The 10 Most Anticipated Movies of Early 2009

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CHICAGO – Believe it or not, there are movies worth marking your calendar for between Oscar season and the big summer blockbusters of 2009.

Over the next few months, the buzz for films like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Star Trek,” “Angels & Demons,” “Terminator: Salvation,” “Night at the Museum 2,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Public Enemies,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “New Moon,” and Pixar’s “Up” is going to become absolutely deafening, but there are well over a hundred flicks hitting the multiplex before those box office juggernauts take center stage and, believe it or not, a handful are actually worth your time.

The first third of 2008 produced quality films in “Cloverfield,” “In Bruges,” “The Visitor,” “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead,” “Snow Angels,” “Redbelt,” and “Paranoid Park”. Which, granted, was not an overwhelming display of memorable filmmaking, but the point is that even in a weak season like the one we were about to start at this point last year, there were still a few gems. So, the question is - what will the early season gems be in 2009?

Looking into our movie-loving crystal ball, we’ve tried to target the ten films from January to April 2009 that we might conceivably still be talking about twelve months from now. While we recognize that there are audiences out there with countdown clocks for the release of “Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience” and “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” we are not members of that audience. And movies like “Crank 2: High Voltage”, “The Pink Panther 2,” and “The Fast and Furious” clearly have loyal fan followings but, if those sequels are even halfway decent, we’ll be surprised and satisfied. No, the idea was to try and find the 5-star films based on pedigree, plot, previews, potential, and assuming that a certain legal battle surrounding “Watchmen” goes the way that we think it will. So, without further ado…

The Soloist, from Paramount Pictures, opens on April 24th, 2009.
The Soloist, from Paramount Pictures, opens on April 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

10. “The Soloist”
Release Date: April 24th
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root, and Tom Hollander
Writer: Susannah Grant
Director: Joe Wright

Plot: The comeback kid of 2008, Robert Downey Jr., plays Steve Lopez, an LA Times journalist who discovers a former classical music prodigy living on the streets. Based on the true story, “The Soloist” details Lopez’s attempts at bringing the talented musician, played by Jamie Foxx, back to his feet.

Reason To Get Excited: Hanging onto the top ten by its dirty fingernails, “The Soloist” would have ranked a lot higher on this list if it hadn’t been bumped from the 2008 Oscar season for undisclosed reasons. That’s usually a bad sign. In fact, nearly everyone involved with making this drama seems to be distancing themselves from it, with Downey getting more press for his work on “Sherlock Holmes” and barely anyone talking about “The Soloist”. But there’s too much potential in that cast, the Oscar-nominated writer of “Erin Brokovich,” and the talented director of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement” to completely dismiss this project sight unseen. Even the gorgeous score on the official site hints at a project that definitely should work. Yes, this could be the misstep in the Downey comeback and Foxx hasn’t really been stellar since he won his Oscar, but we’re not ready to give up on “The Soloist” yet.

The International, from Sony Pictures, opens on February 13th, 2009.
The International, from Sony Pictures, opens on February 13th, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

9. “The International”
Release Date: February 13th
Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomasen, Jack McGee, and Brian F. O’Byrne
Writer: Eric Singer
Director: Tom Tykwer

Plot: Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent working with a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney (Naomi Watts) in an effort to bring down one of the world’s most powerful banks. International espionage, worldwide cover-ups, and war-profiteering serve as the backdrop for what could be the action thriller of the winter.

Reason To Get Excited: Three words - Tykwer, Watts, Owen. The director of “Run Lola Run” and the stars of “Children of Men” and “Eastern Promises”. These names should give everyone reason to get excited. Why not higher on the list? Well, the preview looks a little goofy and early February is not often known for stellar action. Case in point - this weekend last year saw the release of the horrible “Jumper”. It seems unlikely that Owen, Watts, and Tykwer would make something that disposable with “The International,” but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this will be the perfect Valentine’s Day alternative to “He’s Just Not That Into You” that we think it will be.

Adventureland, from Miramax Films, opens on March 27th, 2009.
Adventureland, from Miramax Films, opens on March 27th, 2009.
Photo credit: Miramax Films

8. “Adventureland”
Release Date: March 27th
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Margarita Levieva, and Ryan Reynolds
Writer/Director: Greg Mottola

Plot: In the summer of 1987, a recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a useless job at a local amusement park as he prepares for the real world.

Reason To Get Excited: Most people still think that Judd Apatow directed “Superbad,” but it was actually the talented Greg Mottola who helmed that hilarious flick and his comic follow-up looks like it has a similar charm. Eisenberg was great in “The Squid and the Whale,” Kristen Stewart has always hinted at potential better than the movies she chooses, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are currently the most talented male and female comedian on “Saturday Night Live”. There are several promising comedies in early 2009, but “Adventureland” is one of the most appealing.

Anna Faris as Brandi and Seth Rogen as Ronnie in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' comedy
Anna Faris as Brandi and Seth Rogen as Ronnie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ comedy “Observe and Report,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Photo credit: Peter Sorel

7. “Observe and Report”
Release Date: April 10th
Cast: Anna Faris, Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Patton Oswalt, and Michael Pena
Writer/Director: Jody Hill

Plot: Rogen plays the bi-polar mall security guard Ronnie Barnhardt, who’s called in to stop a flasher from destroying his mall, but he needs the help of a surly detective, played by the often-funny and usually surly Ray Liotta. Also, the great Patton Oswalt plays a character named “Cinnabon Man”. ‘Nuff said.

Reason To Get Excited: Seth Rogen and Anna Faris are two of the most reliably effective comedians working today. Don’t get me wrong. Faris has made some BAD career choices. But the same can’t be said for Rogen, who gave two of the best performances of his career last year in “Pineapple Express” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”. And the great concept sounds like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” but, you know, funny. We’re choosing to ignore that writer/director Jody Hill made the buzzed-about, though ultimately disappointing “The Foot Fist Way”. Everyone needs to start somewhere.

slaphap's picture

10 most anticipated films of 2009

I for one am eagerly waiting for July 1st, the day Public Enemies is out with Depp & Bale. Think it should also have made the list.

HollywoodChicago.com's picture

This list targeted films in early 2009

slaphap wrote:
I for one am eagerly waiting for July 1st, the day Public Enemies is out with Depp & Bale. Think it should also have made the list.

We’re certainly looking forward to “Public Enemies,” but our writer wrote the following as for his methodology for this list:

Brian Tallerico wrote:
Looking into our movie-loving crystal ball, we’ve tried to target the ten films from January to April 2009 that we might conceivably still be talking about twelve months from now.

John Hammerstein's picture

CRANK 2!!!!????? I will be

CRANK 2!!!!????? I will be there. Really??!! CRANK is one of my favorite all timers. Same guy? Very cool.

Adam's picture

Defiance, Gran Torino & Taken

Defiance should be #1 on that list. Gran Torino is going to be awesome as well as Taken.

Anonymous's picture

Where the heck is

Where the heck is Shanghai???? It has awesome cast..

Dude's picture

“Shanghai” needs to be

Shanghai” needs to be on your list. Cuscak, Gong Li, Ken wantanbe, Chow Yun fat etc

The Intrenational sounds cool.

Anonymous's picture

Ever heard of “The

Ever heard of “The Road?” You know, that little movie staring two of the finest working actors today that’s based on a book that won the Pulitzer prize? I don’t know, but I think that that MIGHT end up pretty good…

But I will be absolutely amazed if Watchmen ends up working. The story is simply too complex to fit into a movie and have the same kind of impact. The fact that Snyder seems to be in 300-mode complete with slow-motion and ridiculous posses every five seconds, isn’t helping matters much. A better, more experimental director with a willingness to really put his own stamp on the material would have been a better choice IMO.

BrianTT's picture

The Road Release Date

…we’ve tried to target the ten films from January to April 2009 that we might conceivably still be talking about twelve months from now.”

The Road still doesn’t have a release date but rumors are putting it in the final quarter of 2009, maybe even as late as November. It certainly wasn’t eligible.

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