Thursday, January 27, 2011

YouTube discovery of the day: Premakes

These sensational examples of great video editing have been around for awhile, but so have I and I just discovered them myself, so I had to share them.

If, like me, you'd never heard of film editor Ivan Guerrero or "premakes," they're definitely worth checking out. For his creations, Guerrero takes clips from old films and, well, makes them into trailers of modern movies if they had been made in the 1950s or early '60s.

No words can really describe them, so I've included three here, starting with his newest creation, the "premake" trailer for Disney/Pixar's "Up!", now starring Spencer Tracy and Kirk Douglas. Also included are "Ghostbusters" with Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Fred MacMurray, and finally "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which canibalizes Nazi-era footage from "Casablanca" and all kinds of other old movies for a wild mix. Enjoy, check out Guerrero's YouTube channel here, and stick around for something exciting from Sundance that hits YouTube tonight.

Finally today, director Kevin McDonald ("The Last King of Scotland" and others) and producer Ridley Scott have teamed up with contributors from around the world to create "Life in a Day," which, if I have this right, will premiere tonight at 8 p.m. EST at the Sundance Film Festival and, at the same time, also makes its streaming debut on YouTube.

Nothing but unquestionably cool there, and here's what the movie is about. McDonald had folks from around the globe send videos of exactly what the title says, a day in their lives. He edited it all together for what should make for one fascinating documentary. You can watch it streaming here tonight. Here's a clip from the movie featuring contributor Ron, who clearly isn't having the greatest of days. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oscar surprises - the good, the bad and the ugly

Actually, before I get into any of that, and it really was a pretty great year for interesting movies getting deserved Oscar nominations, there are three tidbits of perhaps fresher news out there that caught my eye this morning.

First up, with "Red" hitting DVD shelves this week (and my home player this weekend), Summit has announced that a sequel to the octogenarian comic book hit is on, and to that I can only say bully. If you happened to stop by yesterday, you know I pretty much love the original, which captured the comic book feel nearly perfectly and was just a whole lot of fun.

So far for the sequel, Summit has hired brothers Erich and Jon Hoeber, who wrote the script for the first movie, but as yet no actors. I have to assume, though, that if they come up with anything even pretty good, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and hopefully even the great Brian Cox will all be back for more. Stay tuned.

In other news, fresh off his Oscar love for "The Social Network," it seems that Aaron Sorkin is headed back to TV with something that could be fascinating - at least if its a lot more "Sports Night" than "Studio 60." He has told the BBC he's working with HBO on a series that would be set back stage at a cable news show.

Now, I can only take those shows in very small doses, and the only one I watch with any regularity is "Morning Joe," but they're still certainly an interesting petri dish of ideas and bombast for Sorkin to play around in, assuming this is happening as he says. Unfortunately, it seems that Keith Olberman, who I was hoping was now gone from TV pretty much for good, may be back on this as a character of some kind.

And finally, before I get into the Oscars, buzz has been building about an Alfred Hitchcock biopic, which I'd be hesitant about if it weren't coming together so well so far. Though it's hard to call it high art, there are very few documentaries that I've seen in the past 10 years or so that are more entertaining than Sasha Gervasi's "Anvil: The Story of Anvil," which chronicles the misadventures of Canada's hardest-working heavy metal band (yes, really).

For his next project, Gervasi is now in talks to direct an adaptation of the Stephen Rebello book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," which would be about exactly what the title says. Even better, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who's hamming it up this week in his own "horror" movie which I won't be going to see, "The Rite," is now in talks to play Hitchcock himself. Nothing but potential perfection there, methinks.

OK, on to the Oscars, which contained some surprises this year, most of them good for once. Being a glass half full kind of dude on my best days, I'll start with the good, and try my best to make that portion longer. Here goes.

The good

All the love for "Winter's Bone": I've made it no secret around here that Debra Granik's coming-of-age film noir of sorts set in the Ozarks is, by a pretty wide margin, my single favorite movie of 2010, so I wasn't terribly surprised that it managed to sneak into the Best Picture top 10 (to brag just a bit, I managed to predict the 10 nominees here a week ago, correctly tapping this and "127 Hours" for the final two spots.)

What I didn't expect, but certainly support, is acting nods for both Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress) and John Hawkes (Best Supporting Actor). Though she'd get my vote for carrying this movie with a fragile but still unwavering will, I don't think Lawrence has any chance in a category that will probably belong to Annette Bening or Natalie Portman (of the two, I'll take the latter in "Black Swan"). Hawkes, likewise, will probably get knocked out by Christian Bale's electric turn as Dickie Eklund in "The Fighter," but any recognition of his key role as uncle "Teardrop" is welcome in this little corner of the world.

And for an award that "Winter's Bone" might actually win, it's great to see writer/director Debra Granik nominated for best adapted screenplay, though if I were a betting man, I'd say that award will ultimately go to Sorkin for "The Social Network."

Michelle Williams: Granted, I only manged to see "Blue Valentine" last week, and so it's very fresh on my brain, but Williams' nomination for Best Actress brought the biggest smile to my face Tuesday morning. Along with Ryan Gosling (more on that in a bit), she dragged viewers smack into the middle of a romance that burns extremely bright thanks to her passionate performance before of course crashing equally hard, and it would have been a much more uncomfortable viewing experience if she weren't so magnetic at the center of it all.

Jacki Weaver: That may not be a name familiar to very many people, but it should be, especially with "Animal Kingdom" now out on DVD. In that truly gritty Aussie gangster flick, which made my top 10 for the year, she plays the menacing but fiercely loyal matriarch of the doomed Cody small-time crime clan, and steals every minute ehe's allotted. This category will probably go to either Helena Bonham Carter for "The King's Speech" or Melissa Leo for "The Fighter," either of which would be fine, but I'd much rather see youth be served with Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit" (though she really is a leading actress, of course!), or even better, the long shot Weaver somehow come out on top.

"The Illusionist": My co-workers were grumbling yesterday about how in the world "Despicable Me" could have been left off the list for Best Animated Picture, and I'm with them there. Disney's "Tangled" also got shafted, and while that doesn't really bother me at all, it does raise a bigger question: Why only three nominees in this key category? I mean, we all know "Toy Story 3" is going to win, but three is still a ridiculously small number. At least they did manage to squeeze in Sylvain Chomet's "The Illusionist," an odd little movie that, like Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville" before it, has practically no discernible dialogue at all. What it does, have, however, in telling the story of a magician who adopts a young traveling partner who thinks his tricks are real, is a lot of humor and heart, exactly what I look for in a great animated movie.

The bad:

The best director category: Say what you want to about "Inception," but no director took more chances this year than Christopher Nolan, so with that flick nominated for Best Picture, why not Nolan for Best Director? This doesn't really miff me as much as some, but it is a real head-scratcher. More important, I think, is how in the world did the Academy manage to recognize no women in this category? Lisa Cholodenko was certainly a possibility for "The Kids Are All Right," but I really think that's the weak link in the Best Picture field. Much better would have been Granik, who delivered nothing short of a masterpiece (a term I try not to throw around a lot, but it's deserved here - watch it already!) with "Winter's Bone." Apparently handing one Oscar to Kathyrn Bigelow was enough for a while. Sheesh. I predict a split decision here, with "The King's Speech" winning Best Picture by sheer momentum, but David Fincher taking Best Director for "The Social Network."

Ryan Gosling: Also among the office Oscar chatter I heard yesterday was that Julia Roberts threw a party just last week to throw her weight behind Javier Bardem being nominated for Best Actor for "Biutiful" (which I haven't seen). Who knows if that had any effect, but if so, it's a real crime, because how in the world do you nominate Michelle Williams for "Blue Valentine" but not her worse (relationship-wise) but at least equal (acting-wise) half? Simply maddening, but if you haven't seen this movie yet, just do while you can, because in spite of its difficult subject matter, it really is a joy to behold.

Cinematography: It was a pretty banner day for "127 Hours," which certainly made me cheer. Oscar co-host James Franco got a much-deserved Best Actor nomination, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy are rightly up for Best Adapated Screenplay, and it of course snuck into the Best Picture field (and into movie theaters in my little corner of the world this weekend - bully). But how in the world were Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle not recognized for the beautiful camera work that made both the euphoric highs and depressing lows (there are more of the former, thankfully) just shine so bright on screen? I just assumed this was a lock, because along with being an all-around great film, it just looks like nothing else that hit theaters in 2010, and how many movies can you really say that about?

OK, there you have it. I'm off now somewhat late to the job that still actually pays, but please feel free to add any Oscar surprises of your own that just made you smile or grown, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DVD pick of the week: "Red"

Many movies (you could easily say too many) are developed from graphic novels, but very few of those manage to retain the feel and appeal of comic books once they reach the big screen.

In the past year, there have been only two that accomplished this feat, "Kick-Ass" and "Red," the latter of which hits DVD shelves this week. Add to that the fact that the stars of "Red" are on average way more than old enough to be members of AARP, and you've got a truly odd mix that somehow still worked very well.

In fact, "Red" gets better and better as its stars get older. As the movie opens we find Bruce Willis as a recently retired CIA agent who, out of sheer boredom, throws out his pension checks just so he can call the pension office in Kansas City and flirt with the operator, who, in the movie's first bit of sheer lunacy, just happens to Mary Louise Parker. After he finds himself the target of assassins, he realizes his former employers would have tapped his phone, and so he goes to Kansas City to rescue (well, sort of kidnap) Parker's character.

Sounds like just about exactly the kind of forgettable "comedy" that gets released in theaters this time of year, right? Well, it felt that way at this point and probably would have been, but once Willis' Frank Grimes contacts his mentor, played by Morgan Freeman, it really gets to be nothing but fun from there on out, and more and more as it goes along. Throw in John Malkovich, the always great and underrated Brian Cox and, best of all, Dame Helen Mirren, and you've got sort of "The Expendables" on Geritol, and this group has more goofy energy in the first few minutes they're on screen than Sylvester Stallone's gang did in that entire movie.

To describe the plot of "Red" on paper really doesn't do it justice, since like with the best comic book movies, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Let's just say that Willis and his fellow former agents have all been targeted for assassination for some reason by the government that used to employ them, so they of course join forces to take their revenge.

This material would indeed be entirely familiar and more than a bit tired if it weren't for its stars, who rather than make this simply a novelty act due to their ages, instead turn it into a genuine romp, albeit one often filled with the very definition of "cartoon violence." Malkovich is as crazy as he's ever been, which is saying a lot, and funnier than he's been in years, but the real stars here are Mirren and Cox.

There's just something uniquely appealing about seeing Dame Helen Mirren wielding a sniper rifle in a ball gown, but she also brings enough range to the role to make this at times a sly commentary on aging and retirement. After all, when you've been a hit man (or woman) all your professional life, what are you supposed to do in retirement? Cox is her perfect match as the Russian operative who just happened to be a former and still smoldering flame.

What makes a great comic book movie? It's hard to describe, but it's mostly in the movie's rhythm and feel, and like "Kick-Ass" and "Red," for me at least, it has to deal with fairly dark subjects with a good bit of slyly wicked humor. If that's your kind of thing, too, you can do a whole lot worse than renting "Red" this weekend.

One further note: Stieg Larsson's great Lisbeth Salander trilogy also comes to a close on DVD this week with the release of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," which wasn't my DVD pick of the week only because I haven't seen it. This is, rather amazingly, available streaming already on Netflix, so it's sitting at the top of my queue to be watched this weekend. Peace out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The best movie you'll probably hear nothing about from the Oscar nominations.

If I'm reading things right, you won't be hearing the two words "Blue Valentine" very often - if at all - when the Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday morning.

Which will be a real shame, because Derek Cianfrance's movie is the first "romance in reverse" that actually hooked me right from the start.

Until now, these types of movies have ranged from good-but-far-too-cute ("500 Days of Summer") to so bad I'd claw my eyes out to make it stop ("The Break-Up"). The difference with Cianfrance's movie is that you never doubt, even at its darkest moments, that these were two people who were once completely, even desperately in love ... or so we think at the start.

And it certainly doesn't hurt when the couple at the story's core is played by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who throw themselves so thoroughly into the story that it has an intimacy - and though the word is used far to often, it's right here, "raw" feeling - that we often feel like we're watching something we shouldn't be, home movies or certainly private moments that never feel like they've been staged. It's a genuine accomplishment, and though it can make for some uncomfortable viewing at several points, Cianfrance and his actors earn every high, low and in between they deliver.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. As the movie opens, we see the couple's daughter, Frankie, searching for her dog, who has gotten out of its pen. Interestingly, if you've seen Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy and Lucy," you know that that movie also starred Williams as a woman who loses her dog, just about her only prized possession left in the world. Here, however, the dog is just a stepping-off point to show us how each character reacts to it.

Gosling's Dean, who we quickly learn is in many ways just a big kid himself, gets Frankie to eat her oatmeal by eating it "like a leopard," which means bite by bite off of the kitchen table. Williams' Cindy, meanwhile, tries to hold things together, getting ready for her job as a nurse and to get Frankie off to school. It's one of the many great scenes in "Blue Valentine" that sets up a dynamic that Cianfrance plays with for the rest of the movie, using tricks of time to bring us in and out of the relationship to see how they've reached this point in the space of five years or so (I can never really tell how old kids are, so that's a guess on my part.)

Other movies have certainly tried this gambit before. If you live in Macon, the film guild is showing Claire Denis' "White Material" on Feb. 13. That movie does so expertly as it tells the tale of a white family in Africa trying desperately to hold on to the coffee plantation they call home. And "500 Days of Summer" did so too, but Cianfrance doesn't rely on the cutesy day markers that set up each scene in that flick, instead dropping us in and out of scenes we never really feel completely comfortable watching, and often only in snippets, leaving the end of each to be revealed as the movie unfolds.

I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying we come into this as Dean and Cindy's marriage is imploding faster than at least one of them (Dean) knows it. To try and escape from the reality of their dog escaping - and everything else that is clearly wrong just below the surface - they ship Frankie off to her grandfather's (the great John Doman, Lt. Rawls from "The Wire") house and, at Dean's insistence, go off to spend the night in the "Future Room" at a sleazy motel. And even if you think you can picture that, you can't until you see it - a space-themed room complete with a revolving bed, which for the two doomed lovers indeed becomes a world apart, a hotel room at the end of their world.

Cianfrance plays up that for all the humor he can and finds plenty of other moments of levity to make this almost as sweet as it just as often is better, but its in the little slights between Cindy and Dean that you subtly find out how they've come to where they are now. Watch out, in particular, for what happens when Cindy runs into an old flame at the liquor store on the way to the "Future". It seems like a harmless enough encounter, and you don't find out until later just why Dean reacts to the news as he does. Cianfrance reveals this piece by piece, and believe me, it's a mystery that pays off big as the story develops.

I've gone on long enough about this for sure, but there are two other scenes worth mentioning, among many that just get seared on the brain. During their courtship, which earns every moment of cute that comes before the cold, Williams' Cindy tells perhaps the most inappropriate joke you'll ever hear in a movie, but its in the reaction to it, by both her and Dean, that you learn just why they at first, at least, belonged together.

And there's a true moment of grace (which you don't find in movies nearly often enough nowadays) just before they first meet, as Dean is moving an old man's belongings to a nursing home. It's just one more piece in the "Blue Valentine" puzzle that draws us deeper into the story, and makes it worth following all the way to the end we know is coming.

There's a lot more I could say about this - such as this is one of the only movies to truly show what happens when a guy refuses to grow up - but the bottom line is this: Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" is about as raw as a romance can get on the big screen, and one that burns with as much passion as any I can remember before flaming out, so if you can find it playing near you, definitely go see it while you still can.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Remember, it's Will Smith's world, you're just visiting

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman? Nothing I can say to make that any more amazing, so 'nuff said.

In other news, just in case you had any doubt that Will Smith's kids can point at anything in the world and make it theirs, he's putting his paws on another cherished property to remake for one of his offspring.

I never bothered to see what became of "The Karate Kid" remake starring Jaden Smith, but not really out of animosity. It's just that summer is a crowded time for movies, and occasionally, I even have something else to do.

Now, however, it's apparently Willow's turn (is it possible she's named after the adorable witch from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"? Probably not, but if so, bully), and so he's gearing up a remake of the Broadway stage classic "Annie" for her star turn.

I actually saw "Annie" on Broadway when I was a wee lad, so have some affection for the musical itself. However, it's already been made into two movies, one I've seen (the 1982 version with Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan and Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks), and one I haven't (a TV movie version for the Disney Channel in 1999, apparently).

So, why do it again? Because your Will Smith, right? And besides, the 1982 movie wasn't particularly great, so maybe its time. The oddest and most interesting thing about all this is that Jay-Z is somehow involved, too. An at least slightly hip-hop "Annie"? Probably not, but we'll have to wait and see. Coincidentally enough, I'm listening to Hova's masterpiece, "The Black Album," right now, and since I've already written way more about this than I intended, I'll just share the video for Jay-Z's "Annie" homage, "Hard-Knock Life," and move, as the man himself says, on to the next one(s).

In the first of two other tidbits of very good TV news, both involving NBC, it seems the network has picked up the pilot for a new series from "Battlestar Galactica" mastermind Ron Moore.

I've seen it described as "Harry Potter for grownups," but as someone who's supposed to be an adult most of the time and who has read all the Harry Potter books, that's just insulting. What it is is something called "17th Precinct," and its about cops who work in the town of Excelsior, where "the world is ruled by magic instead of science." It's been forever since a good fantasy series was on network TV, so bring it on.

And also, not tonight but next week, straight off his much-reviled (but not by me) Golden Globes performance, Ricky Gervais will be visiting the American version of "The Office" for a cameo as his character on the original U.K. title, David Brent. Following all of that?

Is it possible he's there to fire Michael Scott, bringing about Steve Carell's departure from the show? Impossible, I guess, since Dunder Mifflin is now owned by Sabre, but whatever he's coming to do, it should be nothing but funny.

And with that, I'll leave you, but not before sharing this video that's very appropriately titled "Leonardo DiCaprio freaks out," since it's four-and-a-half minutes of exactly that. It's not nearly as funny as the collection of Nicolas Cage losing his s@#%, but it's just about equally not safe for work, so definitely watch it with headphones on. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly enjoyable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I suppose that was Parkinson's, too?

In case anyone was wondering, yes that is a thoroughly inappropriate and equally funny Larry David joke that's featured in the video at the bottom of this post. Nothing like a good tease ...

But before the videos, most of which have to do with HBO, there is a bit of news out there today, starting with the photo at the top of this post. Just to get the particulars out of the way, it features, from left, Michael Fassbinder as Magneto, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, January Jones as Emma Frost, Jason Flemyng as Azazel, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Lucas Till as Havoc, Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and James MacAvoy as Charles Xavier.

And they are, of course, the stars of "X-Men: First Class," which is set to come out in June. If you ask me, they all look more than a little awkward and rather unhappy to be there, but if director Matthew Vaughn brings any of the true comic book sensibility he did to "Kick-Ass" to this, it should just be a whole lot of fun.

After that, just a couple of tidbits I found interesting, starting with the fact that Robert Downey Jr., once he's finished bitching about Ricky Gervais' very funny Golden Globes performance (from what I watched, anyway), will be starring as Mr. Peabody in Dreamworks Animation's big-screen "Mr. Peabody and Sherman."

Surely you remember the genius dog and his pet boy from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," usually the funniest thing about the show each week. I should probably know to just say no to these by now, but I just have a sneaking suspicion this could turn out to be pretty darn funny.

And something I can almost guarantee you will be funny, if it ever comes to series, is what Fox has just ordered from Rob Thomas in pilot form. After creating the sublime "Veronica Mars," which you can watch in its entirety on Netflix streaming, bully, he also made the wickedly funny "Party Down," which surely would have lasted more than two seasons if it hadn't lost Jane Lynch and then Adam Scott to "Glee" and "Parks and Recreation," respectively.

The point is, the man knows funny, so I have high hopes next fall for "Little in Common," a new comedy from Thomas that centers on families whose children play little league sports. Not being one of those myself, I always find it funny when parents take something much more seriously than their children, so this could be a hoot.

OK, I do have to get ready for work, so as promised, to close just a quartet of videos. The thing I'm most psyched for on the big screen this spring is that one of my favorite novels, Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants," is hitting theaters in movie form in April. As you'll see from this New Zealand trailer, if you didn't know already, Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz make up the three sides of an odd love triangle at the circus, and definite Reel Fanatic fave Hal Holbrook also makes an appearance. Enjoy the clip, and definitely see this when it comes out.

And just to solidify its hook on me until at least next fall, HBO will be premiering "Game of Thrones," based on the series of novels by George R.R. Martin, on April 17. This should just be epicly good, and just in case you need any further inducement from me to watch, at least the first episode was directed by Thomas McCarthy, director of "The Visitor" and "The Station Agent." Enjoy this clip which rather briskly introduces some of the main players, and then stick around for two doses of, yes, Larry David.

Most sane people simply accept the fact that Bill Murray is the funniest man on the planet, but I think there are two people who can give him a run for that title, Larry David and Ricky Gervais. So, when you put them together, as this behind-the-scenes clip for season eight of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" promises, I would hope hilarity would, by force, ensue. I'm not sure when the new "Curb," which brings Larry back to New York, will premiere, but it usually seems to pop up around August or so. Enjoy this clip and, even better, the Godzilla spoof that follows, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oscar odds: Predicting the 10 nominees for Best Picture

If the goal in returning to 10 nominees was to add more intrigue when it comes to the Oscar race for Best Picture, it was mission accomplished at least for me, because as anyone who's been here before knows, I'm just a sucker for lists, and coming up with 10 is just a fun game.

And though I'm no longer a gambling man (and was never a terribly good one), here is my prediction of the 10 titles you will hear one week from today, in order from least likely to win to most likely, minus the odds only because I unfortunately have to go see Macon's best mechanic today (who will remain namelesss only because he insists upon it). Here goes.

10. "127 Hours": If I had a vote, these first two would be locks, but even with Danny Boyle's Oscar pedigree, this just never really caught on enough to be anything but an also-ran. In a perfect world, however, James Franco would at least get a Best Actor nomination and the chance to take on clear front-runner Colin Firth.

9. "Winter's Bone": With big wins at the Gothams and from the Independent Spirit crowd, Debra Granik's Ozarks film noir just might be able to sneak in to this club, and it would be a worthy entry. Still my single favorite movie of the year, featuring a true breakthrough performance from Jennifer Lawrence.

8. "True Grit": If you watched the Golden Globes (and I only did intermittently), you know that for once they played it straight and, in the main categories, probably picked the winners. Their only slip up, however, came early when this popular remake from the Coen brothers failed to even get a Best Picture nomination. The Oscars will fix that.

7. "The Fighter": How in the world is Christian Bale, who as Dickie Eklund takes over the entire movie, a supporting actor? I have no idea, but he was a worthy winner at the Golden Globes in that category, and should be again on Oscar night, which will be enough to drag David O. Russell's sports underdog flick that earns all its cheers along into the Best Picture pool.

6. "Toy Story 3": An animated movie for Best Picture? Of course - my only question is how in the world will it only be the third one, after only "Up" and "Beauty and the Beast"? Pixar's best movie (though my personal favorite is still "Ratatouille") will almost certainly break through this wall, and though I didn't put it on this list, there's an outside chance "Despicable Me" will come with it.

5. "Inception": You can certainly argue that the move back to 10 Best Picture nominees was in response to what many people felt was the "snub" of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," and I can't see any way he's left out again, especially with something as ambitious and simply wildly entertaining as this.

4. "The Kids Are All Right": Though for me this is the most over-rated movie on this list, there really is no denying that its heart is certainly in the right place, and the subject matter coupled with the certainty of Annette Bening getting a Best Actress nomination make this a Best Picture lock.

3. "Black Swan": Nothing would make me happier than to see what really is a gussied-up B horror movie get a Best Picture nomination, and it's almost a certainty that Darren Aronofsky will pull that off. And Natalie Portman vs. Bening for Best Actress should be the best battle of the night (my heart, but not my money, is with the broken-down ballerina.)

2. "The King's Speech": I expect these last two to be the real contenders for the top prize, and why not? Though director Tom Hooper's "Damned United" is a better flick in my book, there's no denying the fun in watching Colin Firth (a lock for Best Actor) and Geoffrey Rush square off in this historical crowd-pleaser, which has ridden its Oscar buzz to now even be playing in my little corner of the world.

1. "The Social Network": I watched this again over the weekend, and though it still doesn't make my personal top 10 for the year, I can certainly see the appeal of Aaron Sorkin's whip smart script and David Fincher's tight direction in telling the story of the creation of Facebook, and those two factors combined with its subject matter will almost certainly be enough to make this the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.

Or, of course, I could be completely wrong (it's happened at least once before, and probably today already). That's my take, and feel free to add your own. And if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see my mechanic now, and hoping he takes kindly to my rather loudly grinding brakes. Peace out.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Buffy's back .. sort of .. and a lot of other fun Saturday morning stuff

Actually, there's no possible bigger news out there now than what Ridley Scott is cooking up with Damon Lindelof of "Lost" and "Star Trek" fame, and since this is nominally supposed to be a movie site, let's just start there.

Rumors have been flying for months that Scott would, for his first science fiction movie in 30 years, be making either a sequel or prequel or some kind of extension of "Alien," but instead it sounds like he's thankfully taking on something much more ambitious.

Details are scant so far, but instead Scott and Lindelof are at work on an original idea, and they've made at least one truly great decision so far by casting Lisbeth Salander, aka Noomi Rapace, in the lead. Anyone who's been here before knows that I have more than a slightly unhealthy obsession with her, so bully.

Little more beyond that is known except it will be titled "Prometheus," there are at least four other major roles to fill, and this is set to be released March 9, 2012. Here's a bit of what Scott had to say about it:

“While Alien was indeed the jumping off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative. I couldn't be more pleased to have found the singular tale I'd been searching for, and finally return to this genre that's so close to my heart.”

Nothing but awesome there, but frankly, Scott has been a really hit-and-miss director for me. He's certainly made great science fiction with "Blade Runner" and "Alien," but without exaggeration I really think there's a pretty strong argument that his "Robin Hood" was the single worst movie of 2010. Even so, this news is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

But getting to the main event here today, Sarah Michelle Gellar is finally coming back to TV, and it sounds like she just might have something worth watching this time.

Coincidentally enough, during this time of hardly any new TV (except for FX's fairly brilliant boxing drama "Lights Out" - watch it), I've been going back to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" via Netflix streaming, and it's at least as good as I remember. Season six, which I originally thought was a bit of a weak link, has been surprisingly strong, with crazy Willow at the end being even more fun than I remembered.

And here's what SMG (worst initials ever? perhaps) will have appearing on TVs next fall (I assume.) CBS has given a pilot greenlight to something called "Ringer," from "Supernatural" writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, and it just sounds like a heck of a lot of fun.

On the show, Buffy will play a young woman who is on the run from the mob, and to hide herself, assumes the identity of her wealthy twin sister, only to find out sis has a bounty on her head too. If I have this right, SMG will be playing two parts. Bring it on!

I tried to remember the last time I've seen her in anything that wasn't "Buffy" or "Angel," but off the top of my head couldn't. After cheating with an IMDB check, it turns out to be "The Grudge" in 2004. While that was a fun little flick, she's pretty much disappeared since, so I can only say welcome back, Buffy!

And in other news, via Michael Ausiello's truly great TV Line site, it seems that Michael Scott, and therefore Steve Carell, will be leaving "The Office" well before this season ends. Here's what executive producer Steve Daniels told Ausiello:

“Steve is leaving earlier than the [season finale]. The big ‘Goodbye, Steve’ thing will be before [May] sweeps.”

While that's a bit of a surprise, the battle to replace him should then take over the end of this season, and it should be a blast (and frankly some much needed new life to what is becoming the weak link in NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup - excepting "Outsourced," which I simply refuse to acknowledge at all). My heart is with Dwight here, but I have to assume they're gonna bring in an outsider, and last I heard Danny McBride was in the running, which would be perfection. Here's more of what Daniels had to say about it:

“Our basic plan is to see the jockeying and interviewing [for Michael's job], and not have that happen off-camera and suddenly present America with the choice. We’d rather play out the stories of the various characters who want that seat, and show them fight for it.”

The new boss will be revealed in what I have to assume will be an hour-long season finale, so let the Dunder-Mifflin infighting begin!

OK, I know I'm all over the place today, but I want to wrap this up with a couple more cool things before I dash off the pool for a swim. Artist Sam Smith, with whom I agree on half of his choices for the best 10 (well, actually 11) movies of 2010, has come up with a simply stunning series of posters for his choices. He can't sell them, but he has posted them all here, and they're very well worth checking out. For a taste, here's his great poster for my single favorite movie of 2010 by a pretty wide margin, "Winter's Bone."

And finally today, perhaps some karmic rooting for Peter Weir's "The Way Back" to play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it opens in six days. Considering the only other offering is "No Strings Attached" with Natalie Portman and Demi Moore's beau, the odds are actually fairly good. The movie itself will be epic even by Weir's standards, telling as it does the story of a small group of multi-nationals who travel through five hostile countries after escaping from a Russian gulag in 1940. Here, courtesy of Collider, are seven clips from the film, which stars Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan and Ed Harris. Enjoy the clips, and have a fantastic weekend. Peace out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Hoop Dreams" director returns with "The Interrupters"

Before I get into that, I don't tune in for many awards shows beyond a bit of the Golden Globes and most of the Oscars, but the Critics Choice Movie Awards, airing tonight on VH1, has gotten one of its kudos exactly right.

Quentin Tarantino, who has been making extraordinary use of music in his movies for many years, will be receiving the very appropriately named Music+Film Award. Though there are many examples of how his ear for music has enhanced his movies, the one that is permanently burned on my brain is that refrain of "putting out the fire with gasoline" from David Bowie's "Cat People" as Shoshanna is plotting the ultimate revenge in "Inglorious Basterds." Priceless.

If they could tell me exactly when that might happen, I'd tune in, but since that won't be happening, I can't imagine I will. In other news, however, the director of "Hoop Dreams," Steve James, is back with a new documentary, "The Interrupters," which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

To put it as hokely (yes, I fully realize that isn't even terribly close to a word) as possible, "Hoop Dreams" was really a formative movie for me in that at the time I really was kind of ignorant about the power of documentary filmmaking. I can still remember watching Siskel & Ebert's rapturous review of "Hoop Dreams," and then loving the movie just as much as they did myself.

Since then (1994), James has made several more films, none of which, I'm ashamed to admit, I have seen, but coincidentally, "At the Death House Door," which he co-directed with Peter Gilbert, is being screened this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the Social Hall of St. Joseph Catholic Church here in downtown Macon. Yeah, I'll turn out for that.

And finally getting to the point, "The Interrupters," a collaboration with journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz, examines the lives three of the titular individuals who intervene in situations to try and prevent violence in Chicago. Like "Hoop Dreams," this should be a fairly harrowing journey with three people who used to live lives of crime themselves. Over the course of a year, it focuses on three specific situations that need some serious defusing.

Here below are the trailer and poster for the flick which, since I'm not going to Sundance (though I am hopefully returning as a guest of the Atlanta Film Festival 365 - bully), I'll eventually get to watch from Netflix's impressive doco library. And with that, I'm off to work. Peace out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

W reveals first look at Lisbeth Salander - take two

Actually, before we get into any of that (and if you haven't seen these, there well worth a short wait), I have a bone or two to pick with people who watch TV (and believe me, I watch much more than I should.)

After running 13 episodes of "Terriers" - easily my favorite new show of last fall - before canceling it to due to very low ratings, FX has now managed to debut a show that, at least in its debut, is fairing even worse.

And the really sad part is that "Lights Out," while far from a perfect TV pilot, shows a heck of a lot of potential. I'm a sucker for boxing-related entertainment anyways ("The Fighter," while not one of the best movies of 2010, is still pretty sensationally entertaining, thanks almost entirely to Christian Bale), and this show has the promise to be a nearly first-rate entry in the genre.

First, the very good. The ensemble is all-around good, led by someone I had never seen before, Holt McCallany, as the retired pugilist Patrick "Lights" Leary. He brings a winning sense of losing to the role of a fighter who's been retired for five years on the wishes of his wife (Catherine McCormack) after feeling he was cheated out of winning his last bout. Add to that Stacy Keach ("Fat City"!) as his father/manager and Pablo Schreiber (aka Nicky Sobotka on season 2 of "The Wire") as his brother and serially inept manager, and you've got the makings of a gritty family dynamic that, given time, could lead to some fantastic television.

In the pilot, Lights finds himself extremely low on money and is forced to become the muscle for a loan shark, which he's not surprisingly very good at. To tell you more beyond that would be criminal, so I'll just say the end of the pilot sets up the story arc of season one, assuming enough people tune in to even make that possible. Please do!

OK, now on to the main event. Though I'm still not and probably never will be sold on the need for David Fincher to make an English-language version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," it's hard to argue he didn't make a heck of a splash with this reveal of what Rooney Mara will look like as Lisbeth Salander in W magazine. That really doesn't need any more build up from me, so here goes, the cover shot and then one more.

Though, having read the second and third Lisbeth Salander novels by Stieg Larsson and watched the first two movies in their original Swedish (and if you like smart thrillers, do yourself a favor and watch them back-to-back now), I'm sure Lisbeth would never agree to strike such poses, I don't think there's any denying that Fincher and Mara have nailed the look.

And, though in sheer attitude Noomi Rapace got Lisbeth just about perfect in the Swedish movies, her look was the only thing that gave me any pause. In the books, though clearly a tough woman who doesn't take any shit from anyone, Lisbeth also cuts a pixieish figure, at least in the picture Larsson paints in your mind (well, at least mine). So, Fincher has gotten at least one thing right so far, but after sitting through Matt Reeves' thoroughly unnecessary, almost shot-by-shot remake of "Let the Right One In," he's gonna have to do a whole lot more to hook me on the need for any of this.

OK, I have to get to the job that still somehow pays my bills, so I'll just leave you with this rather surreal video from PBS' "American Masters," which I believe aired last night (while I was catching up with the pilot of "Lights Out" and "Parenthood" - sublime). In it, The Dude himself pays a visit to The Little Lebowski, a store in NYC with an obvious theme. While it's no surprise that such a store exists, it still adds a fun level of oddity to have Bridges pay it a visit. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Macon, great movies upcoming all around

January is always a notoriously bad month for movies - at least if you stick with what's new in theaters.

Luckily, here in Macon, there's a lot more on the menu if you look a little closer. Here are several examples in the coming weeks that are all well worth checking out.

First up, Mercer University will be hosting a truly special event with its inaugural Freedom Lecture on Monday night, and will be screening two movies related to it. Sister Helen Préjean, who has devoted much of her life to ministering to death row inmates and become a leading advocate for the abolition of the punishment, will be speaking at 7 p.m. at Mercer's Willingham Auditorium.

Préjean will be signing copies of her book, "Dead Man Walking," following the lecture, and the movie it inspired will be screened earlier in the day, at 2 p.m. at the Cox Capitol Theatre downtown. Additionally, the documentary "At the Death House Door," which focuses on the career of a chaplain for the Texas prison system and his change of heart about the death penalty, will be screened at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Social Hall of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

An all-around unique series of events, and best of all, they're all free.

And, this being a great college town, it's not just Mercer that gets in on the movie action. Mercer, Wesleyan College and Macon State College are teaming up once again for the 2011 CollegeTown Film Series beginning Thursday, Jan. 20, with all movies being screened at the Douglass Theatre downtown, a great venue for movies if you've never checked it out.

Previous CollegeTown Film Series themes have included "City Life," "Films of the Fabulous Fifties," "Social Justice in the 20th Century," "The New Millennium: The Past as Prologue" and "Civilization and Its Discontents," and this year the focus is on "End Times," with three movies related to that rather ominous proposition being presented.

First up, Jan. 20, will be "Last Night," a 1998 movie by director Don McKellar which brings together a diverse group of people - played by Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley and director David Cronenberg, among others - with the world expected to end in six hours at the turn of the century. I haven't seen this one, but it sounds fascinating, so I suspect that's about to change.

The final two movies in the series, however, are among my favorites, and in their own way take interesting looks at the series' theme. Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog," which stars Forest Whitaker as a hitman who models his life on that of the Samurai and turns against the mafia thugs who are usually his employer, will be screened Jan. 27. And finally, Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men," a riveting dystopian film starring Clive Owen which tied with "Pan's Labyrinth" for my favorite movies of 2007, will be screened Feb. 3.

Immediately following each movie, a professor from one of the presenting colleges will lead a discussion: Tom Ellington of Wesleyan College following "Last Night," Craig Coleman of Mercer University after "Ghost Dog" and Patrick Brennan of Macon State College after "Children of Men." All movies start at 7 p.m. at the Douglass, with admission being free for faculty and staff of the presenting schools, and $5 for others, which includes a snack pass. Bully. Definitely turn out for at least one of these if you can.

And not to be left out of all the movie fun, the Macon Film Guild is supplementing it's once-monthly offering of fantastic films from the edge of the map with a new quarterly documentary series, with "The Tillman Story" next up at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, also at the Douglass.

The movie examines the life and death of Pat Tillman, the American hero who turned his back on a pro football career to join the military after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His death in the line of duty, how it was exploited by the military and his family's search for the truth about it all are explored by director Amir Bar Lev. Admission is $5.

So, we may have had least a smattering of snow this week in Macon, but great movies are still blooming all around - if you know where to look.

Friday, January 07, 2011

For Friday, a small cache of clips

Actually, there's some pretty big movie news out there, too, so let's get right to it: Judd Apatow is finally going to direct another movie, and even though it will have a familiar feel, it sounds like potentially a lot of fun.

Not a lot of details are available yet about the still-titled "Untitled Judd Apatow Project," but we do now know it will focus on the characters played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (aka Mrs. Apatow) in "Knocked Up."

Despite the potential sequel/prequel feel to this, it could still be great, because they were easily the two most interest characters in that flick (and here's hoping that Katherine Heigl has NOTHING to do with this.) And besides, in a tidbit Apatow shared with HitFix, he promised it wouldn't be either of the dirty words at the beginning of this paragraph. Here's what he had to say:

"It is neither. It is just a story from Pete and Debbie's current life. People really responded to their characters and problems. I felt like there was a lot of ground I could explore with them, so we'll be shooting in July and will come out the following June."

June 1, 2012, to be exact, but given the increasing rarity of Apatow bothering to write and direct anything anymore, this is definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

OK, enough of that, on to the clips, and where better to start than with the seriously funny first full theatrical trailer for "Paul"? I didn't realize until this morning that, along with starring as the two geeks at the story's core, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost also wrote the script for this Greg Mottola flick due out March 18, but that just makes this all the more promising. And with "Your Highness" due shortly after this, it should be a better-than-usual Spring for good comedies. Enjoy the trailer.

If I knew what the next "Ice Age" movie - which if I'm not mistaken will be the fourth one - was about, I'd probably tell you, but since I haven't seen any one of them after No. 1, it just really doesn't interest me all that much. I can tell you, however, that it's called "Ice Age: Continental Drift", and it's set to come out July 13. And even better is this animated short film from Blue Sky Studios which explains exactly how Scrat, that crazy squirrel just trying to get a nut, was actually responsible for splitting the Earth into seven continents. Enjoy the clip.

Best of all today, however, is this short preview for season three of "Parks and Recreation," which is FINALLY coming back to NBC's Thursday night lineup at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 (does that mean the end of "Outsourced"? One can only hope.) While not quite as funny as "Community," it still has a fun and funky spirit that nicely sets it apart from the sitcom pack, and with Adam Scott and Rob Lowe now regular players, this should just be even more fun. And with that, I'm out, for a movie weekend that will include a second viewing of "Black Swan" (because I just don't think I can bring myself to watch "Season of the Witch" or "Country Strong") and then most likely the Macon Film Guild's offering of the Cold War spy flick "Farewell" on Sunday. Peace out.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Kevin McDonald and the future of movies ... YouTube?

I tried for about a week to make a one-man movement against movies bypassing theaters, and then I found that IFC was putting its always interesting movies on pay-per-view cable at the same time they were opening at a theater, well, nowhere in the world near me.

I've seen several movies this way, and the next one will probably be James Gunn's "Super," unless the presence of Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page will be enough to get this to play everywhere (seriously doubt it.) The flick, set to open April 1, stars Wilson as a man who, after his wife (Liv Tyler) gets hooked on drugs and runs off with the pusherman, dons a cape and turns into an avenging superhero of sorts, with Page as his sidekick. I'm laughing at that already, so definitely keep an eye out for it.

And before that, Kevin McDonald, director of "State of Play" and "The Last King of Scotland," is pioneering another way for movies to get exposure without dealing with movie theaters: YouTube. His new movie, titled "Life In a Day," has some rather lofty aspirations: Drawing from 4,500 hours of footage sent in from 192 countries, it indeed tries to capture a day in the life of this world we all live in.

Sounds like a fascinating idea, and when the movie premieres at 6 p.m. mountain time Jan. 27 at the Sundance Film Festival, it will be simultaneously streaming on the movie's YouTube channel, which you can find here. If you miss that, it will stream again the next day at 7 p.m. in whatever time zone you're in, with subtitles of your choice.

I don't think I'll ever get used to watching movies on a computer, but with YouTube streaming to Blu-Ray players now, the future is certainly here, so I guess we should all just deal with it ... and in this case, embrace it too.

After that today, there's a bit of great movie news and then a Muppets video (because I just can't get enough of them) that surely hasn't been approved by Disney or anyone from the Henson clan.

In movie news, it seems that Robert Pattinson (hate if you have to) has stepped into the lead role of David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," which was once to be played by Colin Farrell.

Now, I really have nothing against Mr. Pattinson, and if he helps this flick, based on the novel by Don Delillo, get made, bully, because it sounds just tailormade for Cronenberg.

The book, which I haven't (yet) read, deals with 24 hours in the life of a newly married billionaire (Pattinson) as he cheats on his wife, is pursued by a stalker, gets attacked by a protester and gradually loses his entire fortune over the course of a single day. Adding some serious chops to the cast, Marion Cotillard will play Pattinson’s wife and Paul Giamatti will play one of the two men stalking the billionaire.

All sounds great to me, and we'll be getting another Cronenberg movie some time this year, though as yet I have no idea exactly when. He's wrapped production on "A Dangerous Method," which stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung as they collaborate to come up with the cure for a woman (Keira Knightley) suffering from some kind of psychological issues. That's definitely near the top of my must-see list for 2011, so if you hear anything about when it will be hitting theaters, please let me know.

And with that, it's time to wrap things up so I can go to work, but not before a true bit of inspired madness starring the Muppets performing Kanye West's "Monster." Yes, really. And as you can imagine, this clip has all kinds of language that should never come from the mouths of Muppets, so please don't say I didn't warn you and, of course, watch it with headphones on if you're at work! It's all extremely silly, but also inspired, especially when Miss Piggy hits the screen as Nicki Minaj. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What in the world could be better than classic free movies?

I suppose I'll be a Luddite for the rest of my life, because I just assumed there were copyright laws and such that would keep certain things off of YouTube. Blissfully, I'm once again wrong.

While for sheer fun, there really is nothing better than the Muppets channel, for movie lovers, there's at least one that's better: crazeclassics.

I stumbled across it after one of the two movies below was in a recent edition of the Ebert Club newsletter (a must-read for me), and had to check out the source. It turns out that whoever is putting this channel together has already put up 116 movies, all of which can be considered classics of some degree.

There's "M," "The Man With the Golden Arm" and many more, so it's well worth subscribing to the channel you can find here, and for your viewing pleasure (and mine, during my next several lunch breaks), I've included today the two best he had there.

I'm rather ashamed to say that until it was playing last year at the Film Forum in NYC, I had never seen Carol Reed's great "The Third Man," but now that I have, I can make this completely ridiculous statement: It's better than "Casablanca." Yes, really. With a screenplay from novelist Graham Greene, the tale of what unfolds when American pulp Western writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) turns up in post-World War II Vienna in search of his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) is film noir at its very best. Enjoy.

Now, I don't believe, as some Southerners actually do, that you can learn everything you need to know about life from "To Kill a Mockingbird," but that doesn't stop it from being just one damn fine film. And in fact, when pressed to name one favorite movie, I often fluctuate back and forth between this and Fernando Meirelles' "City of God." Enjoy the movie in its entirety, and stick around at the end for something completely wild.

I have to take the word of whoever posted it that this is indeed Guillermo del Toro getting all wolfy in a Mexican Alka Seltzer, and you can decide for yourself. If so, it's very funny, and really needs no more words from me, so if you'll excuse me now, I'm off to the job that still somehow pays my bills. Peace out.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 movie outlook: 20 flicks I'm really looking forward to

Predicting how any year will turn out during its first week is, of course, the definition of a fool's errand, but I've certainly been called worse, so here goes: Twenty flicks I'm definitely looking out for this year, in order of release date:

"The Cabin in the Woods": The fact this was delayed for many months simply for some post-filming 3-D conversion certainly isn't promising, but in better news, it is a horror movie from the minds of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"/"Angel" mastermind Joss Whedon and co-conspirator Drew Goddard, so I'm in. (Jan. 14)

"Cedar Rapids": Ed Helms of "The Office" stars in this Miguel Arteta comedy about insurance salesmen at a conference in the titular city. This looks like the broadest kind of comedy, so here's hoping it plays wide too. (Feb. 11)

"Jane Eyre": Mia Wasikowska, easily one of my favorite young actresses, steps into the now-all-too-familiar role, but with "Sin Nombre" director Cary Fukunaga in charge and the truly haunting feel of the trailer, I'm betting this will have something new to offer. (March 11)

"Paul": Director Greg Mottola reunites the "Shaun of the Dead"/"Hot Fuzz" comedy team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for this flick about two geeks who encounter the titular alien on their way to Comic-Con. (March 18)

"Sucker Punch": If anything, director Zack Snyder's first movie based on an original idea - about a young woman who fights her way out of a mental institution - just might be too crazy, but I'm almost certain it will be a heck of a lot of fun, too. (March 25)

"Source Code": Director Duncan Jones follows up his fantastic debut, the seriously smart sci-fi flick "Moon," with this fairly generic sounding thriller about a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who changes bodies with a soldier to stop a train bombing. Hope for the best here. (April 1)

"Your Highness": If you're looking for more than high stoner comedy, stay away, but director David Gordon Green proved he's a master of it with "Pineapple Express" and he's back with more this time around - with James Franco, Natalie Portman, Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel all in tow. (April 8)

"Hanna": Saoirse Ronan reunites with "Atonement" director Joe Wright for this tale of a young lady raised by her father, an ex-CIA agent, to be the ultimate assassin. Right up my alley. (April 8)

"Water for Elephants": Sara Gruen's best-selling novel, easily one of my favorites, gets a cast worthy of the grand historical romance it unfurls at a traveling circus: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook all star in one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for next year. (April 22)

"African Cats": The Disney Nature movies have all been beauties to behold, but this one should finally have a great story to match as it focuses on two families, one of lions and one of tigers, and what they do to survive and thrive in Africa. (April 22)

"X-Men: First Class": After reviving the comic book movie with the big ball of fun that was "Kick-Ass," director Matthew Vaughn now tries to breath much-needed life into the mutant saga, with a new class including James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto and even Reel Fanatic fave Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique. (June 3)

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2": It will certainly be a bit sad when the grand saga ends, but part one - while not the best of Harry's flicks - set the stage for a rousing finale. (July 15)

"Cowboys and Aliens": Movie titles just don't get much more straightforward than that, and unlike, say, "Snakes on a Plane," this one should deliver all the fun it promises. When aliens invade the old American West, they find they have to take on not only Indiana Jones, but James Bond too. (July 29)

"30 Minutes or Less": "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer serves up what should be a second helping of very funny with this flick about two fledgling criminals who strap a bomb to the chest of a pizza delivery boy (Jesse Eisenberg) to get him to rob a bank. I promise it will be a whole lot funnier than I'm making it sound here. (Aug. 12)

"The Help": Another of my recent favorite novels, Kathyrn Stockett's "The Help," comes to the big screen with a great young actress (Emma Stone) in the lead role of Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a Southern woman who convinces a group of Mississippi maids to tell their stories in the '60s. Sounds more than a little "Oprah" to me, and it is, but it should also be a lot of fun to watch. (Aug. 12)

"Moneyball": There are few genres I love better than a great baseball movie, and this flick based on Michael Lewis' book about the Oakland A's should hopefully deliver exactly that. Features Brad Pitt as bean counter Billy Beane and Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's manager Art Howe. (Sept. 23)

"The Muppets": After what seems like at least a three-year wait, there will indeed be a new Muppets movie next November, with this shortened title and our beloved puppets staging a show (of course) to save their theater from some evil oil barons. (Nov. 23)

"Hugo Cabret": It should be a banner year for literary adaptations, as now Martin Scorsese takes on this great children's novel by Brian Selznick about a boy who grows up in the walls of a Paris train station and encounters the world of George Melies' automatons. With Asa Butterfield as young Hugo and Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz co-starring, I can't see how even thoroughly unnecessary 3-D will ruin this. (Dec. 9)

"The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn": No less than Steven Spielberg directs the first installment of an expected trilogy as the young Belgian detective finally comes to the big screen and, this time out, hunts for treasure on a sunken ship. (Dec. 23)

"We Bought a Zoo": Director Cameron Crowe - at last - returns to making movies with what should be a fun ride, the story of a man (Matt Damon) and his family who indeed move to the English countryside and buy and operate a zoo.

And there you have it. I'm more than certain there are some I've forgotten, so please feel free to let me know what they are or just sound off on your favorites. Peace out.