Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top 10 Movies to Watch Out For in 2011

No.10 Cowboys & Aliens
If Star Wars was a Western set in space, then Cowboys & Aliens is taking that formula to heart. It stars Han Solo and James Bond, er, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig as two rootin’ tootin’ cowboys who have a more politically correct nemesis to battle than your typical Indians.

No.9 War Horse
A movie about a young man who follows his beloved horse into the First World War seems like the kind of epic melodrama that panders to awards season. Well that’s perfectly fine since the director mounting War Horse is Steven Spielberg and he does awards bait so well -- think Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich. Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel, which has already been made into a stage play, Spielberg’s War Horse might as well just announce its awards nominations in advance. -

No.8 Sucker Punch
From Zack Snyder, the crafty little director who brought us 300 and Watchmen, comes a trippy-looking visual feast of chicks in miniskirts going to battle with dragons, giant mechanical samurais and whatever else this movie can imagine. Emily Browning stars as Baby Doll, a young fox locked up in an insane asylum, who lets her mind set her loose in a CGI-happy fantasy world where women kick ass. The guys will be lining up for this one.

No.7 The Descendants
The last time director Alexander Payne made a movie, it was the prickly and hilarious buddy road trip Sideways. Well, Payne is back with The Descendants, which stars George Clooney as a wealthy landowner who reunites with his estranged daughters and takes them in search of his comatose wife’s lover. That’s a lot to chew on for one family, but clearly ripe territory for Payne who excels at making movies about men at odds with life.

No.6 Moneyball
The movie about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and his attempts to put together a solid roster on a miniscule budget, has been met with considerable production dilemmas since Steven Soderbergh was attached to direct. Well, Moneyball is finally being pitched into theaters with the underrated director Bennett Miller (Capote) relieving Soderbergh at the mound. And Miller has an all-star team joining him with Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill taking on lead roles.

No.5 Hugo Cabret
Scorsese hasn’t made a movie (not including docs) without Leonardo DiCaprio in more than a decade. So, Hugo Cabret, Scorsese’s first 3-D movie, must have had considerable pull to part the director from his muse. The Harry Potter-esque story follows the titular orphan, who discovers his father’s disheveled automata (those windup toys magicians like to use) and unravels the mysteries surrounding it and his own life.

The movie is based on the very cinematic bestselling “picture” book by Brian Selznick (relative to legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick). Selznick’s inspiration for the book is none other than Georges Melies, the magician turned pioneering filmmaker who pretty much invented the first-ever special effects in silent films like A Trip to the Moon. So, in Hugo Cabret you have a magical adventure that takes its roots from the cinema’s origins and stars teenage “it” girl Chloe Grace Moretz (the head-splitting sprite from Kick-Ass), Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer (sigh), and Sacha Baron Cohen. Oh, and did we mention it’s directed by Scorsese?

No.4 Contagion
With SARS and swine flu grabbing headlines in recent years, it's no surprise that someone would venture into making a viral outbreak movie (one that doesn’t have zombies). But Contagion doesn’t seem like it will be your generic thriller. It’s directed by Hollywood’s most reliably indie-minded filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh and penned by Scott Z. Burns, who also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum and The Informant!. This promising nail-biter also stars a powerhouse cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and the to-die-for Marion Cotillard.

No.3 A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg’s movies are prone to dissecting the human anatomy, but his latest has him taking the scalpel to psychology. A Dangerous Method stars Cronenberg’s recent muse Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Inglourious Basterds) as Carl Jung, and Keira Knightley as the troubled, sexually charged subject who creates a nuisance for their latest theories on psychoanalysis. The material may sound too textbook but we have faith that Cronenberg will make a solid and sexy thriller out of human misbehavior.

No.2 On the Road
The ultimate guy novel, the beat generation and Sal Paradise are all finally headed to the big screen. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has been a stalled project for decades, collecting dust as Francis Ford Coppola sat on the rights. But “The Godfather” has finally found the right man to navigate this definitive road trip. Walter Salles, the director who previously sent us on a commie road adventure in his Che Guevara movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, is revving up On the Road with Sam Riley (Control) and Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) playing Paradise and Dean Moriarty, respectively. The stars are relatively unknown, but Salles couldn’t stop Hollywood’s elite from wanting to take part even in small doses. Expect appearances from Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Kristen Stewart.

No.1 The Tree of Life
We know, we know. This movie ranked high on this same list last year. But director Terrence Malick is a perfectionist whose finishing touches postponed The Tree of Life to next summer. Either way, any Malick movie is an event, especially since the director -- a certified visual poet -- has only made five features in an illustrious career that spans more than 30 years. Malick’s latest expressionistic and existential film stars Sean Penn as a disillusioned man in the modern world haunted by memories of his brute father (played by Brad Pitt) and raises questions about nature, spirituality and men. The dazzling new trailer is in itself more sweeping than all the movies that came out in 2010, making The Tree of Life a film with so much anticipation it bears repeating

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