Monday, January 4, 2010

Back… To the Future

Cool stuff for 2010

Welcome to 2010, Vellumites! Over the holidays I reflected on some of my favorite movies, books and TV shows from the recent past, now I think I’d like to take a look at upcoming stuff that’s got me excited. For the most part, I’ll discuss movies and a few TV shows, if only because they get the bulk of the marketing money so I tend to be most aware of them.

It turns out that there are currently four movies that I’m really excited to see in 2010. Others may make that list once I’ve seen trailers for them, but right now there are four that qualify as “must-see in the theatre” movies.  These four are:

Daybreakers (Jan 8th) – in this film, vampires have taken over the world. To the point where there are hardly any living humans left alive. This leaves the status quo with a vexing problem – what the hell are they supposed to eat if there aren’t any people? Sam Neil and Ethan Hawke star as vampires working for the company that runs the “blood bank” – a huge storage house of captured humans who are kept comatose but alive for the purposes of harvesting their precious sanguine vein-candy.  The previews look awesome and I’m seriously revved up to see this one next week.

Iron Man 2 (May 7th) – Robert Downey Jr. returns as the irreverent billionaire playboy Tony Stark. In this sequel, he must deal not only with new super-villains played by Mickey Rourke (as Whiplash) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), but also with his public announcement revealing that he’s Iron Man. Still, he’s got the ever-present Gwynneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) at his side, as well as his buddy Don Cheadle (replacing Terrence Howard as Colonel “Rhodey” Rhodes, who in this film dons his own suit of super-armor to become War Machine). Hopefully we’ll also learn more about SHIELD (led by Samual L. Jackson as Nick Fury) and set the stage for the upcoming Avengers movie which is planned to tie together a range of Marvel films potentially including some or all of: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, and one or more of the X-Men. At this point, I don’t believe the Avengers characters have been firmly cast in stone, so it’s hard to know who will pop up. Iron Man ranks as one of my all-time favorite movies, and certainly one of the best super-hero movies since the original Superman. I sincerely hope that the sequel measures up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Nov 19th) – there isn’t a whole lot to say about this one, except that I hope it’s closer to the book than Half-Blood Prince was and that in general I hope it carries on the tradition of the last six movies. They were all reasonably faithful to the books while being good, solidly entertaining movies in their own right. This series is amazing for not having had a stinker in the bunch, and that’s got to be a lot of pressure on the new film’s creators to get these last two right. More – this one’s a challenge because they’ve never split a movie in half before. You can’t just take a 4-hour movie and insert a 6-month intermission at some random point in the middle. You have to create two watchable films, each with their own story and pace and development from beginning to end. Granted you expect that the first will likely end in a cliff-hanger rather than having an extended dénouement as the final film surely will, but it has to build to that cliff-hanger – it cannot simply end. The book wasn’t written like that, so fiddling with it enough to make two films out if it surely took some amount of effort. I hope it works.

Tron Legacy (Dec 17th) - currently, my last “must-see” movie of 2010. The original Tron was an amazing film for me – I thoroughly enjoyed it and watched it over-and-over-and over again. The idea of the arcade-game’s virtual beings carrying on lives within the computer world was an entirely new concept at the time, and it intrigued me deeply. It’ll have been more than 25 years later by the time the sequel comes out, but there’s no reason that it can’t be every bit as engrossing as the original – if anything, people are far more tuned in to virtual worlds, computers, programs and the thinning lines between them than we were back then, and reality has come so much closer to the Tron universe. Moreover, there was a really outstanding Tron 2.0 computer game released a few years back that could easily add some of its story to this film. As it is, I have absolutely no idea what it’s about – all I’ve seen so far is a short trailer showing a light-cycle chase (that I understand isn’t actually in the film) and featuring a glimpse of Jeff Bridges (Flynn) as an old man. It doesn’t matter – I’m hooked and ready to see it right freaking now. It had better not suck!

In terms of TV shows, there’s far less that I’m worked up over. I mean, I’m planning to watch Heroes, Flash Forward, Stargate: Universe, and V when they return in the Winter or Spring, but none of them did such an outstanding job in the Fall that I can truly say I’m excited about their return. I’m also looking forward to NBC’s “Day One,” a show about the US after a nuclear attack, but I know next to nothing about it beyond the premise so it’s hard to say that I’m excited about it. In fact, it was originally slated to be a full series but was cut back to a 4-part mini-series which I expect will be more of a pilot. If people tune in, then it could return at last as a full-fledged series. So that leaves only two shows that I’m honestly and truly anxious to see.

Chuck (NBC) – we’re beginning the third season of this excellent show and I can’t wait. The concept is that an average guy (Zachary Levi) in a dead-end retail job gets zapped over the internet by his old college room-mate (who is now a secret agent). He ends up with his brain literally bursting with top-secret knowledge that he can sometimes selectively access. This makes him a target for rogue secret agents and a tool for the US government. But he’s not actually a secret agent – he’s a bumbling nerd with minimal social skills and no training as a spy. So they team him up with a straight-laced tough guy agent (expertly played by Adam Baldwin) and an equally-tough but smoking hot female agent (Yvonne Strahoski) who try to protect him while he uses his unique knowledge to identify bad guys and piece together conspiracies for them to bust. Meanwhile, he must keep his day-job, which means hanging out with a whole gang of loser-nerds at the “Buy-More” (a clear riff on Best Buy) without letting it slip that he’s a pseudo-secret agent. Hijinks ensue, but the show combines some fantastic Alias-style secret agent stuff with some really funny comedy and sprinkles in an endless stream of pop-culture references that seem to be targeted directly at… well, me. Chuck has its 2-hour season premiere on Sunday, January 10th before settling in to its regular Monday-night slot at 8 PM on January 11th.

Dr. Who (BBC America and possibly the Sy Fy channel at some point) – the longest-running sci-fi show in television history continues with its eleventh Doctor, now played by some kid named Matt Smith. The show has a new lead writer and showrunner, also, as Russel T. Davies joined previous Doctor David Tennant’s departure in 2009. Former writer Stephen Moffat will take over Davies’s role for the 2010 season and presumably beyond. I first discovered Dr. Who sometime back in the mid-70s, when it was broadcast in the US on PBS in short, serialized installments each afternoon. Tom Baker was the only Doctor I’d ever known, as he owned the role from 1974-81. Dr. Who tells the story of an alien time-traveler, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who roams the universe in a temperamental time-machine called a TARDIS which is poorly disguised as a 1950s-era blue police telephone box. He’s a champion of truth and justice and ultimately a defender of the downtrodden, especially the poor, backwards Earthlings who don’t realize that the universe is teeming with life, much of it hostile to them. He does battle with all manner of evil beings, most notably the robotic Cybermen and Daleks, both of which have been stalking around the series since the 60s. The show varies from really thoughtful science-fiction to thinly-veiled takes on modern social issues, but it always does it in a quirky, often-humorous way that’s guaranteed to be entertaining. The new season (or “series” as they call it in Britain) is due in the Spring and I’m very much looking forward to it. There’s a trailer up for it on YouTube.

The only book I’m potentially excited about – and it’s by no means a sure thing – is George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. It’s been due for years since he published the last installment in 2005 and said that its sister-book was almost done. Clearly it needed more work than he realized and there’s still no due-date for it, so my excitement is just kept on a slow simmer until I get a firm release date for it.

So those are my top picks for 2010 entertainment based on what I know right now. More stuff will surely pop up on the radar as the year progresses and I’ll be sure to mention them here. Meanwhile, there’s a lengthy list of movies that I also think look interesting  and I’ll post that list separately later in the week, along with my thoughts on some of the likely winners as well as those that may turn out to be losers.

1 comment:

  1. I am also excited about Day One! Lets hope it's intriguing enough to stick around for a while... I know I'm very interested so far...