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GoodGameTV Video Upgrade - November 23rd, 2010

Dear Users,


We will be upgrading video quality of (almost) all videos in the upcoming months. Please be patient and if you notice any particular titles whose video needs to improve, please let us know via our Feedback button at the bottom of the page, and we will try and accommodate as best as we can. Thanks for your patience.

GoodGameTV Partners with Anime.com, Inc - November 10th, 2010

New York, NY. — November 10, 2010

GoodGameTV, LLC is proud to announce a partnership with Anime.com, Inc. to immediately deploy and test its Video On Demand services in the coming months on the Anime.com website.

Initial phases of the test include trailer links from Anime.com to GoodGameTV with plans of an eventual transition to a more permanent, fully-featured service on the Anime.com website. “With this partnership, we think this could be a new industry platform that transforms the way we perceive and consume media,” says Brian Tang, co-founder of GoodGameTV. “We’re very excited about this opportunity to work with Anime.com to roll out our technology at a high profile venue.”

Of the partnership Anime.com, Inc. publisher Michael Pinto stated “What I love about the idea of working with GoodGameTV is that they provide licensors with an immediate opportunity to get their content to fans legally and at a reasonable fee, so it’s a true win/win for everyone. And as longtime supporters of the industry we feel strongly that GoodGameTV is a welcomed game changer.”

GoodGameTV is an online Video on Demand service and streaming content system that focuses on marketing and selling licensed genre titles to niche audiences.

Anime.com is the premier online destination for anime fans and features articles and reviews of anime TV series and feature films, manga, cosplay, and pop culture trends from Japan.

GoodGameTV Launches at Comic Con - October 19th, 2010

New York, New York August 9, 2010

GoodGameTV, LLC launched at New York Comic Con October 8, 2010. The booth, #1669, was located right next to Sega, Fox, IGN/Sprint, and Animal Planet in the main exhibitor's hall. The launch was a success with its many programming contests, including "Debra'd by Debuffed," a popular adult-themed contest, a Comic Con trivia quiz hosted by Gamer Reaction, and a "Rage Quitting Impressions" show hosted by Road to Pro, later to be made into a montage.

GoodGameTV also performed several interviews including with the Hip Hop Gamer and My Talk Radio among others.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements coming soon.

Comic Con 2010 Promo Sale - October 7th, 2010

In honor of NY Comic Con 2010, we are giving away 1 free movie! Just pick out what you want to watch, check out, and the first one is on us. Enjoy!

goodgameTV Signs Right Stuf, Inc. - August 9th, 2010

New York, New York August 9, 2010

goodgameTV, LLC signs a deal with Right Stuf, Inc to distribute their online anime catalog with popular titles including, Boogie Pop Phantom, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, and the classic Astro Boy.

With a starting package of over 170 hours of content runtime with more releases on the way, Right Stuf is best known for its numerous Japanese anime series and industry-leading production and translation work.

goodgameTV plans to launch fall 2010 at New York Comic Convention and will sell all content as Video On Demand to a 18-40 niche demographic.

 

Pioneer One Lands on goodgameTV - July 22nd, 2010

New York, NY. — July 22, 2010

goodgameTV, LLC has signed with LastSat Productions to distribute the upcoming series, Pioneer One.

Pioneer One is a 2010 six-part dramatic series by independent filmmakers Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith with a planned total runtime of over three hours. With the pilot reaching widespread success of over 470,000 downloads within the first month of distribution, pre-production is already underway for the rest of the show. The show is expected to have episodes ready for distribution by late 2010 or early 2011.

goodgameTV’s role is to help commercialize and monetize this project so that the creative team and talent can sustain itself for continued production of future seasons. In addition to distribution, goodgameTV members have personally contributed to their fundraising campaign to help realize their project.

 

goodgameTV Signs Media Blasters Inc. - July 19th, 2010

New York, NY. July 20, 2010

goodgameTV, LLC has inked a deal with Media Blasters Inc. to distribute their online video titles, including such cult hits as Death Trance, Smash Cut, and anime series Ah! My Goddess.

The Media Blasters package of titles includes over thirty full-length feature films and ten Japanese anime series in all, totaling over one-hundred fifty hours of genre content.

goodgameTV plans to launch fall 2010 and will sell all content as Video On Demand to a 18-40 niche demographic.

Stay tuned for more exciting goodgameTV announcements coming soon.

 

goodgameTV Hires Carl Macek as new Director of Content Development - March 9th, 2010

New York, NY.  March 10, 2010

goodgameTV, LLC announced the appointment of Carl Macek as the new Director of Content Development effective as of March 1, 2010.  Macek’s main responsibility for goodgameTV is to cultivate key relationships with premium content producers and acquire content licenses for exclusive distribution on goodgameTV.com.

“Carl is a respected figure in the entertainment industry.  His work with Robotech as well as many other anime, films, and studio projects have left a lasting influence on pop culture over the last two decades,” says Brian Tang, co-founder of goodgameTV. “More importantly, his track record and experience as the co-founder and president of Streamline Pictures proves that he knows what we’re going for and how to get it done.  If he can achieve success with goodgameTV as he did with Streamline, watch out.”

Macek attended California State University, Fullerton earning a degree in the theory and criticism of visual media and has over thirty years of experience in the entertainment industry.  He is most known as the creator and guiding force behind Robotech - a popular and influential 85-episode animated television series.  Macek later founded Streamline Pictures, one of the first American companies to successfully deal with the acquisition and distribution of Japanese animation to the domestic American market. Among the many titles released by Streamline are Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Fist of the North Star, Akira, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, and Lupin III: Mystery of Mamo. Streamline’s distribution business was ultimately assigned to Orion Pictures, freeing Macek up to pursue more creative pursuits.

Impact in Film

Macek is largely credited with exposing and proliferating Japanese animation to the US market.  Many of the films he worked on or distributed are arguably the most influential and famous anime titles to-date and are universally recognized as genre classics.  These works have later gone on to inspire many aesthetic styles and storytelling methods in the American cartoon industry.

Macek is a staple guest celebrity in the comic book and anime convention scene and is one of the more recognizable names in the American animation industry.

About goodgameTV

goodgameTV is an internet-based VoD network streaming original and exclusive premium content themed around videos “inspired by games.”  Their goal is to create a profitable digital distribution alternative for commercial-grade videos themed around a niche genre. The company is based in New York, New York. 

More information can be found online at http://www.goodgametv.com.

 

Gamer Syndrome - February 22nd, 2010

goodgameTV is pleased to announce Gamer Syndrome as a new affiliate partner.  For great game reviews and podcast commentaries, please visit http://gamersyndrome.com/ to hear the latest!

Site Transformation - February 3rd, 2010

goodgameTV is currently undergoing site tranformation to simplify site usage and place more emphasis on the content.  We will also be removing the Subscription System in favor of a VoD system.

These upcoming changes will make a substantial impact on our home page aesthetics and navigation.

Site construction should be finished by late March/early April.  These improvements will help us deliver more simply to our viewers, but also give us more flexibility to attract premium content makers.

Thanks for your patience.

Game Hub - February 3rd, 2010

goodgameTV is proud to announce Game Hub as an affiliate partner.  For a great video game news blog with a UK slant, check out http://www.game-hub.co.uk.

Bringit to be featured on Road to Pro - January 18th, 2010

Look for upcoming tourney site Bringit.com to be featured on future episodes of Road to Pro, our reality show about competitive gamers trying to make it in the burgeoning world of professional gaming.

GDN Write-up - December 20th, 2009

Chris Rick of Gamer's Daily News takes an in-depth look at our various shows:

 

http://www.gamersdailynews.com/articlenav-2259-page-1.html

BreakYourController Write-up - December 14th, 2009

Many thanks to Michael Tenzer of BreakYourController for another inspiring write-up!:

 

http://breakyourcontroller.blogspot.com/2009/12/marrying-internet-tv-and-video-games.html

1 Month Free! - November 24th, 2009

When you decide to subscribe and support us, you automatically get the first month free!

After your 10 day free trial expires, just click on "Subscribe" and enter your payment information. You will not be billed until four weeks after your subscription date. This gives you four FREE weeks to watch new episodes of our shows.

If at any time you decide to cancel your subscription, just go to your Control Panel under My Account and terminate your subscription. It's that easy.

There is no catch, no strings attached. We want you to see for yourself and love the direction of our shows and our vision.

Thanks for this chance to show you what we can do

Videogamegeek Write Up - November 6th, 2009

We just got our first write-up since launch on "VideoGameGeek's" blog.  Check it out! 

http://www.videogamegeek.com/2009/11/05/goodgametv-launches/. 

Digg it if you approve.

"No Reset" Coming Soon - October 28th, 2009
goodgameTV and Alien Bucket Productions are proud to bring you the pilot for our next show: "No Reset".

What ever happened to friends coming over to crash the night to play the latest game? Life was much simpler then. As we grow up, things keep changing all around us, it's just not that easy anymore.

"No Reset" is a comedy about five friends struggling with different issues of post-grad life in NYC. From life to love to career, it just seems impossible figuring it all out.

At least their trials are made bearable by their love of video games, sarcasm, beer, and each other.

The "No Reset" pilot stars Harry Ford, Amanda Lippert, Caitlin Gold, Tim Shelton, and Jade Rothman. The writers, Jenny Spragg and Matthew Klane, are known respectively for their local NYC plays and writing for National Lampoons. Forever, they've been thinking about doing a show featuring gaming, their favorite past-time.

Due to budget and production limitations, this show will be "greenlighted" for production when we reach 6,000 subscribers. If you want to see this show become a reality, please subscribe and tell all your friends!
5,000 Friends - October 26th, 2009
Join us in the "5,000 Friends" program. goodgameTV will give the first 5,000 Subscribers special sneak peeks to all upcoming shows well before the trailers come out, a personal thank you video from our staff, and a Prestige Badge on user profiles in the forum.

The Prestige Badge will enable all Subscribers with this designation special access to limited inventory once the Online Store is launched.

Come be a part of the Original 5,000 and remember to tell your friends!
Enjoy the Previews! - October 15th, 2009
goodgameTV is proud to bring you our exciting lineup of shows during our inaugural launch. Please enjoy one episode of each show for free.

If you like the shows and want to see future episodes, please subscribe and tell all of your friends.

Sit back, relax, and get your popcorn on!
goodgameTV Official Launch - August 28th, 2009
goodgameTV is the celebration of our gaming history and future. It's the coming together of gamer friends to talk about and show the world what it is that we're so passionate about. But it's done in a way that's painstakingly thoughtful and creative so that we can grab the world's attention and say "Hey, you idiots, this is who we are and this is what we want!" No more over-the-counter sellout shows, games, and products, no more industry "experts" who don't even play games shoving "content we want" down our throats. This is about us, from the perspective of a gamer, thinking long and hard about what it is that we actually want and doing it.

After a full year of hard work and lots of twists and turns, we've finally arrived. To get here was no small task.

Our coming together was made possible back in 2006 at a store named NYCLAN, a gamer's Mecca in Manhattan. That game center was where we all met, LAN'd, played tournaments, made our first shows, and became friends. It's also where we immersed ourselves into the gaming world beyond any casual or competitive gamer or industry insider. Because we lived, ate, and breathed this world 24/7 beyond what any one gamer, developer, or marketer is ever exposed to - everyday was a conversation with hundreds of gamers about their respective lifestyles and regarding deep philosophical debates about the games themselves. We received so much insight, feedback, and most importantly, inspiration to do something and put it all together.

In early 2008, we started assembling our team. What was just a hobby, a fleeting topic that we discussed but never actually pursued, was now our mission set in motion. Friends of NYCLAN: video production crews, web programmers, techies, business and financial veterans - all hardcore gamers, were all on the same path to realize our one goal. What we didn't yet anticipate was how hard this goal would be.

At first the thought was to get a "rapid prototype" and then to pitch to investors. Both were achieved with pitches generating moderate, not explosive interest. How could this be when we were jumping for joy at the thought of this concept? Investors seemed very tempered about everything, always a poker face with nobody ever anteing up. We were all frustrated.

Hindsight is 20-20 and now we know the reason. In any other year with any other conditions, I'm sure we would have been a hit. The economic downturn and financial crisis in NYC, the country, and the world had left investor coiffeurs barren. Nobody was getting funding, everybody was frustrated. Furthermore, the double-whammy of the media-industry meltdown and the disappearance of advertisement dollars kept all would-be investors at bay.

So we went back to the drawing board. How do we prove that media isn't dying and that there is a way to actually create a real business out of this? How do we offset the seemingly uncontrollable costs of bandwidth and content? Is it even possible to do it just by ourselves without money from others, especially because there was no money? It was after so many conversations with techies, business people, and producers that we finally found the answer. We had to revamp our entire approach and mentality and scrapped our old prototype. We were going to self-fund the entire project with our own savings and paychecks and start it super old-school, grass-roots style. Motivating ourselves to start over fresh was tough, but we believed enough to do it.

So here we are one year later. The production teams on board are by far the strongest, most stable, and most committed to the goal. They are our teammates and we live and die by them. The technology is completely redesigned: better, sleeker, and newer. The business is fresh and exciting and designed to be a real, long-lasting enterprise.

We thank our cast members, production crews, programmers, technologists, business minds, friends, and family. If we were to miss just one of these ingredients, the whole thing would have collapsed. But everyone believed in us and stuck with us, and here we are. It's been a long and bumpy ride, but we finally made it. And now our story is just beginning.

Thank you so much, everyone.

And dear viewer, please take the time to consider what we're doing, what we're on the verge of, and decide if you want to help support us.

We're on a pretty tight budget (by pretty tight, I mean REALLY tight). Your continued support, belief in us, and help spreading the word will grow our ability to make better content for you. What we have here at Launch Day is a sampling of what we can do with our meager resources. The more Subscribers we get, the exponentially better our content will become. That's our promise.

If you choose to subscribe, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of something that we think is so special - the beginning of the internet-TV gaming revolution.
First Review goodgameTV - July 14th, 2008

While researching, we stumbled upon a random review site, thatguywiththeglasses.com, that had randomly reviewed goodgameTV.  This marks our first official critic review.  He describes goodgameTV as "a 'TV' station where it attempts to be G4 if G4 really cares about videogames" and sums up with: "bottom line? I say this site has some real potential and something to keep an eye on."  We're very pleased with this feedback and are very excited for the future.

Sarcastic Gamer Anniversary - June 13th, 2008

goodgameTV Partner, Sarcastic Gamer, celebrates its first birthday this week (June 11th) with its latest parody song of Nintendo's latest peripheral and game experience, Wii Fit. The music video, featuring SG's "Dave" Cothran as the fat guy, is now available on Youtube and on the Sarcastic Gamer site.

goodgameTV Launches - June 13th, 2008

goodgameTV celebrated its first official Content Update, hence launch, on Friday, June 6th.  Months of preparation culminated in our first successful update.  A sincere thank you is in order to all the staff and production teams involved for helping us make this possible.

Industry News

Christian Bale is set to star in "Hero" filmmaker Zhang Yimou's upcoming epic "Nanjing Heroes" says The Hollywood Reporter.

The story deals with the famed Nanjing Massacre when Japanese troops killed thousands of Chinese citizens in what was then the nation's capital in 1937. There have been various films about the subject matter lately, most about German businessman John Rabe who helped save hundreds of Chinese refugees.

Bale isn't playing Rabe, rather an American priest called John who helps a great number of Chinese escape certain death. The film will be shot about 40% in English and the rest in Mandarin Chinese.

Yan and Liu Heng penned the script while Zhang Weiping will produce. Dark Side FX ("Rambo," "Band of Brothers") will be handling the visual effects with the help of a $90 million budget said to be on par with John Woo's "Red Cliff".

Shooting kicks off January 10th in a Republican Era (1911-1949) replica church built near Nanjing. Bale will shoot the project before he begins work on "The Dark Knight".

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Electronic Arts is developing "Madden Curse," a sports comedy feature that explores an infamous jinx that seems to strike NFL players who appear on the cover of EA's popular "Madden" video game series with career shortening injuries shortly after reports The Wrap.

The story will follow a former Madden video game champion who is forced out of retirement just as he finds himself on the corner of the game's cover -- and subject to the curse.

NFL legend John Madden appeared on the cover of all Madden games until 1999. Since then annual cover boys have included 1999's Garrison Hearst (who then broke his fibula), 2000's Dorsey Levens (knee injury), 2001's Eddie George (general decline), 2002's Dante Culpepper (knee injury), 2003's Marshall Faulk (ankle injury), 2004's Michael Vick (broken leg), 2005's Ray Lewis (torn hamstring), 2006's Donovan McNabb (sports hernia), 2007's Shaun Alexander (broken foot), and 2008's Vince Young (quads & knee injury).

2009's Brett Favre so far seems to have survive unscathed, while this year's dual cover stars Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald suffered a torn PCL and a rib injury respectively. Pat O'Brien will produce the feature.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Featurettes (2)

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Catch .44
Opens: 2011
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Bruce Willis, Malin Akerman, Nikki Reed, Deborah Ann Woll
Director: Aaron Harvey

Summary: The story focuses on three women being thrust into an extraordinary situation involving a psychopathic hitman, a grizzled trucker and a delusional line cook.

Analysis: Oddly little is known about this indie crime comedy aside from the three lead female roles have gone through more than a couple of rounds of casting musical chairs. The likes of Maggie Grace, Kate Mara, Laura Ramsey, Sarah Roemer, Lizzy Caplan and Lauren German were all attached at one point or another before the final trio of Malin Akerman ("Watchmen"), Nikki Reed ("Twilight") and Deborah Ann Woll ("True Blood") were settled on.

Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, Michael Rosenbaum and Brad Dourif also star with Willis as a crime boss behind everything that happens and Whitaker as a dangerously unstable assassin. Aaron Harvey, who last directed the little seen "The Evil Woods", helms the project which was shot in Louisiana this past summer.

More than seventeen producers are credited on this which seems a little drastic for such a relatively modest revenge meets exploitation flick. With fewer action films offering leading roles to women these days though (let alone having multiple lead female roles), best to enjoy them where you can.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Opens: 2011
Cast: Werner Herzog, Charles Fathy
Director: Werner Herzog

Summary: Acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting.

Analysis: That crazy German is back and continuing his recent trend of mixing and mashing his resume with both distinct features and fascinating nature-inspired documentaries. Herzog followed up his enjoyable Antarctica-set "Encounters at the End of the World" doco in 2007 with the demented "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans". Despite mixed reviews and poor box-office, 'Lieutenant' has oddly enough begun to develop a loyal cult following. Herzog's last film however, "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done", remains a barely seen true crime tale.

Then in Toronto last year Herzog premiered this 3D doco exploring the oldest known example of human artistic expression - 35,000 year old rock paintings tucked away in caves in southern France. Using special lights that emit no heat, Herzog was granted access to the caves which few have been allowed to see due to fears of the damage that overexposure could cause. The resulting footage is the kind that actually seems a great fit for 3D technology and, combined with Herzog's unique and often imitated narrative style, it's no wonder the project has scored stellar reviews so far.

The few criticisms were pointed at Herzog going off on his usual over the top tangents at certain points, but most reviews agreed it's a slightly tighter and more controlled effort than 'Encounters', while the 3D is said to be tasteful and restrained. Distribution rights were quickly snapped up by IFC Films who'll no doubt give it a healthy but rather limited release. It may be a film you'll have to track down to see, but I get the feeling it's one of the few docos that'll be worth a watch on the big screen. Almost certainly it'll make great Blu-ray demo material.

Cedar Rapids
Opens: February 11th 2011
Cast: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver, Alia Shawkat, Anne Heche
Director: Miguel Arteta

Summary: The story centers on a wholesome and naive small-town Wisconsin man (Helms), who, when his role model dies, must represent his company at a regional insurance conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the big-town experience.

Analysis: After modest success with "The Good Girl" back in 2002 and an outright critical and commercial flop with last year's Michael Cera-led comedy "Youth in Revolt", director Miguel Arteta tries out this broad comedy with former "The Daily Show" correspondent and "The Hangover" star Ed Helms. The Sundance Film Festival people certainly saw something they liked as 'Cedar' is set to get its world premiere in Utah next month where its reception will likely play a big part in how its release a few weeks later will be handled.

Certainly with cast members like Reilly, Heche and Weaver on hand, there's a lot of hope that this could be a fun time so long as the humour avoids playing it either too safe or silly. Unlike 'Youth', which fell victim to the internal problems of distributor The Weinstein Company, 'Cedar' is in safe hands with Fox Searchlight though the relatively limited theatrical run means word of mouth will be crucial here.

Ceremony
Opens: April 8th 2011
Cast: Michael Angarano, Uma Thurman, Lee Pace, Jake M. Johnson, Rebecca Mader
Director: Max Winkler

Summary: A young man falls hard for an older woman about to be married. The infatuation prompts him to take along his unwitting friend to a beach town in an effort to break up the wedding. Upon arriving, the young men quickly realize just how out of place they are among the stately British groom-to-be and his guests.

Analysis: Another film which premiered in Toronto this year, this indie coming-of-age laugher from first-time filmmaker Max Winkler had solid reviews and was quickly picked up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution. Angarano's performance as the fast-talking guy infatuated with an older woman is praised, as is Winkler's assured direction and early pacing. The lack of a cohesive story, underdeveloped supporting characters and little chemistry between the leads however were singled out - three things crucial to any rom-com.

Certainly it's difficult to sympathise with an arrogant and delusional young man attempting to win the love of the object of his affection by disrupting her wedding. "Pushing Daisies" actor Lee Pace stars as the groom, a documentary filmmaker said to behave like a blend of Jacques Costeau and Steve Irwin, while Jake M. Johnson plays an overly earnest sibling pulled along for the trip. Both are caricatures through and through, yet certainly sound more interesting than anything else going on in the film. What is nice to see though is Thurman getting to play a more mature and classier romantic female lead than she has had the opportunity to play in recent years.

Certified Copy
Opens: 2011
Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Adrian Moore, Andrea Laurenzi
Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Summary: In Tuscany a French antiques dealer spends a day with the British writer of a recently-published book discussing on the value of copies in art. As the film progresses it is left unclear as to whether they are a married couple attempting to rekindle their relationship by pretending to be strangers, or strangers playing the part of a couple.

Analysis: Having already opened across most of the world this year, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's talk-driven feature scored Juliette Binoche a Best Actress award in Cannes and has received strong reviews in many publications. Despite what you may think, the dialogue is English and the setting is Tuscany where Binoche and British opera singer William Shimell engage in long and quite personal conversations deconstructing how perspective can affect our emotional reactions to art, life and love.

More interesting is how this strongly humanist director deals with the relationship of the two - are they friends, husband & wife, estranged lovers? Those who like neat and tidy answers will loathe this film which is all about stripping away the built-in prejudices and expectations we place on things and just enjoying them for what they are - a tougher thing to do than you might expect.

It's an adult film, for adults, that indulges itself in emotional and academic shades of grey like a cat stretching out on a fur rug. A puzzling film in no hurry to be solved, and for that it deserves a lot of respect. IFC Films will release it around March in the U.S., more exciting though will be a potential Criterion release later in the year.

Chalet Girl
Opens: 2011
Cast: Ed Westwick, Bill Nighy, Felicity Jones, Brooke Shields, Sophia Bush
Director: Phil Traill

Summary: Pretty tomboy Kim Matthews, 19, used to be a champion skateboarder. Now she's scored a catering job in the one of the most exclusive chalets in the Alps. Initially baffled by this bizarre new world of posh people, and falling for her handsome but taken boss, she soon discovers the thrill snowboarding and must overcome her fears.

Analysis: People love an asshole, which partly explains why the "Gossip Girl" resident bad boy character Chuck Bass has become the teen drama's biggest draw. After the prettiness of Chace Crawford became passe and the premise of the show itself wore thin, 'Gossip' has found new strength with British actor Ed Westwick's well-dressed, over-privileged arrogant bastard of a character pulling in a fresh audience and becoming something of a minor icon in the actor's own home country. A kind of modern-day Blackadder character with far less wit but a better cut of suit.

That partly explains why this very tedious sounding little British rom-com got the green light. Director Phil Triall's feature directorial debut was 2009's critical disaster "All About Steve" and the script is by an unknown scribe, yet that hasn't stopped various UK actors like Bill Nighy, Felicity Jones, Tamsin Egerton and comedian Bill Bailey from signing onboard.

Brooke Shields and the best thing ever to come out of "One Tree Hill", Sophia Bush, are also involved in this tale of a boy and girl from different classes falling in love despite all those around them telling them it'll never work. A recent trailer shows it to be exactly what you'd expect, complete with a few catty remarks from spoilt rich girls about the 'ugly duckling'. It's a film made for a very specific demographic who rarely venture outside certain genre archetypes. With them, I'm sure it'll do fine.

The Change-Up
Opens: August 5th 2011
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde
Director: David Dobkin

Summary: Two childhood friends have drifted apart - one an overworked lawyer with a family, the other a single and oft unemployed man-child. After a drunken night, they wake up having switched bodies and proceed to learn each other's lives are nowhere near as rosy as they once seemed

Analysis: The old body swap trick has been a comedy staple for decades across films like both incarnations of "Freak Friday," "Big," "13 Going on 30," "The Hot Chick" and "Dating the Enemy". 'Change-Up' doesn't sound like it will add anything new to the formula, but that doesn't mean it won't be an enjoyable spin on it right... right?

Helmed by David Dobkin ("Wedding Crashers," "Shanghai Knights") and penned by the duo behind the likes of "The Hangover" and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past", the idea of a slacker Reynolds and workaholic Bateman switching minds should yield a few laughs. Yet nothing else about the story is particularly exciting be it the baseball-themed minor subplot to "Tron" scene stealer Olivia Wilde as a co-worker love interest.

Clean Skin
Opens: 2011
Cast: Sean Bean, Abhin Galeya, Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Ryan, James Fox
Director: Hadi Hajaig

Summary: Ewan (Sean Bean) is an ex-soldier turned MI5 agent faced with the task of pursuing and eliminating a suicide bomber (Abhin Galeya) and his terrorist cell. The catch? The bomber is a 'cleanskin' and thus almost impossible to trace.

Analysis: A relatively low-budget (£2 million) terrorist thriller shot in London earlier this year, the story sounds like your average episode of BBC's "Spooks" with a burned out ex-solider turned MI5 recruit trying to track down a suicide bomber. Bean, replacing Robert Carlyle who was previously cast in the lead role, says there's a lot of double crossing and bluffing going on amongst both the terrorist cell and his own cabal of superiors.

The film's title is a spy term referring to a person without a criminal record and no known affiliations with any terrorist organisation. The antagonist is such a person, making them extremely difficult to find. Charlotte Rampling is one of the key co-stars, I hope we get to see her as this film's equivalent to Judi Dench's M or Peter Firth's Harry Pearce though details on her character are unavailable at this time. Also onboard are the likes of Michelle Ryan and James Fox.

Writer/director Hadi Hajaig, who helmed 2005's "Puritan", says this is very much inspired by low tech, on-the-ground 70's thrillers like "The French Connection". A lofty ideal for a film that seems more like a glorified TV movie than a theatrical release. Considering the dire state the British film industry is in right now though in regard to budgeting cutbacks, even getting something on this scale done is a big undertaking.

The Cold Light of Day
Opens: 2011
Cast: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Caroline Goodall, Rafi Gavron
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri

Summary: A cocky young Wall Street trader reluctantly vacations with his family in Spain. When his family is kidnapped, he is thrust into a government conspiracy and must unravel the secrets of his father in order to save his loved ones.

Analysis: Surprising the world with the robust genre effort "JCVD" which managed a compelling performance out of Jean Claude Van Damme, filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri returns with this spy thriller that Summit Entertainment probably hopes will become its version of the Jason Bourne franchise. Even if the film doesn't take off, it should lead to more projects for "The Tudors" actor Henry Cavill who takes on the leading role here.

British star Cavill is a strange one. The model and actor's face is so perfectly chiseled and proportioned that he's what many would consider 'beautiful', and yet thanks to his square chin and masculine build he avoids being compartmentalised as a 'pretty boy'. Added to that an evolving talent and a seeming lack of arrogance that usually comes with said looks, and you've got a handsome leading man type that could successfully draw in both genders at the box-office.

He also became famous for just missing out on parts several years ago. He was cast as Superman until it changed directors from McG to Bryan Singer, he was in the top three contenders (alongside Daniel Craig and Sam Worthington) to play James Bond in "Casino Royale" but was deemed too young at the time, and a fan-based push to cast him as Cedric Diggory in the "Harry Potter" series failed with Robert Pattinson ultimately winning the role. This year with both this and the Greek mythological tale "Immortals" coming out which he toplines, Cavill is finally getting his chance in the spotlight.

Much like "Immortals", Cavill is surrounded by some strong name talent. On the one hand there's veterans like Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Jim Piddock and Caroline Goodall. On the other there's two more talented and handsome young British actors, "Clapham Junction" scene stealer Joseph Mawle and "Breaking and Entering" young star Rafi Gavron, who also deserve to get more breakout work from this.

'Cold' is an American and Spanish co-production which recently wrapped after two months of shooting across the central and eastern parts of the Iberian Peninsula including Valencia, Madrid and Alicante. Scott Wiper and John Petro penned the script, with a polish by "Clockers" novelist and former "The Wire" writer Richard Price which holds promise. On the surface it sounds like a fairly generic piece, but I'm hoping that expectation will work in its favour to deliver something either unexpected, or at least with style.

Cold Weather
Opens: 2011
Cast: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raúl Castillo
Director: Aaron Katz

Summary: After abandoning a promising academic career in forensic science, aimless Doug returns to Portland to live with his more responsible big sister. His latent passion for detective work is stoked when his ex-girlfriend goes missing and he and his fellow slacker sleuths are drawn into Portland's not-quite-seedy underground.

Analysis: Aaron Katz, the award-winning indie filmmaker who helped pioneer the mumblecore movement, gets a much bigger budget than usual (several hundred thousand dollars this time) to pull off this slacker mystery/comedy tale which helps evolve his filmmaking style into something more promising. Unlike most indie mysteries which emphasise darkness, edge or grittiness, 'Weather' is an old-fashioned, crowd pleasing detective yarn mixed with comedy stylings and shot (using the RED digital camera) with a crisp and very professional look against the wet and leafy backdrops of Portland.

It's a genre not heavily explored aside from maybe British TV series "Jonathan Creek" which often pulled off that tricky mix of dry comedy, quirky characters, slow build suspense and well-constructed conundrums tidily solved by the end. Here, Katz tries to fuse that with some of his more familiar relationship drama elements in the hopes of giving a genre movie more character depth and complexity, while keeping the story at a more personal and thus realistic level.

Yet while reviews from the festival circuit have been strong, they are venues where mumblecore sensibilities are embraced. Thrown out into a larger world more familiar with the genre elements of thrillers, the slow build and lack of budget will probably frustrate those not used to Katz's style and lack of structure. Personally however this looks very much up my alley, and a trailer from earlier this year shows a visually more interesting film than its limited budget would lead you to believe.

Colombiana
Opens: September 2nd 2011
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Callum Blue, Lennie James, Graham McTavish
Director: Olivier Megaton

Summary: A young woman who witnesses her parents' murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin. She works for her uncle as a hitman by day, but her personal time is spent engaging in vigilante murders that she hopes will lead her to her ultimate target: the mobster responsible for her parents' death.

Analysis: Prodigious film producer Luc Besson has been annually churning out a French kids fantasy film, a French action film, and a Hollywood action film for some time now. Following on from the disappointing "Transporter 3", the immensely satisfying "Taken", and the cheesy fun of this year's underrated "From Paris with Love", Besson's 2011 English language yarn is this $40 million revenge thriller with "Star Trek" and "Avatar" babe Zoe Saldana as a woman named Cataleya Restrepo who is on the hunt for her parent's killers.

Like those aforementioned films, the plot sounds very thin and cliche (Cataleya's character sounds like the grown up version of Leon's Mathilda) while one doubts there'll be much in the way of inventive characterisation. What it will deliver though is fast paced, well-filmed high kicking action with the odd decent twist and big old sense of fun. Besson's trick of hiring a strong lead actor and writing to their strengths (Neeson's gravitas, Travolta's cockiness) to anchor the proceedings has paid off well in his last two films so there's no reason not to expect the same here.

Indeed, Saldana has proven herself a quite strong and capable actress in her own right and looks poised to become one of those few who can jump between serious dramatic turns and blockbuster action hero roles with ease. Vartan plays her artist boyfriend unaware of her double life, which means he's likely either in on it with the killers or will no doubt get brutally murdered halfway through in a shock twist. Opening in the generally quiet first weekend of September, I doubt it'll have the legs of "Taken" but should deliver a nice little dividend for Europacorp.

Conan the Barbarian
Opens: August 19th 2011
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Leo Howard, Ron Perlman
Director: Marcus Nispel

Summary: Khalar Singh arrives in Cimmeria seeking the help of young Conan's father Corin. When help is refused, Singh slaughters all the Cimmerians except for Conan who escapes. Becoming a thief, he eventually seeks revenge for his father's death.

Analysis: An odd choice for a reboot, Robert E. Howard's fantasy hero was initially a pulp hero creation of the 30's like the more sci-fi oriented Flash Gordon. Yet it's the 80's film incarnation, personified by a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, which has become so synonymous with the character to the point that any new attempt to revive the property will have a hard time breaking down that public perception.

Warners tried for the best part of a decade to get another "Conan" film going with the likes of the Wachowskis, Robert Rodriguez, Boaz Yakin and original 'Conan' director John Milius all attached at one point or another. All of their attempts failed however, and the project ended up in the hands of Millennium Films in 2007 with the understanding that the film had to be made quickly.

Brett Ratner's name was floated about as director at one point, but the job ultimately went to German filmmaker Marcus Nispel whose previous films have included two reboots ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th") and a sword & sandals epic (2007 Viking war tale flop "Pathfinder"). Shooting on the project kicked off in March in Eastern Europe.

Chosen for the lead was former "Baywatch" actor Jason Momoa, beating out both "Twilight" actor Kellan Lutz and the living embodiment of male sex appeal that is "Supernatural" actor Jared Padalecki. Momoa has played a similar warrior character in "Stargate Atlantis" for much of the past five years but upon landing this job became very committed to it, working out like a madman to add several dozen pounds of muscle to his already large 215 pound (97 kg) frame.

Joining him are some interesting supporting cast members including Rachel Nichols as the love interest, Ron Perlman as Conan's father, "Avatar" baddie Stephen Lang as the villain and Rose McGowan as an evil half-witch. There's still some big questions to be answered here, aside from the obvious ones like do modern audiences have any real interest in the character any more, and is Momoa a good fit for the role?

Milius' original film was a delightful fluke that probably shouldn't have worked - and yet did. Armed with producer Dino De Laurentiis' taste for the lavish, a script co-written by a young Oliver Stone, Basil Poledouris' blaring orchestral soundtrack and Milius' own somewhat twisted sensibility - it was a dark and violent take on the genre filled with blood, tits, black magic and a very basic revenge story.

It wasn't particularly loyal to Howard's "Conan" books either, cribbing elements from his various other creations and actual historical figures. Yet it holds up even today and was a big success both in the U.S. and internationally, turning Schwarzenegger into an overnight star.

The follow-up effort "Conan the Destroyer" was neither as well received or financially successful, a big part of that being the studio's desire to tone down the violence, sex and darkness that would allow more kids to see it - in the process robbing the franchise of many of the elements that made it unique. This take on "Conan" is said to be a return to the serious and R-rated tone of the source material.

Yet coming in at a costly $100 million, no major marquee names attached and a release targeting the generally quiet mid-August period, this seems a somewhat strange gamble on behalf of smaller studios which frankly can't absorb a big-budget loss the way the majors can. Lionsgate faces a decidedly uphill battle marketing this despite the familiarity people may have with the character. Best of luck to them.

The Conspirator
Opens: 2011
Cast: James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Robin Wright Penn, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Robert Redford

Summary: Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.

Analysis: Robert Redford returns to the director's chair with this $20 million old-fashioned courtroom drama centering around the fallout of the Lincoln assassination. Shot very late last year, the movie wasn't anywhere near ready to premiere at Redford's Sundance Film Festival back in January. Instead it went on to become one of the more anticipated entries at Toronto this past September with a gala world premiere.

While reaction afterward was positive, it obviously wasn't as enthusiastic as Redford had hoped. The actor turned filmmaker's slow burn style and deliberate sensibilities will appeal to older audiences but will probably not engage those hoping for something a bit more punchy. Like his last effort, 2007's "Lions for Lambs", Redford reportedly forgoes opportunities to flesh out the characters and the setting in favour of grinding his political axe with plenty of rather blunt swipes at the bungled war on terror.

What he does get right is strong performances out of his two leads - saucy Scot James McAvoy and the always delightful Robin Wright. The miscasting of Alexis Bledel and Justin Long in supporting turns however were frequently singled out as one of the film's most visible flaws. Foreign outlet reviews were more upbeat about the film than domestic critics, indicating a potential divide when it gets released. Considering Redford's last great drama as a director was 1994's superb "Quiz Show", if this even comes close to that in terms of quality it'll definitely be worth checking out.

Contagion
Opens: October 21st 2011
Cast: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Summary: The story follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

Analysis: Having generally stuck to awards or art house fare in recent years, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is making a comeback in the mainstream cinema arena this year with not one but two films centring around large ensemble casts. The first is a spy thriller, the second is this - a $60 million action thriller following how various characters deal with and react to a global pandemic.

The first feature film to be shot using the RED Epic 5k digital cinema camera, this will probably suffer the same fate of most ensemble dramas with one or two of the subplots working perfectly, one or two proving utter dead weight, and the rest being just adequate. Hard to tell which ones this far out, but in terms of roles Law has the most interesting sounding thus far as a fear-mongering blogger.

The casting is so stellar that quite frankly it is a must see. Alongside the five names above there's also Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Elliott Gould, John Hawkes, Demetri Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Chin Han and Josie Ho. Funnily enough this marks a reunion of sorts for "The Talented Mr. Ripley" co-stars Damon, Law and Paltrow. Paltrow will be playing a woman who gets infected early on (Damon plays her husband) while Winslet, Cotillard and Fishburne will play CDC doctors.

The tone here is a big question. The best films involving outbreaks in recent years have usually been set in the wake of an infection and are given a more sci-fi bent, namely productions like Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later", Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys" and Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men". Actual serious contemporary medical thrillers about plagues are few and far between as frankly they're difficult to make into compelling cinema. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the type was the one that never got off the ground - the adaptation of Richard Preston's Ebola-themed "The Hot Zone" back in the early 90's which had the likes of Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford attached at one time.

Nearly two decades on, could Soderbergh be trying to do his own incarnation of that? If so will he look at the larger scale of the disaster or keep the actions contained to simple character studies with the pandemic simply serving as a background catalyst? The filmmakers have made a big deal about this being shot in 3D, but the idea of seeing bubbling skin lesions and blood-tinged projectile vomiting flying at me from the screen doesn't exactly serve as an enticement. If I wanted that kind of treatment, I'd have had a kid.

The Convincer
Opens: 2011
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, Michelle Arthur, Bob Balaban
Director: Jill Sprecher

Summary: The movie centers on a salesman who seeks to acquire a rare musical instrument, leading to a number of dramatic consequences.

Analysis: Former "Big Love" producers Jill and Karen Sprecher return to the world of indie filmmaking, ten years after their second feature "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing", with this Mid-West set drama that'll have its world premiere shortly at Sundance.

Details about the story are being kept under wraps, but the script was good enough to entice indie production company Werc Werk Works to fully finance and produce this - making it their fourth feature following on from "Life During Wartime," "Howl" and the upcoming Hungarian film "The Turin Horse". I expect we'll hear a lot more in a few weeks time when those visiting Park City get a good look at it.

Coriolanus
Opens: 2011
Cast: Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt, Eddie Marsan, Brian Cox
Director: Ralph Fiennes

Summary: A modern day adaptation of Shakespere's play. Pushed by his controlling mother to enter the Senate, Valiant Roman general Coriolanus is loath to ingratiate himself with the masses whose votes he needs. When the public refuses to support him, Coriolanus's anger prompts a riot, which culminates in his expulsion from Rome. The banished hero then allies with his sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.

Analysis: Amongst the darkest of the Bard's works, and arguably the most blood-soaked aside from "Titus Andronicus", T. S. Eliot famously called this Shakespearian tragedy superior to the more well-known "Hamlet". Certainly I've a soft spot for it as a Sydney Theatre Company's staging of it in the early 90's was the very first time I saw a Shakespeare production on stage. To this day it remains one of the writer's most divisive works with its political nuances and a prideful lead character that's difficult to pin down.

Set to add more grist to the mill is this contemporary-set adaptation that star Ralph Fiennes himself directed and filmed in Belgrade early this year. Swapping the decadence of Ancient Rome for the battle scared landscape akin to many modern war zones, battle armour has been replaced with combat fatigues and sword battles with gun fights. Yet the original dialogue remains intact, mixed with the urgency of modern filmmaking to make this a "high-octane political drama" according to an interview with Fiennes.

"Gladiator" scribe John Logan adapted the script, stripping it of its more difficult passages to deliver a visceral tale that "doesn't take any prisoners... It has no lyricism. I like that" says Fiennes. He's also deliberately avoiding linking it with modern politics, the armies are still Roman and Volscian by name but the locations are being deliberately shot to have a look that could fill in for any militarised nation.

Fiennes famous portrayed the role on stage a decade ago, while co-star Gerard Butler got his start on the stage in the play back in 1996 in a version starring Steven Berkoff. Even more exciting are the co-stars joining them, including Vanessa Redgrave as Coriolanus' mother Volumnia and Brian Cox as smooth talking politician Menenius. The film is set to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in March where critical response will be an important factor - it's a tough sell as well considering Julie Taymor's recent adaptation of "The Tempest" lost all its steam after drawing poor reviews at the Venice Film Festival.

Courageous
Opens: September 30th 2011
Cast: Alex Kendrick, Kevin Downes, Ben Davies, Matt Hardwick, Ken Bevel
Director: Alex Kendrick

Summary: Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, they face danger every day. Yet when tragedy strikes close to home, these fathers are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, and their faith. From this struggle will come a decision that changes all of their lives.

Analysis: When it comes to business models, Sherwood Pictures has one many film companies would envy. A production company outlet owned by a Georgia-based Baptist Church, Sherwood produces low budget independent features about various subjects with strong Christian moral messages. It then uses mostly word of mouth marketing amongst churches and faith-based organisations to garner support to help promote and distribute the film.

Scoff all you like, Hollywood certainly did at first. Then in 2006, their football drama feature "Facing the Giants" hauled in a solid $10 million from a budget of only $10,000. Two years later, the fireman & marriage-themed drama "Fireproof" started out with a more serious budget ($500,000) and managed to outpace quite a few studio titles in the quiet early Fall period of that year, hauling in an impressive total of $33.5 million. That got a lot of attention, so much so that reportedly around 170 media outlets visited the set of their new film.

This fourth feature is an exploration of father/son relationships against the backdrop of the police force. With a bigger budget of just over $1 million, a stronger rating (PG-13 rather than the usual PG for these films), and use of the Red One camera to give the film much higher production values than the previous ones, the obvious aim is to deliver a feature that will not just energise the faithful but potentially crossover and reach a mass audience. It's doubtful this will be that film, but as Sherwood have demonstrated before - one shouldn't underestimate them.

Cowboys and Aliens
Opens: July 29th 2011
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
Director: Jon Favreau

Summary: 1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution, a town about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation against the alien force.

Analysis: It takes a pair of big brass balls to make a film called "Cowboys and Aliens", a movie that could easily go wrong if the approach isn't balanced just right. Much like a good James Bond film, the story and subject matter has to be taken seriously enough on screen to ensure it has impact, but not so serious as to turn it into a dour, self-important endeavour.

Crossing the divide between the playful and the purposeful is director Jon Favreau who walked the tightrope with ease with the first "Iron Man" in 2008, though slipped somewhat with its sequel earlier this year. With this comic adaptation, Favreau seems to have a lot more freedom and is revelling in it. 'Cowboys' has a prime late July release slot, a major studio backed campaign, and some of the best talent around both on screen and behind the scenes.

So what's the problem? Expectation. A high concept genre blending like this, especially one with perhaps the most blatantly descriptive title since "Snakes on a Plane", conjures up the idea of something utterly goofy - a campy action film with a lot of winking at the audience and bad jokes. The kind of idea that geeks would love but mainstream audiences will snicker at and dismiss as silly. On title alone I myself had little anticipation for the film.

Then Favreau showed off a bunch of early footage at Comic Con and with it he stole the show. The western elements were surprisingly faithful to the genre, the look very realistic and the tone entertaining without slipping into parody. The aliens themselves weren't shown but an extended version of the big scene in the trailer showing the initial attack was promising - the extraterrestrial marauders treated as a legitimate threat.

Better yet is that within the context of the narrative, the characters took the events seriously and reacted with a decent amount of realism. This can make all the difference in the world as it adds weight, tension and excitement to a scenario that you'd might otherwise scoff at. Yet Favreau doesn't forget to have fun, demonstrated in the few outright Western scenes we saw which generated character-centric laughs at just the right moments.

The cast itself is a pure dream. The teaming of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford alone would be enough to get genre fans in a tizzy. Yet added to that the likes of great talents like Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, David O'Hara and the promising rising star of Olivia Wilde make for pure heaven. Behind the camera, Faverau's cohorts include Ron Howard and Brian Grazer producing, and a script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, "Lost" producer Damon Lindelof and "Iron Man" scribes Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby.

The onus now lies on Universal's marketing department to convey the tone of the film to the audience at large. Showing off the first trailer to a few friends, all loved the footage but laughed at the title and dismissed it from there initially. Yet having had time to get used to it, that anticipation has now grown again in them. Will that reaction take place across a larger spectrum? I doubt it. What it does mean is that every trailer release will be crucial in the lead-up to release and will have to be very carefully planned and executed. I hope they succeed as right now it looks like one of the few flat out fun tentpoles hitting next Summer.

Crazy Stupid Love
Opens: july 29th 2011
Cast: Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Gosling, Josh Groban, Emma Stone
Director: Glenn Ficarra , John Requa

Summary: A loving father and husband finds his life unravelling when his wife threatens to divorce him. As a result he hires a slick life coach to try and help him save his marriage and family.

Analysis: After their last film, "I Love You Phillip Morris", was ass f-cked behind the scenes because they showed too much ass f-cking on the screen, the directing duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ("Bad Santa") are having no such problems with this broader comedy with a stellar cast and a script by in demand writer Dan Fogelman ("Tangled," "Cars," "Fred Claus"). Originally slated for April, Warners delayed the film to a more high profile late July bow citing overwhelmingly strong test screening reaction demanding they give the film a bigger push.

Whatever the real story, the draw of Gosling as a cool cat who knows it all combined with the likes of Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and even Josh Groban in supporting roles already make this look ten times more appealing than this past Summer's Carell-starrer "Dinner for Schmucks". Hard to say what kind of tone they're going for here, but with that "Bad Santa" duo in place I hope their knack for punchy comedy hasn't been too stymied by what happened with 'Phillip Morris'.

The Cup
Opens: 2011
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Curry, Rodger Corser, Daniel MacPherson, Bill Hunter
Director: Simon Wincer

Summary: Based on the true story of young Australian jockey, Damien Oliver, who loses his only brother in a tragic racing accident just days before the 2002 Melbourne Cup. Damien suffers through an almost endless series of discouraging defeats only to triumph on one of sport's greatest stages in a thrilling victory that made history.

Analysis: In recent times it seems as if the troubled Australian film industry has been trying to branch out from the two genres it seems to have become mired in over the past decade: inner city drug and/or crime dramas with only art house intentions, or cringeworthy dated comedies that do moderate business at best. Aside from this year's superb "Animal Kingdom" and Baz Luhrmann's diarrhetic drivel "Australia", it has been a long time since there's been a locally made film appealing enough to drag jaded audiences out en masse to the cinemas as they did in the mid 90's and early 00's for films like "Muriel's Wedding," "Priscilla," "The Dish," "Crackerjack," "Moulin Rouge" and "Lantana".

Village Roadshow is now attempting to tap that market again with this $15 million family friendly take on jockey Damien Oliver's overcoming of adversity to win the 2002 Melbourne Cup, one of the most famous runnings of one of the world's greatest horse races. The danger with something like this is that it will dwell in cheesy sentimentality, a claim Irish actor Brendan Gleeson has refuted in the local press saying he considers overly sentimental films a "disaster in aesthetic terms", but "proper sentiment is at the heart of everything and this is a story about proper sentiment... It's true and enlightened."

Gleeson plays trainer Dermot Weld alongside well liked local actors such as Stephen Curry and Daniel MacPherson. Former "Home and Away" starlet and failed biker babe applicant Jodi Gordon in the lead female role has certainly raised a few eyebrows, as have reports in September about Oliver pulling out of several key races to help police enquiries into a criminal investigation. Nevertheless word on the script is good while director Simon Wincer has had plenty of experience with the subject matter having helmed the likes of "Phar Lap," "The Lighthorsemen," "The Young Black Statllion" and the more blubber-oriented "Free Willy". Marked for an Easter holidays release, Roadshow might just have the pull they need.

The Complete Notable Films of 2011 Guide

Part One : 5 Days of August, 11-11-11, 13 Assassins, 30 Minutes or Less, Abduction, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Albert Nobbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Amigo, Anonymous, Apollo 18, The Apparition, Arthur, Arthur Christmas, Atlas Shrugged: Part One, Bad Teacher, Barney's Version, Battle: Los Angeles, Beastly

Part Two : The Beaver, Beginners, Bel Ami, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, The Big Year, Black Gold, Blackthorn, The Black Tulip, Blitz, Born to Be a Star, The Borrower Arrietty, Bridesmaids, Brighton Rock, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Caesar: Rise of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cars 2

Part Three : Catch .44, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cedar Rapids, Ceremony, Certified Copy, Chalet Girl, The Change-Up, Clean Skin, The Cold Light of Day, Cold Weather, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, The Conspirator, Contagion, The Convincer, Coriolanus, Courageous, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Cup

Part Four : Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, The Darkest Hour, The Debt, The Deep Blue Sea, The Descendants, The Details, The Devil's Double, Dibbuk Box, The Dilemma, Dolphin Tale 3D, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Drive, Drive Angry 3D, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, The Eagle, Even the Rain, Every Day, Everything Must Go, The Eye of the Storm

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer - Rango - December 30th @ Dark Horizons
Featurette (1)

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

An assured crowd-pleaser, “The King’s Speech” struck me most pointedly as a depiction of friendship between two men. There’s plenty of history and period nuance to reflect upon, but the heart of the film lies with two individuals making a connection despite a monumental royal divide.

In an era of broheim nonsense, where the idea of male companionship means watching three louts suck down tall boys and grunt about their grim sex life while improvising inept one-liners, it’s refreshing to find a film observe a union of intelligence and vulnerability, set against the backdrop of turbulent world events.

Faced with a life in the public eye, the future King George VI (Colin Firth), aka “Bertie,” couldn’t bear to face his public, inhibited by a severe stutter than embarrassed him and his judgmental family. With wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) by his side, Bertie endured numerous treatments for his verbal handicap, finding it impossible to rectify.

Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an aspiring actor and professional speech therapist. Taking Bertie on at the behest of Elizabeth, Lionel finds a man of extraordinary anxiety, under pressure to perform from all sides. Forging a tentative friendship, Bertie and Lionel embark on a path of healing, looking to firm up the royal voice. While progress is made, Bertie’s life is turned upside down when his playboy brother Edward (Guy Pearce) is made king, urging the verbally timid man to step up and seize a greater role in the family business.

Taking a rather obscure corner of history and finding a way to make it dramatically fulfilling, director Tom Hooper and writer David Seidler endeavor to combine Bertie’s public demands with his intensely private shame. It’s a historical piece with plenty of room made for the King George VI story, but it’s a more compelling portrait of Bertie, a bullied young prince who lost his sense of self along the way, cursed with a stutter that undermines his authority and confidence in the media spotlight.

Tempering that tic is Lionel, who grasps the gravity of the royal presence before him, yet refuses to be pushed aside by status. A firm believer in the power of speech, Lionel fits Bertie for a humane leash, showing him a tough love that requires daily diaphragm practice and habitual questioning.

Lionel isn’t only out to firm Bertie’s tongue, but his self-confidence as well, taking on the role of a psychologist, urging his patient to verbalize his frustrations. Seidler supplies a wit and speed to the script that the cast eats up readily, making the initial scenes between Rush and Firth exceptional in their discomfort and thawing sense of trust.

It should go without saying that the performances in this feature film are superb, but the lead actors are simply divine as Lionel and Bertie, communicating a prolonged relaxation with each other that’s tested by royal order, yet made unbreakable through honesty and support.

Rush is especially dynamic as the bold therapist who keeps Bertie in place, devoted to reinforcing his kingly poise with steady speech, yet finding himself drawn to a vulnerable, compatible soul who could use a friendly face outside of the palace. The male chemistry between the actors is triumphant, exploring the stiff-upper-lip standoff between the teacher and the student that eventually melts away into alliance, with Bertie requiring the comfort of a supportive companion as his life is swept up by tumultuous family friction.

The history of King George VI and his interplay with Edward, father George V (Michael Gambon), and England itself slows “The King’s Speech” to a crawl in the midsection, losing the intimacy of the early scenes to clarify Bertie’s growing position in the family. Hooper struggles to keep matters intriguing with symbolically distorted camerawork and some lineage disruption that bleeds into the onset of WWII.

While it’s necessary to clarify world events, the refocus disrupts the film’s pace and generous sense of characterization, tumbling a bit before it gets back on track for the emotionally sublime final act, pitting Bertie against his worst fear: addressing his subjects over the radio. “The King’s Speech” isn’t very effective on a global scale, better suited to the interplay between the men as they confess, exercise, and experience challenges together, teaming up to repair and amplify the one voice that ruled over all.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Teaser

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Tom Hardy on the set of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a look at most of the CG blue characters from The Smurfs, and the first shots of Joel Edgerton in Say Nothing.

There's also a shot of D'Artagnian and the titular The Three Musketeers, photos of the Ironhide toys from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Jonah Hill on the set of The Sitter, and new stills from Vanishing on 7th Street, Jane Eyre and One Day.

Posters for Cedar Rapids, Drive Angry 3D, Hall Pass, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, Unknown, Your Highness, A Heartbeat Away.

"Len Wiseman's remake of "Total Recall" starring Colin Farrell is set to shoot at the Pinewood Toronto Studios in Canada. The film is said to be the largest production that the city has ever hosted..." (full details)

"Andrew Garfield says they got two weeks of filming on the "Spider-Man" reboot in the can before breaking for Christmas. He'll then come back for it in early January for around four to five months of filming..." (full details)

"A large portion of filming on "The Avengers" will take place at the studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the shoot scheduled to take place between April and September..." (full details)

"Matt Damon says that filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is looking to retire once he's completed the "Liberace" biopic next Summer and another film with George Clooney after that..." (full details)

"James Nesbitt says he and the other actors playing dwarves in "The Hobbit" have a month of training to conduct before the shoot including rigorous sword fight training and horseback riding courses whilst in costume..." (full details)

"Some recent release date changes: "Rio" from 4/8 to 4/15, "Water for Elephants" from 4/15 to 4/22 and "Something Borrowed" from 6/10 to 5/6..." (full details)

"Australian actor Damon Herriman is set to play Bruno Hauptmann, the man convicted of kidnapping and killing the Lindbergh baby, in Clint Eastwood's Hoover biopic "J. Edgar"..." (full details)

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Best Contemporary Titles

WINNER: "Avatar: Extended Edition"
RUNNER-UP: "Inception"

Doesn't matter what you thought of the film, I enjoyed it but didn't particularly love it, James Cameron fully delivers on his promise to make the 'Extended Edition' Blu-ray release worth the double-dip as it has to be one the single deepest and richest releases for a single film on the market.

The transfer is pure reference quality, the inserted new footage in the three alternate cuts available is exactly the same quality as the rest of the cut, and the sound design is awe-inspiring. Extras are disgustingly rich - three near feature-length docos, nearly an hour of cut footage, countless featurettes, artwork and a beautiful looking if a tiny bit awkwardly designed packaged set.

Picking a runner-up wasn't that difficult. Christopher Nolan's puzzle box of a film "Inception" is a trippy but whip smart and bold heist film set in the world of dreams, and easily the best film of the Summer. The extras aren't that exhaustive, a 'special edition' later down is probably going to happen, but the transfer is excellent and the quality of the film itself makes it well worth it.

This is the category where personal taste dominates the most, so my other recommendations to hit stores in the past twelve months include some choices you might not have considered. There's the acidic black comedy of last year's best film "In the Loop", Pixar's joyous sequel "Toy Story 3", the gritty French prison drama "A Prophet", Tom Ford's dazzlingly beautiful directorial debut "A Single Man", Roman Polanski's richly atmospheric political thriller "The Ghost Writer", and the superb non-Hollywood film adaptation of Swedish literary sensation "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Also making the shortlist is Hayao Miyazaki's delightful fable "Ponyo", Dreamworks Animation's best film to date "How to Train Your Dragon", Edgar Wright's 80's teen comedy for the Xbox 360 generation "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", the Tilda Swinton-led Italian family drama "I Am Love", Ben Affleck's skilled thriller "The Town", Lisa Cholodenko's indie delight "The Kids Are All Right", and Martin Scorsese's fun if over ripe noir "Shutter Island".

Best Catalog Titles

WINNER: "Alien Anthology"
RUNNER-UP: "Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition"

The single hardest category to pick this year because some of the greatest films of all time got such beautiful high quality remasters for the format that they've never looked better. In fact in some cases, the new transfers are so good as to make the viewing experience feel like the first time again. The winner though was clearly Fox's almost perfect delivery of the "Alien" saga on Blu-ray.

The packaging is the year's best and all the extras from the 'Quadrilogy' have been ported over and are accessible through a unique interface system that makes full use of the new format. The "Alien 3" and "Alien Resurrection" transfers are notably better than their DVD counterparts and strong Blu-ray transfers on their own, but aren't all they could be.

The gems here though are the two cinematic classics - "Alien" and "Aliens" - which both simply have NEVER looked this good before. Ridley Scott's "Alien" is absolutely pitch perfect, a reference quality transfer. James Cameron's "Aliens" has had its color completely re-timed and the detail level boosted to incredible new levels of clarity, even the grain level is perfect - enough to keep all the detail, but not enough to overpower the image. Arguably the finest release out on the format right now.

Choosing a runner-up was more difficult but ultimately the stellar job done on the three-disc edition of what is still the best war film ever made, Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", has to nab it. The transfer is incredible, the extras abundant and rich, and the making of documentary "Hearts of Darkness" (a legend in its own right) is finally included and never looked better. The only drawback? The packaging isn't what it should be.

Other recommendations to hit stores in the past twelve months include the "Back to the Future" trilogy, Hitchcock classic "Psycho", the original and still frightening "The Exorcist", the definitive family classic "The Sound of Music", the stunningly restored wartime tales "The African Queen" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai", Kino's extended version of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", Disney animated classics "Beauty and the Beast" and "Fantasia", David Fincher's modern thriller classic "Se7en", the greatest cult film of them all "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", the Bogart double play of "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", and Steven Spielberg's overrated but commendable "Saving Private Ryan".

Best Criterion Titles

WINNERS (tie): "The Thin Red Line" & "Seven Samurai"
RUNNERS-UP (tie): "The Night of the Hunter" & "The Red Shoes"

Criterion had an absolutely stellar year as they embraced Blu-ray full force, delivering a healthy mix of new titles simultaneously launched on both DVD & Blu-ray, along with remastering some of their old classics for the HD format. It was very difficult to scratch off any of their releases this year as being unfit for recommendation. Picking favourites however proved quite a bit easier with four titles really blowing me away on all fronts - Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line", Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", Charles Laughton's under-appreciated horror classic "The Night of the Hunter", and the Scorsese-assisted remaster of Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes"

Other must buys this year were Stanley Kubrick's other great war parable "Paths of Glory", Luchino Visconti's lengthy and nostalgic "The Leopard", Malick's haunting "Days of Heaven", Steven Soderbergh's commendable biopic "Che," Steve McQueen's remarkable debut effort "Hunger", Fritz Lang's early talky classic "M.", Powell and Pressburger's anti-imperialist missionary tale "Black Narcissus", the utter insanity of late 70's Japanese horror tale "House", Stanley Donen's delightful Hitchcock-esque "Charade", David Cronenberg's horror/satire "Videodrome", John Ford's western classic "Stagecoach", Kurosawa's most outright fun film "Yojimbo", and the solid box-set "America Lost and Found - The BBS Story".

Best TV Series Titles

WINNER: "Deadwood: The Complete Series"
RUNNERS-UP (tie): "Life (BBC)" & "Sherlock: Season One"

There's plenty of great TV shows on right now but the best box-set this year went, unsurprisingly, to the HD upgrade of an HBO classic. A year after the simply beautiful "Rome: Complete Series" Blu-ray hit stores, the premium cable channel delivered the even more impressive "Deadwood: Complete Series" - a show that redefined the boundaries of both westerns and cable drama. I hope HBO is planning a similar treatment for its other completed shows yet to make the HD leap, Blu-ray box sets for the likes of "Carnivale," "The Wire," "Six Feet Under" and "The Sopranos" would make any serious lover of cinema and/or TV drool.

The runner-up noms went to two British efforts that have still stuck with me long after I saw them. BBC's high-def documentary series "Life" is a wonder, and arguably up there with "Planet Earth" in terms of sheer spectacle. While Steven Moffat's new take on "Doctor Who" has split reaction and has both its up and downs, his modernisation of the Holmes tales with "Sherlock" is undisputedly brilliant. Despite being only three TV movies long, it makes its mark right from the start and has me and many others keenly anticipating next season.

Other recommendations this year include the truly stunning remastering job done for the early seasons of the sci-fi anthology classic "The Twilight Zone", the first two seasons of "Breaking Bad" and third season of "Mad Men" from AMC, ABC's clever new comedy "Modern Family", the gritty British three-part crime saga "Red Riding", the fifth series of "Doctor Who" which rebooted the reboot with a more polished but younger-skewing take, the deservedly buzzed about first season of "Glee", Kenneth Branagh's dark and moody Swedish detective procedural "Wallander", HBO's mega-budget undertaking "The Pacific", the "Lost" complete series box-set (even with that show's awful ending), and if you can import it - the British Blu-ray release of Olivier Assayas' astounding "Carlos" mini-series.

Worst Title

WINNER: "Predator: Ultimate Edition"

Last year the clear winner of the most botched Blu-ray release was "The French Connection", William Friedkin essentially mutilating his greatest work with a horrendously misguided transfer that upped the pink, blew out the contrast and just made an absolute mess of the original. This year the booby prize goes to Fox's second attempt at bringing 80's action classic "Predator" to Blu-ray and failing even more miserably.

When other studios have screwed up their initial transfer, they make sure to spend the money and not make the mistake again. Recent remastered re-releases of "Gladiator" and "Gangs of New York" on Blu-ray are quite jaw-droppingly good and correct all the errors made in their initial transfers which were god awful.

Fox's initial "Predator" Blu-ray release was pure laziness - a half-assed effort full of noise and suffering from a low bit-rate transfer. This second go around however over-reacted to the complaints, stripping out every hint of grain and in the process much of the detail. The color and contrast is better, but now the actors literally look like wax figures running around a very artificial jungle - some shots are so airbrushed as to turn the film into something akin to one of those creepy Robert Zemeckis style mo-cap features. It's a disaster and it looks like we won't ever get to see this great action film the way it deserves to be seen.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

The rather trippy Dickens-inspired Christmas special of "Doctor Who" this year pulled in an average of 10.3 million viewers reports The AP. That figure is a tad down on last year's 10.4 million average, and marks the lowest audience for a Christmas Day edition since 2006. Reviews and reaction in forums has proven quite divisive.

My own feelings are mixed - the production values were very good, the direction strong and there's some clever moments involving time travel tricks and the inspired idea (at least early on) of flying fish & sharks. On the other hand the story was tedious, the humour occasionally amusing but often forced, and the emotional manipulation harkening back to the worst excesses of the Russell T. Davies era. The 'Who' Xmas specials however are consistently amongst the worst episodes of the series, and this did mark an upgrade on the last few.

More promising was the trailer above for the upcoming sixth season of the show set to launch around Easter. The clip shows off some new story details which, combined with set report gossip, has yielded several theories (SPOILERS AHEAD) thanks to DW Spoilers:

  • The first four episodes have already been filmed while episodes five and six (a two-parter) were shot over the past month. The seventh episode, a cliffhanger finale until the second batch of six episodes in the Fall, begins shooting early in the new year.

  • Much of the trailer shows scenes from the Steven Moffat-penned opening two-parter set in the 60's in the United States. These include The Doctor in the White House, the various scenes in Monument Valley and shots of a bearded Doctor being held prisoner in Area 51. Seems like the legendary 'Men in Black' play a big part of the storyline here, as does Alex Kingston's Dr. River Song.

  • Various scenes show the main characters with tally marks on their skin. The various actors were spotted wearing these marks during filming in Utah so they definitely show up in the season premiere.

  • Shots of someone in a full astronaut suit, and River Song likely distracting someone with an eyeful of her naked body, are both said to be from the opening two-parter.

  • The Silence, the threat that caused the TARDIS explosion and the resulting cracks in the universe last season, will be a running thread throughout this season and are seen in the opening two-parter. Apparently it's a 'them', not an individual, and likely a race hereto unseen in the Who Universe. It's also been said that the truth about their "needs" and "physical forms" are what's sinister about them.

  • There's several shots from Neil Gaiman's episode (the third episode next season) set in an alien junkyard with a woman in an 18th century dress and hairstyle. Its been stated the woman in the junkyard, Idris, is someone the Doctor has met before onscreen who looks different now.

  • The TARDIS knock-off seen in "The Lodger" episode last season seems to have returned as there's a shot of River Song exploring it with a flashlight. There's also shots of a green-eyed Ood, Amy and Rory in some kind of dark spaceship corridors which are rumoured to be part of a TARDIS.

  • The third episode is also said to tie into the classic Second Doctor episode "The War Games" in which the various warriors from the history of not just our planet were brought together in a 'battle royale' of sorts. Shots early on in the trailer of three men dressed like Musketeers and a shot of Nazi soldiers are said to be from this episode and lend credence to that theory.

  • There's shots of small blond people in very creepy doll masks. These are all likely from the Mark Gatiss-penned fourth episode.

  • The Doctor apparently gets cloned in the fifth & sixth episode two-parter in a story that deals with an alien invasion.

  • It has been confirmed that Amy is "harbouring a big secret", and that the episode 7 finale will reveal the "true nature of his [The Doctor's] relationship with Amy Pond" says Moffat.

  • That ties in with rumours of a scene in the opening two-parter that Amy encounters a "future Doctor" (possibly the one with the beard) and learns from him something terrible that will happen to The Doctor in the future, something that River implores her to keep quiet.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Gemma Arterton and Andrew Garfield are teaming for a biopic about combat photographer Robert Capa to be directed by Michael Mann reports Total Film.

Based on Susana Fortes' award-winning novel, "Waiting for Robert Capa", the story follows the relationship between a young German woman called Gerta Pohorylle and a young Hungarian man called Endre Friedmann who met in Paris in 1935.

Exiled Jewish communist photographers, they decided to change their names to sell their works, and headed to Spain to capture images of the Civil War.

Arterton also added that she hopes to get to work with Michael Winterbottom on his next project "London Fields".

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Damsels in Distress
Opens: 2011
Cast: Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Ryan Metcalf
Director: Whit Stillman

Summary: The story revolves around a group of style-obsessed college girls who take in a new student (Gerwig) and teach her their misguided ways of helping people at their grungy university.

Analysis: The first film in a decade from arthouse darling Whit Stillman, a filmmaker's filmmaker whose three Manhattan-based, yuppie-themed mannerist comedies - "Metropolitan," "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco" - were a big influence on the likes of auteurs such as Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. Stillman says this film varies somewhat from his previous trilogy of sorts, telling First Things that "This film is different, Completely different. Okay, not completely different, but it’s different".

Independently financed by Castle Rock CEO Martin Shafer, the project recently wrapped filming in Manhattan where Stillman returned to last year after having spent much of the past decade in Paris. In Europe he worked on several scripts that never took off including an adaptation of Christopher Buckley's novel "Little Green Men", the 60's Jamaica-set "Dancing Mood" and the Francis Marion biopic "The Swamp Fox".

There's talk that Stillman's onscreen good luck charm, actor Chris Eigeman, might make a cameo in this but if he does it won't be as any of his previous characters. Stillman won't confirm anything much about the project and is highly secretive in regards to it, which is why there's no materials for it or even paparazzi set photos which is a rarity. No word yet on a release either, though a splashy festival debut seems a certainty.

A Dangerous Method
Opens: 2011
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon
Director: David Cronenberg

Summary: Set on the eve of World War I, the story is based on the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them.

Analysis: It seems fitting that a story about two of the most influential figures in the endeavour of understanding the human mind is being told by a filmmaker who earned his reputation on some of the most psychologically f*cked up movies ever made. Certainly one of my most keenly anticipated films of next year, Cronenberg's €15 million historical biopic about the birth of psychoanalysis marks the helmer's third collaboration with Viggo Mortensen after the brilliant "A History of Violence" and the strong "Eastern Promises".

Here, Cronenberg is helped by a stellar supporting cast; on location filming in the likes of Vienna, Cologne and Berlin; and a screenplay adapted by Oscar-winning writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play "The Talking Cure". The play itself was based on a 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr entitled "A Most Dangerous Method" which is where the film's title comes from.

Cronenberg has reinvented himself in recent years from a master of venereal horror to more mature and accessible dramatic works. Here he tackles a setup which some have already compared to his earlier twisted medical tale "Dead Ringers", however don't expect much in the way of gynecological terror this time out as apparently it's "like nothing he’s ever done before" said actor Vincent Cassel in a recent interview. Cassel added that what will be seen will be more 'fun' than we might expect, but whatever tone it sets I'm extremely curious about this one.

The Darkest Hour
Opens: August 5th 2011
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnama
Director: Chris Gorak

Summary: The story of five young people who find themselves stranded in Moscow, fighting to survive in the wake of a devastating alien attack.

Analysis: Seventy years ago Winston Churchill used that titular phrase in the days before the Nazi army crossed into Russian territory. Now it aptly fits an invasion of a different kind, one where the jackbooted soldiers and German tanks have been replaced by aliens and destructive spacecraft in Summit's $40 million action thriller said to be in the style of "28 Days Later" and shot natively in 3D.

The last release in a wave of alien invasion films of late that began with "Skyline" and continues with "Battle Los Angeles" and "Apollo 18" next year, the big selling point of 'Hour' is the setting. Aside from the various attacks that seem to kick off in the UK in "Doctor Who", films and shows about alien forces attempting to gain a foothold on Earth have always been set either primarily or completely within the United States. Here, both the film's production and the onscreen action takes place entirely in Russia.

The project is helmed by Chris Gorak ("Right at Your Door"), a former production designer and art director turned filmmaker who also penned the currently shooting "Man on a Ledge". Here he's heavily supported by "Night Watch" and "Wanted" director Timur Bekmambetov who is producing and supervising the shoot at his personal studio Bazelevs in Moscow. Though much of Eastern Europe has become a filmmaking mecca since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Hollywood hasn't made much use of Russia as a filming locale which means at least there's a chance of some fresh visuals and location work beyond the confines of Red Square.

The film has been written by three scribes, one (Jon Spaihts) did the script for Ridley Scott's upcoming "Alien" prequel, the other (Leslie Bohem) penned the likes of "Dante's Peak," "The Alamo," "Daylight" and the upcoming "Real Steel". The cast is a healthy international mix of two Yanks (Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby), a Brit (Max Minghella) and an Aussie (Rachael Taylor) in the leading roles with local talent filling out the rest of the cast.

Production was suspended for a planned two weeks due to the extraordinary air pollution caused by heavy smoke from the wild fires surrounding Moscow in August 2010. It eventually resumed three weeks later, and the release date has been unaffected. Coming out late Summer, it will suffer comparisons with the other films of this type opening next year, let us hope it's different enough to distinguish itself.

The Debt
Opens: 2011
Cast: Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Martin Csokas
Director: John Madden

Summary: In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Now, thirty years later, a man claiming to be the Nazi has surfaced in the Ukraine and the former agents must go back undercover to seek out the truth.

Analysis: A victim of the delays pertaining to Miramax's closure and change of ownership, this remake of Assaf Bernstein's acclaimed 2007 Israeli film apparently sticks fairly close to its originator with just a slight polish by Peter Straughan ("The Men Who Stare at Goats") and Matthew Vaughn ("Kick Ass," "Stardust") to adjust it for Western audiences. Director John Madden shot this in London & Hungary almost two years ago and early last year it looked like this was being setup as a potential awards candidate with a release being targeted for this week in fact.

Plans changed however after a bow at the Toronto Film Festival yielded mixed reviews. Madden's direction, the performance by Jessica Chastain, and the story were well received. The opening hour in particular was praised for creating tension and suspense even during a long stretch set entirely within a small apartment. However the last act is said to have some big credibility issues and a love triangle subplot that doesn't work. While it may not be awards worthy, it still seems to be considered an above average thriller that's worth checking out - that is one day when it's finally scheduled for a release by whomever now owns it.

The Deep Blue Sea
Opens: 2011
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Harry Hadden-Paton
Director: Terence Davies

Summary: Hester Collyer is the middle-aged trophy wife of a high court judge in 1950 who begins a self-destructive affair with a traumatized RAF World War II fighter pilot pilot turned alcoholic who shows her the meaning of true passion. When he walks out on her, the now smitten Hester takes a drastic course of action.

Analysis: Acclaimed British filmmaker Terence Davies ("The House of Mirth," "Of Time and the City") tackles the historical romance genre with this effort based on the 1952 play by late scribe Terence Rattigan ("Goodbye Mr.Chips," "Brighton Rock"). Having literally just wrapped filming last week in the UK, the project will spend much of next year in post production and could well get a Fall release with either a Toronto premiere and/or a late year awards qualifying run on the cards.

The play itself became infamous at the time for its controversial depiction of female sexual awakening, the turning point of the whole play revolves around Hester experiencing her first orgasm, in a period before women's liberation and the sexual revolution rendered the topic far less taboo. The 50's was a time of an overly simplified moralistic society which punished those for love that was either excessive or different, something that still happens in many places today. As a result, much of what was able to be shown was only allowed to be implied which hampered previous film adaptations to some extent.

Several decades on however it can be much more overt, and with the skilled Davies in charge it'll no doubt push boundaries without becoming tacky or tasteless. Some great actress have played the role on stage including Peggy Ashcroft, Penelope Wilton, Isabel Dean, Blythe Danner, Harriet Walter, Greta Scacchi and even "To The Manor Born" actress Penelope Keith (I hope she didn't call out "Brabinger" during the bedroom scenes). Here it's one of our great modern actresses, Rachel Weisz, in the role opposite stage legend Simon Russell Beale as her husband. Rising newcomer Tom Hiddleston, who makes a strong impression in the BBC "Wallander" TV movies and is the villain in "Thor", plays the pilot. Definitely sounds like it'll have a lot of potential.

The Descendants
Opens: 2011
Cast: George Clooney, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Robert Forster
Director: Alexander Payne

Summary: Matt King is an indifferent husband and father of two girls forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. Learning that his wife had been unfaithful, he takes their daughters, ages 17 and 10, on a road trip to find her lover as he considers selling the family's land handed down to him from Hawaiian royalty.

Analysis: Alexander Payne's first feature film since 2004's acclaimed "Sideways", there's a lot of good will riding on this after Payne's previous works, including "About Schmidt" and "Election", were so well received. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings and shot on-location in Honolulu earlier this year, George Clooney takes on the lead role which at one point comedian Louis C.K. apparently auditioned for - talk about a wide casting net.

Payne is apparently taking his time in post-production and doesn't plan to be finished until about February. An extended interview reveals that Clooney and the two girls are the only major roles in the film with everyone else literally small but important cameos from Lillard as the lothario to Bridges and Forster as relations of Matt's.

Payne, who has confirmed that he intends to use 100% Hawaiian music throughout, calls it a "family drama with comedy touches". However there's enough adult themes that he expects distributor Fox Searchlight won't be planning a release until next Fall where it'll undoubtedly come up for awards consideration. By that time he'll probably be at work on his next project which is said to be an adaptation of Denis Hamill's "Fork in the Road".

The Details
Opens: 2011
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Tobey Maguire, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Summary: When a family of raccoons discover worms living underneath the sod in Jeff and Nealy's backyard, this pest problem begins a darkly comic and wild chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity and murder.

Analysis: A rather strange sounding "Fargo"-esque black comedy from "Mean Creek" writer/director Estes that's premiering at Sundance in January, early reviews should hopefully give us some proper insight into what in the world this is all about. There's a strong cast on hand which includes not only the names above but "True Blood" shapeshifter Sam Trammell and former "24" President Dennis Haysbert.

Maguire replaced James McAvoy in the lead, a bit of a downgrade but not enough to affect the overall picture. Certainly Laura Linney cast as an eccentric neighbor is reason enough to get excited, though other plot descriptions to come through indicate elements of bed-hopping infidelity, organ donation, cat murder and archery all configure into the story somehow.

The project did suffer a slight delay due to some financial trouble, but it was quickly resolved and everything was completed in Seattle back in mid-2009. Estes scored a lot of deserved love for "Mean Creek", so will be interesting to see if the reaction out of Park City in a few weeks time will be the same.

The Devil's Double
Opens: 2011
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Philip Quast, Raad Rawi, Dar Salim
Director: Lee Tamahori

Summary: 1980's Baghdad, the playground for the rich and infamous like Uday Hussein, the sadistic son of leader Saddam, whose depraved lust for debauchery and immorality are indulged at every turn. Into this world is thrust army lieutenant Latif Yahia who is forced to become Uday's 'fiday' - his body double, or have his family condemned to death.

Analysis: An Iraq-set "Scarface" rather than another tedious treatise on the moral dilemmas/depression of those who served in the war, 'Double' is far more an entertainment driven piece than potential awards bait despite its premiere next month at the Sundance Film Festival. Shot early this past year in Malta and based on Latif Yahia's two books, this has been described as a gangster movie, not a biopic, about a psychopath with near unlimited power and the innocent guy caught up in his wake.

The backdrop is Baghdad before (and during) the first Gulf War, a time when the wealthy Ba'athist ruling class lived in opulence amidst the overwhelming poverty of the masses. Michael Thomas ("Ladyhawke," "Backbeat," "Scandal") penned the script while Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day," "XXX: State of the Union") is helming the film which, though not heavily politicised, will depict some of the darkest and often least reported elements of the Hussein regime.

"We're telling a soft story compared to what I've heard about this guy" says Tamahori of Saddam's brutish son Uday. Both Uday and Latif are played by rising "Mamma Mia" and "An Education" star Dominic Cooper. It's not the only unusual casting choice here as amongst others there's French actress Ludivine Sagnier, and Australian veteran Philip Quast as Saddam himself. It's definitely a curious project, reviews out of Sundance however will play a big factor in determining whether this'll be worth catching.

Dibbuk Box
Opens: October 28th 2011
Cast: Madison Davenport, Natasha Calis
Director: Ole Bornedal

Summary: Based on a true story. Clyde Breneck and his 10-year-old daughter Em purchase an antique box at a yard sale. When Em opens the box, she accidentally releases an ancient spirit that has one goal: to devour her. Her father must work with his ex-wife to put an end to the curse.

Analysis: Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures has been pretty quiet in recent years, mostly producing dire direct to video sequels to their earlier work. Now, they're back two years on from "Drag Me To Hell" with this spook tale based on an LA Times article by Leslie Gornstein.

Said article tells the story of the events surrounding a Dibbuk box, the commonly-used name of a wine cabinet which is supposedly haunted by a Jewish spirit known as a Dybbuk. Details on the apparent legend are up at Dibbukbox.com, but essentially the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor sold it a decade ago and since then its been something of a jinx to those who've owned it.

Ole Bornedal, who helmed the acclaimed "Deliver Us from Evil", the well received Danish serial killer thriller "Night Watch" and its less well-received British remake, directs this $12.5 million budgeted production which is about to begin filming shortly. Stephen Susco was originally hired to adapt the script, though the final credited writers are Juliet Snowden and Stiles White who both co-wrote the awful "Knowing" and "Boogeyman".

With the "Saw" franchise thankfully in its well deserved grave, Lionsgate quickly nabbed the distribution rights to this story to fill its Halloween release slot where it'll compete with Paramount's third "Paranormal Activity". It looks a little more interesting than the most recent "Saw" films, but frankly there's nothing particularly exciting here unless Bornedal is able to draw something special out of it.

The Dilemma
Opens: January 14th 2011
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum
Director: Ron Howard

Summary: A man is unsure if he should tell his best friend and business partner that his wife is cheating on him with another man after catching them in the act.

Analysis: Filmmaker Ron Howard's first comedy since his take on "The Grinch", there has to be something more on the surface here than meets the eye. Aside from Kevin James, whom this marks a step up for, everyone else here seems far too talented to be wasted on a story that is throwaway at best.

Maybe it's something in the script by Allan Loeb ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," "Things We Lost in the Fire") that drew some big names, Connelly replaced Jennifer Garner in one role while Ryder beat out the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Carla Gugino and Uma Thurman for her part. Whatever the case, there's been a distinct whiff of bad odor surrounding this, long before the whole overblown gay joke controversy gave it a hell of a lot of free publicity.

The central premise is a joke, one made more unbelievable by pairing two guys with two women who're quite frankly way out of their league. Channing Tatum as the lothario and Queen Latifah in a supporting role are cute casting choices, but certainly not enough to sustain a film nearly two hours in length with an apparently problematic first act. I smell another "Couples Retreat" or "Four Christmases" coming on, a fact not helped by the poster which had Kevin James and Vince Vaughn airbrushed to the extent of rivalling the ladies on the "Sex and the City 2" one-sheet.

Dolphin Tale 3D
Opens: September 23rd 2011
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Nathan Gamble
Director: Charles Martin Smith

Summary: A boy befriends an injured dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap. Through their bond and friendship, the boy motivates everyone around him to help save her by creating a prosthetic appendage to replace the dolphin's tail. The marine mammal's strong survival instincts become an inspiration to people with special needs throughout the world.

Analysis: Inspired by a true story at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, this family oriented feature wrapped filming only a fortnight ago after a shoot around various locations in Florida. Shot in 3D, not converted, the underwater sequences are said to be quite spectacular. Certainly the strong cast should generate more interest in this than the modestly budget effort would've attracted on its own.

Actor turned director Charles Martin Smith ("Air Bud") helms the project and says a major aim was to differentiate this from "Free Willy" despite the very similar subject matter. The handicap element was a big part of that, although it now has brought up comparisons to "How To Train Your Dragon" funnily enough. A September bow indicates a relatively quiet launch, hopefully this won't suffer the same fate of Rob Reiner's little seen family friendly "Flipped" this past Summer.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Opens: 2011
Cast: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Garry McDonald
Director: Troy Nixey

Summary: A young girl moves into an old mansion that her father and his girlfriend are renovating. The girl soon finds a hidden basement with a sealed fireplace, behind which she hears voices that beg her to open it so they can be her friends. The creatures inside get out and start to torment Sally an plan to eventually take her down into the fireplace and their domain.

Analysis: There's something highly appealing about Gothic horror, those old-fashioned tales that are all about atmosphere, sound design, suggestion and unsettling dread. Slasher films and torture porn ruined much of the genre as it became much more about the visceral, but the best efforts of this field from the original "The Haunting of Hill House" to "The Innocents" still work superbly today.

In recent times though its been Spanish filmmakers that have been leading the charge in this field with the one-two blow of Alejandro Amenabar's superb "The Others" and Guillermo del Toro's delicious "The Devil's Backbone" almost a decade ago showing the genre still has plenty of fertile ground. del Toro went on to produce 2007's "The Orphanage" which used the formula well, and returns as producer for this remake of a surprisingly creepy 70's TV movie about a couple who move into a house with a previously sealed up basement fireplace populated by sinister small creatures tormenting the wife.

One of two great Gothic horror TV movies being remade this year, the other being a new version of the chilling 1989 British tale "The Woman in Black", 'Dark' was shot in Melbourne in mid-late 2009 under the helm of Troy Nixey. Nixey makes his feature filmmaking debut here, following on from his brilliant work with the animated short "Latchkey's Lament", and has managed to turn a film with a modest $12.5 million budget into something that looks like it cost considerably more.

Some of the plot elements have been changed, namely the couple is now a father, daughter and the father's new partner with the daughter becoming the target of the creatures. The creatures themselves have gone from looking like old school "Star Trek" villains to CG creations more akin to something out of a Lovecraft tome. Their small stature, sinister whispering and creepy scuttling is all still very much there and will likely be used to much greater effect thanks to the kind of money and talent on offer that a TV movie of the week in the 70's could only dream of having.

A teaser trailer showing off only a little footage proved very effective, while reviews from very early screenings have been raves and claim the filmmakers have achieved the aim they started out with - to make a genuinely frightening film. Originally aiming to be a PG-13, the MPAA awarded the film an R for 'pervasive scariness' and said the filmmakers essentially couldn't trim anything out. So they've kept it intact and thank god for that.

The only downside here is that the film was produced by Miramax, which means it became caught up in all the hassle of that sale. Now 'Dark' and "The Debt" mentioned above are sitting in vaults awaiting Filmyard's full takeover of Miramax. With both films currently unscheduled, there's no telling when this will hit theatres or what kind of release is planned. However having seen quite a bit of this production (I can't go into details just yet), I can definitely say this will be worth the wait.

Dream House
Opens: September 30th 2011
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, Marton Csokas, Gregory Smith
Director: Jim Sheridan

Summary: A successful New York publisher moves his wife and children to a New England town, where they buy the home of their dreams. But the dream is shattered when they learn that the previous tenants were murdered. The husband teams with a neighbor to learn the truth about the crime, and a killer who has made them the next target.

Analysis: Acclaimed Irish helmer Jim Sheridan ("In America," "Brothers") tries out the mystery thriller genre with this tale of digging into a small town crime. Apparently there's supernatural undertones with the house haunted by the victims of the crime. Specifics on the $60 million project are still uncertain, especially the film's tone, but the cast is a solid mix and Universal is planning a strong marketing push for it.

'Dream' was originally slated to open in February next year but got pushed back until the late Summer as two weeks of required reshoots couldn't take place until earlier this month. The reason? Craig has been committed to filming David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation and this month was his first opportunity to get back to this.

The film's writer, David Loucka, is mostly known for penning the 1996 comedy flop "Eddie". Since he sold his "Dream House" script however, he's become an in demand horror writer and is doing the script for the upcoming third "Ring" feature. Actor Gregory Smith briefly went on record about this film, saying his role is a punk rocker character and the leader of a group of young people who are obsessed with the crime and worship the killer in a Manson-like fashion.

I'm all for a good supernatural thriller, but the trouble is the good ones are few and far between. The plots are also fairly familiar, this one sounds like a fusion of "The Amityville Horror" and "What Lies Beneath", but I hope the presence of the likes of Sheridan, Craig and Watts indicate more substance than what we've come to expect from the genre.

Drive
Opens: September 16th 2011
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Summary: The story follows a nameless Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a freelance getaway driver during robberies. When a bank heist goes wrong, he ends up on the run with a contract on his head and an ex-con’s girlfriend in his car.

Analysis: Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn is becoming a rising star thanks to acclaimed works like "Pusher," "Bronson" and "Valhalla Rising" showing a exciting new voice and talent even if the story details aren't always on the ball (most notably in 'Valhalla'). It's no surprise that Hollywood has come calling and, though he was offered numerous high profile projects, Refn chose to move forward on this high-energy thriller.

Various people have been attached to at one point or another, one previous incarnation had Neil Marshall ("The Descent") slated to direct Hugh Jackman. Here though Refn has settled on a mix of superb talent like Gosling, Mulligan and Perlman rather than marquee names. "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston's role is presently unspecified, though perennial nice guy Albert Brooks apparently has a juicy villain role this time. "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks and rising actor Oscar Isaac ("Robin Hood," "Balibo") also have parts.

Hossein Amini ("The Four Feathers," "Jude," "Shanghai") penned the script, an adaptation of the James Sallis novel, and shooting kicked off earlier this Fall. With Refn involved, there's a lot of real potential here that will hopefully be explored, certainly it sounds ten times more exciting than the next entry in this guide.

Drive Angry 3D
Opens: February 11th 2011
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, David Morse, Billy Burke, William Fichtner
Director: Patrick Lussier

Summary: A vengeful father hunts down the people who brutally killed his daughter and kidnapped her baby. As the chase gets bloodier by the mile, his rescue spins out of control, leaving bodies strewn along the highway.

Analysis: Budgeted at a surprisingly large $75 million and shot natively in 3D, this just looks down right silly, as if Nic Cage's "Ghost Rider" and "Gone in 60 Seconds" had a freakish baby together. There were rumours this would be toned down to a PG-13, but instead it's being promoted as a "balls to the wall, R rated" feature which will be one of the film's selling points beyond its two main co-stars, a 1969 Dodge Charger and a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle, which should get the auto-lovers of the audience aroused.

Editor turned filmmaker Patrick Lussier ("Dracula 2000") previously tackled 3D with the remake of "My Bloody Valentine", a movie mostly remembered for an extended scene of female frontal nudity. That film's writer Todd Farmer ("Jason X") also penned the script for this, a film where the villain of the piece is the enjoyable William Fichtner playing the devil's enforcer known as 'The Accountan0't. I kid you not, though to be fair it looks like the most fun role of the film.

The trailers released thus far, like this, indicate a film far too self-aware of its campiness and so goes way overboard in every way possible. That makes it a love it or leave it proposition, one you really have to be in the mood for (ie. preferably stoned) to enjoy.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Opens: 2011
Cast: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Taye Diggs, Peter Stormare
Director: Kevin Munroe

Summary: In New Orleans, Dylan Dog is an ace detective whose specialty is paranormal cases. Now, he must deal with vampires, werewolves, zombies and a guardian of the Hell, due to a client's case. With the help of Marcus Adams, his un-dead assistant, he will have to preserve the sake of the Earth.

Analysis: Based on the Italian comic by Tiziano Sclavi, this $20 million independently produced horror/action film was shot early 2009 and finished a year ago. A March 18th Italian release is scheduled which means a U.S. release is likely being setup for around the same time.

Adapted by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, the project comes from director Kevin Munroe and marks his second feature after the lacklustre "TMNT" which attempted to revive the Turtles franchise and instead essentially buried it. The cast is decent and Routh is usually pretty good if a bit stiff at times.

First footage for this came from an Italian promotional trailer and looked disappointingly cheap, almost Syfy telemovie in filming style. Part of that is due to the toning down of the rather gory comic to a PG-13 film which has worn down much of the edge, leaving behind only a bland "Buffy" ripoff.

Screened at the AFM this year, a review at Dread Central gave it a 2/5 and that's a site predisposed to like this kind of movie. It's still early though, but the production's backers have some way to go if they hope this will make a splash outside the countries where the comic has an in-built fanbase.

The Eagle
Opens: February 11th 2011
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim
Director: Kevin Macdonald

Summary: In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, a young centurion arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father who commanded the team.

Analysis: This time last year, late 2010 was shaping up to be a fight of duelling sword and sandal movies about the famed lost Ninth Legion. The first was "The Descent" director Neil Marshall's $12 million, blue-tinted, action-heavy chase movie "Centurion" starring Michael Fassbender which explores those svents. The second was this $20 million action/drama which, though bearing no direct relation with "Centurion", could easily serve as an unofficial sequel considering the storyline is set several decades later.

'Eagle' has a stronger pedigree with "The Last King of Scotland" and "State of Play" director Kevin Macdonald at the helm, and a script based on Rosemary Sutcliff's acclaimed 1954 novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" that is quite well-known. Macdonald intends his film to be more concerned with being historically authentic and an exploration of anti-imperialist themes, whereas Marshall's was more a take no prisoners thrill ride.

Then the game board changed. "Centurion" premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and scored mixed reviews. Poorer reaction followed from regular critics a month later as the movie went into wide release in the UK. As a result, the movie was essentially dumped in the final week of Summer in the U.S. and ultimately flopped at the box-office.

'Eagle' meanwhile, originally set to open a month later, got pushed back five months and had its title shortened from the original book title to just "The Eagle" - some amusing speculation had people mistaking it for a golfing movie on title alone. Most delays are usually due to issues with the movie, this however is one of the few cases where there wasn't any problems. Shot in Hungary and Scotland late 2009, the production scored worldwide distribution deals before a single frame was shot so there's lot of faith already about the film's quality.

An early trailer is promising if not particularly exciting, and it does show off a more serious Channing Tatum who is pushing to be taken more seriously as an actor this year with a healthy mix of blockbusters and solid indie dramas. Bell, Strong, Sutherland and Rahim in key supporting roles along with Macdonald's generally superb filmmaking skills make this one of the few pre-Summer mainstream films that holds some promise.

Even the Rain
Opens: 2011
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Tosar, Karra Elejalde, Raul Arevalo
Director: Icíar Bollaín

Summary: Filmmaker Sebastian travels to Bolivia in 2000 to shoot a film about the Spanish conquest of America. They arrive during the tense time of the Cochabamba water crisis and the lines between past and present, fiction and film, become increasingly blurred.

Analysis: Spanish actress turned filmmaker Icíar Bollaín ("Take My Eyes," "Mataharis") returns with this fascinating and slightly meta story which is the official Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars, beating out her fellow countrymen's efforts like "Celda 211" and "Lope". U.S. distributor Vitagraph Films made a rare acquisition picking this up, they only release 2-3 films a year and their last foreign purchase was Germany's "The Baader Meinhof Complex".

It's a film rich with metaphor and themes from runaway productions to the continued exploitation of Latin America by richer countries and multinational corporations who believe human rights should bow down to the almighty dollar. Bolivia is the poorest country on the South American continent, one of the reasons why the filmmakers in the story choose it because it's so cheap to film there.

As they make their movie about the Spanish conquistadors and their pillaging of the country centuries ago, the parallels with the present day events become pretty clear. In this case, the backdrop is Cochabamba Water Revolt in 2000 in Bolivia when the Government privatised the country's water supply and the cost jumped overnight by 300% (which inspired the plot for the hugely disappointing 2008 James Bond film "Quantum of Solace").

Reviews for this have been strong, the film apparently making its points just enough to avoid being labelled as either overbearing or too subtle. Gael Garcia Bernal's main character for example is deeply upset about the historical injustices but finds it far more difficult to be sympathetic to the modern plight when it interrupts his filming schedule and money becomes a major issue. It actually sounds quite fascinating, and certainly one to look out for.

Every Day
Opens: January 14th 2011
Cast: Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber, Carla Gugino, Ezra Miller, Brian Dennehy
Director: Richard Levine

Summary: A dissatisfied TV writer finds himself suffering a mid-life crisis. his teenage son has just come out of the closet, his younger son is scared of everything, a sexy female co-worker is tempting him, and his wife has moved her sick and embittered father from Detroit into their home in NY which adds stress to an already strained marriage.

Analysis: Former "Nip/Tuck" scribe Richard Levine's debut feature is an indie 'family in crisis' drama that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year to decent but unremarkable reviews.

Shot in just three weeks on a shoestring budget, one review describes it as a "low-key film about an average family dealing with average problems". There's nothing major at stake so it's said to feel more like episodic TV than a film, but Levine's writing and solid performances from Hunt and Schreiber apparently have a very lived in and realistic feeling to it.

Carla Gugino pops up as a free spirit and possible temptress, but you can kind of guess where that predictable storyline is going. Image Entertainment hasn't a lot of hope it would seem, throwing this out in limited release mid-January before a likely bigger push on DVD and Blu-ray just a few weeks later on March 8th.

Everything Must Go
Opens: 2011
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern, Stephen Root, Michael Pena
Director: Dan Rush

Summary: Nicolas Halsey is having a bad day. He's been fired from his job of sixteen years, his wife has left him, his bank accounts are frozen, he's been locked out of his own house, and all of his worldly possessions on his front lawn. He has five days to clear his lawn and proceeds to setup a yard sale that will soon lead to a change in his life.

Analysis: 'Go' marks the debut filmmaking effort of writer/director Dan Rush, based on a short story by Raymond Carver whose works were big influences on films like Robert Altman's ensemble drama "Short Cuts" and the Laura Linney-led Australian thriller "Jindabyne". The script itself scored rave reviews and a BlackList placing in 2007, while the film premiered in Toronto and London earlier this year to generally positive reviews, though there have been some complaints about pacing.

It also marks a change for the normally manic Ferrell who dominates much of the screen time in this $8 million melancholic drama with some occasional darkly comic touches. It's a much lower-key endeavour than his most remarkable 'straight work' thus far in "Stranger Than Fiction", with several reviews saying Ferrell's performance is almost unrecognisable compared with his usual antics.

One of the nicer compliments it received was that it apparently tackles the issue of the lead character's battle with alcoholism without either "demonizing him for his addiction or letting him off the hook for his failings" says a review from Twitchfilm's Todd Brown. Yet one wonders if either Ferrell fans or indie cinema lovers will warm to a film where one of the two key ingredients - slow emotional character drama and Will Ferrell - seems to almost cancel out any interest they may have.

The Eye of the Storm
Opens: 2011
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling, Robyn Nevin, Dustin Clare
Director: Fred Schepsi

Summary: Set in the Sydney suburb of Centennial Park in the 1970's. Two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. But, in dying, as in living, Mrs. Hunter remains a powerful force on those who surround her.

Analysis: Acclaimed Australian filmmaker Fred Schepsi ("Roxanne," "Six Degrees of Separation") has kept relatively quiet in recent years with his last on screen directing effort being 2003's "It Runs in the Family". In 2008 he failed to get funding for the proposed Vietnam war feature "The Last Man" with Guy Pearce and David Wenham, and instead shifted his attention to this film adaptation of Patrick White's 1973 novel, a book so good it was the key to scoring the author a Nobel Prize for Literature.

It took some time but Schepsi managed to secure around $10 million in funding and shot the film earlier this year, over two decades since 1988's "Evil Angels" (aka. "A Cry in the Dark") which was the last time he made a film in his native country. There's still a bit of question lingering over whether actress turned scribe Judy Morris ("Happy Feet," "Babe: Pig in the City") was able to fully translate White's rich prose.

Even if she didn't, the fact is what's on offer here is a truly delicious sounding black comedy/drama about a dying tyrannical matriarch (Charlotte Rampling) and her scheming adult children (Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis), a kind of witty "King Lear" set against the backdrop of Sydney's eastern suburbs in the 1970's. An 'In Production' early trailer released a few months ago looks great if a tad over the top.

Transmission Films, who released the likes of "Samson and Delilah," "Balibo" and "Beneath Hill 60," are set to release the film in Australia this year. No word yet on an international rollout, but with the big name talent involved it'll likely sell quickly overseas.

The Complete Notable Films of 2011 Guide

Part One : 5 Days of August, 11-11-11, 13 Assassins, 30 Minutes or Less, Abduction, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Albert Nobbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Amigo, Anonymous, Apollo 18, The Apparition, Arthur, Arthur Christmas, Atlas Shrugged: Part One, Bad Teacher, Barney's Version, Battle: Los Angeles, Beastly

Part Two : The Beaver, Beginners, Bel Ami, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, The Big Year, Black Gold, Blackthorn, The Black Tulip, Blitz, Born to Be a Star, The Borrower Arrietty, Bridesmaids, Brighton Rock, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Caesar: Rise of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cars 2

Part Three : Catch .44, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cedar Rapids, Ceremony, Certified Copy, Chalet Girl, The Change-Up, Clean Skin, The Cold Light of Day, Cold Weather, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, The Conspirator, Contagion, The Convincer, Coriolanus, Courageous, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Cup

Part Four : Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, The Darkest Hour, The Debt, The Deep Blue Sea, The Descendants, The Details, The Devil's Double, Dibbuk Box, The Dilemma, Dolphin Tale 3D, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Drive, Drive Angry 3D, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, The Eagle, Even the Rain, Every Day, Everything Must Go, The Eye of the Storm

[Author: Dark Horizons]

The first stills from My Idiot Brother, The Other Woman, Take Shelter, Upside Down and some blurry behind-the-scenes photos from Captain America: The First Avenger.

The first trailer is out for the Steven Spielberg-produced alien invasion series "Falling Skies" which kicks off this Summer on TNT.

"Australian stunt man Scott McLean has been hospitalized following an accident on the set of "The Hangover" sequel in Thailand. McLean is now in a coma due to injuries sustained during a stunt involving two cars crashing into each other at high speed in Bangkok…" (full details)

"The Len Wiseman-directed, Colin Farrell-led remake of "Total Recall" reportedly has a price tag sitting at around $200 million…" (full details)

"Turns out Ving Rhames wants $7.7 million for his cameo in the fourth "Mission: Impossible", more than double his fee for the last film…" (full details)

"Bryan Singer will shoot his 3D "Jack the Giant Killer" using the EPIC Red cameras and natural light as the film is set in a time before electricity. The most famous example of a film doing that is Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon"…" (full details)

"Two alien races, the Skrulls and the Kree, are rumoured to be the main antagonists of the super hero team-up film "The Avengers"…" (full details)

"Greta Gerwig has left Noah Baumbach's upcoming drama "While We're Young" while Cate Blanchett has joined the cast. James Franco and Ben Stiller also star…" (full details)

"Kevin Costner is in negotiations to star in a new Kazakhstani historical drama about the founding of the Asian state. Akan Satayev ("Strayed") is directing…" (full details)

"Topher Grace says the rampant cocaine use seen on screen in the 80's teen comedy "Take Me Home Tonight" was big factor in the multi-year delayed release of the project…" (full details)

"Sony Pictures and producer Laura Ziskin are planning to produce an English language remake of Benjamin Heisenberg's Austrian-German thriller "The Robber" about a marathon runner who moonlights as a bank robber…" (full details)

"Apple was recently granted the patent for a new type of display screen that produces three dimensional images without the need for glasses…" (full details)

"Mickey Rourke has confirmed that he's still pursuing his planned biopic of gay Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas…" (full details)

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Terry Gilliam and visual effects artist Tim Ollive are teaming for "1884" which is described as an $8 million "mixed-media adventure" reports Variety.

The project is described as an espionage story set in an alternate 1884 where the industrial revolution went a lot further and faster along than it has - resulting in a futuristic imperial metropolis beset with steam-powered flying cars and the scientific advancement of mankind.

The story will mix animation, live-action puppetry and CGI while the backgrounds will blend period photography, miniatures and graphics. Ollive will direct while Gilliam will serve as both producer and "creative advisor", and says that the visuals are "not slick and sleek CG work, such as studios in L.A. particularly produce. It looks crafted by an artisan, and the scale and design are spectacular."

Ollive co-wrote the screenplay with Dennis de Groot, while famed Monty Python cast members will provide voices (though which particular names have yet to be revealed).

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Best-selling author Dan Brown is taking over scripting duties on the film adaptation of his most recent novel "The Lost Symbol" at Sony Pictures says Risky Biz Blog.

The novel is the third to feature the character Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set around Washington DC. There, the head of the Smithsonian Institute has been kidnapped and Langdon gets mixed up in a tale blending the Freemasons, Noetic Science and a killer tattooed from head to toe.

Sony adapted the second Langdon novel, "The Da Vinci Code", into a poorly reviewed film back in 2006 which hauled in $758 million worldwide. Last year they adapted the first book "Angels & Demons" which scored better notices and a $486 million global haul. Critical reaction to the 'Symbol' novel labelled it the weakest of the three Langdon books.

Akiva Goldsman adapted the script for 'Da Vinci' while he and David Koepp co-adapted the script for 'Angels'. At last report Steven Knight ("Eastern Promises") was set to adapt 'Symbol' but obviously has moved on if Brown himself is coming onboard.

While Imagine Entertainment is once again producing, neither director Ron Howard nor star Tom Hanks has officially committed to the project. Sony however is keen to get moving on the film and is probably targeting a Summer 2013 release for the adaptation.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

It’s almost impossible to consider it’s been 28 years since Disney’s “TRON” provided a new language of special effects to the industry, bonding scruffy visual peculiarity to a story of awkward heroism, set inside a forbidding digital landscape of programs at war.

Though a box office underperformer in 1982, “TRON” developed into a sizable cult hit over the years, boosted by the retro smooch of its groundbreaking use of CGI and endearing quarter-fingering arcade appeal. “TRON: Legacy” is most certainly a continuation of the original, yet the new picture endeavors to find its own footing as an epic of unreality, creating an immense electronic realm of peril to encourage a fresh generation of “TRON” devotees.

Troubled since the day his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappeared without a trace, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has made it his life’s work to cause chaos at the ENCOM Corporation, raising the concern of family friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Chasing a mysterious indication of his father’s return, Sam instead finds himself zapped onto The Grid, the highly developed computer world born from Kevin’s imagination and expertise.

Facing the wrath of evil program CLU (an effect voiced by Bridges) and his deadly henchman Rinzler, Sam is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and brought to Kevin, who’s become a fallen deity within his creation, snapped out of his fog by the appearance of his abandoned son. With CLU desperate to take possession of Kevin’s identity disc, Sam hunts for a way off The Grid, desperate to return his father back to the real world.

No longer a Herculean effort of rotoscoping and refrigerator-sized computer assistance, the world of “TRON” has been exhaustively modernized for today’s savvy audiences. The metropolis of The Grid has been handed a sleek Apple polish, extended far beyond the technological limits of 1982, realized here as a developed community of gamers and warriors living inside a throbbing cityscape of towers and arenas. It’s a thankless task to sequelize “TRON,” yet director Joseph Kosinski (making his feature-length debut) finds majestic inspiration in the digital world, bestowing “Legacy” with a breathtaking sense of scale and mystery, augmented in the film’s victorious 3D and IMAX enlargements.

This is a striking feature, designed as a glowing, seamless tribute to the original picture’s duct-taped and fuzzy color aesthetic, cleaning up The Grid for 2010, creating an innovative sensation of discovery for the audience to enjoy as Sam plunges further into CLU’s domain. The entire production deserves admiration, as the tech credits are unstoppable here, gifting the screen a dynamic wonderland to absorb, once again challenging and redefining visual effect limitations along the way. “Legacy” isn’t simply eye candy, it’s Wonka’s entire factory.

Of course, not everything looks ideal. The CLU effect (also viewed in flashback scenes involving Kevin) is an ambitious stab at mo-cap realism that doesn’t quite fool the eye, giving away the artifice whenever the character opens his mouth. Cynics may cry failure, but I found the effort captured the pioneer spirit of the original film perfectly, pushing digital representation to inspiring heights, setting the foundation for future pictures to build on. CLU remains a striking enemy throughout “Legacy,” despite a villainous master plan a little on the convoluted side.

“Legacy” is a sequel, despite Disney’s attempts to distance the film from its 1982 forefather. Fandom is rewarded with lustrous vehicle upgrades, with Recognizers and Light Cycles crisply swooshing across the screen, while the deadly games at the heart of “TRON” are reworked thrillingly, highlighting Sam’s struggle to stay alive through furious Disc War matches, eventually facing the enigmatic Rinzler in a gravity-defying showdown that’s a million miles away from the jai alai contests of before. “Legacy” shows a stiffness in pace at times, dealing with an extraordinary amount of exposition and mythmaking to marry the two pictures, but the action and pursuit beats are adorned with a marvelous amount of luminous smash-mouth style, permitting “Legacy” a propulsive energy to carry through to the climatic confrontation.

Also returning for duty is Jeff Bridges, found here as Kevin trapped in a shell-shocked state, watching as his intentions to further humanity have turned against him in the form of his malevolent digital double. Bridges is the anchor of humanity in “Legacy,” instilling the film with humor and marquee poise as the character awakens from his Zen coma, confronted by Sam and the life he left behind to pursue his controversial vision, slowly reverting to his hippy-dippy sense of response once the threat is amplified.

Also fairing well is Hedlund, who deploys his monosyllabic charisma acceptably as the emotionally frayed hero, and Wilde, making for a spunky, gumball-eyed sidekick and a flexible warrior. Sneaking in here to steal a few scenes and add his own visual fireworks display is Michael Sheen, hamming it up as Castor, flamboyant owner of the thumping End of Line Club. Sadly, actress Cindy Morgan, who played the dual role of Lora/Yori in the first film, has been left out of the new adventure. Her presence is sorely missed.

Providing their special electro fingerprint is Daft Punk, scoring the stuffing out of “Legacy” with stirring themes and teeth-rattling bass encouragement. The score is by far the most triumphant element of the picture, evoking the digital environments with vigorous aural cues that immediately place mood and cinematic scope. It’s a transcendent soundscape from synth masters, befitting an expansive epic.

It’s difficult to understand how “Legacy” will be received by younger viewers, possibly unaware that this sequel is actually a sequel at all. The tender family drama at the core of the picture opens up universal appeal substantially, humanizing the stylized iciness of the visual scheme. However, much of the plot is rooted in the 1982 film, which is a catnip proposition for fans, but could leave some out in the cold, unable to fully participate in the extravaganza. It’s an unusual moviegoing situation to be facing, with such a tremendous divide in time between installments, but the very fact that there’s a sequel to “TRON,” and it happens to satisfy, is reason enough to rejoice.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Beloved filmmaker Blake Edwards passed away late Wednesday evening after losing a battle with a recent bout of pneumonia. His wife Julie Andrews and other family members and friends were by his bedside in hospital. He was 88.

Edwards was one of the most influential comedy filmmakers from the late 60's through to the 80's. He's best known for his work directing Peter Sellers in "The Pink Panther" film series, but also helmed films like "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "10," "Victor/Victoria" (for which he scored a Oscar nomination for the screenplay), "Days of Wine and Roses," "The Party," "The Great Race," "S.O.B.," "Skin Deep" and the TV series "Peter Gunn".

Edwards may be gone, but he leaves behind a large legacy of great films that will keep people amused and entertained for many years to come.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

The Screen Actors Guild nominations were announced today. First up here's the list of film nominees in the five acting categories. Once again "The King's Speech" and "The Fighter" came out on top with four nominations while "Black Swan" and "The Kids Are All Right" fared very well with three. Notable omissions include "The Town," "Animal Kingdom," "Blue Valentine" and "Another Year".

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Robert Duvall, “Get Low”

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Benning, “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman, “The Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Hilary Swank, “Conviction”

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”
John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner, “The Town”
Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”

Presently in the awards race it's looking like "The King's Speech," "The Social Network" and "The Fighter" are now neck-and-neck with 'Fighter' moving up in position from behind the other two in just the past week. "Inception," "Winter's Bone," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Black Swan" are still in there and certain for noms in a few categories.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

The Beaver
Opens: March 23rd 2011
Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Jodie Foster

Summary: A depressed toy company CEO with a failed marriage starts to wear a beaver puppet on his hand as a form of therapy, much to the initial bemusement of his family. He soon begins talking only through the character.

Analysis: This time last year, excitement was quietly brewing for "The Beaver". Gibson's drunken tirade a few years before hand wasn't forgotten, but enough time had passed that this looked to be the year of a potential comeback for the actor.

The thriller remake "Edge of Darkness" and this were his first on screen roles in ten years, 'Beaver' is also his "Maverick" co-star Foster's return to the director's chair fifteen years after her last feature. The script topped the 2008 Black List and scored rave reviews for its blend of sophisticated humor and sad pathos, while a lot of top comedic talent was being pursued for the project at one point.

Now everything has changed. 'Edge' fizzled, the $80 million film only managed to equal its budget in worldwide grosses and was torn apart by critics. Gibson's apparent abusive phone call recordings with ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva were splashed all over the media this past Summer, leading to his agency dropping him. The chance for a high profile cameo in "The Hangover" sequel fell apart not long after the opportunity was offered, and there's a gigantic question mark over Gibson's head these days as to his bankability at the box-office.

Summit Entertainment, who eagerly bought the distribution rights to 'Beaver' a while back, are now stuck with it and have decided to give the film a limited theatrical release in late March. Summit themselves are partly used to this, in February this year they had to release "The Ghost Writer" just a few months after the high-profile media scandal surrounding the arrest in Zurich of that film's director Roman Polanski. Yet they released it, the film scoring some of the best reviews for a studio feature this year and also pulling in a decent $60 million worldwide gross.

With 'Ghost' though, Polanski's involvement was kept minimised in marketing materials. With 'Beaver', Gibson is front and center and there's no way to avoid it. The trailer for the film was launched the other week with a horribly condescending voiceover and an emphasis on the redemption angle to the point that it seems like we'll be watching Gibson's own therapy on screen. Art should always be judged separately from the artist, but with events still so fresh - it'll likely be some time before 'Beaver' can truly be judged on its own merits.

Beginners
Opens: June 3rd 2011
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic
Director: Mike Mills

Summary: After his mother's death, a young man's elderly father declares he's gay. Four years later the dad dies of cancer, leaving the man confused about love until a young French woman inspires him to expand his mind and find true intimacy.

Analysis: Five years after the modest "Thumbsucker", indie filmmaker Mike Mills returns with this bittersweet comedy that premiered in Toronto to great reviews. In fact word was so good that Focus Features quickly snapped up the film and made a strong $2 million marketing commitment to ensure it gets a healthy bow in limited release. Focus rarely makes festival acquisitions, one of the few other exceptions it made recently was "The Kids Are All Right" which is now a major awards contender.

The strong response to 'Beginners' shouldn't come as a surprise though as the subject matter is personal to Mills, the writer/director's own father went through a similar late life sexual reinvention which heavily informed the script. Reviews point out it's a deeply personal film that lays bare the various flaws of its characters, while at the same time keeping a charming comedy tone that avoids the overwrought downer that most character studies like this generally are.

A few clips on Youtube for the film look excellent, Plummer absolutely having a ball in one scene where his character goes out to a gay nightclub for the first time. Should be a welcome intelligent alternative for adults during the Summer blockbuster period.

Bel Ami
Opens: 2011
Cast: Uma Thurman, Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod

Summary: In Belle Epoque-era Paris, a former French soldier from the lower class returns from Algeria and becomes a journalist. Through a series of affairs with well-connected women, he uses his looks and smarts to make his way up the social ladder.

Analysis: Though sharing the same name as Europe's most prestigious hardcore gay porn studio, a fact that made many a headline writer's day when "Twilight" hunk Robert Pattinson was cast, the film is actually an adaptation of acclaimed French author Guy de Maupassant's second novel in 1885. The story is familiar, a young man basically screws over and just plain screws his way into high society, yet it's also considered one of the great books of its time and remains a perennial favourite in certain countries.

A lot of the novel's appeal however is de Maupassant's legendarily efficient and involving prose, a writing style that inspired countless others from W. Somerset Maugham to Friedrich Nietzsche, and one that will be very difficult to translate to the screen. It's also very much a classic French tale, so an English adaptation will likely get a hostile reception in western Europe even if it's good - if it's sub-par then god help anyone trying to do promotion for it over there.

Adapted by newbie scribe Rachel Bennette and directed by a pair of stage production veterans making their feature debut, the London and Budapest-shot period piece will have lots of raunchy appeal that "Twilight" moms might be nervous about their daughters seeing. One major scene is an orgy sequence with Pattinson's character which one source tells the press will be "tastefully done". That scene, shot at Kent's Crossness Pumping Station, will be drenched in candlelight and lace to disguise the fact the station is living up to its name in a different way than it was designed for.

More exciting is the cast with the brilliant Thomas, Thurman and Ricci ably supporting Pattinson who seems a better fit for this kind of material than some of his other projects. He's also joined by some under appreciated great British male talent like Philip Glenister ("Life on Mars," "Ashes to Ashes"), James Lance ("Absolute Power," "No Heroics") and Colm Meaney ("Star Trek: DS9," "The Commitments"). Set photos show off some exquisite looking costume design, but no footage is yet out and a release date isn't locked. At last report it'll be hitting the UK in August which means a likely late Summer/early Fall release in the States.

Bernie
Opens: 2011
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Rip Torn
Director: Richard Linklater

Summary: In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow. When he murders her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she's alive. No-one misses her for months until the local district attorney (McConaughey) decides to investigate.

Analysis: Still deep in post-production after recently wrapping its shoot in Texas, this black comedy is described as "'Fargo' for East Texas", and is the first film in three years for Richard Linklater ("Before Sunrise," "Dazed and Confused," "School of Rock"). Linklater's last work, 2008's well-received "Me and Orson Welles", scored only a limited release over a year after its festival debut.

While the premise for this sounds like a less vacation-centric "Weekend at Bernies", the kicker here is that it's based on a true story which Linklater has been thoroughly researching. As he's also doing the script, one hopes it will have a dark and biting edge. Jack Black's previous teaming with Linklater, 2003's "School of Rock", was easily one of the actor's best works - I hope they strike gold again.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Opens: 2011
Cast: Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson
Director: John Madden

Summary: A group of British retirees decide to "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and with visions of a life of leisure, they find the palace a shell of its former self, but are forever transformed by their shared experiences there.

Analysis: Based on Deborah Moggach's novel "These Fine Things", here's a project that seems destined for awards consideration. A cast of British acting veterans, a story based on a beloved book, an exotic locale, a mature comedic tone, and one of the most successful award-generating art house film distributors backing it fully - Fox Searchlight. Combine that with professionals like John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love," "The Debt") directing and Deborah Moggach (2005's "Pride & Prejudice") adapting the script, the ingredients are all there for a critical heavyweight.

Actor Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire") has reportedly had to rapidly shed his British accent and learn to speak like an authentic Punjabi for his character. A bigger concern is if the former "Skins" star will be able to hold his own against these acting legends including two dames. Shooting got underway in India last month with the actors having only just returned to the UK, so presently it's too early to make any judgement calls on this. Searchlight's plans for release however are an important question, and it seems likely a mid-Fall date is on the cards.

Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son
Opens: February 18th 2011
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Max Casella, Tony Curran, Faizon Love
Director: John Whitesell

Summary: FBI agent Malcolm Turner and his 17-year-old son, Trent, go undercover at an all-girls performing arts school after Trent witnesses a murder. Posing as Big Momma and Charmaine, they must find the murderer before he finds them.

Analysis: Every year there's an embarassingly bad comedy that becomes a hit and usually it involves Martin Lawrence, Kevin James, Adam Sandler or a combination of the three. When the first 'Momma' took in nearly $174 million worldwide from a $30 million budget, a sequel made sense despite the pain it would cause. Yet even with atrocious reviews and the bad taste left by the first film, the $40 million follow-up still managed to pull in around $140 million worldwide - ensuring Fox would do yet another entry.

This time out, the fat and cross-dressing jokes are dragging down promising "Tropic Thunder" and "Percy Jackson" co-star Brandon T. Jackson who admittedly makes for a more convincing looking woman than Lawrence. Yet the trailer shows all the tired jokes you'd expect, the college setting an obvious move to keep the budget in check. Lawrence has said this will be the last in this series, it's a statement I hope to god he sticks to so we can wash our hands of this soul-destroying muck.

The Big Year
Opens: 2011
Cast: Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest
Director: David Frankel

Summary: Based on Mark Obmascik's 1998 book, the story follows three men who try to outdo each other in a bird-watching competition to spot the rarest birds in North America. The rivalry is an allegory for the challenges each faces in his own life.

Analysis: The premise may sound a little too close to the idiotic "Strange Wilderness" for one's liking, but the talent involved here certainly promise to lift the material well above that.

Director Frankel is coming off two major hits with "Marley and Me" and "The Devil Wears Prada", scribe Howard Franklin penned the likes of "The Name of the Rose" and "Antitrust", and the cast list includes not only those five listed above but the likes of Joel McHale, Rosamund Pike, Rashida Jones, Jim Parsons, Kevin Pollak, JoBeth Williams, Brian Dennehy and Tim Blake Nelson.

Shot earlier this year in Canada, the general word is that it looks like a funny albeit predictable PG-13 comedy that'll charm its way to strong box-office but is unlikely to be one of the more distinctive films of next year despite the cast.

Black Gold
Opens: 2011
Cast: Mark Strong, Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Summary: Set in the Arab states in the late 1920's, the story centers on a young well educated Arab prince torn between allegiance to his conservative father and liberal father-in-law while serving his duty to protect his country after oil is discovered in the Gulf.

Analysis: One of the most ambitious non-Hollywood projects of next year, this adaptation of Hans Ruesch's 1957 novel "South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia" uses the fascinating and almost unexplored backdrop of the impact that the discovery of oil, and the ensuing power struggle to control it, had on society and religion in parts of the Middle East. The cast is great, topped by the excellent Mark Strong, veteran Banderas, "A Prophet" star Rahim, rising "Slumdog Millionaire" actress Pinto and "Four Lions" actor Riz Ahmed.

Formerly titled "Black Thirst" and currently shooting in Tunisia, Libya and Qatar, the $55 million project is helmed by French filmmaker Annaud who has demonstrated strong skill with period dramas like Russian sniper thriller "Enemy at the Gates" and the Sean Conney monk murder mystery "The Name of the Rose". Equally exciting is a script by Menno Meyjes who scripted "The Color Purple," "The Siege," "Max" and performed story work and polishes on "Empire of the Sun" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".

It's a major shoot, Tunisia Online reporting that more than 100 Tunisian actors, 100 technicians and 16 assistant directors are involved in the 14-week leg of the shoot in Matmata where "Star Wars," "The English Patient" and 'Raiders' were shot. A brief video interview with Annaud reveals that there will be several battle scenes and shows off various impressive desert locations in Qatar where several key scenes will be staged.

The accents will be interesting, Ahmed amusingly noting that "I’m going to play Tahar Rahim’s brother. Antonio Banderas is playing our dad and Freida Pinto’s playing my sister. It’s all one big happy family with a French accent, an English accent, a Spanish accent and an Indian accent. We’ll shoot for mid-Mediterranean somewhere."

Annaud also hints that the tone might be lighter than expected, calling it "a great, enjoyable and entertaining movie for families around the world." A U.S. distributor isn't yet locked, but distribution rights in Europe are currently split between Universal and Warner Bros. Pictures which means it's likely one of them will give the project a decent sized release States-side sometime in the second half of the year.

Blackthorn
Opens: 2011
Cast: Sam Shepard, Stephen Rea, Eduardo Noriega, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Director: Mateo Gil

Summary: Outlaw Butch Cassidy was supposed to have died in Bolivia in 1908. In truth he’s been hiding there for the past two decades under the name of James Blackthorn and now wants to return home to the son he never met. Soon he meets a young Spanish engineer that has just robbed the mine he was working at and together they undertake their last adventure.

Analysis: A rather curious Spanish/British co-production shot on location in Bolivia, 'Blackthorn' expands on theories that have arisen in recent decades that Butch Cassidy didn't die in that stand-off in San Vicente and went on living well into the 1920's and 30's. In this film, helmed by "Agora" and "The Sea Inside" scribe Mateo Gil making his English-language directing debut, Cassidy has assumed another identity and is now quietly living out his remaining years.

Gil says his film brings a modern point of view to the genre, while still embracing its nostalgia and its deeply moral elements. Mostly though it avoids the "grandiose images and traditional aesthetic" of westerns in favour of an intimate character study of Cassidy himself. A promo trailer on the Arcadia Pictures official site shows an obviously limited budget, but some eye catching scenery and a potentially quite interesting performance from Shepard.

What's amusing to ponder is how many will consider this a "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" sequel. It isn't of course, but the film's events could logically fit the assumption and the marketing could certainly place that suggestion in the minds of moviegoers. It's a similar situation to 2003's "Ripley's Game" which some thought was a direct sequel to 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley", in actuality they're quite distinctly different adaptations with no relation beyond the author's source material.

The Black Tulip
Opens: 2011
Cast: Sonia Nassery Cole, Haji Gul Aser, Walid Amini, Somajia Razaya
Director: Sonia Nassery Cole

Summary: After the Taliban is routed from Afghanistan in early 2001, the Mansouri family seizes the new window of freedom by opening a restaurant with an open microphone and an inviting platform for all to read poetry and tell their stories. This newfound hope proves to be fleeting as they struggle to maintain their lifestyle when encountering very real threats from lingering factions of the Taliban.

Analysis: If you think it's tough to be a filmmaker in the Hollywood system, spare a thought for Sonia Nassery Cole and her production crew. Cole decided to film her tragic love story tale on location in Afghanistan - an extraordinarily rare event (even "The Kite Runner" shot in China") ever since the Taliban banned motion pictures and closed or destroyed theaters. Even with the American-backed Government in place, shooting in Kabul is considered far too dangerous and certainly makes any production uninsurable.

Cole persevered though, mortgaging her own home to cover the budget and dealing with daily threats and security issues. A fascinating piece in The New York Times had Cole claiming militants cut off both of her leading actress' feet in revenge for a Pakistani film she had done years before, while three senior crew members abandoned the film right in the middle of production. That piece however had to be corrected as Cole was caught "colorfully mischaracterising" events - namely those members stayed through most of the production while the unknown actress in question told her in a call about the amputations and Cole never saw or heard from her again after that.

In spite of all the setbacks and struggles filming in a war zone, production wrapped last Fall. The film went on to premiere in Kabul in September where it met a tough crowd response with attendees praising the film’s anti-Taliban sentiments but often laughing at its inaccurate depiction of social relationships, namely its public displays of affection. Already the country's official submission for the foreign language Oscar, there's still presently no release dates for it in either the U.S. or Europe though it seems only a matter of time before it's scheduled in.

Blitz
Opens: 2011
Cast: Jason Statham, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Aidan Gillen, Luke Evans
Director: Elliott Lester

Summary: Three members of the South East London police squad - a sociopathic rage-fueled detective, a newly widower DCI, and a black female investigator find their lives worsened by a serial killer targeting cops on different beats around the city.

Analysis: "Moon" scribe Nathan Parker and "Love is the Drug" director Elliott Lester team on this well cast British crime thriller with a great premise. Based on the fourth of seven novels by Irish crime writer Ken Bruen that feature two of his regular characters, if this proves successful there could well be a sequel based on one of the other books.

Certainly Statham's Tom Brant character is said to be a memorably violent copper who makes The Shield's Vic Mackey look like a cub scout. Given the right material, such as 2008's superb "The Bank Job", Statham has shown he can be more than just a hunky action hero.

Yet something smells fishy here. Another of Bruen's works, "London Boulevard", opened in the UK last month to a decidedly mixed reaction which has cooled the anticipation for this somewhat. A poorly cobbled together trailer relied on stupid quick cuts and essentially gives away the whole movie, a shame as it looked like a very dark, fun and exciting piece albeit rather TV movie-esque.

'Blitz' also marks the first production of Lionsgate's new UK branch which in 2008 announced a commitment to develop and produce more local films for Blighty. I hope the venture works out for them, right now though they need some major tweaking to their marketing campaign if they want to ensure this doesn't get quietly dumped like the recent Statham-led "13" seems to have been.

Born to Be A Star
Opens: April 22nd 2011
Cast: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Stephen Dorff, Don Johnson, Edward Herrmann
Director: Tom Brady

Summary: A small-town nerd learns his quiet and demure parents were famous porn stars in the 1970s. This motivates him to leave for Hollywood, hoping to follow in their footsteps and fulfill his destiny as the biggest adult-film star in the world.

Analysis: Co-written by Adam Sandler and helmed by the director of Rob Schneider vehicles "The Hot Chick" and "The Animal", the film may not star Sandler but his fingerprints are definitely all over it. Thus the gags are almost certain to go for the lowest common denominator, which is a shame as the premise could make for a biting black comedy.

One could be sure that this was already set for some 'worst of' lists if it weren't for some of the clever supporting casting such as Don Johnson as a washed up porn director, and Stephen Dorff as a porn star named Dick Shadow. Maybe it'll surprise, but considering it was shot second quarter 2009 and still hasn't seen a release of any marketing materials yet, one gets the idea Sony is looking to quietly dump it in late April where it'll get flattened by the May blockbuster race.

The Borrower Arrietty
Opens: 2011
Cast: English Voice Cast To Be Announced
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Summary: Sho moves into his great aunt's house and soon discovers the presence of tiny people, the Borrowers, living there. He develops a friendship with a 14-year-old Borrower named Arrietty, despite it breaking the cardinal rule that humans must not know about the Borrowers' existence.

Analysis: The latest effort from Studio Ghibli is a new adaptation of Mary Norton's novel "The Borrowers" and sticks closely to that work aside from moving the setting to western Tokyo. This however is not a film by Hayao Miyazaki, rather it marks the directorial debut of animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the youngest person to direct a film for Ghibli. Yonebayashi has worked at the studio as an animator since 1997's "Princess Mononoke" and worked on key animation on Miyazaki's last three movies - "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo".

Yet before the film's release there was concern. Both Howl's and Ponyo scored a slightly more tepid reaction than expected and Ghibli had some of their first outright mixed and even negative reviews for Gorō Miyazaki's flawed take of "Tales from Earthsea". Could this be another potential stinker? Upon release in Japan in July however the mood changed and the various reviews that have come out since have raved about the film, citing it as one of the best non-Miyazaki Ghibli efforts. Over 7.5 million people saw the film in theaters in its home country.

Arrietty's small scope means it lacks the gravitas and depth of a 'Spirited' or 'Mononoke', and there are some minor story quibbles in regards to the script which Miyazaki himself wrote, but otherwise the film is likely to get a rave reception in the U.S. whenever it gets released. Disney distributes Ghibli's films in the U.S., but presently this film doesn't appear on their 2011 slate. No English voice track has yet been cast or recorded either, but a release this year is definitely expected. From past efforts I'd say a late Summer bow is when we'll likely see it.

Bridesmaids
Opens: May 13th 2011
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Dianne Wiest, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph
Director: Paul Feig

Summary: A maid of honor begrudgingly fins herself competing with snobby, rich bridesmaids at every pre-wedding event before the nuptials of her best friend.

Analysis: Thankfully looking a lot more interesting than other wedding-themed comedies of late like "Bride Wars" and "Made of Honor", this comedy is produced by Judd Apatow and his involvement in a project usually means two things aside from laughs - namely heavy handed sentimentality, and a runtime a good half hour too long. Indeed the first test screening for the film clocked in at an almost painful sounding 142 minutes. That number thankfully has been cut down to just under two hours now.

Paul Feig, who has served as producer on such shows as "Nurse Jackie," "The Office" and "Freaks and Geeks", helms from a script co-written by Wiig. Wiig herself is poised to be a breakout female comedy star and stole the show in this year's "MacGruber". With this being labelled the "female version of 'The Hangover'" and a strong supporting cast, there's hope in spite of Apatow's output proving overrated with only odd exceptions ("Superbad," "Pineapple Express"). Hopefully this will be one of those exceptions.

Brighton Rock
Opens: 2011
Cast: Sam Riley, Carey Mulligan, Helen Mirren, Pete Postlethwaite, John Hurt
Director: Rowan Joffe

Summary: Based on the novel by Graham Greene. In order to keep a waitress who witnessed him murdering a rival thug quiet, a small-town hood opts to marry her. As his gang begins to doubt his abilities, the man becomes more desperate and violent.

Analysis: A year ago this was considered a potential dark horse awards contender thanks to its stellar cast and source material. Neil Jordan's "The End of the Affair" in 1999 and Phil Noyce's "The Quiet American" in 2002 showed that author Graham Greene's material can still work on film with contemporary audiences so long as it's in the right hands. While 'Brighton' is not one of Greene's more famous works like "The Third Man", the book remains an important one and the 1947 film adaptation with Richard Attenborough is considered one of the most successful efforts in British film noir ever.

So what happened? The Toronto Film Festival is what. Both this and Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go", a film even more pegged to be a serious awards contender this year, premiered with the hope of generating awards buzz. Instead, both films scored a very mixed response and quickly fell off radars. 'Never' of course had already committed to a limited theatrical run and pulled in a disappointing $2.4 million States-side, while international release plans have yet to take shape.

'Brighton' meanwhile sits pondering its fate. A recent trailer was enjoyably stylish but can't answer the criticisms from Toronto and some truly scathing reviews in London a month later that scribe turned first-time director Rowan Joffe failed to fully grasp Greene's admittedly quite difficult to adapt work. The change of the film's time period from the 30's to the 60's apparently has little impact on the story, aside from the production getting to revel in period iconography. More disappointing are reviews claiming a great cast is wasted in unsuitable roles.

Butter
Opens: 2011
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Garner, Ashley Greene, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry
Director: Jim Field Smith

Summary: A young orphan, after being adopted by a Midwestern family, discovers she has an uncanny talent for butter-carving. She eventually finds herself up against the ambitious wife of the retired reigning champion in a town's annual butter-sculpting contest.

Analysis: Despite already being in the can for a half year now, little is known about this upcoming comedy beyond a short "Entertainment Tonight" piece which revealed little. "She's Out of My League" director Smith shot this in Louisiana in April/May and while the concept sounds twee, script reviews have generally been kind and called it a funny and sweet little film along "Little Miss Sunshine" lines. I expect we'll get a much better idea once a trailer hits, though photos seem to confirm reports that Olivia Wilde plays a stripper which should get some guys interested in this.

The Cabin in the Woods
Opens: 2011
Cast: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kran
Director: Drew Goddard

Summary: A new twist on a classic scenario -- in this case the young-people-stranded-in-the-woods horror trope. Jenkins and Whitford will play white-collar co-workers with a mysterious connection to the cabin. Zombies also come into play at some point.

Analysis: A victim of circumstance, this throwback to John Carpenter-era old-fashioned horror mixed with "Buffy" style black comedy lashings now sits in a corner somewhere gathering dust as MGM sorts out its long-running financial ordeals and handover to Spyglass. One of the few completed films the company had yet to release before it went tits up, the film was shot in early 2009 and slated for a release in February this year.

Then the decision was made in October 2009 to convert the film into 3D, a decision that involved pushing the movie back a full year to January 2011. Naturally this upset a few people, especially since the film was in the can at that point, but the 3D craze had hit its peak and everyone was in a rush to convert their films. Cut to this past Summer and 'Cabin' was delayed once again, this time indefinitely due to the ongoing financial difficulties at the studio.

Joss Whedon, who co-wrote the script with his old "Buffy" and "Angel" cohort Goddard (who also penned "Cloverfield" and some of the best episodes of "Lost" and "Alias"), showed up at Comic Con in July and explained the plans for a 3D conversion had essentially been dumped - an announcement greeted with applause as the wave of complaints about post-converted 3D had begun in earnest by that point. Yet the project's fate is still up in the air, awaiting the Lion's deal with Spyglass to be completed.

Once done, 'Cabin' will likely be quickly slotted in as one of the new MGM's first major releases to help fill the void until they can get some new films into production and out in theatres. Reviews are expected to be good - reaction to the script has been excellent and it's said to be filled with trademark Whedon witticisms and twists, along with a non-traditional ending.

The casting is pretty solid with Oscar nominee Jenkins, 'West Wing' alum Bradford, and "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth. Funnily enough Aussie actor Hemsworth also filmed a major role in the "Red Dawn" remake, the other major project sitting in MGM's vaults. I'd expect he will be as relieved as anyone when either film finally comes out.

Caesar: Rise of the Apes
Opens: June 24th 2011
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton
Director: Rupert Wyatt

Summary: A contemporary-set reboot of the "Planet of the Apes" franchise, this cautionary tale is set in San Francisco in which man's experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.

Analysis: Ten years after Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake fizzled with critics and at the box-office, Fox is aiming to reboot the franchise with this new spin that's best described as an unconnected prequel to the original 1968 film. The well received script is a cautionary tale that deals with genetic experimentation leading to the creation of a hyper-intelligent chimpanzee to which one young scientist (and us as an audience apparently) come to sympathise with.

Said chimp, named Caesar, is just the start of the development of smarter simians and an all-out monkey insurrection. Unlike the previous films which used impressive make-up effects, all the apes in this $90 million project are to be computer-animated and are to be created by WETA Digital using motion-capture technology from "Avatar". Caesar himself will be played by Andy Serkis.

The film's tone is also said to be informed by the fourth and darkest chapter in the old film series, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes," which had a similar storyline. However previously attached scribe Scott Frank at one point dismissed the comparison saying this film doesn't go so far as to have apes rioting in the streets. Yet I have to wonder why Fox feels the need to refresh this franchise now. What can this take bring, beyond the obvious technical advancements, that wasn't already explored in the previous six films and the TV series?

Captain America: The First Avenger
Opens: July 22nd 2011
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Richard Armitage, Stanley Tucci
Director: Joe Johnston

Summary: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero who sets out to stop an evil Nazi scientist who has become a nefarious being called The Red Skull.

Analysis: 2011 is shaping up to be the Summer of untested superheroes with three of the most challenging top-level comic properties that remain unadapted getting their first real chance on the big screen (the low-budget 1990 'Captain' film notwithstanding). While "Green Lantern" is essentially unknown, and most are unaware that "Thor" exists outside of Norse mythology, "Captain America" at least has some name recognition as comic book hero outside of geekdom. Yet part of that recognition is due to the character being seen as such an anachronism these days, a symbol of a time back in the mid-20th century when naive jingoistic patriotism wasn't just respected but idealised.

Cut to today however, a character like Steve Rogers is tremendously difficult to adapt. Keeping the tone as is, the film will likely do well in the States but would be laughed out of theatres throughout the rest of the world. Tone it down, global audiences would still have some problems, while right-wing pundits in the U.S. would be screaming that "Captain America" is now anti-America and we might unfortunately have to witness Glenn Beck slip on a blue spandex bodysuit in protest. Another possibility is to strip it down so completely as to be unrecognisable from the original, though we already saw that with the excrement that was "G.I. Joe".

To be fair Marvel actually came up with a decent solution for this by setting the story during the Second World War. With a tone akin to "Raiders of the Lost Ark", namely the search for an artifact with the Nazis as the antagonists, there's an old fashioned adventure feel here where things are more clear cut and the flag waving doesn't come with so much baggage. The first clip screened at Comic Con gave us a decidedly unimpressive costume test shot for the Captain, but also showed an engaging tomb-set scene with a pre-transformed Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) doing his best evil Nazi routine.

The casting of Chris Evans isn't a perfect fit. A strong young actor with good comedic timing who was the best thing about the odious "Fantastic Four" films, Evans certainly buffed up for the role with astonishing looking muscles in early photos from the set. Yet I don't really see him as the character, and neither does a lot of fans judging from the online feedback. It's not as obvious a miscasting as Ryan Reynolds (an actor who is PERFECT for The Flash but seems awkward as Green Lantern), but Evans will have to deliver something special if he wants to own the character.

The supporting cast is absolutely stellar, from household names like Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, to truly brilliant character actors like Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones. There's also handsome leading men like Richard Armitage, Dominic Cooper and the fascinating Sebastian Stan alongside gorgeous and promising actresses Hayley Atwell and Natalie Dormer.

Behind the camera is more of a question. The scribes involved penned the strong teleplay for HBO's "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers", but their only other feature credits so far have been the three decidedly lacking "Chronicles of Narnia" adaptations. Filmmaker Joe Johnston is a solid director who can do enjoyable big budget studio features (ala "Jurassic Park III," "The Rocketeer," "Hidalgo"), but he's also someone who sticks to a very straight forward and safe style which means we probably won't see anything beyond a competently directed blockbuster here.

The other worry is the 'Avengers' effect. The forced tie-ins to the upcoming Marvel team-up film were a big factor in "Iron Man 2" being such a disappointment. Here the enjoyment of a period-specific self contained adventure film could be disrupted by the blunt insertions of Marvel Universe elements that don't fit - a point driven home in the Comic Con clip where a glowing blue cube from Thor's realm feels decidedly out of place with the rest of the scene. Of course that was rough footage shot only a day or two beforehand, in the final film the effect may not be so bad. In some ways this is more of a gamble than any of the other superhero films of the Summer, lets see if it comes up a winner.

Cars 2
Opens: June 24th 2011
Cast: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Jason Isaacs
Director: John Lasseter

Summary: Racecar Lightning McQueen and tow truck Mater head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. Mater soon gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own, international espionage, after he's mistaken for a secret agent and recruited for a top-secret spy mission.

Analysis: No filmmaker is without a few duds, no prestige label is without a few flawed choices, and no studio has a perfect track record - even the seemingly immortal Pixar Animation Studios. There's debate about which is the better "Toy Story", the lack of rewatch value with "A Bug's Life", the cloying sentimentality of "Monsters Inc.", or the flaws with the second half of "Wall-E".

Yet the most common agreement one hears about Pixar's films, aside from them all being genius, is that 2006's "Cars" is the weakest link. On Rotten Tomatoes the film sticks out like a sore thumb, scoring 74% positive reaction and a 6.9/10 average rating while every other feature they've ever produced scores at least 91% and 7.9/10 respectively.

To be fair it isn't a bad film, even Pixar bad is better than most other animation studio's output at their best, but its "Doc Hollywood"-esque story combined with its heavy-handed morality (even by Pixar standards) and self-indulgences rob the film of the edge, wit and inventiveness that informs all their other work. It's certainly not their biggest seller, a worldwide theatrical take of $461 million sits towards the bottom of their output while strong DVD & Blu-ray sales certainly don't make up for the shortfall.

Yet this is the film they chose to do their first non-"Toy Story" sequel for, rather than something more deserving or fitting such as any other film in their oeuvre. Why? Two things. The first is that "Cars" is Pixar head honcho John Lasseter's personal baby, he's protective of it and wants it to succeed as well as anything they've ever done. The chief motivator however is simple - money. "Cars" has sold $5 billion worth of merchandise, far and above any of Pixar's other films.

A project like this may hold little interest for more adult fans of the studio's output, but it won't affect the kid's interest in the property and will certainly make the company's merchandising partners far more excited than they have been with the limited opportunities on offer in the likes of "Ratatouille" and "Up". Even if the film stinks, there's billions to be made with a film like this, especially as it's introducing a whole bunch of new characters, so it's no wonder it got greenlit.

Will it suck though? One big advantage this time is the setting. With a whole new cast of characters and a spy-themed globe-trotting storyline, the film immediately looks far more appealing than its predecessor. Judging from the first trailer we can expect a bunch of old school James Bond homages, much like they did with the score and story elements of 2004's "The Incredibles". Still, this is the first Pixar release in a long while that it's very hard to get excited about.

The Complete Notable Films of 2011 Guide

Part One : 5 Days of August, 11-11-11, 13 Assassins, 30 Minutes or Less, Abduction, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Albert Nobbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Amigo, Anonymous, Apollo 18, The Apparition, Arthur, Arthur Christmas, Atlas Shrugged: Part One, Bad Teacher, Barney's Version, Battle: Los Angeles, Beastly

Part Two : The Beaver, Beginners, Bel Ami, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, The Big Year, Black Gold, Blackthorn, The Black Tulip, Blitz, Born to Be a Star, The Borrower Arrietty, Bridesmaids, Brighton Rock, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Caesar: Rise of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cars 2

Part Three : Catch .44, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cedar Rapids, Ceremony, Certified Copy, Chalet Girl, The Change-Up, Clean Skin, The Cold Light of Day, Cold Weather, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, The Conspirator, Contagion, The Convincer, Coriolanus, Courageous, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Cup

Part Four : Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, The Darkest Hour, The Debt, The Deep Blue Sea, The Descendants, The Details, The Devil's Double, Dibbuk Box, The Dilemma, Dolphin Tale 3D, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Drive, Drive Angry 3D, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, The Eagle, Even the Rain, Every Day, Everything Must Go, The Eye of the Storm

[Author: Dark Horizons]

James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma," "Knight and Day") is attached to direct the contemporary Western revenge thriller "The Gunslinger" for New Regency reports Heat Vision.

John Hlavin penned the spec script which centers on an ex-Texas Ranger who sets out to punish the men who killed his brother. Warners picked it up in 2009 but has since put it into turnaround where Regency obtained it.

Andrew Lazar and Cathy Konrad are producing. Production is aiming to kick off in the Spring.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Next year's "Scream 4" and "Spy Kids 4" is just the start it would seem as Miramax and The Weinstein Company are teaming to produce sequels and/or TV adaptations of various properties in the Miramax library reports Variety.

Sequels to "Bad Santa," "Rounders" and "Shakespeare in Love" are on the initial slate under the agreement, while we could see further entries in the "Scary Movie", Bridget Jones and Amityville franchises along with follow-ups/spin-offs of "From Dusk Till Dawn"," "Copland," "Clerks," "Shall We Dance" and "Copland".

Miramax will handle digital distribution on some, while TWC will develop new material for Blu-ray special editions.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer - Paul - December 30th @ Dark Horizons
UK Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

George Clooney will take over the male lead role from Robert Downey Jr. in the Alfonso Cuarón-directed Warner Bros. space thriller "Gravity" says The Hollywood Reporter.

Sandra Bullock is set to play the main character, a female astronaut who becomes trapped in space after debris wipes out her space station.

Clooney's role is relatively small but apparently a key element of the story. Production kicks off in the Spring and Clooney will film his role once he wraps up work directing the politics-themed "The Ides of March".

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Warner Bros.Pictures has optioned David Liss' 2000 historical thriller novel "A Conspiracy of Paper" according to Variety.

Set in 18th century London, the story follows Benjamin Weaver, a retired Jewish boxer investigating the mysterious death of his estranged father. His investigations uncovers the beginnings of a strange new economic order based on stock speculation.

Danny Strong ("Recount") will adapt the script while Ridley Scott and Tony Scott will produce through their Scott Free Films label.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Dennis Quaid has joined the cast of the indie thriller "Beneath the Darkness" according to Variety.

The story centers on a teenager (Tony Oller) who tries to unlock the secrets inside the house of a shady mortician (Dennis Quaid) who is a respected community figure. Aimee Teegarden, Devon Werkheiser, Brett Cullen and Stephen Lunsford also star.

Martin Guigui directs from a script by Bruce Wilkinson. Ronnie D. Clemmer is producing and shooting is currently taking place in Austin, Texas.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

DreamWorks Pictures has acquired the film rights to Tom Rubython's biographical novel "Shunt: The Story of James Hunt" reports Deadline.

The project is being designed as a vehicle for rising young actor Alex Pettyfer ("Beastly," "I Am Number Four") who'll play Hunt, the British race car driver who took first place in the 1976 Formula One World Championships and a famous playboy off the track.

He went on to become a commentator for the sport, but died in 1993 after suffering financial and health issues including alcoholism and depression.

The studio is currently seeking writers for this biopic which Pettyfer and John Palermo will produce.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Teri Polo ("Little Fockers") and Dermot Mulroney ("My Best Friend's Wedding") have joined the $10 million kidnapping thriller "Beyond" for Crystal Edge says Heat Vision.

The story centers on a veteran detective and a questionable television psychic teaming up in the hunt to find the detective missing grandchild, no matter the cost. Polo will play the mother of the child, while Julian Morris ("My Generation") and veteran Jon Voight also star.

Joseph Rusnak ("The Thirteenth Floor") directs, Steven Paul is producing and filming is currently underway in Alaska.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Eric Bana ("Troy"), Olivia Wilde ("Tron Legacy") and Charlie Hunnam ("Sons of Anarchy") are all in negotiations to join the crime thriller "Kin" for 2929 Entertainment and Mutual Film Company reports Variety.

The story follows a desperate brother (Bana) and sister (Wilde) who are fugitives evading the law and find themselves wrecking the holiday homecoming of a troubled ex-boxer (Hunnam).

Stefan Ruzowitzky directs from an original script by Zach Dean. Shooting kicks off in early March in Canada.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Country singer and actor Tim McGraw ("Country Strong," "The Blind Side") is in talks to join the spy thriller "Safe House" for Universal Pictures says Heat Vision Blog.

The story follows the only surviving CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) after an attack at an agency Safe House. He must go on the lam with a dangerous prisoner (Denzel Washington) to get him back to safety.

McGraw will play the CIA mentor of Reynolds' character who may not be all that he appears. Daniel Espinosa directs from a script by David Guggenheim.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Former "24" executive producer Howard Gordon tells Assignment X that the proposed movie adaptation of the hit Fox TV series has been put on indefinite hold.

Acclaimed scribe Billy Ray ("Breach," "Shattered Glass") penned a script for the big-screen Jack Bauer adventure, but Fox passed on the take. Gordon says "There was a script, but ultimately it wasn't the right proposition. It wasn't strong enough or compelling enough to the studio obviously to move ahead with it."

Gordon adds that he's not involved in the project anymore but director Tony Scott apparently "has an idea that he is going to run it by or has run it by Kiefer Sutherland. I don't know what the status of it is."

Could that mean we might eventually see Tony Scott-directed "24" movie? I know a certain writer in Canberra right now who will be doing cartwheels if this turns out to be true.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Aussie actor Eric Bana is being pursued to play former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the action/horror tentpole "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" for Fox reports The Wrap.

"Wanted" director Timur Bekmambetov is helming this film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's comedic horror novel which exposes Abe's secret diaries recounting his mission to eradicate the world of the undead bloodsuckers.

The 6'3 Bana is currently the lead choice for the title role and is set to meet with Bekmambetov shortly. Shooting on the project kicks off early next year for a Summer 2012 release.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Ty Olsson is set to play the role of Bella Swan's step-dad Phil Dwyer in the currently shooting "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One" for Summit Entertainment reports BreakingDawnMovie.org.

Phil is a minor league baseball player whose constant traveling convinced Bella to move to Forks to be with her biological dad (Billy Burke). It's now known how big a role the character will play in this film, though Matt Bushell played the part in the first "Twilight" movie.

Filming is still underway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where photos have emerged of actors Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jamie Campbell Bower reprising their roles as the Volturi alongside various crew members and random cocky-looking assistants. Those shots can be seen at Pop Sugar.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Walt Disney Studios will turn yet another theme park ride, this time the "The Museum of the Weird", into a possible big screen franchise reports The Los Angeles Times.

The key difference this time is the 'Museum' ride didn't actually get off the ground. Walt himself fell in love with the concept back in the 60's, a place that would "showcase ghostly organists, magical carts, talking chairs and other surreal and odd exhibits". The museum was meant to sit adjacent to 'The Haunted Mansion', complete with its own restaurant.

Of course it didn't end up getting made, but the concept hung around and now Ahmet Zappa has been hired to pen a "Night at the Museum" script using ideas created for the original exhibit. An actual attraction will also be built inside Disneyland once the movie is completed and out in theatres likely around 2014 or 2015.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

DreamWorks Animation has picked up the film rights to Jim Massey's comic book series "Maintenance" which was in turnaround from Warner Bros. Pictures says Heat Vision.

The story follows the exploits of "two janitors who work for TerroMax, Inc., the world's biggest and best evil science think tank. When they're not dealing with toxic spill monsters and menial time machine repairs, they have to contend with their boss, a multitude of mad scientists, jetpack-equipped cavemen, alien repomen, and the cute girl who works at reception."

At Warners, McG was being lined up to direct from a script by Joe Ballarini. All that is being chucked out with the move to DWA which seems a better fit for the pop culture reference-heavy comedy and large scale story that would be expensive to produce in live action.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

"Twilight" scribe Melissa Rosenberg will adapt the Marvel comic book "Alias" into a TV show titled "AKA Jessica Jones" for ABC reports Variety.

The comic follows a superhero named Jewel who decides to put away the costume and try for a normal life as her human alter ego Jessica Jones after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She starts up her own private detective firm, but realises she still wants to help people and ends up coming to the aide of other superheroes. The comic's name can't be used due to ABC's former J.J. Abrams-produced spy series of the same name.

Jeph Loeb, Joe Quesada, Alan Fine and Howard Klein will executive produce the project which will be the first project to be produced by the new Marvel Television division.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Along with that smile, Sam Worthington's other most admirable trait is his blunt honesty. You thought the "Clash of the Titans" remake wasn't up to scratch and neither was his performance in it? Seems he agrees with you.

Speaking from the set of "Man on a Ledge", Worthington tells Movieline that one of the big reasons for doing the planned "Wrath of the Titans" sequel is that "I just think we can improve on it. I think the first one, we kind of let down some people. And yeah, I totally agree. The only point of doing a sequel is either the audience demands it or you believe you can better the first one. What we're setting out to do with this one -- the writers and the director and myself -- is improve."

He's also humble about his own work in the film - "I think I can act fcking better, to be honest ... Just take all the notes from people that I have been reading about on the 'net and give them a movie they fcking want. This one I want to kind of try to satisfy a lot more people. I've always said you make movies for an audience, that's who you make movies for. If the audience is speaking, it's like the old gladiator thing, they give us the thumbs up/thumbs down, you want to stay alive in that coliseum as long as you can."

[Author: Dark Horizons]

"American Psycho" author Bret Easton Ellis is penning a Spain-set thriller screenplay entitled "Bait" for Picture Machine and Galavis Films says Variety.

The story centers on a disturbed woman who holds a group of American students hostage in shark-infested waters. Jonas Pate ("Caprica," "The Event") will direct.

Braxton Pope, Matt Perniciaro, Kevin Mann and Jesus Martinez are producing. Those last three worked together on the upcoming Summit thriller "The Cold Light of Day" starring Henry Cavill.

Lionsgate has first go at domestic rights while Mandate will sell it internationally. Shooting aims to kick off this spring at Ciudad de la Luz studios in Alicante, Spain.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Photos of Jim Carrey filming scenes for Mr. Popper's Penguins, and some early storyboard and concept art from Green Lantern showing off glimpses at Parallax and Krona.

There's also posters for Battle: Los Angeles, Paul, The Green Hornet, Prom, The Smurfs, Black Death, and a special edition cast & crew poster for Thor.

""Thor" star Chris Hemsworth says he's discussed a rough outline of "The Avengers" with director Joss Whedon but he hasn't seen a hard copy of the script yet..." (full details)

"Rosario Dawson and Lynn Collins have joined Jamie Linden's high school reunion ensemble drama "Ten Year"..." (full details)

""Being John Malkovich" director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman are re-teaming for a new project with the pitch currently being shopped around town. The storyline is being kept top secret..." (full details)

"Looks like Zac Snyder's "Superman" will be shot in Vancouver starting next Summer according to sources there..." (full details)

"The producers of the film adaptation of hit video game "Just Cause" will be an origin story centered around Rico and how he transforms into the Scorpion, though seem to hint that they're going for realism whereas the game itself relied on sheer physics-defying fun action..." (full details)

"Warners is shaking up its 2011 schedule with the "Arthur" remake set for April 8th, "Something Borrowed" moved up a month to May 6th, "Crazy, Stupid, Love" pushed back three months to July 29th, and "Horrible Bosses" is currently unscheduled..." (full details)

"The $65 million musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has been delayed yet again due to "unforeseeable setbacks". The originally planned opening next month has been pushed back to February 7th..." (full details)

"Warner Bros. Pictures have come across 17 minutes of lost footage from Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" in a Kansas salt-mine vault. The footage is said to be in "perfectly preserved" condition..." (full details)

"Roger Ebert's Top Ten Films of 2010 In Order: The Social Network, The Kings Speech, Black Swan, I Am Love, Winter's Bone, Inception, The Secret in their Eyes, The American, The Kids Are All Right and The Ghost Writer. Special shout-outs: 127 Hours and Another Year..." (full details)

"IMDb's Top Ten Films of 2010 By User Rating: Inception, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Kick-Ass, Shutter Island, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World..." (full details)

""Scott Pilgrim" and "Shaun of the Dead" director Edgar Wright says that though he passed on the chance a few years back due to scheduling issues, he's still keen on helming an episode of "Doctor Who" and showrunner Steven Moffat has told him "Any time you want to do a Doctor Who, just shout"..." (full details)

"The limited theatrical release of anime feature "Evangelion 2.0" has been set for a January 21st release date in select theatres. Click the link for details of where you can see it..." (full details)

"The Jake Gyllenhaal-led sci-fi thriller "Source Code" is set to open the South by Southwest Film Festival starting March 11th in Austin, Texas..." (full details

"Syfy has canceled spin-off series "Stargate Universe" after two seasons, with the final ten episodes of the second season to debut sometime next spring. The show debuted with 2.4 million viewers but that number has dropped to a flat 1 million viewers per episode this season..." (full details

"Young hunks Nicholas D'Agosto ("Heroes") and Enver Gjokaj ("Dollhouse") will head up the New York hotel-set USA drama pilot "Eden" while Brian Austin Green ("Smallville") and Harold Perrineau ("Lost") have joined the cast of the TBS comedy pilot "The Wedding Band"..." (full details)

[Author: Dark Horizons]

UK Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Acclaimed Aussie filmmaker Phillip Noyce returned to cinemas this past Summer with the Angelina Jolie spy thriller "Salt". He now tells Moviehole that if a sequel is going to be made, he won't be involved:

"Those three [alternate] Blu-ray cuts [of the film] represent just about everything I have to offer on Evelyn Salt. If there ever is a sequel, better its directed by someone with a completely fresh take on what I believe could be a totally entertaining and complex series of stories" says Noyce.

The director is now turning his attention to other projects, one of them being Relativity's romantic drama "Timeless" which Bill Kelly ("Enchanted") is writing and Sunil Perkash is producing.

Also "Atonement" scribe Christopher Hampton is currently in negotiations to rework the script for Noyce's long-gestating passion project - an adaptation of Tim Winton's "Dirt Music" which Russell Crowe is still attached to star in.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men"), Olivia Munn ("Iron Man 2") and Seth Meyers ("SNL") have joined the cast of a film adaptation of author Allison Pearson's "I Don't Know How She Does It" for The Weinstein Company says The Los Angeles Times.

The first-person comedic novel follows a high-powered financial worker (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is also the mother of two young children and trying to balance the various competing elements of her life. Hendricks would play a friend of Parker's character, Munn a work colleague.

Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer also star. Douglas McGrath directs and shooting kicks off in January.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

McG is pursuing the film adaptation of the classic Hasbro board game "Ouija" for Universal Pictures and Platinum Dunes reports Heat Vision.

"Tron: Legacy" writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are penning the script for this "four-quadrant supernatural adventure" said to be along the lines of "The Mummy" and "Indiana Jones".

Breck Eisner ("The Crazies," "Sahara") reportedly pitched his take the other week. The studio is targeting a November 2012 release.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Review - True Grit - December 30th @ Dark Horizons

With “True Grit,” Joel and Ethan Coen bring to the screen their take on archetypal western storytelling, lassoing together a leathered tale of spur-jangly redemption and cold-blooded murder, effectively evoking an age of weathered men and stark violence.

The picture is gorgeous, unexpectedly humorous, horrific, and delightfully saddle sore, mustering the precise amount of Coen-askew flourish to accurately place their fingerprints on a well-worn tale. In a most deflating film year of unspeakable mediocrity, “True Grit” is a welcome adrenaline shot of widescreen artistry and chewy personality, adding another trophy to the crowded mantle of these filmmaking masters.

Learning of her father’s murder at the hands of outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has come to seek revenge. A sharp-witted, insistent teenager, Mattie offers payment to irascible Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) for his tracking services, hoping to hire a brute to catch a brute.

A one-eyed alcoholic of debatable moral behavior, Rooster reluctantly takes the job, setting off with the young girl into dangerous Indian Territory on the hunt for Chaney. Also on the trail is La Boeuf (Matt Damon, supplying first rate supporting work), an arrogant Texas Ranger looking to bag Chaney for a massive reward, disturbing Mattie’s grand plans for righteous frontier justice.

“True Grit” is perhaps best known in the form of a 1969 western starring the inimitable John Wayne as Rooster, a performance that garnered him an Oscar, solidifying his status as a screen legend. Returning to the novel by Charles Portis, the Coen Brothers have ignored the remake itch, instead pulling the narrative and dialogue from a literary source, stripping the picture of Wayne’s imposing shadow.

Not that the two features aren’t similar in many ways, but the clear-eyed studio appeal of the earlier picture has been overturned for the update, capturing the filmmakers’ taste in coarse occurrences, influenced by bitter characters in all manner of disrepair. The Coens have restored the grime back into the story, executing western formula with an evocative visual language of lawmen, criminals, and burgeoning social order.

Shot with defined attention to poise and threat by Roger Deakins, “True Grit” delivers the Old West with a special Coen curve. With hangings, pandemics, and special attention to unsettling vocal performances, the picture drips with the sort of mischief the directors have patented for themselves, gamely marrying genre formula to their taste for antiheroes and austerity, frequently sold with a dry sense of humor from a serpentine script.

The reworked “True Grit” is a sublimely unsophisticated revenge picture rooted in stupefying dialogue exchanges, highlighting writing that heads back to Portis for inspiration, erecting a harmonious web of leathery western language that leads to intense debates and cunning confrontation, providing more of a screen jolt than any six-gun showdown (the use of contractions is as hangable an offense as murder ‘round these parts). The oater verbiage is spun into gold by the cast, who keep up brilliantly in the timing department, making the film the rare western that displays more confidence with dialogue than violence, keeping characters beautifully defined throughout.

The performances fill out the “True Grit” landscape memorably, attacking the story from all sides with every variation of bravado and vulnerability to accurately capture the developing relationships from polar opposites. Jeff Bridges is having the time of his life as Rooster, devolving into a soiled lump of a man who somehow manages to function as a feared sharpshooter with finely tuned prairie instincts. It’s a showy performance, but one of immense rotted charm, as Bridges communicates the hesitant soul of a man buried deep under personal neglect, finding purpose with his bossy employer and a direct challenge in Le Boeuf’s refined Texas swagger.

Steinfeld is quite a find as Mattie, able to match her legendary co-stars with an enchanting sense of pubescent spitfire. The character’s no brat, developed well beyond her years as trauma’s invaded her life. Steinfeld is able to articulate the intelligence and the age in a single package of delightful moxie, providing a tightly braided sense of fresh opinion and sly demand in a story of stubborn, crunchy men navigating a cruel world.

Coen-esque digressions into frontier madness and foiled displays of firearm skill bring unsettling texture to the piece, offering a sense of isolation, reinforced by the gentlemanly agreements shared by enemies -- men who would rather stick to peaceable western code than kill each other. The thick ambiance is wildly entertaining, accentuating the mystery and the personalities to blissful heights, constructing this known tale with idiosyncratic working parts that freshen tropes and restore suspense.

As with their finest films, the Coen Brothers achieve a precise sense of hard-bitten ramble in “True Grit,” delivering peculiarity with a cocked response, discovering a story that comfortably contorts to the demands of their imaginations. The directors show a masterful command of vernacular and fumbled acts of intimidation, refurbishing the Rooster Cogburn saga with an innovative creak, making “True Grit” a genre triumph and one of the year’s best films.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer - Hanna - December 30th @ Dark Horizons
Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

There’s a bit of medical anal play tucked snugly into the first five minutes of the sequel, “Little Fockers.” No greetings and salutations, just, boom, right into the butt to give the fanbase exactly what they want.

Skillful writing, sharp comedic performance, and endearing domestic reflection are tossed aside here, permitting the picture a wide berth to engage the autopilot function and make these millionaires even richer. Who needs a challenge at this point? Just comedically snake a tube up a stranger’s ass, and watch the box office light up with willing customers. What better way to spend the holiday season.

When heart problems force him to consider the next in line to lead the Byrnes Family, Jack (Robert De Niro) is reluctant to make his hapless son-in-law, Greg (Ben Stiller), the “Godfocker.” Raising twins with wife Pam (Teri Polo), Greg is having trouble juggling the demands of home life and his work as a nurse, a problem exacerbated by the forward attitude of pharmaceutical rep, Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba).

Hoping to guide his family his own way, Greg finds his efforts thwarted by Jack’s parental vision, his own growing paranoia, and the reappearance of Kevin (Owen Wilson), who’s back to stealthily seduce Pam. While hopeful for the new generation of Fockers as they apply to a prestigious private school, Jack can’t help but insinuate himself in Greg’s life, creating tension as the flustered nurse falls in and out of wacky adventures and misunderstandings.

2000’s “Meet the Parents” (yes, it was that long ago) was a solid 45 minute idea that’s somehow been stretched into three feature films. Originally a zany vehicle for De Niro to play his bruiser image for laughs, the Focker saga has found greater inspiration in the staging of gross-out incidents, more consumed with delivering literal gags than comedic ones.

“Little Fockers” keeps the tradition alive with puke, fart, and erection encounters, placing tremendous emphasis on simplistic jokes that pander rabidly to the lowest common denominator. It was passable merriment in “Meet the Parents,” mildly irritating in “Meet the Fockers,” but it’s become downright repugnant for “Little Fockers.”

Though the directing credit is awarded to Paul Weitz (“About a Boy,” “American Dreamz”), there’s little sense of artistic guidance here. Weitz is trapped in pure sitcom mode, arranging the mishaps and humiliations with all the excitement of a man sweating to please his demanding producers. Whatever life was available in the series before is long gone for “Little Fockers,” which is about as uninspired as a second sequel can be.

Jack and Greg still passive-aggressively locking horns? Check. Kevin still a romantic rival? Check. Comedic mileage still pulled out of the iffy Focker name? Check. Writing on the level of a rejected “Three’s Company” script? Check. Throw in Deepak Chopra and Harvey Keitel cameos, Jessica Alba hopped up on pills stripping down to her underwear and hurling herself into a muddy hole, and some heart attack jokes (oh, the hilarity), and “Little Fockers” is a parade of randomness searching for a reason to be.

The cast looks bored out of their minds, downshifted into paycheck speed with acting that only requires grimaces and bug-eyed reactions. Granted, a script that includes a moment where Greg is forced to inject adrenaline into Jack’s penis to quell an overly medicated erection wouldn’t inspire professional confidence in any actor, but the sleepy eyes of sequelitis are rampant among the cast, who go with the flow knowing this malarkey already worked twice before. Only Alba generates smiles in the film, playing up the revolting spunk of a desperate sales representative -- she’s all knuckle bumps and creepy nicknames, and 1000 times more alert than the rest of the ensemble. “Little Fockers” needed more of her energy.

If you happen to be attending the picture to watch Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman reprise their roles as Greg’s sexually active parents, I’ll rip the band-aid off now: they’re barely in the picture. “Little Fockers” doesn’t make room to play around with the big Fockers, pushing the screen legends to the background, leaving more time for Greg to get his face barfed upon. Yay.

Even more insulting, the actors barely share any scenes together, as Hoffman was added into the film at the last minute, having skipped principal photography for reasons I now understand. Giving Roz a sex education talk show and sending Bernie to “Spain” only ruins the magic of the pairing, forcing Weitz to scramble to maintain their chemistry without the actual participation of the actors.

“Little Fockers” is utterly lazy and unfunny, cooked up to cash in on a wheezy franchise built out of cheap thrills. What’s missing here is a sense of family, especially after three pictures, rewarding the viewer with a full sense of domestic unity from an acquainted bunch of actors. Instead, there’s another round of insipid gags performed by a revolving door troupe more interested in the zeros on their paycheck than the quality of their cinematic output.

[Author: Dark Horizons]

UK Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

Trailer

[Author: Dark Horizons]

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