(And for others 2009 temptations check out the countdown happening at Film Experience. Not because I'm participating in it, but because it's probably a lot more informative than anything you'll find here.)
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Matt Damon, Anna Paquin, Matthew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin
You can't really rely on You Can Count On Me director Kenneth Lonergan. That indie masterpiece debut came all the way back in 2000 and the man hasn't given us a film since. Those are some big shoes to fill a big decade later, but thankfully they're his own shoes so the possibilities are endless.
Lonergan's got Broderick and Ruffalo along for the ride once again. They're joined by Anna Paquin for this tale of a girl's unlucky rendezvous with fate after witnessing a car accident brings her life to a screeching halt. I'm hoping Lonergan's script feels as lived in as it should after all those years in preparation, and if that first film's success is any indication, we'll be getting some really resonant and affecting human drama.
(Top: Bourne Ultimatum, Bottom: Margaret)
Fun (related) Fact: Apparently you can hire any Culkin kid for any event. This time Lonergan's hired Kieran Culkin, instead of lil' Rory Culkin. But that does mean Rory's free for your kid's Bris. Macaulay's probably just at home alone.
(17) Drag Me to Hell
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long
Sam Raimi may have done fanboys well with his Spiderman films, but what about the horror buffs of his gory glory days? Well...(holding back tears) maybe he hasn't forgotten about us...
His latest sounds like a senseless, slapstick slaughterhouse to bring back all the fondest memories of the Evil Dead series. If this one's a success we'll probably see a lot more progress on Evil Dead 4, but it sounds like a great genre entry even without that humble attachment. For one thing it's not a remake and it's not playing on the level of "torture porn" (that phrase is so gratuitously overexposed it's painful). Besides, horror as a whole really needs to find the fun again. Fun like tree rape and corpses filled with milk and creamed corn.
The story is that Ali Lohman has to break a psychic's evil curse after she gives her a bad deal on a bank loan. People react differently in this economy...
(18) Inglourious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt (mmm), Eli Roth (...), Maggie Cheung (!), Mike Myers (?)
Given the recent overflow of war movies, Tarantino's might seem less relevant than some, but it will definitely have more explicit violence, camera tricks and Maggie Cheung! This also cements the fact that Brad Pitt has to be the closest thing to a celebrity Jesus. Everyone loves him, including the continent of Africa. Everyone's attracted to him no matter how much they deny it, and he still backs up that whole delicious package with some well-chosen roles and performances. That and he's all over US Weekly.
"In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers."
A movie theater in Paris? Naturally Tarantino found some way to make self-aware cinema references throughout his war epic, and that's why we love him. He consistently makes memorable cinema that loves memorable cinema. The long gestation on this project speaks of maybe some more personal Tarantino touches and probably some stunning spectacle. How will he top Kill Bill's House of Blue Leaves or Death Proof's rip-roaring car crash? The man's work is impeccable, and until he casts himself in the lead, we'll be just about square.
Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman
Brothers feud when one goes missing in Afghanistan and the other takes up with his wife. A purple heart won't heal that wound! Sounds a little Legends of the Fall but with, most importantly, Jake Gyllenhaal having sex with things. That's more than enough to merit a spot on this list, and it's far more enticing than his whole excursion to Persia -- not that I won't be along for that trip and every available photo op.
War movies can be a snore, but with Jake and Tobey, I'll be awake for every open-shirt musket wound. They still use muskets, right?
(20) Lovely, Still
Director: Nik Fackler
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Martin Landau, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott
If I'm just being honest... I was on set for this one during filming, and most importantly had Ellen Burstyn take my hand and acknowledge my actual being! I also got to watch her dazzle and dig into character right before my very eyes, and I can tell you first hand that this nuanced performance should be one to watch for and give a second viewing. And you know me, I'm not one to put actors on a pedestal... other than when I do it daily as a blog.
"I have something I've wanted to ask you since the moment we met... Do you prefer paper or plastic?"
This small scale fable follows an elderly grocery sacker (Landau) and his first brush with romance just in time for the holidays. How about a collective "aww..." On any level it should be nice having any new Christmas film not involve dueling neighbors or Tim Allen. It's guaranteed sweetness with a few surprises along the way -- and has Ellen Burstyn ever shaken your hand and called you "Adam?" Didn't think so.
Fun (bitter) fact: Originally the supporting cast was said to be comprised of Paul Rudd and Winona Ryder! I would have orgasmically imploded on that set and thus they were replaced with Adam Scott and Elizabeth Banks. They're lovely too... but still.