Ok, you’ve read part one of our The Leftover Question Marks Of 2011 – Can These Films Possibly Be Any Good? feature and hopefully you’ve got the gist of things. This collection is pretty much what it purports to be, we’ve already made our Most Anticipated Lists (parts one, two and three), our these-could-be-fun, Escapist, Popcorn films list (parts one and two), and one Foreign Film anticipated list, so basically this is everything leftover, making us wonder, will any of these films be worth our time? Some — “Hobo With A Shotgun” — for example feel like they could be B-Movie fun, but a lot of them, hmmm, we’re not so sure. Either way, this is the final part of our Leftover Question Marks of 2011 and almost the end of our annual 2011 anticipated series. Next week, we’ll finish up with the films from 2011 we’ve already seen. Cynical, you say? Think of it as our loveletter to you. We don’t really want you to waste your precious time and dollars when you shouldn’t have to, cheers.
“The Big Year” – 20th Century Fox – dir. David Frankel
Synopsis: Three avid bird watchers compete to spot the rarest birds in North America at a prestigious annual event (no, really).
What You Need To Know: Based on Mark Obmascik‘s book subtitled “A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession,” you’d think there’d be no way this would actually make for a movie, but no, it actually is and it sports a crazy big cast that stars Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson supported by “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike, Kevin Pollak, Angelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Anderson, Joel McHale, Tim Blake Nelson and Brian Dennehy. Seriously, is this like the greatest screenplay ever written or did Fox dump their surplus of “Avatar” cash into casting for this one. We know almost nothing about the project other than what you’ve read above and while we probably reported it back in the day, it’s totally flown under the radar for us. We have no clue what to expect, but it’s directed by David Frankel who has one strike against him (“Marley & Me“), one movie in his favor (the underrated “The Devil Wears Prada“) and one that we mostly feel indifferent about (“Miami Rhapsody“). Then again Frankel was supposed to direct “Moneyball” even way before Steven Soderbergh got to it, much less Bennett Miller, so maybe there will be something there. Though Jack Black and Owen Wilson’s track record for picking projects has been abysmal in the last five years at least.
Release Date: October 14, 2011
“Insidious” – Film District – dir. James Wan
Synopsis: A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
What You Need To Know: After directing the original “Saw,” the Malaysian-born Australian filmmaker James Wan was supposed to be the new heir apparent of indie-horror (fellow Splat Pack Aussie Greg Mclean seemed to grab that mantle) and instead went on to make mostly uninspired and formulaic horrors and thrillers (“Dead Silence” and “Death Sentence,” whatever happened to that “Castlevania” adaptation?). So now comes “Insidious,” apparently a “fun & scary haunted house” flick starring the surprisingly decent cast of Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey, but hey, even good talent slum it from time to time. Film District could also end up being a fairly prestigious middle ground studio, but like The Weinstein Company, they have to keep the lights on too. We’re more than on the fence.
Release Date: April 1, 2011
“Paranormal Activity 3” – Paramount – dir. TBD
What You Need To Know: Little is known about the third ‘Paranormal‘ sequel, besides the fact that it’s happening and it’ll be out before Halloween. The second film was so shrouded in secrecy (and so quickly assembled) that much of it, including the plot specifics, were a mystery until the movie actually opened. We’re curious as to where the newest sequel will go, since the second film did an ingenious job of braiding a new story with the events that happened in the first film. Maybe it’ll be a complete departure? Or maybe it’ll stick doggedly to the “spooky things happening inside a house that happen to be caught on camera” formula that has served them well so far. While we’re not crazy about these movies, it is nice to see films that emphasize atmosphere and mood over flying viscera and half-naked teens. Hopefully this won’t be in 3D, either. It’s great to see these cheapies don’t even have directors attached yet, but Paramount knows, like it matters, or, “hey, you can slap these things together in four months and still be good for release date, whatever.”
Release Date: October 21, 2011
“A Thousand Words” – DreamWorks – dir. Brian Robbins
Synopsis: A man (Eddie Murphy) finds out he only has 1,000 more words to say before he dies.
What You Need To Know: What hell-demon hate fucked Brian Robbins into existence? Robbins has gone from being an underwhelming sports film director (“Varsity Blues,” “Hardball”) into Eddie Murphy’s personal filmmaker of choice. A talent of Murphy’s caliber, especially after “Dreamgirls,” should be calling up a Coppola or a Spike Lee or even an Aronofsky to see how his talent would blend in with a few genuine cinematic ideas. Instead, Robbins has helmed “Norbit,” “Meet Dave” and now this, from the poison pen of Steve Koren (“Click”), a family film for people who have bad family lives, centered around Murphy as a man who doesn’t appreciate his life and takes what he says for granted. Yeah, because that’s what you do to one of the most motor-mouthed comedians of all-time, you restrict his ability to talk.
Release Date: TBD
“Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2” – Warner Bros – dir. David Yates
Synopsis: The battle between Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and “The Boy Who Lived” comes to a climax as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return to Hogwarts to fulfill their destiny and change the wizarding world forever.
What You Need To Know: A countless number of polished actors have made appearances in the Harry Potter saga, whether it be Kenneth Branagh, David Tennant or Bill Nighy. Now Ciaran Hinds (who had a cult following for his role as Julius Caesar on HBO’s “Rome”) and a few other new entrants are getting in on the fun. What started out as little more than a companion piece to the book in the first vehicle has been handed off and shaped into one of the more memorable mainstream stories of adolescence and friendship in the wake of incredible odds. The first part of “Deathly Hallows” is considered by some to be the saga’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” If that’s the case, fans can only hope that we aren’t left with an ending, which divided the readers of the novel, (don’t worry, no spoilers for the ten people left on Earth who haven’t read it) that features some of the misgivings of “The Return of the Jedi.” Look for the trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson (who we suspect is going to have a smashing career after the series is over), and Rupert Grint to pull out all the stops in their goodbye to Hogwarts. Bring the wands, the sentimentality and a few tissues with you.
Release Date: July 15, 2011
“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – Fox – dir. Mark Waters
Synopsis: A businessman reforms his life when he inherits six penguins.
What You Need To Know: After a brief sojourn in the indie woods with “I Love You Phillip Morris,” Jim Carrey returns to more middlebrow family schtick. The subject matter is that of a popular children’s book, but the book is just obscure enough that you can be sure it’s standing in as a vehicle for Carrey’s outsized personalities, with director Mark Waters (“Just Like Heaven”) and actors like Carla Gugino and Philip Baker Hall, the exact type of people cast in a film where you’re desperate to avoid upstaging your lead actor. We don’t want to be the bad guy here — once Carrey reached the upper echelon of stardom and started a family, he’s been interested in avoiding any personal tests or challenges while alternately making sure his children will never go hungry. The only problem is that we have to sit through the substandard product that results in this mindset.
Release Date: August 12, 2011
“Final Destination 5” – New Line – dir. Steven Quale
Synopsis: More teens get killed in increasingly ludicrous ways.
What You Need To Know: Even New Line has no clue why this franchise keeps packing ‘em in, but as the “Saw” franchise will attest, there will always be a crowd for movies in which people get killed and maimed in complex, gruesome ways. So here we are with “Final Destination 5,” which at some point had the much more awesome title “5nal Destination.” We’re not sure yet how James Cameron feels about his “Aliens of the Deep” co-director and “Avatar” second unit director using 3D for a shlocky teen horor flick, but we’re sure he’ll let us know soon. The film will star pretty much a cast of nobodies including P.J. Byrne, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, Nicholas D’Agosto, Ellen Wroe, Meghan Ory, David Koechner (dude’s gotta eat, yo) and Tony Todd.
Release Date: August 26, 2011
Untitled 3D Shark Thriller – Relativity – dir. David Ellis
Synopsis: Off the coast of a Louisiana bay, sharks dine on the young.
What You Need To Know: Originally titled “Shark Night,” this 3D feature is clearly just a gimmicky horror picture. Might as well get the guy behind “Final Destination 2” and “Snakes on a Plane.” Not a whole lot of interesting talent on board this time-waster (though we do hope sharks tear apart Katherine McPhee) but if the years have taught us anything, it’s that people used to do this sort of thing a lot better than they do today. Can David Ellis, who also helmed the last “Final Destination,” provide more cheap thrills and a smash-and-grab opening weekend? Yes. Is this even going to sniff the insanity of last year’s “Piranha 3D”? We’re gonna vote a “no” on that.
Release Date: September 2, 2011
“Courageous” – TriStar – dir. Alex Kendrick
Synopsis: Four Catholic cops must find the strength within in order to steer their children away from negative influences.
What You Need To Know: This is from Sherwood Pictures, a faith-based independent company that last brought us the $30 million Kirk Cameron drama “Fireproof,” about a man who learns to love his wife better by beating his computer up with a baseball bat. You see, this computer had pornography, and technology is evil. Look, this isn’t a religious issue, but “Fireproof” showcases a mindset that is laughably backwards, and to think the same creative team behind that inexplicable hit is back again makes us think we’re in for another movie which will be hilarious in context-less YouTube clips, but dire and remarkably poorly made in its full incarnation.
Release Date: September 30, 2011
“Dibbuk Box” – Lionsgate – dir. Ole Bornedal
Synopsis: A family is haunted by an evil curse.
What You Need To Know: Sam Raimi’s Ghost House seemed to flame out quickly at Sony when the pictures started going straight to DVD, but after a couple of years in obscurity, they’re back. This time, they’re trusting a helluva director in Ole Bornedal, who sadly hasn’t recovered from his first time in Hollywood. In 1994, he earned acclaim for his ghoulish morgue thriller “Nightwatch,” but when Hollywood came calling, he shot a tepid, nearly shot-by-shot remake of the picture that sat on the shelf for a year before being dumped by the Weinsteins into a handful of theaters. Bornedal has since returned to his homeland making meandering low-key genre pieces, but there were definitely years lost after the American “Nightwatch” floundered. Ghost House already released his “The Substitute” direct-to-DVD a couple of years ago, but does Hollywood know to just leave him alone this time around? Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who seems to have the acting chops of your average soap opera lead, stars.
Release Date: October 28, 2011
“Puss in Boots” – DreamWorks/Paramount – dir. Chris Miller
Synopsis: The adventures of feline swordsman Puss in Boots prior to the events in “Shrek 2.”
What You Need To Know: Don’t trust anyone who claims the “Shrek” franchise is “dead,” especially after the last one was an $800 million behemoth. This long-planned adaptation (which has flown under the radar if it is being designed for a 2011 release) reunites the voice of Antonio Banderas with the swashbuckling cat of popular fairy tales. We’ll guess anachronisms and sitcom gags prevail.
Release Date: November 4, 2011
“Jack And Jill” – Sony – dir. Dennis Dugan
Synopsis: A man has to deal with his obnoxious twin sister visiting for Thanksgiving who refuses to leave.
What You Need To Know: This will be the third Adam Sandler/Dennis Dugan collaboration in two years. Why is it that the people we want to be the least prolific are always the most? Among a trio of pictures that includes “Grown Ups” and “Just Go with It,” this unquestionably sounds like the worst, as Sandler will be taking the Eddie Murphy route, playing both himself and his sister. We hope you haven’t gotten your fill of Sandler’s funny voices (he has about two) and wacky facial expressions (three). Al Pacino cameos in this, for some reason, and Katie Holmes is playing Jack’s put-upon wife. And since this is near Thanksgiving, be prepared now for your least favorite family member to drag you along.
Release Date: November 11, 2011
“LOL” – Lionsgate – dir. Lisa Azuelos
Synopsis: A teenage girl tries to navigate her personal life when her mother finds her salacious personal journal.
What You Need To Know: It is 2011, so we need to get used to what this is: a Miley Cyrus vehicle. On one level, this isn’t your average teenybopper film, as Lionsgate bagged Lisa Azuelos to write and direct a remake of her own French language original of the same name (and not the 2006 Joe Swanberg picture). Stepping into Sophie Marceau’s shoes as the nosy mother is Demi Moore, with Tom Jane, Ashley Greene and Gina Gershon providing ample support. On another level, again, this is a Cyrus star vehicle, and she hasn’t even reached Lohan status as far as being a screen presence or creative force with integrity or unpredictability.
Release Date: TBD
“Arthur Christmas” – Sony – dir. Sarah Smith, Cody Cook
What You Need To Know: This is the first film from British animation studio Aardman (the studio rose to fame as the home to “Wallace and Gromit“) since 2007’s underrated computer animated film “Flushed Away.” The story is essentially a high- tech variation on the Vince Vaughn bomb “Fred Claus,” focusing on Santa’s goofy son and the secret operation underneath the North Pole on Christmas night. While this is a computer animated feature and the company’s bread and butter is stop motion animation, the film has a fairly intriguing voice cast (including James McAvoy in the title role along with Bill Nighy and Hugh Laurie) and will be the first Aardman film under their new pact with Sony Pictures, which should give them greater creative freedom. (They famously split from DreamWorks after the studio tried to tone down the “Britishness” of their masterpiece “Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”) This could easily flop from “least anticipated” to “cautiously optimistic.”
Release Date: November 23, 2011
“The Raven” – TBD – dir. James McTeigue
Synopsis: An action-adventure chronicle of the last few days in Edgar Allan Poe’s life as he pursues a serial killer.
What You Need To Know: The project’s been kicking around for awhile, with Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner aboard at various points. Stepping into the literary Poe shoes is John Cusack, who really seems to pick his roles out of a hat these days. He’ll be given support by a group of bland, pretty faces that includes Alice Eve, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Luke Evans, all under director James McTeigue, who made a whole lot of friends with “V for Vendetta” and lost them all incredibly quickly with the terrible “Ninja Assassin.” Filling in the blanks of Poe’s final days sounds like it could make an interesting movie, but assuming they were some sort of escapist action extravaganza… well, OK, that could be cool too, just not in the hands of McTeigue.
Release Date: TBD
“Red Tails” – TBD – dir. Anthony Hemingway, George Lucas
Synopsis: The story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a legendary group of African-American combat pilots in World War II.
What You Need To Know: A worthy drama full of action, featuring reliably excellent names like Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Bryan Cranston and Andre “Bubbles from ‘The Wire‘” Royo? What’s this doing here? Well, principally, it’s the first project from Lucasfilm since “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and if George Lucas has proven anything in the last few years, it’s that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing these days, unless it’s milking additional dollars from the “Star Wars” cash cow. Plus, some of the names in the cast, most notably Cuba Gooding Jr., don’t instill a lot of confidence. We’re sure the aerial combat sequences will be spectacular, and maybe “The Wire” veteran Anthony Hemingway will bring some class to the direction (although he was replaced by Lucas for reshoots), but with two years passing since photography began with no sign of a distributor or a release date, this is close to a write-off already.
Release Date: TBD
“Burke and Hare” – TBD – dir. John Landis
Synopsis: The blackly comic true story of Victorian serial killers Burke and Hare, who started as grave-robbers before moving on to full-blown murder.
What You Need To Know: John Landis hasn’t made a good film in close to 30 years, but the good films he did make (“Trading Places,” “An American Werewolf In London“) are such classics, and the cast he’d assembled for his Scotland-set comeback strong enough, that many were holding out hope for this. But despite leads Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, and a supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Hynes, Christopher Lee, Bill Bailey and Isla Fisher, the trailers looked deeply lowbrow. Word once it was released in the U.K. last October was near-unanimously terrible, and the film essentially sunk without a trace. If it gets a release Stateside, and it’s a big if, we won’t be queuing around the block for it.
Release Date: TBD
“Area 51” – Paramount – dir. Oren Peli
Synopsis: Since all plot details are under tighter wraps than the supposed Area 51 itself, what we do know is that this film involves a group of teenagers stumbling on the notorious hotspot. Surely they have a handheld camera with them.
What You Need To Know: All eyes are on Oren Peli as he mounts this follow-up to runaway hit “Paranormal Activity,” which was none too shabby as far as milking cheap thrills goes. “Area 51” is a bigger playing field and a considerably more expansive budget, so while our excitement meter is pretty low, there’s always a chance the unproven Peli has an ace up his sleeve when it comes to a tried-and-true, found handheld, we-done-stumbled-on-something-we-shouldn’t-have-stumbled-on concept.
Release Date: TBD
“Sanctum” (3D) – Universal – dir. Alister Grierson
Synopsis: A team of cave divers, led by a father and son with a difficult relationship, become trapped by a tropical storm and are forced to swim down in order to escape.
What You Need To Know: As the first film with James Cameron‘s name attached to it (he’s a producer) since the multi-billion dollar success of “Avatar,” expectations are pretty high for this 3D thrill ride, at least in terms of box office. But then the first trailer hit, looking for all the world like a mid-’90s Australian kids TV show, and those expectations plummeted. The dialogue seems patchy, the cast, led by Richard Roxburgh and the first man since Matt Salinger to have his career go down after playing an iconic superhero movie, Ioan Gruffud, are firmly D-list, and the plot seems to follow the disaster movie handbook to a tee. We’re sure it’ll creep out claustrophobes, but it looks to have been done before, and better (and with cave goblins) in Neil Marshall‘s “The Descent.”
Release Date: February 4, 2011
“Footloose” – Paramount – dir. Craig Brewer
Synopsis: Remake of the not-really-a-classic about a small southern town where dancing is outlawed.
What You Need To Know: “Hustle and Flow” director Craig Brewer directing this strong cash-in shows promise, as he wouldn’t shy away from the idea of southern teens repressed by their backwards thinking elders who see “damaging” sexual temptation everywhere. And no doubt, there will be a great soundtrack. But aside from promising the sweatiest movie ever, this is a remake of “Footloose.” Repeat: this is a remake of “Footloose.” Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell star.
Release Date: October 14, 2011
“Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son” – Fox – dir. John Whitesell
Synopsis: FBI agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) is back undercover as Big Momma, joined by his stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson), who witnesses a murder and must join his cross-dressing stepfather in a charade that will inevitably uncover the killer.
What You Need To Know: The highly anticipated conclusion to The Big Momma Trilogy, the third film delves into Detective Turner’s emotionally scarred past while exploring a shaky alliance with his stepson in the future. All the while, a killer looms on a college campus and these two men must step up to the plate and away from their differences to meet this menace head on. It’s too early to tell, but we have an inkling writing this may be more fun than we’ll have watching the movie. Fans of Mr. Lawrence know what to expect, while the rest of us settle down and grit our teeth on the Internets. Yes, the director is related to powerhouse WME Agent Patrick Whitesell and this is why he probably has a career at all.
Release Date: February 18, 2011
“Kill the Irishman” – Anchor Bay – dir. Jonathan Hensleigh
Synopsis: The true story of Danny Greene, an Irish hitman in 1970’s Cleveland who took on the Italian mob.
What You Need To Know: The use of the word “unkillable” in official synopses as well as the presence of “The Punisher” director Jonathan Hensleigh and “Punisher War Zone” star Ray Stevenson suggests this just might be… well… an ersatz “Punisher” sequel/prequel, we guess. Stevenson, of “Rome” fame, is someone we like a whole lot as far as having a career of playing tough guys — he looks like he ate Jon Hamm — plus, he can act. Still, we’d like to see him associated with anyone other than hacky script doctor Hensleigh, who showed no aptitude behind the camera with his “Punisher” film, the worst of the three (!) released about the character. Christopher Walken plays a nightclub owner and Val Kilmer is a cop who befriends Greene, with the rest of the cast filled out with Vinnie Jones, Paul Sorvino, Robert Davi, Vincent D’Onofrio, and oh god, we just grew so much chest hair writing that. Frankly, this does look sort of hilariously terrible but we hope that Ray Stevenson’s mustache provides the B-movie entertainment we’re looking for (yes, we enjoy that occasionally too).
Release Date: March 11, 2011
“The Oranges” – TBD – dir. Julian Farino
Synopsis: In suburban New Jersey, a father falls for the daughter of a family friend.
What You Need To Know: Considering he’s probably the biggest star on TV, “House” lead Hugh Laurie hasn’t had the most successful film career since his show started, with only a selection of voice roles and a supporting role in the mediocre cop thriller “Street Kings” to his name. That may all change with “The Oranges,” a Black List favorite with a doozy of a cast — Catherine Keener, Adam Brody and “Arrested Development” star Alia Shawkat play Laurie’s family, with “Gossip Girl”’s Leighton Meester as the object of his affection, and Oliver Platt and Allison Janney as her parents. And no, it’s not a remake of “American Beauty.” “Entourage” helmer Julian Farino makes his feature debut here, but anything that stars Meester and Brody in the same picture tends to makes us worry even the slightest bit.
Release Date: TBD
“The Other Woman” – IFC – dir. Don Roos
Synopsis: A woman is forced to work out new relationships with her uncooperative stepson and his acerbic mother, who is still very much in the boy’s life.
What You Need To Know: Based on the Ayelet Waldman novel of the same name, the film stars Natalie Portman as the aforementioned protagonist with Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan and Lisa Kudrow rounding out the cast. The film premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival to poor reviews so we weren’t necessarily dying to see it, but whatever mild curiosity we had basically died when the trailer showed up and displayed what looks like a dismal little indie. No wonder a film with it-girl of the moment Natalie Portman is basically being shoved along into a tiny release.
Release Date: January 1, 2011 (VOD), February 3, 2011 (in theaters)
“13” – Lionsgate – dir. Gela Babluani
Synopsis: A young construction worker ends up an unwilling participant in a Russian Roulette league run by wealthy businessmen.
What You Need To Know: Babluani must always remember the names of George Sluzier and Ole Bornedal. Both were lured to Hollywood for a chance to remake their own films in English. Sluzier’s disastrous remake, “The Vanishing,” is probably a worst-case-scenario example when considering redos, while Bornedal’s “Nightwatch,” nearly a carbon copy of his original film, was buried for more than a year by Miramax before being dumped onto video. Both returned to their native countries and proceeded to make a number of films that have been roundly ignored by audiences and critics. Babluani is remaking his tense “13 Tzameti,” and lest you think it’s a coup by casting toughies like Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, 50 Cent, Ray Winstone, Michael Shannon and Ray Liotta alongside young lead Sam Riley, remember that “The Vanishing” remake had an otherwise pretty damn great performance by Jeff Bridges. Last we heard, Lionsgate bought the film and then yanked it from its 2010 SXSW appearance at the last minute. Where is it now? Who knows, but that’s a long time on the shelf.
Release Date: TBD
“Hobo with a Shotgun” – TBD – dir. Jason Eisener
Synopsis: A homeless vigilante blows away the scum of the streets.
What You Need To Know: Along with “Machete” and the once-planned “Trailer Trash,” this would be the third project spun off from “Grindhouse,” which is surprising considering that film lost tens of millions of dollars for The Weinstein Company. And that’s not counting all the low budget efforts inspired by “Grindhouse” like “Bitch Slap” and “Ticked Off Trannies with Knives.” Take that, people who think the zeitgeist can only be affected by a movie that makes a lot of money! ‘Hobo’ started out as a fake trailer from Jason Eisener that gained enough popularity to earn a placement in front of select screenings of “Grindhouse.” They’ve stepped it up in a big way for this film, which promises loads of gore and the sort of dream casting you can’t make up with Rutger Hauer as the titular gunman. Even with low expectations, Hauer as a grizzled vagrant killing everyone shows too much promise to ignore.
Release Date: TBD
“Perfect Sense” – TBD – dir. David Mackenzie
Synopsis: The last two people on earth try to keep it together. A romantic thriller set in a soon-to-be apocalyptic world where people are slowly losing their sensory perception.
What You Need To Know: Originally titled “The Last Word,” Ewan McGregor and Eva Green play the two leads and this is an interesting premise, but is it as textured and rich an end-is-nigh film as Don McKellar‘s sharp, “Last Night“? As always McGregor has to prove whether he still possess any chops because in the last few years he’s been terrible. Connie Nielsen, Ewen Bremner (one of McGregor’s “Trainspotting” pals) and Denis Lawson co-stars (Lawson being McGregor’s uncle known for playing Wedge in the original “Star Wars” series).
Release Date: A Sundance premiere in January.
“Rio” – Fox – dir. Carlos Saldanha
Synopsis: A neurotic blue macau with a fear of flying, the last male of his species, is taken to Brazil to breed with the last female, but the two are kidnapped and must learn to survive in the wild.
What You Need To Know: It’s easy to argue that we’re living in a golden age of animation. Even outside the ever-reliable likes of Pixar and Miyazaki, DreamWorks, Universal and Sony have started raising their game in recent years, and independent gems like “The Illusionist” and “The Secret of Kells” are keeping the medium’s scope broad. Unfortunately, Fox and Blue Sky Studios don’t appear to have gotten the memo: the “Ice Age” series has mostly been lowest-common denominator stuff, although firmly popular with kids. “Rio” doesn’t look like an improvement despite the appealing lead combo of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, with a trailer packed with wacky sidekicks, slapstick and obvious 3D gags. But then, who knew that DreamWorks had a “How to Train Your Dragon” in them?
Release Date: April 8, 2011
“Soul Surfer” – TriStar Pictures – dir. Sean McNamara
Synopsis: A young girl continues to pursue her surfing dreams after her arm is bitten off in a shark attack.
What You Need To Know: Life does not fit a three act structure. Sometimes, terrible things happen, and the story of how we recover, or fail to, simply isn’t dramatically compelling. It is admirable that Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer attacked by a shark in her youth, continued to take to the waves despite only one arm remaining. It takes an artist with real vision to turn that series of events into an actual narrative. Sean McNamara directed “Bratz.” The talented Anna Sophia Robb should be quite compelling as Hamilton, but such desperate-to-cash-a-check names like Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Kevin Sorbo doesn’t really get the enthusiasm flowing, does it?
Release Date: April 15, 2011
“Jumping the Broom” – TriStar Pictures – dir. Salim Akil
Synopsis: A wedding on Martha’s Vineyard is the setting for this culture-clash comedy where an upper-crust African-American family meets one who is “down home” (but still apparently living on the Upper West Side, according to the poorly edited trailer).
What You Need to Know: With the seal of approval from Reverend T.D. Jakes and the line “I promise God, if you get me out of this situation, I’ll only share my cookies with the man I marry,” “Jumping the Broom” is clearly an attempt to co-opt Tyler Perry’s audience. Director Salim Akil is more a presence on TV (“The Game,” “Girlfriends”) and the jokes in the trailer seem right out of a bad sitcom, with a particularly cringe-worthy Julie Bowen squandering any “Modern Family” goodwill. Wedding movies aren’t our thing anyway (we’ve never really moved past the traumatic experience of “Bride Wars”). Paula Patton, Angela Bassett, Mike Epps and more star.
Release Date: May 6, 2011
“Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family” – Lionsgate– dir. Tyler Perry
Synopsis: Madea tries to rally her family together when calamity and tragedy threatens to tear them apart.
What You Need To Know: Tyler Perry’s faith-first family comedy-dramas are a cottage industry of one-dimensional characterizations, ill-advised punchlines and “Lawd have merceh!” performances. And yet, they persist. Perry usually has his biggest success with comedy, and as Madea, his cross-dressing alter ego, he is as beloved to some audiences as any number of iconic comedy creations. But really, why are you reading this? Some of you have plans on April 22nd. Some of you don’t. It’s that simple.
Release Date: April 22, 2011
“One for the Money” – Lionsgate – dir. Julie Anne Robinson
Synopsis: Katherine Heigl stars as a divorcee who becomes a bail bondsman in the first of a prospective franchise based on a series of books.
What You Need To Know: Kudos to Katherine Heigl, who was smart to take control of her career early on as a producing team with her mother. So many actresses get misused and discarded by the system, or screwed by a lack of influence behind-the-scenes, so Heigl has made sure that she is the one calling the shots. Unfortunately, Heigl’s got shitty taste, resulting in some truly questionable collaborations and the latest, an attempt to turn her into an action star, seems more than dubious. Maybe it’s the low-rent supporting cast (Jason O’Mara, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo, Sherri Shepherd). Maybe it’s that director Julie Anne Robinson, a TV helmer who directed Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation “The Last Song.” And maybe it’s just the fact that Heigl has turned herself into a brand, one that promises material that even Jennifer Aniston wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
Release Date: July 8, 2011
“Zookeeper” – MGM – dir. Frank Coraci
Synopsis: Animals at a zoo break their code of silence and start talking to their lovable zookeeper to help him get a girl.
What You Need To Know: Think “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” in a zoo. Kevin James spent the entirety of the teaser trailer screaming and falling down, which pretty much told us everything we needed to know. We’d bet good money someone gets their nads kicked in this flick. While James can be rather likable at times, his forehead-slapping choices continue to make us wonder if he ate lead paint chips at some point. Director Frank Coraci has directed James conspirator Adam Sandler to diminishing returns in “The Wedding Singer,” “The Waterboy,” and “Click,” and it seems he’s set his sights on James to continue his run of doofus humor. There are also seven credited screenwriters, but we don’t think the people going to this are going for the writing… Bring a 10-year-old boy to translate for you.
Release Date: July 8, 2011
“Journey 2 The Mysterious Island” – Warner Bros. – dir. Brad Peyton
Synopsis: The sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth” finds Sean of the first film teaming with his mother’s boyfriend to find his grandfather trapped on a mythical island.
What You Need To Know: The year’s lousiest bargaining tactic had to be when Brendan Fraser demanded the original film’s director, Eric Brevig, return if he was going to reprise his role. Wanting to nail down a fall release date, and with Brevig finishing sure-to-be-meticulous work on “Yogi Bear,” the studio instead picked “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” director Brad Peyton out of a hat. Instead of Fraser, the studio has upgraded (?) to Dwayne Johnson, with Josh Hutcherson taking on more of an active lead role and Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens and Luis Guzman diversifying one strange cast. While we’re in just for the apparent spectacle of “The Swarm” star Caine again fleeing from a sea of angry bees as one action sequence reportedly goes, everything about what is apparently a rushed 3D shoot suggests a throwback to the days when most IMAX films were low-impact light shows and effects reels with little story.
Release Date: September 23, 2011
“Piranha 3DD” – The Weinstein Company/Dimension – dir. John Gulager
Synopsis: The fishies are back and ready to brawl. Presumably, as per the title, so are the boobies.
What You Need To Know: Knowing the horror genre intimately, the Weinsteins immediately greenlit a followup to “Piranha 3D” hoping that if the first film benefited from strong DVD sales (it probably will), then it would springboard the franchise into an annual moneymaker for their flailing studio. And a return to the gleeful gruesomeness of 2010’s sickest horror picture sounds exciting, until the studio revealed they were dipping into their pantheon of cheap direct-to-DVD directors for assistance, recruiting helmer John Gulager and his “Feast” collaborators Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton for the next offering. People who like tea and crumpets with their movies might not realize this, but there’s a loooong falloff from Alexandre Aja to the masterminds behind the “Feast” trilogy.
Release Date: September 16th, 2011
That’s all folks. – Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton, Gabe Toro, Simon Dang, Christopher Bell, Kimber Myers, Drew Taylor, RP, Jessica Kiang, Mark Zhuravsky, Edward Davis, Erik McClanahan, Katie Walsh