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Author Topic: The Most Anticipated Movies Still to Come in 2009: Part One  (Read 9472 times)
Paul Martin
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« on: August 14, 2009, 10:36:00 PM »

The summer blockbuster season might be drawing to a close, with all the assorted Trekkers, Terminators and Transformers retreating back to their respective lairs to mull over sequel ideas, but this certainly does not signal a consequent paucity of cinematic treats hovering on the release date horizon. Quite the reverse in fact, as the four-and-a-bit months still remaining in 2009 will see many of the most hotly-anticipated films of the whole year finally bludgeoning their way into the multiplexes. So bearing this in mind, what follows is a selection of sixteen major movies which will hit the big screen between now and the moment the ball next drops in Times Square. And with the list encompassing such varied events as a zombie apocalypse, an Olympics year doomsday cataclysm, and some funky ninja shizzle, and featuring such esoteric characters as a platoon of Nazi-scalpers, a brain-chomping cheerleader, and the fiddle-twiddling tenant of 221B Baker Street, there is surely something here to offer excitement for all tastes. 

Inglourious Basterds – released 21 August

After the chop-socky homage of Kill Bill: Volume One, the spaghetti western styling of its sequel, and the mock-sploitation schlock of the Death Proof segment of Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino’s tour of blood-letting movie genres now takes him to occupied France, with the rapid-yakking auteur delivering his response to such behind-enemy-lines WWII flicks as Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen and indeed the 1978 Inglorious Bastards (of which Tarantino’s movie shares naught but the (ahem) bastardised version of its title). Inglourious Basterds premiered at Cannes earlier this year to a somewhat muddled response. While the performance of Christopher Waltz as Nazi rotter Hans Landa drew praise, as did the irreverent audacity of Tarantino’s take on the most traumatic conflict in global history, there was some grumbling about the truncated screen time of Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine and criticism of the dialogue-heavy screenplay. However, as the involvement of the likes of Pitt, Diane Kruger, Mike Myers and (on narration duties) Samuel L. Jackson readily testify, Tarantino is still a film-maker who actors fall over themselves to work with, and with parallel storylines converging in an assassination attempt on Hitler himself at the premiere of a Triumph of the Will-style Nazi propaganda extravaganza, it seems unlikely anyone will be able to moan about Inglourious Basterds being in any way short on incident.   

Jennifer’s Body – released 18 September

Her role in Transformers  may have been responsible for siring the somewhat dubious experience of being sat in a cinema where the entire male section of the audience were undergoing a simultaneous swelling of the groinal region, but one certainly can’t hold that against Megan Fox. And her star looks only set to continue its recent ascent with Jennifer’s Body, a high school horror comedy from the pen of Oscar-winning Juno writer Diablo Cody, in which Fox’s eponymous cheerleader is sacrificed by Adam Brody’s wannabe rock star Nikolai Wolf as part of his bid to land the most Faustian of record deals. However, the blood-letting all goes a bit awry and Jennifer begins chowing down on her fellow students in order to glut her demonic hunger. Directed by Girlfight and Æon Flux helmer Karyn Kusama, and co-starring Amanda Seyfried as “Needy” Lesnicky and Johnny Simmons as Chip Dove (sharing a character name with Matthew Modine’s rapist jock in Hotel New Hampshire), Jennifer’s Body appears an attempt to balance the kind of dark satire of high school society seen in Michael Lehmann’s Heathers with some outright genre thrills. Although whether the shocks contained within the movie itself can measure up to the horror of a soundtrack album featuring such haircut indie guitar goons as Black Kids, White Lies and Panic at the Disco remains to be seen.

Surrogates – released 25 September    

Derived from a comic book series by Robert Venditti, Surrogates finds Bruce Willis toplining his first full-on science-fiction saga since he cranked out Twelve Monkeys and The Fifth Element in fairly rapid succession in the mid-90s. The premise revolves around a future world in which the populace are housebound, their day-to-day interactions being conducted through idealised android versions of themselves - the surrogates of the title. Willis plays an FBI investigator who is called to look into the first homicide in many years, with that killing subsequently raising some major questions regarding the safety of the ubiquitous surrogate proxies. The trailer, depicting a bald and silver-bearded Bruce dispatching a version of himself (ludicrous syrup perched atop his scalp) out into the wider world, contains echoes of the 2004 Will Smith-starrer I, Robot - a central murder conspiracy again threatening to destabilise a seemingly utopian society. Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike and Ving Rhames all co-star, and the action sequences look as bombastic as you would expect from Rise of the Machines director Jonathan Mostow.               

Shutter Island – released 2 October

Shutter Island represents the fourth cinematic collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, with their last link-up on 2006’s The Departed having finally nabbed that long-overdue Oscar for the veteran director of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Based on a novel by Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone author Dennis Lehane, the story of Shutter Island finds two federal marshals (DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) arriving at a secluded maximum security mental institution, as they investigate the escape of a female patient. The trailer suggests a picture heavy with psychological spookiness, as DiCaprio uncovers disturbing goings-on at the asylum and clashes with Ben Kingsley’s administrative head and Max von Sydow’s physician. The 1950s milieu offers rabid cinephile Scorsese the opportunity to explicitly reference his favourite bygone movie thrillers, while DiCaprio seems to have brought his best tough guy voice to the party as he no doubt seeks to blow the whole case wide open.   

A Serious Man – released 2 October

Following on the heels of the Oscar-garlanded No Country for Old Men and superstar-festooned Burn After Reading, A Serious Man would appear a comparatively low-key offering from the Coen Brothers. Yet the adroitly-cut trailer has given cause for optimism that this 60s-set tale of a Minnesotan academic undergoing a personal crisis might just be the writer-director-producer siblings’ best outright comedy since The Big Lebowski. Michael Stuhlbarg stars as the bedevilled Larry Gopnik, whose home and work lives begin to simultaneously unravel, leaving him turning to his Jewish faith for guidance. The cast of A Serious Man is made up of expressive character actors rather than the glistening Hollywood fizzogs of Burn After Reading, and the broad madcap comic approach of that latter movie and the Coens’ Ladykillers remake would seem to have been abandoned in favour of a dry, darkly ironic humour, closer in tone to Fargo and Lebowski

Zombieland – released 9 October 

The odd couple pairing of macho Woody Harrelson and weedy Jesse Eisenberg join forces in a bid to stay alive as a zombie plague sweeps America in this jokey take on undead infestation from director Rueben Fleischer. Harrelson plays zombie-marauding cowboy Tallahassee, in a role which sees the actor melding the homespun charm of Cheers’ Woody Boyd with the carnage-causing capacity of Natural Born Killers’ Mickey Knox. Aside from busting open cadaverous craniums, Zombieland also apparently sets Tallahassee the task of tracking down the planet’s last remaining Twinkie, in what must be the most significant genre pic mention of the famed snack bar since Ghostbusters’ Egon Spengler used one to illustrate the increased spirit activity in the Manhattan area. And speaking of Ghostbusters, Bill Murray is also rumoured to have a cameo in Fleischer’s film as one of the unfortunate ghouls.     

Where the Wild Things Are – released 16 October

Maurice Sendak’s illustrated children’s book from 1963 finally receives the full cinematic treatment - Being John Malkovich and Adaptation director Spike Jonze teaming up with Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius writer Dave Eggers to try and transmute Where the Wild Things Are into a crowd-pleasing feature. The story depicts schoolboy Max’s (Max Records) mental escape from the drudgery of reality via imaginative trips to a faraway land, where he encounters and reigns over the Wild Things of the title (voices for this company of creatures being provided by James Gandolfini, Catherine O’ Hara, Paul Dano and Forest Whitaker, amongst others). The recently released trailer suggests Jonze and Eggers have expanded Sendak’s scenario through greater in-depth exploration of Max’s real-world life, both at school and at home with mum Connie (Catherine Keener). This in turn presumably will provide rationale for the constitution of his confabulated Land of the Wild Things, as well as motivation for his ultimate decision to turn his back on his kingdom.     

The Box – released 6 November

After the catastrophic reception afforded to the much-delayed Southland Tales, writer-director Richard Kelly will surely be hoping to recover some of the goodwill engendered by his earlier Donnie Darko when his adaptation of I Am Legend and Incredible Shrinking Man writer Richard Matheson’s short story Button, Button arrives in movie theatres on 6 November. Set in the 1976, The Box is a high-concept supernatural thriller which sees handsome married couple Cameron Diaz and James Marsden taking delivery of the titular cuboid, finding it contains only a red button. They are visited by the scarred Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), who advises them that pressing the button will result in financial fortune for them but will also cause the death of a stranger somewhere else in the world. The trailer suggests Kelly has opened out Matheson’s basic scenario significantly, with the blend of 70s setting and slightly camp creepiness offering an echo of the original version of The Omen.

A Christmas Carol – released 6 November

If you were trying to think of the ideal role for craggy-faced British thespian Gary Oldman, then Tiny Tim, the limping little cherub from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, would probably appear somewhere near the bottom of any compiled list. But, thanks to the digital hocus-pocus offered by Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis’s continuing experiments in 3D motion capture cinema, this November will see the erstwhile Commissioner Jim Gordon being given the, surely once-in-a-lifetime, chance to play a sickly child in Victorian London. Starring in this latest of countless movie versions of Dickens’ classic tale is Jim Carrey, who not only tackles the lead of Ebeneezer Scrooge but also plays all three of the Ghosts who visit the curmudgeonly miser on a fateful Christmas Eve. As noted, Oldman is Tiny Tim, and he is also playing that character’s father Bob Cratchit, as well as Scrooge’s deceased business partner Jacob Marley.   

2012 – released 13 November

In Independence Day, it was extraterrestrial invaders. In The Day After Tomorrow, it was climate change. And now 2012 finds director Roland Emmerich utilising Mayan doomsday prophecies as the flimsy excuse for some planet-devastating action. Fun bits of iconic destruction appear to be again on the film-maker’s agenda, with the trailer showing Rio’s Christ the Redeemer crumbling away, the Washington Monument toppling, and the Vatican collapsing on a multitude of massed worshippers (you can almost hear Emmerich yelling “Yield to the majesty of CGI, you poor superstitious fools!”). John Cusack is the everyman at the head of the ensemble cast, with support coming from Woody Harrelson as an ignored doom-monger, and Danny Glover, offering a calming presence in the White House hot seat. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox – released 13 November

Eyebrows recently drifted in a skyward direction when the trailer finally appeared for this stop-motion movie take on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Because, on cursory inspection, this latest directorial offering from Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic creative mastermind Wes Anderson seemed to lack the degree of polish that audiences have come to expect from their cinematic animations. However close inspection of the footage suggests a prospective viewing experience very much in-keeping with the lo-fi creative aesthetic of such prior Anderson efforts as Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, with ideas and capering invention taking precedence over Rolls Royce slickness. Not that there is anything ramshackle about the A-list vocal cast, which features the likes of Bill Murray, Angelica Houston, Meryl Streep, and George Clooney as Mr. Fox himself.

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