Like you, we also want to wipe out the first few weeks of each new cinematic year. Timed with the debut of the first genuinely good wide release of 2011, comes our list of the most-anticipated films of the year. Creating a mix of blockbuster, independent, and foreign films that span nearly every genre, there is something for everyone below. Check out our 100+ picks spread over the next few pages and let us know what you are looking forward to. The films are listed in chronological order, with a release date attached if available.
Cedar Rapids (Miguel Arteta; Feb. 18th)
Synopsis: Tim Lippe has no idea what he’s in for when he’s sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention, where he soon finds himself under the “guidance” of three convention veterans.
Why You Should See It: After crafting one of the better comedies of last year with Youth In Revolt, Arteta returns with this thoroughly hilarious look at midwestern life. Ed Helms proves he has what it takes to be a leading man, assisted by a strong supporting cast. Check out our Sundance review here. – Jordan R.
Rango (Gore Verbinski; March 4th)
Synopsis: A chameleon that aspires to be a swashbuckling hero finds himself in a Western town plagued by bandits and is forced to literally play the role in order to protect it.
Why You Should See It: The original Pirates team reunites for something that looks surprisingly inspired compared to most of the animation we’ve been prepared to pay money for this year, including Pixar’s dreadful-looking Cars 2. - Dan M.
Battle: Los Angeles (Jonathan Liebesman; March 11th)
Synopsis: A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
Why You Should See It: If for no other reason, the PR and marketing department deserve your recognition and 10 bucks for their stellar trailer, posters and overall campaign. Whoever found that auto-tune song? Brava. - Dan M.
Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami; March 11th)
Synopsis: In Tuscany to promote his latest book, a middle-aged English writer meets a French woman who leads him to the village of Lucignano.
Why You Should See It: A meta-Before Sunset, Abbas Kiarostami‘s charming romance uses its city (Tuscany) and its leads (Juliette Binoche and William Shimell) to build and break down love in front of our eyes. – Dan M.
Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga; March 11th)
Synopsis: A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret.
Why You Should See It: A classic gothic romance from a hot, young director (Cary Fukunaga) starring two of the hottest, most talented actors around town (Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender) makes promises one prays it can keep. – Dan M.
Paul (Greg Mottola; March 18th)
Synopsis: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.
Why You Should See It: Because Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have yet to go wrong buddying up (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). And with Greg Mottola (Adventureland) on board to direct, heartfelt nostalgia will not be in short supply. - Dan M.
Win Win (Thomas McCarthy; March 18th)
Synopsis: Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty, who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy’s mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
Why You Should See It: After The Station Agent and The Visitor, writer/director Tom McCarthy has delivered quite a crowd-pleaser. By entering new comedic territory, while bringing along the dramatic sensibilities he is known for, McCarthy has crafted one of the most enjoyable films of the year so far. Read our Sundance review here. – Jordan R.
Source Code (Duncan Jones; April 1st)
Synopsis: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.
Why You Should See It: Duncan Jones was given 5 times the money he had for his low budget sci-fi rejuvenator Moon, not to mention Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. This is the kind of high-concept project that could be an action-packed Groundhog’s Day. – Dan M.
Hanna (Joe Wright; April 8th)
Synopsis: A teenage girl goes out into the world for the first time – and has to battle for her life. Director Joe Wright weaves elements of dark fairy tales into the adventure thriller Hanna, filmed on location in Europe and Morocco.
Why You Should See It: A departure from his previous films, Joe Wright has delivered a bad-ass assassination thriller with Hanna. While I’m under embargo for a full review, I’d recommend checking it out, especially for a fantastic score from The Chemical Brothers. – Jordan R.
Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt; April 8th)
Synopsis: Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions.
Why You Should See It: Reichardt follows up Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy with this western. Her signature style remains as she gorgeously captures a strenuous journey of survival. Check out my TIFF review here. – Jordan R.
Your Highness (David Gordon Green; April 8th)
Synopsis: When Prince Fabious’s bride is kidnapped, he goes on a quest to rescue her…accompanied by his lazy useless brother Thadeous.
Why You Should See It: With James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, and Zooey Deschanel, this movie is a casting director’s wet dream. The dialogue in the fantasy/comedy was, according to Green, almost entirely improvised, so hopefully the jokes are organic and funny. The film has been on the shelf at Universal for about a year, and that’s not usually a good sign, but a recently released trailer does show Portman in a thong, and that’s definitely a plus. With potential Oscar nominees Franco and Portman together, as well as Franco and McBride under Green’s direction for the first time since Pineapple Express, it’s looking pretty good for Your Highness. – James B.
Arthur (Jason Winer; April 8th)
Synopsis: A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn’t like.
Why You Should See It: Remaking the Dudley Moore comedy classic is admittedly a difficult task, but I could think of no better comedian to step into his shoes than Russell Brand. Add in Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig and we could have a decent update on our hands. – Jordan R.
Haywire (Steven Soderbergh; April 22nd)
Synopsis: A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
Why You Should See It: Formerly known as Knockout, this spy thriller stars Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, and Gina Carano. If that impressive cast isn’t enough, you’ve also got another Soderbergh film coming in the fall. - Jordan R.
Water For Elephants (Francis Lawrence; April 22nd)
Synopsis: A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet.
Why You Should See It: Based on the best-selling novel, this film boosts an impressive cast including Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz. The trailer looks stunning, and with Waltz in the intriguing role of August Rosenbluth, it’s hopeful that the story will be equally pleasing. – Kristen C.
Thor (Kenneth Branagh; May 6th)
Synopsis: The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.
Why You Should See It: Not only does this film include the recent Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman, but it also features Chris Hemsworth and Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins. Thor will also give us a taste of the ever expanding Marvel universe that will come to a fever with the release of The Avengers in 2012. – James B.
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