Forward Thinking: A 2011 Film Preview

Who will be the modern masters of this New Year?

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Zack Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms in 'The Hangover 2'

Annual top 10 lists and Oscar prognosticating derail forward progress for the first couple of months of the new year and the release schedule has adapted itself to accommodate this rearview mentality by transforming the late winter months into a wasteland of post-nomination expansions.

How about a little forward thinking in 2011?  Let’s say goodbye to 2010 and focus on what is to come, not as the blind wandering in search of flickering lights in dark art houses and multiplexes, but with a penlight and an outline of the new horizon.

The dynamic duo of Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg will don capes, masks and multiple hats, directing and producing a mini-major’s slate of films.  Soderbergh plans to deliver two of the action-thrillers.  The first, “Haywire,” stars Gina Carano as a double-crossed black ops agent out for revenge against Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas, while “Contagion, with a decidedly more sci-fi bent, focuses on a team of doctors working with the CDC to prevent a deadly viral outbreak with Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet.  Not content with juggling two tours behind the camera, Soderbergh is also producing “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (with Tilda Swinton as the grieving mother of a teen who went on a killing spree) and “The Prince of Providence” about Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, the former mayor of Providence, known as much for his celebrity as his politics.

Spielberg’s deck is stacked with two directing aces: “War Horse,” a World War I story about a young man separated from his horse and his journey to reconnect with the animal and “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” the anticipated adaptation of Georges Remi’s comic strip.  Spielberg also has a full house of producing credits (“I Am Number Four,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Real Steel” and “Super 8”) that alone, during any other year, would guarantee box office supremacy.

And then, there are the next line of above-the-line directors, some of whom like Martin Scorsese with “Hugo Cabret” and David Fincher (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) are following up success from the previous year (respectively “Shutter Island” and “The Social Network,” both of which are in 2010 Oscars conversation), while others like Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”), Cameron Crowe (“We Bought a Zoo”) and Jodie Foster (“The Beaver” aka the Mel Gibson Career Resuscitation Project) enter the fray after sabbaticals.

And, of course, no year is complete without its share of guilty pleasures, the kind of movies that offer no real threats to our critical sensibilities or the narrative revisions of 2011, but “The Hangover 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Paranormal Activity 3,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” “Sherlock Holmes 2” and “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol” deserve shout-outs. At the end of the day, we are in love with our comic book heroics, our movie monsters and magicians, and our deep-seated American mindlessness.

So, here’s to another year!

Reach DCP freelance writer T.T. Stern-Enzi at

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