2010 is going to be a great year for movies. I’m confident of this. Since we’re in this ride together I figured we’d get ready for the year in a fun and exciting new way. First, over the course of the next fifteen weekdays we’re going to highlight one mainstream film a day. Some of them are slam dunks, some of them have a cloud of trouble floating above them, but all represent a great way to spend a Friday night at the movie theater even if it results in you ripping its ass thereafter.

One of the things this site is built on is a love of movies. Some folks think we’ve let some of that go by the wayside. I disagree, but regardless, I want 2010 to be a year where this site restores some of that wonder. Though the glass can never truly be half-full in a business so driven by rehashes and hollow entertainment, we’re going to have fun with it and prepare you guys with as many tools as possible to make the moviegoing experience worth it. Especially as the internet gets more and more bogged down with people who have no right serving as an authority of film blabbering all over blogs and Twitter and beyond.

There’s a reason you come here.

Day One

The Wolfman
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Anthony Hopkins
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self
Based on the original screenplay by Curt Siodmak

The Gist
A remake of the great 1941 Lon Chaney flick, shepherded by star Benicio Del Toro, directed by Joe Johnston after original director Mark Romanek abruptly left the project. The story focuses on Lawrence Talbot, a man who is bitten and cursed upon his return to his ancestral home and forced to spend his full moons kicking ass and whisking bearded men offscreen in the blink of an eye. It’s one of the simple, classic horror stories and werewolves have always been sorta the (for lack of a better word) black sheep of the horror world. They aren’t as sexy and malleable as vampires, not as simple and cheap as zombies, and not as big business as giant monsters that terrorize cities.

But they’re great. And there aren’t enough great werewolf movies, so there’s always room in the genre for another one.

Participants to Watch
Rick Baker is the make-up designer for the film, but how much of his work actually makes it to the finished film is a major issue. An American Werewolf in London is still the high water mark for werewolf movies and the film that put Baker on the map. If the film is a big CGI-fest and Baker’s work is rarely used, it could be a sad time for the home team. That said, his design for the wolf man is good but there’s always something a little harder to swallow about an upright creature that maintains a lot more of the man than the wolf. It’s less of a monster and finding a balance that’ll work with modern audiences is difficult. Baker is the star of this movie as far as I’m concerned and how excited I’ll be is almost wholly dependent on just how much of his work they use.

Hugo Weaving looks really perfect as Abberline. He’s an actor who I feel may have the chops to be one of the “go to” character actors. And you’d think Mark Strong can’t play EVERY ROLE. Abberline’s a good character and if handled well, it could be a great role for Hugo. It’s not easy to rock the period look and he’s one of those guys who is as reliable as they get.

Joe Johnston has the semi-thankless job of being the guy who comes in to clean up after Romanek. He also had to follow Spielberg with the dinosaur flicks but he’s a director who should get a lot more credit than he does. The Rocketeer is a blast, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is fun for what it is, and October Sky is a terrific little movie. Hell, even Hidalgo‘s got merit. He’s a very good technical filmmaker and the trailers have at the very least showcased a visually striking movie. I think the guy has the potential to become a really interesting genre possibility if this film isn’t a dud.

The Buzz
Not good. The film has been delayed for quite some time, has endured many reshoots, and already faces an uphill battle because the material isn’t a lock with today’s audiences even with complete A-List participation. Benicio doesn’t have the same pull as a Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, and even though there’s no doubt he’s immersed himself deeply into the project, he has never opened a movie on his name before. The release date (February 12) isn’t very inspiring, though the marketing has definitely increased in intensity. There’s also the risk that the trailer showcases too many of the film’s big moments. It’s a good, aggressive trailer but you have to wonder if it’s overcompensating.

Best Case
The film is good and makes money, but more importantly adds a modicum of respect to the werewolf genre. 100 million is the mark it needs to crest and though that won’t make the film profitable (rumors have the budget between 90 and 150 million) it’ll send the impression of success. I don’t think it’s possible for this film to come out on top, but it needs to at least make a dent and not put a cork in a subgenre with a lot of potential.

And frankly, the Universal Monsters are one of the few things that benefit from being revisited every generation, if for nothing else than to reintroduce audiences with the impeccable films that began the trend.

Worst Case
The film, which already faces huge odds, is a failure and the mess that many fear it’ll be. As a result, these kind of middle-of-the-road (and in mind mind vital) kinds of horror films go back into hibernation.

CHUD’s Prognosis
A double. Maybe 90 million, mixed reviews, and the kind of film that sees a 60% decline in its second week. But I have to admit that a part of me thinks it’s going to be a really fun flick and if it’s as brutally violent and effects happy as the trailers suggest, it’ll be one that helps make these dreadful early months of the year much more bearable.

Useful links
Official Site
Pictures Galore
The Original on Amazon
Nice long Rick Baker interview

Useful Lynx

Discuss this column here.

Tomorrow: My most anticipated movie of the year!