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Upcoming films to keep an eye on (part one)

There are a lot of highly-anticipated projects floating around Hollywood right now – so much so that it’s hard to keep them all straight. With that in mind, I thought I’d break down my 10 most anticipated upcoming films. I’ve put them in rough order of their expected release dates, starting with the soonest. Some of the films have already been shot and even screened for audiences, while others are still a long way off. But all of them have caught my attention.

This is going to be a two-part feature. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s have a look…

10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

The story: Based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World follows the adventures of (you guessed it) Scott Pilgrim, as he falls in love with Ramona Flowers, only to discover he must battle her seven evil exes before he can date her.

Why I’m excited: I have a lot of respect for the director, Edgar Wright, even though I think he’s a bit overrated. The cast includes (among others) Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, and Anna Kendrick – all of whom I’ve liked in other things. But mostly, the visual style of this movie looks pretty insane. Wright really seems to get the comic book aesthetic, right down to the onomatopoeic words that pop up on the screen to underscore the sound effects. And helping to craft the look of the film is cinematographer Bill Pope, who worked on all three Matrix films. Sounds like a good combination.

The film looks enormously silly, but enormously fun – a little like a more cartoony, less gory version of Kick-Ass, which is another movie I had fun with.

Status: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World premiered in LA last month and will be in theatres August 13.

9. Buried

The story: Ryan Reynolds plays Paul, an American contractor working in Iraq. He’s attacked by militants and left buried alive in a coffin. With only a cell phone and a lighter at his disposal, he’s got to find a way out before he suffocates.

Why I’m excited: Movies that take place all or mostly in one location are inherently fascinating to me. It’s a gamble, because it puts a great deal of importance on the script. You can’t really distract your audience with lots of flashy camera tricks if you’re stuck in the same spot all the time. But if the script is good, the gamble can pay off big.

Notably, Buried is the only film on this list whose director I am not familiar with. I haven’t seen any of Rodrigo Cortez’s previous work, but the early reviews for Buried are looking good so far. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Reynolds as an actor. Even when he’s in a movie I don’t like, I find him entertaining.

Status: Buried premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and will be playing in limited release late next month. Hopefully it will expand to a wider release later on.

8. The Social Network

The story: The Social Network chronicles the Machiavellian rise of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Why I’m excited: See my earlier post for a longer explanation, but, to boil it down: I like the director, I like the cast, and trailer looks really, really cool.

Status: The Social Network will premiere at the New York Film Festival next month, and will be in theatres October 1.

7. Black Swan

The story: Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play rival ballet dancers competing for a role in a production of Swan Lake. The role requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan and the Black Swan. Portman’s character Nina is more technical, and thus fits better for the White Swan, while Kunis’ character Lilly dances with more emotion, and so fits the Black Swan part better.

Why I’m excited: Mainly, I’m excited because it’s being directed by Darren Aronofsky. He’s got a great filmography, including Requiem For A Dream and The Wrestler, two movies I thoroughly enjoyed. Compared to those films, the plot for Black Swan seems a little straightforward at first, but it’s been described as a psychological thriller with some possibly supernatural elements, so that’s kind of keeping me curious.

As far as the cast goes, I like Portman a lot. Kunis, not so much, but if this movie does well it could be a breakthrough for her. On top of this, another Aronofsky movie means another awesome score from Clint Mansell. His music is always brilliant and I expect more of the same here.

Status: Black Swan will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival next month, and will be in theatres December 1.

6. Sucker Punch

The story: A girl is trapped in a mental institution by her stepfather, who intends to have her lobotomized. She begins to imagine a fantastical alternate universe as an escape from her torment.

Why I’m excited: The trailer for this is completely nuts. Zack Snyder (of Watchmen and 300 fame) looks to be using the “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to action filmmaking here. Swordplay, gunplay, a zeppelin emblazoned with the Iron Cross going down in flames, a dragon, what appears to be a giant man (or is it a robot?) dressed in samurai armor wielding a chaingun… I could go on.

The cast is comprised of some great acting talent, including Donnie Darko‘s Jena Malone, Sin City‘s Carla Gugino, and Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm.

Snyder has a tendency to get gratuitous with his use of slo-mo, but for the most part I like his style. It’s looking like this one will be pretty over the top and ridiculous, but in the best way possible. There’s a danger of it all just devolving into a series of barely-connected action sequences, but Snyder “filmed the unfilmable” with Watchmen so this should be a piece of cake in comparison.

Status: Sucker Punch is currently in post-production and is set for a March 25, 2011 release.

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