Winter Movie Preview: 10 Films to Start Off ’10, Pt. 1

Winter is upon us! The first films of 2010 will vie to become the surprise first hits of the year. Last year, these films were Liam Neeson in Taken and sadly, Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

As I mentioned during my Holiday Movie Preview, there’s a difference between Holiday and Winter – in my world. Any true movie fan understands that January is where the movies go that the studios are iffy on, that they didn’t want to release in a prime spot, etc. Sometimes, they just want to give the film an underdog chance, however, of doing well when the film probably would not in a more crowded/popular movie season.

Anyway, here is the first half – as always – of my Top 10 films for the upcoming season. These are all for films being released in January and February. This half of the list is more speculation – in a longer season or a busier one like Holiday, some of these films might not have made it. Links to trailers on YouTube, as always, are provided.

10. Dear John (Feb. 2)


The Word: Gasp! I just put a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book in my Top 10! Apparently Sparks is the king of romance now, according to Hollywood. In two months after Dear John comes out, The Last Song, starring Miley Cyrus, will come out – that would be another Sparks book. Dear John, however, boasts some impressive credentials that could make Sparks fans forget all about Nights in Rodanthe. Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) is in charge and he directs the lovely and talented Amanda Seyfried and broad-shouldered pretty boy Channing Tatum in this story of a war-torn romance.

My Thoughts: I’m a fan of Seyfried (she was the only good thing about Mamma Mia!) and I think somewhere in there, Tatum has the chops to be taken seriously, but it’s Hallstrom’s attachment that has me giving this a coveted spot in my Top 10. I must admit I’ve yet to see any of his films, but at least the man has credentials and that Sony/Screen Gems made an effort to create quality, not just prey on the romantic saps that they know would see it anyway. (View Trailer)

9. Extraordinary Measures (Jan. 22)


The Word: New (and potentially powerful) distributor CBS Films unveils its first motion picture and it comes with a message – we want to make you cry. Going along with the No. 8 film on my list’s theme of fathers who will to go to any length for the children, “Measures” is about parents of a child with a genetic disorder who enlist the help of a scientist (Harrison Ford) to find a cure. Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell play the parents (even though its not a children’s adventure story) and you can be sure Ford will be a little grumpy and raise his voice a few times (he does at least once in the trailer).

My Thoughts: It’s easy to be skeptical of an illness film (as I was of My Sister’s Keeper last summer, which turned out to be right), but it’s based on a true story and I’m curious to see how Fraser, long considered underrated, handles drama. I also enjoy Russell and Ford and Chocolat writer (weird, two Chocolat references already) Robert Nelson Jacobs wrote the screenplay. This is one of those see-how-the-reviews-go films. With Fraser and Ford, I feel like any good buzz for this movie could help it do well in the same way that The Blind Side succeeded this past month or so. (View Trailer)

8. Edge of Darkness (Jan. 29)

Edge of Darkness

The Word: If 20th Century Fox can get a hit putting Liam Neeson into a protective-father thriller in January, why can’t Warner Bros achieve the same thing with Mel Gibson? Oh, that’s right, there aren’t too many fans of Gibson nowadays – he still hasn’t starred in a film since Signs. He’s still a good fit for the vengeful daddy, however, and nothing changes the fact it was written by Oscar-winning The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, directed by reputable Casino Royale director Martin Campbell, and has some enjoyable supporting actors such as Ray Winstone (filling in a part originally given to Robert De Niro) and Danny Huston (Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

My Thoughts: Gibson’s involvement might be the only thing holding this film back – that and it literally looks like a more fancy remake of Taken. This could be a highly enjoyable thriller, however, with the talents of Campbell and Monahan. Revenge is like the pie of action thrillers, so it’s not hard to envision this film being good and doing well, especially with a title as nifty as Edge of Darkness. (View Trailer)

7. The Book of Eli (Jan. 15)


The Word: The Hughes brothers (From Hell) finally return with this post-apocalyptic action flick that appears to be The Road on ‘roids. Warner Bros is hoping they can repeat the success of I Am Legend to some extent, swapping in Denzel Washington for Will Smith. Washington — Eli — is protecting the titular book, as it’s the only way to save mankind. Naturally, some dudes, like Gary Oldman, want it, and naturally, Eli will take those dudes out. Mila Kunis, still rolling from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, co-stars, but you know she ain’t taking Washington’s spotlight.

My Thoughts: I’ll be real, here. If someone other than Washington were starring in this movie, I’d probably dismiss it as recycled post-apocalyptic fantasy unoriginality. Then again, he is starring and the script is an original by Gary Whitta (whoever he is.). Then there’s Oldman and Kunis, another two good reasons to stay interested. So I’ll keep my eye on “Eli,” girls: hide your hearts, and we’ll see what the critics have to say come January 15. (View Trailer)

6. I Love You, Phillip Morris (Feb. 5 – limited, Feb. 12 – wide)


The Word: Nope, this has nothing to do with cigarette addicts and Big Tobacco. This is Jim Carrey starring in a film made by the minds behind Bad Santa. From Freestyle Releasing, this could be the little film that finds a following. Carrey stars as – nope – Steven Russell, a happily married normal guy who after a nasty car accident has two epiphanies: one, that he can con money by injuring himself on private property and two, that he’s gay. In prison, he meets Phillip (Ewan McGregor) and a gay love story unfolds, albeit an off-kilter one.

My Thoughts: If that premise plus Carrey doesn’t have you interested, you’re probably either far left or far right and you hated Carrey in the ‘90s. I wasn’t a big fan of Bad Santa, but festival reviews for the film have been pretty good and the dynamite cast (plus Leslie Mann) have me legitimately looking forward to this one come Valentine’s Day. I could use an odd, kind of messed-up comedy and “Phillip Morris” appears to be one of the few legitimately funny movies of early 2010. (View Trailer)

Check back for Part 2 on Wednesday, in addition to some winter no-nos tomorrow and a few other films on my radar that didn’t make the Top 10.


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