It's now 2011 and while we're officially only one year away from the impending apocalypse, we can at least take solace that we'll get to experience what the second half of the 2011 movie year has in store. Reboots, sequels, prequels, remakes, yikes! A knee-jerk reaction might be to poo-poo the current state of things, but it will be interesting to see if these films can silence the preemptive critics. Comic book movies will take the center stage like never before and this year will be important to see if Hollywood will actually try to take them to the next level or just run the genre into the ground to the point that it becomes a bad punchline in the future. Regardless, we have a rather stacked year that will be taking us into the embarrassment of riches that will be the 2012 movie year. 2011, might, therefore seem to be a litmus test, but it's an important one in determining how bankable current fads like 3D and a canon-connected comic book film series will prove. (Successful Avengers films with Marvel could mean that DC will go ahead with Justice League movies.) However, if we're going to jump the shark this year, let's hope we can at least do it in style!
We've already covered the first half of the year, we now present the last 10 picks for this year's films.
X-Men: First Class directed by Matthew Vaughn
One of many upcoming controversial reboots (well, sort of one) of still-recent comic book film properties, First Class stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as young and idealistic versions of Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto.) We'll see the humble beginnings of the X-Men team amidst a version of the 1960's even more riddled with social upheaval due to human distrust of mutants. The two best friends will form the first version of the legendary team of mutant heroes, battling an array of baddies like Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw, culminating in a terrible breakup that will leave Charles and Erik the bitter enemies they were destined to become. The film will also be riddled with classic characters such as January Jones (Mad Men) as Emma Frost, Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) as Mystique, and veteran actor Oliver Platt as a villain simply known as the Man in Black.
Green Lantern directed by Martin Campbell
The hype machine will be in full effect this summer when Ryan Reynolds puts on the coolest piece of jewelry ever conceived to become the first-ever live-action version of DC's iconic emerald-blinged hero. As a happy-go-lucky, love 'em and leave 'em test pilot, Hal Jordan, Reynolds will tackle the role with his signature mix of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm mixed with awe-inspiring action. It's a plentiful array of CGI effects, which may rub some fans of more organic filmmaking the wrong way, but the general feeling so far, is that this film seems to capture the experience of the comic book's setting, taking us from Earth to the outer-reaches of the galaxy policed by the Green Lantern Corps. With two sequels already rumored to be fast-tracked, we can guess that Warner must have confidence in this film for a good reason.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon directed by Michael Bay
The fact that this will be, in all likelihood, the last of the Transformers film series may be bittersweet for some, and a reason to celebrate for others. Regardless, after a general concession from director Michael Bay and the cast that 2009's Revenge of the Fallen was a creative dud, they're looking to take the series out on a high note. With what was seen in the recent teaser depicting the discovery of an ancient ship from Cybertron found on the moon, the film will become a mad scramble between the Autobots and Decepticons to acquire what secrets it holds. Along the way, it will mean a new girlfriend for Shia LaBeouf's Sam in Victoria's Secret Model Rosie Huntington-Whitely, massive destruction of American cities, some lunar mayhem, and the big-screen debut of the powerful classic villain Shockwave. -- All of which, will be presented in, get ready for it -- 3D. (Who'd have thunk it, huh?)
(Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 directed by David Yates
What else needs to be said here? Of course, if you've read the books, then you've already known for quite some time how this one plays out. (Harry quits being a wizard to become an accountant and writes a book about obscure novelty spoons, right?) However, the epic final battle between Harry and Voldemort will finally make its way from the pages of the book to the big screen, marking for most fans, the true end to their vicarious matriculation in the wizarding world that exposed them to things like spells, horcruxes, Dementors, polyjuice potions, and drunken quidditch tailgating. While a 3D release for Part 1 was nixed at the last minute, this film promises to bring all three dimensions, so that we can have entire theaters full of Harry Potters. (Because of the glasses -- okay, then...)
Captain America: The First Avenger directed by Joe Johnston
Coming just off the heels of Thor, the build-up to The Avengers in 2012 continues with the big screen return of Marvel's serum-powered patriot. The film sets us in 1942 in an America that just entered the second World War, focusing on a scrawny young lad named Steve Rogers played by Chris Evans (initially using CGI trickery to depict him as skinny,) who just can't physically make the cut to enlist in the Army for the war effort. The rest of the story, you probably already know: He volunteers for "Project Rebirth" and with the super soldier serum, becomes the perfect living specimen of a soldier. With sidekick Bucky (Sebastian Stan,) he's ready to take the fight to the forces of the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) and his band of scientists and elite soldiers who found even the Nazi camp to be a little too nice for their taste.
Cowboys & Aliens directed by Jon Favreau
This surreal genre mash-up is based on the cult hit graphic novel. Set in Arizona, 1873, Daniel Craig plays an amnesiac who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a mysterious shackle around his arm. -- Except, it's not really a shackle, it has a tendency to shoot frickin' laserbeams at people when he gets pissed at them. Stumbling into a small town, he discovers that he's a wanted criminal and is pursued by its tyrannical colonel overseer played by Harrison Ford. However, his personal drama will suddenly need to take a backseat when alien spaceships begin to lay waste to the small hamlet. Now, with the help of a beautiful soiled dove played by Olivia Wilde and local Apache Indians, the drifter with no memories with the shackle that shoots frickin' laserbeams is their only hope.
The Thing directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
It's finally time to get your flamethrowers, petri dishes, and lit metal coils ready, because the wait since John Carpenter's 1982 classic first film will soon end. However, this film, which shares the same name of its predecessor (which itself was a remake,) is neither a sequel nor reboot. -- It's a prequel. As it happens, if you saw the opening moments of Carpenter's film (guys in a helicopter shooting at a "dog"), then it is likely you've already seen what will be the end result of this film. This is the story of the Norwegian crew mentioned in the first film, who discover the alien entity that went on to plague Kurt Russell and company. However, don't expect a movie about a bunch of people dressed like Vikings who skinny dip in frozen lakes and listen to a-ha. This film will star Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an American paleontologist who, with a handful of other conceivably relatable characters, breaks the seal of the horrible creature's frozen cage.
(Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol)
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol directed by Brad Bird
Nothing much has been revealed about the story so far, but as you can see from the above pic, a bungee jump off Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, may express it just fine. Call it Ghost Protocol, call it M:I-4, it doesn't matter. Tom Cruise, returns for another go-round as super-gadget-wielding task force agent Ethan Hunt some 15 years after Brian De Palma's first film wowed audiences with its slick, smooth, ceiling dangling approach. This series has always been a stylistic chameleon when it comes to its various sequels. With over-the-top, slow-motion, bullet-time sequences from John Woo in part 2, and gritty, shaky-cam action by J.J. Abrams in part 3, you always got a glimpse of where the action genre stood at the particular time one of the films hit. So, where will it take us in 2011? While Abrams remained on board to help pen the script, the choice of director Brad Bird, whose only directorial credits have been in animation like Ratatouille and The Iron Giant is a head-scratcher. (Ethan's soul -- err, "thetan" gets trapped in an animated rat?)
Sherlock Holmes 2 (Title Not Yet Official) directed by Guy Ritchie
After successfully reinventing, or at least changing how the average uninitiated viewer saw Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective in 2009, Robert Downey Jr. will be rejoining Jude Law's Watson, taking more time away from his Iron Man armor to solve Victorian England's more perplexing crimes. (Dookie in the urinal?! Elementary!) This time, he'll have to contend with his most famous nemesis and intellectual equal in the notorious Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris of Fringe and Mad Men fame.) However, this Professor Moriarty won't be distracted by an obsession to prove that he's real and escape the holodeck of the Enterprise D, he is the ultimate sinister puppet master and has a nasty fate in store for 'ole Mr. Holmes. Whatever that fate may be, it's likely to be elaborate and classy. (Albeit fatal.)
(Characters of Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn directed by Steven Spielberg
So, some fresh new upstart director named Steven Spielberg will be tackling this 3D motion capture update of the popular French comic strip character which dates back to 1929. A fan of the comic, Spielberg was said to have seen a review for Raiders of the Lost Ark comparing it to Tintin, and since then, his aim has been to revive the character as a kind of Indiana Jones adventure aimed at kids. With Peter Jackson (The Official Master of Middle Earth) on board as producer and names on the script like Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Steven Moffat (current Doctor Who writer and exec producer), Spielberg has a good array of creative forces in his corner. With Jamie Bell as Tintin, and a cast consisting of Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, and Andy Serkis, it will have its share of talent to boot. While this will undoubtedly be the kind of movie at which you'll find yourself tuning-out the screaming kid in a nearby seat, there seems to be a lot of potential for stylistic and technological breakthrough with this film. That's certainly something anyone can appreciate.
...And that concludes this list of the 20 movies you'll "probably" want to see this year. Thanks for reading.
So, what are your moviegoing plans this year? Have any picks to suggest?