Posts Tagged 'natalie portman'

The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)

The 28th Annual Biggie Awards

for the love of movies.

Celebrating achievements in film for the year 2016

So 2016 has come and gone. A year I had big hopes for about 15 months ago turned out to be quite a dud in the grand scheme of things. It was even worse than 2015. For the second year in a row, I rated no theatrical release a ‘9’ on IMDb. There were no masterpieces, no all-time greats. There were some really good movies, and I put almost 20 more films on my “Movies I Love” list, but in terms of quality and the ability to stand the test of time, even the second or third-best movies of most past years would have easily won my Best Picture award over this lot.

Lobster Farrell bury
Me waiting for 2016 to be over.

2016 also broke a pretty long streak of spectacular even-numbered years. It was such a mediocre year that it even gave us a Steven Spielberg movie I couldn’t bring myself to watch (The BFG). General cinematic malaise aside, there were, as always, some highlights…

Continue reading ‘The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)’

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THOR review


OH, HAI Loki. OH, HAI Thor.


Pass through my portal? Sheeeeeee-it.

As a disclaimer, I went into Thor having read none of the comics (I was not a comic book reader as a kid) and with no expectations or loyalty to the characters. I thought it looked cool, I liked the casting, and I was very interested in what Kenneth Branagh would bring as a director, given that he was known primarily as a Shakespearean actor and director, and not someone who comes to mind when you think of “summer entertainment”. I was also curious what drew Natalie Portman to the project. Was the script that good (unlikely) or is she really a closet geek? She certainly doesn’t need to do this kind of movie anymore. If I were to rank this among the 4 big comic book movies this summer (X-Men: First Class, Captain America and Green Lantern being other others) according to my level of anticipation for them, I’d probably have ranked it second behind X-Men. I liked the idea of being introduced to a new fantasy universe in Asgard, but I was hesitant because the effects work shown in the trailers was not all that impressive. Also, almost every advance review I’d seen claimed that the two-thirds of the film that take place in Asgard were not as good as the one-third that takes place on Earth. No matter! I went in with an open mind, not expecting anything great, but hoping it would pleasantly surprise me. Ummmm…it did not.

I didn’t dislike the movie, and I didn’t really like it, either. It was just okay. It’s certainly harmless in the sense that it’s entertaining. I’m willing to bet it will be well-received by general audiences, but I thought there was more potential here. In the end, it just looks like Kenneth Branagh was not ready to be handed the reigns to a $150 million comic book/action/fantasy movie. At the very least, he wasn’t ready to deliver one in the short window that the studios now demand for these summer blockbusters. I blame the movie’s failures first and foremost on the script, and then on the inexperience of the director. Since this seems to be working well for me, we’ll again do the liked/didn’t like format. I’ll try to keep it spoiler free, but where I do delve into spoilers, I shall let you know.

WHAT I LIKED

Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He does a solid job with the opportunities he’s given, but never really gets the chance to shine. Like most critics, I agree that he’s at his best in the Earthbound scenes, where he does a very good fish-out-of-water routine (this is where the film gets most of its humor). He has the best line in the entire movie when he walks into the town’s pet shop and demands, “I need a horse!” That was one of maybe 2 times I LOL’d during the flick. I look forward to seeing him return in The Avengers, as I trust Joss Whedon will have a better idea what to do with him than Branagh and the screenwriters here did.

Idris Elba as Heimdall, the gatekeeper dude at the end of the rainbow bridge (which is what they actually call it). I like how they modified his voice, and he has an almost Klingon-like sense of duty and honor, which I really enjoyed. He was easily my favorite character in this movie. Heimdall is white in the comics, but apparently the filmmakers noticed the utter lack of minorities in their cast (Elba is one of two non-whites in the cast), and decided to throw the colored folks a bone ala Michael Clarke Duncan playing Kingpin in Daredevil. The fact that he doesn’t die is a fucking miracle.

-I also liked Anthony Hopkins as Odin, though I just wish the script were worthy of his talents. Regardless, it’s cool to see him hamming it up in a genre movie, and he certainly brings the required gravitas to the role of king of Asgard.

-And of course, it’s always good to see Clark Gregg playing Agent Coulson. An underrated actor if ever there was one. This may actually be the most screen time he’s had in any of these Avengers tie-in movies. Speaking of which, look for a couple of very quick references to Tony Stark and The Hulk.

-I liked Jeremy Renner‘s cameo as Hawkeye (who he’ll also play in The Avengers), but it was such a brief, throwaway scene that it may have been best if they actually threw it away.

-I REALLY liked Kat Dennings at the Thor premiere:


It’s great to see a young actress with some…curves.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The script. The story and screenplay here are credited to 5 different writers, which is typically not a good sign. Some of these people have done great work individually in the past, but once you start putting rewrite on top of rewrite on top of rewrite, overall cohesiveness begans to evaporate. There are no truly memorable scenes, conversations end abruptly, and there are awkward one-liners. For instance (SPOILER AHEAD), the last line of the entire movie is literally, “She searches for you.” After that, it cuts to the end credits, and I was left sitting there going, huh? Very strange.

The lack of a memorable score/set of themes. This has been a continuing, inexplicable problem with comic book movies. If I think back to all the comic book movies since X-Men started this craze in 2000, only a few (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and that’s about it) had memorable music that I wanted to own. I don’t understand why this isn’t a priority for the directors of these films. Look, I’m not asking for “The Superman March” every time out, but I strongly believe every big superhero should have a strong theme, and all of these films should have their own motifs and unique musical stylings. In reality, most of them have incredibly bland scores, and sadly, Thor is no exception. Patrick Doyle is a good enough composer, but I think it’s pretty clear this genre is not his area of expertise. The score here isn’t bad, but it’s completely forgettable, and features no themes that I can recall. Unfortunately, it seems that there are only 5-10 composers working today who can truly handle this kind of movie properly. Off the top of my head, I’ll put John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Don Davis (the Matrix trilogy), Tyler Bates (300) and David Arnold (Stargate, Independence Day, all of the recent Bond flicks) in that group.

Most of my problems with the film have to do with how the Asgard parts of the movie were handled. During the Asgard scenes (which I’d guess take up 60% of the screen time), it’s a pure fantasy movie, and I think for the most part it falls flat on its face in giving us good fantasy.

The CGI. The visual effects throughout the film are average at best, but especially lackluster with regards to the Asgard scenes. You can tell about 90% of Asgard was created in a computer, and the place never felt real in the way that the fantasy worlds of The Lord of the Rings did. In fact, the filmmakers and effects guys should have followed the brilliant example set by the LOTR team. Apparently, no one on this crew has heard of a miniature, or a model, or realized that you have to combine practical effects with your CGI to make these fantasy worlds look real. Instead, they went the Star Wars prequel route and simply made EVERYTHING in the computer. When Thor and his boys go to the ice world (whatever it’s called), at no point did I feel they were even on a set. It looked exactly like what it probably was, 4 or 5 people standing on a soundstage surrounded by massive green screens. If you’re gonna do that, your CGI better be Avatar-good, and it certainly wasn’t. The main ‘castle’ of Asgard looks like a giant golden church organ.

The action. Despite having Vic Armstrong, one of the all-time greats, supervising the action and second unit, the fight choreography is incredibly boring and poorly shot. When Thor infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound in an attempt to get his hammer back, he dispatches the soldiers mostly by punching them in the chest and/or pushing them to the ground. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. When Thor and Loki fight at the end of the film, it should be an epic clash between rival brothers. Suffice to say, it is not.

-I was also disappointed by the sound design. There were a lot of opportunities here for the the creation of cool, new sound effects, and for the most part those opportunities are squandered. When Thor uses his hammer, it should be an EPIC auditory experience. Instead, it’s just meh. And again, I have to blame the lack of emphasis on this on Branagh, because he had two of the best sound mixers in the industry working on the film. Ugh.

-The main bad guys in the Asgard world are the Frost Giants. No, really. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how anyone above age 12 is supposed to find creatures called “frost giants” imposing. On top of that, the fact that they’re all CG doesn’t help, nor does the fact that they look cheesy. They’re 12-foot tall grey demons with dark orange eyes who walk around in their skivvies. Instead of using actual weapons, they turn their arms into giant ice swords. Ooo. And their primary power derives from what appears to be a blue Energon Cube. It’s just really f’n goofy.

-I don’t like that Thor only wears his helmet in one or two scenes the entire movie. It’s a small gripe, and I know the reason is so that we see the star’s face, but come on, that’s a badass helmet! His armor doesn’t look complete without it.

Rene Russo, who is completely wasted in a tiny role as Thor’s momz. She hasn’t done anything since Yours, Mine and Ours in 2005, and THIS is what she comes back for? I don’t get it. I’d say she came back for a payday, but Marvel is notorious for being stingy with their actors’ salaries.

Back in the real world:

-I’m supposed to believe that Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard‘s characters, who are super smart astrological scientists, choose to live in this tiny, no-name town in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico? This made no sense at all to me. It’s funny, because the Earth/New Mexico scenes are relatively low-budget. This tiny town required very few sets and interiors, and looks to have no more than 3 different roads in it. It looks very cheap, too cheap even. And they give no logical reason why scientists of this caliber would be calling it home. On top of that, they work out of what appears to be an abandoned restaurant or something. It just didn’t seem right. The movie reportedly cost $150 million, and I’d say that about 20 of that was spent on the New Mexico scenes. The rest appears to have been spent on manpower creating the mediocre CGI.

From reading this review, it probably comes across that I didn’t enjoy the movie more than is actually the case. I just thought there were a lot of blown opportunities from top to bottom. If you’re not as nerdy or picky as I am, you’ll probably enjoy the flick a lot more than I did. If you were interested in seeing the movie at all, I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t, but if my concerns mirror yours, your expectations should be drastically lowered. I had fun watching Thor, but it didn’t click with me the way I hoped it would. Plus, it’s easier (and more fun) to point out a film’s flaws than it is to praise what it did right. I’m not expecting this summer to produce a lot of high quality films, but summer movie season is always fun and I’m glad it’s underway. But if you’re choosing between this and Fast Five this week, go see The Rock vs. Vin Diesel instead.

POST-CREDITS BONUS SCENE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I of course stayed for the bonus scene at the end of the credits, as has become the custom for Marvel movies in the leadup to The Avengers. In this one, Stellan Skarsgard is brought into a S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘base’, where he meets Sam Jackson‘s Nick Fury, who opens a mysterious briefcase to show some glowing blue object that Fury proposes is potentially a source of unlimited power. I’ll have to do some research into what this thing was, but I didn’t recognize it from the Thor movie. The big reveal is that Loki is in the background watching them (he’s invisible to them), and we’re lead to believe he will soon make an attempt to take and use this power source. It doesn’t have that wow factor that previous bonus scenes had (like the one after Iron Man 2 where we first see Thor’s hammer), mainly because in Thor, we’ve just seen Loki as a primary villain, and he wasn’t all that impressive. My concern is the rumor that Loki is going to be the main villain in The Avengers, and the fact that this scene gives those rumors credibility. I’m not sure if it was the writing, Tom Hiddleston‘s performance, or the nature of the character itself, but I wasn’t that impressed with Loki as a bad guy, and I don’t know that he could be the memorable villain that The Avengers requires. The rumors could be false, but all of these bonus scenes have eventually led to something else, so Loki didn’t appear there just for shits and giggles. What I’m personally hoping is that it was merely a setup for the Thor sequel and not for The Avengers. If that’s the case, I’m fine with it, but if it’s a wink and a nudge that Loki will feature prominently in The Avengers, I may have to throw the red challenge flag. Anyway, that’s my two cents on that.

I gave Thor 2.5 stars out of 5 on Flixster, and a 6/10 on IMDb.

As summer movie season continues, I actually have pretty high hopes for Bridesmaids next weekend. I’m hearing good things, and the trailer is very funny. I think guys will be able to enjoy it, and women have been waiting for their own raunchy, R-rated comedy like this for a long time. Let the inevitable “it’s The Hangover for girls!” comparisons begin.

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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