Aaron Sorkin scripts a baseball drama, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig reunite, and Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson one more time.
Given that (A) January is Hollywood's traditional dumping ground for doomed projects and (B) this week's only major release (Season of the Witch) is a holdover from last January's dumping ground, we thought it might be a good time to look ahead to some of the most promising movies scheduled to come out this year.
Cowboys & Aliens (July 29) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 15)
Okay, chances are you've already pre-ordered your tickets for these two and/or started camping outside the multiplexes where they'll be showing, but what about…
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (December 16)
I mean, sure, Knight and Day kinda sucked, but Tom Cruise still has genuine movie-star wattage, and the Mission: Impossible series (give or take the dove-infested John Woo parody directed by… John Woo) has generally provided solid popcorn-movie entertainment. Plus, any project co-starring Jeremy Renner and directed by Brad "The Incredibles" Bird (with a story by J.J. Abrams and a cool subtitle like Ghost Protocol) is probably worth a look.
Moneyball (September 23)
Of course, we'll also need some (relatively) real-life roughage with all the wizards, aliens and spies in 2011, and this adaptation of Michael Lewis' "inside baseball" look at the underdog Oakland Athletics has an all-star line-up, including Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, team captain Bennett "Capote" Miller, and a screenplay by a troika of talented writers including Aaron Sorkin (who, as you may recall, helped to make a film about friggin' Facebook worth watching).
Bridesmaids (May 13)
Weddings are always rich sources of drama and comedy — unless, of course, they devolve into shrill, hateful screaming matches like Bridezillas or Bride Wars. Fortunately, however, this tale of battling bridesmaids reunites the Freaks & Geeks producer/director team of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, which means it might conceivably bear some relation to actual human experience. For that reason, I'm perfectly willing to forgive co-stars Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph for MacGruber. Plus, this upcoming Feig-fest is the last big screen appearance of the late Jill Clayburgh. And, for the ladies, one word: Hamm.
The Rum Diary (Release date TBA)
As a young wannabe hepcat, I always preferred Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo dark humor to Jack Kerouac's earnest rambling. And so, while I'm definitely curious about Walter Salles' upcoming adaptation of On The Road, I'm guessing The Rum Diary will be more fun, especially with Bruce Robinson (of Withnail & I cult fame) at the helm and Johnny Depp in the lead as a younger, "straighter" version of the equally fictionalized Thompson persona he tackled in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Red State (March)
Maybe it's just my blue-state bias, but a film about scary Middle American religious zealots sounds like the perfect antidote for my post-election-year malaise. Plus, given his love of the genre, I'm guessing Kevin Smith's first foray into horror will be a humdinger, aided by a solid cast including Melissa Leo, Kevin Pollak, John Goodman, Anna Gunn, and the ever delightful Stephen Root.
But the One Movie You Should Really See This Year Is: Rise of the Apes (June 24). I mean, come on — James Franco in a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes? Happy 2011!