Spring screen saviours
With the Oscars looming, the spring is always a good time for high-quality releases, and 2010 promises to be no exception. Among the forthcoming highlights are the hotly-tipped urban drama Precious, Clint Eastwood's South African drama Invictus, Jim Sheridan's war saga Brothers and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Here's our pick of the best.
Based on Suzanne Bier's 2004 Danish film and a kind of Deer Hunter for our time, Jim Sheridan's Brothers features excellent performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire as two American siblings whose lives take very different paths. While one (Maguire) follows his father into the US Marines and is posted into Afghanistan, the other becomes involved with his absent brother's family after he's released from jail. Natalie Portman co-stars.
Out later this month.
The Oscar buzz around this low-budget social drama directed by Lee Daniels and co-produced by Oprah Winfrey is positively deafening at this stage. First-time actress Gabourey Sidibe (below) stars as 'Precious' Jones, an obese 16-year-old girl who's endured a nightmarish upbringing in 80s Harlem. Raped and impregnated by her father, she subsequently gives birth to a Down Syndrome child. But when she becomes pregnant again, she's determined to provide a better life for her kids.
Out at the end of this month.
Relatively well received in the US, Clint Eastwood's Invictus stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It dramatises the remarkable events around the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela and Springboks captain Francois Pinar used the event as a way of uniting their divided country.
Out in early February.
The omens are not good for this costly remake of the 40s classic, which has experienced substantial delays and a studio re-edit. Benicio Del Toro plays the unfortunate Victorian gentleman Lawrence Talbot, who discovers that he's a werewolf with an insatiable lust for human blood. Anthony Hopkins co-stars and, in fairness, the effects look pretty good.
Out on February 12.
A kind of American Love Actually, Garry Marshall's romantic comedy interweaves a series of love stories and near misses that take place in and around St Valentine's Day. A stellar cast includes Julia Roberts, Jeccica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher and Shirley MacLaine. Out ... on Valentine's Day!
The Lovely Bones
Reports from the US have been mixed about Peter Jackson's $100m adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestselling novel. Saoirse Ronan (left) stars as a 14-year-old girl in 70s America who finds herself drifting in a kind of purgatory after she's raped and murdered by a serial killer. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon co-star.
Out on February 19.
A Single Man
Also in line for Oscar recognition, the debut feature film from fashion designer Tom Ford is set in 60s Hollywood and based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name. Colin Firth stars as a gay middle-aged English college professor living in California who seeks comfort in a female friend after the death of his longtime partner. With Julianne Moore (left), Matthew Goode.
Out in February.
Edge of Darkness
In his first starring role since 2002, Mel Gibson (far left) will attempt to revive his box-office status with this conventional thriller directed by Martin Campbell. Gibson is Thomas Craven, a Boston homicide detective whose investigation into the murder of his daughter, a political activist, reveals a web of high-level intrigue and corruption that threatens to destroy him too. Danny Huston and Ray Winstone co-star.
Out in February.
Pushed back from its original release date in October 09, Martin Scorsese's eagerly awaited thriller is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as two US marshals in 50s Massachusetts, who are sent to a remote coastal island to find a multiple killer who has escaped from a high security mental hospital. Oscar nominations are already being discussed, and Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max von Sydow also star.
Out on February 19.
Capitalism: A Love Story
Never subtle but sometimes effective, Michael Moore tilts his lance at capitalism itself in this colourful and controversial film. In truth, Moore is a polemicist rather than a documentary-maker in the strictest sense. But his films are rarely dull and among his targets here are the evils of Wall Street, America's for-profit prisons, the US banking bailout and Goldman Sachs' pernicious influence in Washington. Moore also wonders if Jesus would have been a capitalist.
Out February on 26.
I Love You Phillip Morris
Though its storyline about a homosexual romance has attracted some controversy, the advance word about this comic drama from Glenn Ficarra is very good. Based on a true story, the film stars Jim Carrey (left) as Stephen Jay Russell, a con artist who falls in love with his cell mate (Ewan McGregor, far left) and escapes from prison four times in order to be with him.
Out in late February.
Alice in Wonderland
On the face of it, Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll were born to work together, and the director's typically stylised adaptation of Alice in Wonderland will be eagerly anticipated. Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter is the Red Queen, and Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry co-star.
Out on March 5.
Filmed in the summer of 2008 in the beautiful Beara Peninsula, Neil Jordan's fantasy drama stars Colin Farrell as a western fisherman who finds a woman in his nets one day whom he believes to be a mermaid. Played by Polish actress Alicja Bachleda-Curus (who's also Farrell's offscreen partner), Ondine causes a stir in the tiny fishing community as she transforms the lives of the locals. With Stephen Rea, Dervla Kirwan, Don Wycherly, Carrie Crowley.
Out in mid-March.
The rumours are that it shot way over budget, but early clips of Paul Greengrass's war thriller suggest that we're in for something of a treat. Matt Damon plays a CIA officer who becomes involved in the search for those elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the American-led invasion in 2003, and soon finds himself a target for the American military. With Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson.
Out in mid-March.
They have described it as "The Office meets Mad Men", and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's period comic drama is bound to be interesting. Set in 70s Reading, it follows the fortunes of two building society clerks, and a fine cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Julia Davis, Matthew Goode and Gervais himself.
Out on April 7.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
In Oliver Stone's intriguing sequel to his 1987 hit, Michael Douglas will return as Gordon Gekko, the rapacious corporate raider who was sent to jail at the end of the first film for insider trading. In this one, he's just out of prison where he's grown a conscience, and tries to warn Wall Street about the impending 2008 stock market crash. Shia LaBoeuf and Josh Brolin co-star.
Out in April.
Iron Man 2
Robert Downey Jr (left) surprised many with the aplomb of his performance as the Marvel comic superhero in the 2008 hit Iron Man. In this sequel, he returns as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy inventor who becomes dedicated to fighting crime after inventing a flying armoured suit. Mickey Rourke will play the villain, and a star-studded cast also includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson. Should be a laugh.
Out at the end of April.