As we kick off a new year in cinema, I thought I'd take time to look ahead at the films we'll be hit with over the course of the year. In this article, I'll be going over what my 15 most anticipated movies are for the year. Now it should be noted, these aren't the movies that I feel will be the best of 2011 necessarily. Rather, they're the ones that, as of the time of this writing, I am anticipating the most. So without further ado, here are my most anticipated movies of 2011.
1. Sucker Punch
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya
Stars: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish
Release Date: March 25, 2011
Genre: Action Fantasy Thriller
What is it: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.
Why it should be good: Really hot and badass chicks wearing schoolgirl outfits and other skimpy clothes, with swords and guns, coupled with Snyder's awesome visual flair? Yea, definitely count me in. The trailer for this thing just looks completely awesome. From the style to the action, even the story (while seeming a bit out there) seems cool. I'm beginning to thoroughly enjoy Snyder's work. If The Adjustment Bureau could be this year's new Inception due to its mindfuck story, then Sucker Punch could absolutely be this year's Inception meets The Dark Knight meets 300 meets Inglorious Basterds due to it's style and epic adventure, yet dark tone with alternate realities. This movie just oozes style and badass-ness and I really can't wait for what is sure to be an absolutely entertaining, epic adventure.
Why it could suck: Snyder can be a bit off his mark sometimes. While Watchmen was enjoyable, it did get a bit boring. And Legend of the Guardians is said to suffer from some pacing issues as well and has drawn mixed reviews from critics. Though to be fair to Snyder, he wrote neither of those movies, but is responsible for the writing (or at least screenplay) of the badass 300.
2. Sherlock Holmes 2
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: Kieran and Michele Mulroney
Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry
Release Date: December 16, 2011
Genre: Action Mystery
What is it: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.
Why it should be good: I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan. The Doyle stories still stand as my favorite books today. I love Sherlock. He's such a badass. And finally, a movie seems to have captured that pretty well. The first was one of the better portrayals of Sherlock I had seen. Rather than being portrayed as a snooty, 'proper' and sophisticated Englishman, he was shown with all the rough edges that Doyle wrote him with. While the movie was indeed Hollywood-ized beyond anything you'd find in the books, it was a fun adventure and quite an enjoyable movie. Guy Ritchie is a very good filmmaker as well. For these reasons, and my love for Sherlock, I'm very much eager to see how Part 2 turns out, especially as they go head-to-head with Moriarty. Also, I'm eager to see how well Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,etc) does in her Hollywood debut.
Why it could suck: New writers. The original writers from the first aren't coming back instead Kieran and Michele Mulroney are taking over the job. So let's see how they handle it. Relatively new to writing, the two previously wrote Paper Man which didn't fair so well with critics.
3. Paranormal Activity 3
Director: Tod Williams
Writer: Christopher B. Landon and Michael R. Perry; characters by Oren Peli
Stars: Katie Featherston
Release Date: October 21, 2011
What is it: Well, we have no idea what this one is going to be about as nothing has been given. However, the first movie followed a couple that were being haunted by an evil spirit who possessed Katie. The sequel (which was more of a prequel) followed Katie's sister's family as that same spirit haunts them and their baby. This all culminates to the two stories converging at the end of Part 2 where it gets to the point where Part 1 ends and we see what happens after the whole event. Undoubtedly, Part 3 is set to pick up where Part 2 and 1 left off. What happens from there? Your guess is as good as mine.
Why it should be good: The first Paranormal Activity became something of a cult phenomenon/sensation. Hailed as the scariest movie of the year, people flocked to the film making it a huge success. And rightly so in my book. It was a minimalistic horror movie that took it back to the roots of the genre by using tension and suspense to really instill fear and terror in the minds of the audience. Part 2, while some people seemed to not like it as much as the first, did more of the same. I actually thought Part 2 was pretty much right on par with the first. And the ingenious storytelling that created a parallel prequel to the first was definitely cool. The creator and writers of this franchise have really shown that the horror genre can be revived and doesn't have to be all about gore and such. They've done a good job with instilling that fear in the audience as well, tapping into that fear, leaving the audience's imagination to run wild while being completely captivated. I expect no less from the third.
Why it could suck: If you feel the second was worse than the first, then you may be in for some disappoint when you find out the same writers and director of the sequel are back. However, like with Part 2, Oren Peli (the creator of the franchise) is still very much involved and is serving as producer on this film.
Director: Greg Mottola
Writer: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Stars: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Seth Rogen
Release Date: March 18, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Comedy
What is it: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America's UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town-a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.
Why it should be good: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back together again. That should be enough. Seriously. When these two guys get together it's gold, as evidenced by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This might be my favorite duo around these days. They'll also be pairing up to write this which is always a good thing as well (well, this will be Frost's first real writing job, but Pegg has been responsible for their first two outings together). Now, they won't be reuniting with Edgar Wright for this one, instead they'll be teaming with the director of Adventureland andSuperbad, two movies which I definitely enjoyed. On top of all of that, they have comedic star Seth Rogan joining them. Sounds like quite the team really and I'm rather excited for what I'm sure will be a very funny movie, and possibly end up being the comedy of the year.
Why it could suck: You do have to wonder if some of that magic from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will be lost as Frost and Pegg carry on without Wright. I think they're great comedic talents though and can stand on their own. And the somewhat all-star get-together should compensate.
5. The Adjustment Bureau
Director: George Nolfi
Writer: George Nolfi; Based on Short Story by Philip K. Dick
Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp
Release Date: March 4, 2011
What is it: Just as he is on the brink of winning a senate seat, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Though David is smitten, mysterious men conspire to keep him away from the beautiful dancer. David learns he is up against the powerful agents of Fate itself, and, glimpsing the future laid out before him, must either accept a predetermined path that does not include Elise, or defy Fate to be with her.
Why it should be good: Honestly, this sounds like it could be this year's Inception. With plenty of mindfucks going on, it's a thriller involving different levels of reality and mysterious forces. Matt Damon really tends to shine in these types of movies. The trailer has me rather intrigued and looks like it could provide quite an enthralling adventure. While this is Nolfi's directorial debut, he did write The Bourne Ultimatum, thus will be teaming up with Damon once again. The movie is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose work has been the grounds for such movies asBlade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and A Scanner Darkly. So with presumably some good source material, and a writer that can definitely do the part (as illustrated with The Bourne Ultimatum) we could be in for a real treat.
Why it could suck: This is Nolfi's first time in the director's seat, so we'll have to wait and see if he's in over his head. Furthermore, it is being billed as something of a romance thriller. So let's hope they don't go overboard with the romance part and make it some sappy romance film for which they sacrifice some of the plot to focus on the romance.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane
Release Date: May 20, 2011
Genre: Fantasy Action-Adventure
What is it: Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.
Why it should be good: Some people have hated them. Some have thought they've gotten worse as they went along. I've found the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be a fun adventure. Just a fun movie with plenty of adventure, some cool special effects, and just good times. And maybe it's my man-crush I have on Depp, but I'm absolutely thrilled to see him back as Jack Sparrow. The character is so much fun and always provides for some entertainment. Should be interesting to see how they go about freshening up the franchise as well as they get a new cast of characters while Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are out.
Why it could suck: It's a Hollywood sequel, those always have chances of sucking. Also, the exclusion of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann could put a damper on things. While there is a chance that it could freshen it up, there is just as much a chance that some of that magic might be lost as they look to replace those characters. Also, while we do get the same writers back, we have a new director taking on this sequel. Pirates seems to be out of Rob Marshall's comfort zone (best known for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago) so we'll have to wait and see how he can handle an action adventure of this scope.
7. The Hangover 2
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha
Release Date: May 26, 2011
What is it: Not a lot is known about the plot of this sequel. What is known is that the gang is back to get into more trouble as they travel to Thailand. And Phillips promise a lot of fucked up surprises and hilarity.
Why it should be good: The Hangover was hilarious I thought. The cast of the original had good chemistry and the writing was hilarious. It provided for several laugh-out-loud moments and was one of the funniest movies of the year (one of the funniest I've seen in a while too). Hopefully, getting the gang back together will provide for more hilarity that the first one delivered.
Why it could suck: New writers. The writers from the first aren't coming back and have been replaced. Instead we get Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin that have brought us such garbage asSemi-Pro, Starsky and Hutch, Scary Movie 4 and Superhero Movie. If their past work is any indicator of their talent, the writers could really butcher this franchise.
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson
Release Date: July 1, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Action-Adventure
What is it: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets, which could turn the tide in the Transformers' final battle.
Why it should be good: I've enjoyed the franchise so far. While Part 2, was blasted pretty well by critics, I didn't hate it that much. Granted it wasn't as good as the first, but I still found it fairly entertaining. And the movies are always a fun visual treat. Also, Michael Bay. I still have no idea why he receives so much crap while James Cameron is given a pass. Bay is just as adept a director as Cameron is. Anybody that still likes to tell me there's a difference between Pearl Harbor and Titanic will kindly receive a "fuck off" as you buy into the pretentious drivel. At least Bay knows his place (a mindless action director who can make pretty movies and fun explosions). Whereas Cameron believes his some gift to cinema which often leads to his films being poorly written, yet pretentious as hell. Seriously, I'll take Armageddon, Transformers, The Rock and Bad Boys over Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, and T2 any day of the week. Even though, yes, I know that will enrage many people and get me flamed for that opinion. Now, this movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) surely won't be a great cinematic piece. But as a mindless "let's make some cool special effects scenes and also blow some shit up" type of movie, it should be entertaining.
Why it could suck: Well, if I had to pick one movie from the franchise that was better, it's definitely the first. The writer for this third film, unfortunately, is the same writer from Part 2 rather than the first. Also, it's still Michael Bay. He's not the greatest of directors.
9. X-Men: First Class
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller, Jamie Moss, Josh Schwartz and Zack Stentz; story by Bryan Singer
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence
Release Date: June 3, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Action
What is it: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-MEN.
Why it should be good: A look at when Xavier and Magneto were younger. A backstory to where it all started. For such a thrilling franchise, this could be a nice take on the story and provide quite some entertainment and thrills. Plus, having directed movies like Kick-Ass andStardust, Matthew Vaughn is, I believe, much more adept at creating a movie like this than say a Jon Favreau or such. Vaughn also has the enjoyable Layer Cake under his director's belt, which very much shows off that he learned well producing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels andSnatch. Furthermore, his friendship and learning under the great Guy Ritchie, only further adds value to his role as a filmmaker. Meanwhile, the writers have brought us such movies as Stardustand Kick-Ass as well as TV shows such as Fringe and Chuck. Also, it has a pretty good cast.
Why it could suck: Well, those writers did also bring us The Sarah Connor Chronicles andAndromeda. Also, prequels sometimes have a tendency to not do so well. It's, sometimes, almost as if a prequel is a last resort when the writers have run out of ideas of where the current story can go, so they decide to go back and cash in on the name once more by filling in some gaps from the beginning. I guess only time will tell if this becomes a Batman Begins (ie a very good prequel movie that did very well to reboot the franchise) or it falls more in line with The Scorpion King (ie a complete waste of my time that probably shouldn't have even been made).
10. Source Code
Director: Duncan Jones
Writer: Ben Ripley
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga
Release Date: April 1, 2011
What is it: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.
Why it should be good: The trailer just makes this like it could be a cool creative story that provides for an entertaining thriller that could keep you on the edge of your seat. This is Duncan Jones sophomore release, after 2009′s highly acclaimed Moon. So, if he delivers again, we could have a nice treat on our hands and he could solidify his place as a talented filmmaker. I also really enjoy Jake Gyllenhaal. I think he's a great actor and should do fine in leading this movie. Vera Farmiga is also a really talented actress and one I definitely don't mind seeing. Meanwhile, Michelle Monaghan isn't too bad either.
Why it could suck: This is coming from an unproven writer. And while Duncan Jones' Moon was well-received, it's not rare that a filmmaker comes in to become something of a one hit wonder. Let's just hope Jones can deliver a worthwhile follow-up.
11. Battle: Los Angeles
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writer: Christopher Bertolini
Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan
Release Date: March 11, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Action
What is it: A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
Why it should be good: The official trailer makes it look so damn bad-ass. Maybe that's in part due to the great song selection for the trailer, but it looks just completely thrilling. It looks to be a sci-fi action movie that actually has some depth too. It sort of reminds me of Independence Day but with the seriousness, depth and emotional-center of some type of good post-9/11 movie. It's like we may finally get a really good sci-fi movie with the heart of the best war movies, coupled with the awesome actual and visual treats of some of the best sci-fi/alien movies. Eckhart is a good actor that should do well in this movie as well. Also, the writer's only past feature film work was The General's Daughter which I thoroughly enjoyed. So if that's any indication of the type of writing we'll get for Battle LA then we should definitely have a compelling story to go with the visual flare of it all. Likewise, Jonathan Liebesman has brought us The Killing Room which I felt was a fairly enjoyable suspense/thriller movie.
Why it could suck: Liebesman also brought us Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginningwhich was garbage. On top of that, movies like this can often take themselves too seriously and often times become pretentious and/or preachy and just plain unimaginative with no real heart to the movie (I'm looking at you War of the Worlds). Let's hope they avoid that here.
12. Cowboys and Aliens
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof; based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde
Release Date: July 29, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Action-Thriller
What is it: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.
Why it should be good: It just looks fun. It's like Indiana Jones meets Men in Black with a good western feel to it. This also comes from the writers that brought us such movies as Transformersand Star Trek, and such TV shows as Alias, Fringe and Lost (though in my book "Lost" might be a bad example, though others seemed to enjoy it). Also, there's a good cast (Craig, Ford and Wilde), coupled with a nice supporting cast which includes Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano. At the end of the day, it may end up being a mindless action movie, but still looks to be fun.
Why it could suck: Jon Favreau. I'm sorry, but the guy hasn't sold me. People seem to like him, but I'm not entirely sure why. The guy hasn't delivered any really great movies. And only a few decent ones. Well, Elf I thought was really funny. Both Iron Man movies were really nothing to write home about though. Both were enjoyable, but they definitely weren't spotlights in their genre. And the second one was panned quite a bit (though I enjoyed both, but the second was a bit lacking). And that's really the only movies (Iron Man) that he's done in this genre/realm. So that doesn't give me a big vote of confidence in the guy. His other movies: Zathura was crap andMade was decent. Nothing else to note really. On top of that, the writers did also give usRevenge of the Fallen, which I enjoyed well enough, but wasn't on par with the first Transformersmovie. And they're also responsible for such things as The Island and Legend of Zorro.
13. Apollo 18
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Writer: Brian Miller and Cory Goodman
Stars: None Given
Release Date: April 22, 2011
Genre: Sci-fi Horror-Thriller
What is it: Apollo 18 is a found-footage movie that claims to be "a film about the real mission to space in the 1970′s that was canceled by NASA." With the tagline "There's a reason we've never gone back to the moon", while implying a government cover-up of monsters existing on the moon.
Why it should be good: With these found-footage movies, they tend to go terribly wrong or be very entertaining. This one is looking to go the way of the latter. It's giving a fresh take on the rising sub-genre and taking us to an interesting location. Furthermore, it's basing itself on some real actual events, thus adding some extra layer to it. The viral marketing on this movie is going along nicely and the film has become something of a hot ticket. Gonzalo is a Spanish-born director who has had a couple of critically-acclaimed films in the past as well.
Why it could suck: It's kind of the nature of the genre. If they don't hit they mark, then they tend to really suck. Couple that with a pair of brand-new writers, and there are no guarantees for this movie. I'm getting a feeling though that this will end up being up there with Paranormal Activity.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cromwell; based on the novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert
Stars: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and January Jones
Release Date: February 18, 2011
Genre: Drama Mystery Thriller
What is it: A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.
Why it should be good: Liam Neeson is a bad-ass. Watching the trailer, I'm reminded of Neeson's past movieTaken. Seems to be that similar mystery action thriller type movie. And I absolutely loved that movie. Neeson made it a very good film showing off his bad-assness in it. If Unknown turns out to be as good as Takenwe'll have a very entertaining movie on our hands. Didier Van Cauwelaert, whose novel the movie is based on, is an award-winning author with multiple best-selling novels. The novel this movie is based on has met plenty of praise. So, we're sure to find that the story/source material is good.
Why it could suck: Two virtually unproven writers. While the source material may be good, they could mess it up and adapt a bad screenplay. On top of that, the director is responsible for such things as Orphan and House of Wax, neither of which were that good.
15. Red State
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Stars: Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Michael Angarano
Release Date: TBA (Screening at Sundance 2011)
Genre: Horror Thriller
What is it: A horror film in which a group of misfits encounter fundamentalism gone to the extreme in Middle America.
Why it should be good: Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors around. While last year's Cop Out was rather bland, this year he returns to writing his own material with Red State. Furthermore, he'll be treading into a new genre with his first horror movie. I love Kevin Smith as a writer/director and have been fond of pretty much all of his work. From Clerks to Mallrats to Clerks II to Jay and Silent Bob, everything Smith has actually wrote and directed, I've enjoyed really. Couple that with the enjoyable John Goodman and the "fresh off an Oscar-worthy performance" Melissa Leo, and we should be in for a real treat.
Why it could suck: As stated before, this is Kevin Smith's first venture into the horror genre. Some writers/directors find that there are just some genres that they can't do, while they're better suited for another particular genre. We'll have to wait and see how Kevin Smith's foray into the horror/thriller genre goes.