R0BTRAIN’s Badass Cinema: 11 in ’11

With 2010 in the books I’m looking forward to what we’ve got coming up this year, from Spielberg and Scorsese stretching their muscles a bit, to the next generation of film makers trying to step up and fill their shoes. I’m stoked about more superheroes hitting the big screen, some good old-fashioned movie monsters coming to life, as well as some classic good guys ready to do battle against evil. 2011 could be a really special year for us, and while I’m sure there’ll be some misses along the way, hopefully this year will still bring the goods in a big way. Here’s what I’m most looking forward to.

11 in ’11

11. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Now before I get started, I’d like to point out that I’ve got no real vested interest in Tintin as a comic strip or as a character, but if Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson love this property so much that they want to make a trilogy of movies, then there has to be something to it right? Tintin solely makes this list because of my love for Steven Spielberg and his ability to make a popcorn picture like nobody’s business. Add in the fact that this will be his first foray into motion capture, and I’ll call myself cautiously optimistic and simply hope for the best.

10. The Thing

Again, I’ve got a lot of questions with this one. I think there is zero chance of this movie being as brilliant as John Carpenter’s classic from 1981, but I also think about how that movie itself was a remake, and if done right, this new Thing prequel could be interesting and hopefully really, really terrifying. Carpenter’s movie is one that I revisit often and I would hate for this new film to be some sort of bad mark on its reputation.

9. X-Men: First Class

There’s a huge battle that’s coming to theaters this year, and I’m not just talking about the war between humans and mutants. What I’m referring to is the decades old war between rival comics companies DC and Marvel, who are bringing their battle to big screens this year, as DC blasts out Green Lantern in hopes of creating a new franchise to compliment known properties such as Superman and Batman, and Marvel strikes back with three movies from their own stable of heroes. While both Thor and Captain American: The First Avenger are certainly intriguing films in their own right, especially when it comes to the build up to 2012’s The Avengers, I think the superhero flick that I’m most looking forward to right now is Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class.

Now this may surprise some that know me considering that I’ve sort of hated the last two films in Fox’s X-Men franchise, but I’ve really got a good feeling about this one. Vaughn’s Kick-Ass was one of the best action films to hit theaters in 2010, but what really gets me excited is hearing Vaughn talk about this film, describing  the movie as “X-Men­ meets Bond, with a little bit of Thirteen Days thrown in for good measure.” That’s a flick that sounds like it’s worth seeing, and the possibilities that stem from the film’s ’60s setting have me ready to simply forget the name Brett Ratner altogether. I’m hoping that X-Men: First Class is the Batman Begins this franchise has needed for some time and not just the nail in the coffin.

8. The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Much like Tintin, the reason I’m most excited about this movie is the man behind it; in this case Martin Scorsese.   Even more specifically, I’m excited about the prospect of Scorsese directing a picture in 3D, with the director’s wild camera hopefully let loose like never before. Descriptions about the film are crazy and a bit sketchy, with the plot revolving about a boy living inside the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s. With elements involving a toy shop, a robot and, an eccentric girl played by Chloe Moretz, I think we could be in for an insane ride from one of the world’s greatest living film makers.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

While I did very much enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, I’m not sure it worked as well dramatically as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, simply because of the fact that the film’s arc was only half of the book it was originally based on. If Part 1 was all set up, here we get all payoff; which should result in one of the most spectacular fantasy battles ever filmed. I like what director David Yates has brought to the series so far and can only hope he can finish what he started with the same sort of expertise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 could either be one of the biggest triumphs since Return of the King or a major misstep in the vein of The Matrix Revolutions, killing all the good will that’s been built with this series so far.

6. Sherlock Holmes 2

While I know not everyone loved it, I thought Sherlock Holmes was pretty much an absolute blast from beginning to end. The chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law was terrific and the energy infused by director Guy Ritchie was also on the money, giving us his most spirited movie since SnatchSherlock Holmes 2 can hopefully take the fun even further, giving us more ridiculous hijinks and banter without dumbing down the property too much. While Iron Man 2 was a success, it wasn’t quite the homerun everyone was hoping for, and with this film it feels like Robert Downey, Jr. might be able to get a second crack at that sort of blockbuster sequel and knock it out of the park this time.

5. I Saw the Devil

When it comes down to it, the film makers in South Korea are making some of the best movies in the world right now, and director Kim Ji-woon might be my favorite director of the whole bunch. With films such as The Good, The Bad, The Weird and A Bittersweet Life under his belt,  Ji-woon is on fire at the moment, and I Saw the Devil seems to continue that trend. Already getting great notices at Fantastic Fest from this past year, the revenge thriller is one of the most talked about Korean pictures since Oldboy and even stars that film’s Choi Min-sik as a sadistic serial killer with the director’s go-to actor Lee Byung-hun as the cop out to stop him. The movie is apparently not for the faint of heart, but with this pedigree, it’s going to be tough for me not to love this thing when it finally hits U.S. theaters. (Suggested reading: Robert Saucedo’s review from Fantastic Fest ’10.)

4. Battle: Los Angeles

For a while now, I’ve dreamed of a science fiction war movie where troops fight aliens or robots in a Black Hawk Down-type picture that takes itself completely seriously. What I’ve been looking for is something similar to the end of District 9 only much bigger, like the kind of movie we envisioned when Terminator: Salvation was first announced or the parts of Star Wars: Episode II that just showed battalions clone troopers on the ground laying waste to the alien armies around them. That’s the movie I want Battle:  Los Angeles to end up being. The footage shown so far as has been gritty and evokes the movie I’ve wanted in my head, but there’s always the fear that this will just be another Skyline or Independence Day, especially with director Jonathan Liebesman being largely unproven so far in his career. Then again, before The Terminator, who was James Cameron? I’m not say Liebesman is destined for greatness, but if this movie can live up to what we’ve seen so far, maybe we can at least get one great picture out of him.

3. Super 8

Much like the hype before Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams hasn’t been terribly forthcoming with details about his new project, Super 8. All we know is that the movie will feature aliens, and seems to have the style of an early Spielberg film, circa Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This suits me just fine as long as the payoff ends up being worth it, and considering the work J.J. Abrams has done so far, that might be about as safe a bet as there is right now. I honestly can’t think of a summer blockbuster from the last few years more satisfying than Abrams’ Star Trek, and if Super 8 can keep up that kind of momentum we could be entering a sort of “golden period” for the film maker. Hollywood has been looking for the next Spielberg for some time, and if J.J. Abrams can deliver here and then with Star Trek II, they may have just found their man.

2. Sucker Punch

You know what looks awesome about Sucker Punch?


The new flick from Watchman’s Zack Snyder is either the movie of my dreams or a total disaster in the making. Packed with every fanboy fetish I can think of, including hot girls, samurais, robots, dragons, Nazi zombies, and tons of amazing action, we could be looking at the next geek classic. I’m a huge fan of Snyder’s work so far and with the next Superman film on the horizon for him, I hope this movie further exemplifies the potential of what the man is capable of behind the camera. The only thing I worry about is Snyder perhaps being too focused on bringing you amazing visuals that the movie’s story ends up lacking as a result. Sure, the picture looks amazing in a two minute trailer, but if you don’t care about what’s going on, and the visual assault isn’t enough to make up that ground, this could be a giant step backward. Thankfully, I think Snyder is a director that has managed to meld his style with just enough substance in his pictures to work so far, and Sucker Punch will likely continue that trend.

1. Cowboys and Aliens

Where do you begin with this movie? First off, the combination of Daniel Craig (James Bond) and Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) onscreen together fighting aliens is some sort of match made in geek heaven, but then put this movie in the hands of Jon Favreau, and what you’ve possibly got is plain old movie magic. Iron Man showed us that Favreau has the goods when it comes to giving us a great screen adventure, and if this can widen his onscreen repertoire even further then I’m all for it.

At Comic-con this year, the director discussed his love for the sort of John Ford tradition of westerns, and how much he really wanted this to feel like that kind of film first and foremost. I know adding sci-fi elements to westerns have been disastrous in the past (Wild, Wild West or Jonah Hex anyone?), but I think Favreau has the right sensibility for this type of movie to make it work. Mixing the feel of John Ford and Steven Spielberg (a producer on this film) could make Cowboys and Aliens the most exciting adventure 2011 has to offer audiences, but I’d be happy if it was just one of the most fun.

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