Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2011

I was hoping to get my top ten list of 2010 out before this one, but unfortunately there are a few too many movies that I haven’t seen yet (apparently David Fincher made a movie about Friendster). The list below was a very hard one to boil down. As you will see in my lengthy honorable mention list, there are a lot of promising movies coming out this year. Plus, no matter how much research I do, there will inevitably be a few choice films that were off my radar. I noticed after finally coming to terms with the ten films I decided on that most of them embody elements that have been lacking in recent years. Whether it be a decent superhero movie, a properly-timed awkward comedy/drama (I refuse to accept the word “dramedy”), or simply a comedy that is actually funny, I have high hopes that this year will fulfill some of the cinematic voids that have been welling inside of me…

10. X-Men: First Class – Matthew Vaughn

Why you should be excited:

After the trainwrecks of X-Men: Last Stand and the Wolverine prequel, 20th Century Fox is trying to get their lucrative franchise back on the rails with this new prequel. At the helm this time is Matthew Vaughn, who famously passed on the third movie 5 years ago. Vaughn proved with last year’s critically successful (but box office tepid) Kick Ass and 2004’s Layer Cake that he can not only handle but bring his own unique flair to the action genre. The plot of the latest installment goes back to the beginnings of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr’s friendship before it soured and turned them into Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Audiences should get a kick out of seeing their favorite mutants as teenagers in the 60’s.

Why I am excited:

Growing up, the X-Men comics were my favorite comics behind Daredevil, so naturally I have pretty high standards when it comes adaptations of the beloved series. Bryan Singer’s films were as good as the X-Men films could be (though I could eat my words with the news the Darren Aronfsky is directing the next Wolverine film). As I mentioned, the past two films in the series have been bloated messes; trying to stuff too many characters into convoluted plots that give no respect to the original material. While the choice of Vaughn at the helm doesn’t thrill me, there is one deciding factor that piqued my interest, which is the cast: Michael Fassbender as Magneto, James McAvoy as Professor X and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Those are arguably three of the best young actors working today. The idea of McAvoy going toe to toe with Fassbender alone is enough to get me into the theater.

9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson

Why you should be excited:

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson adapts the 1974 British spy novel of the same name by John Le Carré. This is the first in the Karla trilogy (the others being The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People) and was famously produced for the BBC in 1979 with Alec Guinness as the lead role of George Smiley.  This version stars Gary Oldman in the lead role with Tom Hardy and Colin Firth supporting. Set during the heyday of the Cold War, this film is a more intelligent look at the world of espionage then you’ll get from a James Bond or Jack Ryan flick.

Why I am excited:

While I am excited to see Gary Oldman in a leading role, it seems lately he only pops up in bit parts, so the director is the main draw for me. 2008’s Let the Right One In was easily the best film of that year and I am more than just a little excited to see what Alfredson can do with this hallowed material. He showed that he was more than competent handling suspense in his last movie. Given his talent he should have no problem recreating the tense world of Cold-War-era British/Russian relations. Michael Fassbender was signed up for a role in this film, but had to drop out because of his obligations on the X-Men film. While Tom Hardy is no Fassbender, he is about as good of a replacement as you can find.

8. Paul – Greg Mottola

Why you should be excited:

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, co-stars of the British cult hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, come to America with this new buddy road-trip/alien movie. The past two films were collaborations with fellow Brit Edgar Wright, but he was unfortunately too busy making his video game/comic epic Scott Pilgrim vs the World, so the comedic duo called Greg Mottola to helm. Mottola is responsible for the criminally overrated Superbad and the criminally underrated Adventureland. The supporting cast features a who’s who of American comedic television stars: Glee‘s Jane Lynch, Arrested Development‘s Jason Bateman and Jeffery Tambor, the State‘s Joe La Truglio and SNL‘s Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and David Koechner, plus Sigourney Weaver, John Carroll Lynch and the always grating voice of Seth Rogen. Unless it completely misses its mark, this is lining up to be one of the biggest comedies of the year.

Why I am excited:

Ever since their brilliant television show, Spaced, I have been loyal to these guys, and for the most part they have not let me down. They even made movies that have been sub-par as a whole (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, The Boat That Rocked and Run, Fatboy, Run) but were still worth the price of admission. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are without a doubt two of the most entertaining movies of the past ten years. My anticipation for this long awaited third outing is slightly hampered by the omission of their usual director/co-writer, and I am on the fence about Mottola. The rest of the cast is fantastic, so despite a lackluster trailer, I am still hoping for another comedy classic.

7. Hugo Cabret – Martin Scorsese

Why you should be excited:

Do you need any other reason other than that it is the new Scorsese film? Okay, how about the fact that it is the first DiCaprio-free Scorsese film in a decade?  Not that I haven’t been a fan of his past four movies (particularly Gangs of New York), but it is refreshing to think that I don’t have to stare at Leo’s latest attempt at facial hair for a change. This not only marks Scorsese’s first attempt at a family friendly film, but also his first venture into 3D. I haven’t heard much about the plot besides that it is about orphans in 1930’s Paris and something about robots. As with all of his films, Marty has assembled a fantastic cast, featuring  Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Chloe Moretz and Emily Mortimer. (The one big thing this movie has going against it is Sacha Baron Cohen, who is pretty much cinematic kryptonite to me.)

Why I am excited:

Do I need a reason other than Chloe Moretz as the female lead? After being the best parts of Kick Ass and Let Me In, I am convinced that she is the most promising actress under 18 working today. I can’t wait to see what she can do under the guidance of a legend like Scorsese. Besides Cohen, the rest of the cast are all favorites of mine. Hopefully his part in the film isn’t anything more than a cameo. Unlike most of the films that have jumped on the 3D bandwagon, I trust that Scorsese’s interest in the format is genuine and not just a request by the studio. The only films I have seen thus far on Hollywood’s current 3D kick that have done anything worthwhile with the format are Tron: Legacy and Piranha. It would be much more satisfying to see a solid movie use 3D to enhance the cinematography and depth of field of its shots (I count Avatar as a cartoon, not a live action film).

6. Wanderlust – David Wain

Why you should be excited:

Well, the reason why the majority of the population is going to be excited to see it is that apparently Jennifer Aniston is going to be featured in her first nude scene. Aniston and Paul Rudd play a couple of suburbanites that decide they need to spice up their lives and move to a nudist colony. The State alums David Wain and Ken Marino wrote the screenplay with Wain directing. Judd Apatow and Rudd are producing. Wain had a big hit with his last film Role Models, and this looks to follow in the same type of vein.

Why I am excited:

At one point, the likes of Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman were all too proud to produce comedies. The past decade has been pretty bleak on the cinematic comedic front. We are stuck with crap like The Hangover and 2nd rate parody movies to pass off as comedies. From the ashes of the sketch comedy show the State, 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer was a beacon of humor in an all too unfunny world. It brought back the genius of classic parody movies like Airplane! and Mel Brook’s films of the 70’s and mixed it with the energetic improv of the 21st century. For most of his career, Paul Rudd seemed to be one of the few actors that we could rely on to be consistently funny… But even he let us down last year with Dinner for Schmucks andHow Do You Know. Now he is reteaming with his WHAS director (whom he also worked with on the uneven the Ten and the surprisingly effective Role Models) for this new comedy which will hopefully bring back genuine laughs that have been all too absent from the theaters. Rudd seems to be most in his element when he is working with Wain. Wain was on the shortlist to direct the latest Focker movie, luckily he just missed the cut and decided to go into production with this. (And yes, I am that desperate for actually satisfying comedy.)

5. The Descendants – Alexander Payne

Why you should be excited:

This is Alexander Payne’s first feature length film since 2004’s indie darling Sideways. George Clooney plays a middle age land baron who is trying to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is involved in a tragic boating accident. It almost sounds like a companion piece to his 2002 effort About Schmidt, but this is kind of what Clooney does best. Now that his action film days are behind him, he has found a niche in these type of well-to-do egomaniacs that need to fill the various voids in their souls. The whole film was shot on location in Hawaii, and Payne has stated that the soundtrack will be comprised of entirely native Hawaiian music. This would most definitely be higher up on this list if comedian Louis CK, who was at one point attached, was cast in the lead.

Why I am excited:

While I liked Sideways, 1996’s Citizen Ruth is the film that I always put ahead of Payne’s other works. That film combined a perfect blend of social commentary and character struggle in a way that was effective while not being preachy, and pulled off dry, awkward situational humor without it feeling forced and gimmicky. Sideways walked that line and almost ventured into the Noah Baumbach territory, but I have faith that he has gotten back on track. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m pretty impartial to Clooney. I like him as an actor, but I won’t race out to see a movie just because he is in it. It is also a little worrisome that this role sounds an awful lot like his role in 2009’s overrated Up in the Air. I am really excited to see Robert Forester’s name on the cast list. It has disappointed me that he hasn’t gotten better roles since Jackie Brown, so it is always a plus to see him onboard a project. I anticipate that I will be comparing Alexander Payne’s take on Hawaii to that of Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision of it in Punch Drunk Love.

4. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn

Why you should be excited:

To tell you the truth, besides the reasons why I am excited, I don’t have a very strong argument on why the average viewer should be excited about this film, aside from those that may have crushes on Carey Mulligan or Ryan Gosling. The story is about a stunt driver that drives getaway cars for bank robbers on the side. When a robbery goes wrong he ends up with a bounty on his head. Think of a mix between The Stunt Man and The Naked City.

Why I am excited:,

This is the new film by the Danish director of the spastically violent Bronson and 2009’s viking epic Valhalla Rising. Both films are notable for not being very good as a whole, but being distinctly unforgettable in their imagery. He’s like a stripped-down male version of Julie Taymor (Titus, Across the Universe) , apparently, only able to make mediocre films that are fun to watch. Hopefully he can break that mold and combine his inimitable visuals with a solid script here with a proper budget (and an amazing cast). A big draw for me is the inclusion of Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston. For three seasons he has made that show the best on television and now this year he is making the jump to feature films with this and Tom Hanks’ directorial follow up to That Thing You Do, Larry Crowne. Also worth noting is the casting of the villain, Albert Brooks?

3. The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made – James Bobin

Why you should be excited:

Once upon a time Muppet movies were the embodiment of perfect family entertainment. 1979’s The Muppet Movie, 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper and 1984’s Muppets Take Manhattan walked that narrow magic line that so many studios have tried to emulate since: movies for kids that are equally entertaining for adults. They were able to be both funny and touching, yet not saccharine and annoying. And somehow these movies could be packed full of how-did-they-get-them cameos without feeling too bloated. Once Jim Henson died and his son took over, all that changed. Starting with 1992’s The Muppet’s Christmas Carol the movies began to lose their magic. By the middle of this decade, Disney had turned the once legendary franchise into made-for-TV crap like 2008’s A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. All seemed lost until comedian Jason Segel decided enough was enough and began a campaign to bring back the magic. The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made is a full fledged attempt to make a Muppet movie that would make papa Henson proud.

Why I am exicited:

I love it when a studio not only admits that they have done wrong, but decides that they are going to fix it. Even Disney, a studio famous for bastardizing their most sacred of franchises, had to own up to the fact the the quality of Muppet films aren’t what they used to be. Segel and his writing partner wrote a script and pitched it to Disney, basically arguing that they could produce a film that would be in the tradition of those first three movies. On board to direct is James Bobin, who presided over all of the episodes of the series “Flight of the Conchords”. Also on board from the series is Bret McKenzie, who will act as musical supervisor. The cast is pretty solid. Segel is the lead, Amy Adams is the love interest, Chris Cooper is the villain and the most attractive woman in Hollywood, Rashida Jones, has a supporting role. The cameos that have been announced include Alan Arkin, Billy Crystal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ricky Gervais, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl and Lady Gaga. I have been waiting for a proper Muppet movie for along time, and it seems like the right cast and crew are about to make it possible.

2. Tree of Life – Terrence Malick

Why you should be excited:

It’s a new Terrence Malick film.

Why I am excited:

It’s a new Terrence Malick film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg

Why you should be excited:

After the critical successes of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, Cronenberg reunites for a third time with his current go to guy, Viggo Mortensen. This time they are tackling the friendship/rivalry between the infamous analysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Mortensen steps into Freud’s shoes and Michael Fassbender is handling the role of Jung. Set on the eve of WWI, it centers around the love triangle between the two influential cognitive thinkers and the pioneering female Russian psychoanalysts Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley). Vincent Cassel also makes an appearance as Freud’s disciple and future anarchist Otto Gross. With his last two films Cronenberg has more than demonstrated that he can step outside the genre of body horror that made him famous and still get legendary results. With two scene stealers on the scale of Mortensen and Fassbender chewing up every piece of scenery available, I am betting that this will be one of the best dramas of the year.

Why I am excited:

I have to admit that the plot is enough to put this at the top the list alone (though it does sound like a sociologist’s wet dream). But the real reason it is my number one most anticipated film of 2011 is the cast. Mortensen and Fassbender are my two favorite actors working today. And the idea of the two of them squaring off portraying historical figures of this magnitude all under the guidance of Cronenberg is almost too much for me to handle. While he has disappointed some of his die hard fan base with his last three movies, I have welcomed Cronenberg’s maturing into more realistic fare. The two films I’ve mentioned and  2002’s Spider had him displaying the horrors that exist in the human mind.  This is a departure from subjects that revolve around the external consternation of the science fiction world that he refined for over 20 years, so it will be interesting to see how Mortensen holds up against some of the other greats that have tried their luck at portraying Freud.

Special Feature: A Brief History of Freud in Cinema!

The first notable portrayal of the Austrian turn-of-the-century mama’s boy was Montgomery Clift in 1962’s little seen John Huston picture, Freud. The remainder of the 60’s would see the character of Freud pop up as bit parts in American TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie. In the 70’s Freud lived mostly in made for TV movies. The only real gem in this decade was the Sherlock Holmes’ adventure The Seven-Per-Cent Solution from 1976. It featured Alan Arkin as the wizard of id trying to cure Holmes of his cocaine habit. Freud is used in the early 80’s rather well in two rather ludicrous comedies. The first is 1983’s Lovesick, where we see Sigmund (played by Alec Guiness) in ghost form giving love advice to Dudley Moore. And 1984’s cult favorite The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud, starring none other than Bud Cort as the psycho-sexual psychotherapist (and his real-life wife Carol Kane as Mrs. Freud). The remainder of the 80’s had Freud continue to show up randomly to give people advice, the best use in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. BBC did do a self titled mini-series, but unfortunately that was only seen by a handful of elderly Brits. Since then, not many notable entries have been added to Freud’s IMDB page (besides Max von Sydow in an episode of The Young Adventures of Indiana Jones), so the door is wide open for Viggo to stake his claim as the ultimate celluloid Freud (Cellufreud?).

Honorable Mentions of 2011 (in no particular order and ever-growing):

The Cold Light of Day – Mabrouk El Mechri

The Ides of March – George Clooney

Contagion – Steven Soderbergh

Moneyball – Bennett Miller

Crazy Stupid Love – Glenn Ficarra , John Requa

The Beaver – Jodie Foster

Jane Eyre – Cary Fukunaga

Rise of the Apes – Rupert Wyatt

Melancholia – Lars von Trier

13 Assassins – Takashi Miike

Immortals – Tarsem Singh

30 Minutes or Less – Ruben Fleischer

Dream House – Jim Sheridan

The Thing – Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

Man on a Ledge – Asger Leth

The Man with the Iron Fist – RZA

Meek’s Cutoff – Kelly Reichardt

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One Response to “Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2011”

  1. Wow, The Invention of Hugot Cabret? That is going to be awesome for so many reasons. It’s not just a family film about robots, it’s the mystery behind a burned out automaton against the backdrop of early French cinema. When my 11 year old sister finished reading the book, the two of us spent the whole night watching old Georges Melies silent films.

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