Monday, October 26, 2009

Onward and Downward

So it's October, 2009. Oscar season's really ramping up, and theoretically some of the best pictures of the year will be released.

So...when are the explosions again?

As if the weekly obsession with box office stats isn't enough, The London Times Online put up a piece today on the fifty films likely to dominate the box office next year. You know, because you won't see enough advertising between now and then, so journalists make sure to get in on it, too. There really are, in terms of entertainment reporting, few things more depressing than articles like this.

To be fair, they include a few films that do seem genuinely interesting - Chris Nolan's Inception and Paul Greengrass' The Green Zone most notably. Inception has the potential to be Nolan's best work yet (it certainly appears to be his most bold). For my money, he's doing some of, if not the best work in mainstream entertainment these days. If he'd clean up his form a little bit, he'd be on par with Hitchcock; like the Master of Suspense, Nolan excels at narratives that at once satisfy and subvert audience expectations, always towards exciting results. And Greengrass is the only guy I can think of who keeps getting away with making great, gripping films that tackle current events without turning them into a lesson.

Toy Story 3...and there you go. That's all you need. Ticket bought.

The Green Hornet has the potential to be either a Speed Racer-level success or a Spirit-level failure. Pluses include a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with Michel Gondry as a director. Minuses include...Michel Gondry as a director.

I wish I cared more about Shutter Island than it simply being a Martin Scorsese film, which instantly guarantees I'll see it. I wish he was doing more genuinely interesting work than just classing up a Se7en-style thriller. There's nothing wrong with movies like Shutter Island; I really do love them. But it hurts when directors this good spend their time on them.

And then there are major directors who established themsevles with great, early films, and have just gone downhill from there. I speak, of course, of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Both directors have been working in increasingly familiar territory, and...well, honestly, I can't find much to like in either of them. I love Blade Runner and Alien, but of all the films I've seen of his, nothing's been worth the time since those. And Burton...he's become as bland and predictable as Nancy Meyers.

As noted earlier, The Expendables will almost certainly kick ass. Stallone's really been on a roll with Rocky Balboa, Rambo, and now this. The A-Team would be completely irredeemable, save for the fact that it's directed by Joe Carnahan (he of Narc and Smokin' Aces). Otherwise, it gets shelved under "nerd nostalgia porn" along with Tron: Legacy, Predators, Clash of the Titans, and Red Dawn. You can already hear the clattering of keyboards as Facebook statuses are updated to reflect supposedly orgasmic reactions to all of these.

Along similar lines, Oliver Stone is going back to the 80s well to make a sequel to one of his worst films (and that's saying something) with Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (which is as awful a title as Hot Tub Time Machine is a great one). Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who realizes Shia LaBeouf, once again lured into doing totally bland work, is a good actor, and deserves a lot better movies than he gets. This is evidenced by him always being the best part of every movie he's been in since A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Except for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull...nothing was the best part of that.

There's another Chronicles of Narnia, Shrek, and Sex and the City, which means unless my girlfriend gets any ideas for the latter, those are three free weekends right there. And improbably enough, they're still making Resident Evil movies!

Oh, and from everything that's been put out there so far...Kick-Ass is going to do exactly what its title promises. Look into it a little, so when it's a District 9 level success you can brag about having talked about it before anyone else.

It goes without saying that the new Iron Man and Harry Potter films will almost certainly be worthwhile, right? Goes to show that hiring a team of great actors and putting the camera on a tripod can go a long way. Oh, and having a director with personality and vision to spare. I hope to God that making the last Harry Potter film a two-parter will give the thing some room to breathe - the series consistently has great endings that are too damn rushed, and never quite leave the desired impact.

Where the hell is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on this list? Edgar Wright can't even get some ink spilled in London? Or Paul for that matter? That even has Simon Pegg. Everyone loves Simon Pegg.

Not anywhere near the list of films that will make boatloads of money for other people, but are certainly on my most anticipated for 2010...Tree of Life, True Grit, Wild Grass (I mean, right there...Malick, the Coens, can keep your frickin' Tron), the Red Riding trilogy, A Prophet...hopefully Meek's Cutoff will be ready? There'll be others. Sundance will come. Cannes will come. The movies will come. They always do. For now, we can only look ahead to months and months of widgets and sigh.

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