The end of Potter, summer blockbusters, early Oscar buzz and more movie previews
Cowboys & Aliens The release: April 1 The stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde The director: John Favreau The plot: Cowboys take on some aliens. What more do you need to know? The lowdown: One look at the poster for this one and you can imagine how the pitch went: “Westerns are coming back and sci-fi is bigger than ever. Put them together and throw in James Bond and Indiana Jones for good measure.” With Steven Spielberg (does he ever rest?) and Ron Howard taking producer’s credits and Jon Favreau in the director’s chair this could be one of the few megabucks movies that is not a sequel or remake this summer. The DVD alternative: Monsters v Aliens, Ninja v Samurai, Star Wars p.s. Steven Spielberg advised the costuming department not to put Harrison Ford’s sheriff in a cowboy hat because he didn’t want audiences to be reminded of the Indiana Jones character.
Source Code The release: April 1 The stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Russell Peters (yes, the comedian) The director: Duncan Jones The plot: A soldier (Gyllenhaal) is part of a program that enables him to relive the last eight minutes of another man’s life. When he is asked by the government to help stop a terrorist planning to blow up downtown Chicago the clock, as well as bombs, start ticking. The lowdown: Gyllenhaal failed to convince us he has what it takes to be a big muscle action star in Prince of Persia, but we like him and are happy he gets a chance in a more thoughtful thriller. The DVD alternative: Bourne Trilogy, Inception, Déjà vu p.s. You might not recognise the director Duncan Jones. He is perhaps more famous by his full name – Zowie Bowie – given to him by his father David.
Super The release: April 1 The stars: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyley, Kevin Bacon The director: James Gunn The plot: When a mild-mannered man (Wilson) is left by his wife (Tyler) he decides to transform himself into a superhero. Thus the crime-fighting vigilante, Crimson Bolt, is born. The lowdown: Despite the low budget there are some lower A-list talent and cult favourites in this dark comedy. It all sounds like Kick Ass territory but for fans of the fringes of the comic book world that may be no bad thing. We can’t imagine The Office’s Dwight Schrute being as tough as Batman but expect him to administer violent beatings as he tries to win back his woman. The DVD alternative: Kick Ass, Batman Begins, Hancock p.s. The stars of the film agreed to work for Hollywood minimum wage in order to allow the movie to be made for a minimum budget.
Scream 4 The release: April 15 The stars: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere The director: Wes Craven The plot: Ten years have passed since the events of Scream 3 and for Sidney Prescott’s (Campbell) luck has turned. She has become a successful writer of a self-help book, has embarked on a book tour and generally gotten over her difficult teenage years. Even a trip home to Woodsboro sees her reconnecting with her family and friends, but wait, who is that pale-faced fellow with the knife back their in the shadows...? The lowdown: The original team of director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson are back together again and the Bob Weinstein producing the expectations are perilously high. The original Scream, after all, rebooted the teen horror genre and after (popcorn) bucketfuls of Saw and Final Destination movies it is about time for another tickle. The DVD alternative: Scream 1-3, Scary Movie 1-3, Halloween 1-3 p.s. As with the previous Scream films there will be a small cameo from horror master, Wes Craven. The director took advice from Twitter followers about the exact role he should play.
Rio The release: April 15 The stars: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx The director: Carlos Saldanha The plot: A rare blue macaw parrot (Eisenberg) is transported from his home in Moose Lake, Minnesota to the carnival city of Rio de Janeiro when scientist discover a potential mate (Hathaway) that could help him save the species. Needless to say adventures ensue when he confronts a fear of flying, is kidnapped, escapes and falls in love. The lowdown: We’re just waiting for the next animation franchise to take flight and with the experience of Saldanha (of the Ice Age trilogy) at the helm this could be one Pixar alternative viewers of all ages embrace. The DVD alternative: Ice Age 1-3, Madagascar, Finding Nemo p.s. Smash-hit iPhone App Angry Birds will release a special edition to coincide with the film’s release. 50 new levels of the deliriously addictive game will be designed.
Water for Elephants The release: April 22 The stars: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattison, Christopher Waltz The director: Francis Lawrence The plot: Set in 1930s America, the film tells of a trainee vet, who after his parents are killed in a car crash, runs away with a circus and is given the job of caring for the animals. He becomes embroiled with a beautiful equestrian star, her cruel animal trainer fiancé, and an uncontrollable elephant named Rosie. The lowdown: Few doubt Witherspoon’s credentials as an actress, but whether teen heartthrob Pattison can prove he can cut it in a non-vampire role is another matter. But if you like sobby historical stories, you won’t want to miss this one. The DVD alternative: Cider House Rules, The Greatest Show on Earth, Trapeze p.s. Scarlett Johansson auditioned for the part of Marlena, but lost out to Witherspoon.
Fast Five The release: April 29 The stars: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Chris Morgan The director: Justin Lin The plot: The firth film in The Fast and the Furious series, Dominic Toretto, having been busted out of prison, ends up in Brazil where he finds himself caught between a brutal drugs lord and a tenacious FBI agent. The lowdown: We don’t doubt you’ll get exactly what you expect - the cars will be fast and the characters will be furious. This time they’ve craftily set the movie in Rio de Janeiro, cue the chance to feature some bikini-clad beach babes. The DVD alternative: Point Break, Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds p.s. If you haven’t got your fill of car chases and explosions yet, a sixth installment in the series is already in the pipeline.
Prom The release: April 29 The stars: Aimee Teegarden, Nicholas Braun and Christine Elsie The director: Joe Nussbaum The plot: Several intersecting stories unfold at a high school as teenagers desperately try to find a date for the end of year dance. The lowdown: As this film’s produced by Disney, don’t expect the smuttiness of American Pie, but it might keep teenagers happy for a couple of hours. The DVD alternative: Election, Heathers, The Breakfast Club p.s. Ever seen the famous Youtube clip of a Miss Teen America contestant rambling some nonsense about maps? The on-stage interviewer in this case was Prom’s star Teegarden.
Thor The release: May 6 The stars: Christopher Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo The director: Kenneth Brannagh The plot: OK, brace yourself for this. Thor (Hemsworth) is a powerful warrior god in the fantastic realm of Asgard. His father, Odin, (Hopkins) is the ruler of the realm and sends him to Earth to live amongst us humans. Turns out this is not quite the punishment they all expected as he falls in love with Natalie Portman’s brilliant (and obviously hot) scientist. Before long he is using his super powers to protect the planet and get the girl. The lowdown: Comic book movies and superheroes equal big money movies, right? This Marvel Cinematic Universe release, however, has just the faintest whiff of concern about it. First you’ve got to wonder how Brannagh will fare with massive action sequences that the genre’s die-hard fans will demand. As much as we love the Shakespearian edge he can bring to the characters and drama we don’t want to be left without a good thumping and at least a few explosions. More interesting is how audiences will cope with a complex narrative that exists in the same universe as the Iron Man movies but with an other-worldly mythology. The DVD alternative: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hellboy p.s. This film has almost been made many times before but remained in development limbo until producers gave this $150,000,000 epic the green light. James Vaughn (Kick Ass) and Sam Raimi (Spider-man) were both heavily linked to direct at some stage until other projects took over.
Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides The release: May 20 The stars: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush The director: Rob Marshall The plot: Loosely based on the fantasy novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers the fourth installment of the series sees Jack Sparrow (Depp) continue his adventures. We’ve always been slightly baffled by the plot to the Pirates series but this time Captain Jack is in search of the Fountain of Youth and confronting legendary pirate Blackbeard. The lowdown: The fact that this is in 3D and is the latest installment of one of the biggest franchises of all time ($2.7b in the bag so far) go close to guaranteeing a healthy return for investors. But stepping out of trilogy and into a fourth film holds the danger of repetition and over-familiarity. However, following the departure of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley after part three, a new host of characters is promised and the opportunity to reboot is much easier. The DVD alternative: Pirates of The Caribbean 1-3, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Sinbad p.s. A new story arc is to be introduced in this film that will be the start of a new trilogy. We could all find ourselves growing old with Captain Jack Sparrow.
The Beaver The release: May 21 The stars: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin The director: Jodie Foster The plot: Gibson is a hopelessly depressed toy company CEO who finds the only way he can converse with his wife (Foster) and children is through a Cockney-accented beaver hand-puppet. The lowdown: Implausible as the storyline sounds we’re not making this up. With such a ridiculous plot it’s going to be a roaring triumph or a pitiable embarrassment. The DVD alternative: Sommersby, Maverick, American Beauty p.s. This is the second time Gibson and Foster have starred together, after 1994’s Maverick, although this movie was about poker tournaments in the Wild West and no talking beavers were featured.
The Hangover 2 The release: May 26 The stars: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha The director: Todd Philips The plot: The boys are back on another road trip to celebrate a final trip of freedom for one of the gang. This time it is Stu (Helms) about to be betrothed and Vegas has been replaced with Bangkok, Thailand as the setting for the madness. The lowdown: Celebrating to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars in worldwide box-office receipts the original Hangover did wonders for everybody involved with this surprise success. Ditching Heather Graham, who caused no offence whatsoever in the original, will not harm the film because this is all about the male leads. The DVD alternative: The Hangover, Road Trip, Old School p.s. Mel Gibson was penciled in for a cameo but was withdrawn when the cast complained. Mike Tyson, however, will return.
Kung Fu Panda 2 The release: May 26 The stars: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh The director: Jennifer Yuh The plot: Now established as a kung-fu legend as great as any of his childhood heroes Po (Black) is trying to protect the Valley of Peace. When a new emperor peacock (Gary Oldman) takes over China he threatens to put an end not only to the Furious Five and Po’s friends, but even the very nature of kung fu itself. The lowdown: It might be a first time in the director’s chair for Jennifer Yuh but the sheer force of the personalities behind the project will demand you give this your attention. The Shrek franchise has outlived its course but we’re happy to see Dreamworks Animation continue to support this surreal, but brilliant, concept. The DVD alternative: Kung Fu Panda, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Monsters v Aliens p.s. Jack Black announced the sequel during the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and will be heading back to the same stage to present the awards this year as part of the promotional activity for the film.
The Tree of Life The release: May 27 The stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn The director: Terrence Malick The plot: You really are going to have to se this one to have any clue about what is happening. Just know that it is about a young boy growing up in America’s Midwest in the 1950s who sees the world differently to those around him. As he struggles to get to grips with his own relationship with his own family as well as the world he lives in. Plus there may or may not be a T-Rex flashback. The lowdown: Oscar buzz on this film started before the ink on the contracts had dried and even before the first scene was committed to celluloid. Terrence Malick, Sean Penn and, indeed, Brad Pitt are no strangers to the Academy and the tone of poetry, beauty and the meaning of life are hardly likely to scare away critics repelled by intergalactic talking robots. The DVD alternative: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The New World p.s. We’re not kidding about the T-Rex. Special effects guru Mike Fink was drafted in to work on a sequence which is thematically, although not narratively, connected to the premise of the film.
X-Men: First Class The release: June 3 The stars: January Jones, James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender The director: Matthew Vaughn The plot: The world is changing for Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender). They are a new breed of human mutants finding their superhuman powers make them unlike normal people. But they’re not alone and soon start to amass entire armies of followers with special gifts. One will use the power for the advancement of humankind and the other will decide he’d actually rather wipe the rest of us off the planet. Both have a tendency for Lycra and leather. The lowdown: Step forward Mister Matthew Vaughn. The director has proven his skill and cult following with only a handful of stints in the director’s chair since he gave up producing Brit gangster flicks. But this is his first time at the helm of a major Hollywood studio blockbuster and a reputation will be made or lost on the back of this single film. But given his considerable directing chops and the licence to reboot the franchise (going back to the roots in the same way we did with Batman Begins and Star Trek) this could be the film that puts him in the A-List. The DVD alternative: Batman Begins, X-Men 1-3, Star Trek p.s. This is actually Vaughn’s second shot at directing an X-Men movie. He was hired to take the camera for X-Men: The Last Standbut left citing the extreme pressure caused by the studio system.
Super 8 The release: June 10 The stars: Kyle Chandler, Amanda Michalka, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich The director: J.J. Abrams The plot: Six kids set out to make their own zombie movie in 1970s Ohio. While filming, they spot a train derail and a huge explosion in a remote area. Before long the close friends soon realize that the train had been travelling from Area 51 and a live alien is on the loose. The lowdown: Internet rumours (don’t you just love them) suggested this would be a prequel to director J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield but we’re crossing our fingers in hope that it will turn out more like producer Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The DVD alternative: Cloverfield, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Fire In The Sky p.s. The film is named after the film format of he cameras used by rich dads and precocious young film directors in the 1970s.
Green Lantern The release: June 17 The stars: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong The director: Martin Campbell The plot: An alien gives a cocky WW2 fighter pilot a magic ring that gives him special powers. The ring qualifies him to join an elite band of intergalactic alien warriors sworn to protect the universe. The lowdown: We can’t believe how corny that sounds but you have to remember that this is based on a 1950s comic and if you can swallow the premise behind Spider-man, Superman or Batman then you’ll have to accept this too. Expect more noughties dark than eighties camp from a director who revitalized James Bond with Casino Royale. The DVD alternative: Superman, Batman, Justice League of America p.s. The rollercoaster rights to the movie have already been sold to the Six Flags theme park corporation in America. If, as is expected, this goes on to become a trilogy do expect to see many more merchandising deals like this.
Bad Teacher The release: June 24 The stars: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel The director: Jake Kasdan The plot: A greedy, foul-mouthed and unpleasant kindergarten teacher (Diaz) is dumped by her sugar daddy boyfriend and forced to live within her own means. When she sets her sights on a substitute teacher (Timberlake) to help support her she is left vying for his affections with the school’s most popular teacher (Punch). The lowdown: There is no shortage of high school comedies, but rarely do we see a film from the teacher’s perspective. The chemistry between Diaz and Timberlake is likely to crackle and this is likely to be an adult-rated comedy. The DVD alternative: Bad Santa, American Pie, The Hangover p.s. The screen-writing team of Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky are most famous for their work on the American adaptation of The Office and that alone is reason enough to pay this closer attention.
Cars 2 The release: June 24 The stars: Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, John Torturro, Michael Keaton The director: John Lasseter The plot: After missing out on the Piston Cup in the first Cars movie Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is still regarded is the best racer in America. To prove his worth on the world stage he enters the Race of Champions and takes to circuits in Japan, Germany, Italy, France and England. The lowdown: In the mesmeric filmography of Pixar Animation, many critics would point to Cars as the weaker link. That is a bit like saying Muhammed Ali’s let jab was not as good as his right. The film was an instant and lasting hit with younger audiences and despite not having quite the same crossover appeal as Toy Story or Wall-E it still had that mark of excellence that follows John Lasseter like a shadow. The fact that sidekick Mater plays a bigger role is a clear indication that this is children’s favourite but there will be more than enough here to appeal to older audiences. The DVD alternative: Cars, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Toy Story 2 p.s. A short animation Toy Story movie (between five and ten minutes long) will be included at the start of the cinematic release of Cars 2.
Larry Crowne The release: July 1 The stars: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Taraji P. Henson The director: Tom Hanks The plot: Recently laid off box factory manager (Hanks) heads to his local college to improve himself. Here he meets a group of fellow outcasts, and develops a crush on his lecturer (Roberts,) who has lost her passion for both her job and her husband. The lowdown: The two actors who ruled the rom-com scene in the 1990s share the screen once more after 2007’s political comedy Charlie Wilson’s War. Should be a solid crowd pleaser during the summer months. The DVD alternative: Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Women, Sideways ps. The solid support cast, which includes ’70s Blaxploitation queen Pam Grier, Star Trek’s George Takai and Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, mean this could be highly watchable.
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon The release: July 1 The stars: The director: Michael Bay The plot: The Prince of Denmark is grieving the death of his late father…hold on a minute, that is William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, not the third installment of the Transformers movie. What actually happens is the good robots and the bad robots race to the moon to find a Cybertronian spacecraft that will help them drive faster or punch harder. Or something. The lowdown: Anybody who thinks that the departure of Megan Fox from the series will lead to a focus on character study and narrative device in place of slow motion running and hot pants need not fear – she will be replaced by Victoria’s Secret underwear model Rosie Huntington-Whitely. If you detect a tone of cynicism from Time Out please don’t remind us when we, like everybody else, are queuing up to watch this on the 3D screen come the summer. The DVD alternative: Transformers 1-2, The Best of Robot Wars, Armageddon p.s. One of the most popular Transformers toys in the 1980s was Laserbeak. As well as a robot he was able to transform into a micro-cassette but this has been ruled to be too old-fashioned for a twenty-first century audience. Although the robot has been updated it is not known what form he will take other than a robotic bird.
One Day The release: July 8 The stars: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson The director: Lone Scherfig The plot: Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess) make friends on the day they graduate from Edinburgh University. We catch up with their story on that same day for the next twenty years in a story of romance, tragedy and friendship. The lowdown: File under the “if you take a date to just one film this year make sure it is this” category. This is the sort of film we’re most comfortable seeing Anne Hathaway in. Her turn in The Devil Wear’s Prada or Love and Other Drugs is what she does best: Smart, serious, sexy and ever so slightly kooky women finding love in the unlikeliest of places is a respectable career decision. At least until she hits the ripe old age of thirty. The DVD alternative: A Starter For Ten, The Devil Wears Prada, An Education p.s. This is the second David Nichols to be turned into a film. His first book, A Starter for 10 was also about first love at British universities.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 The release: July 15 The stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Small The director: David Yates The plot: A young wizard battles the forces of evi…actually, do you really need us to tell you this one. This is the final piece of the Potter puzzle. After this there will be no more Hogwarts, muggles or horcruxes on the big screen until the series is (inevitably some critics say) remade all over again in 10 years time. We’re pretty sure the book will be followed closely so are happy to report that most significant loose ends will be tied up before you leave the multiplex. The lowdown: Considering this is the last roll of the cash cow-shaped dice for Harry Potter in the cinema we’re surprised producers didn’t decide to release this in 3D. As massive as the franchise is, critics have never fully embraced the Potter world on the big screen and director Yates will have to raise his game if this particular tale stands out from the three previous efforts he has bossed. Forgive our pernickety tone (what a great character name that would have been for a magical music teacher) we’re probably just upset to be saying goodbye to little Harry and his tuck shop chums after seeing them grow old over the last 10 years. The DVD alternative: Harry Potter 1-7, The Empire Strikes Back, Chronicles of Narnia p.s. The previous seven films have generated combined worldwide box office receipts of nearly $6.5billion. Not bad for an idea that started out on a manual typewriter for a modest advance of just $2,000.
Winnie The Pooh The release: July 15 The stars: Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Jack Boulter The director: Stephen J. Anderson The plot: A charming boy and a whimsical bear make great friends somewhere between the wood they live in and the imaginations they dream in. Five of the original A.A. Milne stories will be adapted for the big screen and the hand-drawn animation treads the same territory as Disney’s 1977 effort. The lowdown: Despite the fact this is a Disney release of one of the world’s most popular children’s stories we can’t help but feel this is going to disappear. No significant celebrities are involved and no real effort is being made to update/adapt the stories. We can only assume that Disney is a) prioritising the Pixar releases this year and b) they’ve given up trying to compete with Harry Potter on the opening weekend. The DVD alternative: The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, The Jungle Book, Wind in The Willows p.s. Jim Cummings who plays the parts of Winnie The Pooh and Tigger has more than 350 acting credits to his name. However, as the majority of these are voice roles for animations it is unlikely you’ll recognise his face.
Captain America: The First Avenger The release: July 22 The stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones The director: Joe Johnston The plot: Superman was from another planet, Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider and Batman had seemingly unlimited riches to support his fight against crime. Captain America, on the other hand, has nothing but national pride and testosterone pumping through his veins when taking on the bad guys. Back story comes from the fact that he was trained up by a secret military division after first being deemed too unfit for the US Army. Buffed up and out to show his strength the new “superhero” heads off to tae on the Nazis on behalf of the world. The lowdown: USA! USA! USA! There is no getting away from the fact that Captain America is not an A-list superhero. Whereas Spidey and Superman are the most popular and the Hulk and X-Men could be considered a notch down Captain America is in the division below this. Success here will either send him into comic book oblivion or see him scrape up to the second tier. The DVD alternative: Batman: The Dark Knight, GI Joe, The Rocketeer p.s. The film will be released simply as The First Avenger in South Korea and Russia as the studio attempts to downplay the sheer nationalistic fervour inherent within the character. We assume it will still have plenty of flag waving and salutes.
Crazy, Stupid, Love The release: July 29 The stars: Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling The director: Glen Ficarra The plot: A family man (Carell) with a perfect life finds his life takes a turn for the worse when his wife (Moore) demands a divorce. Thrust back into the dating scene by an unlikely friendship with two younger men he tries to put his life back together again. The lowdown: The trailer looks good but it is impossible to predict how well this turns out. A lot rests on how much appetite audiences have to see Carell play the schmucky forty-something role he has come to own in recent years. The DVD alternative: 40 Year Old Virgin, Yes Man, Couples Retreat p.s. Scriptwriter Dan Fogelman has had more success with animated films than live action works. His previous credits include Tangled, Bolt and Cars.
The Change-Up The release: August 5 The stars: Olivia Wilde, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman The director: David Dobkin The plot: A quiet, career-minded guy (Bateman) swaps bodies with his slacker friend (Reynolds) in an effort to win the affections of an attractive colleague (Wilde). The lowdown: The role reversal is a classic comedy construct that has seen kids become men (Big, 17 Again) men become women (The Hot Chick) and even dead become living (All of Me). The results are always more or less the same – the two different ideologies become closer together and we learn more about ourselves along the way. What could set this above the previous efforts is the adult friendly pairing of The Wedding Crashers director with the writers of The Hangover. The DVD alternative: The Wedding Crashers, Vice Versa, The Hangover
Conan The Barbarian The release: August 19 The stars: Ron Perlman, Rachel Nichols, Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan The director: Marcus Nispel The plot: A muscle-bound youngster swears vengeance on the evil warlord that murdered his entire village. Traveling the lands with little more than an axe and a family-sized grudge young Conan leaves a trail of destruction in his trail. The lowdown: Whilst it would be sacrilege to try and remake The Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of camera his back catalogue is ripe for revisiting. Conan, in particular, deserves reinterpretation. It was, after all a comic book decades before Arnold came along. Having said that TV muscleman Jason Mamoa has some considerable shoes to fill. With horror director Nispel in charge expect to see the gore and violence count turned up to maximum. The DVD alternative: Conan The Barbarian, The Beastmaster, Red Sonja p.s. As far as our records show this is the first time a former Baywatch lifeguard will be reprising a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Straw Dogs The release: September 16 The stars: James Woods, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård The director: Rod Lurie The plot: An LA screenwriter relocates with his wife to a cottage in America’s Deep South. While tensions built between the couple, a conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both. The lowdown: For its graphic portrayal of violence against women, Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 version, starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, was one of the most controversial films of the decade. Many feminists have been aghast that anyone would choose to remake such a notoriously misogynistic film. The DVD alternative: The 1971 version, A Clockwork Orange, The Wild Bunch. p.s. Director Lurie was previously a TV showbiz reporter and film critic. His irreverent style of interviewing meant he was often banned from screenings.
Wanderlust The release: October 7 The stars: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Ray Liotta The director: David Wain The plot: A moderately successful, career-driven and, ultimately, bored married couple seek out an alternative lifestyle. One hippie commune later they’re abandoning their MP3 players for a set of bongos and living the counterculture dream. The lowdown: We may as well state right here that this film will become sensationally over-hyped because it contains on-screen nudity from Jenifer Aniston, although we’re unlikely to see these scenes in the Middle East. Serial supporting artist Paul Rudd is the male lead and his career development is as much in need of a shove in the right direction as Aniston. The DVD alternative: Date Night, Management, The Break Up p.s. Rudd and Aniston shared screen time in Friends but were not romantically attached. Rudd played the part of Phoebe Buffay’s boyfriend.
The Three Musketeers The release: October 14 The stars: Logan Lerman, Cristoph Waltz, Matthew Macfayden, Orlando Bloom The director: Paul W.S. Anderson The plot: An elite squadron of skilled swordsmen known as the Musketeers must defend the king, honour and justice in 17th century France. The lowdown: If you include the animated versions starring Donald Duck then there are at least 20 previous versions of the same story. We’re still look forward to buckling our swashes at this latest offering though. With all the talk of rebooting franchises and breathing life back into old characters it is almost refreshingly honest to see somebody have an honest crack at a classic adventure story. The DVD alternative: Robin Hood, Oceans Eleven, The Three Musketeers (take your pick of which version) p.s. Director Paul Anderson met his wife on the set of the first Resident Evil movie. This will be the fifth time he has directed her on screen.
Contagion The release: October 21 The stars: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslett, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law The director: Steven Soderbergh The plot: An airborne virus threatens the safety of millions of humans unless it is contained. America’s center for disease control assembles a crack team of doctors in order to limit the effects before chaos spreads. The lowdown: The plot says SARS but the cast says STARS as director Steven Soderbergh proves his love of ensemble casts. The director behind the Oceans Eleven series is no stranger to Oscar territory (he picked up one gong and one nomination for Traffic and Erin Brocovitch) and is more than capable of troubling the Academy again. Much will depend on which Soderberg turns up: fun, box office Steven from the Ocean’s trilogy or serious man with a cause Steven from his critically-acclaimed pictures. The DVD alternative: Outbreak, Oceans Eleven, I Am Legend p.s. This is the first time Damon, Paltrow and Law have starred in the same film since The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Tower Heist The release: November 4 The stars: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck The director: Brett Ratner The plot: A group of hard-working guys take the law into their own hands after a wealthy businessman cons them out of their savings. Realising the courts might not have sympathy for their Ponzi-scheme fuelled loss the team plan to rob their financial tormentor’s luxury apartment. The lowdown: At various points over the last two and a half decades Stiller and Murphy have represented comedy gold and with a fine supporting cast this could be a marriage made in box office heaven. While the chemistry between these leading men is something to look forward to it is the direction of Brett Ratner that has our interest most piqued. A filmography that includes The Rush Hour trilogy, Silence of the Lambs prequel The Red Dragon and the final part of the X-Men trilogy shows this is a man refusing to be type cast. Could this be a new string for his bow? The DVD alternative: Ocean’s Eleven, Die Hard, Rush Hour 3 p.s. An early version of the script was touted around with repeat Ratner collaborator Chris Rock starring alongside Eddie Murphy. The pitch of the film at the time was that this would be “an African American” Ocean’s Eleven.
Happy Feet 2 in 3D The release: November 18 The stars: Elijah Wood, Pink, Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt The director: George Miller The plot: Mumble (Wood) has a family of his own now and learns that being a tap dancing penguin parent is just as tough as being a, er, tap dancing penguin. Throw in another quest across the pole and another eco-disaster and the plot looks more or less the same as the original. But in 3D. The lowdown: Pixar’s dominance of the feature length cartoon field has not always been so. Yes they’ve won the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar four years in a row but immediately before that breathtaking run it was Happy Feet picking up the award. It was also a box-office smash that beat Casino Royale into second place in it’s opening weekend so quite why this sequel comes as a surprise we can’t be sure. The DVD alternative: Happy Feet, March of The Penguins, Step Up: 3D p.s. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon have taken on the role of krull in what could be one of the quirkiest cameos we will see this year.
Arthur Christmas The release: November 23 The stars: Hugh Laurie, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent The director: Sarah Smith The plot: This animated film answers every child’s festive question, ‘how does Santa Claus manage to deliver present across the world in one night?’ But Santa’s ultra-hi-tech operation looks likely to go awry, until one unlikely hero tries to save the day. The lowdown: The film’s being made by Aardman, the UK animation company behind Wallace & Gromit. It’s their first full-length animated feature in five years, since the slightly disappointing Flushed Away. The DVD alternative: Muppet Christmas Carol, Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. p.s. The project has been in development since 2007 and was originally called Operation Rudolph.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 The release: November 18 The stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Dakota Fanning, Taylor Lautner The director: Bill Condon The plot: The werewolves and vampires are still at each other’s throats (sorry) as the two clans continue to protect the legacy of their breed. Plus there is the small matter of a half-human/half-vampire child and a honeymoon to get through as well. The lowdown: As with the final part of the Harry Potter novels the finale to the Twilight series has been split into a franchise-stretching double bill. You’ll get the last bite (sorry) of the saga in a year’s time and until then the director has to think of new and interesting ways for the male leads to either a) look longingly into the middle distance or b) take their shirt off. The DVD alternative: Twilight Saga 1-2, Interview With a Vampire, The Notebook p.s. Sofia Coppola wanted to get her teeth into (we just can’t help it and are very, very sorry) directing the finale to Stephanie Meyer’s books but only if she could film the book as a single film. The studio preferred to split the story in two.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol The release: December 16 The stars: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway The director: Brad Bird The plot: Details of the plot are so guarded at the moment that we're genuinely not sure what the film will be about. What is clear is that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) will once again travel the globe in his role as a freelance espionage specialist. The lowdown: The audience for MI: 3 dropped off significantly from the second film but this seems likely to be a Middle East hit. Thanks largely to the fact that the marquee stunt scenes were filmed in Dubai. Local media had a brief spell of Tom Cruisemania when the Hollywood actor was seen filming his own stunts at the very pinnacle of the Burj Khalifa. The DVD alternative: Mission Impossible 1-3, Casino Royale, Bourne Ultimatum p.s. This is a first time directing a live action movie for Brad Bird. He has, however, already bagged two director Oscars for his animated features, Ratatouille and The Incredibles.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The release: December 21 The stars: Daniel Crag, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright The director: David Fincher The plot: Based on the first of deceased journalist Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, the film tells of a discredited journalist who stumbles across a lurid plot involving serial killings and underhand business dealings across several continents. The lowdown: This is actually the second time Steig Larsson’s acclaimed crime story has been adapted for the big screen, after a Swedish version was released in 2006. The original went on to be the highest grossing Swedish movie ever. With Social Network’s David Fincher on board, expect this version to be almost as good. The DVD alternative: The 2006 Swedish original, Zodiac, The Talented Mr Ripley. p.s. George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt all expressed an interest in playing the role of Mikael Blomvkist, before 007 himself, Daniel Craig, was picked for the part.
The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn The release: December 28 The stars: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg The director: Steven Spielberg The plot: Tin Tin, if you are not familiar with the Belgian comic book hero, is a young private detective who travels the world in search of answers to life’s most baffling mysteries. If you are familiar with the characters then you’ll be pleased to know that this movie adaptation is based on three of the more swashbuckling of comics: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of The Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure The lowdown: Take the brilliance of Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson and throw it together with Steven “every film you remember liking as a kid” Spielberg and you have the hottest pairing since fish met chip. Throw in a script by Steven “Doctor Who” Moffat and a couple of jokes from Edgar “Shaun of The Dead” Wright and you can call us Time “Very Excited” Out. The DVD alternative: King Kong, Asterix Conquers America, Herge’s Adventures of Tin Tin, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark p.s. Steven Spielberg has been a fan of the Tin Tin series since a reviewer compared his Indiana Jones to the comic book creation. Spielberg was scheduled to meet creator, Herge in the early 1980s with a view to making a film but the Belgian author died the same week they were due to meet.
War Horse The release: December 28 The stars: Emily Watson, Toby Kebbell, Benedict Cumberbatch The director: Steven Spielberg The plot: An epic adventure set during World War I that tells of a remarkable friendship between a young lad and his horse. The horror of the conflict is recalled through the experiences of the pair as they fight in the trenches The lowdown: The film is based on a hugely successful stage play, which was itself based on a children’s book. Under the guidance of one of the greatest directors of all time, you’d bank on this to be a classic. The DVD alternative: Saving Private Ryan, Empire of the Sun, Paths of Glory p.s. Although he’s been busy on the producing front, this is the first film that Spielberg has actually directed since 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.