Posts Tagged 'x-men'

Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Cap America 2 poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier marks the unofficial start to the 2014 summer movie season (yes, I know it’s the first week of April, but that’s how Hollywood does business now). It arrives riding a wave of massive fanboy approval and some of the best reviews any Marvel movie has received thus far. A lot of people are calling it the best Marvel movie yet*, while some are boldly using the “it’s better than The Avengers” line to drum up hype and/or to get their name on the TV ads. I was actually hoping that those things were true. I wanted a more story-centric Marvel movie, and from the two amazing trailers, it looked like we might finally be getting one. In the end, kinda, but not so much. This movie is almost great. It’s almost what I wanted it to be, but in the end it succumbs to a lot of the issues that plague the other Marvel flicks; large gaps in logic, a weak villain, an overabundance of action in lieu of story in order to keep 12-year olds hooked, and an overdone visual effects extravaganza for a finale.

Continue reading ‘Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER’

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Trailer Reaction: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, GODZILLA, INTERSTELLAR (and more!)

Over the course of the past month or so, we’ve been shown some pretty impressive first looks at many of 2014’s biggest movies. This is the post where I show them all to you and react to and grade each one. I recommend clicking on the title of each trailer inside the video to watch the bigger version in HD on the YouTube site. You can also click on the linked titles to see each film’s Wikipedia page for more info.

In the order in which they were released:

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (opens 5/23/14)

Continue reading ‘Trailer Reaction: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, GODZILLA, INTERSTELLAR (and more!)’

Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

I went into X-Men: First Class with fairly high hopes. I wasn’t expecting it to be Best Picture material (though I’d have been thrilled if it was), but I definitely expected it to at least be the best of the 4 comic book movies this summer (the others of course being Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern). X-Men is by far my favorite comic book property, and by extension my favorite Marvel property. I love a lot of these characters, and have since the X-Men cartoon in the early 90’s (as with every other comic book movie, I never read the comics). Magneto in particular is my favorite individual comic book character, and he’s also one of my favorite villains in all of fiction. The themes and issues X-Men deals with grant it the potential for the best, most real world-based storylines of any major comic property. As much as I love pure fantasy, it’s much more challenging (and thus rewarding when it’s done well) to credibly place superhuman characters in the real world, which is what X does best. Hollywood’s cinematic versions of X-Men have produced mixed results. I’d say Bryan Singer‘s X-Men (2000) was very good, X2 (2003) was great, Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was fucking awful, and the first spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), is entertaining, but can only be described as seriously flawed at best. In other words, X-Men has been very hard to get right.

I was happy to see Fox decide to go in a new direction for this reboot/prequel (because really, Last Stand had driven the franchise off a cliff creatively), and I thought at the time that Matthew Vaughn was a capable enough choice to take the director’s chair. Vaughn started out as a producer (he produced Guy Ritchie‘s classics Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), and has moved smoothly into directing, first with Layer Cake, then on to Stardust (which I have no interest in ever seeing) and last year’s underrated and underseen Kick-Ass. I think he’s developing nicely as a director, and his second foray into the comic book genre is a great improvement with regards to his filmmaking style and the quality of the effects, stunts and production value. Of course, the main reason for that is the fact that the budget of this movie was probably greater than the combined budgets of every other project he’s ever been involved with. He did especially well when he put together his crew. He used Ridley Scott‘s cinematographer (the great John Mathieson), Christopher Nolan‘s editor (the great Lee Smith) and stunt coordinator (the great Tom Struthers), as well as the legendary Brian Smrz as his second unit director. Basically, with a crew like that, my mom could direct this movie. I kid, of course (no offense, mom). Vaughn clearly had a vision here and brought his own sensibilities to the project.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGHOUT. I can’t cover this movie the way I need to without giving stuff away, so my best recommendation is not to read this until after you’ve seen the movie, or if you just don’t care about being spoiled. Most of you don’t need this review to decide whether or not you’ll see the film, you’re just reading it to get my opinion. But in case you haven’t decided, go see it. If you’re a fan of the first two X-Men movies, this is definitely worth your time. On top of that, you don’t have to pay extra for crappy 3D! What else could you want?

WHAT I LIKED

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto & James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. These two actors, and their characters’ relationship, are the glue of the movie, and that glue is strong. I was a bit hesitant when I first heard about McAvoy being cast, but as the trailers came out, those fears were quickly alleviated. He’s a fine actor, and gives another fine performance here. I loved seeing what pre-wheelchair Xavier was like, particularly early on when we see the playboy side of him. In the other movies, Patrick Stewart‘s Xavier is always The Great Mentor. Those of you unfamiliar with Fassbender (most of you will remember him either from 300 or as the British officer involved in that great bar scene from Inglourious Basterds), best get used to seeing him a lot in the next couple years. He is the latest actor that Hollywood is trying desperately to make a movie star out of, and for the first time in a long time, I hope in this instance that they succeed. This guy has it all, and in the end, First Class is his movie. His Magneto is exactly what I wanted, and it was also cool seeing this character in action as a younger, more vital man (one who speaks 4 different languages in the movie!). No disrespect to Ian McKellen, of course, who was superb in the role in different ways.

Notice that I was able to avoid the now-popular Michael F. Assbender jokes. But seriously, learn his name, because he may be the single most in demand actor in the industry right now. And he’s got the talent to back up that demand.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I didn’t realize going in that Bacon was going to be the primary villain. I loved every minute of him in this movie, especially in the beginning, when he’s a German concentration camp officer as a young Erik Lensherr learns firsthand what humanity is capable of. I was most impressed by his near perfect German accent and his delivery of the language. He clearly had a lot of fun filming that stuff. Later on, he’s a more typical scheming comic book villain, but he’s a believable and worthy foe, and that’s all we really needed. I know Bacon has done villain work before, but to carry the primary baddie role in a huge movie like this? That’s certainly a first for him, and I thought he was excellent. I like that he’s the one that creates the telepath immunity helmet Magneto will later take as his own.



He didn’t spend 6 years in evil medical school to be called Mister, thank you very much.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Other than Xavier and Magneto, she has the strongest character arc and the most to do. For those of us who saw Winter’s Bone, there’s no surprise that she’s so good here, but she’ll truly hit the big time next spring as the star of the first Hunger Games movie. I like her early friendship with Xavier (though I do find it dubious he considers her “just a friend” and was able to resist being attracted to her all those years), and I bought how she eventually came around to Magneto’s way of thinking. When she joins him for good at the end of the movie in her “turn to the dark side” moment, I bought that as well. She’s fantastic, and I’d say she has a bright future, but with an Oscar nomination at age 20 and prominent roles in two big franchise movies, that future is now. I just hope she’s not stuck doing only X-Men and Hunger Games movies for the next 5 years, though it’s entirely possible.

-I liked most of the other mutants. I say most because I hated one (see below), thought another was completely wasted, and was utterly confused by a third. We’ll get into that in a minute. Nicholas Hoult was really good as Hank McCoy and later in some fantastic makeup as Beast. He gets the most character development of all the secondary characters. Lucas Till made good use of little screen time as Alex Summers/Havok (I assume this is Cyclops‘ future dad?), and Caleb Landry Jones was okay as Banshee, though he’s mostly relegated to the role of comic relief. Sebastian Shaw’s mutant henchmen had almost nothing to do character-wise, but Jason Flemyng certainly looked cool in makeup as Azazel (future father of Nightcrawler).

The 1960’s period art direction. It’s refreshing to see a big summer movie done completely in period. You often see these movies with futuristic settings and technology, or set in medieval/ancient times (Gladiator, Troy, etc.), but rarely do we see these movies set in the 60’s and 70’s (we’ll get another 70’s-set summer extravaganza this week in Super 8). They did a fantastic job putting us in that time period. A lot of people have said parts of the movie feel like an old James Bond flick, and I can see the comparison. You especially feel it inside Shaw’s secret, diabolical submarine. I half-expected him to sit there in the captain’s chair with his pinky in his mouth, Dr. Evil style. He clearly had sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads somewhere inside that thing. Other times, some of the sets had a very 2001/Clockwork Orange/Dr. Strangelove Kubrickian tone to them.

The visual effects. Were excellent. ‘Nuff said. Because a lot of  movies nowadays are rushed to completion because of predetermined release dates they MUST meet, many of them are often lacking in the overall quality of their visuals. For the most part, that is not the case here. Vaughn even cleverly uses some of his effects shots in ways that most directors doing their first big effects flick seldom do. Case in point is Hank McCoy’s big transformation into Beast, which I thought was cleverly shot as a POV sequence. Very cool.

-The Hugh Jackman/Wolverine cameo. I’m sooo glad I didn’t know about this going in. (And sorry if I just ruined it for you, but you were warned about spoilers)This was quite literally one of the best cameos I’ve ever seen. Just brilliant. It was quick, it was efficient, it made sense within the context of the plot, and it was restrained.

There was also a very subtle, but cool blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Rebecca Romijn cameo during one of Mystique’s transformations that I thought was very well-placed. She really does look like an older Jennifer Lawrence.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Zoe Kravitz as Angel. Let’s just say she wasn’t up to par, particularly when surrounded by a group of such great actors. I’m wondering, what exactly are her credentials, other than being Lenny Kravitz‘s daughter? Because being cast in a major motion picture should require more than that. Second, I think Angel is just a lame character, at least as shown here. I know they had to scrape the barrel for the secondary mutants (as obviously people like Cyclops, Colossus and Storm can’t be introduced until years later in this storyline), but surely they could have thought of SOMEONE better than this. Apparently not, so instead we have a mediocre actress playing an uninteresting character. Not a good combination. Was I supposed to give a shit when she turned bad? Cuz I didn’t. Speaking of which, I had to laugh later on in the film when she’s supposed to look intimidating flying around with her mosquito wings, spitting fire loogies at people.

-I also could have gone without Tornado Man, aka Alex Gonzalez as Riptide. I don’t think he has a single line of dialogue, and all he really does is walk around with his best “evil mutant” face, and occasionally twirling his hands around to create mini twisters. I dunno, it was just cheesy. They should’ve found another evil mutant or just given someone else more screen time in his place.

Darwin’s death. Sigh. Do I just go full on rant mode here or try to exercise restraint? Ehhh, who am I kidding? So one of the mutants Xavier and Magneto recruit is Darwin (played by Kenyan actor Edi Gathegi), whose power is to…adapt to his surroundings (e.g. if he sticks his head into an aquarium he grows gills). Unfortunately, this power is not put to any practical use…until it’s time for him to sacrifice himself for the white mutants. Of course! What I’m getting at is that once again, I have to sit through a situation where the only motherfucking black male in the group of main characters dies FIRST and dies prematurely. Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?! Let’s put this in perspective; you’ve got the black female playing the weakest, least interesting mutant, and the black male mutant being underutilized and killed off early. Fuck you. I love this shit. Almost every major player in Hollywood is openly liberal, yet time after time after time, we are forced to put up with completely whitewashed casts, with the minority characters (a vast majority of the time) forcefully inserted either to meet a race quota (which is typically 1) or simply to act out racial/ethnic/cultural stereotypes. The hypocrisy of it is stunning, and I’ve f’ing had it. Put this cliché to BED, and take your fake white liberal guilt and shove it up your ass. I’m done with rich white liberals, three words that constitute quite the oxymoron. STOP. KILLING. THE. COLORED. GUY. FIRST. COCKSUCKERS.

-I got a little tired of Xavier putting his fingers on his head every time he used his powers (as if he were pressing the “telepathy ON” button), but I suppose he had to do something other than intently squinting his eyes. I suppose. I don’t recall this being an issue with the earlier films, but I guess I’ll have to go back and watch em again (the first two, anyway).

-Once again we have an X-Men movie without a memorable score or set of themes. I guess it’s just not meant to be. I guess it’s too much to ask. Composer Henry Jackman (who also did the music for Vaughn’s Kick-Ass) has crafted a perfectly competent score that hits the right marks at the right times. Problem is, I don’t remember one note of that score, and thus have no desire to own it. Am I crazy in thinking there should be an awesome X-Men theme (the cartoon had one!) and that Magneto should have his own “Imperial March”? I don’t think so, brah.

I rest my case:

Going forward into the summer, there’s some potential with the other two big comic book movies, with Alan Silvestri scoring Captain America and James Newton Howard working on Green Lantern. Silvestri has created some of the greatest themes in movie history (Back to the Future, Predator, Forrest Gump, etc.) and James Newton Howard is James Newton Howard.

WHAT CONFUSED ME

January Jones as Emma Frost. It’s like, I think she’s a good actress, but I still can’t say for sure, even after seeing her twice now this year (she was in Unknown if you’ve already forgotten). That’s probably a bad sign that I’ve subconsciously chosen to ignore it because I think she’s gorgeous. Logic dictates that she isn’t really trying, her part wasn’t written well enough, or she’s just not very good. Those are the only options. I haven’t yet gotten around to watching Mad Men (for which she’s received 2 Golden Globe nominations), which I guess would be the best evidence for or against her having any talent. I mean, okay, she looks good in her ridiculously out of place white outfits, and I thought the “diamond person” effects were actually pretty solid. She also has a couple of good moments where she uses her telepathy, most notably the scene with the Russian general.

One more thing about her character: why the fuck does she disappear during the climax of the movie?! Through the whole movie, she’s shown as being Sebastian Shaw’s Number 2, the one he cares about most, but when it all comes to a head she’s sitting on the bench. Okay, so we see her in CIA custody, she overhears two guys talking about a war with mutants, then cuts a little hole through the one-way glass with her diamond finger and taunts them, and then…she’s gone. She can cut a hole through the window with her diamond finger, but apparently has no desire to further use her considerable powers to escape. When we next see her, at the very end of the movie, she’s literally laying down on a slab, just chillin’, when Magneto and his boys come and rescue her. Did no one else notice this?

No really, this actually happens in the movie. (I couldn’t get the fuckin thing to embed.)

-This movie does nothing to explain why a kid growing up in Westchester, New York has a British accent. I’m talking to you, Charles Xavier.

-I don’t know if this really confused me more than it did simply amuse the F out of me. LOL, why does Havoc do a techno dance as he’s using his power?

-At the end of the movie, Moira MacTaggert (as played by the lovely Rose Byrne) promises Xavier she’ll never reveal where he and the other mutants are hiding. My question…why would they need her to in the first place? The CIA knows his name, because he just f’n worked with them. Yet no one in the government will think to look for him at his family’s gigantic estate?! Am I the only one who instantly thought of this?


He prefers…Magneto.

So, where does the series go from here? I honestly don’t know. Obviously, they’ll want to keep this cast together for probably 2 more movies, which means they can’t skip ahead in time to the 2000’s and bring in Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue or the other more popular X-Men characters. The writers will have to come up with more period storylines, presumably one set in the 70’s for the next film. I have no idea where that will go, except to beg the filmmakers not to make the Vietnam War a major plot point. Anything but that for the love of God! Regardless, for now we have another solid X-Men movie, and in this dismal moviegoing year, we can at least be thankful for that.

I don’t have an official list, but this is easily one of the top 10 comic book movies ever, maybe top 5. I have to see it again before I definitively place it, but I’m not on board with those who say it’s the best X-Men movie. It might be better than the first one (only slightly if it is), but X2 is still the best in the series, and still the second best comic book movie ever, behind the almighty Dark Knight.

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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