20 Most Anticipated Films of 2011

Looking ahead to the 2011 slate, I picked those projects that most interest me for reasons ranging from, “I can’t believe someone actually made this” to “Harry Potter!” I haven’t put down release dates because many of these movies either don’t have dates yet or are only tentatively scheduled. So check your local listings.

30 Minutes or Less

Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari star in this comedy about two guys who force a pizza delivery boy to rob a bank in 30 minutes or less. I’m assuming Eisenberg is the delivery boy. I’m glad to see him go for a broader comedy since he has thoroughly proved he’s the best actor for playing weird, intelligent, slightly disassociated young men. It’s time for Eisenberg to branch out a bit and this is movement in the right direction. Also, I’ll see pretty much anything with Danny McBride in it. Except Land of the Lost. After the terribleness of the Year In Comedy 2010, I’m encouraged that this list starts with a comedy and includes five others plus two comedy/genre hybrids.

Captain America: the First Avenger

Of the two Avengers prequels released this year (the other being Thor), this is the one I’m the most interested in. 1) I like Chris Evans and 2) I actually know things about Captain America whereas Thor is the Avenger I always forget about (he’s usually off doing Asgard stuff anyway). Captain America does worry me a bit—Cap is so incredibly boring as a superhero—which only stokes my curiosity more. This movie will either be really fucking awesome or spectacularly fucking bad—no in between.

Cowboys & Aliens

You may say the title is stupid but I say it’s brilliant. From a marketing standpoint, it makes total sense. You know exactly what the movie is about and it’s a catchy, easy to remember name. Success! Daniel Craig and Cranky Ford star as an Old West outlaw and sheriff confronted by aliens, as directed by Jon Favreau. Done and done.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

This is the opposite of a good title. It really is stupid and tells you nothing about the movie, except that it may suck. I’m willing to give it a try, indeed, even to anticipate it, based on the cast: Steve Carrell, RYAN GOSLING (talk about a step out—a straight-up funny comedy, not a weird, “let’s make everyone uncomfortable” comedy), Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei and randomly Josh Groban not playing himself. Whatever this movie is about—apparently when faced with divorce, Gosling helps Carrell discover his dating mojo—I’m in.

Drive

Ryan Gosling continues his return to the mainstream with Drive, a car chase flick directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish director behind Valhalla Rising and the Pusher trilogy. Adapted by Hossein Amini (The Four Feathers) from the James Sallis novel, Drive is the story of the mysterious “Driver”, a stuntman by day, getaway driver by night who after a botched robbery is on the run with a price on his head and an attractive ex-con’s girlfriend (Carey Mulligan). Gosling is going for Dude Approval this year.

Everything Must Go

I love Will Ferrell. No secret. I’ll see anything he’s in, except Land of the Lost. But this doesn’t look like your average Ferrell comedy, it looks more like the high-minded Stranger Than Fiction, in which Ferrell played a character that actually resembled a real human being and not Bugs Bunny. Everything Must Go is about Nick (Ferrell), an alcoholic who relapses and subsequently loses his job and gets kicked out his house by his wife. Nick’s solution to his wife flinging all his belongings on their front lawn is to stay put for four days and attempt to sell everything in a yard sale. Costarring Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

DUH.

On The Road

I’m on the record saying I think Kerouac’s classic Beat novel is unfilmable, which of course is why I want to see the movie. That, and it’s directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station) who is easily one of the top directors in the world, and he’s joined by screenwriter Jose Rivera who collaborated on The Motorcycle Diaries. Also, my #1 girlcrush Kristen Stewart stars as Mary Lou. She’s joined by Brits Sam Riley (Control) as Sal and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio) as Carlo Marx, as well as Garret Hedlund (TRON: Legacy, Country Strong) as Dean, Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee, Amy Adams as Jane and Kirsten Dunst as Camille. If anyone can make On The Road work on the big screen, it’s Salles and this crew. I’m very curious to see his results.

Paul

Another movie made buy a bunch of people I like (director Greg Mottola of Superbad and Adventureland, actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). I would watch these guys do just about anything. Paul is one of many alien movies this year (I guess we’re officially over vampires) but it’s the only one with Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig. And also a Winnebago. It’s the ultimate fanboy fantasy about two dudes (Pegg and Frost) headed to Comic Con when they encounter the alien Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) while crossing through Area 51.

Rango

Pixar is a let down this year with Cars 2 (read: We have something really awesome up our sleeve but it’s so strange no one will finance it so we need a crowd pleaser guaranteed to make bank so we can pay for Project X ourselves), so I’m relying on Gore Verbinski’s Rango to be my go-to cartoon for the year. Featuring voice work from Johnny Depp, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Claudia Black, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone and my newest inductee to the Freebie Five Timothy Olyphant, Rango looks super weird (lizard as Old West sheriff) but I’ve picked this as the surprise hit of the spring. As 300 and Alice in Wonderland have done in previous years, Rango’s seemingly out-of-nowhere success is going to leave box office analysts scratching their heads.

Sherlock Holmes 2

I really enjoyed the first Sherlock movie and with the same crew (Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and director Guy Ritchie) re-teaming for the sequel and joined by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace. Also new to the sequel are Stephen Fry (best known for a recurring role on Bones over here) as Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft, and Jared Harris (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Professor Moriarty. I have yet to hear any sort of plot synopsis or indeed, anything about this production at all other than that it’s happening right now and these are the people who are in it. Looking forward to some smart popcorn at Christmas.

Source Code

I loved Duncan Jones’ debut film, Moon, so I am interested in his follow up. And Jake G really needs a home run at the box office or else he’ll have to engage in another quasi-icky relationship that will likely kill my quiver forever. There’s pressure on this film to perform and its esoteric plot (a soldier in some kind of military experiment keeps reliving the same five minutes on a train doomed to blow up) makes its presentation challenging. With no clear box office draws to anchor it, will audiences buy this?

Sucker Punch!

I’m deducting points for the pointless use of an exclamation point. I had a writing professor who once said that no one should ever need to use an exclamation point for any reason, that word choice and context can communicate excitement without relying on the “dumbest piece of punctuation in existence”. We were forbidden from using it (which caused a problem when I asked how else I was supposed to express incredulity in first-person writing as I use exclamation points as my written Disbelief Face) and that lesson has largely stuck with me, unless I’m expressing my own sense of incredulousness. Sucker Punch! is directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) a slomo-sexual who never met a green screen he didn’t like. I’m not sure this movie actually has a plot but it looks amazing, and also has Jon Hamm. Score.

Super 8

What is this about? No one knows. Who does it star? Kyle “Coach” Chandler, Elle Fanning (a standout in Somewhere), Noah Emmerich (The Walking Dead) and one of those pointless Michalka sisters (they all look the same). Who is making it? Written and directed by JJ Abrams (he of good ideas and poor follow through) and produced by Steven Spielberg (he who has completely lost his touch). Why do I want to see it? Because Cloverfield’s ending pissed me off and Abrams swears this is not Cloverfield 2.0.

The Muppets

Written by Muppets enthusiast and all-around awesome dude Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and a TV show that has outlived its worth) and Nicholas Stoller (director of Sarah Marshall), and directed by James Bobin (co-creator and writer of Flight of the Conchords), The Muppets is backed by too many cool people to suck. The plot revolves around the Muppets attempting to save their theater and pretty much every remotely funny person in Hollywood is rumored to have a cameo. I’m just hoping for a lot of Statler and Waldorf.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 1

Oh please. Like you’re not curious. At this point, going to see a Twilight movie is like gawking at a car wreck. You know you should look away, that you’ll see something you wish hadn’t, yet morbid curiosity keeps you riveted to see how bad it actually is. Breaking Dawn has the added inducement of being directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods & Monsters, Kinsey—which I adored—Dreamgirls), who might be the only person in the history of the franchise, other than Michael Sheen, to realize Twilight’s inherent camp and play to that. Breaking Dawn, your salvation lay therein. Had to go with a Twitpic from Condon for this image as Summit Entertainment is notoriously slow to roll out publicity on these movies.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

This played to hyper-screaming praise at Sundance last year and after being dicked around in 2010 is finally getting released…in January. Oh great. It’s a winter mercy-kill. This is proof that increasingly distributors have no clue what to do with smart satire. Let me explain this to you, in very simple terms marketers: Trailer + showing it in theaters + teasing internet fanboys = gold. This movie practically sells itself—Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk of TV’s Firefly and Tyler Labine of Reaper, respectively) are a couple of hillbilly good ole boys who buy a “fixer-upper” cabin in the woods to use for weekend getaways and fishing trips. On their way to see their new home away from home they cross paths with a group of prepster college kids who mistake Tucker and Dale for axe murderers. What follows is a genius send up of horror movie clichés as the kids try to “save” one of their own from Tucker and Dale yet end up getting themselves killed in various gory, hilarious ways.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

This is another festival standout from 2010, this time winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Uncle Boonmee is a Thai film about a dying man revisiting his past lives with the ghosts of his dead family. I’m intrigued because coming out of Cannes I heard two things about it: 1) “It’s the greatest movie ever made ever” and 2) “It was so boring I wanted to kill myself”. Well now I have to know what it’s really like.

X-Men: First Class

Call it morbid curiosity. I grew up reading X-Men comics and I wanted to be Storm so, so bad. She had the best power by far (also, she has the best look and I wanted her white hair). Halle Berry’s wig tragedies aside, the first two X-Men movies were everything a comic nerd could want. But then came the inexecrable X3, which NEVER HAPPENED, and it was all in ruins. X-Men: First Class, however, is a shot at redemption. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) and with a cast headed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, Fish Tank) and featuring Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man, About a Boy), First Class could be a fantastic origins story. But then, Wolverine was supposed to be great, too, but it blew chunks and also NEVER HAPPENED.

Your Highness

James Franco and Danny McBride reunite with Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green and a script written by McBride and Ben Best (McBride’s long-time writing partner and co-creator of Eastbound and Down, in which he also stars as Clegg). Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel and Justin Theroux (Parks & Recs’ Justin Anderson) also join in. It’s about two medieval brothers questing to save…oh who cares? It looks hilarious.

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6 thoughts on “20 Most Anticipated Films of 2011

  1. Heidi

    WHAT??? Tucker and Dale is releasing this month? That’s great news. What day? Where? Neither IMDB nor the official website have this info.

    1. I totally psyched you out, sorry. When I started pulling this list together at the end of 2010, I heard it would get unceremoniously dumped in January but that has since been retracted. Which I hope means someone will do a decent job releasing it.

  2. Layla

    I’m really, really, excited for On The Road. I’ve been a fan of Walter Salles for years, and i love this cast. I think it could be the high point of Walter’s career, a person who deserves all the praise for his amazing talent and for making such beautiful films. I have high hopes for this movie.

  3. Molly

    Crazy Stupid Love coming on the heels of Eat Pray Love just seems like a huge marketing mistake to me… I can just see potential moviegoers going, “wait, didn’t we see that last year?.” Same applies for Green Hornet/Green Lantern for those of us less up to date on our superheroes… both trailers screened before HP 7.1 this fall, and everyone around me went “huh? didn’t they just play a trailer for this?”.

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