50 Films to Watch For

All right, so the Oscars happened. I didn’t get to see the show first-hand, so I can’t really offer up any thoughts on the apparent James Franco debacle or anything else. And since the winners went pretty much as expected, I figure you guys know my thoughts by now on that subject. Unfortunately, no one was quite able to emerge victorious in the Outguess Ethan contest, as I rallied back from missing the first four categories in a row to end up with 18 out of 24, for 49 points. But congrats are in order to Cyrus, who tied me with both 18 categories right and a point total of 49. Shannon/Brian were right behind with, I believe, 46 points. Thanks to everyone who entered, and don’t despair; there’s always next year. 😛

Honestly though, this season felt like even more of a slog than usual (perhaps because the narrative got narrowed down to the top two contenders so early on), and I’m rather glad for it to be over. What better way to celebrate, then, than with a massive post looking ahead to the films of 2011? I did something like this back when I started this blog last May, but it really makes more sense to be doing this now that we’re finally emerging from “Shitty Movie Season” (as I like to call it). I hope to make this an annual installment (speaking of annual installments, my top 10 shots of 2010 will still have to wait until the summer, when I have the resources to review and collect the contenders).

Anyway, I’ve gathered together no less than 50 titles currently slated for 2011 release that y’all should keep an eye on. I’ve excluded the super-mainstream stuff that I’m sure you’re probably all aware of already, or certainly will be in the near future (i.e. the last “Harry Potter,” “Captain America,” “Thor,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Cowboys and Aliens”). I also cut out two films that initially made my list but already debuted since I started working on this: “Rango” and “The Adjustment Bureau,” both of which have opened to positive reviews (“Rango” in particular appears to be the first Oscar contender of the year – for Animated Feature, anyway). Since Russians insist on dubbing Hollywood fare, and I despise dubbing with the fiery passion of a supernova, I of course won’t be able to see many of these until summer. But you all should go see them and tell me how they are. Release dates are listed if known.

  • The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (dir. Steven Spielberg, starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost), US debut: December 28

A collaboration of hopefully epic proportions combining the directorial sweep of Spielberg, the VFX mastery of Peter Jackson (a producer) and the comedic panache of Edgar Wright (a screenwriter), all to bring Belgian comic book author Hergé’s beloved reporter/adventurer Tintin to the big screen. Spielberg and Jackson are employing groundbreaking motion-capture technology, meaning this CGI extravaganza is sure to be a hot topic come December.

  • The Beaver (dir. Jodie Foster, starring Mel Gibson, Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence), US debut: May 20

Gibson will attempt to resurrect his career yet again with this dramedy about an existentially lost businessman who gets his life back on track with the help of a beaver hand-puppet. Yes, you read that right. I’m quite dubious about this split-personality caper, but I have to admit the trailer wasn’t terrible, and Gibson actually looks…pretty good? Can I say that while making it clear that I in no way endorse the man’s personal behavior? Let’s just move on.

  • Bernie (dir. Richard Linklater, starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley Maclaine)

Linklater’s output is schizophrenic in substance (“Me and Orson Welles,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Waking Life,” “Before Sunrise/Sunset,” “Dazed and Confused,” “School of Rock”) but pretty damn consistent in quality. So a black comedy based on a true crime story, with Jack Black as a funeral home director who befriends and then murders an older woman? Sure, why not.

  • Carnage (dir. Roman Polanski, starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly)

Based on the Tony-award winning play “God of Carnage,” about two sets of parents who meet over dinner to discuss the schoolyard conflict between their children. Unsure how Polanski will stick his auteur stamp on this one, but the fantastic cast here could surely go to town on such a theatrical production.

  • Chicken with Plums (dir. Vincent Parannaud, Marjane Satrapi)

The animation direction team that produced the sublime adaptation of Satrapi’s “Persepolis” is returning to bring another of Satrapi’s graphic novels to the screen. Based on the life of Iranian musician Nasser Ali Khan, a relative of Satrapi’s.

  • Contagion (dir. Steven Soderbergh, starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, Elliot Gould), US debt: Oct 21

A star-studded action-thriller about the international threat posed by a deadly disease and the team of doctors attempting to deal with the outbreak.

  • The Conspirator (dir. Robert Redford, starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel), US debut: Apr. 15

An historical drama revolving around the trial of Mary Surratt, the lone woman charged for the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. By the way, “One bullet killed the president…but not one man” is one of the worst taglines I’ve ever read. Just, you know, in case anyone from The American Film Company’s marketing team reads this blog.

  • Coriolanus (dir. Ralph Fiennes, starring Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox)

A modern-military take on Shakespeare’s play, a la “Richard III” or Julie Taymor’s “Titus” (only much less trippy). Fiennes’ directing debut got positive reviews out of the Berlin Film Festival, with Redgrave in particular drawing raves for her performance. I’m all for lots of British people being all British and such.

  • A Dangerous Method (dir. David Cronenberg, starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel)

Set on the eve of WWI, Cronenberg’s third collaboration with Mortensen (following “A History of Violence” and Eastern Promises”) follows the personal and academic conflict between Sigmund Freud and his pupil Carl Jung. While Mortensen as Freud still seems like dubious casting work to me, I’m pumped to see him and Fassbender go head-to-head in some slashfic-inspiring debate.

  • The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne, starring George Clooney, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges)

A land baron tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident. Beyond a segment of “Paris Je T’aime,” Payne has been MIA since “Sideways,” so it’s great to see the talented writer-director back in action.

  • Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks), US debut: Sep. 16

Danish cult director Refn has finally been accepted into the Hollywood studio fold after years of sterling work on the fringe with the “Pusher” trilogy, “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising.” Gosling plays a stuntman who moonlights as a driver for bank heists, until a job goes wrong and a contract is taken out on his life. Sounds like the kind of genre work that could benefit from Refn’s frenzied touch.

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (dir. Stephen Daldry, starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, James Gandolfini, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis)

This one screams awards-bait. As far as the Academy is concerned, everything Daldry touches is gold, having given the man a Best Director nod for each of his three previous feature films (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours,” “The Reader”). Then there’s this doozy of a plot summary: “A nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist, searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks.” Add in master-of-the-self-important screenwriter Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and we can probably just go ahead and give this a Golden Globe or two.

  • The Future (dir. Miranda July, starring July, Hamish Linklater)

I absolutely adored July’s quirky romance “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” so I’m eager to check out her follow-up, apparently a meditation on the flow of time and space, centered around the consequences that occur when a couple decide to adopt a stray cat. Again, I say: sure, why not.

  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (dir. David Fincher, starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgaard), US debut: Dec. 21

This franchise has already overstayed its welcome in my opinion, and since the original Swedish film trilogy was serviceable enough, I don’t know why we had to turn right around and crank out this American version. But Mara is a real star in the making, so it’ll be good for her to get some attention. Kind of lazy for Fincher to head back to crime thrillers after reaching out of his comfort zone with “The Social Network,” though.

  • The Grandmasters (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, starring Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi)

The story of Ip Man, the martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee. Wong became a favorite of mine last year when I watched “Chungking Express” and “In the Mood for Love” for a film class, and Leung belongs in the top 10 actors working in the world today. It will be interesting to see how much the martial arts ends up factoring into this one; will fights feature prominently as cinematic set-pieces, or is that more just background for personal drama?

  • The Help (dir. Tate Taylor, starring Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek), US debut: Aug. 12

Inspiring racial-prejudice-conquering stuff, with Stone as a young Southern aspiring writer who decides to interview black women who have spent their lives serving prominent rich families. Sounds like “Driving Miss Daisy: Redux” to me, but the cast is pretty great, so we’ll see if they can elevate the material.

  • The Ides of March (dir. George Clooney, starring Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright)

Clooney’s back to direct another political thriller, this time starring as a presidential candidate whose idealistic staffer (Gosling) gets disillusioned in the world of dirty politics. Clooney teams up again with Grant Heslov, who co-wrote “Good Night and Good Luck” and directed “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Michael Stuhlbarg), US debut: Nov. 23

3-D has finally hooked a real auteur. Scorsese is really defying expectations in a lot of ways here, breaking from his tried-and-true thriller work in favor of a tentpole kids’ fantasy adventure flick. But in Marty we trust, I guess (except I don’t – “Shutter Island” was an atmospheric marvel but had a climax that hit with a thud rather than a resounding gong).

  • Jane Eyre (dir. Cary Fukunaga, starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench), US debut: Mar. 11

Why do we get a new version of “Jane Eyre” every 5 years? The appeal of the Brontë sisters continues to elude me. But this particular film has constantly fought off my inherent aversion, first with one of the best posters of the year, then a superbly gothic trailer, not to mention the exquisite casting of the leads. This really looks to be Fassbender’s year – between playing Carl Jung, Mr. Rochester and Magneto, he’s got a lot of opportunity to show you all why he’s one of my personal favorites (check out “Hunger,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “Fish Tank” if you’re impatient).

  • J. Edgar (dir. Clint Eastwood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench)

God, I’m sick of Clint Eastwood. Since when did he turn into Woody Allen, cranking out a new film every year? This does sound like his most promising project in years, though; a biopic of the controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with DiCaprio handling the heavy lifting on screen and “Social Network” breakout star Armie Hammer as Hoover’s assistant director. “Milk” scribe Dustin Lance Black is Eastwood’s most talented screenwriting partner in a while, too.

  • Little White Lies (dir. Guillaume Canet, starring Marion Cotillard, François Cluzet)

“Tell No One” was pure Hitchcock-ian thriller gold. Director Canet is back with this drama about a group of friends whose annual vacation is thrown into emotional turmoil when one of them is seriously hurt in an accident. The actor-director-heartthrob directs his equally attractive wife Cotillard for the first time.

  • Looper (dir. Rian Johnson, starring Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels)

Johnson loves convoluted stories of twists and turns (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”), sometimes getting a little too caught up in the style of his narrative to pay attention to the substance. So let’s hope he can keep this story under control: “a killer who works for the mob of the future recognizes one of his targets as his future self.” We’ll see; it’s great to see Johnson teaming back up with his “Brick” star Gordon-Levitt, though.

  • Meek’s Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt, starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson), US debut: Apr. 8

A group of settlers making their way west are stranded and lost in harsh conditions, with food and water running low. So basically it’s like Oregon Trail: The Movie. Anyway, “Meek’s Cutoff” got rave reviews from critics out of both Venice and Toronto, and Reichardt’s “Wendy and Lucy” was a quiet, masterful character study. Add in the fact that it’s a Western (and you know I love me a Western), and I’m sold.

  • Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgaard)

OK, I still haven’t actually been able to bring myself to watch anything by von Trier. With a resume including “Dancer in the Dark,” “Dogville” and “Antichrist,” the Danish master of all things depressing and disturbing looks to be at it again, with this tale of two sisters who find their relationship “challenged” when another planet threatens to crash into the Earth. So I’ll throw this out there just in case we’ve got any Dogme 95 fans in the house (show of hands?).

  • Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen, starring Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Alison Pill, Tom Hiddleston)

Time for our annual dose of Woody. Allen’s films tend to run in cycles, so after the consecutive flops of “Whatever Works” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” perhaps it’s about time for the debatably lovable neurotic to have another winner. A romantic comedy (what else?) about a family traveling to Paris for business.

  • Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller, starring Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman)

Based on Michael Lewis’ bestseller, “Moneyball” follows the story of the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and his attempts to build a winning baseball team based on statistical analysis more than traditional modes of scouting. I loved the book, but I have absolutely no idea how they’re planning on turning this thing into a movie. And Brad Pitt as Billy Beane? That’s really stretching things, man. And yet…Aaron Sorkin is working on the screenplay. And I didn’t think that Facebook would translate well into a movie, either, and we know how that went.

  • My Week With Marilyn (dir. Simon Curtis, starring Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Dominic Cooper, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Julia Ormond)

Williams already looks like a strong contender for a repeat Best Actress nomination, since the Academy loves them some biopic impersonation, and Marilyn Monroe’s a plum part. The film follows the tension between Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (Branagh, finally fulfilling his destiny and playing his idol) during production of “The Prince and the Showgirl.”

  • On the Road (dir. Walter Salles, starring Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi)

Does Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic still have the cultural relevance to make this film the crossover hit the studio clearly wants it to be? We’ll see if 1950’s 20-somethings searching for meaning can draw the crowds.

  • One Day (dir. Lone Scherfig, starring Jim Sturgess, Anne Hathaway, Patricia Clarkson), US debut: Jul. 8

“After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em revisit each other every year on the same date to see where they are in their lives.” I really have nothing to say about this one, it gets on the list mostly for the cachet of Scherfig and her co-leads.

  • Paul (dir. Greg Mottola, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen (voice), Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman, Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor), US debut: Mar. 18

Though I wish fellow “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” collaborator Edgar Wright was along for the ride, I’m all for any project that re-unites comic duo Pegg and Frost, especially when they’re cast in their element as schlubby sci-fi geeks. While the CGI-alien-on-the-run plotline looks fairly standard, the talent involved makes me think this one could end up at least as a satisfying popcorn flick. Mottola in particular impressed me last time out with “Adventureland,” so here’s hoping he can bring some of that film’s genuine heart to boilerplate Hollywood comedy material.

  • The Promised Land (dir. Michael Winterbottom, starring Jim Sturgess, Matthew Macfadyen, Colin Firth)

A thriller following two police officers (Sturgess and Macfadyen) investigate a string of bombings by a radical right-wing Jewish underground movement in late British Mandate-era Palestine. Certainly an intriguing setting for a crime thriller, though Winterbottom’s work has alienated many in the past.

  • Red State (dir. Kevin Smith, starring Melissa Leo, John Goodman, lots of disposable teenagers), US debut: Oct. 19

Normally I don’t give a crap about the interchangeable slasher flicks that the studios pump out around Halloween, but this shock-fest has something going for it: Kevin Smith at the helm, reaching beyond the comedy genre for the first time. Set in “Middle America” and centered on a bunch of teens who receive an online invitation for sex that turns into something far more sinister (gee, what a surprise there), Smith isn’t likely to win over any fans in the fundamentalist crowd. But of course, they already hated his guts, so turning them into horror villains probably won’t due much more damage than “Dogma” in the long run.

  • Restless (dir. Gus Van Sant, starring Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper)

There is possibly no other director in the world today whose quality of creative output varies so wildly as Van Sant. On the one hand you’ve got your “Elephant,” your “Milk,” your “Paranoid Park;” on the other, you’ve got “Finding Forrester” and that horrendous “Psycho” shot-for-shot remake starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. So yeah, the idea of Van Sant basically re-doing “Harold and Maude” while adding a heartwarming sidekick who just happens to be the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot? This has me concerned. But it’s like they say with car accidents and train wrecks: you just can’t look away.

  • The Rum Diary (dir. Bruce Robinson, starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins)

Here’s one that made my list last June, when it looked like it might still squeak out a 2010 release. Despite the delay, I’m still quite excited: Hunter S. Thompson’s work allows Depp to access his crazy side while still requiring him to, you know, act, and director Robinson hasn’t been up to much of anything since cult hit “Withnail & I” way back in the 80’s. Bring on the alcoholism and self-loathing!

  • Shame (dir. Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale)

And you thought we were done with the Michael Fassbender love-fest! Nope, dude’s got yet another film slated for 211 release with “Shame,” teaming back up with the director who gave him his star-making turn (well, among critics anyway) in “Hunger.” McQueen’s Bobby Sands “biopic” was a moving and disturbing work of art; we’ll see how the photographer-turned-filmmaker handles more straightforward material, with this tale of a sexually deviant man whose wayward sister moves in with him.

  • The Skin That I Inhabit (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Blanca Suarez), US debut: Nov. 18

Almodóvar is going back to his super-melodramatic roots, both in terms of material and casting, joining with Banderas for the first time in about 20 years for a hopefully absurd revenge fable about a father attempting to avenge his daughter’s rape. After Almodóvar’s tightly-controlled formalist tendencies probably reached their height with “Broken Embraces,” it would be nice to see the Spanish master recapture some of the energy of his early days. Go watch “The Law of Desire” if you want to see what I’m talking about.

  • Source Code (dir. Duncan Jones, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright), US debut: Apr. 1

Jones struck a major blow for intelligent sci-fi in 2009 with “Moon;” while “Source Code” looks much more action-oriented and less contemplative, I’m hoping that the talented young director can pull it off and survive all the inevitable comparisons to “The Matrix” and such.

  • Sucker Punch (dir. Zack Snyder, starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn, Jon Hamm), US debut:

Probably the most publicized big-budget film on the list, but it makes the cut because it looks like Zack Snyder may have finally lost it. I don’t know how Snyder managed to get another expensive passion project approved after “Watchmen” fizzled, but I guess studios were just really, really impressed with “300” or something (enough to hand him the keys to the Superman franchise, as well). I can’t explain Snyder’s success, but “Sucker Punch” looks to be a comic book geek’s wet dream (hot girls fighting dragons and samurais and robots and Nazis? every 13-year-old boy in America is going to see this movie), so it’ll probably rake in the cash. But I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it can garner any critical love whatsoever.

  • Take This Waltz (dir. Sarah Polley, starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman)

Standard romantic dramedy stuff on the surface (a bittersweet story of a young woman who must choose between two different kinds of love!), but Polley’s directorial debut “Away From Her” was exquisite. Makes her follow-up worth a mention here.

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson, starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Stephen Graham, Simon McBurney, Christian McKay, Benedict Cumberbatch)

Oh, I am all over this movie. One of John le Carre’s best novels, a superb Cold War thriller, matched up with a cast chock-full of scene-stealing Brits? Please sir, I’d like some more.

  • The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick, starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn), US debut: May 27

All right, the damn thing finally has a set release date. Two years now we’ve been waiting on Malick’s universe-encompassing head trip/family drama. Unfortunately for Malick, at this point the hype has built to the point that nothing short of a new masterpiece could possibly meet expectations. That trailer is really damn gorgeous, though. If nothing else, we should be treated to a phenomenal score and eye-popping cinematography.

  • Twixt Now and Sunrise (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, starring Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Ben Chaplin, Elle Fanning)

OK, So Coppola really hasn’t produced anything worth watching in decades. OK, so all we know about the plot is that it’s a “gothic romance” based on a nightmare that Coppola claims to have had last year, with “the imagery of Hawthorne or Poe.” But this is the guy who made “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now.” He’s got to have at least ONE more half-decent movie in him somewhere, right? Right? Please?

  • War Horse (dir. Steven Spielberg, starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Marsan), US debut: Dec. 28

Spielberg’s back with a vengeance this year, debuting two films this holiday season (on the same day, no less); one clearly designed to rake in the big bucks (“Tintin”), the other with a clear aim at a sturdy awards haul. “War Horse” is based on a successful play, about the bond between a teenager and his horse. When the horse is sold to the cavalry and sent to serve in the trenches of WWI, the boy follows his friend to the French front despite being too young to enlist. I guarantee some people out there are already crying just from that plot summary. Dear god. Fear this movie next awards season.

  • Waco (dir. Rupert Wainwright, starring Adrien Brody, Sharon Stone, Kurt Russell, Giovanni Ribisi)

A retelling of the 1993 standoff between the U.S. government and David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. Fun for the whole family!

  • Warrior (dir. Gavin O’Connor, starring Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Joel Edgerton)

Not content with battling with boxing for pay-per-view audiences, MMA is headed to theaters to shake up the tried-and-true genre. Yeah, I know, after “The Fighter,” who needs to see another boxing/fighting flick, right? That’s about how I would feel, except for one thing: Tom Hardy is a BAMF. Watch “Bronson” and tell me this guy wasn’t born to lead a boxing movie at some point. Here’s hoping the feisty Brit’s tremendous physicality and serious acting chops can breathe new life into the genre.

  • We Bought a Zoo (dir. Cameron Crowe, starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit), US debut: Dec. 23

MIA since unleashing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in “Elizabethtown,” Crowe hopes to recapture the romantic magic of “Say Anthing,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous.” With Johansson involved, I’m not terribly optimistic. And if I’m not optimistic already, that’s not a good sign for a Cameron Crowe movie. But anyway, the film has something to do with a father that moves his family out to the countryside to renovate and re-open a zoo. Sounds horrendously charming.

  • We Need To Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsey, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller)

Swinton’s certainly in the running for best actress on the planet. So a role as the mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree? Yeah, she’s probably one of the few actresses in Hollywood who could do that with sincerity and as few histrionics as possible. On a side note: has there ever been anyone quite like John C. Reilly? Like Karl Malden, he’s got leading man ability stuck inside the body of a character actor, but he’s got one over on Malden with his comedic talents. He’s a scene stealer in just about everything he does, from “Boogie Nights” and “A Prarie Home Companion” to “Chicago,” “Cyrus” and “Talladega Nights.” Just had to put that out there.

  • Win Win (dir. Thomas McCarthy, starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Melanie Lynskey), US debut: Mar. 18

Giamatti stars as a mediocre attorney who moonlights as a high-school wrestling coach. Struggling to support his family, he stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings; but things go awry when the kid’s mother shoves up from rehab, flat broke. Actor/director/writer McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor”) has a firm hold on this “touching indie dramedy” thing, and I think he and Giamatti would make for a good team.

  • Wuthering Heights (dir. Andrea Arnold, starring Kaya Scodelario, Oliver Milburn, James Howson)

As if one Brontë sister wasn’t enough… Arnold previously directed “Fish Tank.” That’s really all that I’d like to say on the subject.

  • Young Adult (dir. Jason Reitman, starring Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser)

At last, we come to our final entry, with Reitman reuniting with “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody for the tale of “a divorced writer from the Midwest returning to her hometown to reconnect with an old flame, who’s now married with a family.” Reitman has yet to make a major misstep as a director, though in my humble opinion he’s yet to top his whip-smart satirical debut “Thank You For Smoking.” Casting Wilson, one of my least favorite leading men in Hollywood, isn’t much of an auspicious start, but the details here are still too fuzzy to really make any kind of call.

Phew. Hope you guys found something new to look forward to in this monstrosity of a post. I would post trailers for the few films that have them, but my Internet is currently being annoying about that. Might try to go back and edit them in later, but for now, I’m sure you know how to use YouTube and IMDB. Go to it.

2 thoughts on “50 Films to Watch For

  1. Oh my god I am SOOOOOO excited!!! I was going to make a list of all the ones I want to see, but there were too many. Let me just say that I am REALLY REALLY EXCITED and we better start saving money to go to Amherst Cinema. 🙂
    Also: Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard. Wheeee!!!

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