Saturday, January 26, 2008

10 Most Anticipated Films of 2008


(Directed by Edward Zwick; Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell; Release date: 2008). This is possibly a major Oscar contender. Craig, Schreiber and Bell play Jewish brothers who escape from Nazi-occupied Poland and join Russian resistance fighters in the Belarussian forest. Potential awards-bait performances from the principal cast.

Dragonball (Directed by James Wong; Starring Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Emmy Rossum, Chow Yun-Fat; Release date: 15 August 2008) and Speed Racer (Directed by the Wachowski Brothers; Starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci; Release date: 9 May 2008). Two anime adaptations, the first from major Hollywood studios. My excitement over these projects is laced with great apprehension, particularly with Dragonball. Both films could go wrong in so many ways. And yet they may be crazy fun as heck.

Red Cliff (Directed by John Woo; Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhao Wei; Release date: 2008). Based on the Battle of Red Cliffs during ancient China's Three Kingdoms period, this could be the most visually pleasing film by the end of the year, not to mention the most epic in scale.

Star Trek (Directed by J.J. Abrams; Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin; Release date: 25 December 2008). It would be very interesting to see our beloved Star Trek crew back in their Federation days. A definite highlight would be how Kirk beats the Kobayashi Maru simulation (talked about in Wrath of Khan as one of the highlights of Kirk's career). I love the casting of Zachary "Sylar" Quinto as young Spock (the resemblance is uncanny), but the rest of the cast worries me. I hope my fears about this being some teen flick in space are unrealized.

Sunshine Cleaning (Directed by Christine Jeffs; Starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt; Release date: showing now at Sundance). Two of the hottest, most interesting actresses working today, Amy Adams (Enchanted) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), playing sisters in a dramedy. Need I say more?

Also: potential Oscar contenders The Argentine and Guerrilla (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Starring Benicio del Toro as Che Guevara), Australia (Directed by Baz Luhrman; Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Directed by David Fincher; Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett; Release date: 26 November 2008), Doubt (Directed by John Patrick Shanley; Starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman), The Time Traveler's Wife (Directed by Robert Schwentke; Starring Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana; Release date: 6 June 2008), and The Women (Directed by Diane English; Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Carrie Fisher, Jada Pinkett Smith).

10) Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf
Release date: 22 May 2008

This is bound to be one of the most exciting films of this year, and it would be great to go back to a character that my generation had learned to like a lot. But it's principally Cate Blanchett as a vicious Russian villainess Agent Spalko who has me geared up to watch this one.

9) Mamma Mia!

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters
Release date: 18 July 2008

I'm not that much into musicals BUT...I love ABBA songs, and I love Meryl Streep. Streep is great at comedy and actually has a good singing voice, so I'll be watching for this one!

8) The Countess

Directed by Julie Delpy
Starring Julie Delpy, William Hurt, Radha Mitchell, Vincent Gallo, Daniel Bruhl
Release date: 2008

Many films have been made about Erzebeth Bathory (there's actually another one this year starring Anna Friel of "Pushing Daisies"), but this one is directed by and stars Julie Delpy, one of France's most talented (she sings too!) and fascinating exports. Who can resist the idea of Delpy playing one of the most vilified women in history, she who was supposed to have bathed in the blood of virgins to keep her beauty? Lovely.

7) Iron Man

Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
Release date: 2 May 2008

Quite simply, the trailers and teaser posters look amazing. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is a bit of truly inspired casting. Can you believe how lucky we are to see Iron Man's iconic armor so resplendent in a live action film? I just wish they had Mandarin as the villain.

6) Revolutionary Road

Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates
Release date: 19 December 2008

In 1998, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet made movie magic and box office history with James Cameron's Titanic. This new film about a problematic 1950s suburban couple is unlikely to rake in as much money as the two's first pairing, but this might just be the vehicle for their first Oscars after three nominations for DiCaprio and five for Winslet. If anyone can take them there, it's probably Sam Mendes, who directed Kevin Spacey to his Oscar in the Best Picture winner American Beauty.

5) Diary of the Dead

Directed by George A. Romero
Release date: 15 February 2008

The king of zombie movies is back! No one does it like George A. Romero. Now he returns to the start of everything, when the zombie plague first appeared (same time-line as the original Night of the Living Dead), and he has a group of amateur documentary filmmakers filming the first shambling, flesh-eating undead ala The Blair Witch Project. It'd be like watching a documentary about true zombies!

4) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring Liam Neeson, Ben Barnes, William Moseley, Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes
Release date: 16 May 2008

Narnia is one of the most fascinating worlds in fantastic literature, and the first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was a fun and decent adaptation. Now we're going back to Narnia, and there's more war and less religious undertones. If only for WETA's wonderful designs of Narnia's myriad creatures, it's definitely going to be another great ride.

La Terza Madre

Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Asia Argento
Release date: February 2008

I choose to ignore the negative reviews. Nothing will keep away from this film. The mythology of the Three Sisters (Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, Mater Lacrymarum), the three most horrible witches in arcane history, is one of the most creepily fascinating in the horror film genre. Dario Argento, master of Italian gallo and horror, created a masterpiece in Suspiria and a decent sequel in Inferno. La Terza Madre (The Third Mother, or Mother of Tears) concludes the trilogy. I have to see this now!

2) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent
Release date: 21 November 2008

The films in the franchise have not necessarily been getting better (for me, the best is still the third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), but they have been consistently good. And they've been steadily getting darker. The sixth book is simply fantastic, second in emotional impact and epic scope only to the seventh, so it would be great to see how it translates into film with an older primary cast. Those who have read the book must know to watch for a great central performance from Alan Rickman after a few films of being relegated to the background.

1) The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Aaron Eckhart, Cillian Murphy
Release date: 18 July 2008

I'm not alone in citing this as the most anticipated film of 2008. Christopher Nolan took the franchise to a whole new realm with the slick Batman Begins, and Christian Bale was amazing as Bruce Wayne/Batman (perhaps the best, with apologies to Mr. Keaton). They're back, this time with Batman's arch-nemesis, perhaps one of the most fascinating, disturbing, and well realized characters in comic book history: The Joker. Whoever thought of casting the late Heath Ledger in the role is a genius. If the trailers and posters are any indication, he will be BRILLIANT as the Joker. It will probably still be a bit disconcerting to watch Ledger in such a maniacal role even come July, but at least his last completed film performance will be a thing to remember forever. Will Ledger be the first actor nominated for an Oscar for a role based on a comic book character? Let's hope so.

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