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The Leftover Question Marks Of 2011 – Can These Films Possibly Be Any Good? Part 1

The Leftover Question Marks Of 2011 - Can These Films Possibly Be Any Good? Part 1

The Answer Is Probably Not, But Hey, What The Hell…

Our exhausting coverage of the films coming out in 2011 continues and yes, we’re tired, hungry and a bit cranky. We used to call this our Least Anticipated Films feature, but this year our New Year’s resolution was to be a tiny bit more positive. Frankly, the sentiment applies, but this is also the leftover films of 2011 we just don’t know what to do with. Many of them look abysmal, some of us glass-half-full Playlist types (yes, there are a few among us) think, “hey, that picture might not be so bad,” while other members of the group stare in shock that such an idea could be possibly floated. So yes, basically these are the films that we don’t hold out too much hope, the ones we think look downright cheap and dreadful, made only to turn a buck and the occasional few that look half-decent (and may just not have fit in the character count of our Escapist Features, sue us) — though before you bombard our comments section, please actually read what we have to say about these films before assuming we’re completely writing them off. Also, while it wasn’t intentional, some of us do find it amusing that most of the cast of “Twilight” fill these halls. Another trend we just realized? Leighton Meester pretty much means box-office poison (poor cute, “Gossip Girl“). Also, Hollywood seems to be banking on the mostly unknown Alex Pettyfer, but he truly looks like a charisma-free zone of blandness. Onwards to 2011, though, not necessarily upwards in this case….Scream 4″ – Dimension Films – dir. Wes Craven
Synopsis: The Weinstein Company needs cash, so it’s time to resurrect one of the few franchises they own with real brand equity.
“Real” Synopsis: Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.
What You Need To Know: The original gang — David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox — is back plus a new generation of fresh meat to kill. Pictures on the web already seem to give away that Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell are the “surprise” kills that begin the film and the rest of the cast includes folks like Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Marley Shelton, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson and Alison Brie. TWC got in a financial jam circa 2009 so they quickly announced the return of every sequel franchise they could find (hence the return of the “Spy Kids” franchise too) that would easily turn a sizable profit just for appearing in theaters. Original screenwriter Kevin Williamson was on board and then he left in a huff. Nobody cares. The main question is how badly does it embarrass itself?
Release Date: April 15, 2011

Priest” (in 3D) – Screen Gems – dir. Scott Stewart
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world torn apart by a war between humans and vampires, a warrior priest heads out into the wilderness to save his kidnapped niece.
What You Need To Know: Why are we concerned about this one? Um, did you see “Legion”? VFX artist-turned-director Scott Stewart is reteaming with star Paul Bettany on a sci-fi horror-western hybrid based on a popular manga. If anything, this looks worse than its predecessor — it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s a big-budget remake of Milla Jovovich vehicle “Ultraviolet,” with post-“Matrix” wire-fu and bullet time that would have felt dated in 2003. Bettany seems to be doing a Christian Bale impression, for no apparent reason, and… well, put it this way: Cam Gigandet’s in it. Screen Gems moved it into the heat of summer, which suggests a kind of bullishness about it, but aside from the prospect of Karl Urban having a little fun as the villain, we can’t find much to get excited about here.
Release Date: May 13, 2011

Fast Five” – Universal – dir. Justin Lin
Synopsis: Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) are caught between a vicious drug dealer and a lean, mean federal agent (Dwayne Johnson).
What You Need To Know: If you’re keeping track, this film and its predecessor, “Fast and Furious” take place before the events of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Because we know you were concerned. The idea of matching Diesel against Johnson is inspired, and there’s something novel about bringing the cast from each film back together. Moreover, Justin Lin has shown a respectable skill with high-octane action sequences and money shots, keeping these films from being unwatchable. Still, as much posturing and male bonding that can be had, these films almost show contempt for the fact that they actually have to be about people and not cars that relentlessly drive themselves through violent, high stakes races. Because Diesel and Walker will no doubt move onto other things after this film (unless the film is a “Rush Hour” success, securing both $15-$20 million paydays), expect a cheaper sixth installment with an all-new cast.
Release Date: June 10, 2011

Season of the Witch” – Lionsgate – dir. Dominic Sena
Synopsis: Two knights team up to transport a woman who may be a witch at the time of the Black Plague.
What You Need To Know: This thing has been reshot and reshaped frequently over the last couple of years, with Brett Ratner only one of a couple of directors rumored to have gotten behind the camera for new footage. Everything about this sounds dubious. So what’s to be positive about? For starters, there’s the creepy medieval tone, which is sorely underused. Then there’s the inspired pairing of Nicolas Cage (in trademark terrible wig) and a hopefully hammy Ron Perlman, here doing for a big studio what he would have been doing on the SyFy Channel a decade ago. Finally, the presence of Christopher Lee certainly lends the film a certain legitimacy in the realm of gothic bloodletting, and we do hope his presence is a strong indicator of what tone producers were trying to achieve.
Release Date
: January 7, 2011 (read our review)

“Abduction” – Lionsgate – dir. John Singleton
Synopsis: A young man goes on the run after he discovers he’s adopted after seeing his baby photos on a missing person’s website.
What You Need To Know: Next year, it’ll be 20 years since John Singleton picked up an Oscar nomination for his storming debut “Boyz n the Hood.” It has also been 20 years in which the director has mostly squandered his promise, peaking with next year’s “Abduction,” the first solo lead for shirtless “Twilight” phenomenon Taylor Lautner. There’s a decent supporting cast, including Alfred Molina, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Michael Nyqvist (although Emily Mortimer sensibly bailed just before filming) and the great Jason Isaacs, but this sounds like a deeply rote thriller, the kind of thing that Ashley Judd would have been making 10 years ago. Maybe Lautner’s the real deal, maybe he’s not, but this kind of half-assed material isn’t going to make him the next megastar.
Release Date: September 23, 2011

The Three Musketeers” – Summit – dir. Paul W.S. Anderson
Synopsis: The fiery D’Artagnan must team with the disgraced Three Musketeers to stop a coup from within the French government.
What You Need To Know: Paul W.S. Anderson keeps getting work by being a total hit factory, each one of his films coming in underbudget and grossing big money comparative to their cost. In Hollywood, the profitability of your films often defeats your obvious lack of skill or interest in stories for adults, as Anderson has built his empire with efforts like “Mortal Kombat,” “Alien vs. Predator” and the “Resident Evil” series. He seems to be stretching by going from Konami to Alexandre Dumas, but this is expected to be a fairly XTREME take on the material, planned for a 3D release. Aside from the uncharacteristically stellar cast (Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich), Anderson has proven time and time again that he is a master at screwing up completely obvious ideas. What’s he going to do with Dumas?
Release Date: October 14, 2011

“The Thing” – Universal – dir. Matthijs van Heijningen
Synopsis: An American paleontologist joins a Norwegian scientific team in the Antarctic who have discovered a crashed alien spaceship, but something may have been left alive…
What You Need To Know: The late ’70s and early ’80s saw John Carpenter make some truly great films, but probably the best of them was “The Thing,” a Howard Hawks remake that hasn’t aged a day in the 30 years since. So to say that we’re wary of this one is an understatement. But the word from New York Comic Con where footage premiered was surprisingly positive, and the cast features several Playlist favorites, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. The effects are being kept practical as much as possible, which is at least a good sign. But we’re not sure we trust writer Eric Heisserer, who was behind the atrocious “Nightmare on Elm Street” redo, as far as we can throw him, the six-month release delay doesn’t bode well, and everything that we’ve seen suggests it’ll be way too close to the original. Still, we hold out mild hope as footage has been decent so far.
Release Date: October 14, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” (Part One) – Summit – dir. Bill Condon
Synopsis: To quote a dear friend’s Twilight themed band, “vampire fetus… eating me from the inside!” Vampires and werewolves continue to hate each other. Bella continues to be wan and angsty.
What You Need To Know: This writer is at her breaking point with the ‘Twilight‘ movies. Sure, the first one was hilarious and the second one was hilariouser and the third one was still hilarious and some people were like, it’s not AS BAD but NO, it WAS as bad or worse. It’s one thing to be committed to ‘Twilight’ for the amusement to be found in the horrible, horrible wigs and makeup (all of those people need to be fired and banned from their professions), and the laughable acting and the scripts that are just like, “WHAT, someone was paid to write this shit?” But a fourth one? With an unborn vampire fetus? We’re gonna need a lot more whiskey this time around.
Release Date: November 18, 2011

“The Smurfs” (in 3D) — Sony – dir. Raja Gosnell
Synopsis: The Smurfs accidentally travel from their village to the most sickeningly commercial, boring place in the world – post-Giuliani midtown Manhattan.
What You Need To Know: This is a live action-CGI hybrid, there will be songs, it will be in 3D, and Hank Azaria will probably act the hell out of Gargamel. Katy Perry provides the least interesting part of her anatomy — her voice — to the role of Smurfette, while the production promises jobs for the likes of Kenan Thompson, George Lopez, Jeff Foxworthy and Tim Gunn. This August, when you meet a child you want to abuse, you can take them to this.
Release Date: August 3, 2011

“Conan the Barbarian” – Lionsgate – dir. Marcus Nispel
Synopsis: By Crom, that rippled muscleman is going to avenge the death of his father by crushing his enemies, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentations of their women!
What You Need To Know: Movie studios are more and more like serious businesses, with several ancillary streams to worry about. Hence, making a loving product is not as high a priority as pleasing the company’s money men, which means you need a recognizable name and a release date. Hence, Nu Image and Lionsgate have partnered to get the most competent-looking ‘Conan‘ movie onscreen as quickly as possible, resulting in a “Stargate: Atlantis” star filling the Schwarzenegger moccasins for working hack Marcus Nispel, who hasn’t encountered a stupid franchise he couldn’t further retard (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th”). The studios claim this is coming in at a $90 million budget, likely a bullshit figure considering Nu Image is using sets and locations in Bulgaria previously utilized for a number of their straight-to-DVD offerings, but Nu Image frequently lies about their budgets anyway to justify selling international rights for far more than their value. Hopefully this movie both tanks and reveals this company for their fraudulent bullshit.
Release Date: August 19, 2011

“The Apparition” – Warner Bros. – dir. Todd Lincoln
Synopsis: A young couple conjure up a terrifying ghost, forcing them to consult a supernatural expert, who may not be enough to save them.
What You Need To Know: Nothing lets you know that the film you’re about to see will be a cheap, watered down, joyless cash-in of a genre picture than the Screen Gems logo in front of the movie you’ve just sat down to watch — with a handful of exceptions (“Easy A,” “Vacancy” if we’re being very generous). “The Apparition” has the golden trilogy of a debuting music video director, a PG-13 horror pitch and a vacant young cast (someone from “Twilight” — Ashley Greene, someone from “Gossip Girl” — Sebastian Stan, Draco Malfoy from ‘Harry Potter,’ hilariously cast as an exorcist!), that more or less ensures it’ll be wretched. But fortunately, it almost certainly won’t be screened for critics, so the likelihood is that we’ll never see it. And we can live with that.
Release Date: September 9, 2011

“New Year’s Eve” – Warner Bros. – dir. Garry Marshall
Synopsis: Love lives intersect between strangers and couples on New Year’s Eve.
What You Need To Know: This isn’t a sequel so much as a spiritual cousin to this year’s soul-sucking date movie for uninteresting people, “Valentine’s Day.” The original decision was to probably make another film centered on the holiday, but titling it was likely out of the reach of the ad wizards who came up with the premise, so if this film hits, expect to see every holiday checked off the list because some B-list actor has a gap in their schedule. Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Swift and pretty much everyone you expect will be in this.
Release Date: December 9, 2011

“Trespass” – TBD – dir. Joel Schumacher
Synopsis: A couple on vacation is held for ransom by a group of unscrupulous criminals.
What You Need To Know: There remains some mystery over this title, as Nicolas Cage reportedly held the production hostage by disappearing for a short week in the middle of some reportedly difficult negotiations. Apparently, a change of heart led to him requesting he play the lead kidnapper, but when he returned to the project, he took the role of the lead male who, with Nicole Kidman, find themselves besieged and taken over by the likes of Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet and Dash Mihok. This is a Nu Image production, so there’s reason to be suspicious — few people would hire Joel Schumacher for a high octane actioner in this climate, and aside from Kidman, the supporting cast screams, “Work is work.” We’d like to be optimistic, but it probably won’t be as good as the underrated Walter Hill-Robert Zemeckis collaboration of the same name.
Release Date: TDB

“Water for Elephants” – 20th Century Fox – dir. Francis Lawrence
Synopsis: A young vet runs away with the circus and falls for the beautiful wife of the circus’ cruel head animal trainer.
What You Need To Know: Perhaps if this had a different set of talent involved it might be an early awards contender, but as it stands now, forget it. Based on a bestselling novel and pairs Robert Pattinson, in his highest-profile role outside the ‘Twilight’ series, and director Francis Lawrence, coming off the megahit “I Am Legend.” Put them with freshly minted Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon, who’s still one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, and it’s a potent mix… if you’re tonally challenged. Lawrence doing drama is laughable, he couldn’t even help out “Jonah Hex” from being a disaster. Pattison still has yet to prove his chops (terrible so far), “The Green Hornet” may prove that Waltz is a hammy, one-hit-wonder and Witherspoon was pretty dull in her supposed comeback film, “How Do You Know,” which flopped. The trailer for this one looks terrible….
Release Date: April 15, 2011

“Unknown” – Warner Bros. – dir. Jaume Collet-Serra
Synopsis: A man wakes from a coma only to find that his identity has been stolen, and none of the people in his life remember who he is.
What You Need To Know: This is a commercially clever combination of two types of films that come out every year. One of them is the amnesia-fueled mystery, where someone has to wonder how their life has almost supernaturally been altered beyond their means (“The Forgotten”). The other is where a mild-mannered man is forced to become an action hero in search of the truth, something star Liam Neeson already did in 2008’s “Taken” and will continue here. Jaume Collet-Serra worked with Dark Castle with his last two efforts, and he’s a crisp commercial helmer who has a sharp eye for cynical exploitation imagery. So at best, we’re getting a cheap actioner without the Gallic insanity of “Taken,” which actually seems like a recommendation for some of you, so, enjoy.
Release Date: February 18, 2011

“The Dilemma” – Universal Pictures – dir. Ron Howard
Synopsis: A man struggles with the knowledge that his best friend’s wife is cheating on him.
What You Need To Know: You probably need to know that, given the characters are lifelong best friends, this really isn’t a “dilemma” at all. Of course he should tell him. End of movie. But no, Ron Howard is here to present us his version of a sitcom on the big screen, with Vince Vaughn and Kevin James dealing with the issue of infidelity with wives that look like Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder. This promises to be the first movie that asks no interesting questions and presents no complex moral issues for the audience.
Release Date: January 14, 2011 (yup, we were right, read our review)

“The Rite” – Warner Bros. – dir. Mikael Hafstrom
Synopsis: A young trainee American priest is sent to exorcism school at the Vatican, where he comes across a renegade priest who may have a darker side to him.
What You Need To Know: OK, so that synopsis may sound like the film’s about pederasty, but this is yet another demon possession horror flick, albeit one from Mikael Hafstrom, director of the above-average “1408,” and with a strong cast, including Anthony Hopkins as the elder priest, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga, Rutger Hauer and Toby Jones. But frankly, the trailer is laughable and isn’t something we haven’t seen countless times before, and certainly nothing that wasn’t done better by William Friedkin. The best-case scenario is that it’ll be a competent middlebrow horror, and worst case is that it’ll be yet another atrocious January horror, albeit one with Hopkins’ teeth marks all over the scenery.
Release Date: January 28, 2011

The Mechanic” – CBS Films – dir. Simon West
Synopsis: A high-rent hitman trains a young protégé eager to learn the art of death.
What You Need To Know: The 1972 original, directed by Michael Winner, still stands up well today as one of Charles Bronson’s most badass roles, and normally, we’d be all aboard Jason Statham filling those shoes (and Ben Foster is a definite upgrade over Jan Michael Vincent). But Simon West? Is this the same Simon West who keeps ending up in director jail for stuff like “When a Stranger Calls” and “The General’s Daughter”? He is, ah, no Michael Winner. And it’s neither here nor there, but the original has one of the all-time great action movie endings, and we’ve heard from some involved in the production that they completely botched it in the least imaginative way possible.
Release Date: January 28, 2011

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – Paramount – dir. Michael Bay
Synopsis: An early encounter with humanity during the space race may be the key to the Autobots surviving a vicious plot from Megatron.
What You Need To Know: Michael Bay, Shia LeBeouf and producers receive no credit for falling on their swords over the quality of the nearly billion dollar “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” because in doing so, they perpetuated the idea that there was a world of difference between the first and second films. When in fact, both are hateful, barely comprehensible pieces of special effects dreck. No matter, as people keep lining up for this nearly annual sensory assault. There’s been controversy over this entry already, as Bay originally came on strong against 3D (then caved) while also dealing with some tension regarding fired actress Megan Fox (a rewrite that probably took two minutes). Bay claims this will be the last in the series, so hopefully everyone gets the memo and moves on. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Fox’s babe replacement), Hugo Weaving, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich co-star.
Release Date: July 1, 2011

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – Filmyard – dir. Troy Nixey
Synopsis: A family moves into a derelict house, where they accidentally unleash some terrifying creatures.
What You Need To Know: This chiller, a remake of a fondly remembered made-for-TV pic from the ’70s, has got an impressive pedigree, with geek favorite Guillermo del Toro producing and co-writing and an unusually high-caliber cast, featuring Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes and young actress Bailee Madison, who stole the show in Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers.” On the other hand, Troy Nixey’s debut short “Latchkey’s Lament” displays FX skills, but not much else. The teaser trailer for this had a decent jump scare, but was otherwise kind of generic. Plus, the film was long-delayed even before Miramax’s troubles saw it shunted from its January release date, and a low key premiere at last November’s Virginia Film Festival doesn’t bode particularly well. Maybe we’re wrong, but something smells a little off here.
Release Date: TBD

I Am Number Four” – Buena Vista/DreamWorks – dir. D.J. Caruso
Synopsis: An exiled alien disguised as a teenager moves to a new town and falls for a girl at his school, only for the creatures that wiped out his race to catch up with him.
What You Need To Know: From Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, this adaptation of a bestselling young adult novel by disgraced former literary fave James Frey hopes to be the next big teenage phenomenon, and launch lead Alex Pettyfer, owner of the highest cheekbones in Britain, to stardom. The trouble is, there doesn’t appear to be anything here to trouble those of us who want more from our sci-fi flicks than attractive leads, particularly with super hack D.J. Caruso, who’s presumably run out of Hitchcock movies to riff on, at the helm. On the plus side, del Toro collaborator Guillermo Navarro is shooting it, so it’ll at least look good, but we don’t expect much more than that.
Release Date: February 18, 2011

“Beastly” – CBS Films – dir. Daniel Barnz
Synopsis: A hunky high school bully is punished by a witch into becoming a hulking monster who must find true love to become himself again.
What You Need To Know: So it’s “Beauty and the Beast.” The difference is that pretty-boy Alex Pettyfer (who gave this kid a career suddenly??) becomes a Frankenstein-looking monster and there’s a hipster loft in Brooklyn involved, with appearances by Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris as a blind sage. So it’s like a teenager’s Tumblr feed in movie form. If “The Mechanic” fails to hit later this month, then CBS Films will have debuted with four straight flops, putting the marketing pressure on pushing this film — long earmarked for a 2010 bow — to the ‘Twilight’ crowd. Goody.
Release Date: March 19, 2011

Red Riding Hood” – Warner Bros. -dir. Catherine Hardwicke
Synopsis: Taking place in a small village ravaged by a werewolf, a young girl (Amanda Seyfried) finds herself caught in a love triangle with her fiancé (Max Irons) and an orphaned woodcutter (Shiloh Fernandez).
What You Need To Know: Skeptics of the project, which seems like it could’ve been the ugly love child between “Twilight” and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” were quietly dissuaded when the trailer debuted and offered none of the hamminess or uninspired handling that the previously mentioned films are dubious for. That said, aside from gorgeous set, it doesn’t look particularly interesting and seems to really be banking on people coming in because it’s a fairy tale in a dark disguise. The heart of the piece seems to be the ill-fated romance, which feels rather take-it-or-leave it. We’re not holding our breaths, but maybe the cast will surprise.
Release Date: March 11, 2011

“Frankie And Alice” – Freestyle – dir. Geoffrey Sax
Synopsis: A woman battles her multiple personalities, one of which is openly racist.
What You Need To Know: The idea of Halle Berry acting out a racist split personality in an Oscar-bait drama from the director of “White Noise” frankly sounds hilarious. There was an Academy-qualifying run at the end of last year, but in a crowded Best Actress season, we can’t see how anyone would fall for this. Berry is a sometimes-effective emoter, sure, but you need more skill than that to be a talented actress, and her tin ear for material coupled with the lack of options for African American women in Hollywood haven’t done her any favors.
Release Date: February 4, 2011

“The Roommate” – Screen Gems – dir. Christian E. Christiansen
Synopsis: A college freshman finds herself sharing a dorm room with a possessive psycho.
What You Need To Know: Okay, ignoring the fact that this is probably just going to be “Single White Female Jr.” wouldn’t it be great if someone made a movie like this as a serious drama that actually opened up debate on the struggles of young girls in regards to competitiveness and self-esteem issues? We knew of more than a few girls back in college who found themselves demoralized by their superficially more appealing bunkmates, and we’d like to chalk up their eventual failure to cope to serious issues that require a lighter touch, and not just a reactionary “OMG SHE WANTS TO KILL ME” attitude. This will probably be PG-13 and marketed to young girls who have already had a steady diet of “tough bitch” and “ugly whore” beliefs funneled through television and advertising, but since Screen Gems kept the budget under $10 million, they don’t really give a shit, do they? Cardboard cutout trollops du jour Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly star.
Release Date: February 4, 2011

Just Go with It” – Sony – dir. Dennis Dugan
Synopsis: A lothario sets sexual politics back decades by hiring a woman and her children to pose as his family in order to seduce the object of his affection.
What You Need To Know: This is an Adam Sandler movie from his Happy Madison imprint, which means several men will get hit in the crotch, women will be treated like props, and there will be a general pandering tone to anything related to middle-class lifestyles. Human wallpaper Jennifer Aniston plays the woman who assumes the role of fake wife, while Brooklyn Decker is the target of Sandler’s interest, and the trailer didn’t reveal what part Nicole Kidman will play, though it seems clear whatever she’ll be doing can be considered slumming.
Release Date: February 11, 2011

“Something Borrowed” – Warner Bros. – dir. Luke Greenfield
Synopsis: A woman falls for her best friend’s fiancé.
What You Need To Know: Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski and Kate Hudson in a romantic comedy. We want to believe the WB releasing an R-rated movie for adults in May shows confidence in the material, though it might just be some desperate exec looking for a built-in excuse when no one goes to see it.
Release Date: May 6, 2011

“Arthur” – Warner Bros. – dir. Jason Winer
Synopsis: Remake of the Dudley Moore comedy, about a layabout playboy who risks being disinherited by his family.
What You Need To Know: The Russell Brand express just keeps on going — while “Get Him to the Greek” may not have been a megahit, it did decently, and most importantly showed that Brand was capable of carrying a film and giving a good performance while he was at it. “Arthur” will be his greatest test to date, taking up the mantle of the late Dudley Moore and reteaming with his “Tempest” co-star Helen Mirren, who takes on the role originally played by John Gielgud. Greta Gerwig and Jennifer Garner are also among the solid cast for the film, which has a very strong script from “Borat” writer Peter Baynham and will be helmed by “Modern Family” director Jason Winer. As long as Brand and Mirren can capture their off-screen chemistry on camera, this could prove to be a surprise hit.
Release Date: April 8, 2011

Bel Ami” – TBD – dir. Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod
Synopsis: A young man (Robert Pattinson) rises to prominence in the Parisian social world by entertaining various older ladies.
What You Need To Know: We’ve heard a lot about the supposed artistic integrity of Mr. Pattinson and the noted charm he displays in interviews, not to mention the offhand irreverence towards the ‘Twilight’ series that has made him a household name. But three ‘Twilight’ offerings later, there’s precious little to go by. Efforts like “Little Ashes” and “Remember Me” have been met with snickers, as he’s struggling with the questionable creative decisions of a young phenom. Is his career going to change paths in 2011? Considering a lead role in a movie by Francis Lawrence (“Water for Elephants”) and this, a collaboration with first-time directors, you wonder what his desired career goal might be. We’ve heard good things about the short story where this film draws its inspiration, but to us, right now this is just a film where a hot young thing romances Kristen Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci, while prooooobably pining for the one that got away. Would be nice to be wrong.
Release Date: TBD

“Monte Carlo” – Fox – dir. Thomas Bezucha
Synopsis: Three young, bored American girls enjoy a whirlwind media circus while vacationing in Paris when one of them is mistaken for a rich British heiress.
What You Need To Know: It’s the capitalist attitudes and xenophobia of “Sex and the City” combined with the rich-girl fantasy of “Pretty Woman.” Awesome. Katie Cassidy, Leighton Meester and Selena Gomezplay the girls for “The Family Stone” helmer Thomas Bezucha, who has to be cursing the direction producers took the film after it was originally suited for older leads, drawing the attention of Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. Oh, is this Fox? We would have never guessed.
Release Date: February 11, 2011

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules” – Fox – dir. David Bowers
Synopsis: That kid’s still a wimp.
What You Need To Know: Fox made a solid billion dollars from “Avatar” in the early months of 2010, but their year-end reports were decorated with the fallen corpses of their lackluster release schedule, the bottom line only helped by “Avatar” playing well after its ‘09 release. As a result, looking for a film that drew a solid theatrical profit was difficult, but they’ve sequelized one of them already, applying a nearly “Saw”-like shooting schedule to get the film out only a year after the last one. There are five books in the series, so if this hits (and given the skimpy budget, it should), Fox might go all in and adapt them all. And what can we tell you? There’s a kid, he’s bullied by classmates, and he keeps a journal. It probably gets him in trouble. Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris are the parents and the script is from “Freaks and Geeks” scribes Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. You’ve made up your mind already, most likely.
Release Date: March 25, 2011

Mars Needs Moms 3D” – Disney – dir. Simon Wells
Synopsis: A boy hitches a ride on a spaceship when he discovers aliens have been abducting Earth’s nicest mothers. But, fortunately for Shaft, not our baddest mothers.
What You Need To Know: Again with this Zemeckis mo-cap crap. This stuff will never seem anything less than creepy. At least with “Monster House,” the talented Gil Kenan was behind it all. Here, they’ve entrusted Simon Wells, he of “Balto” and “Prince of Egypt” to helm the picture. As a result, the trailer was loaded with eyesores, scads of alien detritus unpleasing to the eyes foregrounded against a harsh, dim, dark Mars atmosphere that makes you wonder if kids are really going to respond to BLACK ON BLACK. Seriously, it makes “Tron: Legacy” look like “Fantasia.” Making things worse? Apparently comic relief duties fell to Dan Fogler. While we’re curious about producer Adult Swim’s involvement, right now we’re thinking PASS.
Release Date: March 11, 2011

“Dark Moon” – Warner Bros. – dir. Olatunde Osunsanmi
Synopsis: Three astronaut helmet cameras have been recovered and they apparently contain footage of a top secret black-ops mission to the Moon.
What You Need To Know: Next year was to see three Moon-related found-footage movies. But with Roland Emmerich’s “The Zone” grounded, it was between this project and March’s “Apollo 18.” Despite Warner Bros. dropping the Akiva Goldsman-produced project, Joel Silver’s Dark Castle, a WB subsidiary, came to the rescue, and now the film is being directed by its screenwriter Osunsanmi, who last directed the poorly-received “The Fourth Kind.” We’re getting a bit weary of the found-footage genre, and we’re equally uncomfortable with the duo of Osunsanmi and the unholy Goldsman, who never met a project he couldn’t diminish. There’s a lot of buzz over the script but we have a feeling a project like this is getting a greenlight because of the highly feasible (read: super low-budget) price tag.
Release Date: TBD

“Alvin and the Chipmunks 3D” – Fox – dir. Mike Mitchell
Synopsis: Chipmunks sing in 3D.
What You Need To Know: The last two films in this series were soul-sucking commercials for toys and merchandise, so why should this go-round be any different? No word on what human performers are participating, though David Cross has been pretty upfront about using these films as paycheck gigs, so maybe some first, second or third rate comedian will follow the dollars and say some shit in front of a green screen. And since it’s in 3D, Fox will rake in the cash once again no matter what.
Release Date: December 16, 2011

“From Prada to Nada” – Lionsgate – dir. Angel Gracia
Synopsis: A Latina spin on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” where two spoiled sisters who have been left penniless after their father’s sudden death are forced to move in with their estranged aunt in East Los Angeles.
What You Need To Know: First off, who knew Camilla Belle was Latina or could even pass off playing one? Who cares when you have a bit of bronzer, Wilmer Valderrama and some chimichangas in the room? Alexa Vega and Adriana Barraza co-star and man, this looks vile. At least Latino Review will give it a fair shake.
Release Date: January 28, 2011

“Never Say Never 3D” – Paramount – dir. Jon Chu
Synopsis: A documentary about the rise of tween superstar Justin Bieber, interspersed with concert footage.
What You Need To Know: Paramount is trying to score the kind of receipts Sony pulled in with “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” ($261 million globally) and Disney with the “Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds” concert film ($65 million). Putting this in 3D and on 3,000 screens probably is a no-brainer business move, even if only the hardcore are willing to sit through this kid’s already well-documented rise to fame. Jon Chu directed the last two “Step Up” films and has a definite eye for hoofing, but the overriding truth about this film is the same about Bieber himself: he’s just a kid who can sing and dance. We’re not really up for 90 minutes of the walking embodiment of 65% of YouTube.
Release Date: February 11, 2011

“Atlas Shrugged” – TBD – dir. Paul Johansson
Synopsis: Based on the Ayn Rand novel about a railroad company in a dystopian world battling a corrupt, interventionist government.
What You Need To Know: Fuck Ayn Rand. The founder of objectivism, shitty writer and queen of selfishness is a fairly repellent character to all (bar your college roommate who wanted to be a securities trader) and her influence on film has been somewhat limited to date, outside of the awful Gary Cooper-starring version of “The Fountainhead.” “Atlas Shrugged” has been in development for years and finally made it before cameras last June, for the always reassuring reason that the producer would lose the rights if filming didn’t begin on a certain date. It’s helmed by one of the stars of TV show “One Tree Hill,” Nick Cassavetes is the biggest name in the cast, and it’ll probably be embraced by Tea Party activists like the Justin Bieber movie will be embraced by 11-year-old girls. If this makes it to theaters (by no means a certainty), it’ll almost certainly be the worst movie of the year. Release Date: TBD

Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton, Gabe Toro, Simon Dang, Christopher Bell, Kimber Myers, Drew Taylor, Jessica Kiang, Mark Zhuravsky, Erik McClanahan, Katie Walsh

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