Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Every 20 years or so, the public pays attention to the extravagant lifestyles of financial industry executives, and every 20 years director Oliver Stone is there to make a movie about it. A belated sequel to the 1987 hit Wall Street 56, Money Never Sleeps returns Michael Douglas as one of the big screen's most iconic characters: corporate raider and greed enthusiast Gordon Gekko. Expect a timely plot.
Iron Man 2
Robert Downey Jr. returns in this sequel to 2008's massive commercial and critical hit. Expect more action this time around, now that all that pesky back story has been dealt with. New cast members include Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle (replacing Terrence Howard), and even "Mad Men's" John Slattery. With all the new and expanded characters, could a spinoff be far behind?
Shrek Forever After
While audiences seem to prefer their animated characters blue these days, DreamWorks hopes that their green hero will rake in the green one final time. (The first three Shrek films collected a total of over $1 billion dollars in U.S. theaters alone.) While audiences may or may not be growing tired of the ogre's antics, critics certainly are: the Metascores for the three previous installments dropped from 84 to 75 to 58. Forever will be released in 3D and IMAX versions.
Sex and the City 2
The original Sex and the City 53 movie (based on the long-running HBO comedy series) was such a successful bit of counterprogramming in the summer of 2008 that Warner Bros. couldn't resist another date. The entire original cast returns, with the addition of John Corbett (who plays Carrie Bradshaw's ex, Aidan), and the action is split between New York and Morocco.
Toy Story 3
Before it acquired Pixar, Disney was planning its own sequel to the popular Toy Story movies. Fortunately for fans of quality animation, that project was shelved after the deal, and this 3D sequel is a full Pixar production. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are among the vocal stars returning for a story centering on the toys' search for a new home.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
It's a gamble, certainly. While the first two installments in the Twilight saga have been sparkling box office hits, rushing the third film into theaters just seven months after the previous film debuted runs the risk of Twilight overload. Oh, who are we kidding -- you know you're going to see it (unless you are like us, in which case you know you are not going to see it), especially since Eclipse is generally considered the best of the Twilight books.
Adrien Brody and Topher Grace are among a group of mercenaries brought to a jungle planet to do battle with a race of merciless aliens. The second of two sequels to 1987 films to be released this year, this Robert Rodriguez-penned sci-fi/horror hybrid is intended as a direct sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator, ignoring events in Predator 2 and the Alien vs. Predator films (which is probably for the best). Nimrod Antal directs (that's probably not for the best; he has just one decent film to his name).
The third in this growing and unlikely comedy franchise starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, Little Fockers -- which revolves around Stiller's character being a parent of twins -- follows 2004's poorly-reviewed Meet the Fockers 41 and 2000's better Meet the Parents 73. Jessica Alba and Laura Dern also star, and director Paul Weitz (American Pie 58) takes over for Jay Roach.
Johnny Knoxville and company return for their third big-screen display of gross-out stunts, which could either be the most inappropriate use of 3D technology in cinema history ... or the most sublime. (Or both.)
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I
It would be a shame for the series to end, says the studio making close to a billion dollars per film, so why not break the final book into two separate movies? Warner Bros. has done just that (Part II will arrive in the summer of 2011), while returning the director (David Yates) and writer (Steve Kloves) from the well-received sixth installment. Unlike in previous films, the action here takes place away from Hogwarts, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione go on a road trip of sorts as they seek out the source of Voldemort's power.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
After Disney decided to cancel production on the remaining five movies based on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, Fox picked up the rights to this third installment, an adventure at sea taken from perhaps the best book in the collection. Michael Apted is the new director, while Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King 61) is among the credited screenwriters.
Yet another sequel to a 1980s title, Tron Legacy follows 1982's sci-fi videogame-inspired adventure Tron, still a cult classic if a bit dated. (We said "a bit" and we're sticking to it.) Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner (!) reprise their roles from the original, although the action here centers on the son of Bridges' character and features cutting-edge computer graphics (which will look even better screened in 3D and IMAX). Positive buzz has been building over the past few years, making this one of the most anticipated releases of 2010's holiday season. Adding another layer of intrigue: Daft Punk provides the score.
Films from major directors
Dir: Martin Scorsese (Feb. 19)
It's never a good sign when a film's release is delayed half a year -- and then released in the middle of the Olympics -- but if you buy Paramount's story that the postponement was for financial reasons (rather than film quality), then there's no reason to worry -- not when a film has the pedigree that this one does. Not usually known for scares, Martin Scorsese helms this horror-thriller set in a creepy mental hospital and based on the Dennis Lehane novel. Leonardo DiCaprio stars, and the trailer is certainly intriguing.
Alice in Wonderland
Dir: Tim Burton (Mar. 5)
Burton reunites with star Johnny Depp for the seventh time for this fantasy based on Lewis Carroll's novels. Blending live-action with motion-capture technology, the visually rich Alice in Wonderland (which will screen in 3D) seems like a perfect match between director and material, which has fans eagerly awaiting this March release. The only question is whether it will play to adults as well as it does to kids.
Dir: Paul Greengrass (Mar. 12)
A critically-acclaimed director (United 93's Paul Greengrass), a cast led by Matt Damon and Amy Ryan, "important" subject matter (the search for WMD during the beginning of the Iraq War) -- the only thing about this thriller that doesn't say "Oscar material" is its release date. But that one factor in itself is a big red flag. Thanks to an earlier collaboration between director and star, pundits are dismissing this film as "Bourne in Iraq," although audiences may dismiss it altogether, as they have done for virtually every Iraq war movie to date.
Dir: Ridley Scott (May 14)
Sure, the legend of Robin Hood has been filmed before -- repeatedly -- but director Ridley Scott hopes to bring something new to the table: namely, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. In development for many years (with many scripts), Scott's 12th century epic features plenty of swordplay, rich-robbing and to-the-poor-giving, with the goal of being the definitive version of the Robin Hood story. But this straightforward approach comes at the expense of the originality present in earlier drafts of the screenplay, which had added new elements to the story.
Dir: Christopher Nolan (Jul. 16)
This $200-million sci-fi action blockbuster-in-waiting from the director of The Dark Knight 82 is already one of the year's most talked-about movies, while also being one of the most mysterious -- early trailers reveal almost nothing about the story (which involves the ability to enter people's dreams). A potential blend of the stylish action present in his recent films with the thought-provoking elements of his earlier work like Memento 80, Nolan's Inception also boasts a strong cast, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page. A new Los Angeles Times article adds a few details -- but only a few.
The Social Network
Dir: David Fincher (Oct. 15)
We don't know quite what to tweet about The Social Network. On one hand, the dramedy is directed by Fincher, one of the big screen's most interesting directors (Fight Club 66, Zodiac 78, Se7en 65) over the past two decades. On the other hand, the plot is about the founding of Facebook. (Hey, Fincher -- where's our Metacritic movie?) The already-lauded screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin (whose last few efforts have ranged from decent to disappointing), and the cast includes Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake. There could be award nominations in the film's future... or it could go the way of Friendster, ignored and forgotten.
The Green Hornet
Dir: Michel Gondry (Dec. 22)
It's certainly not your typical superhero movie. With a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express 64, Superbad 76) and directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Gondry, The Green Hornet may be one of the more fun Christmas offerings of recent years -- although without a trailer to gauge exactly how the French director's playful approach will fit with the material, it's best to keep expectations in check. Rogen, Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz are among the stars.
The Ghost Writer
Dir: Roman Polanski (TBD)
Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter who uncovers dangerous secrets when he is hired to pen the autobiography of a British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). Polanski's thriller -- which the director is currently completing while under house arrest in Switzerland -- is based on Robert Harris' novel "The Ghost." A spring release (for the film, not for Polanski himself) is likely.
Dir: Clint Eastwood (TBD)
The director's latest drama (likely to arrive at the end of the year) follows three separate characters who are each dealing with death in some way. Matt Damon stars, and the Steven Spielberg-produced film includes some elements of the supernatural -- a rarity for Eastwood.
Dir: Robert Redford (TBD)
When a woman is charged in a conspiracy to commit murder, it's up to her lawyer to convince the court of her innocence and save her from execution. One minor detail we forgot to mention: the murder victim was Abraham Lincoln. Redford's courtroom drama about the Lincoln assassination stars Evan Rachel Wood, James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, and Robin Wright Penn.
Dir: Steven Soderbergh (TBD)
It might be risky adding a film to this list when not a single frame has been shot yet, but Soderbergh is capable of working quickly, and Lionsgate hopes to have the film in theaters as soon as August. Mixed martial arts star Gina Carano plays the lead role in this spy-action-thriller, which also stars Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Dennis Quaid, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and possibly also Antonio Banderas. The director has used non-actors in key roles in the past, but only for films with miniscule budgets.
Dir: Sofia Coppola (TBD)
The fourth feature from the acclaimed director is, like her second (Lost in Translation 89), a dramedy set mostly within the confines of a landmark hotel. This time, the hotel in question is Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, and the action revolves around hotel resident Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a bad-boy actor who receives an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning). Expect a late 2010 release, and a good soundtrack.
The Tree of Life
Dir: Terrence Malick (TBD)
Set in the mid-20th century, this epic, multi-generational family drama from the director of The Thin Red Line 78 and Days of Heaven has an epic back story of its own: Malick began work on the film (originally called Q) 30 years ago. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn star, and while a summer release is possible, a late-2010 date is more likely, given that the film will be a major award candidate.