2011 is going to be a big year for movies, and if you’re anything like me, you tend to forget what’s coming out and wind up missing everything. So I took the liberty of compiling a list of movies that, in my opinion, are must-sees for 2011. In chronological order of release dates, we’ll start with...
The Green Hornet (Now playing)
The only superhero movie on this list, and it’s only on this list because it looks funny (like “Ironman”) instead of trying to be a cross between “Batman Begins” and “Watchman’ (I’m looking at you, “Thor”...). If you don’t know anything about “The Green Hornet,” you must have been really busy with school or something, because it’s all anyone has been able to talk about. Three things to know about this film: 1) Seth Rogan co-wrote the screenplay. 2) it was directed by Michel Gondry. 3) I’m fairly certain Kaito is going to be a total break-out character, and you don’t want to miss that when it goes down.
No Strings Attached (January 21)
Natalie Portman started being awesome when she starred alongside Jean Reno in 1994’s “Léon.” She took a minor detour when she starred in the ill-advised “Star Wars” prequels, but rest assured she is back on track. And what is practically necessary for any awesome actress these days? A rom-com opposite Ashton Kutcher. “No Strings Attached” is about two best friends who try to have sex with no feelings attached. Needless to say, they fall in love. Rounding out the cast list is Mindy Kaling (Kelly from “The Office”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride’s” Man in Black) and Kevin Kline (come on, do I even need to give his credentials?). Funny, cute and predictable: can you ask for anything more in a romantic-comedy? I didn’t think so.
The Roommate (February 4)
Yes, it’s a lot like “Single White Female,” but much like “Disturbia,” I choose to use the word homage instead of rip-off. And I have to say; the director couldn’t have found two better actresses for the roles than Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood”) and Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”). Those girls look so similar it’s difficult to believe they’re not actually related. “The Roommate” looks like a good scary movie--plenty of jumps and thrills. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Blair Waldorf try to kill Lyla Garrity?
Paul (February 18)
Any film that combines Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”) is amazing, so I have little to no qualms about this one. In true Pegg/Frost fashion, the plot of “Paul” is hopelessly silly. Two friends take a road trip and encounter an alien (voiced by Seth Rogan!) in Area 51. I can only hope that this silliness will be approached with the utmost gravity on the part of the characters, since that seems to make Pegg and Frost’s movies that much more hilarious.
The Adjustment Bureau (March 4)
Emily Blunt and Matt Damon star in this film that looks like a cross between “Inception” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Adjustment Team,” the film takes us into a world where fate is moved forward by mysterious men in suits who seem to freeze time and “adjust” people’s lives. Damon plays a politician who tries to outrun the Adjustment Bureau to preserve his relationship with the woman he was never supposed to fall in love with. Feel that? That was a shiver of anticipation skipping down your spine--don’t deny it!
Beastly (March 18)
I have five words for you: Neil. Patrick. Harris. Blind. Tutor. This adaptation of a young adult novel is refreshing in that it’s not a vampire romance directed at teens. I wasn’t aware that Hollywood believed that teenagers were interested in more than vampires. “Beastly” is still a supernatural romance, however, because it is (you guessed it!) a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast. Don’t groan! I am 99.9% sure that Neil Patrick Harris is awesome enough to make up for any flaws this movie offers. At the very least it looks like a solid date movie.
The Lincoln Lawyer (March 18)
I’m not a huge fan of Matthew McConaughey, so it’s largely the rest of this cast that makes “The Lincoln Lawyer” a must-see. Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Bryan Cranston... the list goes on. “The Lincoln Lawyer,” adapted from a novel of the same name by Michael Connelly, is one of the few drama’s to boast Matthew McConaughey’s name, which is almost enough to make it worth seeing. McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, an LA lawyer who operates entirely out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car. When Mickey is hired by a wealthy client who claims he’s innocent, he thinks he’s got it made. Soon, however, Mickey starts to doubt his client’s innocence, and learns that the man he’s defending might be more dangerous than he every realized.
Limitless (March 18)
Bradley Cooper. If you were even half awake during 2009, you know him as Phil from “The Hangover.” Bradley Cooper’s filmography is heavily populated with comedies, which makes his role in “Limitless,” a drama directed by Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) extra exciting. “Limitless” capitalizes on the (probably false, but admittedly cool) idea that, as humans, we only use 20% of our brains. Cooper plays a writer who discovers a drug that unlocks the other 80%, as a result he unlocks his own potential and becomes the most perfect version of himself. Hijinks definitely ensue. Starring opposite Bradley Cooper is Robert De Niro playing the role he plays best: a hard-ass.
African Cats (April 22)
I had to include at least one family friendly movie on this list, and this is one that is both family friendly and educational! And also it’s about lions. The only thing that could stop this film from being as awesome as an hour and a half of “Big Cat Diary” on The Animal Planet, is if Disney tries to coax a cohesive narrative out of the big cats. Short of that, however, “African Cats” looks like a must-see film for the kid in your life.
The Tree of Life (May 27)
For this one, you have to watch the trailer. I’ve seen it at least five times and I still have very little idea of what the movie is about (perhaps a fictional biopic? With maybe a little bit of the apocalypse mixed in?). In spite of that, I still want to see this movie, badly. It doesn’t hurt that it’s written and directed by Terrance Malick (“The New World”) and stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Honestly, I smell Oscar all over this movie, and it’s only January.
Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (May 20)
I was hesitant to put this film up on my list. Partially because Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom won’t be in it, and partially because I think that the Pirates movies should be over and done with. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that the Will/Elizabeth story-line was wrapped up, and wrapped up well. I also watched the trailer, and learned that in the fourth installment, the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow will seek the fountain of youth. Along the way he encounters Blackbeard the pirate (played by “Deadwood” and “Kings” star Ian McShane) and Penelope Cruz, a beautiful lady pirate slash con-woman slash Jack’s ex-girlfriend. Clearly this is not a movie to be missed.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July 15)
Anyone who has had a passing conversation with me has probably learned that I am undeniably, head-over-heels, obsessed with Harry Potter. But even if I weren’t, I would put Harry Potter on this list, simply because it’s the last Harry Potter movie. Ever. At least until the inevitable gritty reboot (though how you would pull off a gritty reboot about eleven year-olds, I have no idea). The first part received critical acclaim for direction, cinematography, and that one scene where Harry and Hermione dance to a Nick Cave song. “Harry Potter 7” is the end of an era, so do yourself a favor: go see it this summer!