Ten for '10: Things to Watch in the New Year - MOVIES

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Amidst a sea of remakes, revamps, sequels (and “squeekquels”), 2010 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for movies both in the mega-theatres and the arthouse. From those harvested from our very own comics medium to those born and bred in the movie industry, the multiplex is thriving – not just for the movies that take up most of the screens but also the underrated gems that come and go before you know it.

In last year’s 9 To Watch in 2009: Movies, we picked Star Trek and Up among our list but missed a big one -- Avatar, so this year we’re out to do one better. Stand back cine-freaks and cine-geeks, here’s Newsarama’s Ten for ‘10: Movies.

Iron Man 2

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Every great movie begins with great casting, and the selection of Downey to wear the armor was both simple and complicated – in many ways, Downey’s public life mirrored that of Stark. But Downey the actor had not yet proven himself as a actor capable of heading up a big blockbuster movie like Iron Man… until Iron Man. Since the movie’s release, it’s made Downey into an A-List star – and also proved Marvel can produce it’s own movies, which led to the entire Avengers movie line-up.

Now that we’re back for the second installment of Iron Man, director Jon Favreau has the task of replicating and improving on the formula that made the first movie so great. Iron Man 2 could be called Iron Man 2.0, as they try to capture the witty action movie of the previous while raising the stakes with the addition of Whiplash, Black Widow and the debut of War Machine. With almost everything going for it, the only apparent weakness in the expectation of the movie is the decision to recast the character of Jim Rhodes (a.k.a. War Machine) with Don Cheadle, replacing Terrance Howard who was the first actor who signed on to the original. The only way to know if that casting choice helped – or hindered – the franchise is to wait until May 7th when the movie’s released.

Alice in Wonderland

Through the Looking Glass and twelve years removed, Tim Burton’s upcoming movie Alice in Wonderland is not so-much an adaptation of the popular story but a sequel with Alice as a more mature nineteen year old who is pulled back into Wonderland to face off against the Jabberwock. Tim Burton’s signature style meets an innovative mixture of live-action and animation in Tim Burton’s first live-action 3-D movie. This latest in Tim Burton’s line of re-makes and adaptations finds Burton partnering with Beauty & The Beast and Lion King screenwriter Linda Woolverton.

Casting-wise, it’s an eclectic and excellent mixture of Burton regulars (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Hickman) along with popular talents like Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover and Stephen Fry. But front and center is a relative newcomer to film, Mia Wasikowska, as the titular Alice. Plucked from relative obscurity after a bit part in the 2008 movie Defiance, the decision to cast a relative unknown is a risk… but Burton’s no stranger to the odd choices; he made Depp a star with 1990’s Edward Scissorhands.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

The critical hit and indie comics darling Scott Pilgrim makes his way to the world of film thanks to Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. Condensing the entire Pilgrim saga (including the as-yet-unreleased book), Wright has enlisted Michael Cera in the lead role and a full slate of up & coming actors and actresses – including Superman Brandon Routh. Wright even pulled in Sam Raimi’s cinematographer Bill Pope to put the picture into better focus, giving an experienced hand to a film that reported mixed live-action, stop-motion and animation to bring Bryan O’Malley’s comic to the screen.

Clash of the Titans

Can this remake of the 1980s classic beat the nostalgia and break the box office in 2010? That’s the question, as director Louis Leterrier (Incredible Hulk, The Transporter) brings in veteran actors Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes and recent blockbuster darling Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation, Avatar). This struggle between gods and men, the trailer evokes the best of 300 and Lord of the Rings, but can it measure up? I wouldn’t bet against the Greek gods lined up for this film.

The Losers

Based on the 32-issue Vertigo series of the same name, The Losers portrays a Special Forces team on the outs with their CIA handler. Forced underground in the “War on Terror” era of U.S. history, they strike back at the CIA, their former handler in an effort to get some sort of revenge and clear their name. Renaissance man Peter Berg headed up the project both producing and writing, while enlisting newcomer director Sylvian White (Stomp the Yard) in his first action film. Watchmen alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan heads up a cast that includes Idris Elba (The Wire) and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar). With the book’s creators Andy Diggle and Jock both enthusiastic about the film, expectations are high. Despite the title, these Losers have a good chance at being winners in the box office.

Robin Hood

From the people who brought you Gladiator, director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe take on one of England’s greatest legends: Robin Hood. Originally conceived as a untraditional portrayal of Robin Hood nemesis the Sheriff of Nottingham in a heroic light, the director re-wrote the film into a more traditional angle with Crowe playing the titular character. Crowe went through intense training to accurately portray this character, from his now famous physical regime to archery training and even reading of a majority of the works on Robin Hood to date. Scheduled as one of the first big blockbusters of the summer, the partnership of Crowe & Scott has proved one of the few team-ups that excite the regular fan and those who vote for the industry’s top awards. If I was a betting man, I’d say this Robin Hood’s aim is true.

Kick-Ass

New KICK-ASS Poster Featuring Red Mist
New KICK-ASS Poster Featuring Red Mist
In what should prove to be the quickest comic-to-film adaption out there, the feature film Kick-Ass is a take on the superhero genre from one of comics biggest fans – and biggest writers – Mark Millar. Joined by comics superstar and second generation artist John Romita Jr., their ultra-realistic take on real-life superheroes patterning themselves after the capes from comics proved to be immensely popular, despite production delays which saw the series release only seven issues in its sixteen month life. Optioned as a film even prior to the comic series’ debut, the filming started well before the comic had reached its halfway point -- and the final issue will hit stands just two months before the movie’s release.

This film is director Matthew Vaughn’s big chance to make a name for himself outside of the shadow of friend and mentor Guy Ritchie. The recent series of trailers has provoked significant buzz, especially for the portrayal of a young girl as ultra-violent Hit Girl. An unfinished cut of the film was shown at the 11th Annual Butt-Numb-A-Thorn film festival on December 13th, which was greeted with wild enthusiasm. Will the finished film on April 16 bring that enthusiastic fervor to moviegoers worldwide? We’ll see.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1

It’s one of the biggest franchises in modern film history, and in November the adaptation of the final Harry Potter book of the series is released… sort of. The studio has split the film into two parts, with the first coming in November 2010 and second in July 2011. While this might frustrate some who seek the finale to this epic, the two-part finale also promises a more faithful and in-depth adaptation of the source material given the longer screen-time.

And it needs it.

In the final installment of the Potter epic, elements and cast from each of the previous six films comes back in the ultimate showdown between Harry and the man who killed his parents, Voldemort. It also follows up on the previous book/film’s betrayal of Harry Potter by Snape, setting up a major component of this final film. Director David Yates, who did the last two films, joins screenwriter Steve Kloves who wrote all but the fifth film to put the final word in on Harry Potter and the students of Hogwart’s. For the students, it’s the final year of school --- and possibly their lives.

Legion

How many movies this year show a vengeful God seeking to extinguish the human race in an all-out action film of biblical proportions? That’s right… in the upcoming film Legion, the archangel Michael (played by Paul Bettany) is the only one standing between mankind and a God-given apocalypse. It builds up to a Mexican standoff in a non-descript New Mexico diner with the whole world resting in the hands of Michael and a pregnant woman who might be carrying a returning Jesus Christ. Far from the second coming of Dogma, the trailer released earlier this year shows this is more than just a special-effects ridden judgment day, but a story with a snap that’s not afraid play up the doomsday side of this while doling out some Old Testament retribution.

Tron: Legacy

Talked about for years with half-expectation and half-derision, the trailer released at 2009’s Comic-con International changed everyone’s mind. When the son of one of the brightest minds of the early days of computing finds himself pulled into the same world that he lost his father to, he brings us along to revisit the computer world last seen 28 years ago. A lot can happen in twenty-eight years.

Tron: Legacy finds the principal cast from the 1982 original returning, with special effects on the same cutting edge as those 28 years before. With the movie’s central tenant that of technology, keeping pace with the innovation that’s gone on since then has been the big feat that fans thought couldn’t be done. But see the trailer and be a believer. With the promise of a 3-D release and a soundtrack by Daft Punk, will the full-length feature live up to the hype? I’ll be in line just like you to find out.

In The Corner Of Our Eye

There are more films out there than even we can keep track of – from homegrown to foreign movies coming to the U.S. But while we did narrow it down to 10 for our list, there were several more we couldn't leave without mentioning.

The Book of Eli: This post-apocalyptic tale finds Denzel Washington facing off against Gary Oldman with a book that could save humanity before their final gasp. With a comic-book pedigree thanks to popular The Twelve artist Chris Weston storyboarding the movie, this could be a sleeper sci-fi hit of 2010.

Machete: First glimpsed as a one-off trailer in the 2007 film Grindhouse, the Robert Rodriguez-helmed Machete is a movie in the same grindhouse tradition with fan-favorite Danny Trejo in the titular role, joining a surprisingly intense cast which includes Jessica Alba, Lindsey Lohan, Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro and… gulp… Steven Seagal.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief: It’s hard not to compare this to Harry Potter – both adapted from a series of popular young-adults book, and both helmed by director Christopher Columbus. The trailer was surprisingly action packed – but can the film live up to the trailer’s promise?

The Wolfman: A remake of the 1941 original, The Wolfman features Benicio del Toro in the title role and upcoming Captain America director Joe Johnston… with an unexpectedly spot-on casting of KISS’ Gene Simmons as the voice of the Wolfman. Originally planned for 2009, the movie has been plagued with delays and re-shoots but the final word puts it coming out just prior to Valentines Day. And what better film to take your lover to?

But that’s just us, and there are many, many close calls to this list... What say you? What movie is poised to make 2010 its year? Not just a name – get your reasons in there as well..

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