The most promising group of films for Spring 2011 is without a doubt the action offerings. The “lowest” film on my list, number seven, is “Hanna,” a more independent-minded “Bourne”-style action thriller that many are buzzing about, so if that’s the bottom of the barrel, we’re looking at some tasty action. To continue the metaphor, the thick layer of creamy foam on top would be Zack Snyder’s anticipated “Sucker Punch.”
7. Hanna (Apr. 8)
The Word: Child assassins is sort of a new action motif being experimented with in Hollywood. Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones”) stars as the titular character who is raised in the wilderness by her father (Bana) to be a ruthless killer and survivalist. Unbeknownst to her, she’s being trained for a mission to essentially take down an intelligence agent/operative (Blanchett) and her crew. Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “The Soloist”) tries out action for a change, so expect the film to beautifully shot if nothing else.
My Thoughts: This could be a big stepping stone for Ronan and Wright in their respective careers, this being their second collaboration. Although we haven’t heard Ronan’s name attached to the adaptation of “The Hunger Games,” this should serve as a fairly impressive audition tape if she doesn’t tie herself up with “The Hobbit” as rumored. With “Hanna,” I’m most curious to see if this diverges in any way from most action films of its ilk, at least knowing Wright’s previous work and that Focus Features is distributing. Hanna Trailer.
6. Limitless (Mar. 18)
The Word: What if a drug could unlock your brain’s full potential and give you the ability to think at a superhuman level? That’s the premise behind Alan Glynn’s novel “The Dark Fields” upon which “Limitless” is based. The film will test Bradley Cooper’s leading man ability as a hapless writer who receives this drug from a friend and instantly becomes a genius of “limitless” potential. De Niro comes in as the man who offers him a huge job that comes with strings. Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) directs based on a screenplay from longtime comedy and romance screenwriter Leslie Dixon, whose most relevant credit would be “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake.
My Thoughts: I see a lot of upside with this film, but I’m definitely not going to go as far as using the titular adjective at this point. Some up-and-comers in Cooper (more like hitting his stride) and Abbie Cornish make the cast more appealing and the blend of science fiction and crime drama seems enticing. Burger’s potential as a director has yet to really be tapped into as well. Wow, it was really hard avoiding puns in this paragraph. Limitless Trailer.
5. The Adjustment Bureau (Mar. 4)
The Word: There have been numerous adaptation of Philip K. Dick novels/stories and “The Adjustment Bureau” aims to be one of them, joining the ranks of “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall” and “A Scanner Darkly.” Writer George Nolfi (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Ocean’s Twelve”) makes his directorial debut, borrowing star Matt Damon for the lead as a promising possible U.S. Senator whose run-in with a beautiful ballerina (Blunt) takes his life path in a new direction. Problem is, there’s a secret group out there that sees to it that destiny is obeyed and Damon is not following it.
My Thoughts: Initially scheduled for last July, the move to March planted a big old seed of doubt in my mind, but I love Dick’s stories and the films they’ve created (for the most part). This re-exploration of his ever-prevalent theme of fate versus free will certainly has my interest and we all know that Matt Damon is really really good at running from stuff, so it should be a good fit. Hopefully there’s at least some redeeming value to the film. The Adjustment Bureau Trailer.
4. Source Code (Apr. 1)
The Word: After Duncan Jones released his feature debut “Moon,” starring Sam Rockwell, the movie-loving community waited in anticipation for the promising young director’s follow-up. “Source Code” ended up being that choice, a science-fiction thriller about Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), a soldier recruited to uncover information about a terrorist bombing on a Chicago commuter train — that already happened. He does this through the “source code,” which lets him enter a man’s body in the last eight minutes of his life. In repeated eight-minute increments, Stevens enters this man’s body to solve the mystery and falls for a woman (Monaghan) who died on that train.
My Thoughts: I had a few bones to pick with “Moon,” but I agree with the interest in following Jones’ next move and I like the choice. I see a lot of familiar tropes and a bit of a forced romance, but I tend to enjoy most time-altering concept movies and “Source Code” puts a unique spin on the sub-genre. Ben Ripley is an unseasoned writer and the idea was all his, so hopefully “Source Code” ends up one of the spring’s surprises. Source Code Trailer.
3. Battle: Los Angeles (Mar. 11)
The Word: When Comic Con rolled around this summer and “Battle: Los Angeles” had a panel, no one had so much of an inkling other than some positive here-say. When Jonathan Liebesman’s (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) name started being tossed around some high-profile projects in Hollywood, curiosity grew and then a carefully planned viral marketing campaign commenced, attracting lots of attention. The film brings a militaristic perspective a la “Black Hawk Down” to the alien invasion genre and Los Angeles becomes one of the last battlegrounds in the world against this extra-terrestrial force.
My Thoughts: Of all the new wave of alien invasion films that have come out or will come out from “Skyline” last November to “Cowboys & Aliens,” I would say that “Battle: LA” looks the most promising and considering how they’ve gone about it, execs at Sony/Columbia must be really happy with the results. I think the key is the military approach and the focus on a small group trying to survive. We saw “28 Days Later” narrow the scope on a story of infection outbreak and that film refreshed the zombie genre and inspired today’s wave of zombie projects. Films like this depend on character depth to succeed and I think “Battle: LA” might have it. Battle: Los Angeles Trailer.
2. Fast Five (Apr. 29)
The Word: Not everyone has followed the saga of the “Fast & Furious” films, but almost everyone has paid attention to how the studio has been naming them. They’ve tried just about every kind of title. There’s the classic: “The Fast and the Furious,” the numeral pun title: “2 Fast, 2 Furious,” the semi-colon title: “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the minimalist stripped “going back to our roots tile” : “Fast & Furious” and now “Fast Five,” a combination of numbers and minimalism. Regardless, this is the most successful car-based franchise and now that Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s careers have officially not panned out, they’re happy to keep making more. Plot is non-descript: cars and drug lords and breaking the law.
My Thoughts: For a fourth film in a series, $353 million worldwide is ridiculous. That’s how much of a fan base there is for seeing Paul Walker and Vin Diesel back together in these roles. With “The Rock” involved to up the stakes this time, it will be interesting to see if fans come out in droves again. I saw the first film back in 2001 and called it a day. I just find it fascinating that the film resurrected itself through the luck of its stars never amounting to anything. If “Fast Five” makes bank, you’re looking at a heck of an anomaly of a franchise. Fast Five Trailer.
1. Sucker Punch (Mar. 25)
The Word: Zack Snyder has become a renowned director for stylized action adaptations. His success on a global scale gave him the ability to make one of his own brain children, a cross-genre mind-**** of a movie concept. The film follows a girl known as Baby Doll (Browning), who is put in an asylum for lashing out at her abusive stepfather. With the other girls she meets there, they learn a way to use their imagination to create a fantasy world through which they can escape the asylum. This fantasy world entails robots, robot samurai, Nazis, bi-planes, fire-breathing dragons and more.
My Thoughts: Snyder has been able to tailor this world and story to his exact specifications and the trailers have simply been stunning. With a PG-13 rating and a cast of young women, the film will have incredible appeal to both sexes ages 13-28 and maybe as high up as 35. The trailer doesn’t give us much of a sense on how the plot will be focused other than a quest for three objects, so that has me withholding declarations of genius, but then again, we haven’t seen anything about the burlesque musical numbers supposedly performed by each of the girls and that is certainly different. I definitely will be unprepared. Sucker Punch Trailer.