BW film reviewer Jeremiah Robert Wierenga, aka Jem, is known for in-depth analyses of arty and foreign films, while Travis Estvold, BW's resident Vidiot, typically takes on mainstream movies and television. Different as they are in style and taste, the pair met online for a chat session devoted to a few anticipated movies coming out in 2010. The process: watch a film trailer, then discuss. The result: why these films are ones to keep an eye out for.
The Lovely Bones
(Friday, Jan. 15): Peter Jackson directed feature about a young girl's life after death.
VIDIOT: This movie just looks vivid to me. I get some of the vibe that I once got from What Dreams May Come--which happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.
JEM: Yeah, Peter Jackson's always had a good fix on visuals. This feels a bit creepier than What Dreams May Come, to me. I might liken it more to The Cell.
VIDIOT: Creepier, yes. And when you're dealing with pre-teens being murdered, it opens the door to viewers being turned off. But the emotional levels that Jackson is or is not able to generate will make or break this film.
JEM: Right, but it comes from a popular book, so its fan base is built in. Of course, Saoirse Ronan has demonstrated her ability to carry a film. Her performance in Atonement was vital for holding the film together.
VIDIOT: Absolutely. She was that perfect love-to-hate type of character. I'm curious to see what else she can achieve.
JEM: Here's a funny reminder regarding pre-teens being murdered--Jackson's breakout film was Heavenly Creatures about two teens murdering one's mother. It was also Kate Winslet's first role. In a sense, Jackson's taking a break from the epics (King Kong, Lord Of The Rings) and returning to the sort of smaller drama that first got him noticed. Apparently, he's taking what he's learned visually along with him, though.
Serge Gainsbourg, Vie Heroique
(Wednesday, Jan. 20): Iconic French musician Serge Gainsbourg's cartoonishly exaggerated lifestyle comes to life in this graphic novel-based biopic.
JEM: Here's one big film that I'm hoping crosses over into America this year. It's being released in France in January, so who knows if it'll make it over in 2010.
VIDIOT: Having only seen the trailer in French, I have to say the film feels like it has a real pulse.
JEM: The film's namesake, Serge Gainsbourg, was an original rock god, bedding the world's hottest actresses and generally living crazy. But his music is phenomenal.
VIDIOT: Even beyond the seemingly endless parade of breasts, I find myself intrigued to not only see this movie, but to read up on its namesake.
JEM: I don't know a lick of French, but I could still watch anything with his music and not care. It's actually based on the director's (Joann Sfar) own graphic novel. So in a sense, it's my comic book movie of the year. Gainsbourg himself was a pretty exaggerated character.
(Friday, Jan. 22): A renegade good angel teams with humans to fight off an army of bad angels.
VIDIOT: This movie screams Constantine meets The Seventh Sign but cranked up to a whole other level.
JEM: Right, I was thinking Mars Attacks! (in the creature-design department) crossed with Resident Evil crossed with Bless the Child crossed with Max Payne. I sometimes worry about those films because I think they look so awesome, but somehow disappoint when it comes to actually having a story to connect those visual pieces.
VIDIOT: If it can remain anything like Constantine--sort of the religious-toned sci-fi thriller--then I think it can be a winner.
JEM: I'm not fully convinced that "epic" good and evil stories always need to be played out with angels and demons. Even the supernatural ones. I do think Paul Bettany makes a great anti-hero.
VIDIOT: I think Paul Bettany makes a good just about everything.
JEM: He's in another film this year, too: Priest.
(Friday, Aug. 27): A holy man disregards church orders and hunts down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.
VIDIOT: Yes, yes. As it's slated to be released later in the year, info on it isn't as prevalent, but he plays a vampire-hunting rogue priest. And as I've just stated my admiration for him, I'm definitely down for this one as well.
JEM: It's kind of funny. I never think of him as anything but the goofy, snarky sidekick a la A Beautiful Mind or A Knight's Tale, but he's kicking some serious demon derriere this year.
VIDIOT: There's something incredibly charismatic about that guy. Tell me he's in it; I'll probably watch. Special effects, too? Bonus.
JEM: I'm extremely amused by how many of that film's actors are veterans of the vampire genre--Cam Gigandet (Twilight), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Brad Dourif (Desire, the Vampire).
JEM: I think if you work in Hollywood long enough, you'll either bite or be bitten. It's like a metaphor for the industry played out onscreen.
VIDIOT: Well, that, or everyone in Hollywood is only so many degrees away from the guy who played "Chucky" in Child's Play (Dourif).
Alice In Wonderland
(Friday, March 5): Lewis Carroll's beloved children's story gets a Tim Burton makeover.
JEM: I sort of feel bad for other actors in Burton films. He makes great films, but if you're not a semi-deranged, semi-fro'ed performer like Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter, you barely register.
VIDIOT: That's true. I definitely don't dig all of Burton's work. I loathed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and yet thoroughly enjoyed Sweeney Todd. I am, however, always on board to simply see what he creates. And given Alice is in 3-D ... sign me up!
JEM: There are some directors (Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry) who may not always make a good film script-wise but always make something eminently watchable and generally intriguing. Burton is on that list. Jackson, too, to a lesser extent.
VIDIOT: And clearly [Christoper] Nolan. But I'll definitely say Burton belongs there.
JEM: Well, Nolan, while having a great visual sense, really is talented as a storyteller from the script side. He doesn't substitute oddity for intriguing subtext, which Gilliam and Burton might both be guilty of.
VIDIOT: Yeah, but Nolan's films are harder to sing along to.
JEM: Right, and he rarely provides jobs for "little people."
(Friday, July 16): Christopher Nolan writes and directs an action-thriller set inside someone's brain.
JEM: Well, Nolan has never let me down yet, and I have some freakin' high standards.
VIDIOT: This trailer evokes the same feelings I had when I first saw previews for The Matrix ... but as I'm already a hugely loyal Nolanist, I'm dying to see what this film is really about.
JEM: And it's a super intriguing cast list, as well. The teen-idol-turned-serious-actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), the stalwart veteran Englishman (Michael Caine); toss in a couple indie favorites (Ellen Page, Joseph Gordan-Levitt) and a French Oscar winner (Marion Cotillard). I don't think I've seen him use quite such a big name cast before. It'll be interesting to see the balance. And of course Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe, who both worked with him in Batman Begins.
VIDIOT: And Caine was with him for both Batman movies and The Prestige. If this movie doesn't blow me away when I see it, I think part of me might die.
JEM: Wow. That's really heavy. I think you might be a Nolan nerd. But yes, I agree. Nolan's been hitting on all cylinders since Memento, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. I think this will rock.