The Ultimate 2011 Movie Guide

You know all of those “most anticipated” lists that are out around this time? And you know how they all just have the year’s biggest blockbusters (Thor, Transformers 3, etc.) in varying order? Well, this list is different. It’s a mix of all different genres and sizes of movies (yes, including some blockbusters). I always find it interesting to look back at the movies that I was excited about. Because all it takes is a bad trailer and/or poor reviews to make me completely lose interest a lot of the time. So here’s a look at 50 films in 2011 that I’m excited for, in a very rough order.

1. The Tree of Life

Release Date: May 27

Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn

The plot description is vague (something about a loss of innocence), but the trailer suggests that artistry takes precedence over plot. Director Terrence Malick (whose past films include The New World, Badlands, and The Thin Red Line) takes his time to make meditative films, and hopefully it will be worth the wait.

2. Contagion

Release Date: October 21

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Demetri Martin, Bryan Cranston, Elliott Gould You can’t argue with that cast. The sci-fi storyline about scientists stopping a killer virus may not lend itself to such A-list star power, but with Soderbergh at the helm, it’s bound to be a cut above the usual genre fair.  

 

3. On the Road

Release Date: TBA

Director: Walter Salles

Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Sturridge, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Elizabeth Moss

This long-gestating adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s famous novel has a top-notch cast with some of my personal favourite current actors. Adapting such a huge book is always a challenge, but if they can pull it off, this could be a hugely popular film.

4. Young Adult

Release Date: TBA

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt

I love Jason Reitman as a director, and I love him even more when he teams up with screenwriter Diablo Cody. Charlize Theron stars as a divorced writer hoping to reconnect with a now married old flame (I’m guessing that’s Patrick Wilson’s character?). Even with that vague plot, the names attached make me thing that this might be a romantic dramedy that’s actually good.

5. X-Men: First Class

Release Date: June 3

Director: Matthew Vaughan

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Lucas Till, Oliver Platt, Caleb Landry Jones

What is with the amazing casts this year? Hopefully they don’t disappoint, as these monster casts sometimes do (hi, Nine!). I could see this one going either way, but Matthew Vaughan (Kick-Ass) is a fun director, and with the actors attached, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it on some level. The trailer looks like promising, if not fairly standard, superhero fare.  

 

6. Ceremony

Release Date: April 8

Director: Max Winkler

Cast: Michael Angarano, Uma Thurman, Reece Thompson, Lee Pace

It earned strong reviews at TIFF, and Max Winkler’s directorial debut looks like a charming and funny coming-of-age tale. Angarano and Thompson have been deserving of a breakthrough role for years, and even if this isn’t the vehicle to rocket them to the big time, it’s refreshing to see some of Hollywood’s truly talented young actors get a chance to show off their acting chops.

7. Beginners

Release Date: June 3

Director: Mike Mills

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent

McGregor is always a joy to watch on screen, and it’s an added bonus when his movies are actually good. His career seems to be on the upswing again, and this modest little story about a man dealing with his father’s late-life coming out looks like charming fun, with a dollop of melancholy.

 

8. Restless

Release Date: TBA

Director: Gus Van Sant

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Schuyler Fisk, Jane Adams

I would be slightly dubious about the “quirky” plot (“a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals”) if it wasn’t in such good hands. From his big-name fare (Good Will Hunting, Milk) to his artiest, least comprehensible work (Paranoid Park) Gus Van Sant is always an interesting director. The trailer makes it look like one of his more mainstream efforts, but Restless also appears to have Van Sant’s unique touch that makes me very excited.

 

9. Jane Eyre

Release Date: March 11

Director: Carey Fukunaga

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench, Imogen Poots

It looks like it’s going to be a big year for both Wasikowska and Fassbender, and this sweeping adaptation of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel will likely give both their careers even more of a boost. Potentially overwrought but certain to be well-shot, the best-case scenario for Jane Eyre would be something along the lines of a darker version of 2005’s Pride & Prejudice.

10. Super 8

Release Date

Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka

After a completely esoteric teaser and an only slightly more telling Superbowl spot, I still don’t really know what Super 8 is about. But I have faith in J.J. Abrams after Lost and the Star Trek reboot. Elle Fanning is a young actress who I surprisingly really like, and I loved seeing Kyle Chandler (who will always be Coach Taylor to me) being a badass in the trailer. 

  • And 60+ More to Look Forward To…
    Potentially Hilarious Comedies
    There are few things that I enjoy more than a big, dumb comedy, if it’s done well. And, like most years before it, 2011 has a number of potential winners (most of which are bound to disappoint)

    • The most anticipated comedy of the year is probably The Hangover: Part II. But is a sequel really necessary?
    • Thanks to the first Hangover outing, The Office‘s Ed Helms gets his own film with Cedar Rapids.
    • And in a film that could be this year’s Hangover, three of the funniest dudes working today (Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day) compare Horrible Bosses. Oh yeah, and Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jamie Foxx are along for the ride, too
    • David Gordon Green, who proved his comedy chops with Pineapple Express, and now he has a medieval stoner flick (with James Franco, no less!), Your Highness, and a baby-sitting-stint-gone-awry comedy, The Sitter (starring Jonah Hill, Sam Rockwell, Ari Graynor, and Max Records), on the docket for 2011.
    • The ladies (in this case, Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, and Ellie Kemper) finally get a chance to be funny in an Apatow-produced comedy in Bridesmaids.
    • Capitalizing on the horror/comedy genre that 2009’s Zombieland explored to great effect, director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) brings Anton Yelchin (one of this year’s hottest commodities), Colin Farrell, and David Tennant along for a remake of 1985’s Fright Night
    • Speaking of Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer and star Jesse Eisenberg team up again for the caper comedy, 30 Minutes or Less. With a supporting cast that includes Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson, it seems like a sure-fire laughfest…right?
    • And speaking of great casts, The Big Year stars Rashida Jones, Jim Parsons, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Rosamund Pike, Steve Martin, Joel McHale, Dianne Wiest, and Anjelica Huston in a comedy about bird-watching.

    And what would the year be without a few star-studded rom-coms? Most of them sound exactly the same, but there are a few with a glimmer of hope.

    • Crazy Stupid Love offers the heavenly combination of Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone in a film about a struggling father trying to reconnect with his family.
    • Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd reteam thirteen years after The Object of My Affection for Wanderlust
    • And while I’m not a huge fan of multi-story rom-coms, What’s Your Number? stars Anna Farris as a woman recalling her past twenty (yes, twenty) relationships. And with a supporting cast that includes Andy Samberg, Joel McHale, Chris Pratt, Zachary Quinto, Chris Evans, Mike Vogel, Ari Graynor, and Thomas Lennon, even I can’t help but be excited.
    • Oh, and I kind of like Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as actors, so I’m sort of excited for Friends With Benefits. So sue me.

     

    Shit Gets Serious

    Depressing Dramas!

    • Alright, this isn’t a depressing drama, but Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo is a mix of comedy and drama, and it stars Matt Damon, Elle Fanning, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Hayden Church and Patrick Fugit (yay!). The title kind of says it all.
    • Director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) meditates on the aftermath of a bus crash in Margaret, which has an impressive cast of Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby, Krysten Ritter, Allison Janey, and Rosemarie DeWitt
    • The Iceman delves into the life of infamous killer Richard Kulinski, and it stars James Franco, Benecio Del Toro, and Michael Shannon
    • Imagine a movie that stars Cillian Murphy, Michael Fassbender, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Colin Farrell. Well, this film might actually exist. At-Swim-Two-Birds is an Irish film based on an Irish novel directed by a respected Irish actor (Brendan Gleeson). And it’s going to be amazing, if it ever gets made (IMDB still lists it as in pre-production. Why must you tease us so?)
    • The Lucky One is a stupid-sounding movie based on a stupid-sounding book by a stupid author, but I will watch it and probably secretly really enjoy it because it stars stupid Zac Efron.

    Period Pieces!

    • Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and Gary Oldman make a fetching trio in Cold War thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
    • Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, and Eddie Redmayne explore the life of Marilyn Monroe in the appropriately titled My Week With Marilyn
    • Frued and Jung face off in A Dangerous Method, which stars Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley
    • Cross-dressing in 19th century Ireland is made cool in Albert Nobbs. Glenn Close takes the titular role, while Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Aaron Johnson make for a enticing supporting cast.
    • Teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson plays a social climber at the turn of the last century alongside Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, and Kristen Scott Thomas in Bel Ami

    Sci-Fi!

    • Justin Timberlake, Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew Bomer, and Johnny Galecki deal with the troublesome effects of anti-aging in
      Now (by Gattaca director Andrew Niccol)
    • Clive Owen and Daniel Bruhl (stars of my own personal dreams) come together for a supernatural thriller about clairvoyant children in Intruders
    • Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby , and Max Minghella escape an alien attack in The Darkest Hour
    • The infamously punishing Lars Von Trier guides Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland through Melancholia, a thriller about Earth being on collision course with another planet.

    Action Movies!

    • Remember when Steven Soderbergh cast Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experiment? That sort of made sense as an experimental piece. Now he’s taking a somewhat similar risk by casting non-actor and fighter Gina Carano as the lead in Haywire. But this time she’s backed by a cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano, and Bill Paxton in this story of a black ops soldier out for revenge. This is either going to be amazing or awful.
    • Tower Heist. Pros: It stars Casey Affleck and Ben Stiller, and it was written by Noah Baumbach. Cons: It was directed by Brett Ratner (director of the only X-Men movie that I disliked, and heartless conspirator against the precious Hugh Jackman), stars Eddie Murphy, and has a completely boring, generic-sounding story (some Ponzi scheme heist thing). I’m hoping the good outweighs the bad, though. It is Noah Baumbach, after all.
    • Driver explores the high-flying life of a stunt driver, starring Ryan Gosling and It Girl Carey Mulligan
    • Matt Damon plays a man on the run from unknown forces with Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau

     

    Blockbusters

    • As someone who grew up with Harry Potter, it pretty much goes without saying that I am excited for the final movie chapter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
    • Scorsese goes three dimensional with the highly anticpated Hugo Cabret. This adaptation of the children’s book stars Chloe Moretz, Michael Pitt, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Sascha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, and A Serious Man‘s Michael Stuhlbarg.
    • David Fincher is on a roll, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, his adaptation of the massively popular Swedish book, is bound to be stylish and intense.

     

    Indies

    Sundance

    • Director Drake Doremus (Douchebag) earned huge acclaim at Sundance for his long-distance romance/coming-of-age story, Like Crazy (starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Twilight‘s Charlie Bewley, and Chris Messina)
    • One of the other break-out films of the festival was Martha Marcy May Marlene, which stars Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) as a young woman dealing with her escape from a cult. The top-notch supporting cast includes John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy, and Brady Corbet.
    • Paul Rudd steps behind the camera again with his rom-com-dram My Idiot Brother, and gets some help from Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Rashida Jones, TJ Miller, and Adam Scott on screen.
    • Fundamentalism is this year’s whipping boy at the movies (seriously, did you see how many Sundance films took on religion this year?), and The Ledge is apparently a battle of wills between a Christian and an atheist that involves a man on the ledge of a very tall building. It stars Charlie Hunman (Sons of Anarchy), Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, and Terrence Howard.
    • Kevin Smith’s own statement on fundamentalism takes the form of a horror film in Red State, which stars John Goodman and Michael Angarano.
    • The Details (starring Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, and Tobey Maguire) has a bizarre plot about raccoons, but since it is director Jacob Aaron Estes follow-up to Mean Creek, I can’t help but be intrigued
    • J.K. Simmons gets a much-deserved lead role, and Lou Taylor Pucci stars as his son with a memory-blocking tumour in The Music Never Stopped. It looks like a nice meditation on family, and the power of music.

    TIFF Holdovers

    • Peep World
      (which I somehow managed to completely miss hearing about up until now) looks like a funny, slightly Arrested Development-esque comedy about a family who feels betrayed when the youngest brother uses them as material for his novel. And did I mention that it stars Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Judy Greer, Sarah Silverman, Taraji P. Henson, and Kate Mara? Yeah, that too.
    • The Conspirator‘s cast alone (Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Evan Rachel Wood, The Greatest’s Johnny Simmons, Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Groff, Justin Long, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, etc.) is awesome, and the story, which revolves around the assassination of Lincoln, sounds intriguing
    • I didn’t love Kelly Reichardt’s previous effort, Wendy and Lucy, but I did respect it, and I’m interested to see her next project with Michelle Williams (supporting cast includes Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, and Zoe Kazan)
    • Last Night
      looks like a lush warning against the pitfalls of love and excess, and the cast (Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes, Guillaume Canet) is certainly easy on the eyes.
    • Will Farrell gets semi-serious as man whose life is falling apart in Everything Must Go

    Yet to Screen

    • Jay and Mark Duplass let Jason Segel into their mumblecore world with the decidedly low-concept comedy Jeff Who Lives At Home
    • Sarah Polley directs herself, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogan, and Sarah Silverman in a drama called Take This Waltz
    • Jay Baruchel, Sean William Scott, Liev Schreiber, and Allison Pill celebrate hockey in Goon
    • Cancer is made kind of funny (?) in Live With It, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man diagnosed with cancer (supporting cast includes Seth Rogan, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, and Phillip Baker Hall)

One response to “The Ultimate 2011 Movie Guide

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate 2011 Movie Guide | James Franco

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