January 16, 2009

On the Horizon: Movies in 2009

Lots of movies out there on the horizon...

When I first started these "On the Horizon" posts last year, they were almost exclusively movies that I had seen at MSPIFF (the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival), months before their actual release (American Teen, Encounters at the End of the World, etc.). After that was over, I had to play the waiting game with everyone else, maybe seeing movies a week or two before their release, when it would have been worthless to take time for an "On the Horizon" post. So it was kind of a poorly planned idea to begin with.

In any case, the one holdover that has not yet been widely released, Nerakhoon (The Betrayal), is actually still on the horizon. It's on the Oscar shortlist and we'll find out next week if voters will make the right decision and award it a nomination for Best Documentary Feature (especially since they botched the short list selections in the first place). It arrives in Minneapolis in March and I highly recommend it.

In the meantime, here are the major studio releases for 2009 that for some reason grabbed my attention, even though I likely won't see all of them. Because this list is already too long to read, I'm not including documentaries and I'm not including many of the indies that will play at Sundance.

BOLDED are the movies that really I'm hoping won't disappoint. This is going to take a while to read - but it will be worth it if I can help you plan out your schedule in some way, and I'm going to link to it on my sidebar for the next month or so.



Notorious (opening today): Starring Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, and Angela Bassett, this biopic of Christopher Wallace better show off a bangin' soundtrack. And it better be good. Tupac's version, Tupac: Resurrection, was a documentary - deservedly nominated for Best Documentary Feature, don't forget.
Early word is that Woolard is eerily believable as Biggie.

New in Town: (shudder) Yet another movie set in Minnesota but filmed elsewhere, this time in Winnipeg. Renee Zellweger plays a ditzy blonde who relocates from Miami to Minnesota; ridiculousness ensues. Considering my girlfriend recently moved here from Las Vegas and some of our friends are also transplants from livable locales, there's no way I'm not going to end up seeing this. Somebody help me find the silver lining...


Fanboys: If I can be considered a fanboy of any franchise (and I really hope I can't), it would be Star Wars. It would be biting irony if Fanboys shot to the top of IMDb list due to rabid fanboy voting, as happened with The Dark Knight. Kristen Bell is slated to be in about a movie per month in 2009; this is the first.

The International: I've expressed my love for Tom Tykwer's early films on these pages. No idea what this one is really about but it deserves a spot if only because of Tykwer and Clive Owen. And the poster is intriguing.

New York, I Love You: I don't know if this should be called a spin-off or a sequel or something else in relation to Paris je t'aime, but I've always had a thing for New York. This has the potential to be enchanting or completely forgettable.

Crossing Over: I had this on my sidebar release schedule back in October. After the tenth time its release was delayed I removed it altogether. Let's see what happens. Maybe this should but thrown down with the TBA's. Anyway, I'm pretty clueless about the details but Harrison Ford + Sean Penn + immigration + Los Angeles = me go.


Watchmen: Never read the series and not a huge fan of the superhero trend, but this easily one of the most hyped movies of 2009. I'm not dying to see it, but I'll see it.

Sunshine Cleaning: Had some positive buzz coming out of Sundance last year but it's kind of faded since then. That it was dropped in the usually dead zone that is March might not be a good sign, but Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Steve Zahn probably work well together.

Adventureland: From the director, but not writer, of Superbad, comes another predictably crass comedy about friends working at an amusement park in 1987. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig should make this at least worth a few laughs. I also expect a nice soundtrack featuring hair bands.

Monsters vs. Aliens: Only showing up here because Dreamworks Animation really wowed me with Kung Fu Panda last year. This is the kind of movie that gets a huge push because it stars every popular actor and actress in the world right now. And you won't see any of them on screen for one second. Go figure.


Sugar: Next to Ballast this was by far my most anticipated movie out of Sundance last year. From the writing and directing pair of Half Nelson, I'm desperate to see this story about an aspiring baseball player from the Dominican Republic. Just in time for the start of the baseball season, to boot.

Observe and Report: I wasn't too hot about The Foot Fist Way last year, but I'll consider this a second shot for writer/director Jody Hill because it stars Seth Rogen. If people haven't seen Foot Fist, and the tone is anything like that one, I think they're going to be in for a surprise.

O'Horten: Highly regarded Norwegian dramedy about a fateful moment for a retiring train engineer. Sounds riveting I know, but this is one of those you just see on a lark.

The Soloist: True story about a homeless guy and a journalist in L.A., played by Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., respectively. Although this was delayed from last November to this April, there is still some buzz about Oscar nominations next year. I'm going to keep my expectations moderate.


Star Trek: I'm no Trekkie and I'm not a fan of J.J. Abrams. This marks the official opening of summer movie season, though, so I'll be there. Simon Pegg might ease the pain, but Eric Bana is sure to ruin a few scenes.

Bruno: Sacha Baron Cohen returns with another sure-to-offend movie about the fashion industry, which sure deserves to be offended.

Terminator Salvation: It's almost impossible to expect that director "McG" won't take James Cameron's brilliant, seminal franchise ten steps back, but I officially see anything starring Christian Bale. I just can't believe this guy calls himself "McG".

Up: Pixar. If you're wondering if there's anything else you need to know other than that, there's not.


Land of the Lost: Starring Will Ferrell and my up-and-coming favorite Danny McBride - "Three adults inadvertently stumble into a mysterious land populated by dinosaurs and other creatures, including the mysterious and dangerous race of Sleestak." Uh...

The Taking of Pelham 123
: I really need to see the original before I see this remake starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta about a hijacked NYC subway train. Might be an early summer gem. Or a joke.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Though I really doubt it will tank, if if it does maybe Shia LaBeouf will get back to serious acting. Consider this also Megan Fox's official coming-out party.


Public Enemies: Another early Oscar talk-about, this Michael Mann thriller about 1930's gangsters features a literal dream cast led by Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum (who deserves a big break). I didn't like Mann's Miami Vice, but the cast alone should save this one from disaster.

2012: Roland Emmerich continues his time travel expedition, going from 10,000 B.C. (which I skipped) to three years from now, when a Mayan calendar predicts the apocalypse. I'm interested by the cast alone.

500 Days of Summer: Indie comedy starring the promising Joseph Gordon-Levitt. One of the co-writers is also the many behind this summer's Pink Panther sequel, so that's kind of a troubling sign.

Funny People: It seems like ages since a movie with Judd Apatow's name on it has come out, even though it's only been a few months. He must have caught wind about people tiring of his brand - what was that like a dozen movies in three years? This one stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Apatow's wife Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, and oh great, Eric Bana.
Front-runner for worst title of the year.


G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: I spent hours on end playing with G.I. Joe action figures when I was younger, so I at least owe this one some consideration. No? Hmm, well it does star Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I'm guessing there isn't going to be as much acting as there is action.

Taking Woodstock: Ang Lee directs an adaptation of a novel about the fateful origins of the famous music festival. Starring Emile Hirsch in what I'm assuming is a starring role, this has to feature a great soundtrack at the very least.

Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino returns with a WWII action-adventure starring a typically bizarre cast, everyone from Brad Pitt to Mike Myers. It might not be as good as the hype, but there's hardly a chance that it will be boring. Possible Oscar sleeper.


The Informant: Steven Soderbergh follows up Che with a thriller about Big Agriculture. I think. Starring Matt Damon and, well that's good enough. Another possible Oscar contender.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Yep, they've adapted this great book into an animated movie featuring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and James Caan. Maybe I'll just read the book again.

Jennifer's Body:
Yet another movie set in Minnesota but filmed elsewhere, this time in Vancouver - just like Juno, which was also written by OSCAR WINNER "Diablo Cody". I'd have to try to be less interested in this, but I know myself well enough to know that buzz may motivate me to see it.


A Serious Man:
Yet another movie set in Minnesota but filmed- hey! Wait a minute, this was actually filmed here! Only great things can be expected from the Coen brothers in their return to their home state. Tickets might as well go on sale for this next week; the lines are going to stretch for miles. I say just devote one day state-wide and show it on every available screen to prevent riots at the box office. Possible Best Picture nominee.

Where the Wild Things Are: Lots of reasons for this adaptation of the children's book to sound appealing, not the least of which are the involvement of Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers and Forest Whitaker. Plus, it's not animated. I just home Jonze keeps the CGI to a minimum.

Amelia: Hilary Swank throws down for her third Best Actress Oscar in this biopic of Amelia Earhart, also starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake).


The Box: Richard Kelly sure made a splash with Donnie Darko, but I was pretty harsh on his last effort, Southland Tales. This one, starring James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, and Frank Langella, sounds typically trippy. As I said in the Southland review:
"I'll see his next film only because he's proven he can make a great one, but I'm going to be reeaaly wary."

The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson directs this animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel. Hmm...featuring the voice of George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and the rest of the Wes Anderson Players (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, et. al.).

Sherlock Holmes: Can Guy Ritchie adapt his trademark style to this detective story? Starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, respectively, this also might be in line for some Oscar nominations for acting and design/costumes.

A Christmas Carol: I'm not sure why The Polar Express is never mentioned as one of the great modern Christmas movies, but maybe the success of this one, which was also directed by Robert Zemeckis, will get it some attention. Heck, maybe it will get Zemeckis some attention at all. For a guy who has directed some classic movies (The Back to the Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, Contact), he's devoted himself to this 3-D animation deal for the last decade, only having made Express and Beowulf. This classic story has the best potential of them all: Jim Carrey, Robin Wright Penn, Colin Firth, and Gary Oldman.

Nine: Rob Marshall, whose Chicago took home Best Picture less than a decade ago, goes for it again with this adaptation of the Broadway musical. I know none of the songs to this show, but what does this cast do for you?: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Nicole Kidman. Other than Kidman, can the rest of them sing? We'll find out. Certain to get multiple Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.


The Lovely Bones: If I were to make insanely early Oscar picks, which I don't, this would be the front runner for Best Picture. I haven't read the book and I have no desire to. At this point the same goes for the movie, but with Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz receiving direction from Peter Jackson (who, let's be honest, is going to be a lot more interested in how it looks), I won't be able to ignore the buzz.

Avatar: James Cameron, please blow my mind again. The brilliant visionary and the man behind Aliens, The Terminator (and T2, but not T3 or the aforementioned Salvation), The Abyss, and True Lies returns to the director's chair for his first major feature since Titanic. Visual effects have come a long way in the last decade so it will be interesting to see what he unveils this time around.

The Princess and the Frog: Disney goes retro with a hand-drawn animated film, and their first to star a black princess. How long did that take?

The Human Factor: While it's beginning to look less likely that Gran Torino will get a Best Picture nod next week, this Clint Eastwood-directed Nelson Mandela biopic starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon has to have a great shot at one next year. Please be good.


There's a better than 50/50 chance that half of these won't see a theater screen in 2009, but some of them have major potential to be excellent. You have a life, so I'm going to make this quick.

Apples - Bobby Cannavale (if that doesn't mean anything to you, then forget it)

The Boat That Rocked - Richard Curtis, writer of Love Actually and Notting Hill

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men - indie adaptation of story by the late genius David Foster Wallace

Broken Embraces - new Pedro Almodovar movie, starring guess who, Penelope Cruz

Cold Souls - dramedy staring Paul Giamatti as a guy searching for his soul

Couples Retreat - comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and...Jean Reno?

Endgame - drama about the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor

The Fighter - Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), Mark Wahlberg, and maybe Brad Pitt

Green Zone - Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Matt Damon re-team for a non-Bourne movie

The Hurt Locker - Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes in an Iraq War movie. Early buzz is very positive

The Missing Person - Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) in a neo-noir mystery

Mr. Nobody - Jared Leto plays a guy who mysteriously lives well into his 100's; sounds like Benjamin Button

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Based on a Michael Chabon novel, starring Sienna Miller, Nick Nolte, and Peter Sarsgaard

The Poughkeepsie Tapes - Long anticipated horror movie made by Minnesotan brothers (and Coens brothers look-alikes) Drew and John Erick Dowdle

The Road - Another possible Best Picture nominee, this adaptation of the popular Cormac McCarthy novel stars Viggo Mortenson and Charlize Theron and has seen its release delayed at least once already

Rudo y Cursi - Soccer comedy that marks the reunion of members of the Y Tu Mama Tambien team: Screenwriter Carlos Cuaron and actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna


That's enough, I think.

So are you looking forward to any of these?


  1. I can't wait for a few of these.

    Be careful, though, Daniel, about saying Nine is certain to receive numerous Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Dreamgirls disabused me of the notion that any film is "locked" out of the starting gate forever.

    Did I miss it or do you not have Malick's Tree of Life here? I hope that comes out in 2009. Looking forward to Jarmusch's The Limits of Control.

    More Coens, always grand. Scorsees and Mann. Bale in roles aside from Batman.

    For now, though, I'm still buzzing after seeing The Wrestler yesterday. I still have so much to catch up with from 2008, but thank you for bringing 2009 into crystal clear focus for all of us.

  2. Thanks for sharing this very comprehensive list. I hope Rudo y Cursi finally makes it to the big screen. My other most sees involve Ms. Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies/Nine) and Ms. Emily Blunt (Sunshine Cleaning).

    Also, going through your list I finally figured out whatever happened to "The Soloist."

  3. Shiza shiza shiza!

    I've seen the trailer a few times, but was unaware that The International was a Tom Tykwer film. That reaaaaalllly disappoints me, as I think it looks awful from the trailer. However, that does make me thismuch more interested to see it.

    The thought of New York, I Love You sounds awesome considering how much I loved Paris...but I've heard only bad things. What a shame.

    9 looks awesome.

    I'm ready for the next Harry Potter.

    Where the Wild Things Are would be interesting no matter who was directing, but wit Spike Jonze...sublime.

    Outside of that, I can't say that I'm terribly interested in anything I've heard/seen so far. Nothing I'm wildly looking forward to... :(

  4. 2009 is gonna be awesome. I am looking forward to a huge amount of films on that list and I can only hope they deliver the goods.

  5. BTW, since we are playing that game, Amelia and The Human Factor were both filmed in SA! Yay for cheap production costs and/or pretty landscapes. Or whatever it is that gets people to film here.

  6. I'm really looking forward to "The Lovely Bones," which is one of the best books I've read in a while and I love Peter Jackson.

    Also "Up," "New York, I Love You," and "Star Trek," even though I have a feeling Abrams is going to screw it up.

  7. Here's some notes from Sundance.
    Also, I love this post.

    500 Days of Summer is the best romantic comedy made in the last five years. I know, because I looked up all the romcoms released in the last five years and the only one that holds a candle to it is Love Actually.

    My wife saw Cold Souls and really enjoyed it. She also saw a movie starring two Sam Rockwells called Moon which should enter your radar.

    Rudo y Cursi won't win any awards. It was so-so. Really light-hearted (with an out-of-place sex scene thrown in for some reason) comedy that's pretty funny but nothing overly special. Formulaic, predictable, and overall, kinda disappointing.

    World's Greatest Dad is really, really good. Who knew Bobcat Goldthwait could direct? I guess the people who saw his last Sundance entry, but I didn't. I hope the Gute starts making movies soon.

    I Love You Phillip Morris was so-so as well even though it seems I may be the only one who wants to say so. Based on a true story though which makes it a bit more interesting.

    An Education is going to be big. First, it's a great story. Second, it's beautifully shot. Third, it was written by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy). Fourth, outstanding supporting cast. Fifth, Carey Mulligan has a face you could stare at until the day you died.

    The Vicious Kind will probably get a smaller distribution deal than it deserves. J.K. Simmons and Adam Scott both serve up fantastic performances. As for the other two main actors...eh, not so much.

  8. Thanks everyone for sharing some enthusiasm about the upcoming year. I guess it doesn't take much for me to get excited since I'm looking forward to a lot of these.

    Alexander, I was disappointed by Dreamgirls' snubbing, but I figure Marshall's track record and a stellar cast will earn it at least a handful. I do NOT have Malick's Tree of Life here, but I really should. Always one to keep an eye out for.

    Thanks for checking it out, Dorothy. I know you must be anxious to see Marion sizzle on screen again. And I realize I didn't even mention her in the "dream cast" for Public Enemies. Man, that movie better bring it.

    I'm crossing my fingers with you about Tykwer, Fletch. I haven't seen the trailer (and don't plan on it) but you're one of many I've heard call it absolutely horrendous. Same with NY I Love You, actually. Hmm...why is it that the people who see these movies early always ruin the mood for the rest of us?

    Nick, I'll keep an eye out for you in those two movies! Wouldn't it be cool if you got to go a premiere for The Human Factor or something? Also, I expect a full report of accuracies and inaccuracies...

    I'm with you on those middle two, Matthew. I'll have to take your word for it with The Lovely Bones, but like I said I'll almost have to see the movie. At least the cast is tolerable.

    Thanks much, Scott. I like having that inside access! Can't believe you actually went.

    That's about the hunch I had for 500 Days of Summer, but you've just put that sucker on the top of the must-see list. I'm coming to you if it's bad...or good. You've also made me very hopeful for Cold Souls, and An Education, which I had to look up. Yup, insane cast!

  9. PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE will be my number one film of 2009. I realize that we're only 27 days into the year but I just can't see how anything else will hit me like Push. You can check out my review for it here:


    5 stars all the way. It won both the Grand Jury and the Audience awards. Keep your eyes open for this one.

  10. Wait a minute, "Push" as in that movie that comes out next week? Just looked it up, OK, no.

    Whew, that was close.

    Alright, I'll definitely be looking forward to your "Push" intensely. Sounds amazing - and with Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz!

  11. On the eve of it's premiere, I just wanted to say that I am totally stoked to see Watchmen this weekend. In the post you mentioned that it being a super hero film and part of an unread series were reasons why you might not be as interested for it. However, I should point out that it technically was a graphic novel with 12 chapters, has never had any prequels or sequels, and was intended by the author Alan Moore as one body of work, which is the only way it is available now. It does involve the concept of heroes, but I would confidently say it does not fit into any comic superhero mold. To blatantly rip-off a description I found online: "Moore used the story as a means to reflect contemporary anxieties and to deconstruct the superhero concept." I had heard about it before, but I saw a copy of it on sale after Time magazine picked it out as one of the 100 best all-time novels (since Time started in 1923 that is), and so I bought it, and was blown away. It's decidedly one of the best books I have ever read, and the myriad emotional, philosophical, political, and socio-cultural topics it covers is fascinating and entertaining. Watchmen was a dark and poignant and disturbingly beautiful experience for me in graphic novel form; if the movie gets half of the complex ideas and images and multiple plots across I will be more than satisfied.

    My one caveat: I hated director Zach Snyder's film version of the graphic novel 300 ... until I read 300 and discovered that he had actually made an excellent cinematic adaption of that, it just turns out that I really hated the ideas, themes, and presentation of the source material itself.

  12. "it just turns out that I really hated the ideas, themes, and presentation of the source material itself."

    Well knowing you - or anyone with a humane character - that's no surprise. But I guess some people love violent fantasy wars as much as real wars, evidenced by 300's massive windfall at the box office. Apparently Snyder is hoping to break his own record of the biggest March opening ever - and it's almost guaranteed that he'll succeed since Watchmen is opening in over 3500 theaters (the largest ever opening for an R-rate movie). I saw maybe half an hour of 300 and was simply bored when I wasn't disgusted.

    That being said, I'm still seeing Watchmen as one of the major movie events of the year (as is noted here, of course). I'm going in blind and, to be honest, I'm not yet as excited as I would have hoped to be, even considering the a lot of the things you lay out that I've heard so far. I really should have just been responsible read the book, but I guess it's too late now, or at least too late to not have a potentially ruinous image of everything already in my head.


Related Posts with Thumbnails