New Year, New Anticipations
Here we are again. A Happy New Year to you all and, as is tradition, my list of the most anticipated films of the next 365 days. Wait, isn’t it a leap year? Ah well, let’s get on with it.
Indiana Jones, Batman and James Bond all in one year – toss in Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston and we’re looking at 1989 again. Weird.
2008 already has a promising summer on the way. Then again, 2007 also had a slate in the sultry months that could have been something special and we all see how that turned out. But this year’s tent poles should be something to behold indeed. When it comes to columns like these, I have to confess that my anticipations tend to lie toward the spectacle. That’s just my nature, but there are plenty of peripheral films I’m looking forward to as well. I’ll get to them in a moment.
On the whole, 2007 was a great year for films, I thought. I see my opinion is shared in many quarters, so we can all hold out hope that 2008 comes close to matching the quality of last year. There are some interesting projects in play, and the Oscar season, already bouncing around inside my head, should be a fun time of year once again. But from where I sit, these are the most promising films of the new year...
I fear that my anticipation for this may be totally founded in the clever and anticipatory marketing. Personally, I thought “The Blair Witch Project” was a steaming pile, and it boasted some similarities. But it’s hard not to be MODERATELY curious, and seeing the potential of a film like this, the creativity going into the visual concept and the overall edge of our seat anticipation for what exactly the monster is going to be, I have to say, they have me. Even still, a January release? I hope that isn’t the omen it tends to be.
Baz Luhrmann is one of the screen’s most original talents. “Strictly Ballroom” was a great initiation to his wonderfully neon personality, while “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” was a mind-bending twist on the classic tale that certainly has its fans, yours truly right there with them. “Moulin Rouge!,” however, was the height of Luhrmann’s genius in 2001 and remains the greatest musical of the modern era to my mind. And this year he is taking the work to his Australian homeland for an epic that has a lot of promise, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in what could be one of next year’s serious Oscar contenders.
8. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
I never read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story on which Eric Roth’s adaptation has been based, but nevertheless, I’m familiar enough with the concept of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” A man suddenly begins to age backwards. I get it. But there is so much that could be put into a feature length screenplay with that surface drama happening that I am dizzy with the possibilities. Even though I’m friendly with Roth these days, he’s also careful not to spill too much on the film (though his script is making the rounds, regardless). Building anticipation, one would imagine, but I also think there are some treats in store here. One thing I look forward to is how director David Fincher will combine the visual and makeup effects along the way to sell Brad Pitt in the lead role throughout. Should be dazzling.
I always look forward to Pixar films. I don’t know how you couldn’t. And “Wall-E” has its roots way back at the beginning of Pixar’s work a decade ago, finally coming to fruition in the summer of 2008. The trailers released so far haven’t offered a lot, though it’s clear the film will be a sound engineer’s dream, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Pixar team stretch creatively yet again. It seems to be what the studio was built for and, despite one or may two disappointments along the way, they always find the right marks in their productions.
6. “Iron Man”
Speaking of the summer of 2008, Jon Favreau seems to have one of the fanboy wet dreams in store for us in five months time. I’ll be in London when “Iron Man” releases, so I won’t be able to gauge the domestic reaction as well as I might have, but I imagine this long-anticipated comic book adaptation will be a global event for multitudes of fans. The casting of Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead was a stroke of genius, though Favreau continued to follow it up with inspired choices: Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow among them. The visual effects look, quite simply, off the chain, and at the end of the day, the Caped Crusader and Indy himself might have a run for their money at the box office.
I love David Mamet. I adore how “fuck you” he is about the solipsism in which his films wallow. “Spartan” was his last effort, a very respectable film that lived and breathed its own air, powered by a Val Kilmer performance of a character that seemed perfectly tailored to the star’s other-worldly aura (he’s a nut, folks). This time around, however, Mamet tackles the world of mixed martial arts fighting in “Redbelt,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor just waiting to break out in a star role. I came across a YouTube video recently where Mamet is going on and on about how boxing is “out,” that MMA is where it’s at, so, to say the least, he isn’t just picking a world and setting a film in it. He’s wrapped up in it as usual. Could be a blast, could be a piece, but I’m looking forward to the snappy dialogue as always.
4. “The Argentine”/”Guerilla”
Steven Soderbergh is on his way to pulling off what Clint Eastwood did last year, two films centered on the same subject in the same year. “The Argentine” and “Guerilla” will star Benicio Del Toro as Ernesto “Che” Guevera at different times in the revolutionary’s life. Though “Guerilla” was the first project conceived, it seems that “The Argentine” might be the bigger powerhouse of the two, but I can’t be too sure right now. Regardless, one film would have been worth the wait. Two is a Godsend given the actor in the lead, and should the navel-gazing director get out of his head long enough to produce something serviceable yet again, this one-two punch might be a significant player during the awards season.
If it hasn’t been made clear enough by now, I love westerns. If they ever made a Batman western, my readers know, I would literally explode. “Appaloosa” isn’t a Batman western, but it is Ed Harris’ second directorial effort as he stars alongside Viggo Mortensen in what could be a fantastic little adaptation in the New Line stable this year. The plot seems to be something like “The Magnificent Seven,” with two blokes rather than a posse, but suffice it to say I’ll be checking out the Robert B. Parker novel in due time. It’ll be interesting to see how Harris handles the reins on his second flick (I was quite a fan of 2000's “Pollock”), but I’m delighted it is an entry in this genre, and that studios also seem to be taking chances with the western yet again.
2. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
I’m scared to death. I’m literally terrified. Let alone the fact that the worst screenwriter on the planet is behind the page, but the Indiana Jones series probably should have remained in the eighties. Too much has changed for there to be the right kind of consistency, and really, I lose sleep at night thinking this film could be a massive blight on the trilogy’s glory. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I am a tad concerned. Regardless, how do you not perk up at the notion of Indy coming back to the big screen once again? In most circles, it’s probably the #1 most anticipated film of the year, but it’s a distant #2 for me. I just hope it all turns out in the wash. That “alien” head on the poster has me a bit perturbed, though.
1. “The Dark Knight”
It isn’t really a contest for me. In 2005, I kind of surprised more than a few readers when I chalked up “Sin City” as my most anticipated film as opposed to “Batman Begins.” A huge Bat-fanatic, it was indeed an odd choice on my part, but I had a great feeling about the former. Sadly, my anticipation was misplaced on Robert Rodriguez’s effort in the end. In any case, I’m not making the same mistake this year. Every little piece of info I get on “The Dark Knight” has me more and more excited. Though I am substantially more irritated by the marketing scheme than a lot of the fans out there (seriously…it’s getting tired), I am totally amped by materials when they do finally come along: posters, trailers, footage, etc. And, of course, I think Heath Ledger has something extraordinary in store for us all. Knowing that director Christopher Nolan has taken from the classic original Joker story in Batman #1 (the most ruthless depiction of the character aside from perhaps “The Killing Joke” – also a source for the film), I expect this to be something “dark” indeed. And bravo to those involved for having the balls to stick to that title and not toss a “Batman” at the beginning.
Other Anticipations of Note:
Classic Filmmakers Doing Their Thing
“Body of Lies” (Ridley Scott)
“The Changeling” (Clint Eastwood)
“Shine a Light” (Martin Scorsese)
Comedies Looking Up
“Burn After Reading” (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
“Leatherheads” (George Clooney)
“Pineapple Express” (David Gordon Green)
Films Showcasing (Hopefully) Strong Central Performances
“Blindness” (Fernando Meirelles)
“Frost/Nixon” (Ron Howard)
“Seven Pounds” (Gabriele Muccino)
Eye Candy and Popcorn Goodies
“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (Andrew Adamson)
“The Incredible Hulk” (Louis Leterrier)
“Red Cliff” (John Woo)