Say what you will, but 2010 was a bit boring when it came to movie releases from Hollywoodland.
There were some early hits for the kiddies… Iron Man 2 and Inception for the grownups later on – but overall, attendance was down this year when compared to 2009… and yet the box office receipts were averaging in comparison (mostly due to the splurge of 3D films and their applicable ticket price upgrades).
So as we burn off the last 4 weeks of December with only a few movies worth seeing – mainly Tron: Legacy and True Grit – I’m going to spend some time with you going over what it is that you can look forward to in 2011.
January 7th: For those of you who are still enamored with Nicholas Cage and the various wigs costume designers stick on his head (I was happy with the long hair in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), he has a medieval adventure called Season Of The Witch coming at you right off the bat in the new year.
I’m going to be honest here – I haven’t really been digging the footage and blurbs from it so far, and am thinking this could be another trip into The Wicker Man territory… but I did like his performance in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so who knows?
Season Of The Witch could be a tour de force – but don’t hold your breath.
January 14th: One week later, we have a new action flick featuring Seth Rogen – yes, that Seth Rogen – titled The Green Hornet.
After some hemming and hawing, the studio decided to dump this flick in January because it couldn’t really estimate how well the movie would do – despite it being a genre flick and based on a long time property that’s been around since the golden days of radio serial dramas… and the last major iteration of The Green Hornet starred Bruce Lee.
The Hollywood uncertainty comes from Rogen normally being a funny man employed in the Judd Apatow stable – and when combined with his former portliness, this doesn’t really cut an action hero image in potential ticket buyer’s minds.
What would normally be a summer or December release, the movie features Rogen and Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou as a crime fighting duo similar to Batman and his sidekick Robin – complete with tricked out car, custom weapons, and the lead character being a super-rich playboy moonlighting as a crime fighter.
However, those of you out there who watched Pineapple Express know that Seth can work in the action/comedy arena, so I’m going to give The Green Hornet a cautious recommend.
January 21st: Get ready for an Oscar-bait!
What’s better than a ‘men on a mission’ movie?
How about a ‘men on a mission’ movie that takes place when a group of guys escape from a Siberian gulag and have to
walk into Mordor walk across the various inhospitable terrains of the former Soviet Union and surrounding countries in a bid for freedom?
Sound good? How about if Hollywood throws in Ed Harris and Collin Farrell?
Yes? Then get in line for tickets to The Way Back.
February 11th: Here comes Nicholas Cage again – but this time, he’s back to the action vein that we all like him in.
What would you get if you crossed Ghost Rider, Tod McFarlane’s Spawn, Gone In 60 Seconds, and Quentin Tarantino-style violence? All mixed up in genuine, non-post production three dimensionality?
Drive Angry 3D!
Cage plays a guy who’s escaped from Hell to avenge his daughter’s murder and protect her child from an evil Satanic cult – all the while driving fast and crazy in classic cars and packing ridiculous amounts of firepower.
Oh… and William Fichtner is in the movie as The Devil – or is it The Devil’s pit boss? – which instantly makes the movie sooooo much more interesting.
I’ll be in the theater seats for this one, guaranteed.
February 18th: Another whack at the young adult fiction pinata!
This time – and the studio hopes it will do better than Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief or Jumper– we have D.J Caruso (director of two Shia Labeouf flicks: the excellent Suburbia, and the dopey-but-fun Eagle Eye) directing some pretty teenagers in a ‘aliens living amongst us’ type movie… but instead of it being like Men In Black, it will be more like the WB/UPN series Roswell.
Oh… and there’s a big, bad alien chasing our pretty alien teens!
Honestly, I’m kinda burned out on the whole Y/A fiction section of the bookstore being carted into the cinema.
Obviously, the studios are looking to replace the finishing Harry Potter and Twilight series – which are profitable cash cows for Warner Bros. and Summit Entertainment respectively.
However, like I noted above, Caruso has turned out some quality screen product, so I would recommend this movie just on his C.V. alone – but I think this will also appeal to the sci-fi fans as a whole.
March 4th: WARNING – March is jam-packed with content seeking your eyeballs!
The first weekend of March has 3 science fiction movies needing your attention – one is a quality speculative fiction production… another is a sci-fi tinted conspiracy film… and the third is possibly the most rushed project in Hollywood history.
First off, we have Apollo 18, which has barely begun production as I write this blog, and is in keeping with Hollywood’s renewed fascination with ‘found footage’ movies (Paranormal Activity, The Fourth Kind, The Blair Witch Project).
However, on face value, this movie isn’t scary – at least when compared to it’s predecessors – and is more in line with ‘alternate history’ fiction.
As the project stands right now, the movie posits that the USA launched one final group of astronauts towards the moon in secret atop a Saturn V rocket – the eponymous Apollo 18 – and they found evidence of alien life on the dark side of the moon.
Let’s put aside the ridiculous notion of launching a Saturn V in secret – it’d be kinda visible to everyone in Florida, and the rocket’s thrust output could be measured as far away as California – and admit the story is a tiny bit original and worth a look/see… especially coming from Timur Bekmambetov, who directed Night Watch, Day Watch, and Wanted.
Okay… next we have The Adjustment Bureau, which stars Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Mad Men‘s John Slattery.
Based on a Philip K. Dick story, Damon stars as a man who has glimpsed a possible future – only to have a mysterious agency try and force him into a future that has been chosen for him.
Drama, action, and romance ensue as Damon and Blunt fight the powers that be and rage against the machine that would keep them down.
Sounds like a good story to me… but did Dick ever sell a story to Hollywood before he died? Oh wait… Blade Runner.
Finally, we have Rango… and I really don’t know how to describe Rango to you – other than it stars Johny Depp (or, rather, Johny Depp’s voice) as a chameleon with some serious identity issues walking across the stereotypical American south-western desert.
Naturally, hijinks ensue – but in some really mind-bending ways, courtesy of Depp’s Pirates Of The Caribbean director Gore Verbinski.
I’m going to guess that even though Rango seems good for the kids, it’s going to play much better for the accompanying adults.
March 11th: Another packed weekend!
This time, it’s a double bill: Source Code, and Battle: Los Angeles.
Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as U.S. soldier who has been enlisted into a special military program that investigates disasters – by immersing you in the memory of someone who died in the tragedy i.e. you literally are that person once you’re connected to the machine.
Jake has a finite amount of time once in the person’s memories – only up until they die, naturally – to figure out who blew up the train they were riding from clues he can discern from his surroundings.
Problem is, as he goes through the scenario over and over, Jake falls in love with the deceased man’s wife and wants to save her – despite the fact that the disaster has already happened in the real world.
As for the second movie, Battle: Los Angeles, aliens once again come to Planet Earth to get all rowdy-like and kick our asses.
What differentiates this movie from it’s cinematic predecessors, and what saves the movie overall, is that it’s told with an almost documentary-like approach: think Black Hawk Down instead of Independence Day.
The story unfolds from the viewpoint of the soldiers fighting this seemingly vastly superior and unstoppable force after all but one of the major world cities have fallen, and stars the intrinsically trustworthy Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, and Michael Peña – with generic bad-ass actress Michelle Rodriguez.
March 18th: Did you like Shaun Of The Dead? How about Hot Fuzz?
Then you’re in for a good time when the Shaun/Fuzz team brings you Paul – a road trip comedy of galactic proportions!
The titular Paul is an alien who’s just trying to make his way home after being a guest of the United States government for a lengthy amount of time – escaping his handlers and hooking up with two UFO geeks who were on a saucer-sighting tour of the U.S.
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, and Seth Rogen as the voice of Paul.
March 25th: Only one movie of note on this last weekend of March.
Zack Snyder – the director of 300, Watchmen, and Legend Of The Guardians, and future director of the next Superman movie – brings us a wholly original movie that’s not based on comic books or Y/A fiction… one that can be best described as a steampunk Alice In Wonderland with machine guns.
Sucker Punch stars Emily Browning (best known from Lemony Snicket’s An Unfortunate Series Of Events) as a young woman who’s been involuntarily institutionalized at an insane asylum from Hell – and who’s only recourse is to escape into her imagination as a way to cope with what’s been done to her.
Joining her in this visually stunning picture are Mad Men‘s John Hamm, martial artist and Black Dynamite star Michael Jai White, and former Disney sensation Vanessa Hudgens.
April 15th: Who’d have thought there’d be another sequel?
Scream 4 is coming at you, ready or not!
Wes Craven again directs a script form Kevin Williamson (creator of Dawson’s Creek), and puts David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Neve Campbell in front of the camera once more – this time adding Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Adam Brody, and Mary McDonnell.
Needless to say, Ghostface is back terrorizing the gang thanks to a tell-all book written by one of the original survivors.
Is there any more mileage in this franchise? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
April 29th: Speaking of mileage and franchises, we’re heading down to Rio de Janeiro…
…for Fast Five a.k.a. The Fast And The Furious 5!
Yes… Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are back for an all-star edition of the high-octane series with Jordana Brewster, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon and Don Omar all returning to race cars and avoid the fuzz for as long as possible – this time with Walker also on the lamb after breaking Diesel out of prison.
Oh… and the fuzz? None other than Dwayne “Don’t Call Me The Rock (But You Still Can)” Johnson bringing his biceps and steely gaze to hunt down these criminals – which could turn this into the best adaptation of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit ever.
May 20th: Double bill time again, but this time with two huge franchise juggernauts.
First up is the fourth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, subtitled On Stranger Tides, which finds Johny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow caught up in a quest for the legendary Fountain Of Youth – at the behest of Penelope Cruz.
Only problem is, they’re sailing not on the Black Pearl – but on the Queen Anne’s Revenge… under the command of the notorious pirate Blackbeard (played by Brit stalwart Ian McShane).
Hilarity and adventure will surely sail again on the oceans of the cineplex.
Anyway… moving on!
How many of you out there caught last year’s 2009’s STAR TREK?
Wasn’t it awesome?
Do you remember how at the beginning, James Kirk’s father died heroically saving everyone by ramming the Kelvin into the bad guy’s ship?
Man… that was heart breaking.
Good news everybody! Kirk Sr. (actor Chris Hemsworth) is alive and well!
Errr… except he’s come back as a god… named Thor!
Marvel Entertainment is bringing you the next flick in their Marvel Universe franchise, Thor.
The great thing about the Marvel movies is they all happen in the same universe, which allows for recurring characters to pop up from flick to flick – like Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Furry, or Clark Gregg’s Agent Colson.
Thor tells the story of the Asgardians – who are highly advanced aliens as opposed to gods as the Norwegians would have them – and how Thor’s father Odin (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) banishes Thor for being too warlike, which lands him on Earth – where he’s studied by S.H.I.E.L.D., and where he slowly learns the value of humanity and how to become a true hero – before Earth is wiped out by nefarious forces.
Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh, which is an interesting choice due to his previous knack for directing elite British flicks such as Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V – and I think that style can work very well for Thor as the material is fairly Shakespearean in scope.
Couple that with stars like Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Colm Feore, Rene Russo, and Stellan Skarsgård… and you should have a stellar tour de force.
May 27th: Are you ready for some Jack Black?
I mean… good Jack Black… instead of the crappy-collecting-a-paycheque Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels?
Then you’re more than ready for Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom Of Doom – which reunites Po with his friends, The Furious Five.
But all is not well in Dreamwork’s Asia: a new villain has cropped up, and he’s threatening to use the titular Kaboom Of Doom to conquer China and wipe out all traces of kung fu – which means Po has to get in touch with his roots and figure out who he really is if he’s going to triumph, while making new friends along the way.
Joining Black’s voice talents are Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, James Woods, David Cross, Michelle Yeoh, Lucy Liu, and Victor Garber.
June 3rd: Here come the dog days of the summer blockbuster!
First up… X-Men: First Class.
This is a prequel to the X-Men movie series started a decade ago by Bryan Singer and killed by the ineptitude of Brett Ratner in X-Men 3 – but instead of a few years prior to 2000’s X-Men, this movie goes all the way back into the comic book’s origins… back to the groovy 1960’s.
Yes… a comic book period film – and as is necessary in telling a story far before the narrative we’ve mostly enjoyed to date, the entire X-Men cast has been chucked out the window in favor of younger actors.
Gone are Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor Xavier and Magneto – replaced James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.
The movie tells the origin of the friendship of Xavier and Magneto… and how they came to be two sides of the same coin: not enemies, but having vastly different ideologies – while also telling the story of how Xavier came to found his School For Gifted Children a.k.a. the home base for the X-Men.
June 17th: Let’s all go green!
No… not environmentally friendly (‘cuz you should be doing that already, right?), but going to see Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern.
The first DC Comics character to make it to the big screen that’s not named Superman or Batman, The Green Lantern tells the story of a cocky test pilot who discovers a crashed alien ship where he’s given a ring that enables him to do fantastic things with only a thought – but as always, that great power comes with a certain amount of great responsibility: he must join the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps. and become a protector of all that is good in “…the brightest day, the blackest night…”
So get your butts in the theater seats to support a good Canadian boy, will ya?
June 24th: Vrooom, vrooom!
Pixar/Disney brings you their yearly CARtoon masterpiece, Cars 2 in 2011 – and yes, it may be true that the original Cars might have been Pixar’s weakest product to date… but you can’t argue with the merchandising of the brand: young boys just love Cars paraphernalia.
Cars blankets… Cars lunchboxes… Cars wallpaper.
In essence, Cars is the long awaited answer to Disney’s Princess empire – something masculine for boys under 8 years old… but still accessible to all other demographics.
This time around, the Cars gang finds themselves racing across the globe in grand prix events in popular cities around the world – and along the way, Lightning and Tow Mater engage in some James Bondian cloak and dagger escapades.
July 1st: Just in time for Canada Day, Michael Bay returns!
Bringing all new levels of Bayhem, Dreamworks and Paramount submit Transformers 3: The Dark Of The Moon (and no, that’s not a typo) for your approval.
Not only do Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Ironhide, and Shia all return to action, but they’ve jettisoned Megan Fox! Thank the Gods!
This time out, we find the world’s governments demanding the expulsion of our Autobot allies – despite their newly revealed role in the Cold War space race between the USA and the USSR… and unknowing of the evil plans of the Decepticon named Shockwave.
Oh… did I mention all of this Bayhem will be in motherfucking 3D!!!!!1! ZOMG! Sweeeeeeeeeeet!
July 15th: Here’s to ya, lad… we’ll miss you (until J.K. Rowling writes more books).
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 brings Harry’s story to a close with the epic battle that the franchise has been building towards for 10 years – Potter vs. Voldemort.
And while many of you know how this battle will turn out – having read the books ages ago – some of us DON’T, and we will not be deterred after investing a decade of our lives to the story of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Which is a rare thing in this rapidly changing world – when was the last time you spent 10 years in earnest with a franchise?
Only Star Trek has had more films… and they’ve been further apart than the Potter movies.
July 22nd: All hands on deck for the captain!
Captain America: The First Avenger brings us the second Marvel Universe movie of the year – not done since the first Iron Man and the rebooted Incredible Hulk in 2008.
Captain America is the story of weakly young man named Steve (actor Chris Evans) who wants to join the Allied efforts in World War II against the Nazis and their Axis pals – but his military application is denied due to his physical stature. About to give up, he meets a military scientist who wants to test his new Super Soldier serum on a human subject – and Steve volunteers himself.
Low and behold, Steve comes out of the experiment as the finest example of manhood that the world has ever seen – faster and stronger than any peer – and is soon drafted to combat Hitler and his goons in Europe.
The rest is… well, history.
In most non-North American global markets, the movie will simply be called The First Avenger in attempts to head off anti-American sentiment at the box office.
July 29th: The month named after Julius Caesar closes out with some good ol’ fashioned western action.
It’s 1873, and Cowboys & Aliens brings you more alien invasion goodness… except in the Wild West!
Despite what some think is a hokey title, Cowboys & Aliens treats the material seriously – so forget Wild Wild West or 2010’s Jonah Hex.
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford head up this production loosely based off a comic book series of the same name, directed by Iron Man/Iron Man 2/Zathura‘s Jon Favreau – so you can be guaranteed lots of dazzling action balanced by solid acting.
The story is pretty much as I said: aliens invade late 19th Century America, which forces the titular cowboys to get over their differences with themselves and with the native population in hopes of fending off the extraterrestrial hordes.
If you go in looking for a lighthearted comedy, you’ll be leaving sorely disappointed.
This ends Part One of my 2011 Movie Preview.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two coming soon! (UPDATE: find it here)