Coming Soon… in 2008
With new installments from Harry Potter (November), Narnia (May), Batman (July) and James Bond (November), the industry is confident of record-breaking returns. Scanning that list, it looks to be a remarkable year for British filmmakers, actors and technicians too. In fact, with the exception of Indy (which does feature Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and John Hurt in supporting roles), all of these blockbusters have British leading men.
There are several potential new franchises coming out this year too. Iron Man, with Robert Downey Jr as the Marvel hero (May); The Spiderwick Chronicles (March); the Wachowski Brothers' Speed Racer (May); and the latest from Pixar: WALL-E (July). Meanwhile Edward Norton tries to succeed where Eric Bana failed, reactivating the role of Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk (June).
Of the stuff we've seen coming out in the first few months of the new year, we're wowed by Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (a potential Best Actor Academy Award for Daniel Day Lewis?); No Country for Old Men (probably the favourite for Best Picture); and the French-Iranian animated feature, Persepolis.
Looking further ahead - and consulting that crystal skull we keep in the back of the office for these occasions - we're most excited to see The Pineapple Express - a stoner cop buddy movie with Seth Rogen and James Franco, directed by David Gordon Green of all people; David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (with Brad Pitt as a man born into old age who gets physically younger as the years go by); and Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are, which comes with a screenplay by novelist Dave Eggers. And like everyone else, we're dying to see if Cloverfield can possibly live up to its genius marketing.
On the downside, if the writers' strike goes on much longer it could have a real impact on the movies scheduled for the end of 08. Already we're in a position where writer-director JJ Abrams is shooting his own screenplay for Star Trek X, but can't rewrite a word of dialogue on set. Mind you, if the strike stops producers and stars doctoring screenplays to death, it might even have a positive effect...
LOVEFiLM Calendar 2008
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
The Palme d'Or winner is an intense, suspenseful but full-on drama about friendship, exploitation, and unspeakable truths. Essential viewing - if you can take it.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Philip Seymour Hoffman is in commanding form in this crime thriller from veteran director Sidney Lumet. Albert Finney, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei are caught up in a web of intrigue with desperate consequences for each of them.
17-27th Sundance Film Festival
No Country For Old Men
The Coen brothers best film since Fargo is an inspired adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel. Josh Brolin stumbles on the proceeds of a drug deal gone sour but soon has Javier Bardem's fearsome assassin on his tail.
The demon barber of Fleet Street returns to the old smoke to avenge himself on the wicked judge who stole his beloved. Johnny Depp carries a tune in Tim Burton's blood-spattered take on Stephen Sondheim's musical.
In his third great performance of the month, Philip Seymour Hoffman has to cope with his dying dad (Philip Borsos) and his equally unhappy sister (Laura Linney).
January DVD releases:
The teaser trailer immediately grabbed everyone's attention, even if it had no names attached. Something is attacking New York, that much we know. It looks like War of the Worlds filmed Blair Witch style.
Another great film from Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke, this time set around the flooded ghost towns bordering the Three Gorges dam. Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, 2006.
There Will Be Blood
A masterpiece from Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day Lewis is extraordinary as the oilman locked in a mortal feud with a two-bit southern California evangelist (Paul Dano) in this enthralling historical epic.
Scintillating comedy about a pregnant teen (Ellen Page) who decides to put her baby up for adoption, then buddies up with the father to be (Jason Bateman). Jason Reitman directs from a witty and nuanced script by Diablo Cody.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
10th The BAFTAS
Well, he got away with Rocky 6 last year, can Sly pull off Rambo 4? It seems unlikely but you never know. We discover our hero going zen in Thailand, but he's drawn into fighting the good fight for Christian aid workers against the Burmese military dictatorship.
Jude Law, Tim Roth, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman costar in Wong Kar-Wai's first English-language movie - but all eyes will be on Norah Jones, making her screen debut as the object of Law's affections.
24th The Oscars
Margot at the Wedding
The Boss of It All
The latest experiment from the incorrigible Lars von Trier, a corporate comedy filmed by remote control, or what he calls "Automavision".
Reportedly a shot for shot remake of Michael Haneke's breakthrough anti-thriller, this time in English with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts.
February DVD releases:
The Other Boleyn Girl
Admittedly the trailer makes this look terribly trashy, but that might be a good thing when you have Scarlett Johansson's Mary Boleyn vying with Natalie Portman for the affections of King Henry VIII (lucky old Eric Bana).
Diary of the Dead
George Romero returns to the zombie beat, though this is not part of the Day Of The Dead series. Like Cloverfield, this goes the video diary route, with a bunch of film students reporting for the benefit of anyone who might be left to watch.
Irish-American cops always make for good drama, and there is a promising robustness about a cast that includes Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight. Gavin J O'Connor (Tumbleweeds) directs and cowrote with Joe Carnahan.
Brian de Palma's most controversial film in years is an inglorious expose of US troops engaged in rape and murder in Iraq, filmed in a variety of styles, but predominantly a video diary.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
The ubiquitous Freddie Highmore plays twins Simon and Jared in the latest family fantasy adaptation. Seth Rogen lends his vocal chords to Hogsqueal, while Nick Nolte voices Mulgrath and Martin Short is Thimbletrack.
It's been a long wait for this delightful children's film from Garth Jennings, one half of Hammer & Tongs (it premiered at Sundance last January). A couple of ten-year-olds set about making their own action movie inspired by Stallone's original antics.
March DVD releases:
Mr Brooks; Primeval
George Clooney has been talking about this romantic comedy set against the world of American football in the 1920s for a decade. He's finally directed it himself - and the combination of Clooney and Renee Zellweger feels very right to us.
City of Men
A follow up of sorts to City Of God (it actually grew out of a TV series inspired by the movie), this is another look at life for young men growing up in Rio's drug-ridden favelas, though apparently this time the mood is quite different.
An autobiographical animated film by Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian who grew up in a liberal anti-monarchy Tehrani household in the 1970s, then came of age under the Ayatollahs, and completed her education in Europe. This poignant, very funny memoir puts a personal face on the world's most pressing culture clash.
Whatever you make of Redacted and In the Valley of Elah, it must be admitted no one has really hit Iraq on the head yet, cinematically speaking. This may be the one: the long-awaited second film from talented Kimberley Peirce (Boys Don't Cry). Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Channing Tatum costar.
The latest Stan Lee character to hit the movie screen is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, aka Robert Downey Jr. A more improbable superhero we can't imagine, but with Jon (Elf) Favreau directing and Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Samuel L Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow in the cast, we're definitely willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
15-26th The Cannes Film Festival
True, the Wachowski boys (if they are both boys still) have blotted their copybook since the first Matrix movie. And it's not easy to see how the cult 1960s Japanese anime series lends itself to a live action feature... until you catch the trailer, which suggests this might actually be a lot of fun. Emile Hirsch, from Into The Wild, stars.
The Incredible Hulk
Edward Norton scripted as well as starred at this second attempt to fire up the big sulk. Liv Tyler takes over the girlfriend role previously taken by Jennifer Connelly; Tim Roth and William Hurt are along for the ride.
Newcomer Ben Barnes plays Caspian as the Pevensie kids return to Narnia to find many, many years have passed inside the wardrobe, and all is not right with the world. Still waiting on word for who plays our favourite character, Reepicheep the mouse.
Tom Cruise plots Hitler's downfall with the help of Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard and Stephen Fry. We know how this comes out, but still, Tom in an eye-patch and Nazi uniform makes it a must-see. And camp qualities aside, it does come from the writer-director team behind The Usual Suspects.
The latest from Pixar, which is recommendation enough, surely? Andrew Stanton wrote and directed this tale of a robot who finally discovers some meaning in the universe.
Of all the myriad comic book adaptations, this is the one we're really confident about. Batman Begins was great, and Christopher Nolan has reassembled most of the original cast (trading Maggie Gyllenhaal in for Katie Holmes seems like a good swap). Heath Ledger promises a radically different take on the Joker.
Ben Stiller has another shot at directing and the premise is a good one: a group of actors shooting a big budget war movie are forced to play soldiers for real. Stiller also stars with Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Bill Hader and a platoon of cameo stars including Tom and Katie.
It's true we need another Mummy movie as badly as Rachel Weisz (who declined to reprise her role) but director Rob Cohen has persuaded Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh to participate, so there should be some exciting chop socky action at any rate.
18-29th The Edinburgh Film Festival
4-13th The Toronto Film Festival
From the writers of Superbad (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) and producer Judd Apatow, a pot-comedy come buddy caper starring Rogen and his old Freaks And Geeks mate James Franco. The buzz is already strong for this one, even if it's not the kind of film you would normally associate with director David Gordon Green (George Washington).
The Venice Film Festival
Where the Wild Things Are
The classic Maurice Sendak children's bedtime story has been adapted by Dave "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" Eggars, with Spike 'Adaptation' Jonze at the helm. Forest Whitaker voices a wild thing, which is pretty inspired right there.
Dates tbc (Normally end of October beginning of Novemeber)
The London Film Festival
Daniel Craig is back in beefcake mode, but the details of the latest 007 adventure are shrouded in secrecy. We do know that Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) is directing, and the screenplay is again by the Robert Wade, Neal Purvis plus Paul Haggis triumvirate.
Now known simply as "Star Trek", but formerly "The Menagerie", this prequel is the brainchild of JJ 'Lost' Abrams. A wildly eclectic cast includes Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones, Winona Ryder as Amanda Grayson, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and one Leonard Nimoy as Spock. Make of that what you will.
Films to look out for in the coming year...
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher's lastest is an ambitious attempt to film F Scott Fitzgerald's short story about a man who ages backwards (Brad Pitt gets the CGI makeover). Eric Roth wrote the screenplay and Cate Blanchett costars.
The Restraint of Beasts
Burn After Reading
This should be the second Coen brothers movie of the year, with a topical plot about secret government files ending up in the wrong hands. George Clooney and Brad Pitt star with John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand.
Synecdoche, New York
Ace screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich; Adaptation; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Heart) turns director and has assembled the best female case of the year: Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Diane Wiest, Hope Davis... plus Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Sex and the City: The Movie
Hard to say if this can possibly work, but even if it doesn't it should be worth a giggle. Academy award winner Jennifer Hudson joins the city girls. Director Michael Patrick King is a veteran of 16 episodes of the show.
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