Posts Tagged 'daniel craig'

The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

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Review: SKYFALL

Skyfall poster

Never before have I been so excited to see a James Bond movie than I was going into Skyfall. On my “Most Anticipated Movies of 2012” list that I never finished, it ranked #5, behind The Avengers and ahead of Django Unchained. The reasons for this anticipation? 1. I think both of Daniel Craig‘s Bond flicks thus far have been insanely awesome. 2. Sam Mendes is the director (bringing with him his amazing behind-the-camera collaborators). Finally, 3. The incredible cast; in addition to Craig and Judi Dench returning as M, the additions of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and none other than Javier Bardem as the main villain had me salivating. This was shaping up to be one hell of a ride, and the rare action movie that might also qualify as “one of the best movies of the year” material. That was the potential I saw. Then we learned this summer that none other than Adele would be performing the theme song, and that just sealed the deal. This was going to be incredible, no doubt about it, best Bond movie ever. Guaranteed. It seems no matter how old I get, I refuse to cease putting absurd expectations on certain projects. One of these days, I’ll learn my lesson. Or not.

Continue reading ‘Review: SKYFALL’

Review-a-palooza: COWBOYS & ALIENS & CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.


I loved this friggin movie. Loved it. It had gotten pretty solid reviews, but I don’t believe any of that stuff this year until I see it with my own eyes. Well, Crazy, Stupid, Love. delivers the goods. And guys, don’t dismiss it because of the title. I’ve already recommended the film to a few male co-workers and been quickly rebuked because of the title. Stop it. Grow up. It is well-written, funny, authentic, superbly shot and directed, and features a solid soundtrack. However, that all pales in comparison to the film’s best asset, and that’s its sublime [but whitewashed] cast. I should’ve realized with a cast this good that the script had to have been at least somewhat legit. I’m looking through Steve Carell‘s filmography, and yup, this is easily his best role since The 40-Year Old Virgin, which came out in 2005. It’s tougher than it looks to pull off the range this character demands. There’s real drama, real sadness, and real comedy. The guy comes across as an actual human being, as opposed to the live-action cartoon characters Carell usually plays. He’s funny without being goofy or over-the-top. And he’s subdued. Carell’s comedy is typically very loud and in your face. It’s the complete opposite here. You believe him as a loser, you believe him as a broken man, you believe him as a father, and you are even made to believe him as a ladies man after his character gets a serious style and personality makeover. Amazing work, I thought. I’m sure he won’t make it into the top 5 when it’s all said and done, but I put him on my ‘to be considered’ list for Best Actor. That’s how good he is, folks.


Next up is the impeccable Julianne Moore as Carell’s wife, whose admitted affair with the Kevin Bacon character kick starts their marital strife. Julianne Moore can do anything, it’s as simple as that. Between this, her brilliant work last year in The Kids Are All Right, and her work in the underrated Chloe, Moore is on quite a hot streak. Her character commits the ultimate marital sin, and yet because of the script, her performance, and the obvious mutual breakdown in the love between her and Carell, you don’t hate her. Again, not an easy acting task. The scenes between her and Carell are each spectacular in their own way. Bacon plays a supporting role, but does so with great skill and gets a few really good moments despite his minimal screen time. This is also yet another excellent link in the chain if you’re playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


The last person I’ll shine the spotlight on is the phenomenal Ryan Gosling, who I seriously need to consider putting on my top 10 list of best working actors. He doesn’t always choose parts that would let you call him one, but the dude is a movie star, no doubt about it. The guy is spewing charisma in this movie. The scenes where he is changing Carell’s appearance and showing him how to talk to women are magical. This character is a model example of the old adage “Men want to be him and women want to be with him.” I love the nuance of his performance, just the looks and gestures he makes that take a really good performance and make it great. His bromance/mentor chemistry with Steve Carell is just as convincing as his romantic chemistry with Emma Stone. Gosling just has that It thing, that presence that the best movie stars always have. He can do any genre, play any part. Frankly, I wish he would get some of the roles that are offered by default to Leonardo DiCaprio, because as good as he is in all these smaller movies (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson), he’s just as good in mainstream studio films (The Notebook, Fracture). I’m actually shocked he hasn’t worked with more A-list directors. Actually, now that I look, he hasn’t really worked with any. What gives? Mr. Scorsese, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Coen & Mr. Coen, etc., get with the fuckin program.


A bedroom scene that doesn’t make you want to vomit.

Every supporting role is similarly well cast. I loved veteran character actors John Carroll Lynch & Beth Littleford as the parents of the 17-year old babysitter who has a crush on Carell. Marisa Tomei is the only one whose character seems a bit unrealistic, but she’s so good and so funny that you can look past it. Even Josh Groban, of all people, comes out of nowhere and delivers a solid little performance in his big screen acting debut. The performances of the kids are also fantastic. There’s Joey King as Carell & Moore’s young daughter, Jonah Bobo (great name!!) as their love-struck 13-year old son, and Analeigh Tipton as the kids’ babysitter. There was a lot for almost everyone to do, which is incredibly rare. It’s a true ensemble, which I always prefer to star vehicles. The only problem with the cast is that with one exception (Liza Lapira as Emma Stone’s wise-cracking Asian friend), it’s entirely white people, and I promised to point that out, and I’ll do so now, even for a movie I admire. I’m not sure any of the individual performances will hang around to earn Biggie nominations at the end of the year, but if I don’t end up giving this film a Best Ensemble nomination, this will have turned out to be a spectacular year for that category.

Aside from the cast, the thing I liked most about the film was the script, and how that script was unafraid to confront certain situations, both amongst adults and teenagers, and the fact that it does so with a PG-13 rating is nothing short of astonishing. It takes an honest look at adultery, how a separated couple handles their kids, and it even deals with teenage sexting/nudity in a way that is at once unsettling but also undoubtedly true to life in today’s twisted world. I appreciate and respect that. Most movies choose to play it safe and pander as opposed to challenging the audience in any way to form their own opinions. There’s even a pretty big plot twist, rare indeed for a romance. There’s a confrontation scene near the end of the movie that is borderline classic, because of the near-perfect execution by the actors and filmmakers. This movie will have you smiling throughout, whether you want to or not, both from the humor and because you’ll like these characters so much.


I don’t want to wrap up without mentioning who the filmmakers I keep complimenting are. The film was written by Dan Fogelman, who is known mostly for working on kids movies (Cars, Fred Claus and last year’s Tangled). It was directed by the duo of Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, whose most popular credit may be that they wrote Bad Santa, but they most recently wrote and directed last year’s semi-controversial Jim CarreyEwan McGregor flick, I Love You Philip Morris. I look forward to seeing more from all of these guys down the road.

The only semi-major issue I had with the movie is that it never quite settles on a tone. It is at parts straight comedy, at parts straight drama, at parts melodrama, and it ends with some sap (though still funny and somewhat daring) that’s normally reserved for soul-draining romantic comedies. That said, there’s almost no sentimentality but for a few moments at the end. Other than that, it probably came across like this is now one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s not quite that, but I do genuinely love it, and because it’s only the 7th movie this year I can strongly recommend (you didn’t ask, but the others so far are Hanna, The Lincoln Lawyer, Win Win, Fast Five, X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter 7-b), I got a little extra enthusiastic. Forgive me. It’s been a bad year, but this would be a damn fine movie in any year. Go see it. Pretty please. And by pretty please I mean NOW! It’s an excellent date movie, or just go with whoever you’d go see any other comedy with. Again, gentlemen, don’t be afraid because of the title. Don’t be ignant. Girls, just drag the motherfucker out if you have to. You’ll love it, and he’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 minutes)

8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars


I enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens more than I thought I would (the advance buzz and reviews were decidedly mediocre-to-negative), but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough, but there isn’t much great about it, and there’s also nothing innovative about it other than the concept of aliens in the old west. As it stands, it’s a typical PG-13 summer alien invasion movie. The visual effects are above average, the stunts are really good, and the alien creature effects are pretty cool. It’s a very good looking movie and it flows well, but it does lack the heart & soul that takes a movie from “like” to “love”. That criticism is valid. The movie doesn’t do anything new with the western genre or the alien invasion formula. That said, I love westerns and I love alien invasions (though they’ve officially been played out), so with those two genres combined and the pedigree involved, there was no chance I wasn’t giving this movie a chance in theaters.

This project took about 14 years to develop from concept to graphic novel to a movie finally being released. I won’t bore you with the details (which you can find here), but such a long development period usually doesn’t bode well for the final product, though I think this turned out surprisingly well for a project that had so many hands in the kitchen. There are no fewer than 6 credited writers, which explains why the movie is pretty safe and doesn’t feel like anyone’s singular vision. It also seems like there are as many producers as cast members. IMDb lists 16 different producers, executive producers and co-producers. I’m fairly certain there was only one director (Jon Favreau), although 2 other directors (Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard) are credited as producers. Have you gone cross-eyed yet? Favreau is a capable enough director, and seems to be one of the cooler people in Hollywood, but I still think he’d be better off doing smaller movies and comedies as opposed to huge summer blockbusters. I for one am happy he’s not returning to direct Iron Man 3 (he’s off that franchise primarily because Marvel and Paramount forced him to turn Iron Man 2 in an extended Avengers trailer rather than an Iron Man story).

The cast is full of good names, and the performances are solid, but the script doesn’t give anyone the material to really stand out. That’s par for the course now on most summer movies, where the aliens, monsters and other computer-generated creations get most of the focus. We already knew Daniel Craig was a solid leading man (Bond 23 next year!), but I’m much more interested to see what he does in Dragon Tattoo in December than I was in anything he did here. Harrison Ford was pretty good, too, and it’s always good to see him, even if he has De Niro/Pacino Syndrome and isn’t really trying anymore. Here he did give a bit of an effort. I certainly enjoyed watching him more in this movie than I did in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Holy Shit What a Waste of Time. Wait a minute…how often does Harrison Ford work? Around the mothafuckin clock, son! Anywho, there are a bunch of other actors I really like in the movie (Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, and Adam Beach), and it’s always nice to look at Olivia Wilde, even if she is fast becoming the most overexposed actress in Hollywood. And the dog! The dog gives a wonderful performance, too. Don’t forget the dog.


OH HAI THAR!

The one member of the crew I’ll single out for praise is Matthew Libatique for his damned fine cinematography. Libatique shot both Iron Man movies for Favreau and was Oscar-nominated for his work last year on Black Swan. There a lot of gorgeous, classic-looking western vistas (the film was shot in New Mexico), but he did a particularly great job in the nighttime and darkened interiors, which are very hard to shoot on film without massive, conspicuous studio lights. The scene in the center of town when the aliens first attack is especially great from a lighting standpoint (though admittedly, it seems as though they shot that on a soundstage, where you can more easily control the lighting). They managed to shoot their low light scenes without assistance from big lighting rigs, which I was extremely happy to see. One of my biggest peeves in movies are exterior night scenes where you can clearly tell there’s a HUGE studio light just off camera (it’s usually hidden behind a tree) shining a glaring white light onto a darkened street or forest or whatever. I HATE that. It’s so friggin unnatural, but audiences have been trained to accept them. I have never accepted them. To me, they’re as obtrusive and inappropriate as a boom mic showing on screen. So that’s my “dark exterior/studio light” rant.

But yeah, the movie looks great. As an aside, kudos to Jon Favreau for supposedly resisting studio pressure to shoot the movie in 3D. He reportedly insisted they shoot the movie on film (shooting in 3D usually requires using digital cameras) and not converting to 3D in postproduction (a process that is becoming increasingly ridiculed). Bravo, sir.

As far as the aliens go, I thought they were pretty cool. They don’t have a revolutionary design, but they are a bit different from some recent aliens, and they did look cool in closeup. Kudos again to Favreau, who made sure they used prosthetics whenever possible, instead of relying on CGI 100% of the time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the alien ships or their technology (really, they came to earth to mine gold?), but the creatures themselves were pretty good. My only big problem is that in the final battle sequence, it’s unclear what can and can’t kill them. Sometimes several bullets and arrows can’t kill or even slow down one alien, but a single knife stab to the chest from a child kills another. Other times, one spear can kill them, other times multiple gunshot wounds in quick succession kill them. A little consistency would have been nice.

The film has its issues, but I’ll say that it is worth seeing in theaters. If you don’t have a big TV and surround sound, you’ll be missing out if the first time you see it is at home.

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13, 118 minutes)
7/10 (IMDb), 3/5 stars


Nice bracelet, brah.

-Before we go, I need to make a TV recommendation. HBO Documentaries recently debuted a fantastic new film called There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. I saw the title on my cable guide and was intrigued, so I looked at the description (“Diane Schuler and seven other people die after the woman drives in the wrong direction on a parkway.”) and my interest was piqued. First off, 8 people dying in one car accident? That’s fucked up. You usually don’t hear that unless a bus was involved. And what would make this accident so interesting as to merit a documentary about it? After that brief description alone, I immediately thought those two things, so I decided to watch the first few minutes. That “first few minutes” ended up being the entire 105-minute film. I couldn’t turn it off. It is a riveting piece of human drama.

Basically, this otherwise stable woman went off the grid while driving her two kids (son, 5 and daughter, 2) and her brother’s 3 kids (all daughters, 8, 7 and 5) home from a campground. Something goes wrong during that trip, and she ends up obliviously driving full speed the wrong way on a highway, eventually causing a massive 3-car collision that killed all the children but her son, as well as 3 men (ages 81, 49, 74) in another vehicle. The film shows as many details as are available about the crash, but the mystery is in the fact that investigators can’t confirm with certainty what actually caused Schuler to become intoxicated or otherwise lose control of her faculties, despite most of the evidence pointing in one direction (the autopsy revealed her blood alcohol level was almost 3 times the legal limit, and she had traces of marijuana in her system).

The controversy in the case derives from the fact that after the accident, her husband Daniel and sister-in-law Barbara have been very public in fighting the autopsy results and have insisted that Diane would not drive drunk. They did interviews on many major news outlets (clips of which are shown in the doc), hired their own investigators, and are even fighting a legal battle to exhume Diane’s body to do a second autopsy. Both Oprah and Dr. Phil each did an entire show on the case. I guess Law & Order also did a “ripped from the headlines” episode using pretty much the exact set of circumstances. What’s most fascinating about the piece is watching this husband and sister-in-law fight every piece of evidence showing Diane was probably drunk or high, or both. I’m no psychologist, and even I have no hesitation saying that I’ve never seen two human beings in such denial. It really is stunning to observe. The husband insists she somehow had a stroke or other “medical issue” (a term they both repeat over and over again), which caused her to lose focus. The documentary also shows the families of the other victims, and how some of them are offended by the continued public denials of Schuler’s family.

On top of the spellbinding human interest angles, the film is superbly crafted by director/producer Liz Garbus. Actually, now that I think about it, pound-for-pound this is probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2011. If you have HBO and DVR (or HBO GO), I beg you to seek this out and watch it now while it’s still in heavy rotation.

Apparently, this accident was a huge news story when it occurred in July 2009, but I can’t recall hearing or reading about it, or maybe I did and dismissed it as another car accident story. The accident has its own extensive Wikipedia page (which is a fascinating read itself) and inspired a documentary, so I clearly wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s a quick trailer:


And HERE is the official page for the film on HBO.com.

BONUS: Warner Bros. just released the first image from the upcoming Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-producer Superman reboot Man of Steel, featuring your new British Superman, Henry Cavill. I think he looks pretty damn good in costume. This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2012, but it was recently pushed back to June of 2013, which is sad, but it gives them almost another full year to work on it, which is good. Check out the flippin sweet full-size image HERE.

BONUS BONUS: Warner Bros. also released the first official picture of Anne Hathaway in costume as Catwoman. Find a good full-sized look HERE. Note that they went for practicality over sexiness, which is exactly what we should’ve expected from Nolan’s Batmovies. I like it, but now there are rumors that there might also be a sexy time costume as well. If there is, it’d be the first time Chris Nolan went down that road, so we’ll see. What I’m most curious about when I look at that photo is why she’s riding Batman’s bike. Is she not a villain in the movie? I dunno. I’m actually surprised by how many set pictures and spy video has come out from the Dark Knight Rises set. In my view, there’s been too much. It seems like every exterior scene they’ve shot in Pittsburgh has been photographed or captured in detail on video, including what look to be a couple of pivotal action scenes. I won’t even link to the set pics or video, and I’m probably gonna stop looking at it myself going forward. If you want to be spoiled, you can seek it out yourself.

My Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

2011, aka The Nolan Off-Year. Christopher Nolan has been releasing a movie every other year since 2006, so while we wait for his 2012 Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises, we must first live through 2011. As it turns out, there are some pretty cool and interesting films on tap. 2010 was a very good year for movies (a big upgrade over the disappointing 2009), so let’s see what you got, ’11. If you had no idea what was coming out this year, well, that’s one of the reasons you keep me around as a friend. I’ve done the homework for you. After digging through several lists of hundreds of movies coming out this year, here’s what interests me and tickles my cinematic taste buds the most;

Looking at this camera only reinforces that I never want to shoot in 3D.

1. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (July 1)

I can’t believe I’m doing this after the disaster that was Revenge of the Fallen, but I can’t help myself. The original was my most anticipated movie of 2007 and the sequel was my most anticipated movie of 2009. Michael Bay also had my most anticipated movie of 2001 in Pearl Harbor, so this is the 4th time he’s topped this list. Despite his many flaws, he’s like a drug I can’t get enough of. Combine that with my childhood love for Transformers and I’ll be right back in line for the midnight show, excited as shit to see giant fucking robots, explosions, and…an entire movie taking place at sunset (as per Bay’s requirements). I’m still hesitant to believe Bay has learned his lessons from the second movie, but after reading THIS big piece about him on Collider, my fears began to subside. The only way you can fix a problem is to acknowledge its existence, and Bay admits to almost everything I hated about Revenge of the Fallen in that interview. Whether or not he’s full of shit remains to be seen, but the way those guys described some of the footage they saw from Dark of the Moon got my geek antennae all warm and fuzzy again. The teaser trailer was really cool, and I think they spent more time on this one on the story, even though it is coming out just 2 years after the last film again (blame the greedy studio for that, not Bay). Bay also claims that this one will be darker, which is cool, but everyone says that after Dark Knight. Yes, they got rid of Megan Fox. No, I don’t really care. They replaced her with a British Victoria’s Secret model, so apparently Shia LaBeouf is just one irresistibly sexy bitch. I’m very interested to see what they’ll do with Shockwave as the main villain, though I guess Megatron will still make an appearance. I don’t know how that will work, but logic was never Michael Bay’s strong suit. Bay shot some of the film in 3D, despite previously bashing the medium as a gimmick. This is probably so he can make more money off the premium ticket sales. Or is that being too cynical? See, I’m already bashing the thing and I haven’t even seen it. But I am very excited about it! No, really! I know one thing they’ve done right already…they gave Optimus Prime his trailer! It better magically disappear in the movie just as it did in the cartoon. I’ll be very upset if it actually serves some practical purpose. [IMDbTRAILER]


BAM!!!


Yeah, Optimus and I are boys. What of it?

-As an aside, I dug through my old MySpace blog and found my Revenge of the Fallen review, which is probably the best, most entertaining movie review I’ve ever written. Forgive the small fonts, but whenever MySpace redesigned their site, they literally reduced the size of the blogs. It looked much better when I originally posted it. Check it out if you’ve forgotten just how ridonculous that movie is, and what a big mountain they have to climb to get the series back to where it was on the first film.

Still waiting for a moment like this in the live-action Transformers movies;

2. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (July 15)

Despite how disappointed and utterly confused I was by Part I, I still have faith that the series will end in spectacular fashion. This one will also likely by 2½ hours long, but most of it should be character-building action, which I’m all for. There isn’t much else to say here, but apparently all the cool stuff in the trailer was from Part II. I will remain spoiler free until it comes out, so who lives and who dies and what happens should all be new to me come July. Interestingly enough, since this is a huge Warner Bros. release, we may also see the first teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises attached to it. Here’s hoping. I don’t care if it’s just some Hans Zimmer Batmusic, the logo and the release date. Just give me something. P.S. Per my New Year’s resolution, I will not be seeing Potter in 3D. [IMDbTRAILER]


Spielberg on set.

3. WAR HORSE (December 28)

Unless it’s called Tin-Tin, any Steven Spielberg-directed movie will make my top 5 most anticipated of any year. Unfortunately, the last taste in our mouths of Spielberg directing anything was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, one of the most absurd movies I’ve ever seen. And it pains me to say that, but I have to be honest. This one is based off of Michael Morpurgo‘s book of the same name (which was later adapted to a stage play), and the story takes place during World War I (an underused time period in modern films), where a kid’s beloved horse is sold into the British cavalry and sent into action. The horse ends up in the thick of things, being used on both sides of the war, and the kid, too young to enlist, sets out on his own to find the horse and bring it home. That appears to be a story right in Spielberg’s wheelhouse, and I have every confidence he’ll knock it out of the park. There are no big stars in the cast (the most recognizable one is Emily Watson, playing the boy’s mother), and they did a huge search in the UK to cast the role of the boy, Albert. A kid named Jeremy Irvine eventually won the part. I’m very interested to see a trailer for this, but we likely won’t get one til the summer. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (December 21)

I have no real reason to be so excited about this, other than the hype I’ve heard and the insane popularity of Stieg Larsson‘s books. I became hooked when David Fincher agreed to direct it, and then by the excellent cast they’ve put together. Fincher cast his Social Network star Rooney Mara in the coveted lead role of Lisbeth Salander. Then they cast the great Daniel Craig in the lead male role, Mikael Blomkvist, and we also get Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, and Christopher Plummer. I heard an interview recently where Fincher admitted he was hesitant to get involved with another murder story, but that he was excited about the prospect of creating a movie franchise for adults. I’m so happy that Benjamin Button and Social Network have cemented Fincher’s place as one of Hollywood’s prestige directors (meaning he’s one of the first people called when the best projects come up), even though his fans have known that since the mid-90’s. By the time this opens in December, I probably still won’t have read the books, but I will have seen all of the original Swedish movies, which are coming up soon on my Netflix list. It’s interesting that the Lisbeth Salander of the Swedish movies, Noomi Rapace, is now being cast in some big mainstream American projects (one of which is coming up on this list). Needless to say, I’m interested to see what all the fuss is about. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (December 6)

A lot of people may disagree with me, but I think the Mission: Impossible films have gotten better and better each time out. This is usually the exact opposite of what happens with most Hollywood franchises. Though J.J. Abrams is not directing again, he’s back in a producing capacity and was involved in coming up with the story, both of which are good things. The director this time is Brad Bird, and this marks his live-action directing debut (he previously did the fabulous The Iron Giant, and The Incredibles and Ratatouille for Pixar). Normally, I’d be skeptical of an animation director taking on a project like this as his live-action debut, but not in Bird’s case. I think this was a smart choice, and I also like that Tom Cruise was humble enough to take part in a story that’s supposedly set up to phase him out of the series. Jeremy Renner is Cruise’s protégé in the film, and apparently if there’s a 5th movie, Renner would become the star and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt would be gone or reduced to a small part. Another very smart move I think. Not that I lack confidence in Cruise (I think I’m one of 15 people left in America who still love the guy as an actor), but in order for a franchise like this to continue, you’ve got to get new blood involved and turn over the lead role from time to time. Renner is überhot right now, and it was a wise casting choice. They seem to be borrowing a page from the Bond films, and that’s not a bad formula to emulate (new leading men, new directors each time, etc.). Simon Pegg returns, which incites smiley faces everywhere. Also joining the cast are the beautiful Paula Patton and the excellent Anil Kapoor (of Slumdog Millionaire and 24: Season 8 fame). We don’t know anything about the story, but some of it takes place in Dubai, and in the photo above, you’ll see Tom Cruise doing stunts on the Burj Khalifa, the recently completed tallest building on Earth. I can’t wait to see what they did with that. A few months ago photos came online (I couldn’t find it again to post here) of Cruise literally sitting on the top of the tower. It was mindboggling. That dude has some balls. Should be f’n awesome. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

6. SUPER 8 (June 10)

J.J. Abrams‘ next directorial effort is shrouded in maximum secrecy, but we know it’s a sci-fi movie in the vein of old-school Spielberg (who is a producer on this, but that could mean nothing). Or so we’ve been told. Regardless, after what Abrams did on Mission: Impossible 3 and Star Trek, I’d get in line to see him make a Barbie movie. You heard me. I really can’t say much else about it. It seems to take place in the late 70’/early 80’s and involves a creature or aliens on the loose. I know, that sounds like Cloverfield, but I’m assuming Abrams isn’t gonna rip himself off. The cast includes my boy Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and a bunch of other white people. Watch the teaser trailer and see if you can make anything out of it. Just the fact that they’ve been able to keep it such a secret in this day and age is applause worthy. [IMDbTRAILER]

7. SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 (December 16)

I simply adored the first movie. Turns out Guy Ritchie
was the perfect filmmaker to modernize the character, and they pulled it off with visual flair, clever action scenes, smart writing and terrific performances across the board. Almost all of the original cast and crew are back (though my girl Rachel McAdams has not been confirmed), and they add the aforementioned Noomi Rapace in the female lead, and Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty, Holmes‘ greatest foe. The introduction of Moriarty in the sequel reminds me of how Christopher Nolan saved The Joker for his second Batmovie. I’m not saying this sequel will be anything close to as good as Dark Knight, but I like the idea of bringing in your big gun villain after you’ve spent one movie setting up the world and your main characters. In that sense, there’s great potential here, but in the end it will all depend on the writing. Robert Downey‘s comeback still amazes me. After Johnny Depp, he might be the second-biggest movie star in the world right now, and no other actor can say they’re simultaneously carrying 2 franchises like he is. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

8. THE HANGOVER PART II (May 26)

I think the original was perhaps the best comedy of the 2000’s. I’d have to do some digging to see what else would be on that list, but The Hangover has to be right up there. With its massive success, a sequel isn’t surprising, but I have to admit, I was not keen on the idea of a sequel to this story. I mean, what could possibly bring these 4 characters together again, and what could they possibly be doing so that they’d end up in another set of such insane circumstances? After all, you have to up the ante for a sequel. I just thought (and might still think) that anything close to what they went through on the original happening AGAIN would be too much of a stretch. They haven’t released a whole lot of info on the plot, but this one will supposedly follow what happens when the guys travel to Thailand for Stu‘s (Ed Helms) wedding. So they’ll have to introduce whoever it is Stu is marrying (looks like she’s played by Jamie Chung), and then international hijinks will ensue. Since they got the cast back, and since Todd Phillips is back, I’m psyched to see it regardless of whether or not I think it should have been made in the first place. The first one was mostly based in reality, and I just think if that kind of stuff happens to them again, you run the risk of making them all look cartoonish. But I’m open to being wrong. I’m also very curious to see all these cameos (Liam Neeson and Paul Giamatti have small parts, and even Bill Clinton shot a scene, which may be a first for a former President). [IMDb – No trailer yet]

9. THOR (May 6)

For some reason, I get the sense this will be hit or miss. Either it’ll be very good or very disappointing. I have some confidence given Marvel’s recent history and how they’re tying these films together for The Avengers in 2012. We’ll get some carryover from the Iron Man movies (Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson and maybe a Sam Jackson as Nick Fury cameo or some other surprises), and Chris Hemsworth looks pretty damn good as Thor. We’ve also got Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, and relative newcomer Tom Hiddleston (who’s also in War Horse) as Thor’s brother, Loki. I admit I’ll be going into this one pretty cold, as I’ve never read a Thor comic and know next to nothing about the mythology. So it’ll be cool to experience some discovery of a new world. I’m curious how much of the film takes place in Asgard versus how much is on Earth. I like the trailer, and whatever the machine thingy they’re fighting is looks pretty badass. It’ll also be interesting to see what Kenneth Branagh brings to the table as director. He’s certainly never done anything with this scope. Hopefully, he placed some of that Shakespearean gravitas on the film. If Marvel had total creative control of the project and didn’t let him do at least some of his own thing, then you wonder why they’d hire him. [IMDbTRAILER]

10. THE BEAVER (April 8 )

Though I don’t think it’ll make any money, I’m just hopeful Mel Gibson delivers the type of performance that allows him to stage a comeback in the industry (though you could argue he won’t make that kind of comeback until something he’s in does make money). I’d like to see a Michael Vick level turnaround, and based on how good the script for this thing supposedly was, I don’t believe that’s outside the realm of possibility. And I think under the steady hand of Jodie Foster in the director’s chair, the circumstances are ideal for Gibson to turn in a great performance. But we’ll see. I’m putting this in the top 10 because that’s how much I love Gibson as an actor. I think he’s a vital performer, and I want him back in the mix, both as an actor and perhaps even moreso as a director. Kudos to Summit for releasing the film. I’ll reward them by buying a ticket to their next goofy Twilight movie later in the year. [IMDbTRAILER]

10 RUNNERS UP (in A-B-C order):

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (March 4) – A very interesting sci-fi premise in a real-world setting, based on a Philip K. Dick story (shocker). Matt Damon and the lovely Emily Blunt star, along with Mad Men‘s John Slattery. [IMDbTRAILER]

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (March 11) – This looks very cool, but at the same time I won’t be surprised if it’s a complete disaster. However, I love the way they’re describing it, which is that it was shot Black Hawk Down-style from the perspective of a group of Marines as they fight off an alien invasion in LA. I’ll see pretty much any alien invasion movie, but few of the filmmakers involved have done anything in the past that I’ve loved. I guess there’s always a first time. I hope. The second trailer (which I’ve linked) is much better than the first one they released. [IMDbTRAILER]

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (July 22) – Here’s another instance where I know nothing about the Marvel mythology. I’m also a little nervous that we haven’t seen a trailer yet, and that it’s kind of flying under the radar, even though it’s an important release, particularly with regards to the Avengers movie. At first I was hesitant about Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, but I’ve since been put at ease by some of the publicity photos. The cast around him is pretty strong (Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones), and Joe Johnston is a competent enough director. I’m reserving judgment, but they gotta show us something soon. I’m curious to see what kind of Captain America they present in this day and age. I’m surprised the PC Police didn’t intervene and force them to rename him Captain Democracy or some shit like that. Something tells me this isn’t destined to be a hit overseas. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

COWBOYS & ALIENS (July 29) – Yet another alien invasion story, though this one comes with a very cool twist. It takes place in the old west. I love westerns, and I love alien invasions. Put the two together…and I’m intrigued. You also gotta love that title, simple and to the point. I think Jon Favreau has proven himself to be a competent director of summer blockbusters (though I’d like to see some more ‘vision’ out of him), and with Daniel Craig as your lead, you can’t go wrong. Then there’s a grumpy Harrison Ford (who ALREADY WORKS AROUND THE CLOCK!!!), as well as Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano…and Olivia Wilde! Woot woot! Should be pretty neato, and whether it’s good or bad, it’ll be unique. [IMDbTRAILER]

NO STRINGS ATTACHED vs. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (January 21 & July 22) – I just covered this in my New Year’s post, but I also intend on seeing both movies. Aside from Ashton Kutcher, I’m a big fan of the actors involved, and it’ll be interesting to compare the two films as well as seeing if the first one to come out (No Strings) affects the other’s prospects at the box office. It looks like they’re both gonna be R-rated, which is also a plus. It’ll be good to see Natalie Portman doing something lighter, and I’ll watch Mila Kunis in anything. Sort of reminds me of the “two movies with similar plot devices coming out within months of each other” situations we saw with Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano, or Deep Impact vs. Armageddon in 1998. [IMDb & IMDb – See trailers in the previous post]

HANNA (April 8 ) – This movie looks like an absolute trip. Eric Bana plays the father of a 14-year old girl (the amazing Saoirse Ronan), who he’s trained to be a cold-blooded killer. Then there’s Cate Blanchett as a government agent who’s been trying to track him down. It’s directed by Joe Wright, who did an excellent job with Atonement. I’d have a hard time describing the plot, so just trust me and watch this trailer. Ronan looks like she could give Hit Girl a run for her money. Oh, and The Chemical Brothers did the score. Badass. [IMDbTRAILER]

SUCKER PUNCH (March 25) – Zack Snyder, the king of slow motion, returns with this completely original, visually stunning, utterly awesome-looking action/fantasy. Forgive me, but I’m just gonna copy the plot summary straight from IMDb for ya; “A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.” Snyder’s got this whole scenario set up where we get this really cool looking fantasy dream world that looks part Inception, part Sin City, part 300 (all movies I love). I just think this looks fantastic, and because it’s an original story, I’m rooting for it to succeed in the same way I rooted for Inception last year. This is easily one of the most fascinating films of 2011, and it’s not gotten a lot of attention yet. The cast looks fantastic (both literally and figuratively), and I really wanna see how Emily Worthing does with her first big starring role. Girl is hawwwt! [IMDbTRAILER]


OH, HAI Vanessa Hudgens!

MONEYBALL (September 23) – They’ve been trying to get this movie off the ground for years, and for a long time it had Steven Soderbergh attached to direct. Instead, we’ll get Bennett Miller (Capote) directing, with Brad Pitt starring as Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. This is based on the acclaimed nonfiction Michael Lewis book about Beane’s successful effort to build a winning team on a small market budget. Doesn’t sound like a really good basis for a movie, does it? That’s probably why it’s been in development for about 5 years. However, in the end, we’ll be getting a movie with a script that was worked on by both Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, two of the best writers in Hollywood (in fact, in my book, probably #1 and #2). We’ve also got Philip Seymour Hoffman as A’s manager Art Howe, as well as Jonah Hill and Robin Wright. With the talent involved behind and in front of the camera, I have faith that they’ve turned this into a story worthy of being told on the big screen. I’m also looking forward to seeing a sports movie that doesn’t require on-field drama to be compelling. And if you still think this sounds boring, consider that this time last year, few people thought a movie about the creation of Facebook would be worth a damn. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

SCREAM 4 (April 15) – I’m torn on this one. The original Scream movies (the last one came out in 2000 if you can believe it) are my all-time favorite horror series. That’s saying something considering I’m not a big fan of horror movies in general. I fell in love with the brilliant, original Scream in 1996 at age 16 while working at a movie theater, and I loved both sequels. That said, if we’re being honest, here we have another example of a sequel that probably didn’t need to be made, but much like the Hangover followup, we’ve got the original creative team back in place. Wes Craven is at the helm, and series creator Kevin Williamson wrote the script. As such, I retain a glimmer of hope that there’ll be some interesting new ideas here given the different world we live in now, both culturally and technologically. I kinda wish they’d rebooted it with a whole new cast, but Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox are also back. It’s tough to tell from the teaser trailer who the main characters are, but a slew of actresses (Anna Paquin, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Kristen Bell, and Friday Night Light‘s Aimee Teegarden) all make appearances, making me wonder who gets the Drew Barrymore/Jada Pinkett scene at the beginning of the film. They’ve been talking about making a 4th Scream for a decade, and now we have it. We’ll see if it was worth the wait. Damn, I miss my Scream mask and black robe. Scaring the shit out of the girls on Halloween in 1997 is one of my fondest high school memories. [IMDbTRAILER]


Mr. Scream rides the bus?

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (June 3) – By the way, there’s a new X-Men movie coming out this year. That’s how bad Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand was and how much it decimated my passion for the franchise. It was so bad that I couldn’t muster enough interest in this to put it in the top 10. And X-Men is easily my favorite comic series. It LOOKS like they’ll be getting the series back on track here, rewinding the story back to a point where Professor X and Magneto were friends. Together, they discover their powers and fight off some great threat (which is unnamed to this point), and presumably at the end of the film they’ll part ways, setting up the legendary rivalry. I really like this premise. And let’s face it, after The Last Stand, there’s nowhere to go but up. They brought in Matthew Vaughn to direct, who is hot off of Kick-Ass. We’ve also got two fine actors in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, playing Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr respectively. Like I said, X-Men is my favorite comic series, and Magneto is my favorite comic book villain, so I have high hopes here. However, those hopes are still somewhat jaded after the bitter taste of excrement that remains in my mouth after The Last Stand. Have I mentioned how bad X-Men: The Last Stand was? [IMDb – No trailer yet]

Other Notes:

-Why isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides anywhere on this list? Because it didn’t need to be made, and that’s painfully clear when you watch that trailer, which I won’t even link to.

-I still get confused trying to tell Green Hornet and Green Lantern apart. This much I know; the one with Ryan Reynolds in a green CGI suit looks incredibly dumb. And really, how many fucking comic book movies is this guy gonna be in? He’s been in so many different comic storylines (Blade: Trinity, Wolverine, now this) that it feels like the universe is about to implode. The Seth Rogen green superhero movie looks okay, though there are way too many homophobic jokes in that trailer, are there not? How many times does the Asian dude say some variation of, “I’ll go with you, but I’m not touching you.” Just awkward. Though I’m very interested to see what Michel Gondry does with a big-budget effects movie like this, I’m not expecting it to be very good.

-I didn’t see it, but I keep hearing last year’s Valentine’s Day was one of the worst romantic comedies ever made. Why do I mention this? You know why. Yes, they made a sequel. It’s title? New Year’s Eve. That deafening sound you just heard was every moviegoer in the country simultaneously sighing in disgust.

-Fox is going bonkers with origins stories this year. In addition to X-Men: First Class, we’ll be getting Rise of the Apes, which, you guessed it, will set up the Planet of the Apes mythology. As if there was a great demand for that. I’m intrigued that they got James Franco, Frieda Pinto and Andy Serkis to star. Might be good, might be crapola.

Adam Sandler‘s comedies continue to suck ass of late, but I have to admit, Just Go with It looks sort of funny, and it has a premise I can’t remember seeing before. This will mark the screen debut of supermodel Brooklyn Decker, who I’ve been in love with for several years. Regardless of whether or not it’s funny, just watching the trailer I can already see the ending coming from a mile away. Think he ends up with Jennifer Aniston? Spoiler alert!

-Even though I did not like Pineapple Express, the followup pairing of director David Gordon Green with actors James Franco & Danny McBride, Your Highness, does look hilarious. Natalie Portman, who’s about to get an Oscar nomination for Black Swan, will be hot in 2011 as well, with this, No Strings Attached, Thor, and the very promising The Other Woman. Attagirl.

There you have it. Those are the movies I’ll be keeping my eye on this year. Of course, several foreign films, documentaries, and indie films will end up in the mix (as they always do), but it’s tough to predict what those will be at the beginning of the year. Last I checked, I don’t have any tickets to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Enjoy your 2011 at the movies! And remember, we’re only one year away from the epic 2012, where we’ll get The Dark Knight Rises, a Zack Snyder-directed Superman, the third Daniel Craig Bond movie, The Hobbit: Part I, The Avengers, The Spider-Man reboot, the Star Trek sequel, and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

P.S. Do me a favor, be a smart moviegoer, and see as few 3D movies this year as you can. I will be seeing NONE. In case you didn’t know, everything that comes out 3D is also available to see in regular 2D as well. You don’t HAVE to see everything in 3D just because they advertise the shit out of it being in 3D. Unless it’s Avatar or a CG-animated movie, it probably ain’t worth it. Tell Hollywood you’re tired of paying an extra $3-5 for crappy post-converted 3D and you’re on to their greedy tricks. Do it so that our best filmmakers don’t feel they need to jump on board the bandwagon. When fucking Martin Scorsese
is shooting a 3D movie, you know things have gone too far.


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