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2011: The Best Of The Rest

The summer blockbuster season was a pretty big disappointment to me, and this year’s crop of movies feels pretty underwhelming in general. So far I’ve only seen one film I consider particularly memorable (Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris). (EDIT: Make it two! Add Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life to my list of memorable films. Oct. 7) Looking back at last year, I count at least six or seven films I really loved. With two thirds of the year gone, it’s starting to feel like time is running out.

But the good news is there are still plenty of movies to come in the next four months or so. In all, I count around 40 more films I’m at least somewhat interested in seeing. So as we head toward Oscar season, now’s a good time to separate the wheat from the chaff and count down my top 10 most anticipated films for the rest of 2011.

10. Tyrannosaur
The story: Olivia Colman stars as Pam, a woman stuck in an abusive relationship. Peter Mullan plays Joe, a man struggling with his own personal demons who finds himself drawn into the conflict.

Why I’m interested: This is actor Paddy Considine’s first feature as a director, and I’m curious to see what he can do. He walked away with the World Cinema Directing Award at Sundance, so the signs are good. The cast looks promising too. I loved Peter Mullan in Boy A. Eddie Marsan was great in Red Riding, and looks positively frightening in the trailer. I haven’t seen Olivia Colman in a serious role before (though I remember liking her in Hot Fuzz) so I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of her.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “A powerful film you can’t shake and won’t want to revisit anytime soon.” – Matt Singer (

Release date: I couldn’t find a North American release date so it could be awhile, but the UK release is October 7. (trailer)

9. The Skin I Live In
The story: Antonio Banderas plays a plastic surgeon who invents a synthetic skin that’s virtually indestructible, but complications ensue when his human guinea pig rebels.

Why I’m interested: It sounds like an updated twist on George Franju’s film Eyes Without A Face, which was pretty creepy for its day. Pedro Almodóvar’s got some weird sensibilities so he seems like the right guy to put a new spin on the concept. And I’ve heard great things about Banderas as the obsessed doctor.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “Not for everyone – there will be heated debate about at least one plot turn – but high-level filmmaking. The year’s classiest horror movie.” – Kim Newman (Empire Magazine)

Release date: November 23. (trailer)

8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The story: Set during the Cold War, this film follows George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a spy forced out of retirement, as he pursues a Soviet mole through the upper ranks of MI-6.

Why I’m interested:  I haven’t read the novel this movie is based on, but I’ve heard a lot of good things. Le Carré is acknowledged as one of the masters of the spy novel, and I love a good spy movie, so it should be fun to see his what many consider his best work brought to life. The cast looks stellar (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and the list goes on). Plus, this is director Tomas Alfredson’s follow up to the fantastic Let The Right One In.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “A superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel, the film is a triumph.” – David Gritten (Daily Telegraph)

Release date: December 9. (trailer)

7. Take Shelter
The story: An ordinary man named Curtis (Michael Shannon) is the victim of apocalyptic visions that lead to him build an elaborate storm shelter. He’s mocked by friends. His wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) is embarrassed. Is he crazy? Are his visions accurate? What’s going on?

Why I’m interested: It’s got a simple hook: visionary or madman? This is just the second film from writer/director Jeff Nichols (I haven’t seen his first, Shotgun Stories), so it could be a bit of a wildcard. But Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain are both great so it’ll be interesting to see them as a couple. It basically comes down to the reveal. If it’s done well, this one could be great. If not, it could wind up a big disappointment.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “A hallucinatory thriller anchored by a deeply resonant sense of unease, Take Shelter finds writer-director Jeff Nichols honing, polishing and amply confirming the raw filmmaking talent he displayed in Shotgun Stories.” – Justin Chang (Variety)

Release date: September 30. (trailer)

6. The Artist
The story: Set in the late 1920s during the end of the silent film era, this film (itself a silent movie) follows a romance between movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo).

Why I’m interested: Black and white films are pretty rare these days, and silent films even rarer still. You just don’t see these kinds of projects getting made anymore. I’m more familiar with the comedic side of silent film (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc.) so I’m wondering how a drama of this type will hold up with modern audiences. Jean Dujardin took home the best actor award at Cannes, so that’s a good sign. You’ve also got actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Malcolm McDowell filling in some of the supporting roles.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “Delightful and lovely, a little gift of cinema.” – Laremy Legel (

Release date: November 23. (trailer)

5. Martha Marcy May Marlene
The story: Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) struggles to reintegrate with her family after she flees from a cult.

Why I’m interested:  I’m really, really curious about Elizabeth Olsen. This film premiered at Sundance, and she was one of the biggest stories to come out of the festival as seemingly every critic fell all over themselves praising her work. Sean Durkin also won the directing award. I feel like this is going to be one of those movies it’s best to go into cold, so unlike everything else on my list, I haven’t watched any footage from this one yet.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “Olsen gives a magnificently ambiguous performance that will instantly eclipse any snarky comments about her famous siblings, and Durkin knows precisely how much information to reveal and how much to leave frighteningly implicit.” – Mike D’Angelo (AV Club)

Release date: October 21 (limited release). (trailer)

4. The Ides Of March
The story: Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) looks like a shoo-in for the presidency, thanks in no small measure to savvy strategist Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). But a rival campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) introduces complications that could derail the campaign.

Why I’m interested: I haven’t seen a decent political thriller in a little while and this looks like just the ticket. Clooney is also directing, and he’s put together great films in the past (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, Good Night, And Good Luck). In addition to a rock-solid main cast, you’ve also got the likes of Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright in supporting roles.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “This 1970s-like political thriller and morality tale, which shows Clooney in top form as director, co-writer and actor, is a frontrunner in this year’s Oscars; Ryan Gosling is brilliant.” – Emanuel Levy

Release date: October 7. (trailer)

3. Drive
The story: A Hollywood stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who works on the side as a getaway driver ends up with a price on his head after a heist gone wrong.

Why I’m interested: I had to squeeze an action movie in here somewhere, and this seems like the one that has the best chance of offering something beyond some cool chases and big explosions. In addition to Gosling, the cast includes Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks (in a rare villainous role), Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman. The film’s directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. I’ve only seen one of his previous movies and thought it was merely okay, but I’m optimistic that he can do something great with the talent assembled for Drive.

Effusive early praise from a random critic:Drive builds extraordinary tension before exploding in brief outbursts of shocking violence, almost in the mode of a samurai film.” – Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)

Release date: September 16. (trailer)

2. Melancholia
The story: The central conflict here is between the recently married Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Oh, also the world’s about to end because it’s on a collision course with a previously unknown planet.

Why I’m interested: Lars Von Trier’s films are like endurance tests. He goes to bizarre, uncomfortable places most other filmmakers can’t (or won’t). I know very little of where he plans on taking this film, but I’m always happy to follow him down the rabbit hole. Once again, the film boasts a great supporting cast, including John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, and the father-son duo of Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard. Kirsten Dunst took the best actress prize at Cannes.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: “Dunst does the best work of her career in this film, riding the tricky tonal shifts as if were the easiest thing in the world.” – Drew McWeeny (Hitfix)

Release date: October 7 (Video On Demand), November 11 (theatrical). (trailer)

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The story: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) searches for the solution to a 40-year-old mystery, aided by hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).

Why I’m interested: David Fincher. The man is easily one of my favourite working directors. I’m also a huge fan of Steig Larsson, who wrote the fantastic book (the first of a trilogy) on which this film is based. All three books have already been made into films in their original Swedish, but I haven’t managed to see those yet. I do know Noomi Rapace got a ton of praise for her portrayal of Salander. Rooney Mara will be playing that role in Fincher’s film. She was excellent in The Social Network, but she’ll really have to stretch to be convincing as Salander. I think she can pull it off. I also heard the script ends this story differently than the novel, so I’m dying to know what surprises Fincher has in store there.

Effusive early praise from a random critic: This is the only movie on my list that didn’t hit the festival circuit. No one’s seen it, hence, no quote.

Release date: December 21. (trailer)

Honourable mentions
-The Descendants (trailer)
-Coriolanus (trailer)
-Carnage (trailer)
-A Dangerous Method (trailer)

Did I leave anything out that you’re looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments!

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