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Looking Ahead: A few (hopefully) good films

One of the quirks of living in Eugene — or any other secondary or tertiary film market — is that one cinematic year is usually not over until about a third of the way through the following year. We're yet to see some of 2008's best-reviewed films, from National Society of Film Critics Best Picture winner Waltz With Bashir to the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In to Kelly Reichardt's follow-up to Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy. Heck, we're still waiting for Gran Torino (this Friday) and Frost/Nixon (possibly next).

That said, there are a few early-’09 mainstream movies that look interesting. Interesting enough that I'm keeping an eye out for them despite my obsessive wish to see more! more! more! of the ’08s before compiling a top ten list.

The big "duh" in this list is obviously Watchmen, assuming the legal wrangling ends and the film comes out on time. The bummer here is that every time I read or watch (in those annoying pre-film commercials at Regal) director Zack Snyder talk about the movie, my hope that it won't suck is diminished. Still, the preview is mostly damn nifty. (March 6)

Another duh, at least for me, is Coraline: It's based on a book by Neil Gaiman, and it's directed by Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. I don't love the voice casting, but I still have faith. (Feb. 6)

I'm not sure I can begin to explain the plot of Youth in Revolt, the novel by C.D. Payne, without a refresher; it's relatively complicated and involves, if memory serves, its hero dressing in his grandmother's clothes (OK, I checked Wikipedia to make sure I got that part right) to get closer to the girl he has a thing for. I think. And that's a small piece of the plot puzzle. The adaptation, from director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl), is supposed to come out Feb. 20, but I'm a bit worried by the absence of, oh, y'know, an official movie site or trailer.

Though I wasn't particularly impressed with The Last King of Scotland, director Kevin Macdonald's follow-up, State of Play (based on a 2003 BBC miniseries), has my attention. Ben Affleck in a grown-up role? Helen Mirren as a hardass editor? Russell Crowe in a relatively unshowboaty part? Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn and Viola Davis? And a screenplay written, at least in part, by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)? That's enough to get my hopes up. (April 17.)

And then there are the slightly guilty pleasures:

1. Push. Superpowered teens and twentysomethings? Sign me up. (Feb. 6)

2. Taken: Liam Neeson kicking everyone's ass in a movie written, in part, by Luc Besson? Hope springs eternal, and all that. (Jan. 30)

What are you excited about?