The 30 most-anticipated films of 2010 — Part One

30)  The First Gun — Zhang Yimou’s (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) slapstick remake of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple set 1,000 years ago. 'Nuff said!!

29)  Your Highness — After the disappointing Pineapple Express, I thought we'd be done with David Gordon Green’s Danny McBride and James Franco-led Stoner Comedies. But this one is a stoner comedy set in Medieval Times, so I guess I’m interested again. There seem to be more possibilities here, as the plot involves a prince and a warrior going on a mission to save a kingdom. Hopefully, there will be plenty of inappropriate laughs along the way. And the supporting cast looks damn good: Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Damian Lewis and Justin Theroux.


28)  Hadewijch — Controversial to say the least, Bruno Dumont’s (Twentynine Palms, Flanders) latest is an examination of religious faith. He is looking for the fine line that divides religious devotion and fanaticism. The IONCINEMA synopsis reads:

“The film is about a religious novice (Julie Sokolowski) whose ecstatic, blind faith leads to her expulsion from a convent. Returning to her former life, Hadewijch reverts to being Céline, a Parisienne and daughter of a diplomat. However, her passion for God, rage and encounters with Khaled and Nassir soon lead her down a dangerous path.”

IFC Films has bought up U.S. distribution for this one and should be releasing it on video-on-demand as well as select theaters. Here’s the French trailer:

27)  Somewhere — Looks like Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) could be pulling a Wrestler on us by attempting to resurrect the career of another fallen star, Stephen Dorff. Can’t wait to see the tagline on the poster: “Come witness the resurrection of Stephen Dorff.” The film is said to primarily take place in Hollywood’s legendary Château Marmot, where a hard-living movie star drinks his days away. That is, until his 11-year-old daughter pays him an unexpected visit. Can she save him from his destructive ways? Can Coppola save Dorff from direct-to-DVD hell? You’ll have to wait and see. The film contains original music by the French pop band Phoenix, and there is a supposed cameo by Benicio Del Toro. (No word on whether he is playing himself or not.) Michele Monahan and Elle Fanning round out the cast.

26)  Socialisme — French New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, ContemptVivre sa vie, Pierrot le fou) is getting political again (when has he not?) with his latest film — to which he credits six other filmmakers. I guess his latest will be an exploration/history lesson on the titular theme, and it takes place on a cruise liner and features Patti Smith for some reason. From the official synopsis:

“A symphony in three movements. Things such as: The Mediterranean, a cruise ship. Numerous conversations, in numerous languages, between the passengers, almost all of whom are on holiday… An old man, a war criminal (German, French, American we don?t know) accompanied by his granddaughter. A famous French philosopher (Alain Badiou). A representative of the Moscow police, detective branch. An American singer (Patti Smith). An old French policeman. A fired female United Nations officer. A former double agent. A Palestinian ambassador. It’s a matter of gold, as it was before with the Argonauts, but what is seen (the image) is very different from what is heard (the word). Our humanities. Visits to six sites of true or false myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona. Our Europe. At night, a sister and her younger brother have summoned their parents to appear before the court of their childhood. One of the parents in fact has to appear on television to stand as a candidate in the local elections at… The children demand serious explications of the themes of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”

Here is the bizarre preview:

25)  Untitled Mike Leigh Project — As usual, nothing is known about the plot of the film. Mike Leigh's films are always shrouded in mystery. But that doesn’t matter, as anything with the master filmmaker’s name attached is certain to be great. Since the late '80s he hasn’t made a single bad (or even mediocre) film. The cast includes Leigh regulars Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent. Look for a possible premiere at Cannes.

24) The Green Hornet — This film may be the epitome of cool. Michel Gondry is directing, Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) plays the villain, and newly trendy metal band Anvil is set to make an appearance. Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz star.

23)  Cemetery Junction — After the critical and box office disappointment of The Invention of Lying (although something tells me it may become a future cult-classic), Ricky Gervais and his directing partner Stephen Merchant march forth. Their latest has an unexpected subject mater, involving the trial of three upstart professional men working for an insurance company in the 1970s. The cast includes Gervais, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode and Ralph Fiennes.

22) The Rum Diary — Bruce Robinson, the famed director of Withnail and I (one of the all-time great comedies), adapts Hunter S. Thompson’s book about Paul Kemp, a freelance writer (not unlike Thompson himself) who faces a critical turning point in his life that leads him down a path of self-destruction. In not-so-shocking casting, Johnny Depp is playing the central character with Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard costarring. It will be interesting to see how Robinson films the material, this being his first film in nearly 20 years.

21)  Looking for Eric / Irish Route — We may find ourselves with a Ken Loach double feature this year. The first is a comedy of sorts: Looking for Eric has already opened in Europe to great acclaim for its genteel and wise portrait of an average football fan and postman whose life begins to fall apart. He seeks solace in the words of famously philosophical UK football star Eric Cantona (who plays himself).

The second (still in production as far as I can tell) is a politically charged piece about dirty Irish contractors in Iraq. Loach has never been shy about his feelings on England and America’s foreign policy in recent years, but this is the first time he is addressing those issues head-on. Route Irish tells the story of a private security contractor in Iraq who rejects the official examination of his friend’s death and sets out to find the truth. The film is certain to cause a stir.

20)  Iron Man 2 — Certain to be the biggest movie of the year, hopefully Iron Man 2 will be as good as the first one. It features the Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson in a tight black suit, Nice!) and Whiplash (Mickey Rourke, excellent, but less easy on the eyes), plus the film debut of War Machine. All awesome-sounding, I just hope Jon Favreau has the good sense to keep those wonderful dialogue scenes with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Their chemistry is unbelievable, and it’s what made the first Iron Man installment stand out so much.

19)  Meek’s Cutoff —  With 2008’s Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt took a simple story about a girl searching for her lost dog and turned it into one of the most moving film experiences in recent memory. She re-teams with Michelle Williams, who co-stars with Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan. Instead of filming one of her intimate present-day dramas, Reichardt has opted for a historical western centered on famed American mountaineer Steven Meek. The IONCINEMA synopsis:

“The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in each other's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy. “

18)  Greenburg — Noah Baumbach’s (The Squid and the Whale) follow-up to his polarizing Margot at the Wedding (a film I unabashedly love) sees him working with both A-list Hollywood (Ben Stiller) and Mumblecore favorites (Greta Gerwig and Mark Duplass). The film follows Greenberg (Stiller), a middle-aged slacker, as he tries to find his next step in life while house-sitting for his brother. Sparks fly when he meets Florence, his brother’s personal assistant. The most exciting aspect of the film seems to be Gerwig, who has potential to be a major star. Oh, and the second-most exciting aspect is that LCD Sound System has produced original music for the soundtrack.

17)  The Turin Horse — Bela Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies, The Man from London) is one of the greatest, most-daring filmmakers working today, but have you heard of him? His works are challenging and experimental in nature, and this one seems no different. Turin Horse is inspired by the famous episode that marked the end of Frederick Nietzsche's career. The IONCINEMA synopsis is fascinating:

“The film is freely inspired by an episode that marked the end of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s career. On January 3, 1889, on the piazza Alberto in Turin, a weeping Nietzsche flung his arms around an exhausted and ill-treated carriage horse, and then lost consciousness. After this event, the philosopher never wrote again and descended into madness and silence. From this starting point, The Turin Horse goes on to explore the lives of the coachman (Miroslav Krobot), his daughter (Erika Bók) and the horse in an atmosphere of poverty heralding the end of the world”

I told you this guy is a true original. On a sad note, it's rumored to be Tarr’s final film, making it essential to see it on the big screen.

16)  I Am Love (Io Sono L'Amore)Magnolia Pictures snatched up the rights for this one, a classy Italian melodrama by Luca Guadagnino. Tilda Swinton stars as a woman who turns her affluent family upside-down when she begins a forbidden love affair with a young cook. Hopefully there’s going to be buzz building on this one. Praise has been given not only to Swinton’s performance, but to the filmmaking and its exquisite attention to detail.

[Editor's Note: Read part 2 of this preview here.]

It’s a new year and a new decade. Here’s looking forward to a prosperous decade of cinema. Will it be known for a slew of sequels, comic book adaptations and funny cat videos like the '00s were? Or will it be remembered for groundbreaking and socially relevant cinema like in the 1970s? There’s a glimmer of hope for originality in film with the monumental success of Avatar and the unexpected success of Inglourious Basterds and District 9. Could they have turned the tide? Could this lead us into an era of blockbuster, auteur-driven cinema? Not likely, but one can still hope.

Let’s just focus on 2010 for now, as this year's lineup is extremely promising. Please note: There’s no guarantee the films on the list will be released in 2010. (Some haven't even begun filming yet.) The films on the list consist of festival favorites, announced summer blockbusters and overseas gems. So let’s hope all goes well and these films become widely available this year.

I worked hard on this, so you better bookmark this page for the rest of the year!

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