The 2011 box office has been hit or miss. "Thor" and "Captain America" were pretty good and "Harry Potter" wowed audiences. "Green Lantern," "Red Riding Hood" and "Cowboys & Aliens" on the other hand failed to impress. Box office receipts have been down from last year according to Box Office Mojo, but that's easily explained by the dwindling economy and maybe some lowered expectations (especially after last year's dismal cinematic offerings). So the question now is whether there is anything left to inspire audiences to leave their home theaters for the chance to pay to see it immediately. Here's the list of genre films that are slated for the rest of the year and my thoughts on them-- would you pay a premium to see any of them?
Dream House (Universal Pictures, September 30, 2011)
Successful publisher Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) quits a job in New York City to relocate his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two girls to a quaint New England town. But as they settle into their new life, they discover their perfect home was the scene of the murder of a mother and her children, while the entire city believes it was at the hands of the husband, who survived. When Will investigates the tragedy, his only lead comes from Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), a neighbor who was close to the family that died. As Will and Ann piece together the disturbing puzzle, they discover that the story of the last man to leave Will's dream house will be just as horrifying to the one who came next.
I don't watch a lot of horror films but I may make an exception for this one thanks to good casting and what looks like some good twists and turns.
Real Steel (Touchstone Pictures, October 7, 2011)
Robots have replaced humans in boxing. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) loses a chance to become a boxing champion when robots take over, and he becomes a small-time promoter. When he has difficulty making a living, he reluctantly teams up with his son Max (Dakota Goyo) to build a robot that can contend for the championship.
I'm not sure where I stand on this one. On the one hand I have a massive crush on Hugh Jackman. On the other I was never a big fan of rock 'em sock 'em robots.
The Thing (Strike Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions, October 14, 2011)
Taking place three days before the events of the John Carpenter film, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins a Norwegian scientific team that has stumbled across a crashed extraterrestrial spaceship buried in the ice of Antarctica. They discover a creature that seems to have died in the crash eons ago.
When an experiment frees the alien from its frozen prison, Kate joins the crew's pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton), to keep it from killing and imitating them one at a time, using its uncanny ability to mimic any life form it absorbs through digestion, and potentially reaching civilization.
Maybe prequels are the way to go-- the success of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" would suggest that anyway. The previews to this one actually look promising, so it may further the trend.
Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount Pictures, October 21, 2011)
The third film takes place in 1988, when Katie and Kristi were kids. While trying to get video proof of Bloody Mary, Katie and Kristi are first confronted by the monstrous demon haunting them in the first and second movies along with their family. Although shown to be a prequel in the trailer, it is unconfirmed if it will be a parallel sequel like the previous film again
I haven't followed this series at all, so I can't begin to guess whether this will be worth watching. Though it's a good guess it's getting pretty formulaic by now.
The Three Musketeers (Summit Entertainment, October 21 2011)
In the 17th-century, famed Musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans), and Porthos (Ray Stevenson) steal highly coveted airship designs from a high-security vault, the sweet taste of success is short-lived. Their beautiful partner-in-crime, Milady (Milla Jovovich), drugs the trio and sells the designs to a higher bidder, the ultra-cool Englishman, Buckingham (Orlando Bloom); a major blow to the famed swordsmen. So one year later, the devil-may-care young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) journeys to Paris to realize his dream of becoming a Musketeer, but he finds them a shadow of their former selves, working menial jobs and seeking a cause worth serving.
The conniving Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) hatches a deadly plot to overthrow the young King Louis (Freddie Fox). Employing the double agent Milady to do the dirty work, he frames the King's new bride, Queen Anne (Juno Temple) in an affair with Buckingham. If the King buys into the lie, war with England will follow, the Queen will die and the people of France will demand a stronger leader – Richelieu himself – to see them through the crisis. If the King doesn't buy into the lie, peace may yet stand a chance. So the Three Musketeers along with D'Artagnan undertake the mission to retrieve a priceless diamond necklace from the impregnable Tower of London and return it to the Queen in time for an all-important ball.
This is definitely not for purists. It looks more like a steampunk fantasy than anything else and the whole "Three Musketeers" story is nothing more than a vehicle for some pretty visuals. That said, it could be a lot of fun if you just want to turn off your brain and be entertained.
In Time (20th Century Fox, October 28, 2011)
In a retro-future when the aging gene has been switched off, people stop aging at 25 years old. However, stamped on their arm is a clock of how long they will live. To avoid overpopulation, time has become the currency and the way people pay for luxuries and necessities. The rich can live forever, while the rest try to negotiate for their immortality. A poor young man is accused of murder when he inherits a fortune of time from a dead upper class man over a century old prior to his death. He is forced to go on the run from a corrupt FBI-like police force known as the 'Timekeepers', as well as from a hoodlum-like middle-aged Mob called the 'Minutemen', led by a senior citizen named Fortis, who is 75 years old.
I put this one up under the presumption that the lawsiut by Harlan Ellison doesn't prevent the movie from opening on its scheduled date. Lawsuits aside I think this looks like it could be a good one.
Puss in Boots (Dreamworks, November 4,2011)
The story takes place before Puss met Shrek, when he was a swashbuckling hero who protected the innocent. A bunch of old pub thugs tell him that two murderous outlaws called Jack and Jill have discovered an ancient power that can destroy the world. Puss then sets off on a journey with his old friend Humpty Dumpty who also introduces him to Kitty Softpaws, a sly black cat who takes an interest in Puss's journey. With his new sidekicks, Puss sets off on his most adventurous and dangerous journey ever.
I'm over Shrek (didn't even see the last one) but I'd go see this. I'm already pretty sure my kids are going to drag me to it anyway.
Immortals (Universal Pictures, November 11, 2011)
Years after the Titanomachy, the Titan Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) declares war on humanity. He searches for the Epirus Bow, a legendary weapon created by the war god Ares (Daniel Sharman), which will allow him to free the rest of the Titans from Tartarus and take revenge on the Olympians who brought about their downfall. In accordance with ancient laws, the gods are unable to take a side in the war between Hyperion and humanity. It is left to a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill), chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) and accompanied by the priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and a slave (Stephen Dorff), to protect his homeland and save the gods.
Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit Entertainment, November 18, 2011)
In the highly anticipated next chapter of the blockbuster The Twilight Saga, the new found married bliss of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is cut short when a series of betrayals and misfortunes threatens to destroy their world.
After their wedding, Bella and Edward travel to Rio de Janeiro for their honeymoon, where they finally give in to their passions. Bella soon discovers she is pregnant, and during a nearly fatal childbirth, Edward finally fulfills her wish to become immortal.
But the arrival of their remarkable daughter, Renesmee, sets in motion a perilous chain of events that pits the Cullens and their allies against the Volturi, the fearsome council of vampire leaders, setting the stage for an all-out battle.
The suspenseful and deeply romantic Breaking Dawn continues the epic tale of supernatural fantasy and passionate love that has made The Twilight Saga a worldwide phenomenon.
I don't get the appeal at all. But I have plenty of female friends, who are old enough to know better, who are really excited for this. Sigh.
Hugo (Paramount Pictures, November 23, 2011)
Hugo Cabret is an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. When Hugo encounters a broken automaton, an eccentric girl, and the cold, reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.
Does it make a difference if an animated film is directed by Martin Scorsese? I guess we'll find out.
The Muppets (Walt Disney Films, November 23, 2011)
Oil has been discovered beneath the Muppet Theater and oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to raze the Muppet Theater to drill. New Muppet Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) learn about Tex Richman's plan, and try to stop him by staging The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever, raising $10 million needed to save the theater. In order to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever, Walter, Mary, and Gary must help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways. Fozzie Bear now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a powerful plumbing magnate.
Maybe I'm weird, but I'm not hugely nostalgic over the Muppets. I'll probably only see this if forced by my kids.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features, December 9, 2011)
British intelligence officer George Smiley comes out of retirement to uncover a Russian double agent. Agent Ricki Tarr had been sent to Istanbul to investigate a Soviet agent, Boris. He is about to return to London, when he sees Boris beating up his wife, Irina, and he starts an affair with her. Irina is also a Soviet agent and tells him of the existence of a mole (a penetration agent) run by Soviet spymaster Karla, within the "Circus", the headquarters of British intelligence. Tarr takes his suspicions to Oliver Lacon, the senior civil servant in charge of intelligence.
Smiley's former boss, Control, had suspected the existence of the mole and sends agent Jim Prideaux to Budapest, Hungary to meet a Hungarian general who wishes to provide information. The operation is blown and Prideaux is shot in the back and captured by Soviet intelligence. As a result Control and Smiley retire from the Circus and Percy Alleline becomes Chief, with Bill Haydon as his deputy. Their ability to deliver apparently high grade Soviet intelligence material, code named "Witchcraft", establishes their status.
Smiley's investigations, authorised by Lacon and aided by Peter Guillam and retired researcher Connie Sachs, follow Control's chain of thought, investigating suspects code named "Tinker" (Alleline), "Tailor" (Haydon), "Soldier" (Roy Bland) and "Poorman" (Toby Esterhase). Prideaux, who has been repatriated, is interviewed at the prep school where he has taken a position as a teacher. With the aid of Tarr, Smiley lays a trap and captures the mole, who is revealed to be Haydon, at a safe-house, along with Polyakov, a Soviet intelligence officer, to whom the mole had been passing secrets, under the guise of receiving Witchcraft material. Jim Prideaux tracks his former friend Haydon down to the "Nursery" at Sarratt, the agent training and interrogation centre for the Circus, and shoots him dead. Smiley is elevated to take control of the Circus.
Added by request-- and I gotta admit, this looks good.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros. Pictures, December 16, 2011)
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his formidable colleague, Dr. Watson, in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room...until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large--Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris)--and not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder--a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by one Professor Moriarty. Mixing business with pleasure, Holmes tracks the clues to an underground gentlemen's club, where he and his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) are toasting Dr. Watson on his last night of bachelorhood. It is there that Holmes encounters Sim (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller, who sees more than she is telling and whose unwitting involvement in the prince's murder makes her the killer's next target. Holmes barely manages to save her life and, in return, she reluctantly agrees to help him. The investigation becomes ever more dangerous as it leads Holmes, Watson and Sim across the continent, from England to France to Germany and finally to Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead as he spins a web of death and destruction--all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.
Oh hell yeah.
The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn (Columbia Pictures, December 23, 2011)
Combining the stories of The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, the film depicts Tintin's (Jamie Bell) first encounter with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and the discovery of a clue to the treasure of his ancestor Sir Francis Haddoque. They set out to find it with protection from a prison escapee who tried to get the treasure as well as Detectives Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost).
I'm thinking this will be a rental.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Columbia Pictures, December 21, 2011)
A discredited journalist (Daniel Craig) and a mysterious computer hacker discover that even the wealthiest families have skeletons in their closets while working to solve the mystery of a 40-year-old murder in this David Fincher-directed remake of the 2009 Swedish thriller of the same name. Inspired by late author Stieg Larsson's successful trilogy of books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets under way as the two leads (Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara) are briefed in the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, whose uncle suspects she may have been killed by a member of their own family. The deeper they dig for the truth, however, the greater the risk of being buried alive by members of the family, who will go to great lengths to keep their secrets tightly sealed.
This isn't exactly genre, but it has certainly created a lot of buzz. I'm one of the few people that couldn't get into the book (darn thing gave me a headache) but I might be persuaded to see the cinematic version.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures, December 21, 2011)
When a terrorist bombing destroys the Kremlin, the United States government initiates a black ops "ghost protocol" and disavows the entire Impossible Mission Force. Ethan Hunt and his team are to be blamed for the attack, but are allowed to escape as part of a plan to enable them to operate in the dark, outside of their agency. However, Hunt is warned that if any member of his team is captured during their mission, they will be charged as terrorists planning to incite global nuclear war. Ethan is then forced to work with ex-IMF agent Brandt, who knows more about Hunt and his past than even Hunt himself.
The early reviews will have a lot to do with whether I see this or not. This is the fourth in the franchise-- and that can get old. But in this case they do wait a decent amount of time between films, which does help prevent franchise fatigue. We'll see.
There are a few glimmers of hope here, but nothing that's knocking my socks off. I guess the good news is that the closer it gets to 2012, the closer we get to "The Dark Knight Rises." Now that's something to look forward to.