yesterday I recapped the year in film 2009. Let us never speak of it again. Don't look back, you can't go home again, and all that jazz. Let us now turn our collective attention to the next 365 days of cinematic delights and whet our communal appetite for the upcoming movies we're most hyped about. May the crushing disappointment that they will inevitably bring be manageable.
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg co-wrote and star in this story of two comic book geeks traveling across the U.S. who pick up an alien hitchhiker voiced by Seth Rogen. Despite some noticeable reservations about this one, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt. The big three works co-written by Pegg (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) are 100% bulletproof in my book. My concerns stem from Edgar Wright's lack of involvement (more on him later) and the phrase "alien hitchhiker voiced by Seth Rogen". Directed by Greg Mottola whose Adventureland I yesterday deemed "sloppy but sweet". Don't ask me about Superbad.
#9: London Boulevard:
Based on a novel by Ken Bruen, London Boulevard is the directorial debut by Departed screenwriter William Monahan. The film is about a reclusive actress (played by Keira Knightley) who falls in love with an ex-convict. Sounds pretty hokey right? Well guess who plays that hardened criminal? Colin freakin' Farrell that's who. Need I say more? No I need not.
#8: Shutter Island
Speaking of the Departed, Martin Scorsese's first fictional feature since that Oscar-winning film was initially scheduled for a late 2009 release but was pushed back to February of this year. Based on a Dennis Lehane novel, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as federal agents sent to the eponymous island, a home to the criminally insane, in search of a missing murderess. They in turn start going crazy. Frankly, I'm a trifle hesitant about this one but not for the February pushback (it's Scorsese so you know it's going to be solid.) Nope my concern stems from the simple fact that Shutter Island looks scary as hell. I don't like scary movies. You know why? Because they scare me.
#7: The Grand Master
Sean would probably kill me if I didn't include Chungking Express auteur Wong Kar-Wai's latest on this list. The Grand Master is the long-gestating biopic of Ip Man, Bruce Lee's mentor and the first person to openly teach the martial art of Wing Chun. He will played onscreen by the unflappable Tony Leung. Zhang Ziyi will portray his wife. Rumored to be joining the cast are Gong Li and Brigitte Lin, who hasn't made a film since Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time in 1994.
#6: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger
I know I'm in the minority on this but I have found all three of Woody Allen's recent work (Cassandra's Dream, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Whatever Works) really rather enjoyable. They're slight, minor films but worthwhile nonetheless. I hope his latest will at least maintain that quality. With a cast featuring Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts my enthusiasm is only growing. Frankly, that title alone has me hyped.
#5: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Speaking of bad ass titles how about that one? Geez Louise, that's awesome. Dig the credentials on this mickey-figgy: starring Michael Shannon, Willem Defoe, Chloe Sevigny, Brad Dourif and Grace Zabriskie; produced by David Lynch; co-written and directed by Werner Herzog. Holy cow. Oh and it's about a boy who slays his mother with a sword. Movies like this come around once in a lifetime.
#4: Under Great White Northern Lights
In 2007, the greatest rock stars of the millennium, The White Stripes, toured every province and territory in Canada playing some gigs in rec centers and on city buses. This documentary captured it all. After the fantastic concert film Under Blackpool Lights, I expect this to have the same high standard of quality. And knowing Jack White's love of threes, this is no doubt the middle part of a trilogy. Perhaps the final third will be filmed in a brothel in Amsterdam. I can't wait.
#3: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Brian Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comic series follow the trials and tribulations of the titular hero, a hapless slacker who falls in love with a beautiful girl and must battle her seven ex-boyfriends to win her heart. References to Nintendo, Buffalo Springfield and many other pop culture treasures litter the landscape of this uniquely hilarious world. Who would dare try and mount an adaptation of this beloved work? Edgar Wright that's who and I can't think of anyone better suited for the task. Michael Cera plays Scott and his supporting cast is a veritable who's who of hipster actors: Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, Kieran Culkin. The part I'm most excited about? Well, you see Scott's love Ramona Flowers (played by Death Proof's Mary Elizabeth Winstead) had a little fling with a girl way back when. That girl? She's played by Mae Whitman. Which means George Michael is going to kick the shit out of Egg, I mean, Ann. This is the closest we're getting to an Arrested Development movie this year people.
#2: Toy Story 3
Bring the ruckus. Toy Story 2 is alongside The Godfather Part II and the Empire Strikes Back as one of the greatest sequels in film history. It remains my second favorite Pixar film of all time after Ratatouille. The stakes are high for this conclusion which sees Woody, Buzz and the gang trucked off to a day-care center when Andy heads off to college. If anyone can pull off maintaining the quality, charm and wit of the first two when as they once more go back to the well, it's Pixar. The trailer attached to the Toy Story double feature made my brother cry. He's 26. That's good enough for me.
#1: Tree of Life
It was my number one most anticipated film last year and will most definitely top the list again if it doesn't reach theaters before December. Terrence Malick's fifth film (his first since the New World, the best film of this millennium) started out cool enough with Sean Penn and Brad Pitt involved in the story of a boy growing up in the Midwest in the 1950's. I dig it, I was sold on that. Then Malick started adding CGI dinosaurs and the birth of the universe to a prologue that may or not become part of an entirely separate IMAX feature. My head subsequently exploded. Terrence Malick could film a door handle for three hours and I would end up crying into my girlfriend's shoulder by the credits. There are some fine looking pictures coming out in the next twelve months, none will be as pretty as Tree of Life.