Casa de mi Padre (Matt Piedmont)
Synopsis: Armando Alvarez has lived and worked on his father’s ranch in Mexico his entire life. As the ranch encounters financial difficulties, Armando’s younger brother Raul (Luna), shows up with his new fiance, Sonia. It seems that Raul’s success as an international businessman means the ranch’s troubles are over as he pledges to settle all debts his father has incurred. But when Armando falls for Sonia and Raul’s business dealings turn out to be less than legit, all hell breaks loose as they find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord, the mighty Onza.
Why You Should See It: If Will Ferrell doing a film entirely in Spanish is your dream, then it has finally come true. Add in two of the best actors fluent in the language, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, and we have an enticing project. – Jordan R.
Dark Horse (Todd Solondz)
Synopsis: Romance blooms between two thirty-somethings in arrested development: an avid toy collector and a woman who is the dark horse of her family.
Why You Should See It: With quite a few years in between last year’s Life During Wartime last year and Solondz’s previous films, he isn’t repeating the pause. The offbeat director’s next feature, currently in production, stars Christopher Walken and will see a release by the end of the year – Jordan R.
Submarine (Richard Ayoade)
Synopsis: A comedy which follows a 15-year-old boy with two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to stop his mother from leaving his father for her dance teacher.
Why You Should See It: Coming-of-age stories are dangerous material, with the best (Rushmore, The 400 Blows) bringing up parallels to your own life and experiences, while the worst (they’ll remain nameless) come off as films painfully cloying for audience sentimentality. Signs point to Submarine being the former, and comparisons to Wes Anderson’s aforementioned film make me all the more excited to see what debut director Ayoade has fashioned. - Nick N.
Ceremony (Max Winkler)
Synopsis: A young guy crashes the wedding of the thirty-something woman he wants back.
Why You Should See It: Winkler’s directorial debut premiered at TIFF to positive reviews, including my own. Taking a note from Wes Anderson screenplays and a filmmaking style from Baumbach, he has created a lively, often hilarious look at impossible love. – Jordan R.
Zeitoun (Jonathan Demme)
Synopsis: The story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American man who remained in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to protect his home and business, and paddled its flooded streets in a canoe, offering his help to other flood victims.
Why You Should See It: The prolific director is stepping into animation territory with this adaptation of Dave Egger’s novel. Currently in production, we may not see it until the very end of the year, due to the long process of the medium. – Jordan R.
The Grandmasters (Wong Kar-wai)
Synopsis: The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
Why You Should See It: After his failed US debut My Blueberry Nights, legendary foreign filmmaker Wong Kar-wai returns to his roots with this martial arts Ip Man biopic. With a likely Cannes premiere, The Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics are all vying for domestic distribution rights. – Jordan R.
The Future (Miranda July)
Synopsis: When a couple decides to adopt a stray cat their perspective on life changes radically, literally altering the course of time and space and testing their faith in each other and themselves.
Why You Should See It: Quirky, strange, brutal and delightful, Miranda July’s new film revels in what’s good enough for right now. July and co-star Hamish Linklater play intellectuals past their prime spending too much time thinking about their past, unrealized dreams. – Dan M.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock)
Synopsis: A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.
Why You Should See It: In his best film since Super Size Me, Spurlock has created the most meta-documentary I’ve seen. In a search for advertisers for his film about advertising, we get an inside, and often hilarious, look at the process. The film will see a release this spring. – Jordan R.
Incendies (Denis Villeneuve)
Synopsis: A mother’s last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed play, Incendies tells the powerful and moving tale of two young adults’ voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love.
Why You Should See It: This Best Foreign Film-nominated drama has been getting rave reviews since its festival run last fall. Sony Pictures Classics plans a limited April release. – Jordan R.
Untitled Black Ops Project and/or Triple Frontier (Kathryn Bigelow)
Synopsis: The former is an unknown, small-budget secret project, the latter is an action-adventure story set in the border zone between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
Why You Should See It: Before shooting their big budget border-straddling action-adventure Triple Frontier this year with Tom Hanks, the Oscar-winning team who wrote and directed 2009’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, will make this drama, which is also rumored to be based on true events. Little is known of the project’s particulars, but with Bigelow and Boal on board, it’s easy to expect great things. – Kristy P.
Butter (Jim Field Smith)
Synopsis: A comedy set in the Midwest U.S., where an adopted girl discovers her talent for butter carving and finds herself pitted against an ambitious local woman in their town’s annual contest.
Why You Should See It: I thought She’s Out of My League was one of the more overlooked comedies last year, and now Jim Field Smith returns with a stronger cast of Olivia Wilde, Hugh Jackman, and Jennifer Garner for his latest film. While the rumored Sundance premiere never happened, look for a release later in the year. – Jordan R.
The Oranges (Julian Farino)
Synopsis: A guy falls for the daughter of a family friend, making life just a bit awkward for himself and the family.
Why You Should See It: Can Julian Farino’s snap direction and constantly-moving camera – a huge part of the enjoyment of both ‘Entourage’ and ‘How To Make It In America’ – translate to the silver screen in a romance led by the as-yet-to-prove-himself Adam Brody? – Dan M.
Hobo With A Shotgun (Jason Eisener)
Synopsis: A homeless vigilante blows away crooked cops, pedophile Santas, and other scumbags with his trusty pump-action shotgun.
Why You Should See It: With Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) as its titular vagabond, Hobo with a Shotgun is the second of Grindhouse’s fake trailers to get made into a real movie. The real unrated teaser trailer for the movie has more blood and guts than most of 2010’s entire films. If you’re in the mood for senseless violence and comic-style gore, wait for the Hobo in 2011. – James B.
Twixt Now and Sunrise (Francis Ford Coppola)
Synopsis: Based on a short story written by the classic filmmaker, Kilmer plays a horror novelist in the movie, though details about the rest of the story are unknown.
Why You Should See It: Francis Ford Coppola returns to the genre he started with: horror, only this time it’s got a gothic twist to it. Based on a short story written by the filmmaker himself, it’s got Val Kilmer in the lead, making another step towards a deserved comeback. And, really, how could any sane person not love that title to death? – Nick N.
Armadillo (Janus Metz Pedersen)
Synopsis: In February 2009 a group of Danish soldiers accompanied by documentary filmmaker Janus Metz arrived at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
Why You Should See It: A gripping Danish documentary about the war in Afghanistan from the perspective of a group of soldiers on their first tour, Armadillo is an absolute must-see for anyone who liked Restrepo. The film generated some controversy in Denmark for it’s portrayal of a possible breach of the rules of engagement. - James B.
The Wettest County (John Hillcoat)
Synopsis: A crime-drama centered on a family of Depression-era bootleggers in the American South
Why You Should See It: Even though John Hillcoat’s last film, The Road, underwhelmed many (including me), that wasn’t easy material to adapt. A story of Prohibition bootleggers, Wettest County has elements we all love: history, action, romance and drinkin’. Not to mention, the cast is pretty terrific. Right now I’d say this is under the radar, but I can also see it sneaking up on audiences when it’s released later in the year. – Nick N.
Restless (Gus Van Sant)
Synopsis: The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII.
Why You Should See It: This off-beat romance has had trouble landing a firm release date, but the trailer that debuted last October seems to assure whimsy and melancholy. Pick one glowing girl (Mia Wasikowska) pair her with a wily loner (newcomer Henry Hopper) and mix with a ghost best-friend and ill-fated romance; it’s a bittersweet confection, which is what Van Sant is best at. - Kristy P.
Attack The Block (Joe Cornish)
Synopsis: An alien invasion begins in a South London council estate, but the creatures haven’t reckoned on the local gang of hoodies.
Why You Should See It: This British comedian, who also helped write Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and the upcoming Ant-Man with Edgar Wright, is set to debut his directorial debut at SXSW this year. - Jordan R.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
Synopsis: Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
Why You Should See It: These may be cheating since I saw Sean Durkin’s debut at Sundance, but this brilliant drama could easily end up being one of my favorites of the year. Elisabeth Olsen delivers a breakout performance as a psychologically disturbed youth dealing with domesticated life, after experiencing a cult led by John Hawkes. – Jordan R.
Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols)
Synopsis: Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard.
Why You Should See It: The reunion of Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon after Shotgun Stories marked one of my most-anticipated events of Sundance this year. Thankfully this psychological natural disaster family drama (yes, it pulls all of those things off) brings out one of the best performances from Shannon culminating in a perfect finale. - Jordan R.
Shame (Steve McQueen)
Synopsis: A drama centered on 30-something Brandon, his myriad sexual escapades, and what happens when his wayward younger sister moves in with him.
Why You Should See It: Following up his fantastic debut Hunger, McQueen reunites with Michael Fassbender and brings along Carey Mulligan in this drama. If he can repeat the visual perfection and strong storytelling from that film, you are looking at one of the best of 2011. – Jordan R.
What films are you most looking forward to this year?
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