2009 The Year In Movies: 5-The Fantastic Genre

2009 promises to be a good year for the fantastic genre, even if it has begun with Zach Snyder’s long awaited adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel “Watchmen” not living up to its expectations. Snyder’s attempt to be faithful to the source it’s worth praising, even if it often fails to translate its relevance to the big screen. After a year of excellent comic adaptations, all hopes were on him to carry on that excellence. “Watchmen” unfortunately didn’t get there.

However, there are enough interesting projects scheduled as to make everyone forget this slip and embrace a fantasy-tinged year in movies. The first one in arriving to the UK will be “Let The Right One In”, a Swedish vampire movie who’s earned rave reviews in the US where it was launched at the end of last year. Thomas Alfredson’s classy film transcends the limits and stereotypes of the genre and presents an innovative take on the vampire tales whose cinematography and screenplay have also earned him a good deal of acclaim.

Other high profile revisit of the traditional myths in the horror genre will see Benicio Del Toro, fresh from his ground breaking, Cannes awarded portrait of Che Guevara, back to fantasy land in a new version of The Wolf Man that also includes Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt as part of its cast, with Joe Johnston of “Jumanji” fame behind the camera.

In Hollywood there seem to be a consensus about 3D being the next chapter in the evolution of movies. The shift from analogical to digital technology in theatres will enable the film industry to start exploring its possibilities on a massive scale. Recent examples went from horror “My Bloody Valentine” to Disney animation “Bolt” and some of today’s biggest film makers, from Tim Burton to Spielberg, who have explored the fantastic genre in the past are rumoured to be already preparing their new projects using this new path. But the most awaited project it’s undoubtedly James Cameron’ return “Avatar”. After directing the number one film of all times, “Titanic”, Cameron is shooting a sci-fi flick with ecologic undertones that is expected to be wowed in IMAX theatres around the world, telling the conquest of a far away planet, rich in bio-diversity whose existence gets compromised. Cameron’s old friend Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Sam Worthington will conduct this space exploration.

Other director famous for its imaginative credentials is Spike Jonze. The former video clip director will get immersed in children’s’ tales adapting Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are”, in which a boy that’s sent to bed without supper begins building up his own fantasy world, populated by imaginary beasts. James Gandolfini, Forest Whittaker, Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano etc. will put their voices to those beasts.

And also high on indie credentials, screenplay writer Diablo Cody will follow “Juno” the work that turned it into a star, something rather unusual for play writers, going from comedy to horror with “Jennifer’s Body”. The director of the acclaimed “Girlfight” and the flawed “Aeon Lux” Karyn Kusama will take the project to good port with the help of Adrian Brody, Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried.

Roland Emmerich will try to make once more his epic touch for apocalyptic movies bigger, better and more spectacular, filming the mother of all catastrophes, the end of the world, according to the Mayan prophecies that announced it in “2012”. John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Danny Glover star among a long list of actors. Another director who’s no stranger to the Apocalypse is Richard Kelly. The creator of cult classic “Donnie Darko” will try and shake off the flop that was “Southland Tales” venturing in horror territory with “The Box”, the story of a small wooden box that makes its owners wealthy, while killing innocent people unrelated to them. James Marsden and Cameron Diaz will receive the dubious gift. Also starring the recent Academy award nominee Frank Langella.

About to hit our screens and burdened by mixed feelings, Alex Proyas new movie “Knowing” is another sci-fi romp like Proyas’ previous “I Robot”. Its lead Nicholas Cage, though, is has not got the widespread appeal of Will Smith, and after a series of disastrous choices could do with a big hit. “Knowing” deals with a pattern of numbers that reveal every catastrophe to be happening, which somehow is not too far away from the plot in Cage’s recent flop “Next”, universally panned as one of the worst films of last years. Hopefully “Knowing” will live up to its promise and will be better.

On a smaller scale, one of the films that earned some mentions at last year’s Spirit awards as best first feature was Alex Rivera’s “Sleep Dealer”, set in a near-future where the experiences and the minds of the working force are minded by a global digital network. It could become a pleasant surprise if it finds international distributor.

Among the successful sequels and franchises that will get a relaunch this year, there are two already monopolizing headlines. The first one is the Star Trek revamp provided by J.J. Abrahams, creator of Lost, whose reputation for inventiveness could inject new life in the overexploited series. Leonard Nimoy will pass his heritage to Heroes’ star Zachary Quinto; who next to Eric Bana, British comedian Simon Pegg, Chris Pine and the return of Wynonna Ryder are the cast’s current focus of media attention.

The other recovered legendary franchise, recently back into the spotlight thanks to a new TV series, is Terminator. This time Arnie, busy masterminding the fate of California, has been replaced by the always controversial Christian Bale; and mankind has been reduced to a small group of survivor trying to keep the machines from totally annihilate our species. Helena Bonham Carter and Sam Worthington have also joined the cast of “Terminator: Salvation”. Good or bad its fate as one of this summer’s blockbusters is sealed

Also in time for the summer, Michael Bay will deliver a second offering of his successful if rather dull big screen adaptation of the Transformers. In “Revenge Of The Fallen” John Turturro will be the surprising addition to the cast, joining Shia LaBeauf and Megan Fox. In the meantime, summer blockbusters king, Sam Raimi, who had been kept busy with the success of Spider Man, will return to his horror roots in “Drag Me To Hell” a story of curses and living dead starring Alison Lohman.

UK’s most notorious fantasy literary adaptation, Harry Potter, got another film prepared. “Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince”, repeating director with David Yates. Neighbour Ireland will see one of his most successful directors, Neil Jordan, returning with fantastic touches with “Ondine”. Colin Farrell and Jordan’s favourite Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game”) revisit the myth of the siren through the story a fisherman who finds a woman caught on his boat’s nets and think she is one.

Also from our shores, comedy and horror will go hand by hand in “Lesbian Vampire Killers” by Phil Claydon, who will use the mass appeal of comedy duo James Corden & Matthew Horne, from “Gavin & Stacey” to try and persuade British film audiences.
And in the file under potential surprise category, Mark Neveldine & Bryan Taylor are behind “Game”, another sci-fi movie in which humans control other humans through playing online games. Gerard Butler and Alison Lohman next to a cast of popular faces from TV series (Kyra Sedgwick, Milo Ventimiglia or Dexter himself Michael C. Hall) will shape the performances of a movie likely to appeal to the geek inside of everyone.

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