The 2010 summer movie season kind of sucked. There were some good wide-release movies like Splice and Predators. But there were also films like Iron Man 2 and Toy Story 3, which were unable to meet the (perhaps unfairly) high expectations put upon them. The only major films that cleared the high bar were Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
But I think the rest of the year has the potential to blow minds. There’s a wonderful variety of both light and serious fare. I’ve boiled down the number of films I’m excited to see over the next four months down to 15 flicks. Hit the jump to find out what’s on my radar. Also, be sure to sound off in the comments section about what films you’re jazzed to see as 2010 begins to wind down.
Never Let Me Go (September 15th)
Mark Romanek is a director who deserves to have a bigger filmography. He hasn’t had a feature film since 2002′s One Hour Photo, which is a fine movie but the direction is outstanding. If you want to know why Romanek is great and why you should be excited for Never Let Me Go (other than its fascinating premise—which I won’t spoil—and strong lead actors), just pick up the DVD of The Work of Director Mark Romanek. Then you’ll understand why it’s been a painful eight-year-wait for his new film.
The Town (Setpember 17th)
Ben Affleck’s hit a home run with his directorial debut, 2007′s Gone Baby Gone. For his follow-up, he’s putting himself in-front of the camera, but I’ve never been one of the people who have disliked him as an actor. I think he has charisma and range and while he has been in a wide variety of terrible movies, he wasn’t the main reason why they were bad. But if you want to hold on to your Affleck-hate, then also hold on to the rest of the cast: Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Postlethwait, and Chris Cooper. The film, which is about a bank robber (Affleck) who begins a dangerous romantic relationship with a hostage (Rebecca Hall), is making the festival rounds so we should be hearing some buzz on it soon.
Buried (September 24th)
Every time we write up a story on Buried, Steve makes sure to remind us that he dug the film when he saw it at Sundance. Personally, I’ve been intrigued by the premise ever since the project was first announced. There’s a select group of actors who can hold the screen and keep you captivated while you watch them struggle around in a box for 95 minutes. Ryan Reynolds is one of those actors. I don’t understand how someone could know the premise of the movie—a man is buried alive and has about 90 minutes to escape—and not be at least a little curious.
The Social Network (October 1st)
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. That combination is all it takes to sell me on a movie. Of course, those guys don’t get on board a project unless they find premise fascinating. The Social Network centers on the creation of Facebook and the sex, lies, and betrayal that went into it. The fascinating figure at the center is Mark Zuckerberg (Zombieland‘s Jesse Eisenberg) who created and owns Facebook. While his actions aren’t totally unusual in the world of business, it was his motives that are interesting. Admittedly, the story does need some spice, but Fincher and Sorkin could make The Yellowpages Movie and I’d still be excited out of my mind to see it.
Let Me In (October 1st)
This film may be a teachable moment in giving remakes/re-adaptations the benefit of the doubt. I’m still highly skeptical that this film can recreate the same fearless filmmaking Tomas Alfredson crafted with Let The Right One In, but everything I’ve seen and heard so far is encouraging. What I’m hoping we don’t get is a shock-horror film. The story, which is about a trouble young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriending a girl (Chloe Moretz) who is actually a vampire—does have its jump-scare moments, but what I find most affecting is the loneliness of the characters. Judging by the trailers and the footage I saw at Comic-Con, director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) seems to have pulled that off with some disturbing imagery to boot. Hopefully, the lesson learned after seeing this movie won’t be “Always trust my pessimism.”
Red (October 15th)
Helen Mirren unleashing waves of destruction through heavy weaponry? Nuff said. I don’t know if Mirren is doing this in Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, but she’s definitely bringing some big death to bad guys in Robert Schwentke’s action-flick Red. The film centers on a group of retired CIA agents (played by Mirren, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman) trying to find out why they’re being hunted down by the agency. The film looks like all kinds of fun and is reportedly getting positive responses at test screenings. And even though the casting of Mirren is genius, the trailer makes it looks like Malkovich is going to walk away with this one.
Due Date (November 5th)
How could director Todd Phillips’ follow-up to The Hangover, one of the funniest (and highly re-watchable) films in years, not be worth some attention? While the odd-couple road-trip premise—in order to make his wife’s due date, an expectant father (Robert Downey Jr.) is forced to hitch a ride with an aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis)—doesn’t necessarily scream another smash hard-R comedy, I think Phillips has earned some trust. More intriguing is the pairing of Galifianakis and Downey. Downey is playing the straight man in a straight comedy and yet his comic timing is so innate that Galifianakis isn’t going to be able to just walk away with this one. The two have very different styles so it will be interesting to see how they and Phillips will be able to bring it all together.
127 Hours (November 5th)
Slumdog Millionaire may not have played on repeat viewings as well as I had hoped, but that doesn’t mean Danny Boyle’s new film isn’t worth attention. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a climber who was forced to cut off his own arm when he became trapped under a boulder, the film is stacked with challenges. Its biggest one is the physical limitations of the story. Ralston (played by James Franco) is stuck under a boulder for the majority of the movie with no one to talk to. I have no idea how Boyle plans to pull that off but that’s one of the reasons I can’t wait to see this movie.
Fair Game (November 5th)
I love me a good political thriller and it’s fun that we’re being treated to two dramas based on real-life figures on the same day. Fair Game centers on outed CIA Agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) whose cover was blown by the Bush Administration after her husband Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) wrote an editorial disputing their claims of WMD in Iraq. The danger for a film like this is becoming too preachy or self-important. But with positive word on the film coming out of Cannes, it looks like director Doug Liman has successfully dodged the pitfalls of this kind of story and crafted a movie that will get people talking.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (November 19th)
There’s only one benefit to splitting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two movies: a longer goodbye. The penultimate film in the remarkable series is already getting raves from its test screenings, but that should be no surprise. Every Harry Potter film has manages to be better than the one that came before. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was one of the best films of last year so I can’t even fathom how director David Yates is going to manage to top it. And then I remember that there’s still got one more film to go and my brain explodes.
Black Swan (December 1st)
Did you see the trailer for this? If not, watch it now. If so, watch it again. One of the many wonderful things about director Darren Aronofsky is that he doesn’t make safe movies. Black Swan is about a ballerina (played by Natalie Portman) whose drive to play the lead in Swan Lake may be driving her mad…and turning her into a black swan. Aronofsky’s last two films, The Fountain and The Wrestler, were both beautifully bittersweet. Black Swan looks beautifully horrifying. And if somehow you’re not already excited for this movie, here’s more greatness: Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel co-star and cinematographer Matthew Libatique and composer Clint Mansell—both of who worked on The Fountain—are also on board.
I Love You Phillip Morris (December 3rd)
The constant delays this film has suffered is why I hate not going to Sundance. I Love You Phillip Morris played at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and I got to hear all the raves from people who saw it. Based on the true story of a gay con-artist (played by Jim Carrey) who fell in love with his cellmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), the comedy reportedly doesn’t hold back from graphic homosexual coitus. Will mainstream America be able to handle that? Answer: who gives a shit. The only thing I won’t be able to handle is if this film gets pushed back again.
TRON: Legacy (December 17th)
I’m no champion of 3D, but how could a TRON sequel not embrace the latest technology? The original TRON was a visual effects milestone in 1982 and TRON: Legacy is trying to set a new milestone in the field of 3D this December. But I think what makes this movie worth noting is how excited people are just to re-enter the world of TRON. The eight-minutes of footage I saw at Comic-Con impressed, but people went even more nuts for Jeff Bridges. They care about Kevin Flynn and they want to see the next chapter in his story. That story takes place 27 years after the events of the first movie and has Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) searching for his missing father. Based on everything I’ve seen so far, it looks like they have a tale worth telling. Also, that tale has light-planes and disc wars so that helps.
The Illusionist (December 23rd)
With the exception of Up, all of the best animated films of 2009 weren’t computer-generated. It was stop-motion or 2D animation that ruled the year. 2010′s animation is mostly back to CG, but director Sylvain Chomet is looking to make a gorgeous hand-drawn splash with The Illusionist. The feature-film follow up to his critically acclaimed The Triplets of Belleville, Illusionist centers on an aging magician whose life is changed when he meets a young girl. While most animation we see is dominated by the powerhouse of the major studios who can afford the cost required, it’s important to celebrate an independent animator like Chomet and The Illusionist is looking like a film worth celebrating.
True Grit (December 23rd)
This is my most-anticipated film for the remainder of 2010 so of course it’s the one with the longest wait The film is the Coen Brother’s re-adaptation of Charles Portis novel which is about a girl (Hailee Steinfeld) on the frontier who travels with a drunken Marshall (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) to track down the drifter (Josh Brolin) who murdered her father. The Coens say that their adaptation will be more faithful to Portis novel than the 1969 John Wayne film. However, while the adaptation may be more faithful to the narrative, there’s no expecting the Coens. I love westerns, I love the Coen Brothers, I love this cast, and I hate that I won’t see True Grit for four months.