A new year, new promises. 2006 wasn't the greatest year ever for film, so here's hoping that 2007 proves there's life in it yet. Here are my picks for the most promising flicks of 2007. (Dang, that would've rhymed last year.)
Runner-ups: After the Wedding, Chapter 27, Cowboys for Christ, The Invasion, Jindabyne, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Other Boleyn Girl, Paris je t'aime, Reservation Road
10. The Real Life of Angel Deverell
dir. Francois Ozon, cast: Romola Garai, Lucy Russell, Charlotte Rampling, Sam Neill, Michael Fassbender
I admit, my experience with Ozon is highly limited (I've only seen 2006's Time to Leave), but the new presence of Romola Garai as his self-proclaimed 'muse' is very intriguing and exciting. A rather untapped talent, Garai strikes me as, and Ozon seems to be just the right kind of director to draw on it. Based on the novel 'Angel' by British writer Elizabeth Taylor, the film will tell the story of Angelica Deverell, who as a teenager who retreats into romantic fantasies and becomes a writer. I think Ozon is very capable of striking the precise balance between aesthetic pleasure and the underlying drama the story hints at.
dir. Joe Wright, cast: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave
Alright, so I've never read any Ian McEwan, respected as he is, but this adaptation of his acclaimed novel is essentially appealing because of the cast, ranging from hot young things McAvoy, Knightley and Garai to respected thespians Redgrave and Blethyn. Young Briony (played, in ascending order, by Ronan, Garai and Redgrave) misconstrues the flirtation between her sister Knightley and McAvoy, leading to a terrible crime that haunts the characters through WWII. Exactly what McEwan's plot has in store for these characters I don't know, but quite frankly I don't want to: the surprise will be the nub, I think, and what a promising follow-up to Pride and Prejudice for both Wright and Knightley.
dir. Lajos Koltai, cast: Eileen Atkins, Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Hugh Dancy, Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson
Adapted from her own novel by Susan Minot alongside Michael Cunningham (The Hours), Evening looks like an extremely juicy film for its actresses, who are, evidently, mutltitudinous. A dying mother (Redgrave) reflects on her youth (Danes) while her daughters (Richardson and Collette) comes to terms with the impending loss of their mother and their own problems. Former cinematographer (on films including Being Julia, Sunshine and Malena) Koltai is only on his second feature as director here, but he seems a promising talent and the quality involved in both writing and cast is dazzling.
7. Margot at the Wedding
dir. Noah Baumbach, cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Flora Cross, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds
I hope the promise Baumbach displayed in his directorial debut The Squid and the Whale is followed up here. He certainly has the cast to work wonders with: Kidman continues to choose off-beat, quality projects, and I always love to see Jason Leigh on-screen. The weekend-set, familial storyline sounds ripe for Baumbach's unique brand of sardonic comedy, and, even if the title isn't exactly enticing, the rest of the movie certainly is.
6. Spider-Man 3
dir. Sam Raimi, cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, Topher Grace, Theresa Russell
I fear this movie. Oh, no, I don't think it's going to be bad or anything, at least if the previous effort is anything to go by- an exciting, emotional blockbuster, bouncing with liveliness and ideas- but I fear what it will do to me. It looks like my beloved Mary-Jane Watson might be on her way out- if Bryce Dallas Howard as blonde vixen Gwen Stacy is anything to go by. And three villains- my, Mr. Raimi, if you think you can do it, go for it, but please, have some concern for my adrenaline. But perhaps what's most intruiging about this bookend of the trilogy- purportedly the last, at least with the main people on board- is the exceedingly dark dimensions to it: Spidey's struggle with his dark side, Harry's final step into evil, and a dissection of love. Should be thrilling.
5. My Blueberry Nights
dir. Wong Kar-Wai, cast: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Tim Roth, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz
I've never really get on that well with Wong Kar-Wai's movies, but for some reason I always find myself looking forward to them. Maybe it's because they're always so ravishingly beautiful? Or because their casts are always so superb? Well, anyway, My Blueberry Nights, Kar-Wai's first American feature, is certainly set to be both of those: alright, so Norah Jones is an untried talent, but the various characters she meets on her "soul-searching journey" across the US are enough to make you dizzy. And, while Kar-Wai seems to have parted ways with photographic maverick Christopher Doyle, his dp this time is Darius Khondji, whose work includes such quality as Se7en and Delicatessan. Exactly what Kar-Wai has in store for us remains to be seen, but it sounds, well, yummy.
4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
dir. Andrew Dominik, cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepherd
Finally! Dominik follows up his unbalanced but vibrant first feature Chopper with this gorgeously titled Western, hopefully combining a superb cast with his unique visceral style and a tantalising script. With cinematographer Roger Deakins (favourite of the Coens), a score by Nick Cave (whose imaginations ran the ghostly The Proposition), and, apparently, a length and style reminiscent of Sergio Leone, this sounds so promising I've been waiting over a year for it. And I shall continue to do so.
3. La vie en rose (La Môme)
dir. Olivier Dahan, cast: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Clotilde Courau, Jean-Paul Rouve, Pascal Greggory
The life of Edith Piaf. Yes, another biopic- but, not only is this one actually French (shock!), it's about a person who had a notoriously eventful and difficult life, and so it should be a fascinating and transfixing watch. Especially if the raves that a short extract from it that appeared on French television are anything to go by. Will it encounter the usual stumbling blocks that biopics do? Let's hope not.
2. The Bourne Ultimatum
dir. Paul Greengrass, cast: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Paddy Considine, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Edgar Ramirez
Most of the Bourne team are back for the final entry in the trilogy, and things look promising that it'll be just as good- if not better- than the first two entries. Besting Bond at every corner, the Bourne series is a thrilling, riveting and dark spy series: never coming near to any ludicrous or camp impulses, the whole series has throbbing with a nervy, jumpy heart, and I see no reason why that would suddenly stop beating. And- thank god- Joan Allen returns, bringing her edginess and passion to Pamela Landy once again.
dir. Danny Boyle, cast: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh
Okay. I can't say, unlike the rest of the world, that I've ever found Danny Boyle a particularly good director. In fact, I've never really liked any of his films except the charming Millions- Trainspotting was fine, 28 Days Later... was passable, but I downright despise A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach- and yet something immediatly draws me to Sunshine. Maybe it's that cast, which is one of the most outlandishly eclectic I think I've ever seen. (When did Rose Byrne suddenly become a star? That's one of the nicest surprises I've ever had.) Maybe it's the wacked out, pulse-heightening plot- a bunch of astronauts are sent to "revive" the dying sun and go mad as they get nearer. Maybe I just love Rose Byrne. Well, whichever, Sunshine has the possibility of being either laughably ludicrous, or wonderfully, frightening impactful- I sincerely hope it takes the latter route, and I don't have to wait long to find out.