32 reasons to spend your Christmas money at the box office.
Captain Jack, Harry Potter, aliens, a samurai troll with a mini-gun, Optimus Prime, two Avengers and the X-Men will unleash the movie-pocalypse in 2011. We take aim at the calendar and target-lock 32 trips worth making to the theatre this year.
With the exception of the black holes of content that are January and February, we found a few movies from each month worth your hard-earned babysitting money. (And sorry, January's The Green Hornet, but as fun as you look, you feel like a Netflix rental).
This year represents one of the most ambitious and crowded release slates ever. So what's in store for 2011? In early Spring, aliens go on a road trip with Simon Pegg, and they also ray gun the s!@# out of Los Angeles. Natalie Portman wears a medieval thong, fires a bow and arrow and puts us in an eye-candy coma, while Vin Diesel "Fa5t 5ive's" us into submission. And Summer session will be a bloodbath, as the studios pit their franchises in a 3D Blockbuster Thunderdome.
Below is our line-up of worthy titles. Which movies will you napalm a baby Ewok to see? Tell us all about it in the Comments. Or else.
Release date: March 4
Executive produced by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov, this trip to the moon shows us why the Apollo 18 mission was really scrapped: Aliens! Sadly, we won't see a Space Cowboys-y mash-up pitting astronauts against E.T., but what we get is a faux documentary take on a mission to the moon that results in potentially very bloody, very cool first contact.
The premise intrigues us it's a movie idea we've never seen before and in a sea of sequels and remakes, that's enough to make us curious to the point where we will pay the matinee admission price.
Battle: Los Angeles
Release Date: March 11
Harvey Dent straps on Army gear to battle aliens as they storm Santa Monica beach like it was Normandy. Battle is Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day, starring Aaron Eckhart as the leader of a team of soldiers charged with defending us from a ground-level alien invasion.
The movie's recent teaser trailer made the Hall H nerd in us all giddy. If the movie has half the emotional impact that the trailer did, in between all of the exploding set-pieces, then we're in for an above average entertainment during a time when movie releases are traditionally lame.
Release Date: March 18
Who's ready for another buddy comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost? Unlike Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul isn't directed by Edgar Wright. But we'll take it anyway. This sci-fi comedy sees the lovable duo cross paths with a diminutive alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). These three comedy icons are joined by a large cast that includes everyone from Jane Lynch to Jason Bateman and even Sigourney Weaver. With a cast like that, Paul has to be good for a few laughs.
Release Date: March 25
Footage from Zach Snyder's latest attempt to melt our brains with awesome visuals worked us over at SDCC 2010, and we're hooked. Seriously, the thing's got dragons, monsters in Nazi gear, samurai cave trolls firing mini-guns, hot girls in tight clothes and Carla Gugino. If you don't want to make sweet nerd love to this thing, then you eliminate your need to be on the planet. The question is: Will the story just be a clothesline to hang cool sequences on, or will it actually, you know, have some substance? We'll find out March 25.
Release Date: April 1
Duncan Jones, the director of Moon, goes the high concept route for his follow-up project. Source Code follows Jake Gyllenhaal as a time traveler of sorts, who has to keep reliving the same horrible train accident until he can save everyone aboard, especially love interest Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible III). Casino Royale's Jeffrey Wright co-stars in a movie that, if it is a hit, will prompt Hollywood to go after more high concept, "Groundhog Day meets..." science fiction. The premise is cool, so is the director we're hooked.
Release Date: April 8
Kenny Effing Powers plus Natalie Portman in a thong equals greatest medieval-themed comedy of 2011. Your Highness reunites Pineapple Express alumni Danny McBride and James Franco with director David Gordon Green. In this case, the duo are medieval knights on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess, but the mature humor should be familiar to fans of Pineapple Express. Your Highness will feature plenty of improvised humor from all involved, with only a story outline serving as a script during shooting. The results should be every bit as hilarious as the trailer suggests.
Release Date: April 8
For fans of little kid assassins trained by Eric Bana, Hanna is for you.
Bana plays Johnny Covert Ops and father to the titular character, training his daughter to go Bourne on those back in Washington for some payback. Saoirse Ronan trades in her Lovely Bones pathos for semi-autos and Movie-Fu action scenes, with the trailer taking what Luc Besson did in The Professional to the next level. IGN has a soft spot for anything assassin when it comes to movies, and "Teen On Fire" looks to be a movie made just for us. And you. (But mostly us.)
Release Date: April 15
No horror franchise stays dead forever. Scream rises from the grave this spring for more stabbing and Hollywood satire. It's been 10 years since the events of Scream 3, and only Neve Campbell's Sidney, David Arquette's Dewey, and Courtney Cox's Gale have survived to the present. These three are joined by newcomers Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere. Even better, Wes Craven is back in the director's chair to steer these new faces straight into the sharp end of a carving knife. Craven's last foray into horror wasn't too satisfying, so a return to an old favorite may be just what Craven fans need in 2011.
Release Date: April 29
Action fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is finally done with his Disney contract, meaning we no longer have to suffer through family-friendly movies like The Tooth Fairy. The Rock adds an extra bit of star power to the ever resilient The Fast and the Furious franchise. In the fifth entry, Johnson plays a federal agent in pursuit of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker's fugitive racers. The racing stunts look bigger and better than ever, so we're not worried the franchise will have run out of gas after ten years.
Release Date: May 6
In the past few years, Marvel Studios has molded Iron Man from B-List superhero to household name. With any luck, they'll be able to do the same for Tony Stark's fellow Avenger. Kenneth Branagh's Thor explores the Norse god's fall from power and subsequent redemption on Earth. All the requisite elements are in place battles with Frost Giants, the shining towers of Asgard, father/son issues, Loki's scheming, and a dash of humor and romance as Thor struggles to adapt to life on Earth.
It remains to be seen if casual audiences will flock to Thor in the same numbers they did Iron Man's last two adventures, but comic book geeks will no doubt turn out in droves.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Release Date: May 20
We all knew Captain Jack Sparrow would return to the big screen again, especially since the last Pirates of the Caribbean film directly set-up this sequel. This time, Jack and his eternal nemesis Captain Barbossa are seeking the Fountain of Youth in America. The quest grows more dangerous when the dread pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) also enters the fray. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are sitting this one out, but Penelope Cruz joins the cast as a feisty love interest for Jack. Revel in another Pirates adventure, and know that this probably won't be the last sequel either.
JuneThe Hangover Part 2
Release Date: May 26
The Hangover proved to be one of the most popular comedies of recent years, so we're not at all surprised to see a sequel in the pipeline. The Hangover 2 reunites the entire main cast from the first film as they all head to Bangkok for Stu's (Ed Helms) wedding. Considering the hijinks these four got up to in Part 1, there's no telling what mischief will be unleashed overseas. The cameos for this film alone have us intrigued. Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson return, and this time they're joined by Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, and even former President Bill Clinton. That's an interesting assortment.
X-Men: First Class
Release Date: June 3
The X-Men are returning to Hollywood having weathered the storms that were X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. First Class is half-reboot, half-prequel to the other movies. The setting shifts back to the tumultuous 1960's when Xavier and Magneto were still buddy-buddy and working to establish a school for mutants. Younger versions of Beast and Mystique will be joined by newcomers such as Banshee, Havok and Darwin.
The Hellfire Club look to be the main villains this time around, with Kevin Bacon and January Jones playing Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, respectively. Fox has remained pretty tight-lipped about this superhero project, but with Matthew Vaughn at the helm we're hopeful this X-film can avoid the mistakes of the past.
Release Date: June 10
Stop it, J.J. Abrams. We get it you like keeping your movies behind "For Your Eyes Only" doors, but it makes it difficult for those of us who have to write about them. All we know so far is, thanks to a quick teaser trailer shown before Iron Man 2, that Area 51, aliens and kids from Smalltown, U.S.A. play key roles in this supposedly "found footage" take on aliens vs. us. Set in the early 1980s, and inspired by executive producer Steven Spielberg's early films (think Close Encounters), Super 8 hopes to do for the found footage genre what Abrams' Cloverfield did for it, but on a much more summer movie-friendly scale.
So aliens, Spielberg and found footage from the guy who directed Star Trek? Fine, Abrams. You win this round. But we're only going to pay to see your movie three times that's it.
Release Date: June 17
Not to be outdone by the three big Marvel movies of the summer, DC is introducing moviegoers to another of its major heroes. The saga of Hal Jordan begins in Green Lantern. This film traces the origin of the hotshot pilot-turned-space cop (played by Ryan Reynolds) as he receives his ring and learns to overcome his greatest fears. Hal's greatest nemesis, Sinestro (Mark Strong), will be present, but the actual villains of the film are Hector Hammond and the fear entity Parallax.
The trailer hit theaters back in November, giving fans a taste of the unique and very plant-inspired look of the Green Lanterns. Even comic book haters can show up to admire Reynolds' rock-hard abs for 120 minutes. If GL manages to carve its own niche in the ever-crowded superhero market, look for this film to be the start of a big franchise for WB.
JulyRise of the Apes
Release Date: June 24
We're impressed Fox would even attempt another Planet of the Apes movie after the cinematic abortion that was Tim Burton's remake. At least this one seeks to honor the past. Rise of the Apes, as the title suggests, is a pseudo-prequel to the original five Apes films, chronicling the fall of mankind and the rise of the ape empire. James Franco plays an Alzheimer's researcher who inadvertently turns his test chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) into a hyper-intelligent, talking ape. You can probably guess where things lead from there.
Regardless of how well Rise of the Apes fits into the convoluted chronology of the earlier films, it appears this latest effort will be much more digestible than the remake. We already know from Peter Jackson's King Kong that Serkis can play a very convincing ape. But given the lack of the word "Planet" in the title, we're curious to see if audiences will even be aware of the connection. It's going to be a crowded summer, and these damned, dirty apes need all the positive publicity they can get.
Transformers: The Dark of the Moon
Release Date: July 1
Gas up the hovercrafts and protect your extras from on-set safety accidents, Michael Bay's coming back to theatres and the Autobots are coming with him!
For the third installment in the crazy profitable franchise, Dark of the Moon tries to wipe the crap taste of Revenge of the Fallen from our collective mouths with a story that takes the Autobots to the moon and resurrects Megatron with a new vehicle mode. Shia LaBeouf returns, sans Megan Fox, to help Optimus Prime vs. the Decepticons in a movie centered around the space race between Russia and the U.S.
The villain this time is Shockwave, not sure how the purple 'Con is a bigger bad than Megatron, but at least we get to see that question answered in 3D! Folks, you haven't lived until you've seen Bayhem in 3D. We're talking cars and jets exploding into bikini models and even more shiny cars and jets.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Release Date: July 15
Harry Potter's final adventure was cut in half when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 hit theaters last November. Luckily, the wait for Part 2 is only half a year. This half should be all climax, as Harry and his friends embark on the final leg of their journey to track down and locate Voldemort's Horcruxes. Look for a daring bank heist and a massive battle between the defenders of Hogwarts and Voldemort's armies.
Rumors suggest that director David Yates has added some additional story material, so even fans of the books should be in store for a few surprises. Whatever the case, this will be the final outing for Harry and his fans. Unless J.K. Rowling writes another book, that is.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Release Date: July 22
The fourth and final big comic book movie of summer 2011 is Captain America: The First Avenger. Cap has the benefit of at least some recognition with casual audiences, even if that recognition only extends to images of the star-spangled hero socking Hitler in the jaw and starring in a pair of really bad TV movies.
But with any luck, this big budget superhero epic will redefine Cap at the movies in the same way Tim Burton's Batman did for the Caped Crusader. This film is set firmly in the days of World War II, when skinny Steve Rogers was transformed into America's premier soldier. Chris Evans ditches the Fantastic Four uniform for Cap's shield, while Hugo Weaving dons the terrifying mask of Red Skull. Fans can look forward to a wartime adventure that sets the stage for Cap's role in next year's The Avengers.
Cowboys & Aliens
Release Date: July 29
Jon Favreau, the director of Iron Man, puts James Bond and Indiana Jones in the same movie. It could be called Lamps Plus and we'd be there to see both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in the same film. Thankfully, the movie is much more exciting than one about interior illumination it's about Craig's mysterious gunslinger having to defend himself from an alien threat in the Wild West.
It's six-shooters versus ray guns, from a script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof based on the comic of the same name. Craig sports a wrist-mounted death ray for maximum summer movie fun, and we look forward to waiting in line for the midnight show of this bad boy.
The Darkest Hour
Release Date: August 5
Seemingly anticipating the end of days come 2012, Hollywood decided to fill 2011 with every possible alien invasion variant on their production slate. This year, aliens invade the moon, they invade the Old West and now they're invading Moscow in The Darkest Hour.
This time, spinning masses of murdering light take the form of alien beings, as they target American tourists like Speed Racer's Emile Hirsch for extermination. We've never seen an alien invasion story set outside the United States like this, where our heroes are "aliens" themselves in this foreign land, as aliens threaten to kill them. Whoa that's deep. We hope going outside the box for a very familiar movie formula delivers.
Conan the Barbarian
Release Date: August 19
What is best in life? How about finally having a new Conan movie in theaters after 20-odd years of waiting? This Conan the Barbarian is separate from the one made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and looks to be more faithful to the original stories by Robert E. Howard. This time, Conan is played by Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis), with Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as Conan's father and Stephen Lang (Avatar) playing the film's villain, Khalar Zym.
It's been too long since we've seen Conan tread the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandalled feet. Last year saw another Howard creation, Solomon Kane, receive the big screen treatment. That modest project was surprisingly entertaining, so we're hoping Conan's return will be another pleasant surprise come August.
Release Date: September 16
Ryan Gosling stars as a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman, who then discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong. Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan co-stars, as does Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, in a movie that screams "guilty pleasure" to us. Buzz on the film's script is quite good, so here's hoping the movie is less Faster and more, um, anything but Faster.
Release Date: September 16
"3DD" -- get it? Because the movie had lots and lots of chesticles in 3D. Poetry that would make Wordsworth cry, I tells ya. The sequel to the remake brings back the killer fish and their penchant for homicide, with the promise of more "go to hell, MPAA!" gore and bloodletting. The last time we saw the piranha, they were able to take their murder airborne can't wait to see flying fish attack more B-listers this time around.
Release Date: October 7
How many boxing movies follow the same formula a washed-up fighter has one last shot at glory and works his way up to the top? Well, how many of those boxing movies feature giant robots pounding the mechanical snot out of each other? Real Steel adds a Battlebots-style twist to the traditional boxing flick. Hugh Jackman plays an ex-fighter inducted into the world of remote-controlled robo-boxing. Dakota Goyo plays the son who bonds with his father over this violent sport.
The Transformers movies prove audiences love watching giant robots bludgeon each other. Real Steel offers more of that carnage without the need for robot crotch shots or Shia LaBeouf. Consider it an appetizer until Jackman dons the mutton chops and metal claws again for 2012's The Wolverine.
Release Date: October 14
Here's another horror movie classic that doesn't want to rest in peace. Surprisingly, this version of The Thing isn't a remake of John Carpenter's film persay, but a prequel. Why Universal chose to retain the exact same title is anyone's guess.
Don't expect to see MacReady or his beard here. This prequel focuses on the Norwegian crew who first discovered the shape-shifting alien in the Antarctic wastes. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Joel Edgerton (Star Wars Episode II) star as two crew members fighting for their lives.
We're always a bit nervous when Hollywood elects to resurrect a classic franchise. That said, Carpenter's original was such a strong effort that we're intrigued to see what can be done with the concept almost 30 years after its release.
Release Date: November 23
Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel is acting in and writing the Muppets' comeback to the big screen. And yep, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Scooter and Animal are all gearing up for their 21st-Century return to theaters.
When Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, and friends Gary (Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater, they help Kermit reunite the Muppets to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater. Expect tons of cameos and lots of funny on par with Forgetting's bit regarding an all-puppet production of Dracula.
Release Date: December 9
Hugo Cabret is Martin Scorsese's next big project, and that alone is enough to get us excited. But this film is especially intriguing in that it takes Scorsese far away from his usual realm of gangsters and madmen and into something more fantastical. Hugo Cabret is adapted from Brain Selznick's illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It features a young boy (Asa Butterfield) who encounters an odd batch of new friends in a toy shop. Not only is Hugo Cabret a major stylistic departure for Scorsese, it's also the director's first 3D film. This is one case where we aren't annoyed at the thought of having to fork over extra money for those glasses.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Release Date: December 16
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to dig down deep for a reason why you should care about this Tom Cruise franchise's latest attempt to score box office relevancy. The adventures of Ethan Hunt and his IMF team have been in theatres for 14 years, with J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III serving as the last time we saw Hunt slip on the face mask.
That movie, while arguably the franchise's best, did not ignite the box office the way Paramount hoped. But there's seemingly still life left in the Impossible business, with The Incredibles director Brad Bird taking over the director's chair, and partnering Cruise with The Avengers's Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner. Hrm, all of that sounds pretty good to us, guess you don't have to dig down too deep for that reason to go see this movie. (And the Sam Fisher video game sounding title doesn't hurt.)
Sherlock Holmes 2
Release Date: December 16
It seems Robert Downey Jr. fans can look forward to the actor starring in at least one major franchise sequel a year. Fresh off 2010's Iron Man 2, Downey once again trades his shiny armor for the bowler hat of the world's most famous detective.
This time around, Holmes and Jude Law's Watson trade wits with the fiendish Professor Moriarty (Jared Harri). Noomi Rapace plays the female lead, and Stephen Fry takes on the role of Sherlock's smarter, older brother Mycroft. With Guy Ritchie directing again and the whole gang back in place, we're pretty confident Sherlock Holmes 2 will be at least as quirky and enjoyable as its predecessor.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Release Date: December 23
The late Stieg Larsson has found plenty of posthumous fame thanks to his Millennium Trilogy of crime novels. The trilogy has already been adapted to film in Larsson's native Sweden, but this year marks the release of the first of the American versions. The director? None other than David Fincher, who knows a thing or two about moody crime dramas.
Daniel Craig takes on the role of journalist/investigator Mikhael Blomkvist in this version, and Rooney Mara tackles the intelligent but unusual Lisbeth Salander. Fincher has retained the foreign setting of the original stories. If this adaptation is as satisfying as the Swedish film, this could be the start of another big franchise vehicle for Craig. It's not James Bond, but we'll take it.
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