2011 films to catch

Why is it that other "2011 upcoming films" posts and articles only list mainstream Hollywood flicks and commercial sequels that usually turn out celebrity vehicles or unimaginative ripoffs anyway? For this week's post, let's go a little out of our way and try to look at some films not listed by your typical movie site.

So there's no way we can say how the following films will do, but basing on trends, trailers, credits of the cast and crew as well as the apparent value of the released plot, we can somehow gauge their critical or commercial success, not to mention value other than money and credible vox populi.

There Be Dragons by Roland Joffe (May)

Charlie Cox as Josemaria Escriva in There Be Dragons. Photo by Michael Lichtenstein.
Can we expect any less from the filmmaker who brought us Killing Fields and The Mission? We actually can, considering his subsequent streak of so-so films like Fat Man and Little Boy and City of Joy, not to mention the overwhelmingly awful The Scarlet Letter and Captivity. If There Be Dragons can be anything for Joffé's career, it's redemption and forgiveness. And that's also true plot-wise.

"This movie has been made for all human beings, with the sure knowledge that all human beings count, and all human beings have value, and all human beings ... are capable of being saints," Joffé, an agnostic, said in a behind-the-scenes video. The film tells of a fictionalized account of Manolo Torres, a tempestuous soldier, and his childhood friend Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, caught in the middle of war-torn, anti-clerical Spain.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Steven Spielberg (December)

Property of Dreamworks
If there's just one reason to watch this movie adaptation of a Belgian comic book, it's the motion capture technology by the joint forces of Spielberg and Peter Jackson. But of course, fans know there's more about to this movie than mocap. Comic book hero Tintin, a young reporter, has been followed by self-dubbed Tintinologists since the 1930s and artist Hergé went on to influence visual artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Of Gods and Men by Xavier Beauvois (February 25 in the US)
Original French title: Des hommes et des dieux
Property of Sony Classics Pictures
After an alarming incident, a group of Trappist monks is urged by their government to leave a community where they have long lived in harmony with its Muslim residents. The persistent Christian brothers are torn between the ongoing political conflicts and the spiritual mission that sent them there. The film brought home Cannes 2010 Grand Prix and has received generally rave reviews. If you're in it for a foreign film night, this is the title to see for the year.

Tree of Life by Terrence Malick (May)

screenshot from trailer of The Tree f Life distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Official plot reports have been scarce and its teaser trailer whets our curiosity by limiting itself to montage sequences and a grandiose score. And with a poster looks like a Flickr gallery as this, it just makes things worse for us prying movie fans. But there are several things to be expected here: Sean Penn level acting, Brad Pitt in a period film (again?!), and a soul-searching theme. Malick himself points out the role of the family in the life cycle of human beings, and those other things that do not change, "the eternal scheme of which we are part." Interesting, huh?

Water for Elephants by Francis Lawrence (April)

Property of Fox.
If we're really expecting something big from director Lawrence this time, let's not. Sure he has done an adaptation before in Constantine and I am Legend, but reviews were so-so. But there's hope in the visuals of Water for Elephants, even though the trailer makes the film look like a ripoff of Tim Burton's Big Fish and the romantic twist brings to fore what Moulin Rouge! was acclaimed for, and yes, I'm not just referring to the elephant love.

Kung Fu Panda 2 by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (May)

Property of Dreamworks.
Po, now the Dragon Warrior, loves kung fu, and kung fu loves him back. But now an evil one wants to take kung fu away forever. I trust Dreamworks to follow through their successful prequel as the Furious Five and the Dragon Warrior would in defending the weak and Chinese world. With new characters and a website of awesomeness, this sequel is not expected to suck more than anything in the history of sucking. It won't be as good as the prequel, as always, but the first sequel usually turns out better than the succeeding ones. And I won't even start talking about Shrek series just yet. Ska-doosh!

The Hobbit by Peter Jackson (December)

The Hobbit fan art.
I'm a late bloomer in Tolkien. I've only just finished the Hobbit when I heard that Jackson was on his way to making a movie and had just chosen an actor to play Bilbo Baggins. This is exciting. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has just made film history and it won't be surprising to see a well-placed mention of The Hobbit as unofficially part of the Tolkien film series when it's shown.

War Horse by Steven Spielberg (December)

Property of Dreamworks Pictures
Adapted from the stage play that adapted a novel, War Horse is now in post-production and is set to be a family-adventure war film just right into the holidays of this year. Film editor Michael Kahn has been heard gushing while in the cutting room about "gorgeous" shots of "beautiful scenery" and "beautiful" horses. And that's just about enough quote needed to get us watching it. #