Now, this list isn't my "fifty most anticipated movies of 2009" purely because I can never know what movies are going to actually be released in any given year, but I've done my best to work it out. Of course, I'm sure at least a well-sized swag of these will end up being either a) moved to 2010, b) look bad, c) pass me by or d) do not live up to the hype, but as of right now these are 50 movies I am going to be paying close attention to throughout 2009.
Of course, many of these movies will stretch into 2010 - we're still getting movies that are technically 2008 releases and we will be for a long time coming - and there will be titles that appear out of nowhere to get everybody (myself included, obviously) in a lather. And you just never can tell when a movie that looks unappealing in every way possible could suddenly pop up with a classic poster or amazing trailer and start to look mighty fine.
Before we take a look at what I think 2009's finest will be some brief honourable mentions. I think Joe Johnston is a great action director and it will be interesting to see what he and Benicio del Toro do with The Wolfman. Richard Curtis' The Boat that Rocked sounds quite interesting, surprisingly (I didn't care for Love Actually). State of Play and Duplicity could have some great mainstream big star thrills from Kevin Macdonald and Tony Gilroy respectively. Patrick Lussier's My Bloody Valentine 3D is sure to be a hoot and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes will be... interesting to say the least.
Aussie filmmakers Kriv Stenders, Rowan Woods and the Spierig Brothers take on Lucky Country, Winged Creatures and Daybreakers respectively while Paul Weitz's Cirque de Freak could be good if done right. Tomas Moodysson's Mammoth, Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things and Tokyo! by Michel Gondry, Boon Jong-ho and Leos Carax all sound like fascinating arthouse experiences.
50. I Love You, Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficarra & John Reque)
Because it looks absolutely insane and I can't quite fathom how it exists (since it stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor), which makes me intrigued beyond belief. But, then again, queer cinema hasn't exactly been bursting at the seams with great quality lately and it could very easily explode in all of our faces. Proceed with caution!
49. The Box (dir. Richard Kelly)
Still living off of residual Donnie Darko love (there will be no mention of that movie's quasi sequel S. Darko on this countdown) after his sophomore effort, the misguided Southland Tales, imploded between moments of brilliance. The Box is a horror tale starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden so I really have no idea what to expect, but I like to imagine it's something akin to the blue box storyline from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive extended to 100 minutes. Or we may never know, considering how many times it has been shifted around.
48. Confessions of a Shopaholic (dir. PJ Holden)
Perhaps the most likely title on this list to be skipped at the cinema. I probably wouldn't have taken much notice of this movie if it weren't for the fact that it stars the effervescent Isla Fisher and is directed by PJ Holden (Muriel's Wedding, My Best Friends Wedding) so I have a slight hunch that there's fun to be had. Even if the critics dismiss it, which you know they will.
47. Visages (dir. Ming-liang Tsai)
A French and Taiwanese co-production that sounds fascinating and could be a great festival title. Follows a Taiwanese director making a film in the Louvre.
46. Green Zone (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Will be nice to see Paul Greengrass back in non-Bourne territory with this Matt Damon vehicle. It is a Middle Eastern war film so I'm sure there will be people out there criticising it and it may very well flop, but whatever. Also stars Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and Jason Isaacs.
45. Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
I'm pulling for this movie to succeed despite having many ticks against it. It's an Iraq-set war film, directed by a woman and doesn't star anyone who can sell a movie purely on their name (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Renner). It got great reviews out of Toronto and Venice and Bigelow has always been a great action director - no matter the quality, it should at least be more coherent than Greengrass' Green Zone - so here's hoping it doesn't suffer.
44. The Illusionist (dir. Sylvain Chomet)
I was a big fan of Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville so I'm looking forward to this animated adaptation of an unproduced Jacques Tati screenplay about a magician.
43. Drag Me to Hell (dir. Sam Raimi)
It will very interesting to see what Sam Raimi (director of the Spider-Man films of late) does with his first horror film as director since The Evil Dead 2. Was originally to star fresh-out-of-Juno Ellen Page, but she was replaced by Alison Lohman who showed great promise a few years ago (particularly in Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men) but seemingly disappeared without a trace.
42. Ponyo on the Cliff (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
It's Hayao Miyazaki, folks. Do I really need to say anything more? The English language version will feature the voices of Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and the one and only Betty White omg!
41. Closed for Winter (dir. James Bogle)
I am a big fan of Bogle's In the Winter Day so it's good to have him back making films again after years of TV work. This one stars Natalie Imbruglia and while I don't know much about it, what I have heard is enough to intrigue me muchly.
40. Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion)
Anything by Jane Campion is cause to stop and look. I was a bigger fan of the Meg Ryan-starrer In the Cut than most people were at the time - has it held up well? I don't know - and this is Campion's first film since that one. She's gone with Abbie Cornish to star and an assortment of Aussies and Brits for this Aus/UK/USA/France co-production.
39. Funny People (dir. Judd Apatow)
Taking time out from his busy producing schedule (lol) is Judd Apatow, directing Funny People after the hits 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. While I generally recoil from Adam Sandler movies, I'm intrigued by this one because Apatow has had the foresight to cast Eric Bana is his first comedic Hollywood role, which makes me think Apatow has something up his sleeve with this one. Bruce Springsteen even shows up in another High Fidelity-style cameo! Lovely.
38. (500) Days of Summer (dir. Marc Webb)
Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel acting cute together.
37. Brüno (dir. Unknown)
Time will tell whether Sasha Baron Cohen's shtick has passed it's use by date. Will it be as good as Borat? I don't think so, but I do hope it's funny. We need something hysterically funny again.
36. The Informant (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Soderbergh returns to the land of the normal (after movies like Che, The Good German and that movie starring a porn actress) with The Informant, which stars a tubby Matt Damon (who will surely have yet another big year - Oscar conflicts abound). The second name mentioned on the film's IMDb profile (click the title above) is Melanie Lynskie, who I thought was spending the rest of her days alone in a dark room cursing Kate Winslet.
35. Bran Nue Day (dir. Rachel Perkins)
I have been a big fan of Perkins' films in the past (Radiance and One Night the Moon) so I can't wait to see what she makes of this indigenous road trip musical starring Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Geoffrey Rush, Missy Higgins, Ernie Dingo, Tom Budge and Magda Szubanski. Was previously discussed here as it's a title I've been monitoring for a while now.
34. Observe and Report (dir. Jody Hill)
What is it about mall cops in 2009? How strange that there should be two movies about them. Never mind that one starring the fat guy from King of Queens (gross, right?) because this one looks better. I admit to being a Seth Rogan fan (why do I have a lil bit of a crush on him? I blame his police uniform and handlebar from Superbad), but - HELLO - the film also stars Anna Faris. The greatest cinematic comedienne of all time (...) and she makes everything, at least initially, worth looking forward to.
33. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (dir. Terry Gilliam)
Despite being Heath Ledger's final film, this new Terry Gilliam also features Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law (as Ledger's character in differing incarnations), Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits and looks visually brilliant.
32. Watchmen (dir. Zach Snyder)
Probably too low for a lot of people, but while I remain intrigued and I will definitely be seeing it (if, for nothing else, but the visual look of it all) but as much as I loved Snyder's Dawn of the Dead I loathed his 300 and this latest film looks more in line with the latter, unfortunately. We'll see if it at all just goes down the gurgler, shall we?
31. Friday the 13th (dir. Marcus Nispel)
Don't hate me, but god daaaamn this looks good! Despite looking like a complete ripoff of Nispel's last horror remake (that'd be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) the trailer sure did the trick in convincing me that it was maybe worth it to go back to the beginning.
30. Forgiveness (dir. Todd Solondz)
For all the developments on this new film (a quasi sequel/thing of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse) you should probably be reading My New Plaid Pants. The latest from provocateur Todd Solondz (also of Storytelling and Palindromes) stars Shirley Henderson, Paul Reubens and, er, Paris Hilton. I really need to rewatch Happiness. That movie was brilliant.
29. Van Diemen's Land (dir. Jonathan Auf Der Heide)
This movie wasn't anywhere on my radar until I came across the terrifying teaser trailer. *shudder* That thing is creepy I tellsya! Watch it now.
28. The Lovely Bones (dir. Peter Jackson)
Who can really tell how Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones will go. It's all a bit of a mystery and up in the air at the moment and until we start seeing some publicity for it we'll continue to be in the dark. Here's hoping it's similar in tone to Jackson's Heavenly Creatures.
27. Balibo (dir. Robert Connelly)
Connelly's (The Bank) retelling of the famous "Balibo Five" tale, the Australian journalists who were murdered in East Timor. Stars Anthony LaPaglia.
26. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat)
John Hillcoat definitely got the right people to see his 2005 Aussie film The Proposition as he is now directing a big budget Oscar hitter in The Road. Adapted from a Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) novel and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (another Aussie from Romulus My Father) as travelers in a post-apocalyptic society. It was originally slotted for 2008, but was pushed back by the Weinsteins. Even so I still have hope for the movie. I wasn't the biggest fan of The Proposition but it has it's staunch admirers as does Hillcoat's Ghosts... of the Civil Dead. Austraian muso Nick Cave is again doing the music and the likes of Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Garret Dillahunt and Guy Pearce appear in parts of unknown size.