The Top 10 Movies That I Need to See on the Big Screen in 2011 – Part 1

This has become an annual tradition ’round these parts.

Each year, after I complete the previous year’s housekeeping through offering up by ‘Best Of’ lists – I like to give you all a sneak peek at what I’m looking forward to on the entertainment horizon. With Netflix, I’ll watch most anything – which partially explains why I settled down last Saturday eve to take in Piranha 3D (the other reason being Richard Dreyfuss in full Matt Hooper regalia).

But, it often takes spectacle to bring me to the theater. If I’m gonna’ trek out to catch something on the big screen, I need it larger than life – be that in things blowing up real good or huge laughs that sweep the audience up in their wave. The Oscar bait is usually reserved for home where I can sit and soak it all in – and truth be told, now that I’ve mellowed – those tend to be the more nourishing flicks that feed my movie loving soul.

But I’m a kid at heart and I live for crazy effects and dazzling feats of derring do – especially when it’s done just right.

Unfortunately, last year was a major misfire at the Summer Box Office. Short of Inception and Toy Story 3, nothing wrangled my wallet.

This year looks ready to remedy all that. And thus, I’ve had a pretty hard time culling a Top 10 from the list of flicks that I would see in a theater. Remember – I’ll probably see many more of these in the warm confines of my home – and it’s doubtful that I’ll get out 10 times to see the movies that made my list – but if I did, some of these 10 would likely rate as the cinematic confections I’d nosh down on.

And next year – ’round this time – you can scope my Best Of list and see if any of these made the cut. Usually, they don’t. But way off in advance, it’s amazing how good some of these things can look.

One last note, I’m going to begin by giving you a quick list of the event pics that drew my attention (and their release dates). Then we’ll work through my own personal Top 10 list. You’ll get Selections #10 – 6 today and then on Wednesday, I’ll give you the Top 5.

Without further adieu, here are the flicks that I considered when cobbling together my list:

2011 Releases
1.   Rango -   March 4th
2.  Battle: Los Angeles -   March 11th
3.   Paul -   March 18th
4.   Sucker Punch -   March 25th
5.   Your Highness -   April 8th
6.   Source Code -   April 15th
7.   Thor -   May 6th
8.   Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides -   May 20th
9.   The Hangover Part II -   May 26th
10.   X-Men: First Class -   June 3rd
11.   Super 8 -   June 10th
12.   The Green Lantern -   June 17th
13.   Cars 2 -   June 24th
14.   Transformers: Dark of the Moon -   July 1st
15.   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 -   July 15th
16.   Captain America: The First Avenger -   July 22nd
17.   Cowboys & Aliens -   July 29th
18.   Conan -   August 19th
19.   The Thing -   October 19th
20.   Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -   December 16th
21.   Sherlock Holmes 2 -   December 16th
22.   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -   December 21st

That’s a crazy list of movies. Remember – I kept out Oscar bait, so 2011 is looking stacked.

With all that said, let’s move through my Top 10.

10.   Paul -   March 18th

A couple of weeks back, I named Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as my 3rd favorite movie screened in 2010. That thing was virtually guaranteed a slot the second I saw Edgar Wright had signed to adapt the cult graphic novel based purely on how mightily that cat has entertained me over the years – with his knock-out debut Shaun of the Dead and it’s killer follow-up, Hot Fuzz.

Those first two flicks were buoyed by the collaborative spirit embraced by Wright and his go-to actors, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – who just have a winning chemistry first mixed on the BBC hit show, Spaced.

As much as I couldn’t wait to see Wright’s take on Pilgrim, I did so with a slight reservation; knowing that this was the first time he’d direct a flick minus his Pegg and Frost – who have not only etched indelible characters for Wright but have also co-written the screenplays. All my worry was for nought as Wright knocked Pilgrim off this rock – delivering a sweetly kinetic action-romance that defines a generation as much as The Social Network comments on it.

Paul is the flipside to Scott Pilgrim. This is what Pegg and Frost were off doing while Wright was up in the Great White North crafting his epic epic of epic epicness.

Greg Motolla (Arrested Development, Superbad, Adventureland) directs Paul, Wright and Pegg’s first original script since Hot Fuzz. The film follows two British comic geeks who make a pilgrimmage across the United States on their way to their personal Mecca – the annual San Diego Comic Con. On the way, they inadverdently stumble across an alien named Paul, and voiced by Seth Rogen, who joins their side.

That synopsis may have sent half of you fleeing to the exits but it’s right up my alley.  And with a cast that includes Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Jane Lynch, Bill Hader, Jeffrey Tambor, and David Koechner - I am sold.

9.   Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -   December 16th

Ordinarily, this would never make my list. While I’ve enjoyed the movies, it wasn’t until the last one, which was directed by JJ Abrams, where I felt the true “team” concept of the Mission Impossible series became a focus – and in doing that, the property became fun.

That said, a fourth sequel in a series is usually desperation time.

And then I learned that Brad Bird was using this vehicle to make his move from animation to live action. Right then and there, my ass was in the seat.

Before being scooped up by PIXAR, Bird crafted the handsome and humane, The Iron Giant – one of the classics of 2D animation in the last 30 years. At PIXAR, he grabbed the reins on Ratatouille and delivered subtle storytelling that beat the best narratives coming out of Hollywood.

And then there’s The Incredibles – which some argue is the best superhero flick we’ve had in a field rich with some pretty decent adaptations. That it serves as a winning spin on the classic James Bond formula is just icing – and is exactly why I am looking forward to his take on Mission Impossible. If he can bottle a little of his Incredibles moxie and sprinkle it on this franchise, we’re in for a treat.

Oh – as an added plus, that couch jumping Level 5 Thetan Power Ranger is being joined by Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Josh Holloway. Yup, Sawyer’s in this, Freckles.

8.   Thor -   May 6th

It’s hard to believe that just a decade ago, comic book flicks were a risky proposition. Sure, we had the occasional Superman or Batman flicks which were sold on their household name recognition, but aside from those – anything ripped from pen and ink was considered dicey. In fact, that first X-Men flick was dumped in the back-end of summer, a toe dipped in the waters. Little did 20th Century Fox know that ravenous sharks swam below and they did more than nibble – they swallowed it whole and then kept swimming; furiously seeking their next delectable dish.

Since then – we have not had one summer without a big superhero movie.

This summer – we get four of them; and three of them catered to those who echo the Geek Chorus: Make Mine Marvel. And with the big properties having done all the heavy-lifting; and Marvel in control of most of its universe, we are now getting into the grand myth-building which will lead to those dream superhero team-ups; such as 2012′s Iron Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk and Thor mash-up – The Avengers.

Marvel has been working on setting the stage for their end game; with The Avengers being one major cog. In order to whet the public’s appetite for that portion of their main course (a rumored 12-year plan that will culminate in a massive franchise crossover on par with their annual event stunts such as Civil War); anyway – they are introducing the public to a handful of Avengers. With Iron Man being courted through two flicks, the attention turns to Captain America in July and Thor in May.

While I’m looking forward to Cap, he’s always been further down my personal depth chart. Too square for my tastes – although I’m encouraged by the choice of Spielberg-protege Joe Johnston for director; as he’s done the noble patriotic act before with the underrated The Rocketeer.

By selecting Shakespeare’s modern day bard, Kenneth Branagh, to helm Thor, Marvel continues the trend of pairing the perfect director with their source material. This tale of warring Norse Gods spilling over to Earth and interacting with all facets of humanity (superhuman or otherwise) screams for that larger-than-life Operatic approach.

Early footage of the flick; with Anthony Hopkins as an imposing Odin; shows that Branagh may have nailed it. This should be a great opening salvo for the summer and merely the shape of great things to come.

7.   The Thing -   October 14th

I have a piece gestating within where I plan to take Hollywood to task for their incessant reboots, retreads and remakes. The fact that they are sending Peter Parker back to High School less than 10 years after he first graduated proves the well is dry. They’re remaking movies that just came out. What next – remake a film before it releases. If that’s the case, I’ll get working on my Avatar sequel redux – only my version will have a weird little boy with an arrow drawn on his head.

Anyway, that rant is for a different day – so stay tuned.

With that said, I am choosing a reboot for inclusion on my list. For starters, this property has already been remade once before – and it was John Carpenter’s classic 1982 version that arguably improved on the predecessor at every stage. In fact, Carpenter’s version makes so many of my own personal Best Of lists – and I consider it timeless. It’s a perfectly executed film.

As much passion as I hold for that film, I’m eager to see this latest version which brings us back to that Norwegian research station seen abandoned in Carpenter’s version. With a script from Battlestar Galactica guru Ronald Moore this has me intrigued and if it can add to the mythos while preserving Carpenter’s nihilistic view that all hope is lost, we’re in for a chilly treat this October.

6.   Source Code -   April 15th

There’s a theme prevalent on my list.

I will follow certain directors anywhere. Afterall, it was Spielberg, Carpenter and Cameron who first made me sit up and take notice of the wizard behind the curtain – and since then, I’ve tracked director’s filmographies like kids used to collect Pokemon. Gotta’ catch ‘em all.

Source Code is director Duncan Jones first film since his stunning 2009 debut; Moon. While Jones gained some notoriety from being the son of David Bowie, what really put him on the map was that cool, little sci-fi engine that could. It was a tour-de-force for actor Sam Rockwell and it marked a tremendous debut for a powerful new voice in sci-fi storytelling. Like his compatriot Neill Blomkamp who hit the same year with the revelatory District 9, Jones is spinning the original yarn in a climate starved for creative vision.

The trailer for Source Code promises a Twelve Monkeys/Deja Vu vibe in tracking the imperfect science of time travel… and that alone gooses the part of me who appreciates a good genre-bending puzzle.

That’s all for now. On Wednesday, I’ll reveal the rest of my list.