Saturday, August 27, 2011

Time for a Random List: Ten 2011 Movies that Haven't Come Out Yet That Probably Won't Suck

So far this year, I count two movies that actually grabbed my attention and made me want to go see them - Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Otherwise, the stuff that has been coming out of Hollywood has been pretty awful. Then again, I don't get to the movies much anymore. So for all I know, The Smurfs could have been the shizznit. Anyway, here is a list (in chronological order) of ten flicks that will come out between September and the end of December that certainly seem like they have the potential for "decent status."

1) Contagion (Sept. 9)
It is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Out of Sight) and stars luminaries Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne. Soderbergh's recent output has been the definition of uneven (The Informant!) if not WTF (The Girlfriend Experience), but with a cast like this it is hard to believe that the medical outbreak thriller does not satisfy.

2) The Ides of March (Oct. 7)
This film about an idealistic political newbie who gets involved in a perspective-shattering Presidential election has another virtual sh*tload of great actors in it (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, et al), and it's directed by Clooney, who may not hit a home run every time (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Leatherheads), but has come up with at least one sublime creation (the unfortunately punctuated Good Night, and Good Luck.).

3) The Rum Diary (Oct. 28)
Call me an optimist. There is probably no reason to believe this film will be worth your entertainment dollar. It has been in development hell for years, with Johnny Depp signing up to make the film BEFORE the release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick. Meanwhile, it is directed by someone named Bruce Robinson, who has a film in the Criterion Collection (Withnail & I), but hasn't sat in a director's chair since 1992's Jennifer Eight. Still, the film is based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson and the last time Depp made an adaptation of one of the Good Doctor's books, it was the sensational (at least I think so) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Against all odds, I am in for a penny, in for a pound.

4) J. Edgar (Nov. 9)
The truth is that Clint Eastwood's Midas touch is in the rear-view mirror at this point. Invictus was pretty lame and Hereafter, which this site will register extensive thoughts about at some point in the near future, was just OK. Still, when a great director works with Leonardo DiCaprio (who has a commendable tendency to work only with great directors) on a film about J. Edgar Hoover's alleged cross-dressing tendencies during his time with the FBI, you pay attention. With screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, a fellow Oscar winner for Milk, in tow, it is hard to believe that this film could miss the mark.

5) Hugo (Nov. 23)
I can't really say I am happy that Martin Scorsese has now "graduated" to making 3D movies about kids who live in the walls of train stations, but this one also stars Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, and Boardwalk Empire's Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg, so there must be something of merit to the script. Plus, it's Martin Scorsese. The guy has never really made a bad movie (I'm really hoping you haven't seen Bringing Out the Dead right now).

6) The Descendants (Nov. 23)
One of the least known great directors currently working in Hollywood, Alexander Payne has yet to make a bad movie. In fact, Election and Sideways could probably be described as modern classics, and Citizen Ruth features a terrifically underrated performance by the great Laura Dern. About Schmidt? had balls enough to show Kathy Bates full-frontal. It's brave choices like this that should have you fired up about this film, which stars George Clooney as a father who finds out his wife was cheating on him only after she dies in a boating accident. Did I mention that mixing humor with sadness is a Payne specialty?

7) Carnage (Dec. 16)
Famed fillmaker/child molester Roman Polanski brings the esteemed Broadway play about two married couples who meet each other after their kids get into a fight in the schoolyard to the big screen. If that description does not excite you (and if it does, you probably need to get out a little more often), remember that it stars Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet. Perhaps the preeminent actress of the 1990s going face-to-face with the preeminent actress of the 2000s in what will probably amount to an 80-minute screaming match. Seeing those two, especially the frequently dormant Foster, in the same movie should probably be worth the price of admission alone, even if there isn't one explosion or superhero appearance in the script as we speak (some enterprising studio head will probably find a way to include one to bolster the "opening weekend"). Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly star as Kate and Jodie's husbands.

8) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21)
Yep, these books have been really annoying and omnipresent. And they have already been made by some Swedish hack. But this one is directed by visionary mastermind David Fincher (Fight Club, Panic Room, The Social Network) and features music by Trent Reznor, who won an Oscar for his Social Network score. That's all you need to know to realize it has zero chance of sucking.

9) We Bought a Zoo (Dec. 23)
The years after 2000 have not been good to Cameron Crowe. The director who brought the world such insightful comedies as Say Anything and Jerry Maguire hit the skids after the film that was perhaps his best work, the autobiographical rock-and-roll tour de force, Almost Famous. The self-serious and seriously horrible Vanilla Sky was followed by the instantly forgettable Elizabethtown, and from there Crowe went into virtual hiding. Now he has returned with this film about a father who, in order to deal with the death of his wife, moves his family to California to operate a zoo. Maybe I am being charitable to a once-promising filmmaker, but I have high hopes for this one. It stars Matt Damon, a fine actor who only works with quality directors and creditable scripts, and Scarlett Johanssen, who has incredible breasts (and ample acting abilities when she is motivated).

10) War Horse (Dec. 28)
I don't even know how in love I am with the premise of this movie or its chances to be a winner. As I read the summary, it seemed almost like Saving Private Ryan, only if Private Ryan was a horse named Joey. However, it is one of two Spielberg movies being released this year. The other one is some garbage called The Adventures of Tintin that looks like straight-up Wallace and Gromit nonsense. I am recommending this film on the belief that there is no way that Spielberg can make two horrible movies in one year.

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