Usually around this time of the year we list maybe 10 or 20 films that we think are as absolute ‘Must See’s’ for what the next 12 months of cinema has to offer us but as the clock is ticking ever closer to midnight on 2010, we thought we would challenge ourselves a little further this time around. The question I posed to the OWF staff recently was… can Cinema in 2011 produce enough ‘Must See’ films to hit 52, which would ratio out to be just one film per week? That’s all we are hopeful for here… just one film every Friday that justifies us parting with our ever increasingly important cash in these tough economic times.
Did we manage to find 52? Kind of.
There’s certainly 52 films listed here but once we got to around 30, the whole thing became a struggle and we had to fill it out disappointingly with the usual array of over-budgeted summer spectacles, comic book movies, sequels, remakes, etc! There’s definitely some gems here with new, dare I say experimental films from Terrence Malick (finally), David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg, the long awaited returns of Cameron Crowe and Bruce Robinson and the Scream franchise and it’s especially an important year in regards to the comic book genre for the planning of films way in the future. However we still have to admit, at this point 2011 looks underwhelming.
In fact, I’d venture that 2011 is the weakest looking year since, well, 2010. Boy how Inception and Toy Story 3 made this year seem better than it actually was but there’s no Chris Nolan to save us this next year, and no Pixar movie of note. But in any event we’re still rooting for the films on this list and we’ll be covering them all in the next year.
A few films you won’t see on this list include The Green Lantern (yes, despite the editorial gaff of including it in the image above) as quite frankly, that trailer was such a complete turn off, Matt Damon’s The Adjustment Bureau which was delayed from last year (clearly for a reason), Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch which is so overly fetishised – it feels like he only made the film for himself and honestly I don’t want to see a director’s deepest darkest desires as a $100 million film,
So without further ado, here’s the 52 Must See’s of 2011, in order of proposed release date…
JANUARY – APRIL
THE GREEN HORNET
DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry
SYNOPSIS: After his father’s (Tom Wilkinson) murder an apathetic millionaire (Seth Rogen) takes on the mantle of The Green Hornet, a hero posing a criminal to catch villains, with technical wizard and martial arts expert Kato (Jay Chou) by his side.
RELEASE DATE: 14th January 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: This is a passion project for star Seth Rogen, who has streamlined his normally rotund appearance, to fit the ass-kicking and stylish green tuxedo donned by the Green Hornet. After a few false starts trying to find a director, visual and whimsical whizz Michel Gondry was brought in and has lent particular flair to eye-popping ‘Kato-Vision’ sequences. After a slightly wobbly first trailer, the second delivered heavily on easy-going charm in a delightfully – and suitably – old-fashioned crime fighting caper kind of way.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Those trailers, however big on banter, lacked two key ingredients that would really sell this to a lot of cynics; some big action sequences to justify the alleged $90 million budget, and a few more lashings of Gondry’s visual style applied to a superhero flick. Saying that, the trailers have also barely shown us any footage of Cameron Diaz as love interest Lenore Case, or Christoph Waltz as villain Chudnofsky, so maybe, for once, this is a tent-pole movie with its tricks up its sleeves? After a number of delays, some to refine a 3D conversion, the film is also being released in early January which hasn’t boded well for superhero flicks especially the similarly obscure The Spirit. (entry by Owain)
THE WAY BACK
DIRECTOR: Peter Weir
SYNOPSIS: The semi-true story of an escape from a Siberian gulag, followed by a 4,000 mile walk to freedom. Cast includes Colin Farrell, Ed Harris and Saoirse Ronan.
RELEASE DATE: 21 January (USA; limited release in UK from Boxing Day 2010) [We already reviewed it HERE]
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Two words – ‘Peter’ and ‘Weir.’ While his success rate isn’t 100%, he is – like Terrence Malick – someone who seems to spend a lot of time on his movies (or perhaps just takes long holidays between them), and who has a very strong visual sense. His movies include Gallipoli, The Truman Show and Picnic At Hanging Rock. In that last movie nature takes on an otherworldly, slightly ominous quality, and I suspect that may be reprised for the 4,000 mile trek the characters take in this story (as it was for a section of Master and Commander); they have to battle oppressive heat and cold, and I imagine Weir will vividly evoke these conditions. Weir is one of the lesser Gods of the cinema, and this story seems ideal for him, as does the impressive cast.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Weir’s record isn’t spotless; though many will disagree, I have no love for Dead Poets Society, or indeed Green Card. Some people may have the commonly-voiced problem that here is a movie set in Russia with all the leads played by English-speaking actors (speaking English, obviously), and apparently Russian actors in all the smaller roles. While this doesn’t necessarily affect the movie’s quality some find it distracting, and the issue often comes up for debate. There is also the fact that the story it’s based on was at least partly disproven (the escape itself was based on someone else, allegedly). I love Colin Farrell, but purely in terms of playing the odds, he has made more stinkers than hits. In the right hands, though, he may turn in another strong performance. (entry by Adam Whyte)
DIRECTOR: Richard J. Lewis
SYNOPSIS: Based on a celebrated novel by Mordecai Richler, the film follows the life story of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) – a cantankerous, deceitful and embittered man – as he goes through a life of love and loss, all of which we see from his point of view.
RELEASE DATE: 28th January (UK), it’s expanding across U.S. right now.
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Paul Giamatti as an irascible, drunken womanizer? Dustin Hoffman as his crude and equally drunken father? Sign me up. I’m actually cheating a little with this entry as I’ve seen Barney’s Version and it’s one of the year’s funniest, saddest, most profound dramas I’ve seen all year. Looking over the entire life of its title character, Giamatti provides the performance of show-stopping sensitivity and nuance that we all know he is capable of (amidst familiar bouts of shouting and histrionics). Here he plays an unlikeable huckster: running around trying to seduce Rosamund Pike whilst in the middle of getting married to Minnie Driver, all with a certain roguish, intellectual charm. A very funny film, yet also an incredibly poignant one.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: No reason to have concerns. Read my review HERE. (entry by Robert Beames)
DIRECTOR: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
SYNOPSIS: A Disney Animation Studios computer animated 3D re-telling of the Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel, Tangled sees that fabled girl with the improbably long, blonde hair (voiced by Mandy Moore) leave the walls of her isolated tower on the eve of her eighteenth birthday against the wishes of Gothel, the old hag she believes is her birth mother. Told by Gothel that the outside world is too dangerous a place for her to go alone, she blackmails notorious thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) into accompanying her on a journey to find the source of the mysterious lights that glow on her birthday every year.
RELEASE DATE: 28th January (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Following the triumph of the hand-drawn The Princess and the Frog, Tangled (Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 50th feature) continues the resurgence of Disney’s in-house theatrical animation division and keeps to the classical fairy tale setting of the studio’s best loved work. Also like The Princess and the Frog, the film takes the form of a Broadway-style musical with songs composed by Disney’s veteran tunesmith Alan Menken (whose eight Academy Award wins, trivia fans, give him more Oscar statuettes than any other living individual). With the film apparently the second most expensive ever made (just behind Avatar) it also boasts a number of impressive technical landmarks, most notably in the lead character’s outrageously long hair but also visible in the work down on convincing fabric, lighting and water.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Disney Animation Studios may have returned to form with their last feature, but it’s worth remembering that their other computer animated films have fared less well – with critics and with audiences. Chicken Little, Meet The Robinsons and Bolt will have done little to inspire animation purists that the studio has anything on their colleagues at Pixar when it comes to CG animated fare. (entry by Robert Beames)
DIRECTOR: Mikael Halfstorm
SYNOPSIS: An American Priest travels to Italy to study at an exorcism school.
RELEASE DATE: 28th January (USA), 25th February (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Based on the 2009 non-fiction book The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist by Rome based Matt Baglio – the movie is basically a big studio version of The Last Exorcism with Anthony Hopkins hamming it up as a priest who, get this, – teaches at an Exorcism school that’s rumoured to be funded by the Vatican! How can we not look forward to a movie like that?
Scarier than any ghosts, Rutger Hauer and Ciaran Hinds support
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: We are concerned a little by the medicore filmmaker at the helm Makel Halfstom, who made the Stephen King chiller 1408 and his more recent John Cusack led effort Shanghai hasn’t even made it across to the U.K. or U.S. yet – but this one looks neat. Though Hopkins has been outspoken about the fact that half the time these days he picks his roles based on whether the setting sounds interesting for a holiday… and with Italy as the venue here, there’s a great chance that’s why he signed on here. (entry by Matt Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Jodie Foster
SYNOPSIS: A seriously disturbed individual (Mel Gibson) uses a beaver puppet as a means to work through the problems in his life.
RELEASE DATE: 11th February 2011 UK), 8th April 2011 (US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Kyle Killen’s script was on the Hollywood black list a short while back, regarded as one of the best unproduced screenplays knocking around. That was until Jodie Foster took to the helm and got her old Maverick co-star into the lead role, a part that from the glimpses of a depressed looking Gibson in the trailer seems destined to at least spark a few ‘comeback’ cries. According to reports the trailer, which is a well made, classy affair and pushes some good – if standard – emotional buttons, is only part of the picture, which is also a very funny and dark edged dramatic comedy. Certainly Gibson’s voice of the titular puppet seems based entirely on Ray Winstone’s awful role in Edge of Darkness, and Anton Yelchin is always reliable and in a supporting capacity here as Gibson’s disillusioned and angry son.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The biggest problem this film has, and it’s hanging around its neck like an albatross, is Gibson’s private life; whether recent media attention will cause people to ignore the film or see it as some sort of sick joke, with Mel’s character trying to redeem himself to his family in the movie will it be misconstrued as Mel trying to apologise through a cinematic conduit? (Owain’s entry)
DIRECTOR: Kevin Macdonald
SYNOPSIS: In 140 AD, a young Roman centurion attempts to uncover the truth about the disappearance of his father’s legion—the Ninth—in the north of Britain twenty years previously. The centurion, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum), travels with a British slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), beyond Hadrian’s Wall into Caledonia, where he must confront the tribes to recover the legion’s eagle standard and restore his father’s reputation.
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: First off, Focus Features did the correct thing and dropped ‘The Ninth’ from the title, and the whole movie feels less like a school exercuse book. With Kevin Macdonald behind the helm, who is putting together a great string of great movies right now (he was responsible for The Last King of Scotland then State of Play) expect this to the more upmarket version of Neil Marshall’s Centurion, which although wasn’t quite the same story – it was a close cousin.
A big chance here for Channing Tatum to make a case that he maybe should be going after the roles Sam Worthington has been afforded lately, and there’s a kind of Gladiator feeling about the whole slave, saving reputation of fallen father’s, commanding of legions thing.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: We are a little concerned it was bumped from a September to February release and there’s a still a massive question mark over Tatum. Is he the real deal? (entry by Matt Holmes)
WEST IS WEST
DIRECTOR: Andy DeEmmony
SYNOPSIS: Set five years after the previous exploits of the Khan family the film sees Sajid, youngest son of George Khan, hit puberty and face both the tyrannical insistence on Pakistani tradition from his father and the fierce bullies in the schoolyard. For a bit of culture cleansing his father decides to send him packing to his first wife’s family in Pakistan. However it isn’t long before Ella Khan (his UK wife) swiftly follows suit to sort out the mess.
RELEASE DATE: 25th February 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: The original 1999 hit East Is East was an instant comedy classic that introduced us to the Khan family and this ‘five years later’ sequel follows up with the best of the bunch including the always commendable Om Puri as the troubled patriarch and Linda Bassett as his long-suffering English wife. Also Jimi Mistry returns (if somewhat briefly) and the ‘West meets East premise’ has potential comedy genius including the potentially hilarious prospect of the two wives finally meeting and (hopefully) clashing.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Follow ups rarely live up to their originals and the fact that half the beloved Khan clan are missing from this episode, with focus placed on a minor character, could be a sign that this is scrapping the barrel American Pie sequel style. Can we expect a NORTH IS NORTH, SOUTH IS SOUTH or EAST IS WEST in the future? And while the original managed to balance hilarious moments with awkward drama one fears this episode may not easily accomplish this fine recipe and end up becoming more of a serious drama than the masterful comedy hit original. (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
DIRECTOR: Greg Mottola
SYNOPSIS: A pair of comic geeks, played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, travelling across the States, discover an escaped alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) near Area 51.
RELEASE DATE: 18 February (UK), 18 March (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Having worked together on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Frost have co-written the screenplay for this high-concept comedy, directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland). This is the third movie the Spaced duo have made together (they will appear as Thomson and Thompson in Tintin), and like the earlier two seems to flirt with established movie genres with affection and satire. A strong supporting cast includes Sigourney Weaver and Jason Bateman, with Seth Rogen providing the eponymous alien’s voice. It’s been rated R in the US, which doesn’t in itself mean anything at all, but it’s nice at least that not every comedy that comes along is aiming squarely for the PG-13 bracket.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: This isn’t one of the ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ movies (the collective title for the earlier Pegg-Frost movies) partly because it has no involvement from Edgar Wright, who directed and co-wrote “Shaun” and “Fuzz.” While I liked Adventureland, I didn’t remotely enjoy Superbad (although I’m clearly in the minority there), so I remain ambivalent; I have more faith in, for instance, Your Highness on the basis that it has a better director. The trailer is also hardly exciting and people seem to be disappointed by the alien itself, but ultimately I think the movie’s success will come down to the writing, and this will test Pegg’s ability without Wright (it is also the first time Frost has had a writing credit on a movie). (entry by Adam Whyte)
DIRECTOR: Patrick Lussier
SYNOPSIS: Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of hell to prevent the cult that murdered his daughter from sacrificing her baby. Also starring Amber Heard and William Fichtner.
RELEASE DATE: 18th Feb (UK), 25 Feb (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: There are many ways to approach a new Nicolas Cage movie, the first is a serious one – where his turns in Leaving Las Vegas indicate a great dramatic actor, the second is to go in hoping to see some wired, over the top and exaggerated turns that would put a joint of gammon to shame such as the brilliant Bad Lieutenant. I have to say I find the guy endlessly entertaining with the latter, and it looks to be the case with this one. Only made better by his choice in wigs, this looks like a prime piece of Cage rage.
All with the added bonus of William Fichtner as the bad guy, who isn’t on the big screen enough. Director Patrick Lussier, who helmed ‘the more entertaining than it had any right to be’ My Bloody Valentine 3D knows this kind of b-movie material and it looks like he has turned in another slice of pure unapologetic Friday night fun here.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Depending on your preference for Cage, you can almost take everything I’ve said for the positive and turn it into a negative. (entry by Neil Upton)
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
SYNOPSIS: Pet chameleon Rango (Johnny Depp) has long wanted to be a hero like those in the movie westerns. He finally gets the opportunity to achieve his dream when he finds himself in an Old West style town called Dirt. Establishing himself as a lawman, he attempts to take on the bandits that run the town. Little does he know, that the good guys of Dirt haven’t previously prospered…
RELEASE DATE: 4th March (UK & USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: With a host of excellent voice talent, including Depp, Bill Nighy, Timothy Olyphant, Isla Fisher, Ray Winstone and Ned Beatty (to name but a few!), this CGI feature film should appeal to both kids and adults. Reuniting the star and director of Pirates of the Caribbean, hopefully the strong working relationship will be recreated here and whilst the last two POTC movies were arguably not as entertaining as the first, Depp always gave a strong performance and Verbinski’s direction was always visually appealing. With a narrative that pays homage to the classic Hollywood westerns and a trailer that spoofs the traditional genre traits, Rango is shaping up to be a sure-fire hit!
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Having never directed a full blown CGI project, will Verbinski’s skills and style as a director translate well from live action filmmaking to animation? His use of CGI imagery in the POTC movies was proficient and generally looked aesthetically pleasing, however it’s a big step to go from a live action/CGI blend to a film completely consisting of computer generated animation. (entry by Stu Cummins)
Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Synopsis: NASA’s cancelled trip to the moon in the 1970s is the basis for this found footage-style picture exploring an alternative reality where the urban legend were true that the mission actually did occur and the proof of extraterrestrial life exists on film.
Release Date: March 4th (US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: I love a good sci-fi horror, and the found footage approach will add an unbelievable level of claustrophobia and tension to proceedings if everything is handled right. The film-makers have also done extremely well to build up the suspense around the project thanks to them not letting too many details out, and with Timur Bekmambetov helping out director Lopez-Gallego we can be sure that the horror side of things is in good hands.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Lopez-Gallego is pretty much a brand new prospect, so admittedly the concern is more the discomfort of ignorance at this point. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
SYNOPSIS: Inspired by an air raid in 1942 over the city of Los Angeles, the movie takes place in the present day following a group of marines as they battle through the streets of L.A. against against alien invaders. Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan and Michael Pena.
RELEASE DATE: 11 March (USA) 25 March (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: The fantastic first trailer promises something other than what alien invasion movies usually show us, that is, gritty street to street combat with the menace from another world. It’s normally just death and destruction from above. So for this think Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day.
Director Jonathan Liebesman is a maturing director and seems to be making steps forward with each film. Okay so his Platinum Dunes remake of Texas Chainsaw Masscare doesnt come close to the first but it is still one of the better looking horror remakes of recent years and I am a big fan of his tense low budget thriller The Killing Room. It seems as if the Studio has faith as well, after subsequently handing him the megaphone for the upcoming Wrath of the Titans on the backs of his work here. You also have Aaron Eckhart who is always good value and Michelle Rodriguez can do this hardwoman stuff in her sleep.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Like so often in this kind of movie, we are not normally given the time to get to know our grunts before they start to get cut down, therefore its hard to get emotionally involved. We’d hate to condemn the movie on this basis without seeing it, but we could see the film going that route. After all, Universal has already given us one invasion stinker recently with Skyline from two FX guys who worked on this movie, so lets hope they aren’t going for a matching pair. (entry by Neil Upton)
DIRECTOR: Duncan Jones
SYNOPSIS: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier who wakes up on a train before it is blown up, on a time-travelling mission to find the bomber. Michelle Monaghan plays a girl he falls for on the train, while Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright are government officials.
RELEASE DATE: 11 March (UK), 1 April (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: This is the second feature movie from director Duncan Jones, whose debut Moon was one of the best movies of 2009, and who is clearly so good that he may no longer need to be referred to constantly as ‘David Bowie’s son’ (damn, too late). Like Moon, it’s a sci-fi picture based around an unusual conceit, and I am really looking forward to seeing what he does with it. This movie comes off the success of the earlier one, this time with a bigger cast (Sam Rockwell effectively carried “Moon” himself) and budget, so it will be interesting to see if the originality and conviction of that movie will carry over. Though Gyllenhaal has done some pretty trashy stuff, he seems to pick his scripts fairly carefully.
WHY WE MAY HAVE CONCERNS: Robert Altman once said that if every movie were like its trailer, every movie would be exactly the same. The trailer for Source Code is tantalising in the way it presents the movie’s basic concept, but also suggests something far more conventional than Jones’s debut. However this is almost certainly the work of the guys who made the trailer rather than Jones, and I have my fingers crossed for it. My only small concern is that the scriptwriter seems to have done very little, this being his fourth credit. Two of those credits were for the third and fourth Species movies. Hopefully that’s not a sign. (entry by Adam Whyte)
DIRECTOR: Antti Jokinen
SYNOPSIS: A young doctor (Hilary Swank) develops a sense of unease when she moves into a loft apartment. She fears that she is not alone in her new home and suspects that her new landlord could be a crazed stalker.
RELEASE DATE: 11th March (UK), 18th March (U.S. – thought straight to dvd)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Are you kidding? This is the smart, newly reformed Hammer Studios and they have already packed a mighty punch with the highly commendably Let Me In. Plus the cast shouldn’t be shunned at either; with two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank taking the lead and Christopher Lee back on board (in what’s hopefully more than just a scene stealing cameo) in his first Hammer film since 1976. Simple premises set in confined locations often come up trumps in the suspense department and this should be no exception. Also this isn’t the first time Hammer have tackled the suspense thriller – Taste of Fear and Fear in the Night were largely effective chillers in the Hitchcock tradition.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Being set in New York hardly gives it that vintage British Hammer gleam we might have been hoping for, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who plays that creepy landlord) and Swank’s last collaboration, P.S I Love You, was a critical disappointment. Jokinen is also an untested director, more famous for directing Finnish television and a segment of The Eurovision Song Contest than motion pictures but something tells me this project is going to be a little special. Though the elephant in the room is the fact it’s going Straight-to-DVD in America, that’s gotta be a concern? (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
Director: Ken Loach
Synopsis: The story of Fergus (Mark Womack), a violent ex-Para, who goes to Iraq with a lifelong friend Frankie (John Bishop) to become a private security contractor. When Frankie is killed, Fergus rejects the official explanation of his death on Baghdad’s “Route Irish” (“the most dangerous road in the world”) and, suspecting a massive government and military cover-up, sets out to discover the truth.
Release Date: 18th March (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Route Irish is an Iraq War film from the director behind The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Kes, Ken Loach. Yet unlike so many other films based on the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East (such as The Hurt Locker and Green Zone), Route Irish has Loach’s gritty, social realist aesthetic and with that the assurance of the veteran British filmmaker’s emphasis on class consciousness. Whilst directors like Kathryn Bigelow have gone out of their way to stress the lack of a political agenda in their Iraq War films, Route Irish will likely be a hard-hitting and overtly political look at death and destruction wrought on ordinary people since the 2003 invasion. Forceful and provocative filmmaking with a point of view.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Since being hastily rushed into competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival the film has met with lukewarm to negative reviews, with Peter Bradshaw opining in The Guardian that “The problem is that the pacing becomes a little ponderous sometimes and the acting style that Loach elicits from his cast occasionally has an ingenuous, almost youth-theatre feel.” (entry by Robert Beames)
A DANGEROUS METHOD
DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg
SYNOPSIS: A dramatisation of the relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) is made difficult by a patient who entrances them both (Keira Knightley), and the effects they had on modern psychoanalysis.
RELEASE DATE: tbc (talk of a potential March release in the U.K.)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: This is the third movie to be made by David Cronenberg with his new muse Viggo Mortensen, and I loved the first two (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). Although his record isn’t completely spotless, Cronenberg is a consistently interesting director and those two movies rank alongside some of his greatest works. Part of their brilliance comes from the two performances he got from Viggo Mortensen, who proved that the Lord of the Rings movies had only scratched the surface of his talent. His casting as Freud is not obvious, but sounds totally appropriate to me and could prove to be one of next year’s most interesting performances. Michael Fassbender, from Hunger and Inglourious Basterds, plays Jung and Vincent Cassel (also in “Eastern Promises”) co-stars. It is based on a play by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton. Cronenberg is on a short list of directors whose movies are always worth making the effort to go out and see in the cinema.
WHY WE MAY HAVE CONCERNS: I am very optimistic about this one but it does seem to cover ground that Cronenberg hasn’t really explored before. This may be a concern, or it may simply mean he is expanding his horizons. There is also the fact that Keira Knightley co-stars; I haven’t always been terribly impressed by Knightley in the past, but I’m hoping for Cronenberg she will be able to rise to the challenge. Altogether this is definitely one of my most anticipated movies of next year. (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
Director: David Gordon Green
Synopsis: Throughout history, tales of chivalry have burnished the legends of brave, handsome knights who rescue fair damsels, slay dragons and conquer evil. But behind many a hero is a good-for-nothing younger brother trying just to stay out of the way of those dragons, evil and trouble in general. Two princes-Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco)- embark on a daring mission to save their land, and rescue the Fabious’ fiancée Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel)
before their kingdom is destroyed.
Release Date: April 8th (U.S.), June 24th (U.K.)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Well for starters, the trailer is sublime. And by the look of what’s on show there, they’ve got a cast together that can really deliver the comedy. And it’s from the majority of the guys behind Pineapple Express. And it’s got Natalie Portman in it as a sexy warrior. ‘Nuff said…
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Danny McBride – he has a worrying habit of attaching himself to some terrible projects (chiefly Land of the Lost), or over-egging his comedy (the second season of Eastbound & Down and Tropic Thunder) and the free-reign he was given on this project to improvise a lot of the lines could mean big problems if he can’t reign it in a little.
DIRECTOR: Robert Redford
SYNOPSIS: Mary Surrat (Robin Wright Penn), the lone female co-conspirator of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination is put on trial. Her lawyer must uncover the truth and save her life.
RELEASE DATE: April 2011 (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Over the last few years, my favourite films have been assassination pics. Milk, The Assassination of Jesse James, Public Enemies and I guess, this year’s The American – there’s just something about assassins and their victims that appeals to me. So this one, which looks at the aftermath of Lincoln’s assissantion and the trial of the conspirator Mary Surrat is right up my alley. Robert Redford directs.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Originally set for release this year, the film was recently pushed back to April – leaving it out of contention for this year’s Oscars and a date that is by now means strong for next year’s. Some might say it has been dumped. Also, Robert Redford has directed a movie I’ve truly enjoyed in a while – I didn’t care to revisit Lions for Lambs or The Legend of Bagger Vance. It’s been 17 years since Quiz Show… can he still do it?
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
SYNOPSIS: Ten years since her last visit from the Ghostface killer and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) finds her past comes back to haunt her and her family once more.
RELEASE DATE: 15th April (U.K. & USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Because the band is back together again! Horror legend Wes Craven once again directs from a Kevin Williamson screenplay (a writer whose original Scream script is one of the smartest of the 90′s) and having lived through the torture porn generation and the countless number of remakes and reinventions of horror franchises they originally parodied 15 years ago, there’s certainly room for lots of new material tongue-in-cheek, satirical humour here. And from the dialogue in that wonderfully cut together first trailer, Williamson’s writings seem as on the nose as ever! As someone who saw Scream on it’s first run just at the right age, I can’t tell you how much of a nostalgia hit that trailer gave me. The cast looks solid, Neve Campbell, Courtney and David Arquette return, which is welcomed rather than a franchise reboot and the new castings of Emma Roberts, Hayden Pantierre and Rory Culkin are better than the average actors in their age group and I’m hopeful they can bring the spirited energy the original cast gave in 1996. Scream’s back baby!
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The last entry in the series Scream 3 wasn’t spectacular was it, and no matter how great Williamson/Craven are… one wonders if Scream 4 could feel like the same old formula but this time looking particularly tiresome a decade after the fact. And audiences these days are so over-saturated by mindless bloods and guts and violent horror’s that there might be a tendency for Craven to push the envelope in order to shock. Also the rumoured problems with Williamson’s script which allegedly led to the hiring of Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger to conduct hasty re-writes on set is a big, clear warning sign of trouble. (entry by Matt Holmes)
Director: Takeshi Miike
Synopsis: A group of samurai band together against all odds to defeat a cruel and tyrannical lord.
Release Date: 15th April (UK) [We reviewed it HERE]
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: As if you needed any more reason than “because it has samurai in it”, 13 Assassins is an ultra-violent riff on the story of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai that is every bit as epic and filled with equally memorable characters. You can expect a visceral and exciting film in the mould of Takeshi Miike’s other socially conscious kill-fests Dead or Alive (no, not the one with Holly Valance) and Ichi the Killer. And like those films 13 Assassins will also be a little bit insane as it uses extreme violence as some kind of satirical allegory for the ills of modern Japanese society.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: None… I’ve seen the film. It’s fantastic!!! (entry by Robert Beames)
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
SYNOPSIS: A black ops super soldier (Gina Carano) seeks revenge after see is setup during a mission.
RELEASE DATE: 22nd April, 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: It’s the third team up for Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs (together they made the brilliant The Limey and Kafka) and will find real life martial arts fighter Gina Carano in her first major role, chucked straight into the deep end here. No actress has been tested as physically or mentality in this sort of action vehicle since Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. In many ways, this action vehicle is the same as his recent Girlfriend Experience experiment. A small budget movie (Soderbergh is said to have taken no pay deal for this), the cast for this is interesting with Channing Tatum, Michael Dougla, Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas. From what we hear, Soderbergh is going to retire next year, so we need to celebrate the few movies he has left.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Originally set for a release towards the late summer of this year, Haywire was pushed into an odd April date – and we weren’t really told why. And you have to say, is Carano able to carry a movie such as this on her own? Could you imagine someone of lesser talents leading The Limey? (entry by Matt Holmes)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Synopsis: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior, is cast down to Earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and is forced to live among humans. A beautiful, young scientist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), has a profound effect on Thor, as she ultimately becomes his first love. It’s while here on Earth that Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.
Release Date: 29th April (UK), 6th May (US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Branagh definitely knows theatricality, and his past associations with Shakespearean adaptations (and in particular his exceptional Othello) prove as much. Given the special status that Thor has (he is something of an oddity beside other supes), the classical association of the helmer, mixed with the moody, modern stylisation offered in the trailer make this one look to be a winner already. Because of the large scope to the character, there’s more potential in this character for storytelling interest than any other.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: With that undeniable potential comes the possibility for this film to be extremely po-faced and full of misplaced self-importance. If there isn’t the right balance the film will look like an overblown, misguided turkey with a huge identity problem. And Thor hasn’t always been a favourite among comic book fans, so how well he will translate on screen remains to be seen. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
May – August
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
Director: Rob Marshall
Synopsis: In this action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise, Captain Jack Sparrow crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), and he’s not sure if it’s love–or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.
Release Date: May 18th (UK), May 20th (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: With the force of Disney behind them, and the decision to cut loose the less welcome characters of the franchise, Rob Marshall’s first and Johnny Depp’s fourth addition to this swashbuckling adventure should be able to focus on what was best about the first three – Captain Jack Sparrow. There is also something to be said for the big summer blockbuster spirit that the franchise sticks to and Ian McShane looks as effective in the trailer as Geoffrey Rush did in the original, before they made him a softly softly good guy in the sequels. If Marshall can recreate what worked in the original, this could be the summer event of the season.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Franchises rarely run beyond a third instalment while remaining as good as the original, and the model for the Pirates franchise has so far been rather uninspiring – with each subsequent film muddying the quality quite markedly. I also fear Johnny Depp’s continued association with the character will cast too much influence on how his career is viewed in posterity. It’s a good character, and a good initial performance, but hyper-caricatures like that have a way of devaluing everything else an actor does. Just ask Sir Anthony Hopkins and Hannibal. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
TREE OF LIFE
Director: Terrence Malick
Synopsis: The impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950′s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.
Release Date: 27th May, 2011 (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: There are few directors with as refined an aesthetic as Terrence Malick, and his dedication to new and inventive filming and post-production techniques is infamous (Days of Heaven spent two years being tinkered with once filming was complete). At the very least, the film will look beautiful – though it will hopefully have a little more substance than The Thin Red Line which was pretty much the filmic equivalent of a supermodel.
The trailer is one of the more interesting, thought-inducing and rousing movie ads we’ve seen in years. And the whole idea behind this film just has had my imagination running wild for years over the possibilities. Malick’s had us on a leash for this for a while….
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Having been initially suggested as a Cannes inclusion for the 2010 schedule, Tree of Life is not set to be released until May next year (with probable inclusion at Cannes 2011), and something about that makes me think something has gone wrong. Malick might well be a renowned perfectionist, but the complex changes and restructuring behind the film might not be the best foundation for it to be as good as it could. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
THE HANGOVER: PART II
Director: Todd Phillips
Synopsis: In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy “The Hangover,” Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.
Release Date: May 27th (UK), May 26th (US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Todd Phillips is the new crown-prince of comic genius – the way he mixes slapstick, occasionally surreal comedy with a realist overall tone is wonderfully jarring, and the opportunity to see his cast playing merry hell in Bangkok just tickles me hugely. Great cameos planned as well, with Mike Tyson returning, Liam Neeson appearing and Bill Clinton in tow too. It’ll also be good to see how Phillips uses Justin Bartha this time around after he played only a tiny part in the first.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The concept worked so well in the first because it was so trim – retracing the steps of a lost night works exceptionally well in a humourous/suspenseful mix sort of way, but stretching that concept, and essentially replaying it in an alternative environment (albeit one that offers incredible comic potential) might just compromise how well it all works. Oh, and if you were to be really cruel, you could well suggest that this is no more than Dude, Where’s My Car 3. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
Director: Matt Vaughn
Synopsis: A reboot of the X-Men saga as Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Leshner (Magneto) discover their powers for the first time and plan how best to utilise them for the good of mutants and to stop a threat that could end of the world.
Release Date: June 2nd (U.K. & U.S.)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Bryan Singer is two for two on superb X-Men movies, and he returns to the franchise here for the first time in seven years as producer and the guy who originally came up with the concept. He has brought with him Matt Vaughn, the director of Kick-Ass, who has unfinished business with the genre having had to give up the reigns on X-Men 3 and his screenwriter Jane Goldman. We don’t know much at all about what Vaughn/Singer are up to here and the official synopsis left us with more questions than answers but we do know it’s set in the 60′s (JFK is President, Martin Luthor King & Malcolm X appear to cry out for a social change) and that there will be a blending of our real history with fictional accounts involving mutants (like Watchmen). Whether the film turns out to be any good or not is another question but with the ambitions on display it’s hard to argue against it being a ‘must see’ project.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Some would argue (me included) that the X-Men franchise didn’t need rebooting in this fashion, the original trilogy still had so much room to grow… to some it might have just felt like it was getting started. And of course with a reboot there’s no appearances for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, no Ian McKellen’s Magneto, no Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and no Rebecca Romjin-Stamos as Mystique. Are any of the new talent up to the task of filling those shoes? A reboot, so soon after a successful trilogy, feels like a backwards step… and maybe Fox under-estimate how much audiences care for the actors they introduced to cinema screens in 1999, over the characters? (entry by Matt Holmes)
SYNOPSIS: Oliver (Ewan McGregor) receives two equally earth-shattering pieces of information when his father (Christopher Pummer) informs him that he is not only suffering from terminal cancer but that he also has a young male lover.
RELEASE DATE: June 3rd, 2010
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: This intriguing premise is focused on the irony of a person only able to truly reveal themselves when they are near the end of their life. I hope that the script dwells significantly on this rather tragic human truth and with the talented cast on board, it could be a welcomed shift from the high-energy blockbuster season.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Sometimes these type of films really belong as short stories and as a result can become repetitive and bland. The plot is based on a true confession that director/writer Mike Mills received from his own father but there is the concern that he may have just got carried away with an interesting idea as opposed to thinking about how it might work as a fully fledged film. (entry by Laurent Kelly)
SYNOPSIS: J.J. Abrams has refused to release information about the plot because he wishes for the images to speak for themselves. It is rumoured that the film will focus around an alien invasion.
RELEASE DATE: June 10th, 2011 (US), August 19th (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: I can’t honestly say for sure that this film will be great because J.J. Abrams has kept very quiet about it but then this is also the exact reason why I’m looking forward to Super 8. In a time where trailers are becoming less creative - pretty much showing the film condensed into a three minute plug, going into the cinema and having no idea of what to expect is becoming an increasingly rare pleasure. All I can hope for is that the film is as satisfying as the brooding, atmospheric teaser trailer which has done a fantastic job of keeping audiences guessing and intrigued.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: J.J. Abrams is a master at constructing convincing and memorable inciting incidents but his stories often become chaotic and convoluted the further they develop. A classic example is Cloverfield which began as an unpredictable and tense horror film and descended into a generic Godzilla-esque monster movie. Sometimes less is more and Abrams seems far more skilled with simple but effective storylines. (entry by Laurent Kelly)
RISE OF THE APES
DIRECTOR: Rupert Wyatt
SYNOPSIS: An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Starring James Franco, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Frieda Pinto and Andy Serkis.
RELEASE DATE: 24th June
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Because after so long, and a terrible Tim Burton remake, we’re getting another Apes film, theres got to be a reason for that, no? James Franco, who’s made some varied and interesting choices over the past few years is always good value and it will be interesting to see what attracted him to this property in the first place. Add to this a talented British director on the rise in Wyatt (his work on small prison flick The Escapist showed a lots of potential) plus King Kong/Gollum himself Andy Serkis back on motion capture duty once again, this could be a cracking cautionary tale of science gone wrong and offer something a little different in the height of the summer season.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Has the world moved on from the Apes franchise? Also Fox has a track record for hiring exciting directors on potentially great projects only to completely handcuff them creatively. And with that said, writer Rick Jaffa seemingly hasnt had any credits since 1997′s Tom Sizemore starring monster movie The Relic. Hope he isn’t rusty. (entry by Neil Upton)
DIRECTOR: Brad Lewis & John Lasseter
SYNOPSIS: When star racecar Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix, Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.
RELEASE DATE: June 24th (US), July 22nd (UK),
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: One word. Pixar. No other artistic company can claim to have anything like the animation giant’s form, and if consistency is a true mark of sustainable genius, the men behind Disney’s resurgence in recent years have it sewn well and truly up. And while Cars wasn’t exactly top of the pile, the story and characters held enough appeal, and are undeniably durable properties (the movie is a real grower)- and you only need to look at the ridiculous merchandise sales to see how much love the property can still command even after Pixar have released their other comparatively giant movies.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Cars is rightly considered Pixar’s worst film (but then that’s like being the least shiny diamond), perhaps because they simply could not attract the same kind of audience empathy for the car stars- whatever the reason something didn’t quite inspire the same rabid excitement that other Pixar films have. And there is just something about the decision to option this sequel that makes my cynical senses tingle- look again at those ridiculous merchandise sales: in the grand scheme of things they look like the only major reason for this to actually happen. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
SYNOPSIS: The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, are back in action, taking on the evil Decepticons, who are determined to avenge their defeat in 2009’s Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. In this new movie, the Autobots and Decepticons become involved in a perilous space race between the U.S. and Russia, and once again human Sam Witwicky has to come to the aid of his robot friends. There’s new characters too, including a new villain in the form of Shockwave, a longtime “Transformers” character who rules Cybertron while the Autobots and Decepticons battle it out on Earth.
RELEASE DATE: July 1st (US), June 29th (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: “Great” might be a little too much of a leap for many, many people, but I have faith that the third addition to the franchise will in some way get back to the original spirit of Transformers, rather than being a messy, bloated and unnecessary sequel in a franchise that so many already believe has outstayed its welcome. The reason I’m willing to give it a chance to be good? Atonement. I think Bay knows he made a huge mistake in the second film, and he can’t seriously be so insular that he doesn’t recognise the need, and opportunity to redeem himself a little. Plus this one has John Malkovich and Frances McDormand in it, and as blatantly paycheck as them taking on this role may be… it’s still Malkovich/McDormand.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The second one was like a technicolour headache: I’m all for action, but you have to strike a healthy balance, and amping up the way-too-blurry to focus action sequences in place of any engaging human characters was a major problem. Brainless action only works when it is self-conscious: what Transformers 2 brought was just empty-headedness. Oh, and shit new characters. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2
Director: David Yates
Synopsis: Having decided the quest for Voldemort’s Horcruxes is more important than the search for the Deathly Hallows, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione’s (Emma Watson) adventure takes them to Gringott’s Wizarding Bank and back to Hogwarts, where the final battle will rage and Harry and Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) fates will be sealed.
Release Date: July 15th
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: It has to be. This is the cinematic moment that all Harry Potter fans have been waiting for – forget the first installment of the finale (which was no more than an exercise in necessary exposition), this is the real Deathly Hallows film. And they have an awful lot of good material to work with; the Battle for Hogwarts by rights should be the set-piece of the year if done right, and after the comparative low-point of Part 1, I can only hope the final installment ends on a huge bang.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The acting has never been particularly good in the main young actors (though the supporting cast are largely very good in their roles), and they became comically bad at some turns in the first part of the installment, and there is surely a huge weight of expectation on everyone attached to the project that might spell disaster if it creeps in. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Director: Joe Johnston
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.
Release Date: July 22nd
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Until now, Cap has to be classed as the biggest and best superhero who wasn’t given the proper big screen treatment, and the nerdgasmic excitement for it’s forthcoming film is now palpable. And despite Chris Evans already having played a supe (and thus unwittingly broken an unwritten rule of comic book movies- established by who, we shall never know!), he certainly looks the part.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: I just worry that Evans is a little too much the quirky/funny sidekick rather than lead superhero – he was a high-point of the otherwise not too inspiring The Losers, and he clearly had a lot of fun as quip-wielding anti-hero of sorts Johnny Storm. I will be always expecting him to crack a joke, and the character has NO sense of humour to speak of. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
COWBOYS & ALIENS
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
SYNOPSIS: Based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, and set in 1800s http://whatculture.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=53859&action=edit&message=1Arizona, where the local cowboys, headed by gunslinger Zeke Jackson (Daniel Craig), and the indigenous Apache tribe have long been feuding fiercely. Their skirmish is interrupted, however, by the appearance of a spaceship, commanded by an alien creature that’s bent on enslaving the human race. It’s time for a six-gun shoot-out between these cattle rustlers and space invaders.
RELEASE DATE: July 29th (US), August 12th (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: There’s some mighty fine talent on show, and the idea that the movie was borne out of Steven Spielberg’s desire to create a film that tonally referenced both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Searchers is the most bafflingly, exhilaratingly brilliant thing I’ve heard ever. I also love the trashy aspect of the project, and how openly it embraces its pulp heritage. And Harrison Ford looks on his game.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: It might just be a little bit too silly for its own good.
SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Synopsis: With the original “Spy Kids” now all grown up, this sequel centres on new protagonists: twins Rebecca and Cecil who don’t get along with their stepmother Marissa (Jessica Alba). However, they soon learn that Marissa is a retired spy and when a maniac called “the Timekeeper” (Jeremy Piven) attempts to take over the planet, Rebecca and Cecil join up with Marissa to try to save the world.
Release Date: 19th August (UK & US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Probably not the first films people think of when they hear the name Robert Rodriguez, but the first two Sky Kids movies were actually a ton of fun. One of the main reasons for this unexpected joy was that Rodriguez gathered a huge cast of big names for lots of very small and incredibly silly parts, including Steve Buscemi, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek and Robert Patrick. Therefore it would be a surprise if this sequel didn’t have a few big name cameos alongside the announced stars Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven and the returning Danny Trejo and Antonio Banderas. Another reason the first films were so interesting was that Rodriguez made them all on the cheap, doing a lot of the set design and effects work himself and finding innovative ways to shoot the film so as to make the most of meager resources. One such example, gleaned from a DVD extra on one of the first two movies, is that he only built half of a submarine cock-pit, filmed the two actors separately and then just flipped one image and joined them together on the computer to create the illusion of the whole room – a cost-cutting measure I don’t think many would have thought of (and one you’d never notice). They were also refreshing children’s films that, like the work of Hayao Miyazaki, never had any real “bad guys”. All the kids’ enemies were ultimately affable enough, if a little misunderstood and there was a sort of gentle humanism to the films, with no such thing as “evil” in the Spy Kids world. I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about this fourth installment, but the first two films lead me to hope that it will be a quirky and likable kid’s film with its heart in the right place.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: With the kids from the original movie now grown up (though both actors apparently make cameos) it could have just the slightest whiff of post-Culkin Home Alone about it. Also, the third film in the series, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, was pretty dire in its use of 3D (though it admittedly used the old-style glasses) as Rodriguez just did the gimmicky thing of pointing things at the audience the whole time. A lot has improved since then, so hopefully the 3D in this new film will less tacky. (entry by Robert Beames)
THE WAR HORSE
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
SYNOPSIS: A young man, played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine, has his beloved horse sold to the cavalry and sent off to the trenches of World War One.
RELEASE DATE: 9 September (UK), 28 December (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Based on Michael Morpurgo’s classic children’s novel from 1982, the production of this movie may well have had more to do with the very successful 2007 stage version at London’s National Theatre. It has certainly attracted a notable director, and as it currently stands this movie is set to be released in America just a few days after his take on Tintin comes out (though I have a feeling this may be changed by December ’11, perhaps closer to it’s UK date?). The movie is being filmed in the UK, the first time Spielberg has shot here in over a decade, with an excellent British cast including David Thewlis, Peter Mullan and Emily Watson. This is smaller-scale, more personal filmmaking to balance out the more ambitious Tintin movie.
WHY WE MAY HAVE CONCERNS: Few would argue that Spielberg has made his best movies in the last ten years, and many are still acutely aware that his last movie involved Indiana Jones, Shia LaBeouf and some CGI monkeys. Spielberg may not be the most obvious choice for the material, and movies about boys and their horses may have peaked 30 years ago with the wonderful The Black Stallion, although I believe this movie will provide more, as it were, from the horse’s point of view. The adaptation is by Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot, and, more eyebrow-raisingly, Richard Curtis, whose last movie, The Boat That Rocked, was for me an unmitigated disaster. (entry by Adam Whyte)
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Winding Refn
SYNOPSIS: Based on the book by James Sallis, A Hollywood stuntman (Ryan Gosling) by day, getaway driver at night goes on the run from the mob after a job goes south. Supporting cast includes including Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston.
RELEASE DATE: Sept 16 (USA), tbc (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: What at first glance seems to be your average run of the mill action plot, Drive has been described by lead Ryan Gosling as a kind of surreal take on the genre. Given Nicholas Winding Refn’s previous two efforts (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) I’m excited at the thought of what this will mean. Add to that a cracking supporting cast… I’ll watch Ron Perlman in anything he chooses to do and it’ll also be interesting to see Christina Hendricks on the big screen since her rise to tv fame in Mad Men. This promises to be a very different kind of action movie.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Have they managed to keep the neo noir tone and complex narrative structure intact, or will it be tinkered with before release? (entry by Neil Upton)
TITLE: Dream House
DIRECTOR: Jim Sheridan
RELEASE DATE: 30th September, 2010 (US), UK TBA
SYNOPSIS: Soon after moving into their seemingly idyllic new home, a family learns of a brutal crime committed against former residents of the dwelling.
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Sounding on paper like a cross between The Others and The Amityville Horror, Dream House promises to provide some deep chills which should hold extra weight given the talented cast members which includes Oscar winner Rachel Weisz and Oscar nominated Naomi Watts.
Whilst the story is far from original, it still deals with a terrifying concept which always has potential to provide great moments of horror so long as the narrative doesn’t descend into melodrama. Given Jim Sheridan’s track record as a minimal and engaging filmmaker I don’t think this will be the case and I believe that Dream House could be the biggest surprise of 2011.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: So many horror films ruin a sound concept by trying too hard to be scary. Instead of letting the arena and the characters tell the story they settle for cheap jump tactics which quickly become tedious and formulaic. A haunted house story can easily become overblown and cliched and I guess that is the major concern here. (entry by Laurent Kelly)
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
RELEASE DATE: 26th October
SYNOPSIS: An international team of doctors are contracted to deal with the threat poised by a deadly virus.
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Soderbergh’s ‘Outbreak‘ for the 21st century imagines a world where our fears against a global pandemic such as Swine Flu or SARS going global and became the world’s biggest killer are realised. Just how would the Earth cope? Told from several different points of view, Scott Z. Burns (writer of Soderbergh’s rather brilliant The Informant) tells us how the government would react, people from around the world, your next neighbour and your family members. The great thing about virus movies (such as the actually rather excellent Carriers last year) is that they work to the same conventions of zombie films (an apocalyptic style world where you really don’t want to get infected) but are more effecting because they are more relateable. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of them in the last decade. Huge international scope here and in the hands of Soderbergh this could be something special. The cast he has for this is extraordinary. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: I suppose, one concern might be the worry of the scope. Ensemble films rarely turn out great.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg (Peter Jackson producing)
SYNOPSIS: Tintin and his friends discover directions to a sunken ship commanded by Capt. Haddock’s ancestor and go off on a treasure hunt.
RELEASE DATE: 26th October (UK), 28th December (US)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Only the small matter of two of the most famous and exciting auteurs alive today collaborating on an adaptation of one of the most popular children’s book capers of all time! As realised through performance-capture Jamie Bell is seemingly ideal as the titular adventurer come amateur sleuth, while a supporting cast that boasts Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis (as Captain Haddock) has to be applauded. And performance-capture is surely the smartest way to bring such a bold iconic animated character to life.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Most of the kooky charm came from the hand drawn animation and one wonders what the effect of losing this aesthetic distinction will have, particularly as the early graphic shots of the film aren’t particularly impressive. Animation has let down Spielberg before; his last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was probably his worst due to meddling in it too much. This might be an early warning sign that he is losing his touch in late middle age, but admittingly that was Lucas’ ‘other’ baby so perhaps we are being a bit too harsh on the blame stakes. Saying that the title is similarly ropey and a first instalment of any series can be a little dicey to get off the ground. Let’s hope this isn’t another failed franchise set-up a la The Golden Compass. (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
DIRECTOR: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
SYNOPSIS: A prequel to the 1982 film of the same name, set in the Norwegian base where in John Carpenter’s story, a team first come into contact with the alien life form.
RELEASE DATE: 14th October
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: The original was a taut sci-fi horror classic that drew heavily on its isolated claustrophobic Antarctic location to nurture some of its overwhelming paranoia and the fact that this prequel is returning to such an unsettling locale already suggests chilling possibilities. It has been reported that director Heijningen Jr is allegedly going back to basics by mostly eschewing traditional computer generated effects in favour of more creative ‘practical FX’ – echoing one of the other high points of the original too; namely Rob Bottin’s innovative make-up effects. But can they really match anything as eerie as the infamous ‘spider-head’ or chest jaws? We wait with instantly frozen bated breath.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: The whole (ahem) thing about the original was how beautifully mysterious the premise was – you never truly knew about where this thing came from or what happened to those deserted scientists in the base at the beginning and this kept the audience on tender hooks throughout. But it would appear mystery is well and truly dead these days; from unveiling the roots of iconic villains like Darth Vader and Hannibal Lector, to the unravelling of the enigmatic Space Jockey in Ridley Scott’s future two Alien prequels and now this – I just hope it doesn’t do the original any harm in the process. Plus there’s the matter that the (spoiler alert!) sad fate of these scientists is already written from the start; for anyone who has seen the 1982 original that is. Also unlike Carpenter at the time, Dutch filmmaker Heijningen Jr is an untested director so a lot rests on his power to deliver the goods. Can he deliver nail-biting suspense and produce the necessary frights to give this prequel real bite and distinction? (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
DIRECTOR: Gregg Araki
SYNOPSIS: Tripping at a party, Smith (Thomas Dekker) is convinced he’s witnessed the gruesome murder of an enigmatic Red Haired Girl who has been haunting his dreams. What he discovers as he tries to find out the truth leads him deeper and deeper into a mystery that will forever change not only the course of his young life but the destiny of the entire world.
RELEASE DATE: Oct 27th
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Gregg Araki is a genius. Okay, so he might be considered slightly odd, but I’m all for that. I’m odd too. And when the plot involves drugs, sexual relationships and his usual off-beat characters, Araki is at his very best, which was proven when I saw this monstrously wierd, but utterly compelling movie at Cannes earlier this year. It doesn’t sit well next to any other film ever made, partly because it is such an oddity, but my God is it entertaining.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: A lot of people just wont get it. Not because it is all high-brow and knowing, but because it is such a difficult film. The fact that Araki seems to revel in making films that disturb and destabilise the viewer, rather than just entertain is also a concern for any lasting, wide-spread following. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
DIRECTOR: Rod Lurie
SYNOPSIS: David Sumner (James Marsden), an LA screenwriter, relocates to his wife’s (Kate Bosworth) hometown deep in the American South. As tensions build between the couple, a conflict with the locals could prove a serious threat to them.
RELEASE DATE: 28 October (UK); 16 September (USA)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Again, no trailer as of yet, but with a cast of fairly dexterous actors (Marsden and James Woods have starred in some excellent productions, Bosworth not so much!) this updated version of the notorious original could bring the horror of the narrative to a new generation. With direction from Rod Lurie – who has solid experience of the thriller genre, particularly with the excellent The Contender (2000) – Straw Dogs should hopefully employ a suspenseful and dramatic style. As with all directors Lurie has had his share of the less well-received (failed TV series Commander in Chief [2005-2006] anyone!?), however he has proved his salt with the aforementioned The Contender and the equally interesting Nothing But the Truth (2008). Hopefully he will bring these skills to Straw Dogs and produce something that doesn’t make us hate his guts for ruining a classic!
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Remakes rarely live up to expectations and almost never eclipse the originals they are based on – this new vision of Sam Peckinpah’s 1970s horror classic is unlikely to be different. However, with director Rod Lurie, a former LA Times film critic, this is likely to be as much an homage to the original as it is a new envisioning. Whether or not this translates well is another question. Of course, the resounding screams of does this really need to be remade will be heard all the way up to the films release! (entry by Stu Cummins)
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
DIRECTOR: James Watkins
SYNOPSIS: A junior lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a small remote town to organise the papers of a recently deceased client only to uncover some sinister secrets that unleash the vengeful ghost of a mysterious woman.
RELEASE DATE: 28th October (UK)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: The stage play was terrifically spooky and has been on a theatrical run for over twenty years so that says something about the value of the source material. Daniel Radcliffe is fresh out of Hogwarts and up for a challenge so the enthusiasm is certainly there. While director James Watkins delivered the suspenseful modern horror shocker Eden Lake – proving his credentials for this sort of thing and Jane ‘Kick Ass’ Goldman scripts so expect cool treatment to the narrative. Then there’s the small matter of this being the first British set Hammer film since the original productions closed in the late seventies; which places it comfortably back in its own territory.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Radcliffe has many critics who have belated his workmanlike Harry Potter incarnation and the fact that he leads here amongst a cast of unknowns may be risky business indeed. Also the transition from stage to screen is rarely a successful one and one wonders whether the spooky essence of the play will be lost on celluloid; part of the appeal of the stage play was that the audience was in-effect immersed into the creaky locale – something that is pretty impossible to accomplish in cinema. (entry by Oliver Pfeiffer)
DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol
SYNOPSIS: (from 20th Century Fox) – Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there’s a catch: you’re genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich “earn” decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo’s love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system.
RELEASE DATE: 30th September (U.S.)
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Writer/director Andrew Niccol has the biggest imagination of any filmmaker working today, baring maybe James Cameron. His scripts for Gattaca, S1mone & The Truman Show, the former two he also directed, are amongst the best original work produced in the last 15 years of cinema. We expect a great deal from Now, formerly titled Im.mortal, which is set in a universe where time is described as ‘currency’ as your aging clock stops at 25. In this world the rich are ‘immortal’, and the poor struggle to live – and our leads are Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried who are on the run for a falsely accused murder and must beg, borrow and steal to pay for the daily struggle of more hours to live. It all sounds very Logan’s Run-esque but of course with Niccol… it’ll be more original than a rehash of ideas gone by. How refreshing.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: I see little reason why this film won’t be great. Perhaps Niccol is a better writer than director, yeah maybe you could make that assumption, but he ain’t a hack. And I suppose if it were being made by any other director we would be predicting a redo of Logan’s Run just by a different name, perhaps you could argue that. But at this point, there’s no reason to think this won’t be one of the stand out hits of the year. (entry by Matt Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh
SYNOPSIS: Peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill) must do battle with evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and the deadly Titans.
RELEASE DATE: 11th November 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: If there was any director who could do the visual grandeur of Ancient Greece justice it’s Tarsem Singh, his debut was the poorly written but eye-popping thriller The Cell, and his sophomore effort was the absolutely beautiful fantasy adventure The Fall, which I feel is destined to become a modern classic. Here he takes on Myths and the 3-D format, allegedly working with a whopping budget and a cast including Mickey Rourke as Hyperion, Henry Cavill as Theseus, John Hurt as Zeus, Freida Pinto as Phaedra and Stephen Dorff as Stavros. Behind the scenes videos have teased at minotaurs and labyrinths, whilst the plot synopsis talks of armies of disfigured soldiers; expect something epic and eye-wateringly good looking at least.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Will this film be lost in the wake of the recent Clash of the Titans remake? Other than that I think people might accuse Tarsem of ‘style over substance’, but The Fall proves the man’s capable of grounding his films with so much heart and emotion. (entry by Owain)
TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART I
DIRECTOR: Bill Condon
SYNOPSIS: Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) finally get it on. Thank Christ.
RELEASE DATE: 18 November
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: I have no idea if this will be great, actually, but I am looking forward to it. Lots of people loathe these movies, and that’s perfectly all right, but if you enjoy them, or are one of the obsessive teenage girls at whom they’re aimed, you will be cursing the fairly long wait between the third and this, the fourth, in the quartet-cum-quintet. As with Harry Potter this final novel, the longest, is being split into two movies, with the final part coming out a full year after this one. By the time this one comes out, it’ll have been three years since Edward first saw Bella’s overbite and raised it a pout. The direction of these movies has increased with each instalment, and they may have their best director yet in Bill Condon, who made Kinsey and Gods and Monsters. Pattinson’s acting has not advanced massively, and Topless Taylor Lautner is mostly just eye-candy too, but at least that means the gender roles are reversed for once, and it’s Bella (played, I think, pretty well by Kristen Stewart) who gets to choose for herself. For all its popcorn trashiness, there’s something subversive about her attitude.
WHY WE MAY HAVE CONCERNS: I imagine most of you already do. There’s the strong possibility that it’s simply being stretched out artificially to make more money [Editor's note: Surely it's more than just a strong possibility???] and last longer as a phenomenon. The story of the last book is thought by fans (I haven’t read it) to be more difficult to film, and I really hope they do something about the dodgy werewolf CGI. Finally, its title has altogether too much punctuation (franchises seem to think they can get two or even three titles into one these days, the worst offender being Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole) (entry by Adam Whyte)
THE MUPPET MOVIE
Director: James Bobin
Synopsis: On vacation in LA, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theatre, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways.
Release Date: November 23rd
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Look at the talent behind it! This is the first time in a long time I’ve been confident that a Muppets project will do justice to the characters – remember how good The Muppet Show was?! And the Blues Brothers style reunion plot is gold for potential comedy, giving an insight into what the Muppets would do if they weren’t famous anymore. In a genius move, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue. That’s enough for me.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: No matter who is in charge, it’s still a Muppet movie and for every Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, there are a fair old number of Muppet projects that just don’t bear mentioning, especially as cinematic releases.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SYNOPSIS: The movie tells the story of Hugo, an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the secret walls of a Paris station. When he encounters a broken machine, an eccentric girl (Chloe Moretz), and the cold owner of a toy shop (Ben Kingsley – who plays silent filmmaker George Méliès as a toy shop owner!!!), he is caught up in “a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.
RELEASE DATE: 9th December
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Scorsese’s first childrens picture and his first film in 3D, Hugo Cabret might be the most unusual film the legendary director has ever challenged himself to make. And you know what, he’s wanted to make this picture for the past five years and he finally got his chance in 2010 and from what I hear, he wants to change the expectations of what 3D Cinema can be. A great source material here that blends childlike wonder and the early days of cinema… Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen and Christopher Lee support.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: What does Scorsese have to say that will appeal to kids? There’s absolutely nothing, not one individual scene in any of his pictures that says he can make this film. (entry by Matt Holmes).
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL
DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
SYNOPSIS: Once more IMF agent Ethan Hunt and his team must embark on a globe-trotting adventure to stop bad things happening.
RELEASE DATE: 16th December 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: In my personal opinion the first and third Mission: Impossible movies were both great fun, and the fact that Brad Bird is behind the camera on this one – making his live-action debut – fills me with a huge amount of confidence. If he can bring the sense of adventure and excitement to this that he brought to The Incredibles then this could be the best instalment yet. Cruise has once again emphasised that this film will feature more of a team dynamic, with The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner being groomed to take over the franchise when Ethan Hunt hangs up his, er, super cool video glasses.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Mission: Impossible 2 was a load of bobbins and maybe every even numbered M:I film will befall the same curse? There’s also a danger that Bird’s considerable skills as an animation director just won’t translate to live-action.
LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD: GEORGE HARRISON
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SYNOPSIS: A documentary feature about George Harrison both through his music and his more spiritual side, stretching before and after the ’60s and The Beatles.
RELEASE DATE: tbc
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Because it’s directed by Martin Scorsese, stupid. As far as I’m concerned the man has not made a single bad movie (he has made a couple of mediocre ones), and one area he has never let me down in is with his documentaries. Aside from making perhaps the greatest concert film ever (1978’s The Last Waltz), he made a definitive documentary about Bob Dylan in the 1960s (2005’s No Direction Home) and two great documentaries about the movies that have influenced him (one about American films, the other Italian). Here he takes on the life of George Harrison from before the Beatles to long after. I first heard about the project at least 2 years ago and Scorsese seems to have been working away at it, between other projects, since then. Anyone who likes either Scorsese or Harrison is bound to get something out of this.
WHY WE MAY HAVE CONCERNS: I have to say I really don’t; of all the movies on this list this is the one I feel safest in assuming will be a good movie. (I am also looking forward to it more than Hugo Cabret, as I’m a bit of a 3D sceptic.) The time it has taken suggests a great deal of research and so hopefully the documentary will show footage unfamiliar even to dedicated fans. No release date has been announced yet although someone cannily pointed out to me that November 29th next year will mark ten years since Harrison’s death, so around then might be a wise bet. (entry by Adam Whyte)
SHERLOCK HOLMES 2
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
SYNOPSIS: Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) are embroiled in a new head-scratching yarn where Holmes meets his match in criminal mastermind Moriarty (Jared Harris).
RELEASE DATE: 16th December 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: The first Holmes was a stylish adventure with great rapport between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, here they’re joined by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace, Mad Men’s Jared Harris as Moriarty and Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Now that the filmmaker’s can review the strengths and weaknesses of the first film (flimsy plot, saggy pace) they can streamline this new adventure, emphasising the points that worked. Plus it means we’ll get another pleasingly bonkers score from Hans Zimmer.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Perhaps content with the idea that Downey Jr and Law’s sparring will be enough for viewers they may forget to put together a decent narrative once again, forgetting that part of the appeal of Holmes is to be one step behind the detective and have the rug pulled from under you.
THE SON OF NO-ONE
SYNOPSIS: Jonathan White (Channing Tatum) is a young cop who is assigned to a precint in a working class neighborhood close to where he grew up. Whilst there an old secret comes back to haunt him and threatens to destroy both his life and family.
RELEASE DATE: N/A
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Dito Montiel’s last film which he wrote and directed was Fighting, a mindless but well shot action film which showed signs of visual promise. The film was led by Channing Tatum who provided an emphatic performance which I felt was deserving of a finer movie. Tatum will also take the lead in the Son of No-One and given that the story seems much meatier and his cast members far more talented (Juliette Binoche, Al Pacino, Ray Liotta) I think this could be something special.
By the law of averages four out of five films starring Juliette Binoche are well worth watching so I’m going to trust her faith in the story.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Heavy handed character moments? Al Pacino talking like a detective whose had his morning coffee spiked with a dozen spoonfuls of sugar? Lazily incoprorated back-story through laborious flashbacks and expositional dialogue? These are all pressing concerns associated with this type of film especially with a director/writer who has yet to truly prove his worth.
(entry by Laurent Kelly)
THE RUM DIARY
Director: Bruce Robinson
Synopsis: Loosely based on Hunter S Thompson’s experience working as a freelance journalist in Puerto Rico in the late ’50s. Johnny Depp will play Paul Kemp, a reporter who works alongside a motley crew of self-destructive staffers at a struggling San Juan newspaper, where a tangled love story of jealousy, treachery and violent alcoholic lust emerges among the Americans who staff the newspaper.
Release Date: TBC 2011
WHY IT WILL BE GREAT: Johnny Depp and Hunter S Thompson is a match made in lunatic heaven, as proved on Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and if the far gentler Rum Diary can recreate anything like the highs of that debauched, deranged, drug-fuelled master-piece, then it’s going to be phenomenal. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the man in charge being Bruce Robinson, writer of The Killing Fields and writer/director of the insurmountable Withnail & I, so we know the journalism aspect will be well-handled at the very least.
WHY WE MIGHT HAVE CONCERNS: Bruce Robinson hasn’t made a film for a damn long time, so there could be creative rust. And while Johnny Depp was at one time considered one of the best actors currently working, some of his past roles have made him less endearing indie-type, and more occasionally cartoonish flamboyant – in fact if it wasn’t for Public Enemies, you could accuse him of having forgotten how to act normally. You have to just hope Robinson can get the most out of him, without coaxing out too much. (entry by Simon Gallagher)
So there’s your 52 ‘Must See’ Films of 2011.
I’m kicking myself that I didn’t include Tom Hanks acting/directing dramedy venture Larry Crowne with Julia Roberts (out in the summer), Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo (which I decided to bump to give other people a chance to have their say) and Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy and Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar which I forgot about. Oh and Fincher’s The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo.
So really this list should be nearing 60 but we are very close to 15,000 words, and maybe that should be the time to call it a day?
Please leave your comments below on what you thought our picks….
This article was first posted on December 25, 2010