You may have read my favourite films of 2010 list and/or my least favourite movies of 2010. Now, on the eve of this year shifting into the next, I thought I’d take the opportunity to publish a list of the ten films I’m most excited about in 2011.
(Like Paul, the new film from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and a movie I thought deserved a slot dislocated from the rest, on account of the trailer making me snort tea out my nose when I watched it the other day).
Ten films will follow, with a justification for each, starting with the movie closest to release at the top and the furthest away at the bottom. But please do tell me what films you’re most excited about below that, be it True Grit, X-Men: First Class or, um, The Smurfs Movie - although be warned, anyone who says Transformers: Dark Of The Moon will be barred from this site indefinitely.
What is it: Mark Wahlberg’s third collaboration with director David O. Russell adapts the ‘true’ story of professional boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Amy Adams also appears, early reviews have been promising and none other than Sports Illustrated have dubbed the film the best sports movie of the decade and “one of the best since Raging Bull”.
Why you should care: After The Happening, Max Payne and The Lovely Bones, few need a hit quite like Wahlberg does. Few secrete machismo quite like Bale does either – if there were an Oscar for ‘star most likely to chin someone’ it’d be a toss up between him and Russell Crowe every year. That combination of desperation, brute force and Russell’s polish seems enough to create a boxing movie worth being excited about – or at least something to finally quell the disappointment of Rocky Balboa.
When you can see it: February 4th, 2011.
What is it: It's quite possible that The Beaver will prove to be the salvation of Mel Gibson. Directed by and starring Jodie Foster, the film tells the story of Walter Black (played by Gibson), a depressed CEO of a toy company who dons a discarded beaver handpuppet to better communicate with his wife and kids. Yeah, it sounds mental – but the script, written by Kyle Killen, topped the Blacklist in 2008, a ranking of the best-unproduced screenplays.
Why you should care: The film was supposed to be in cinemas now, but saw its release delayed on account of Gibson being exposed as a bully, an idiot and a massive racist. Yet it’s interesting that his role in Foster's film is that of a man whose world is falling apart, in many ways, mirroring the Australian’s real world situation. Beaver puppet or not, nobody plays ‘postal’ like Gibson, his personal failings never stopped him from being an astonishing actor, and if fans can see some humanity in his forthcoming role, maybe they’ll grant him and his career a second chance. Maybe...
When you can see it: March 23rd, 2011.
What is it: Written by Steve Shibuya and Zack Snyder, and directed by Snyder, Sucker Punch is the all female, live action fantasy adventure the director reportedly intended to make before fannishly interpreting Watchmen in 2009 - in turn making the most boring graphic novel adaptation of the year. Expect Snyder’s usual style over substance, but also a film that looks much less plodding than his last.
Why you should care: Depending on your viewpoint, Sucker Punch, the story of a 1950’s schoolgirl escaping an asylum and impending lobotomy for a world of dragons and Samurai, either looks exciting, or stupid, or a little bit of both. I’m a fan of the director's comic book inspired visuals, if not much of his film's narrative, and so I’m hoping that even if the film transpires to be akin to the sniggering schoolboy drivel of 300, I can put Slayer on my iPod and let my eyes have an orgy with the dragon battles onscreen.
When you can see it: March 25th, 2011.
What is it: Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Eastbound & Down), Your Highness looks like a Rated R A Knights Tale or Dude, Where’s My Car? with jousting and minotaurs. It also sports one of the funniest pre-release trailers I’ve seen in an absolute age.
Why you should care: Because the director's resume suggests the gags will zing and the comedy will be feel good, as well as featuring subject matter quite unlike yer increasingly standard ‘let’s cast Seth Rogan as a stoned loser’ modern American comedy. Man of the moment James Franco also features, and Natalie Portman (who might as well get a t-shirt printed up saying ‘I own 2011’ now). Plus, Danny McBride is in the lead role - and he’s a funny fucking guy.
When you can see it: April 8th, 2011.
What is it: The long-awaited, and in fairness pretty much unexpected, fourth installment in Wes Craven’s horror franchise marks a return to regular employment for Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette. Like the two films that followed the 1996 original, another two are scheduled to follow this. Can creator Wes Craven revitalize western horror again?
Why you should care: It’s easy to forget the bolt in the arm Scream gave to the flagging western horror scene of the mid-nineties. It took a satirical but affectionate look at horror movie convention, infused the film with the brightest stars of its time, and introduced one of the genres most iconic villains (and one that could be freshened up with each movie that followed) to terrorize them. As torture porn heavyweight Saw winds down its traps for good (maybe), it’s an interesting time for a new Scream to come along.
When you can see it: April 15th, 2011.
What is it: 2011 is a big year for superhero film debuts (Green Lantern is due in June, Captain America in July) yet the first cinematic outing for Marvel's Norse God Thor has been handled by Brit thesp Kenneth Branagh - which should make for a more cerebral movie than if it had been directed by, say, Jon Favreau. Chris Hemsworth plays the titular lead – he was in Home and Away y’know – Natalia Portman also stars. And that’s before mentioning a hyperactive Anthony Hopkins and his weird metal eye.
Why you should care: Thor has long been one of the jewels in Marvel's crown, and while the production hasn’t been seamless (Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaugh was signed on to direct as late as 2008), early reports suggest a more fantastical, otherworldly movie than, y'know, Batman brooding about his dead parents in an alleyway. Within a superhero scene obsessed with showing the humanity of its heroes, Thor looks set to celebrate the super instead - I'm excited about that.
When you can see it: May 6th, 2011.
The Hangover: Part II
What is it: The sequel to the surprise hit of 2009 arrives next year amidst a flourish of controversy. Liam Neeson replaces Mel Gibson (axed from his cameo after the returning cast got in a huff about sharing screentime with... yeah, y'know), the hardly puritanical Mike Tyson gets another shot, while none other than former U.S. President Bill Clinton is on hand for some screentime too. Less controversially, Paul Giamatti also gets a role. Never, ever a bad thing.
Why you should care: Despite its clichéd lads-on-tour set-up, the hit rate of good gags in the first outing was second to none, with Zach Galifianakis stealing the show throughout (before spending nearly all of 2010 being as omnipresent as gas and as funny as a bin full of dead dogs). Given the original writers all return, there’s every chance that round two will hit the spot too. Of course, there’s also the chance they’ve all spanked their budget away in Bangkok and will turn in an absolute shocker - yet given the variables outlined prior, it’ll be spectacle if nothing else.
When you can see it: May 27th, 2011.
What is it: I watched so many new alien invasion movies in 2010, I ended up writing a guide on how to survive one – using what I’d learned from cinema. Keep it handy, there’s much more to come. Battle: Los Angeles arrives in March, The Thing prequel in April, and at some point, Iron Sky, a film about Nazis in space, directed by Timo Vuorensola, singer of Finnish black metal band Älymystö. JJ Abrams/Steven Spielberg collaboration Super 8 excites me most though...
Why you should care: It's Abrams vs. Spielberg: the geek culture face-off of the year. Lost vs. Jaws, Cloverfield vs. Jurassic Park, Alias vs. EchuffinT.. If that doesn’t excite you, go check out the bread trail of viral biased geekery being left at the film's website. If you’re still not excited you’re probably one of the bullies who used to tear up my comics at school - in which case, no, you can't have my lunch money. I'm thirty and have muscles now.
When you can see it: June 10th, 2011.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
What is it: The fantasy cinema event of the year, and the conclusion to the decade long adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron (which sounds like the name of the world's most middle-class boyband). Fans of the series have the finale's release date etched deep into their consciousness, but if you’re a latecomer, why not spend some time with my A – Z of Harry Potter?
Why you should care: If that ‘fantasy cinema event of the year’ thing didn’t sway you, be assured that the most recent Potter films have been very good. Somehow, against all odds (Dobby, basically), the scarfaced boy wizard has succeeded in dragging the movies from irritating childsfare to epic all-ages fantasy cinema in the decade that’s passed since his first outing. On the basis of Part 1, the last film promises to be darker and more thrilling than night. Oh, and Dobby is now dead, so don’t let that put you off either.
When you can see it: July 15th, 2011.
What is it: The sequel to the 2006 Pixar movie features a voicecast that includes the likes of Owen Wilson, Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, and is helmed by Mr U.S. Animation himself, John Lasseter. Random macabre Cars fact: three voice actors from the original film have died since it’s release, Joe Ranfit in 2005 and George Carlin and Paul Newman in 2008.
Why you should care: Cars had the distinction of being the only Pixar movie I’m not really fussed about - but I think that had as much to do with me being disinterested in cars as it did the film. After 2009’s Up and this year's Toy Story 3, the animators are on a purple patch, even by their lofty standards. I’m looking forward to giving the series another go. It’s Pixar. I’m excited – unless you’re Shrek, who isn’t?
When you can see it: July 22nd, 2011.