Thursday, January 20, 2011
2011 Movie Preview
The movie year doesn't quite synch up with the calendar year. In 2011, like most every year before, we'll spend the first couple of months debating what were the best movies of 2010 -- culminating with the Academy Awards on Feb. 27 (nominations are announced next Tuesday).
Meanwhile, January and February are a dreary exercise in awaiting the lower-profile Oscar contenders to dribble out, sandwiched in between cruddy flicks the studios were too embarrassed to release during peak times (*cough*cough* "No Strings Attached").
So now is a good time to pause and look ahead to see what bounty the new year holds. Asterisks mark my picks for the most promising. (Release dates are subject to change.)
Gnomeo and Juliet (Feb. 11) -- Garden gnomes come alive in this British animated film based (loosely, as you might imagine) on the Shakespeare play. James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine provide voices.
Just Go With It (Feb 11) -- Jennifer Aniston plays frumpy (!) as the best friend in Adam Sandler's latest comedy about and for men with arrested development. He plays a cad who pretends to be married to lure the ladies, and she's his wingwoman.
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (Feb. 18) -- Martin Lawrence is back in the fat suit, in a movie whose title says it all.
Mars Needs Moms (March 11) -- This Disney picture could be be the first big animation hit of the year. A boy is shanghaied to the red planet, where the aliens need human mothers to nurture their brood oversupply. Voices of Seth Green and Joan Cusack, based on a book by "Bloom County" creator Berkeley Breathed.
*The Beaver (March 23) -- This looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Jodie Foster directs Mel Gibson in a seriously off-kilter tale about a troubled father who finds the only way he can communicate is through a beaver hand puppet. And yet, the preview appears promising. You know the saying, only Nixon could go to China? Only the reviled Gibson could make this movie.
*Sucker Punch (March 25) -- After a baffling diversion into animated owls, director Zack Snyder ("300") offers up this steampunk fantasia about an institutionalized girl whose alternate reality is a cornucopia of sword fights and portentous mumbo-jumbo. This year's Scott Pilgrim?
Source Code (April 1) -- Neat premise: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier who wakes up in the body of another man and finds he's part of an experimental government mission to stop a train bomber.
Soul Surfer (April 8) -- Based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a teen surfing prodigy who had her arm bitten off by a shark but continued to surf competitively. Starring Anna Sophia Robb, Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.
Arthur (April 8) -- Russell Brand stars in a remake of Dudley Moore's signature role, with Helen Mirren taking over the John Gielgud part of the unctuous butler to the irrepressible millionaire playboy. Just. Feels. Wrong.
Blu (April 15) -- From the "Ice Age" animation team, the story of a domesticated macaw who takes off for Rio de Janeiro to find other birds of his feather. Voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway.
*Water for Elephants (April 22) -- Reese Witherspoon plays the older woman (sigh) to Robert Pattinson in this drama about a veterinary student who joins a 1930s traveling circus following a tragedy.
Fast Five (April 29) -- Vin Diesel and the rest of the "Fast and the Furious" gang are up against Dwayne Johnson in the latest clash between tuner cars and good taste.
Thor (May 6) -- I'm not gonna lie -- based on the trailer, this adaptation of the comic book superhero looks hella bad. The Norse god of thunder is banished to Earth, where he roams the land looking for bar fights. Co-starring Natalie Portman, already in post-Oscar paycheck collecting mode.
Bridesmaids (May 13) -- "Saturday Night Live" MVP and film comedy sidekick Kristen Wiig gets a shot at stardom in this flick about friends who get hyper-competitive planning their gal pal's wedding.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20) -- Pretty young things Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are thrown overboard for more Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in an entirely unnecessary third sequel to the first -- and still only decent -- "Pirates" saga.
The Tree of Life (May 25) -- The latest from filmmaker Terrence Malick, who doesn't make movies all that often (five feature films over the past 38 years). Sean Penn and Brad Pitt star in an impressionistic tale about three brothers growing up in the 1950s and into adulthood, where they ponder deep thoughts.
The Hangover Part II (May 26) -- The cleverest raunch film in memory gets a sequel, where the horndogs decamp to Thailand. With a cameo by Bill Clinton. Really.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 27) -- Po the Panda is back for more kiddie-friendly action. Can't arrive soon enough for Jack Black, who hasn't had a hit since the first flick.
X-Men: First Class (June 3) -- The mutant superhero franchise gets a reboot focusing on the friendship between Professor Xavier and Magneto before they became mortal enemies, and the founding of the first X-Men team.
Super 8 (June 10) -- The guys behind "Lost" launch another mystery with this sci-fi offering starring Elle Fanning that's supposedly an homage to Steven Spielberg's early oeuvre.
Green Lantern (June 17) -- Another entry in a spate of second-tier comic book hero movies. Ryan Reynolds plays a regular joe given super powers when he inherits a magic ring, which chooses him to join an intergalactic force of do-gooders.
Rise of the Apes (June 24) -- Sort of a prequel to "Planet of the Apes." Genetic experiments lead to the supremacy of intelligent apes over humans. Starring James Franco.
Cars 2 (June 24) -- Widely regarded as the weakest Pixar film, and a strange choice for sequel-ization. But it's Pixar, and they never make a bad movie... right?
Larry Crowne (July 1) -- Tom Hanks stars, directs and co-wrote the screenplay for this drama about a downsized businessman who re-enrolls in college, where he falls for professor Julia Roberts.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1) -- Heroic and villainous robots from outer space return for another go-round of indecipherable CGI fight scenes. Can the franchise survive the loss of Megan Fox's jiggle, er, talents?
One Day (July 8) -- Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in this psychological thriller from director Lone Scherfig ("An Education") about a couple who revisit their relationship every year on the same day.
*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 15) -- This summer's 800-pound gorilla and the culmination of a decade-long adaptation of the mega-popular books about a boy wizard. A generation has literally grown up on these films.
Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22) -- Chris Evans stars as the shield-toting icon of liberty in this eagerly-anticipated comic book film. Still pretty hush-hush, but the production photos that have leaked out hint at a more militaristic tilt than we usually see with supers.
*Cowboys & Aliens (July 29) -- Mega-cheese or tongue-in-cheek fun? This action/adventure from "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford as gunslingers battling space aliens in 1873 Arizona. Insert cheap immigration joke here.
The Smurfs (Aug. 3) -- Some are still scratching their heads -- including me -- over this big-budget remake of the '80s TV cartoon about a society of little blue men who only have one female. The combination of live action and CG Smurfs is unpromisingly "Garfield"-esque.
The Darkest Hour (Aug. 5) -- This 3D special effects extravaganza stars Emile Hirsch as part of a group stranded in Moscow after a devastating alien attack.
Mr. Popper's Penguins (Aug. 12) -- Jim Carrey stars in this adaptation of the popular children's book about a businessman who adopts six penguins, and his home is gradually transformed into a winter wonderland.
Moneyball (Sept. 23) -- Brad Pitt headlines this film that's not about winning the lottery, but the rise of computer-generated analysis in the management of baseball teams. Sounds almost as dull as watching baseball, but "The Social Network" proved computer movies can thrill.
The Three Musketeers 3D (Oct. 14) -- Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckling swordsmen get their umpteenth film adaptation, this time starring Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich.
*Contagion (Oct. 21) -- Steven Soderbergh directs an impressive cast -- Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard -- in this thriller about an international team of doctors fighting a deadly virus outbreak.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (Nov. 18) -- The tween vampire mega-franchise pulls a Harry Potter and splits up its last book into two parts. Hint: Vampires, werewolves, vampire babies and gratuitous shirtless antics.
The Muppets (Nov. 23) -- A little vampire counter-programming, as Jim Henson's 40-year-old puppet troupe gets a reboot.
Hugo Cabret (Dec. 9) -- A big departure for filmmaker Martin Scorsese into 3D adventure about a boy living inside a 1930s Parisian train station with some wind-up creatures. Inspired by the films of Georges Méliès, an early cinematic dreamer.
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (Dec. 16) -- Animation whiz kid Brad Bird tries to revive the stumbling spy franchise starring Tom Cruise.
Sherlock Holmes 2 (Dec. 16) -- Sigh. A sequel was elementary. At least this time they've got Moriarty. What are the chances he'll also favor slo-mo martial arts badassery over deductive reasoning?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) -- Let's stipulate that an American version of the Swedish mystery/thriller is wholly redundant. Still, with Daniel Craig starring and David Fincher directing a screenplay by Steven Zaillian, it has a chance. A lot of weight on young Rooney Mara's shoulders as damaged genius Lisbeth Salander.
We Bought a Zoo (Dec. 23) -- Matt Damon teams up with filmmaker Cameron Crowe in this tender tale of a widowed father who buys a dilapidated zoo in hopes of giving his family a fresh start.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (Dec. 23) -- After a three-year layoff, director Steven Spielberg is back with this adventure based on the comic strip. Starring Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig (man, that guy's everywhere).
War Horse (Dec. 28) -- After a five-day layoff, director Steven Spielberg is back with ... wait, what? That's right, Spielberg has two films set to be released within a week. This one's about the relationship between a young man and his horse, who are divided and then brought together by World War I.
*The Ides of March (December) -- George Clooney directs and co-stars in this drama about a young politico disillusioned while working for a fast-rising presidential candidate. With Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood.
*Now (No date given) -- I'm intrigued by this sci-fi drama from "Gattaca" director Andrew Niccol. In this world, you stop aging at 25, but are genetically engineered to die in one year unless you can buy more time. The rich are thus essentially immortal, while everyone else begs, borrows and steals for more time. Starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.
The Thing/Red Dawn/Footloose -- Three iconic 1980s movies of varying quality (descending in the order given) get perplexing remakes. "The Thing" and "Footloose" even come out on the same day, Oct. 14. No date set for this "Dawn."