Monday, January 3, 2011

Most Anticipated Films for 2011

As you'll see in the following list, I'm pretty much a sucker for a blockbuster. But that's also due to the fact that smaller films' release dates are harder to pin down, especially if they get any kind of awards buzz, which usually means getting a December 31 release in one theater in Los Angeles because, I mean, why would you want a movie to be seen by people?
I digress.
I'm not exactly breathless anticipating these films, but they're the ones who have piqued my interest the most. So, here they are (release dates in parentheses; all release dates as of January 4):
10. Sucker Punch
This is either going to be surprisingly awesome or mind-numbingly bad. Zack Snyder has made a name for himself as an engaging visual director, and I actually rather liked Watchmen, thank you very much. But the stories in Snyder's films have never really been worthy of his visual style, and in this film he seems to have crammed everything that he thinks is cool into a single picture: dragons, robots, sexy, kick-ass women, mental institutions, crazy dads, and Carla Gugino. Its like Quentin Tarantino's Girl, Interrupted if he was an avid fan of Heavy Metal. Time will tell if its really worth seeing, but Snyder's landed the Superman directing job, so he obviously impressed someone. (3/25)
9. Cowboys & Aliens
The trailer is a nifty piece that sets up everything you need to know: Daniel Craig is a mysterious loner who arrives in a dusty Arizona town circa 1873 just in time for alien ships to land. Luckily, he has a strange device on his hand that can help him stop the invaders. Oh, and Harrison Ford gets a rare villain role, and it looks like he's relishing it. Director Jon Favreau has stated that he's taking this film seriously, playing as both a straight Western and an alien invasion movie without mocking either genre. If he can find the right balance, this could be a very inventive mash-up film that actually works. And honestly, I'm a big fan of both genres, so if he pulls this off, this could easily become a favorite of mine. The only thing holding this film back right now for me is that stupid title: I know its the name of the comic book its based on, but can we please change it? (7/29)
8. Cars 2
Pixar films usually hold a high spot on my most-anticipated list every year, but I have reservations about this one. First, I very much enjoyed Cars, but like others I don't think its among Pixar's best (though I don't flat-out hate it like many do; the film still has its charms, despite being a kid-friendly version of The Terminator's Skynet-run world). Secondly, the fact that Pixar's basically scrapped all of its future original projects (including its first female-driven feature, Brave) in favor of sequels to its previous films is a worrying trend to me; they'll need to justify this move with quality stories the way they did with Toy Story 3. And that's the third thing that worries me about Cars 2: the story seems very been-there, done-that, the kind of thing you'd expect from a direct-to-DVD release. The folks at Pixar have always managed to surprise me, though, so of course I'll still be in line to see it, and, who knows, maybe it actually will be their next masterpiece. (6/24)
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I wasn't a huge fan of the Swedish film, and still have not read the global-phenomenon books. I think the film is an unnecessarily misogynistic tale that spends too much time throwing as much crap as possible at Lisbeth and not enough time on character development or plot pacing. And I tend to be wary of American remakes of foreign films, especially those that have just recently came out. But the American version has several things going for it: the decision to keep the story in Sweden, Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist (with no new James Bond, you'll notice I'm getting my Craig fix in other ways), relative newcomer and The Social Network scene-stealer Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, and David Fincher, who's a master at mixing graphic violence with strong, heartbreakingly-human characters, in the director's chair. Consider me interested to see where this goes. (12/21)
6. A Dangerous Method
Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud. Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung. The two of them create modern psychoanalysis while battling for Keira Knightley's Sabina Spielrein's feelings. David Cronenberg directs from a script based on Christopher Hampton's play. In a year with plenty of CGI whiz-bang, this is the film that should features some of the most special effects of all: fantastic, scrumptiously dramatic acting. Though a release date has not officially been set yet, this could be the acting showcase of the year. (Unknown)
5. The Muppets
I'm an unabashed fan of the original Muppets Show. It was a funny send-up of variety shows and, in its own way, a reflection of failed performers who just want to put on a show and entertain people. The Muppets are no strangers to the big screen, having appeared in several movies already, but the last was Muppets in Space, and that was in 1999. For this outing, a new Muppet will be introduced, and a human cast that includes co-writer/puppet enthusiast Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Zach Galifinakis, and rumored appearances from Jack Black, Jane Lynch, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rooney, Paul Rudd, Katy Perry, Rashida Jones, Ed Helms and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Plus, as icing on the cake, Flight of the Concords creator James Bobin is directing. Here's hoping its not just an overstuffed comedy of celebrity appearances. (11/23)
4. Battle: Los Angeles
I've already mentioned that I'm a fan of alien invasion flicks, so this really shouldn't be a surprise to see on the list. The trailer delivered the goods, in my opinion, and the questionably-talented cast could be offset by thrilling action (because who watches these things for the acting?). Namely, what I'm most excited about is that this film, unlike its compatriots, seems to be taking focus on the military effort against the alien, rather than Joe Schmo and his family and dog who just happens to be at various significant events. I'm really hoping this one isn't a disaster, seeing as how director Jonathan Liebesman's only other credit is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. (3/11)
3. Super 8
There's really nothing known about this film. We know its directed by J.J. Abrams, and exec produced by Steven Spielberg, whose early films this is apparently an homage to. And there's....something in a box? The trailer doesn't give much away (the title probably isn't even the real title), but what's got me excited is that the new "next Spielberg" is pay homage to the real deal. Will it meet that lofty goal? (6/10)
2. The Tree of Life
We should be thankful that this actually seems to be happening now, though the six year wait between this film and director Terrence Malick's last, the well-intentioned but honestly awful The New World, isn't as bad as, say, the 20 year wait between 1978's Days of Heaven and 1998's The Thin Red Line. Supposedly an epic history of existence as told through a single family, this seems really high-concept and ambitious for the famously naturalistic director. But the trailer is gorgeous; this looks like it could be his best film yet. (5/27)
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2
This is the end of the Harry Potter films, and therefore, with the books having wrapped in 2007, the official closing chapter of a major part of my life. I've grown up with Harry, reading the books, watching the movies. And now it all comes to a head. Certainly, this one will be much more action-packed than Part 1, since the Battle of Hogwarts should take up a hefty portion of the film. But most importantly, it will be an emotional experience that finally brings fulfilling closure to the tale of the Boy Who Lived. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. It may not be Academy Award material, but this is personal for me, and if its done just right, you won't find anything more satisfying this year. (7/15)
Other films that, though they didn't make this list, I'll be in line for. Some because I do have genuine interest in them, and some because pop culture dictates that I see them:
The Green Hornet
Seth Rogen stars in this action-comedy about the famed superhero, who's really just a more noirish Batman. Michel Gondry seemed like an inspired choice for director, but he seems to be playing it straight rather than adding his own trademark surrealism (at least, that's what I can tell from the trailers). Still, this made my Anticipated List last year (before getting pushed back to this year for a probably-meaningless 3D conversion), and it comes from the writers of Superbad, a personal favorite of mine, so I'm interested. Plus, Christoph Waltz is a villain! Again! (1/14)
The Adjustment Bureau
Based on a Phillip K. Dick story, this sci-fi tale is about a man who discovers that his life has been planned out for him by an unknown organization, and fights that fate to be with the woman he loves. It seems like a cool film, and with Matt Damon in the lead, it looks like a new Bourne film, if Jason Bourne were dropped into Minority Report. Emily Blunt, Terrence Stamp, John Slattery, and Shoreh Aghdashloo round out the cast, and writer/director George Nolfi (one of the writers for The Bourne Ultimatum), along with my love of sci-fi, puts this one on my radar. (3/4)
Thor & Captain America: The First Avenger
I honestly can't get really pumped about these two films courtesy of Marvel. Maybe its because there's two in a single year. Maybe its the fact that they're basically set-up for The Avengers, which Joss Whedon is making (and will probably be much-delayed, given his track record). Maybe its Thor's Chris Hemsworth's Australian accent when he's playing a Norse god (another point of contention: Thor is a god, not a superhero!), or the memory that Captain America's Chris Evans was also the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films, which are also Marvel properties (if the Fantastic Four join The Avengers...but wait, one of the Fantastic Four is going to die this year, so there's your out!). Still, there are things that could work: Thor has Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Kenneth Branaugh behind the camera, and Captain America has Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull and a keeping of the comic's WWII setting. The Thor trailer wasn't too impressive; maybe Captain America's will be better? (Thor: 5/6, Captain America: 7/22)
Green Lantern
Just how much do you love superheros, CGI, the word "green," and Ryan Reynolds? This is the film that will put those tolerances to the test. I still wish they had gone with the John Stewart Green Lantern, and given the role to Boris Kodjoe (Undercovers), but that's just my dream casting. I'm really not that into this film. I'm not a fan of Reynolds, who's mostly coasting on his good looks (he's the most recent Sexiest Man Alive, according to People Magazine), and based on the trailer he looks too stiff. Martin Campbell, who did the successful reboot of James Bond with Casino Royale (and Goldeneye as well), is directing, but he seems to rely too much on creating obviously-CGI worlds rather than crafting a more interesting story. But as I said, pop culture dictates I see it, and I'm not going to disobey my overlords. (6/17)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
This is a series that really didn't need a second or third film, much less a fourth. And there are a lot of changes here: Rob Marshall is replacing original director Gore Verbinski, and Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley have been jettisoned in favor of Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard and his daughter (a fair trade if you ask me). In fact, the only thing that seems to be remaining the same is Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and, well, pirates. The story is about a quest for the Fountain of Youth, which could prove to be good fun, but what worries me about this film is that there may be too much Jack. See, I like Jack Sparrow just fine; he's a brilliant invention of a character and in the first film was one of the most terrific surprises of the decade. But Jack is best taken in measured doses, and too much Jack could prove grating, especially if Depp goes all Mad Hatter on us again and reduces his wonderful character to a set of accents and mannerisms. (5/20)
X-Men: First Class
Back in 2006, Matthew Vaughn flirted with the idea of directing the third and "final" X-Men movie once Brian Singer turned it down to do Superman Returns, and was even hired before he left the production because of creative differences. Instead, we got Brett Ratner. Now, it seems that cinematic crime that was X-Men: The Last Stand will be avenged with this film, a trip back to the origins of the X-Men before Xavier became Professor X, delving into his relationship with the man who would become Magneto. Its got an interesting hook, and Vaughn actually directed this time, which should be interesting given how he handled Kick-Ass (that's a good thing). And with James McAvoy as Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, this could be an unexpectedly profound superhero film. Or it could be all shallow action. (6/3)
The Conspirator
This film earned a lot of buzz at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, and was an Oscar contender until it was pushed back to this year. The film is about Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. With Surratt being played by Robin Wright, with James McAvoy, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel and Evan Rachel Wood in the supporting cast and Robert Redford directing, this should be a taut period political thriller. I read mixed reviews from Toronto, but it sounds intriguing to me. (April)
Paul
This comedy has a lot of things going for it. First of all, there's the pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who previously appeared together in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and wrote the script for this film) as two British nerds who encounter an alien on a trip to Area 51. Then there's director Greg Mottola, who's consistently produced films that I'm really fond of (Superbad, Adventureland). And then there's the supporting cast of Seth Rogen, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, and Blythe Danner. Add in jokes about Comic-Con and this will hopefully be a hilarious sci-fi/comedy. (3/18)
Rango
An animated Western of anthropomorphized creatures featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as Rango and directed by Gore Verbinski, with shades of darkness that are unusual for a supposed "kids" film? Well, if that doesn't grab my attention, nothing will. It seems to be paying homage to the old spaghetti westerns of the 1960s, with a little dash of Fear & Loathing to make it even stranger. I'm hoping this is as good as its promising to be. Also, Timothy Olyphant provides a voice! (3/4)
The Beaver
Let's face it, Mel Gibson's gone off the deep end. But maybe watching him have psychological issues on-screen and talk through a beaver puppet will be a perfect summation of who he is? Not many people are going to want to see this, but I'm not one of those people. Not to mention I really like Jodie Foster and look forward to many of her projects. (4/8)
Hugo Cabret
At first glance, this sems like Martin Scorsese is going way out of his comfort zone with this film. Its his first "children's" movie and his first film to be shot in 3D. But look beyond the surface of this adaptation of a slight graphic novel and you'll see this is classic Scorsese: its about an orphan who lives in a train station in 1930s Paris, and also has a theme about the birth of cinema, one of Scorsese's favorites. It'll be interesting to see what the master does with his eclectic cast (Chloe Grace Moritz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, just to name a few) and with 3D technology, which he has apparently had a good time learning about. (12/9)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn & War Horse
Steven Spielberg finally returns this year after a three-year absence since Indiana Jones and the Magic Refrigerator. And he's coming back in a big way, with not one but two films. War Horse is the story of a boy who loses his horse in WWI Europe, and the horse's journey to be reunited with him. It sounds kind of cheesy, but it could be another classic Spielberg film. Tintin is a motion-capture animated film (courtesy of producer Peter Jackson's WETA Workshop) based on the Belgian comic by Herge, about a boy and his friends who have exciting adventures. The cast includes Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Andy Serkis, while the screenplay was written by Stephen Moffat (current showrunner for Doctor Who), Joe Cornish, and Edgar Wright. And this two-in-one technique has worked for Spielberg in the past (1993's Jurassic Park/Schindler's List, 1997's The Lost World/Amistad, 2005's War of the Worlds/Munich). Here's hoping both films give Spielberg a great beginning to his fifth decade of filmmaking. (War Horse: 12/28, Tintin: 12/28)
What are you most looking forward to?

1 comment:

Walter L. Hollmann said...

"Its like Quentin Tarantino's Girl, Interrupted if he was an avid fan of Heavy Metal." Tee-hee.

I confess, I'm like those Beggin' Strips dogs when it comes to X-Men: "It's Bacooooooooon!!!" God I love him!

I'm so embarrassed to have forgotten The Muppets for my list. That's easily my Number Two pick.