I swear this SHOULD be the end of my lists.
In the last few weeks, I’ve regaled you all with thrilling tales of my favorite games and movies from 2009. Then we gazed into our crystal ball and called out the games I’ve just got to play in 2010 followed by what I feel will be the biggest disappointment in the cyber realm.
Today, I point my gaze towards the cinema and pick out 10 flicks that I would like to see on the big screen at the start of this new decade. That being said – it won’t happen. Hasn’t gone down like that for a very long time, at least not since we brought kids into this world. I would hazard a guess that 5 of these flicks will flicker before my eyes on the big screen so consider numbers 5 through 1 as those I will guarantee myself box office admission in the year ahead… unless, of course, they suck.
The rest are exactly the reason I covet Netflix. So, by the time we meet again next year, I’ll have these 10, likely 60 more and a handful of television shows in the bag, and will be ready to roll out another series of Best Of lists. But until that time comes, let’s work with what we’ve got.
And what we’ve got are The Top Ten Flicks I’ve Just Got to See on the Big Screen in 2010.
10. Shutter Island – February
It’s weird, I checked by 2009 list, and last year’s big chunk of Autumn Oscar bait doesn’t appear on it. I can’t say I didn’t know this was coming as they practically filmed in my backyard, so I have no clue why I didn’t list it last year. After all, this is Martin Scorcese journeying back to his Cape Fear vibe and the grandiose ghoulish vibe that he brought to that flick looks to serve this one well.
I started to shudder a bit when I saw that Paramount bumped this from their Fall sched mere weeks before its premiere. When they dumped a Scorcese flick in the dead of winter, that seemed like the death knell. Despite a cool period setting (with a murder mystery set on a creepy New England prison island in the midst of a hurricane) and a stellar cast of character actors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earl Haley and Michelle Williams – moving a flick to the middle of nowhere is always a bad sign.
Well, it screened for Harry Knowles annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon film fest in late November and the advanced audience ate it up. Aside from a late act twist which all admit was too easy to see coming in the decade following The Sixth Sense, the film is supposed to be entertaining, engrossing and visually stunning. That’s all I need to hear to book passage.
9. Clash of the Titans – March
I know – Remakes suck.
That being said, I think they have their place when handled correctly – and the best way to do that is not so much to remake GOOD movies (like the ill-advised proposed remake of The Thing) but to correct a flick that had an awesome premise but never really stuck the landing.
Titans is a good example of this and also a great example of the type of flick that lives larger in memory than it really does on the screen. See – so many of us saw this as 8 year-old boys. There were swordfights, monsters and even a chick’s bare ass. Enough to clinch a Top 10 Spot on some future horndog’s all time best list. But, it’s not as great as you remember and upon further viewing, it falls apart pretty quickly.
I have no doubt that the success of 300 and Hollywood’s tireless quest to find a new action here in Sam Worthington, is the reason we have this remake. But, Louis Leterrier made me a believer with his helming of The Hulk reboot and based on the teasers, I think he has built better Titans.
8. Paul – TBD
This will likely move up when I can find an actual release date for the flick. What I know is that it is currently filming, has a TBD release date for 2009, and reunites Nick Frost and Simon Pegg for the first time since their one-two punch in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
That they are starring in a sci-fi buddy flick for Adventureland’s Gregg Mottola just cinches it – although personally I’d rather see them complete their unofficial trilogy with Edgar Wright, which is supposedly in the cards with a riff on apocalyptic flicks titled The World’s End. That one isn’t due for at least a few years so until that point I’ll take Mottola’s road flick about two British comic geeks who head to Area 51 on their way to the San Diego Comic Con. Along the way, they encounter Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and an alien named Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.
7. The Social Network – October
Ed is… watching a David Fincher flick about the birth of Facebook.
When I first heard there was a Facebook flick coming, I bristled. Seriously – WHY?!?!? Who is demanding this flick. It just sounded like that boring HBO flick that focused on the original Leno/Letterman feud. But, when I found out that David Fincher was going to direct it, I fell into lock step. Forgive the guy Benjamin Button. Aside from Forrest Gump redux, that guy knows how to make a movie, and his dissection of the real world Zodiac killer was mesmerizing stuff.
With an Aaron Sorkin script, Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook’s Papa, Mark Zuckerberg, and Rashida Jones as the eye candy, this is one flick that I append the ‘Like’ button to.
6. Let Me In – October
And again with the remakes.
This one is the quickly turned around redo of the 2008 Nordic vampire coming of age tale, Let The Right One in. That flick was a surprisingly tender creepshow about the unlikely friendship that blossoms between a young, awkward outsider and the ancient creature in little girl’s clothes that moves in next door. I loved the original and have implored almost everyone I know to seek it out so that I could spring my theory on what the ending really implies. To date, none have taken the bait so maybe a subtitle-free retelling will clinch it.
As this one is being handled by JJ Abrams’ trusted lieutenant Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), and starring the soon to be popular Hit Girl from this year’s Kick-Ass, I have a feeling this is going to be one of those rare foreign imports that matches the source material.
5. Iron Man 2 – May
I’m a geek at heart so every time a new comic book flick roll around, I just know my ass will be in the seat. And I love the fact that we live in an age where we’ve vaulted past the household names and that fringe characters like Iron Man can make a huge impact.
A lot of credit for that should be handed to director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey Jr., whose turn as playboy industrialist Tony Stark in the first Iron Man flick was one of those indelible examples of pitch-perfect casting. Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that.
While I loved the original Iron Man – it’s easily in my Top 5 Comic Book flicks joining The Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, V for Vendetta and Batman Begins – it was at heart, the origin tale. With all that exposition tossed to the side and the character firmly rooted in the mainstream, we can really get down and have some fun.
And that’s the other thing that attracts me to this franchise. Where the Batman flicks envelope me in their dark, brooding and deathly serious storylines – Iron Man soars to great heights by giving us exactly why we go to the movies in the first place – a great escape.
Iron Man 2 looks to deliver on that front. While I know next to nothing about the story (which I intend to keep in the dark), I do know that Favreau has extended his streak of expert casting from the first flick by adding the red hot Mickey Rourke as a villain, the just plain hot Scarlett Johannson, the always entertaining Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle and one of the funniest guys on the planet, Gary Shandling as a deadly-serious Senator.
As Paramount did last year by launching Star Trek in early May, they’ll likely lock up this summer when Iron Man takes off in early May.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – July
The last time Warner Brothers split a highly anticipated sequel into two halves, separated 6 months apart, we ended up with the limp one-two slap of the Matrix sequels. On the heels of the six flicks that have come before this one, I’d say that we’re probably in much better hands this time out. It’s unlikely that history is doomed to repeat itself and having recently run through the novels, I’d say the final book certainly provides ample story and incident requiring the split.
That’s all for the best anyway, as I’ll be sad when we bid a final goodbye to the expert cast of young actors and the Who’s Who of British Theater who have brought J.K. Rowling’s carefully crafted magical universe to life. Anyone who has read the books knows that the producers and various directors that have brought each book to screen have matched wits with her words and did a masterful job in keeping tune with the author even if adaptation does require that some subplots remain stitched to parchment.
Also, as the latter flicks have demonstrated, this tale takes on deathly black shadings that build to a crescendo of tragedy and violence in the finale. There are heartbreaking moments ahead – the grim night we must wade through before the victorious coming of dawn – and I feel that the core trio we’ve followed all these years (and watched grow up before our eyes) is ready to take on their greatest challenge yet.
I can’t wait for this one to premiere next Fall even if it is anticipation colored with melancholy – as I know we’re that much closer to the end of something truly special.
3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – TBD
This flick is based on a graphic novel that I know next to nothing about, aside from the premise – which is, as they say, a good one.
The titular character (played by Michael Cera) falls in love with a seemingly unattainable girl in his high school. She says that he can have her hand and heart presuming he can best her 7 evil ex-boyfriends in battle. He then sets out to chase down this task, worthy of the Gods, and prove his love. And the flick then plays as a hybrid of Greek adventure and high school melodrama – Clash of the Titans with the cast of Glee.
Where the plot grabs me with its completely out there concept, it’s the director that truly has me sold. This is Edgar Wright’s third flick after his absolutely flawless prior films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright’s flicks are sometime mislabeled as parodies as they take established genres (the zombie flick, the buddy cop film) and tease their conventions. The thing is, parodies often mock the flicks they send-up – where Edgar Wright tells a legitimate tale, told straight, and mines the comedy from established genre conventions. A flick like Shaun of the Dead works so well because it really is a decent entry in the zombie genre. That it happens to be so smart and funny at the same time is really what elevates it. Same goes for Hot Fuzz.
I’d follow Edgar Wright anywhere and if he intends to take on The World, then I’ve got his back.
2. Kick-Ass – April
Here’s another graphic novel that I’ve never read but based on the premise alone, has me hooked to see the flick and also page through the source material. Once again, this film has screened for some festival audiences who have absolutely fallen in love with director Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of famed comic writer Mark Millar’s book.
Millar is one of the hottest guys in the buzz right now and from what I hear, Kick Ass is only gonna’ stoke Hollywood’s fire. In Kick Ass he takes our real world and super charges it. There are no real super heroes but plenty of comics and comic book flicks. The main character, a Peter Parker-esque dweeb – wonders aloud why nobody had ever thought to become a super hero. Sure, they lack the powers but with a crazy costume, they could exact some vigilante justice. But, as the ending of Batman Begins hinted, once the heroes start wearing masks, where’s that leave the villains. We’re looking at escalation.
Vaughn is one of the more exciting directors working today. He cut his teeth as director Guy Ritchie’s hands-on producer and then directed Layer Cake, which arguably got Daniel Craig the Bond job. From there he was signed to helm X-Men 3, which he wisely quit when he saw the sorry state of the script. That flick’s producers tried to whitewash things and claim that Vaughn couldn’t handle a comic book flick and the extravagant effects work that comes with it, so Vaughn lobbed a public “f#$k you” by directing the magical Stardust, a movie that was bursting at the seams with imaginative visuals. He appends that sentence with his punctuation here – proving that not only can he make a comic book film but he aims to subvert the genre completely by choosing Millar’s insidious homage to the traditional original tale.
When Vaughn first grabbed the rights and started working on this pic, he did so on his own dime. After the initial screening, studios were falling all over themselves to grab the rights. When it hits in April, I predict a big splash and a very long career for the guy who refused to stare blindly in Hollywood’s sites when he could become his own “hit man”.
1. Inception – July
I love the way Christopher Nolan works. For starters, absolutely every film that he attaches himself to is so expertly constructed. Working with his screenwriting bro Jonathan, the two guys work out every kink of their screenplays making sure the wonderful puzzles they engineer are lock tight and fool proof. They originally hit the scene with the indie darling Memento, followed that with Insomnia,, then Batman Begins, The Prestige, and finally The Dark Knight. In each film, you can feel Nolan’s imprint. He knows how to envelope you with mood and suck you right into his twisting tales.
Batman Begins was arguably the film that brought Nolan to the mainstream and guaranteed him a long spell of autonomy. After all, he had resurrected a valuable, but dead, franchise for Warner Brothers and did so in a way that made the superhero genre something that demanded to be taken seriously. That goes a long way for a guy. Of course, the mammoth critical and financial success for The Dark Knight only imprinted the promise in titanium. Nolan would be free to make whatever flicks he wanted for Warner Brothers – provided he tossed them another Batman every once in awhile.
I love his road company approach to this stuff. After Batman Begins, Nolan took a little detour to film a neat little slice of speculative genre fiction, the adaption of the turn-of-the-century magician novel, The Prestige. Alongside Hugh Jackman, he brought some Batman Begins cohorts including Michael Caine and Christian Bale.
Now, as we await word of a Batman 3, Nolan has filled in the middle by writing and directing the forthcoming sci-fi mindbender, Inception. Like The Prestige, he’s populated this side project with some of his favorite performers including Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe and Caine. In addition, Leonardo DiCaprio takes the lead with Ellen Page in a big supporting role.
Aside from some enticing images in the teaser trailer that call to mind the great cult classic, Dark City, I know next to nothing about this flick – and that’s how I intend to keep it. Nolan has earned that unwavering faith. Right now, I’d argue that he is my favorite director – a conceit that makes this selection easy. Out of every flick on this list, Inception is the one I need to see on opening night.