Top 10 Anticipated Films of 2011 - Part I

Here's the problem with "canning" columns: sometimes you forget to publish. I, like almost all of my blogging colleagues, have been known to write several pieces in one day when I have some extra time. Unfortunately, I neglected to post this one last week when I intended to. Please forgive the lateness!

Every December, I comb through several movie calendars to get a grasp on what I have to look forward to at the theater the following year. I compile a "See, Rent, Don't See" list because...well, because I like making lists. From that list, I mentally circle the release dates on the calendar and take note of a few films that really float my boat. Because of the number of movies that have unannounced release dates or have to make the rounds through the festival circuit, however, it is quite difficult to get a feel for what films will be available for my perusal during the back half of the year. With that in mind, I present to you my 10 most anticipated films from the first half of 2011.

10. "Mars Needs Moms" (March 11) - Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Breckin Meyer
When aliens come to earth to recruit mothers, one boy (Green) gains a new appreciation for his own mom (Cusack). This movie wouldn't come close to making the list if not for "Tangled" which completely changed my ideas about current Disney films. Should be fun!

9. "The Beaver" (March 23) - Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster
An angry, depressed man (Gibson) begins communicating through a stuffed beaver puppet he keeps on his hand. In my mind, this film started out as a documentary like "I'm Still Here" with director Foster wanting to follow the real-life Gibson around as he tries to re-assimilate into society. Obviously that's not what really happened but it sure is funny to think about. Anyway, I'm very interested to see the response to Gibson fresh off his most recent outburst.

8. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (May 20) - Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane
Back from a four year layoff, the "Pirates" series jumps back onto the scene sans Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and with a new villain (McShane). Like most everyone else I loved the first "Pirates" and mildly enjoyed the second and third installments. I'm hoping the break between movies and a refocus onto the money character, Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow, can push this series back to prominence.

7. "Thor" (May 6) - Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba
The Norse god of Marvel comics finally gets a big-screen debut with a storyline that involves a young and arrogant Thor being banished to earth by his father, Odin (Hopkins). My hope is that director Kenneth Branagh can bring this movie some British charm and sophistication because the trailer looks a bit over the top.

6. "The Adjustment Bureau" (March 4) - Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
I was extremely excited about this film last year when it was scheduled to open in September and my enthusiasm hasn't died down to this point. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick ("Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"/"Blade Runner"), Damon plays a political candidate who falls in love with a ballerina(Blunt), only to have their affair complicated by the Adjustment Bureau, who work to keep everyone's "fate" on track. Sci-fi plus Matt Damon equals a win for me any day of the week.

5. "X-Men: First Class" (June 3) - James McAvoy, Michael Fessbender, Jennifer Lawrence
The backstory of the original X-Men and their opponents, namely Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fessbender). I admit some hesitance about "First Class" on my part. "Wolverine" was less than stellar and the casting choices are less than inspiring for me. Still, having had a great love for the X-Men from an early age, the franchise holds my interest and I'll definitely be at a midnight showing for this one.

4. "Source Code" (April 1) - Jakey Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
A sci-fi concept piece finds a soldier (Gyllenhaal) being given the opportunity to prevent a catastrophic event if he can do it in under seven minutes. "Source Code" has forced two of my worlds to collide: I can't stand Gyllenhaal or virtually any of the films he's starred in but director Duncan Jones rocked my face off with 2009's "Moon" which is unquestionably the best sci-fi movie I've seen in years. In this case, Jones trumps Gyllenhaal and I'm stoked.

3. "Super 8" (June 10) - Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Noah Emmerich
Much like 2009's "Cloverfield," director/producer J.J. Abrams has kept an extremely tight lid on this single-camera alien flick. The master of building suspense through viral marketing, Abrams has once again piqued my interest with a great trailer and a level of secrecy that is usually reserved for launch codes.

2. "Cars 2" (June 24) - Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Caine
Let's put all our cards on the table: besides "Ratatouille," in my mind "Cars" is the worst Pixar film. But the worst thing to come out of Pixar's stable of amazing films is still better than just about anything that comes down the pipes. In all honesty, these guys could probably just send out a press release that says, "The next Pixar film will open on June 24" and I'd be there on day one with absolutely no knowledge of what I was about to see.

1. "Green Lantern" (June 17) - Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
I admit that, even though this movie tops my list of anticipated films, I'm nervous. In fact, the trailer that's been making the rounds for the last few months scares the heck out of me. The CGI looks rough and the suit is...well, George Clooney's suit in "Batman and Robin" is clearly the worst superhero suit of all time but this thing might end up being just behind it. And Sarsgaard looks ridiculous. But. BUT. The idea of Ryan Reynolds as a superhero who, unlike Batman or Superman, by his very nature has an undefined backstory (the Green Lantern in comics changes depending on who wears the ring of power) with which so much freedom can be taken to put together a great story...that's just too much to not get excited. Hopefully the CGI issues have been worked out in post-production and "Green Lantern" will reach my expectations.