11 for '11: Things to Watch in the New Year - MOVIES

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Comics are king in the world of movies these days. From feature films based on comic books to films that look, feel and sound like they should have been a comic book, Hollywood is in love with genre-based work as seen in comic books and graphic novels. And 2011 is shaping up to be one of the biggest years in recent memory, with an unprecedented number of high-concept high-action movies coming down the pipe and filling up your local multiplex.

In day four of our week-long look at things to look forward to in the New Year, we turn our critical gaze to movies. Grab a box of popcorn and settle back into your chair for these previews of the flicks you’re going to need to see in 2011.

 

The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn 

Although in Europe he’s virtually Charlie Brown and Spider-Man rolled into one, the comic character TinTin is virtually unheard-off in America and aboard. That’s going to change next holiday season, as Steven Spielberg himself brings Belgian cartoonist Herge’s creation to life. Envisioned as the first of a three-part saga, The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn finds Spielberg partnering with Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright to bring this storied character to the big screen – casting Billy Elliott’s Jamie Bell in the titular role, joined by Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Daniel Craig. Although unbeknownst to most, Spielberg’s been wanting to direct TinTin for years, going back to 1981 where he was introduced to the comics via a review which compared Indiana Jones to it. Herge himself is quoted as saying he thought Spielberg was the only person who could do TinTin justice, and after over 25 years it’s finally coming true. Originally envisioned by Spielberg as “Indiana Jones for Kids”, it went through several re-writes before Edgar Wright was brought onboard to write the final draft. Set for release just two days before Christmas in 2011, The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn will be a marvel to see.

Thor

Mixing the sword-wielding epics such as Lord of the Rings with the Marvel-brand heroics seen in Iron Man, this summer’s Thor is poised to be one of the most unique of Marvel’s movies to date. Unlike more standard superheroes moves such as Iron Man and X-Men, Thor has a more lofty origin – that in the realm of Norse gods; will audiences be able to relate to a blonde, muscled titan such as Thor? Although that question won’t be answered until tickets go on sale, Marvel has stacked the deck with an all-star cast featuring Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Rene Russo and a relative newcomer named Chris Hemsworth in the titular role. Will Asgard’s favored son be able to carve out a new kingdom in the movie business? We hope so.

 

Green Lantern

The idea of Green Lantern boils down to two simple words – “space cop” – but given lead actor Ryan Reynolds exuberant charisma and the dynamic stories this movie is based on, it has the potential to be something more – much more. Directed by frequent James Bond helmer Martin Campbell, Green Lantern will be a much more special-effects-driven flick than Campbell – or most any other super-hero flick – has done before. Longtime Green Lantern comic writer and DC CCO Geoff Johns was reportedly very involved in the planning of the film, giving hardcore fans some re-assurances that the final product won’t deviate from the comic concept too much. The first fruits of this years-long project were seen in November when the first trailer was released, giving a first glimpse into the world-building concepts from the Green Lantern mythos. This writer is looking forward to Peter Sarsgaard, who is playing Dr. Hector Hammond, to deliver a break-out performance in his villainous role.

Captain America: The First Avenger 

Forget G.I. Joe -- Captain America is your real American hero. And on July 22nd, people worldwide will get a chance to find out for themselves in the feature film Captain America: The First Avenger. As comics’ number one patriotic hero and the flag-bearer, literally, for the Marvel Universe, Captain America has appeared on film numerous times going back to 1944, but this 2011 effort is without a doubt the defining moment for the character on screen. Arguably one of the toughest roles to cast in the Marvel movie universe, ultimately it was frequent star of comics-based films Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, TMNT, The Losers, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) who captured the part of Steve Rogers – aka Captain America. Looking behind the camera, respected director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) was chosen to helm the flick, bringing a studious and passionate eye for the classic 1940s aesthetic at the center of this film. Although no trailer has been released as of yet, early film footage was previewed at 2010’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. Described by some as a super-hero version of Saving Private Ryan, Captain America; The First Avenger is bound to bring out people of all ages to see this 3-D flick.

 

Cowboys & Aliens
 

After wandering for years in development hell, Cowboys & Aliens is making its way to the silver screen. Originally produced as an ashcan comic in 1997 by Malibu Comics founder Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, this new 2011 film boasts arguably the strongest cast of any film this year: Harrison Ford, Daniel Crag, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell. Behind the camera is Iron Man director Jon Favreau, with Steven Spielberg as executive producer and the writers of Star Trek doing the script. The concept of the film is so simple that it’s summed up in the title: Cowboys & Aliens. The recently released trailers shows Favreau dreaming up the story as a classic western film that happens to be invaded by aliens. Expect no 3-D out of this film – rather, a very human portrayal of gunslingers out of old-fashioned Americana trying to mount a defense against some extraterrestrial troublemakers.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 

Can this be it? Will movie audiences finally see the final adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione? After seeing the first part of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows earlier this year, we’re only seven short months away from the end of this nine-year long epic of epics. After the events in the previous film, Harry and the residents of Hogwarth’s have a lot to do if they want to save the world from the evil from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. The trio of friends at the center of this are tracking down the last of the Horcruxes that keep Voldemort alive, with the drums beating for Harry’s face-to-face battle with Voldemort himself. Unlike it’s first installment, the second half of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows will be released in 3D – with this writer expecting a re-release of Part 1 at some-point rejigged for 3D as well.

X-Men First Class 

After three successful films and one spin-off, where do you go next with the X-Men franchise? Back to the beginning of course. In the upcoming film X-Men: First Class, frequent comics-to-film director Matthew Vaughn tells the story young Xavier and Magneto working together to help their fellow mutants before being ultimately pulled apart at the seams by their dividing philosophies on mutants’ role. Although a majority of the cast is relatively young, veteran actor Kevin Bacon provides and experienced foil for the team as the movie’s main villain, Sebastian Shaw. Set in the 1960s, Vaughn has been quoted as saying the film would be technologically inspired by the James Bond films of that era, as well as finding parallels between the fictional struggle of mutants with the civil rights era of the time. Despite the unevenness of the last X-Men film, all the pieces are falling into place for this film to resurrect the franchise – with producer Lauren Shuler Donner already planning two more films.

 

Super 8
 

Not much is known about the upcoming film Super 8… but how much do you really need to know? It’s J.J. Abrams, writing and directing his first feature film since Star Trek. Piecing together what we can, we’ve found out that the film is set in 1979 and is intended as homage to the classic ‘70s and ‘80s sci-fi films of Steven Spielberg. The mythical military testing ground Area 51 is said to be involved, with some speculating that the film will be about aliens invading. Abrams has been quoted as saying he’s purposely keeping the film under wraps until its June 10th release, trying to keep an aura of mystery similar to Cloverfield. As tight-lipped as Hollywood can be, expect a few leaks and teasers leading up to the film’s release.

The Green Hornet 

Leading the charge into 2011 for genre movies is The Green Hornet. Based on the classic radio serial character from the 1940s, The Green Hornet sets to update the character to the modern-day and has one of the most diverse casts and crews to do it. Playing the titular character himself is comedy actor Seth Rogen, with Inglourious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz playing the crime boss villain of the piece. Besides this more action-oriented turn for Rogen, the director is also an unusual choice; Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, although for this film one could argue he’s going back to his music video roots. From the recent trailer, expect The Green Hornet to be a high-tech super-hero movie laced with comedy – like a funnier Iron Man -- especially given the fact Rogen also co-wrote the script. After seeing the trailer, actor Jay Chou – who plays Kato – stands out not just for his fast footwork but his deadpan delivery as the movie’s straight man.

Conan The Barbarian

Finally, one of sword and sorcery’s most popular heroes returns to the big screen. On August 19, the sword-wielding warrior known as Conan returns to movie houses in a new adaptation of the Robert E. Howard epics. Although not connected to the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of the early 80s, this new Conan The Barbarian would keep the more adult tones seen in the first film and will be rated R. In the role of Conan is Stargate Atlantis star Jason Momoa, who beat out Twilight’s Kellan Lutz for the coveted role. Joining Momoa is two respected and gruff actors, Avatar’s villain Steven Lang as the villain Khalar Zym and Hellboy’s Ron Perlman as Conan’s father, Corin. The film is directed by noted horror film director Marcus Nispel,

 

Sucker Punch

This spring, movie audiences are in for a hell of a ride. In the upcoming action-fantasy film Sucker Punch, famed genre director Zack Snyder is taking movie-goers on a ride into a world he’s described as “Alice in Wonderland with guns.” This trippy dual-reality flick follows a young girl in the 1950s trying to escape a mental asylum, with her attempts being played out in a fantasy world replete with monsters, robots, and firepower as if ripped from a modern video game. Sucker Punch’s cast is led by a veritable “who’s who” of young Hollywood women, with Emily Browning (Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events) leading the girls and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm also involved. Sucker Punch marks director Zack Snyder’s first foray into a film he created himself, after years of doing movies based on other properties. The public got their first peek at the movie at 2010’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, and a full-length trailer was released soon after. Expect more from this film before its release on March 25th.

In The Corner Of Our Eye

There’s more than eleven films coming out next year – heck, in some weeks they release eleven films on one day. Here are some other features that caught our eye:

Cabin In The Woods: Longtime Angel collaborators Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon teamed up to reinvent the “people stranded in the woods” horror trope. Filmed in early 2009, the movie has been pushed back several times with the studio now expected to release it in the spring.

I Am Number Four: Based on the novel of the same name, this flick by noted director D.J. Caruso follows nine alien infants who are hidden on Earth to avoid their murder by the enemies who destroyed their home world. Growing up as ordinary human kids, in their teenage years they are discovered and must fight back.

Battle: Los Angeles: Described by some as “Black Hawk Down meets Aliens”, expect this flick to be high on action and special effects.

What movie are you most looking forward to in 2011? What movie are you most looking forward to in 2011?

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