“Bruno“ – Universal – Dir. Dan Mazer
Synopsis: Gay Austrian fashion guru Bruno travels the world interviewing unsuspecting subjects on a variety of taboo topics.
What You Need To Know: Sacha Baron Cohen got $30 million from Universal to bring his Bruno character to the big screen, despite the character being, arguably, the least popular from Cohen’s “Da Ali G Show.” Unlike the hip-hop flavored Ali G or the casually racist Borat, Bruno’s schtick seems to be that he’s screamingly gay and he views himself as a member of the media. It was probably easier for him to grab interviews with the latter advantage (he’s more than a little famous thanks to “Borat”), but one wonders if this will be closer to the unbearable “Ali G Indahouse” than to “Borat,” or if the recent Prop 8 decision will make this film extremely relevant and much more politicized then first intended.
Release Date: July 10, 2009
“The Fantastic Mr. Fox“ – 20th Century Fox – Dir. Wes Anderson
Synopsis: A family of foxes try to outsmart a group of farmers who are trying to wipe them out for eating their livestock.
What You Need To Know: Wes Anderson takes a creative left turn into the world of stop-motion animation with an adaptation of the delightful Roald Dahl kids novel, and brings along old friends to do the voices (Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston), plus adds a few new ones to the fold, too (George Clooney). Co-written with filmmaker Noah Baumbach (‘Life Aquatic‘) and with songs being written by Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), this kid-friendly flick could turn out to be the highest grossing one of Anderson’s career.
Release Date: November 6, 2009
“Inglourious Basterds“ – Weinsteins/Universal – Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Synopsis: An elite team of Jewish American soldiers in WWII take on a covert mission to kill Adolf Hitler, but unbeknownst to them, the daughter of a slain French farmer is planning her own revenge.
What You Need To Know: Tarantino’s war film is epic and could be one of the most outrageous WWII films ever made, not to mention his possible masterpiece, if he doesn’t fuck up his brilliant and audacious script. Brad Pitt leads an eclectic, motley crue cast that features many foreign newcomers (Melanie Laurent, Jacky Ido, Christoph Waltz), old school actors (Cloris Leachmen, Rod Taylor), American comedians (BJ Novak, Samm Levine) and bold faced names (Diane Kruger, Mike Meyers) among many, many others.
Release Date: August 21, 2009.
“Funny People“ – Universal – Dir. Judd Apatow
What You Need To Know: Since “Knocked Up,” Judd Apatow‘s name has been attached to a few high concept misfires, albeit as a producer or story contributor. We expect none of that here, as he steps behind the camera for the first time since “Knocked Up” with a toned-down script about real people and real issues. His most serious film to date, by default there are plenty of laughs and lots of room for improv from the Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill characters (Eric Bana, Leslie Mann and the RZA also star). Stand-up rehearsals are already underway in LA, with a few A-list comedians turning up in the film and an all-around-impressive cast of Apatow veterans. Sandler is yet to find a comedic identity in the last ten years, but he’s working with the right people and strong humor and heart material here.
Release Date: July 31, 2009
The long-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s novel might be the most highly anticipated film of all of 2009 and perhaps the most discussed and poured over. Starring 9-year-old newcomer Max Records and voiced by James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O’Hara and Forest Whitaker among others, the ‘Wild Things’ film, co-written by author Dave Eggers, had an extremely difficult and tempestuous birth, the battles of which spilled out into the public. Taking three years to make (not counting pre-production), an early 2008 test screening was so controversial, rumors swirled the film was going to be recut and or taken away from Jonze. The gossip turned out to be semi-true, but WB and the filmmaker got over their quarrel and the melancholy children’s film could potentially be destined to become a classic.
Release Date: October 16, 2009
“The Informant“ – Warner Bros. – Dir. Stephen Soderbergh
What You Need To Know: Finding time to make another film between the epic “Che,” the intriguingly WTF 3D rock opera “Cleo,” and the down and dirty “Girlfriend Experience”, Soderbergh teams up again with the “Ocean’s” trilogy rat-packer Matt Damon for what some are handicapping as “The Insider” set in the agriculture industry. Based on a true story, Damon stars as a bi-polar FBI informant who acted both as whistleblower and part of the problem, embezzling money from his company amidst a larger price-fixing scandal. Fans of “Erin Brockovich” can expect Soderbergh’s blend of dry humor and engrossing drama, while Damon’s fans can expect to barely recognize him with the extra pounds and ‘stache.
Synopsis: Notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd, take on the Feds in the 1930s.
What You Need To Know: In a recent Entertainment Weekly piece, co-star Johnny Depp said his character, John Dillinger, was “…like Charlie Chaplin and Evel Knievel…I was fascinated with [him] at a young age.” If you think Depp’s childhood interest in Dillinger bodes well for “Enemies,” than all that’s left for you to do is forgive Mann for “Miami Vice” and find your way to the nearest theater in July. Christian Bale adds to his growing slate of post “Dark Knight” projects, playing Melvin Purvis, the federal agent in pursuit of Dillinger. Rounding out the stellar cast is Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, among a slew of others, making “Enemies” come off as a promising cross between the epic crime drama of “Heat” and the detailed reverence of “Ali.” Could be a welcome change from the usual nonsense that comes at the apex of the summer season.
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Synopsis: Four couples take off on a tropical island resort. One of the couples is working on their marriage and by proxy the others are sucked into the resort’s couples therapy.
What You Need To Know: A veritable Jon Favreau/ Vince Vaughn frat-pack reunion the gang have reunited and added females, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, and Malin Akerman to the fold on top of existing pals Jason Bateman and Faizon Love. Favreau took time off from bathing in Marvel money to write this romantic comedy for his buddy Billingsley (Ralphie from “A Christmas Story“), making his directorial debut. Jean Reno (“The Professional“) is also in this thing too, presumably the couples therapist that welcomes them all to “problem island.”
Release Date: October 9, 2009
Synopsis: The owner of a plant-processing company must deal with employee incompetence at work and an unfaithful wife at home.
What You Need To Know: Jason Bateman finally gets a meaty lead role, and like in “Arrested Development,” it looks like he’ll be playing more of the straight man, since his philandering wife will be played by “SNL” scene-stealer Kristin Wiig. Also look for the slimebag coworker role to be played with a nice side of ham by Ben Affleck, who’s slowly starting to emerge from what seems like a decade of terrible lead roles. After “Office Space” and “Idiocracy,” two flawed cult classics that many believe were seriously tampered with, to see him separated from FOX can only be a good thing.
Release Date: September 4, 2009
“The Year One” – Columbia – Dir. Harold Ramis
Synopsis: When two cavemen are exiled from their tribe in ancient times, they team to make it through the rough terrain of extremely ancient history together.
What You Need To Know: While this is another big ’09 comedy from the Judd Apatow brand, he’s only serving as a producer, and has no creative input, leaving that to the still-vital Ramis, who also co-wrote with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (“The Office“). Jack Black and Michael Cera are the leads, and early test screenings have been positive, suggesting this is more of the “Walk Hard” school of genre parody without actual shot-by-shot mockery. Also, David Cross and Paul Rudd play Cain and Abel.
Release date: June 19th, 2009