Most Anticipated 2011

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Tree of Life Movie PosterAs 2010 comes to a close, and we have our Top 10 in 2010 done and dusted, we here at The Reel Bits are looking to the future. Every year, hundreds of films are released to the cinemas, and we probably see more of them than we are willing to admit. The good, the bad and the outright ugly are all in a day’s work for lovers of cinema. Yet there are always a few that stand out from the rest, the ones that you’d sell a vital body part to see if it wasn’t likely to make you keel over in discomfort before the release date. 2011 is set to have us all sitting in bathtubs full of ice, peddling organs on eBay.

Cowboys, aliens (sometimes both), superheroes, plenty of nostalgia and masters of cinema returning to the silver screen – and that’s not to mention the 2010 releases that haven’t made it to Australia yet. So let’s set the DeLorean and/or hot tub for 2011 get into it.

True Grit stillMy picks are an eclectic mix to be sure, and perhaps leaning towards the mainstream a little (I’m still a sucker for a good blockbuster), but before we get into the hows and whys, let’s talk about the bloody great elephant in the room: the 2010 releases that we haven’t seen. Not the few dozen films we don’t get around to seeing each year due to lack to time or inclination, but all those terrific films already released in the US and UK that still haven’t made it out here to our Antipodean shores. Don’t even get me started on foreign language films, where we often have to rely on film festivals or import DVDs/Blu-ray to provide our fix. A stack of my highly anticipated films – not least of which are the Coen Brothers’ western True Grit, the Oscar contender Black Swan, critical favourite Rabbit Hole, David O’Russell’s intimate boxing epic The Fighter, Disney’s Tangled, Studio Ghibli’s Kari-Gurashi no Arrietty and Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go – have still not reached Australian screens by very late 2010. Indeed, one of the most nominated films of the awards season – Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours – is not released in Australia until 10 February, almost a month after the Golden Globe Awards. I was lucky enough to see this earlier this month, and will bring you that review in early 2011. Yet no discussion of 2011 can really commence until about late-February for most Australians, by which stage we have finally put 2010 to bed.

Without a doubt, one of the most highly anticipated films for cinema lovers in 2011 is going to be Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, only his fifth film since 1973 and his first since 2005’s underrated The New World. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, if the early trailers are anything to go by, it should rank up there with Malick’s lyrical masterpieces Badlands and Days of Heaven. Opportunities to see Malick’s films on the big screen are few and far between these days, and as a recent screening of Badlands at Sydney’s Chauvel Cinema demonstrated, Malick is a master of the American landscape. Viewers should run to see what will no doubt be a limited run on the big screen, and easily makes it to the #1 most anticipated slot on my personal list. The only thing that could challenge this is a new film from Martin Scorsese. Oh, hang about…

1930s mystery Hugo Cabret from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese is a ‘must see’ list for its odd collection of cast members ranging from Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass, Let Me In) to Sacha Baron Cohen (Bruno), with Christopher Lee, Ben Kinglsey, Ray Winstone and Emily Mortimer in between. Despite the lack of Leonardo Di Caprio, Scorsese’s first effort without him in nine years, this may be a return to form after the disappointing and predictable (yet critically acclaimed in some circles) Shutter Island. Scorsese has recently excelled at the period piece – including the beautifully shot The Aviator, the brutal Gangs of New York and the majesty of Raging Bull, so I’ve definitely got high hopes for his latest creation.

Green Lantern stillCowboys & Aliens may as well be a theme for 2011, with the film of the same name set to be one of the most genius combinations ever. Based on a comic of the same name, it’s directed by Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau and brings heavy-hitters Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, TRON: Legacy‘s Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell, this has the potential to be the biggest blockbuster of 2011. There will also be Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s (Shaun of the Dead) Paul, a comedy version of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and of course, DC Comics’ Green Lantern. I’m a little skeptical over the use of CGI in the film, especially on Lantern’s suit, but I’m hoping its success will lead to a Green Arrow film. Along with Green Lantern, it will be a big year for comic book heroes, although Thor looks like it may tip over into sillyville and Captain America: The First Avenger may need more than The Voyage of the Dawn Treader scribes Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Buffy creator Joss Whedon to stop it from tipping over into jingoistic nonsense. Rounding things out for comic fans is The Green Hornet, starring the unlikely action hero Seth Rogen and coming to us from the always interesting Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). At the very least, it should be visually interesting and with a media screening already booked in, we look forward to bringing you that review in early January.

Kids of all ages can look forward to Winnie the Pooh, the first theatrical Pooh story to be made by Walt Disney Feature Animation sine 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I’m an unabashed Winnie the Pooh fan, as my Ultimate Guide to Pooh (written for Ultimate Disney back in 2005) will attest. Many boxes of tissues are already prepared for the tear-fest that this is likely to be for this old softy of a reviewer. Pixar, of course, is releasing Cars 2, but there is nothing about this film that looks like it will overcome the vanity-project leanings of John Lasseter’s original. On the other hand, The Muppets – starring…well, just about everybody – is just the fun comeback that Kermit and the gang have been deserving of for years. Nostalgia is powerful narcotic, especially when it comes to the box office.

Some of the outlying entries on the list are a bit of wishful thinking: Red Riding Hood looks visually interesting. Catherine Hardwick, director of the woeful yet bafflingly popular Twilight, previously brought us the much edgier Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, and this looks to be a much darker version of the classic tale from Orphan scribe David Johnson. Speaking of dark, the mad Love Exposure genius Sion Sono’s Cold Fish is due out in Japan next month, although with the possible exception of the 15th Japanese Film Festival in late 2011, it is unlikely Australians will see this film on our shores anytime soon. As a horror fan, I’m also looking forward to Kevin Smith’s Red State, potentially his most interesting creation in years, and of course, Wes Craven’s long-awaited sequel Scream 4. Given that the current horror revival is largely thanks to the non-stop thrills initiated by his 1996 original, this may be the commentary we need on the genre.

It will be interesting to see how many of these films end up on our ‘best of’ list at the end of 2011, as there are a few “little sleepers than might”, including the Mel Gibson puppet-vehicle The Beaver. More mainstream flicks like the Immortals, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, Hanna and, of course, The Hangover 2 may pull audiences back to the cinemas once again. Assuming Australia doesn’t have to wait too long to see them.