Happy 2011, folks! As the Holiday season takes its final bow, it's important to step back and focus on the important things in life: No, I'm not talking about family, good will of man, and all that sissy crap, I'm talking movies! And not just any movies, but movies, produced with budgets that exceed the gross national product of entire countries designed to do a few things: Give the occasional laugh and show s**t exploding! Yes, there will certainly be no shortage of blockbusters to keep us busy for the next 365 days, and because (I'd like to believe) I'm cool like that, I've put together a two-part survey of 20 movies that just may give you cause to pay for an already-expensive ticket along with a $15 bag of popcorn this year. This is the first part, make sure you check out the second part afterwards.
The Green Hornet directed by Michel Gondry
Seth Rogen plays a hard partying trust-fund baby and son of a murdered media mogul who suddenly finds himself with a ton of responsibility. For some reason (and I guess we'll have to find out why,) the next logical step in that responsibility is to join up with his father's employee, karate expert Kato to fight crime with all sorts of kooky gadgets. Given that the epic skills of Bruce Lee clearly stole the spotlight in the campy 1960's TV show, that element has been magnified into a comedic theme with Jay Chou now playing Kato. With early reviews seemingly positive for this project, which was once dismissed as an imminent bomb, this could end up being 2011's first big hit.
Sanctum directed by Alister Grierson
One may be quick to evoke James Cameron's classic underwater survival horror thriller The Abyss when looking at the formula for this film, however you may be more right than you know. "Inspired by" true events, the film focuses on a group of spelunkers who find themselves trapped beneath the Earth and forced to dive through the perils of the ocean to escape. With Cameron on board as executive producer, he's been working with director Alister Grierson specifically on the 3D photography techniques. With 2010 being likely rememered for its slew of 3D bandwagon jumpers, this epic just might have a chance to get it right with someone that actually knows what he's doing in this field. The film could also potentially be a breakthrough for the star, the (now former) Fantastic Four leader Ioan Gruffudd.
Drive Angry directed by Patrick Lussier
Thanks to the golden miracle that is bankruptcy, we can rest assured that Nicolas Cage will be in A LOT of movies for the next few years. Besides Season of the Witch (January 7) where he'll be playing a 14th century Knight fighting the evil source of the Black Plague (dear...Lord), Cage will be more in his element in this 3D feature as a father who, channeling his inner-Sam and Dean Winchester, breaks out of hell, hits the road in a vintage Dodge Charger with a beautiful waitress (Amber Heard) riding shotgun, looking to destroy the asshat cultists who kidnapped his daughter. With more than its share of classic muscle cars and hot chicks, this 3D action flick seems focused on a pretty lucrative target audience.
(Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez in Battle: Los Angeles)
Battle: Los Angeles directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Just about every year, we get privy to a disaster/alien invasion flick in which the marketing campaign's strategy is to let the public know as little as possible about the film itself. This film seems to be taking that spot this year. Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez (who I'd be safe to gamble will play a character with a chip on her shoulder,) play Marines who will find themselves right in the middle of an alien invasion of Los Angeles. What we can see, based on the recently-released teaser, is a plethora of stuff getting destroyed and vague glimpses of cyborg-looking alien invaders. This is hardly going to be a film where folks sit around and talk into about their feelings.
Sucker Punch directed by Zack Snyder
The latest effort from the 300 and Watchmen director follows a rather basic mathematical principle: Hot chicks + Guns = Movie. Oh, but don't let that simplicity fool you, it's looking to be quite the visual and stylistic breakthrough. Stealing the show at Comic-Con last summer, the film focuses on the dream world of a young girl called Baby Doll (Emily Browning) locked away in a mental institution, whose fantasy world become an outlet against her harsh reality. It's like Girl, Interrupted, except with more samurai's, cyborgs, short skirts, and stuff blowing up -- Which is a good thing.
Scream 4 directed by Wes Craven
Over a decade since the last film, the Scream franchise has been yet again rekindled (not rebooted) with an all-new entry as the rules of a horror movies have changed yet again. More cliches are ready to be shattered. We'll be catching up with Neve Campbell's Sydney Prescott and company, as well as some new main characters played by Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere. Poetic as it may be that 'ole Ghostface will make the blood will flow once again on Tax Day, it will be interesting to see how this franchise, which prided itself on being the innovative and twist inducing, will hold up in the current age of horror films. (Consisting primarily of torture fetishes and bad remakes.)
(Paul Bettany in Priest)
Priest directed by Scott Charles Stewart
In the post-apocalyptic world overrun with vampires, a sect of badass warrior Priests put the "mass" in massacre find themselves in booming business. However, Paul Bettany plays one (who, I kid you not, is named "Priest,") that, against the will of the sect, goes off the reservation and hunts down the ex-Priest-turned-vamp who kidnapped his niece. With the help of Twilight's Cam Gigandet who plays a Sheriff who is also the kidnapped damsel’s boyfriend, and a sexy femme fatale priestess played by Maggie Q, Priest is out spill vampire blood with his Batman-like arsenal of holy homicide, like his cross ninja stars!
Thor directed by Kenneth Branagh
This is it! The wild ride of Avengers films for the next few years officially kicks off with the big-screen debut of Marvel's Norse God. Chris Hemsworth bulked-up quite a bit to play the hammer-wielding exile from Asgard and now it's time to see if the rigorous training regimen will be backed-up with acting chops. From what we've seen so far, it's going to take the elements of a proper Shakespearean costumed epic and inject it with a healthy dose of ass-kicking. So far, so good.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides directed by Rob Marshall
Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow for an all-new adventure -- IN 3D!!! (Whoa, right)? Now relieved from the perfume commercial-like romantic drama between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley's Will and Elizabeth, Jack will finally get to shine in the spotlight in his quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth. Being led by Penélope Cruz's Angela, an old flame, Jack will have to contend with all-new threats like zombies, magical mermaids, and the most famous pirate of them all (besides One-Eyed Willie,) Blackbeard, played by the always badass Ian McShane.
(Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms in The Hangover: Part II)
The Hangover: Part II directed by Todd Phillips
The Rashomon of post-inebriation hijinks returns! This time, the gang travel to Bangkok, the land in which the great philosopher Murray Head claimed that "the bars are temples, but the pearls ain't free." It seems that Ed Helms' Stu is the one getting married this time. However, it won't be to Heather Graham's Jade, but rather a new girl played by Sucker Punch's Jamie Chung. Off-the-wall wackiness is guaranteed in this film, which recently nixed a cameo from the -- let's just say "troubled" Mel Gibson and will instead feature a cameo with ex-President Bill Clinton. (We'll leave you to decide if that's a compliment.)
Be sure to check out Part 2 for the rest of the 2011 picks.