Sunday, March 23, 2008

Does Quality Lay Ahead? It certainly ain't behind us...

While we have a lot to look forward to, or at least I do, I'm finding this year to be a little lackluster so far. Granted, the January thru April period has never been known as being jam-packed with quality product, but there usually are a few small gems in there. Hell, this time last year, "Zodiac," "Black Snake Moan," "The Host," and "Reign Over Me" among others, had already had come out. This year, there seems to be a consistently lackluster output, where I'm having difficulty finding even "pretty good" things to recommend to people. There's only been three movies so far this year that I've been entirely won over by, and they hardly were universally well-received (for those curious, "In Bruges," "Be Kind Rewind" and "Cloverfield"). Other than those, there's just been a handful of cute/entertaining movies, some movies by exciting filmmakers that didn't quite reach their potential, and a whole lot of mediocrity-- and all I'll say is, this weekend's offerings don't look to offer much to break the trend. All I hope is that 2008 is just really rear-loaded with quality product. Looking at the year ahead, I've assembled a scattershot list of 10 things I'm really looking forward to; please let me know if there's anything I've missed or overlooked:

1. Burn After Reading

September 12th (wide)
(directors: Joel and Ethan Coen)
Cast: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
Synopsis: In this dark comedy caper, an ousted CIA official Osbourne Cox (Malkovich) finds his memoir/expose accidentally falling into the hands of two dim-witted D.C. gym employees (Pitt, McDormand), and a philandering Treasury agent (Clooney), intent on exploiting their find. Swinton plays Cox's wife.

2. Synecdoche, New York

(director: Charlie Kaufman)
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hope Davis, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener
Synopsis: A theater director (Hoffman) struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play. Writer Kaufman's directorial debut.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

December 19th (wide)
(dir: David Fincher)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, Elias Koteas, Julia Ormond
Synopsis: Adapted from the classic 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, telling the story of a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards. We follow his story set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the twenty-first century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man's life can be. It is a time traveler's tale of the people and places he bumps into along the way, the loves he loses and finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time.

4. Australia

November 14th (wide)
(dir: Baz Luhrrman)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham
Synopsis: A romantic action-adventure set in northern Australia prior to World War II, the film centers on an English aristocrat (Kidman) who inherits a ranch the size of Maryland. When English cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn cattle driver (Jackman) to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor only months earlier.

5. Grey Gardens

(dir: Michael Sucsy)
Cast: Jessica Lange, Drew Barrymore, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Daniel Baldwin
Synopsis: With a subject already been made into two documentaries and a Broadway musical, the film will tell the story of the early high-society heyday and later reclusive, languishing years of Big Edie (Lange) and Little Edie (Barrymore), the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Onassis who made headlines when the health department threatened to raid their flea-and-raccoon-infested 28-room East Hampton mansion.

6. Towelhead

August 15th (NY/LA)
(dir: Alan Ball)
Cast: Summer Bishil, Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, Maria Bello
Synopsis: "Towelhead" follows the dark, bold and shockingly funny life of Jasira, a 13-year-old Arab-American girl, as she navigates the confusing and frightening path of adolescence and her own sexual awakening.

7. The Brothers Bloom

October 24th (wide)
(dir: Rian Johnson)
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Robbie Coltrane
Synopsis: A con man (Brody) gets the tables turned on him by his girlfriend (Weisz), when he decides to perform one last con with his brother (Ruffalo) and their silent partner (Coltrane). From writer/director Rian Johnson ("Brick").

8. Tropic Thunder

August 15th (wide)
(dir: Ben Stiller)
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise
Synopsis: A comedy about five actors who go on location and find themselves relying on their boot camp experiences when they get stuck in a real war-like situation, Stiller stars as the headline actin star, Black plays an overweight gross-out comedian who's forced to kick his drug addiction while filming on location, and Downey Jr.plays the greatest actor of his generation and a four-time Oscar winner who has undergone controversial cosmetic surgery to play an African-American character in the film.

9. Iron Man

May 2 (wide)
(dir: Jon Favreau)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: Based upon Marvel's iconic Super Hero, "Iron Man" tells the story of Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

10. Zack & Miri Make a Porno

October 31 (wide)
(dir: Kevin Smith)
Cast: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Traci Lords, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes
Synopsis: This romantic comedy from writer/director Kevin Smith tells the story of Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Banks), two lifelong friends who are deep in debt and enlist the help of their friends to make a porno movie for some quick cash. But as everybody starts "doing" everybody, Zack and Miri realize that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought.


Blogger Max Evry said...

Nice list, dude. Agree with most of these. Def can't wait for Brothers Bloom, I expect great things from Rian. You should totally do a classic movie review sometime, pull an oldy off the shelf, I bet you could write up some cool things. Maybe you could do a column where you take a recent movie and compare it to an older one that's similar?


11:07 PM  
Blogger Piper said...

Lots of good stuff here.

Not sure that Kevin Smith has done any work recently that qualifies him to make any anticipated list but I do enjoy Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks.

5:06 PM  

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