Looking ahead by following the trend set forth in 2009 and continued in 2010, let's take a look at the potential movies we'll be seeing this year. As a point of reference, here's the complete listing of 2011 films scheduled.
Like last year, I've categorized mine into three separate tiers: "Must see", "Likely to see", and "Still undecided".
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20) - To cut and paste from the designated thread: My rabid fandom for the series has been lying dormant for a while, but I must admit it's stirring again. The prospects are looking far more promising than they were a year or two ago. It's great to see such mainstays as screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, and composer Hans Zimmer making a return. Despite that, I'm keeping things on a cautiously optimistic footing in light of new director Rob Marshall; let's hope he proves to be a worthy successor to Gore Verbinski.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (5/26) - DreamWorks has proven from time to time that they've got the competitive chops to go up against the likes of Pixar. How To Train Your Dragon was proof-positive of that, but so too was the first Kung Fu Panda. Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed that amazing hand-drawn animated sequence in the first movie, makes her full-length directorial debut here. Let's hope she can deliver a film that's as funny and enjoyable as the first.
X-Men: First Class (6/3) - Pretty much the "Origins" film adaptation for Magneto and Xavier. After the crazy good Kick-Ass, I'm excited to see that both director Matthew Vaughn and screenplay writer Jane Goldman are heading up this one, and their sensibilites could result in a killer X-Men adaptation.
Cars 2 (6/24) - I know, I know. The first Cars tends to be looked down upon as lower-tier Pixar, and several have vehemently scoffed at the idea of a sequel. I say, to hell with the haters - I dug the first one, and any chance to indulge in my moderate infatuation with this vehicular-driven world is fine by me. After a five year hiatus, too, it'll be great to see another Lasseter-directed outing.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (7/15) - Not much needs to be said here. Even if this last cinematic entry in the Potter saga ends up disappointing, I'm still planning on seeing it. It's going to be a monster at the box office either way.
Sherlock Holmes 2 (12/16) - The more times I watched Guy Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes, the more I ended up loving it. I'm hoping the next one is as "fiercely intelligent", dense, and entertaining as its predecessor. And hey, we're getting Mycroft and Moriarty!
LIKELY TO SEE:
The Hangover: Part II (5/26) - Should be interesting to see if they can manage a continuing narrative here, but I always figured that a sequel could potentially work with Stu as the new character focus. Gonna avoid all the trailers this time around; the first film managed to spoil all the really great moments.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (7/1) - After Revenge of the Fallen, will folks be marked as a pariah if they chose to see this? I'm a hopeless optimist, so I believe that Bay may be able to learn from his mistakes. Expecting improvements in character development may be too much to ask, but at the very least, tighten up the pacing, trim down on the action, and get rid of the idiotically puerile humor.
Cowboys & Aliens (7/29) - Despite the doofy name that guarantees an audience reaction every time, the trailer itself looks ridiculously badass. Early test screenings allude that this could be an awesome summer blockbuster, and Jon Favreau's got a shot at redemption after last year's less-than-stellar Iron Man 2. Both Craig and Ford look wicked in their roles.
Winnie The Pooh (7/15) - While my childhood wasn't exactly Pooh-centric, this is a traditional hand-drawn Disney animated feature. Of course I'll be there.
The Green Hornet (1/14) - Gonna hold out on the reviews for this one. As I've said last year, I might see this just for Christoph Waltz alone.
Rango (3/4) - This one may or may not work. Either way, I'm rather curious to see how Gore Verbinski's first animated feature will fare.
Sucker Punch (3/25) - Synder's interpretation of "girl power" (with guns and brothels), I'm sensing far more flash than substance. Another one that may or may not work.
Thor (5/6) - I still don't know how to take to the whole "Marvel Cinematic Universe", but I figure I'm halfway committed after seeing the first two Iron Man flicks and 2008's Incredible Hulk. I'm not really feeling the trailer, though, with the reliance of CG being particularly overbearing.
Super 8 (6/10) - J.J. Abrams' next big sci-fi outing. We know practically nothing about the film, save that it'll be a "homage/tribute to Spielberg's '70s and '80s science fiction films with a mystery and supernatural feel". Alrighty. I guess we can expect a big viral push, a la Cloverfield.
The Green Lantern (6/17) - My interest for this one shot up on the basis that it's being directed by Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), and headed up by a strong cast which includes Reynolds, Lively, Bassett, Robbins, and, best of all, Mark Strong, who ended up being my favorite actor in 2010 for his kick-ass performance in, well, "Kick-Ass".
Captain America: The First Avenger (7/22) - See above with Thor. We've yet to see a trailer or even much in the way of footage, but I've always liked Cap as a comic character more than Thor. The World War II setting seems like a cooler cinematic setting than the latter's Asgard and modern-day Earth.
The Smurfs (8/3) - The recently released Yogi Bear has taught us that digging up 50s-60s cartoon classics and giving them the live-action CG makeover may not be the best of ideas. But hey, the setting for Smurfs is NYC - and as I've said in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, we New Yorkers have this strange impulse to see any film that's based in our city. And Hank Azaria could make for a hilarious Gargamel.
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (12/16) - Too little is known on this one, but the prospect of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) in the director's chair, and J.J. Abrams having a hand in the writing could mean great things. Love that subtitle, too.