Friday, January 01, 2010

FILM: Breakout Stars of 2009

We already knew she was a child prodigy back in ’01 when she drained our tear ducts in I Am Sam. But the transition from child actor to adult actor is always a bumpy one, just ask every kid who debuted in the 80s. Some may say that she only recently leapt head-first into mature films, starring in the racy pedophilia drama Hounddog and the racism-fueled, child abuse story The Secret Life of Bees, but she has more adult films on her resume than she does family films. In fact, for a while there she was known for her mature attitude both on and off the set. She was practically a 40-year-old woman stuck in a 10-year-old’s body. The only aspect of her career that needed transitioning was the extent of what her characters—and, by association, she—were allowed to do. Last year’s films broke the ice, allowing for audiences to accept the possibility of her playing a rebellious, precognitive orphan in Push and a vindictive, blood-thirsty vampire in New Moon. You could say that once Twilight fans saw her red-eyed Jane poster, it was a done deal, but I think we all knew she had the makings of a bitch all along, proven by her role in Uptown Girls...but that’s just not something you say about a 9-year-old.
Up Next: In March, she’ll push the envelope a bit more playing a former famous rock star in the Joan Jett biopic The Runaways alongside Kristen Stewart. Then in June, she’ll reprise her role in the next Twilight installment, Eclipse. Plus, she’s rumored to have been tapped for the adaptation of Betsy and the Emperor, the story of a 14-year-old daredevil who befriended Napoleon Bonaparte.

The 26-year-old New Yorker has been around for a while now, but I really do think this was his official breakout year. I have personally been enjoying the Woody Allen-esque, bashful, self-deprecating, Jewish persona that he repeats in almost every film since 2005’s Cursed. But it wasn’t until he starred in the coming-of-age dramedy Adventureland and positioned himself near the whirlwind rise of Kristen Stewart that he was finally noticed under his Jew-fro. Then he had the good fortune of starring in the hilarious action horror comedy Zombieland, playing the educational narrator and timid anti-hero. During the decade, Hollywood has been increasingly interested in casting Australians (Russell Crowe, Eric Bana, Sam Worthington, etc.) and Europeans (Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, etc.) as our heroes, leaving the only American heroes to be dorky klutzes (Tobey Maguire, Seth Rogen, etc.) or sci-fi creations (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pine, etc.) that we can finally relate or aspire to, which makes Eisenberg the future. God help us all.
Up Next: He just finished filming his role as an over-his-head, Jewish drug dealer in the crime drama Holy Rollers opposite Justin Bartha (The Hangover). In October, you’ll see him as one of the founders of Facebook in the biopic Social Network, alongside Max Minghella, Justin Timberlake and Rashida Jones. He’s rumored to have scored the lead role of famous poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, the story of the murder that inspired the Beat Generation, alongside Chris Evans (Push and Fantastic Four) and Ben Whishaw (Bright Star and Brideshead Revisited). And, of course, there will be the inevitable sequel to Zombieland. They should subtitle it, “Double tap!”

The Wiigster may have been popping up all over Frat pack films since 2007’s Knocked Up, but we didn’t exactly take her non-SNL side jobs seriously until she starred in this year’s indie dramedy Adventureland as the sketchy co-owner of a theme park, the screwball comedy Extract as the pool-boy-bedding, adulteress wife of a factory owner, and the girl-power comedy Whip It as a part-time roller derby diva and full-time mom. She proved that she could curb the funny voices and faces for a little realism, which’ll most likely score her more diverse roles, besides the token nut job.
Up Next: She’ll be in the alien comedy Paul with Simon Pegg, Jason Bateman, and Jane Lynch (“Glee”), and the rom-com Date Night with her homies Tina Fey and Steve Carell. She’ll voice two animated characters in How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me. She just wrapped filming the SNL-skit-inspired spoof MacGruber, and she’s about to start filming the comedy Ass Backwards with Amy Sedaris and Kate Hudson.

This year the 20-year-old Disney star seamlessly moved between playing the obnoxious and self-absorbed Chad on “Sonny with a Chance” and the self-conscious klutz in 17 Again. It’s impressive that he managed to outshine Demi Lovato, Disney’s new cash cow, and Zac Efron, Disney’s veteran cash cow, with the limited amount of screen time that he was given. Hopefully he’ll continue to show his range and not get pegged into any particular archetype.
Up Next: He’ll get romantic in Elle, the modern musically-infused retelling of Cinderella.

Be honest, you’ve been staring as his baby blues since he starred in the sequel to Princess Diaries. You even rented Just My Luck, despite the fact that the train wreck that was once Lindsay Lohan is in it. Hell, you even forgave him for his redneck role in the critically pandered crime comedy Smokin’ Aces. So it was no surprise when the rest of the world fell in love with him this year when he played the legendary Captain Kirk in JJ Abram’s Star Trek. While haters might suggest that he’s just a lucky bastard, it’s important to note that he’s mainly impressive because of his diverse resume. In his career, he’s gone from a charming opponent to an ambitious dreamer to an inbred assassin to an obnoxious leader. He might disappoint every now and then, but he’ll always keep you guessing.
Up Next: He’ll play a lovelorn singer-songwriter in the indie drama Small Town Saturday Night with his dad. In November, you can see him in the runaway train thriller Unstoppable, alongside Denzel Washington and Rosario Dawson. There’s a chance he’ll star in the adaptation of Jason Kersten’s novel The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter. Without question, you’ll definitely see a Star Trek sequel in his future, but he’s also rumored to have been tapped to replace Harrison Ford in the Jack Ryan chronicles, potentially giving him a Bourne-like saga.

She’s been old news since she bust a move ten years ago in Center Stage. She got her first lead role opposite Nick Cannon in Drumline, and even got to go toe-to-toe with Johnny Depp, showing off her feisty side, in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. But she remained under the radar, appearing in Tom Hanks’ The Terminal and Orlando Bloom’s Haven, even after starring alongside Ashton Kutcher and the late Bernie Mac in Guess Who. It seemed as though she’d actually given up film in 2006, when she joined the cast of ABC’s “Six Degrees.” Luckily, it was cancelled and she was free to appear in Vantage Point, which starred Matthew Fox, who stars in “Lost,” which was created by JJ Abrams, who eventually cast her as Uhura in this year’s Star Trek, introducing her to every comic-loving geek on the planet. That, coupled with the fact that she co-starred with Sigourney Weaver in Vantage Point most-likely secured at least an audition with James Cameron, who eventually cast her as a badass warrior princess in Avatar. After this whirlwind year, you could say the Dominican New Yorker has come a very long way from her dancing and glorified-girlfriend roles, and I commend her for not settling for every stereotypical part that’s thrown at her.
Up Next: We’ll forgive her for the sure-to-flop crime film Takers out in February, since she’ll be playing a Special Forces soldier in the comic adaptation of The Losers and joining the comedian-filled cast of the Death at a Funeral remake this Spring, as well as reprising her role in the 2011 Star Trek sequel.

I first noticed the Russian 20-year-old in Alpha Dog, which I suffered through. But I made a note of him, in case he made another attempt at stardom. He did. It was called Charlie Bartlett. And it was fantastic. He was funny, relatable, fearless, and engrossing. He did more in two hours than most young actors do in their entire career. So I was elated when it was announced that he would not only play the Russian navigator Chekov in Star Trek, but the young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation. I thought, “This is it! Finally, people will see what I’ve been seeing all along.” I’m confident, however, that he won’t just coast on blockbusters to pad his pockets. He’s very much an aspiring character actor.
Up Next: He’ll play the son of a delusional man in The Beaver, Jodie Foster’s first directing gig in 15 years and Mel Gibson’s first dramedy since his anti-Semitic scandal. He’ll play the jilted boyfriend in the adaptation of Gabrielle Zevin’s romantic drama Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. And he’s about to start shooting William H. Macy’s feature film directorial debut, the drama Keep Coming Back, about a kid who joins AA because he has a crush on a stripper.

BEST NEW IMPORT: Sam Worthington
The 33-year-old English actor, who was raised in Australia, has been hiding down under for the last decade with foreign indies most Americans probably never heard of. He slowly made his way into American cinema with films like Bruce Willis’ battle drama Hart’s War and Michael Vartan’s gator horror Rogue. But this year, he finally popped up on everyone’s radar when he became the new man-within-the-machine in Terminator Salvation and helped James Cameron bring his Utopian vision to life in Avatar.
Up Next: He’ll come back to Earth with the terrorist thriller The Debt and the romantic drama Last Night with Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes. But then he’ll get back into the fantasy genre with the much-blogged-about Clash of the Titans. He’s rumored to be attached to the remake of the recent Danish film The Candidate, where he’ll play an attorney entangled in a murder conspiracy, who must hunt for his blackmailers to clear his name. Also, most recently, there’s been talk of him teaming up with Bradley Cooper to star in Texas Killing Fields, the dark, unsolved, true story of the sexual assault and brutal murder of four women.

I loved him in 2006’s quirky love story Ira & Abby, but I didn’t recognize him when he played Patrick Dempsey’s bff in Made of Honor, and I’m sure you didn’t realize he was in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and I can’t even remember what his sexual affliction was in John Krasinski’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. It wasn’t until I saw him play the patient father of adoptive kids in Away We Go that I started to feel like he was beginning to get his due. And it was pretty much official when he got the supportive husband role in Julie & Julia. Do I think this’ll lead to bigger and better things? I hope not. He’s just so damn good at being a low key version of Billy Crystal that giving him a big blown-up role would crush his appeal. Alas, Hollywood plans on testing my theory.
Up Next: He will star in JJ Abrams’ HBO cancer drama based on Jerome Groopman’s book “Anatomy of Hope.” He’ll star opposite Jessica Alba in the adaptation of An Invisible Sign of My Own. He’ll play Ben Stiller’s brother in Noah Baumbach’s indie dramedy Greenberg. He’ll get serious with Rashida Jones in the indie drama Monogamy. And, if that’s not enough, he’ll also appear in the self-explanatory horror thriller Devil.

BEST NEW COMEDIAN: Zach Galifianakis
You know how some comedians make jokes and then you laugh? Well, he’s the kind of comedian who could just stare at you and get a laugh. He’s been honing his deadpan-delivery since he starred in that other failed Eliza Dushku FOX series, “Tru Calling,” in 2003. But America officially took notice this year when he played the possibly retarded and bromantically desperate brother-in-law in The Hangover. I’m sure if he knew that it was going to be a hit, he wouldn’t have sold his soul to be in the hamster spy film G-Force. But maybe his bit-role in Up in the Air and the upcoming offbeat Michael Cera comedy Youth in Revolt will erase that from everyone’s memory (and nightmares). If not, he can at least take comfort in knowing that the critics believe he and Ted Danson are the best characters on HBO’s new detective comedy “Bored to Death.”
Up Next: He’s been getting movie offers up the wazoo. In July, he’ll be in the comedy Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd. In November, he’ll star opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the pregnancy comedy Due Date, and opposite Lauren Graham (Bad Santa) in the adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. He’ll also voice Humpty Dumpty in the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots, and play an agoraphobe who befriends a call girl (Amy Adams) in Town House.

When he first appeared on “The Office,” I didn’t like his character. They sort of revamped it and gave him a more endearing personality—complete with an adorable need to please and an Acapella group—so I eventually got on the Andy Bernard-bandwagon. However, he didn’t come on to my movie-watching radar, despite his cameos in Evan Almighty, Meet Dave, and Harold & Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay, until I saw The Hangover. Almost every guy in that film has had skyrocketing prospects ever since, but he stood out the most for his toothless temper tantrums and his off-the-cuff ballad of hope. It was unfortunate that he had to be in the worst comedy of the year, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, but if he learns how to focus his particular sense of humor, he could have a fruitful career.
Up Next: In 2011, he’ll star opposite John C. Reilly in the workplace comedy Cedar Rapids. There are rumblings that he’ll star in and co-write a Judd Apatow-produced comedy called A Whole New Hugh, about a trio of guys who try to boost their buddy’s confidence by making him think he’s a success. He also got Steve Carrell to produce another untitled writing venture of his, which will follow a civil war re-enacter who goes back in time and has to try his best not to alter history. He’s also attached to a “Chuck”-like action comedy called Central Intelligence, where an accountant gets unwittingly involved in covert ops after reconnecting with a friend on Facebook. Plus, he’s in talks to star alongside Will Ferrell in the divorce comedy Daddy’s Home. Oh and of course there’ll be a Hangover sequel that, thankfully, will be non-Vegas related.

I thought the 30-year-old Puerto Rican smart ass was pretty funny in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but I had no idea everyone else had such high regard for him until I saw his name pop up in reviews everywhere. Previously, he’s been in “The Wire”—not that I watched that—and in Surfer, Dude—not that anyone watched that. He also appeared in the box office flops of Pride & Glory and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. So it really was surprising that of all the co-stars he’s had the pleasure of working with, from Edward Norton to Denzel Washington, the one that scored him his big break was metallic. Now let’s see if he can do it again.
Up Next: So far he has the indie dramedy Harlem Hostel and the Lifetime cop series “Exit 19” with Geena Davis (“Commander in Chief”). And in 2011, he’ll get back to action with the sci-fi alien flick Battle: Los Angeles, keeping good company with Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar), Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), and Michael Pena (Crash).

BEST NEW DOUCHE: Bradley Cooper
Can you believe he got his start on “Sex and the City”? It figures that the iconic ladies of New York would have to be the first to approve him. Even though he was on the series “Jack & Bobby” and “Alias,” he didn’t officially turn heads until he appeared in Wedding Crashers. That was the first time anyone thought of him as funny, which is probably why he scored the opportunity to star in the FOX comedy “Kitchen Confidential.” Even though it was cancelled, that allowed producers to see that he shines best while playing jerks and lovable douches. Thus, scoring him douchebag roles in He’s Just Not That Into You, The Hangover, and All About Steve.
Up Next: Luckily, he’s decided to play against type. He’ll start the New Year off in the Renee Zellweger horror thriller Case 39. Then he’ll try to romance Julia Roberts in the star-studded rom-com Valentine’s Day. Then this summer he’ll be the envy of geeks everywhere when he plays Faceman in The A-Team, alongside Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley (District 9), and Patrick Wilson (The Watchmen).

Angry Asian people aren’t new to Hollywood (see Margaret Cho), so when he first popped onto the scene in 2007’s Knocked Up as the inconsiderate gynecologist, no one bat an eyelash. They were equally unphased when he played an obnoxious Napoleon-complex-having jerk in last year’s Role Models. It wasn’t until he played the streaking, pimp-tastic gangster in The Hangover that people started noticing him everywhere. We’ve forgiven him for his appearances in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, All About Steve, and Couples Retreat, because his vindictive Senor Chang on NBC’s “Community” is too funny to ignore.
Up Next: He’ll be in Kevin James’ rom-com The Zookeeper, and he might play a guy named—I shit you not—Jackie Chan on the upcoming desk-bound-cop series “Off Duty” on NBC.

BEST NEW BADASS: Jeremy Renner
Despite film credits, like S.W.A.T., North Country, and 28 Weeks Later, it wasn’t until he had a small role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that anyone took a second look at the 38-year-old actor. I, however, first noticed him at Comic Con earlier this year when he was promoting The Hurt Locker. I thought it was weird that a non-scifi film was getting promoted at a scifi convention, but I stayed for the Q&A and sneak peaks anyway. From what I saw, since I didn’t get to see the critically acclaimed and Oscar-buzzworthy war dramedy, it was pretty funny and suspenseful. I got to see more of what he could do in ABC’s unorthodox police procedural “The Unusuals.” Man, I loved that show. He has that gruff, devil-may-care attitude about him that suggests he’s both someone you shouldn’t cross and someone you could trust. He simply oozes a bravado that American cinema is currently lacking without capes and spandex.
Up Next: He’ll be in Ben Affleck’s next directing venture, the crime thriller The Town, alongside Affleck himself and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”). Also, there’s a rumor he’ll play Hawkeye in the 2012 adaptation of The Avengers, which has a star-studded cast that includes Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

You remember Marlon, right? The scrawny, goofy Wayans brother? Yeah, well he’s grown up now. The 37-year-old father of two must of noticed the cautionary tale that has become Eddie Murphy’s life and decided that he’s not going to go out like that. While it’s true that he’s never really resolved himself to doing just comedy, having tried drama in Requiem of a Dream, he isn’t exactly seen as anything other than a clown. It’s not like he can blame us, considering his roles in films like White Chicks and Little Man. But this year he opened up some eyes, providing not only comic relief but action-packed scenes in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Up Next: I’m sure his new lease on Hollywood life is the reason he’s about to star in the Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) biopic Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, and that he’s been tapped to star in the adaptation of Esquire-writer A.J. Jacobs’ comedy The Year of Living Biblically. But fret not die-hard Wayans Brothers fans. He hasn’t abandoned his crass comedy background just yet. He’ll be adapting the family comic book Super Bad James Dynomite, and sequels to Scary Movie and White Chicks are in the works.

BEST NEW ACTOR: Sharlto Copley
He’s only been in two movies in his entire career. In one, he played a sniper and in the other he played a government agent who turns into an alien. The latter introduced him to every single producer, director, screenwriter, and casting agent in Hollywood after Peter Jackson offered to produce it. With one film that grossed $204 million and one starring role, he has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Up Next: I remember reading in EW that he wasn’t really interested in leaving South Africa or booking himself solid for the next five years, but at least we’ll get to see him stretch his legs in the upcoming A-Team adaptation.

Paper Heart wasn’t your average romantic comedy. In fact, it’s been described as a hybrid comedy, combining documentary aspects with a fictionalized relationship. The idea was developed by Charlyne in conjunction with the director Nicholas Jasenovec, exploring the notion that there does exist a girl on this planet who doesn’t believe in true love. Some might consider her personality to be a bit offbeat and unorthodox, but it’s unlike any they’ve seen before.
Up Next: She’s actually very musical, and she scored the film. Listen to her on MySpace.

BEST NEW SEX POT: Margarita Levieva
Yeah, yeah, I know Megan Fox is supposed to be the new hot shit, but she’s so 2007. Margarita, however, single-handedly sexualized Adventureland and sexually-castrated Ashton Kutcher in his indie Spread.
Up Next: It seems the 19-year-old Russian is taking a break from film to do theatre, last seen in The Retributionists.

The 24-year-old Brit first debuted in 2005’s BBC mini-series “Bleak House,” but it wasn’t until she was showered with accolades at Sundance for her role in An Education that she’d officially made it. She soon scored supporting roles in both Public Enemies, opposite Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, and Brothers, opposite Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire. I have yet to see what she can actually do, but with as much hype that surrounds her, I’m pretty certain she’s got the goods.
Up Next: She’ll star in the sequel Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps with Shia Labeouf, the remake of the crime thriller Brighton Rock, the dramatic thriller Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley and Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), and the crime bio Electric Slide, about a furniture salesman turned bank robber (Ewan McGregor).

BEST COMEBACK: Robin Wright Penn
Did you know that Sean Penn’s wife was actually an actress? You might remember her from Forrest Gump and The Princess Bride. No worries, she has every intention of reminding you now that she’s divorced. This year, she starred in the dramatic indie The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, costarred with Russell Crowe and Ben Affeck in the political thriller State of Play, and played dual roles in the remake of The Christmas Carol. She’s on fire and she’s taking advantage of the momentum.
Up Next: She just wrapped up Robert Redford’s historical drama The Conspirator with James McAvoy, and soon she’ll start filming the crime dramedy Hectic with Stanley Tucci.

I know Mo’nique. I’ve seen her stand-up, I watched her series (even though her TV daughter was annoying), and I’ve laughed at her uncensored talk show appearances. But no one, and I do mean no one, could convince me that that’s the same actress who has spent the last year being worshipped by the critics for her unexpected and jarring performance as a mentally ill, violently and verbally abusive mother in the adaptation of Precious. No one. And that’s not even the extent of her stardom. This year, she has also successfully headlined and produced her own talk show on BET.
Up Next: Considering the amount of offers she’s probably getting, her hectic talk show schedule, and the fact that she has 3-year-old twins, I’m not surprised that she isn’t signed on for anything new just yet.

BEST NEW ACTRESS: Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe
The 26-year-old Brooklyn native never did a film before being cast in Precious. Some have even suggested that she’s this year’s Jennifer Hudson. Already nominated for a Golden Globe, there’s definite speculation that an Oscar nod is on the horizon.
Up Next: She’ll star in the drama Yelling to the Sky with Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson) and Zoe Kravitz (The Brave One), and she’s been cast in the Laura Linney-led Showtime drama “The C-Word.”


  1. You compiled an awesome list. I like everyone on it except Sam Worthington.

    Ky in Boston

  2. Yay for Sharlto Copley! I hope to see more great things from him. :)

  3. alexis sidibe3/12/2010 5:00 PM

    im related to gabby sidibe:)

  4. Not to Mention that Robin Wright Penn was also in Beowulf (from Christmas Carol helmer Robert Zemeckis)

  5. Sharlto Copley for the win!