Recently engaged in a conversation with a random movie-goer following a screening of Matt Vaughan’s X-Men: First Class, I was prompted to name my five favorite movies so far from 2011. Most years, this task is a breeze – my second nature. But 2011, thus far, has been a major dud. I’ve been to the theater only 14 times in over five months; and while 10 of those movies were certainly worth seeing, only five were great and only two – Joe Wright’s Hanna and Duncan Jones’ Source Code – seemed like the kind of films that might contend to make my Top 25 come December (Win Win, while good, was flawed). All that said, I’m planning to see two possibly-classic films this weekend: J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi should-be-blockbuster Super 8, which opens everywhere this weekend; and auteur Terrence Malick’s fifth film, Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life (a movie I’ll be traveling to Indianapolis to see). Both look great, as do a number of other Coming Soon features. So, this week, instead of sticking to our normal format, we’re going to look closely at the year ahead (or, that is, the movies we know are coming out for sure), breaking it down into two categories: possible Movie of the Year candidates; and movies that will both be worth seeing and will likely do well. We’ll start with the later and end with a bang.
Should-Be-Great Coming Soons: First up, natch, is the final Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, directed by David Yates and said to be a big action blast that highlights just about every character we’ve come to know through the franchise. It’ll be fun but, if Part 1 was any indication, the art house quality of past Potter films will be mostly absent. Look for this flick to do big dollars and maybe even get some legacy attention at the Oscars. Next up is David Fincher’s U.S. adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; the new trailer looks very promising and Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network, etc.) is a very reliable filmmaker. Who knows, Fincher’s Girl could also possibly end up both a blockbuster and an Oscar flick. Steven Spielberg has two films coming out in December: War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. Both seem to offer Spielberg’s signature movie magic vibes, if in very different ways. Drive, a small indie film that was a hit at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, could likely be one of the crossover indies of 2011. Featuring ScreenTime fave Ryan Gosling as the lead, the movie tells the story of a Hollywood stuntman who doubles as a getaway driver. Hey, the fellas tend to love gocargo movies and the ladies obviously dig the Gos’ … so, who knows. David Gordon Green’s second movie of the year, Crazy Night Out flick The Sitter, starring Jonah Hill and Sam Rockwell, will likely be quite good and should nab the Adventureland audience. Jon Favreau’s first film since Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens, has all the makings of a new summertime classic: it stars Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell and more; it takes directly from classic-era Spielberg; and, most importantly, it features cowboys and aliens fighting each other. Last up on the list of obvious attention getters is Cameron Crowe’s first film since Elizabethtown, We Bought a Zoo. Starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, this dramedy tells the story of a family who use their life savings to purchase a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. This one is something of a make-or-break for the once-great Crowe, so we’re expecting it to be a hit.
The Oscar Marks: First up is Moneyball (September 23), a sports drama about Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), who used sabermetrics to help him build a successful franchise with a far-below-average budget. Joining Pitt on this all-star team are director Bennett Miller (Capote), Oscar-winning writers Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin and actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill. Modestly produced indie Martha Marcy May Marlene, directed by Sean Durkin and starring Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes, looks to be this year’s Winter’s Bone. And, damn, the trailer doesn’t look very, very good. (It’ll find indie drama competition from a number of flicks, including Submarine, Small Town Murder Songs and 50/50, all of which look fantastic.) Steven Soderbergh has two films out this year, starting with Haywire, starring Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor, and ending with excellent looking action-thriller Contagion, featuring an amazing cast that includes Oscar heavyweights Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, amongst others. Both movies will be worth seeing and Contagion will most likely be a Best Picture nominee. George Clooney’s The Ides of March, starring Gosling, Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei, is a hot title that’s produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. Everything in its right place! Speaking of Clooney, the studly old Oscar winner can also be seen in The Descendants, director Alexander Payne’s first movie since Sideways. Looks awesome. Here are a few other films we think could be Best Picture contenders: Mike Mills’ now-out Beginners; Withnail & I director Bruce Robinson’s adaptation of The Rum Diary (starring, of course, Johnny Depp, as well as Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard); Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret, also starring Depp; and Gattaca writer/director Andrew Niccol’s new sci-fi thriller, In Time.
So, with a back-loaded release schedule, 2011 looks like it just might be a banner year at the cinema. Two more things before we let ya go. First, a list of the huge movies coming out that we’ve not yet mentioned; then, naturally, our guess at what out Top 15 will look like come 2012. Here are a few of the not-yet-mentioned Big Dog flicks you can look forward to: The Three Musketeers; Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Larry Crowne; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; The Muppets; New Year’s Eve; Tower Heist; Cars 2; and maybe, just maybe, Bad Teacher. And now, of course, our Predicted Top 15 Movies of 2012: 1. The Tree of Life; 2. Contagion; 3. The Ides of March; 4. Moneyball; 5. Super 8; 6. Submarine; 7. Drive; 8. The Descendants; 9. The Rum Diary; 10. Small Town Murder Songs; 11. Hugo Cabret; 12. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; 13. We Bought a Zoo; 14. The Sitter; 15. Hanna. Happy viewing! We’ll be back next week to let you know all about Super 8 and The Tree of Life.
Check out last week’s edition of ScreenTime HERE.