Regular readers know that I like to kick off the Fall season with a ranked rundown of what I can't wait to see, what I'm glad to see, what I'll see if I'm somehow forced into it, and what I'm dead set on avoiding. With all the September festivals revving up, including Venice
and Telluride at present and Toronto, New York, and Chicago
over the next four weeks, the buzz will be pouring in, piling up, and in some cases sputtering out. But as a silver chill threads its way into the Labor Day air, here's where my anticipatory fervor currently falls. Last year's version
of this feature was structured in honor of Madonna. I know she's taken enough knocks this week, but nonetheless we are moving on to a different diva.
Dec. 2011: No Top Ten list till I've caught up with boldfaced titles
, ca. mid-January
TOUCH MY BODYWe Need To Talk About Kevin
- If I could only buy one ticket this fall, it'd be to thisB - Early formal rigors must buoy increasingly puerile conceptions. Ends up 30% Ramsay, 70% Sam Mendes.A Separation
- Farhadi's unreleased About Elly impressed. This sounds even better.A - Farhadi jewel-cuts another polygon of enigmatic conflict as both a social essay and a prism for refracting psychologyMelancholia
- Wholly compelling; gather it won't matter that I abhorred AntichristA - Last Days at Marienbad. Is doom a simile for depression, or disconsolate wedding a metaphor for denying imminent doom?Drive
- I've been a Refn skeptic, but who can resist stars and reviews of this caliber?B+ - Python coiled around a gator. Lithe muscle. Violence as potential energy. Magnificent, though awe packs chaser of distaste.Coriolanus
- My favorite Shakespeare play is finally a movie! With top-form Vanessa!B - Worthy in every respect, albeit short of great in all. Credible sprawl of unrest. Potent soundscape and imagesMysteries of Lisbon
- Every word I hear about this is a kind of rhapsodic whisperOBSESSEDPariah
- Plot, style, reviews would entrance even if I hadn't befriended the directorB - Sly, sincere, chromatically rich revision/expansion of a strong short, addled only by some on-the-nose writing and plotting.Martha Marcy May Marlene
- Showcase for actors I adore and for hot new talentsB - Moody Meatless Menacing Morbid Maybe Maybenot Middling Murder Mindfuck Meh Mupstatefolksaresospooky BooA Dangerous Method
- Reviews and interviews not reassuring, but it is CronenbergB+ - Uneven play an albatross, but exquisitely tense images, smart acting lift it. My fav Cronenberg since eXistenZ?Contagion
- I read The Hot Zone. I like movie stars. They filmed in Evanston. Yes x 3.B - Coolly charts interwoven ripple effects of virus and of individual moral choices. Smart, but something tepid at its core.My Joy
- I relished this so much at last year's ChiFest that I'm frothing to see it againThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Hated novel and first film but yowza, this team!B - Sleek makeover for Larsson's obese obsession with evil. Textures, rhythms as tight as bondage gear.WE BELONG TOGETHERMargaret
- Could be really iffy, but I'm so itchy to finally see it. And that cast!A - Erratic, hilarious, endlessly sympathetic. Semi-wittingly a new kind of NYC film, a free-verse icon of life's untidiness.Take Shelter
- Has built up such a head of festival steam that I'm hugely curiousB - I See Heavy Weather. Savvy casting and acting down the line, strong hold on milieu, but story idles, then collapses.Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- Expect to admire more than adore, but that's plentyB - Atmosphere and ideological prisonhouse richly evoked. Momentum, insight, characterizations more erratic.The Artist
- Love how this went from "Why's that in Competition?" to global causeB+ - An enchantment, so witty and warm in first half. Settles for just warmth in second, but I'd see it twice. Wiss plezhur.Weekend
- Gay romantic drama with sterling reviews and festival gongs? Do I dream?A - Sweet, sad, sexy Brief Encounter between two eligible gays plays just as well as an externalized debate within one of themThe Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
- Cinema as radical historiography? Yessir!B - Extant footage impresses more than assembly, but it's potent stuff, stirring as memory and goadLe Havre
- Even non-converts to Kaurismäki are encouraged to give this a whirlC+ - Way too "Hipster Darling takes a walk on The Blind Side" for me. An overpraised, openly laurel-seeking divertissement.FANTASY(i.e., fingers crossed for distribution)Shame
- Could hardly be more eager to follow Hunger team wherever they goB - Vacillates between moody insight and straw-grasping. Best scene, the date, stuck in patchiest section, the middle. Mercurial.Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
- First installments strong. Gotta hang in. Is it opening?I'LL BE THERELike Crazy
- Should probably be higher, but Yelchin rarely works out for meB - Artful précis of shaky/sturdy love between two zygotes, rocked by one dumb mistake. Equal parts skepticism and sympathy.Albert Nobbs
- I've been doubting but Telluride loves it; lauds for Close, McTeerC - As often with García, delicacy and diffuseness reach a vague stalemate. Appealing empathy, hazily acted and scripted.My Week with Marilyn
- Williams still hard to see as Monroe, but I'm rooting for herC - Arc, technique, and characterizations are iffy. Does evoke some tender wisps of thin, fleeting infatuation.The Skin I Live In
- No way I'll miss it, but it's a cold inevitability. Not truly eager.B - Shots and edits to savor, and Almodóvar's rotted-out men intrigue, but the sum feels both familiar and elusiveYoung Adult
- Still a Theron fan and skipped compulsory Juno backlash. I'm into this.C - Fitfully sharp, flatly filmed, misshapen sci-fi about erratically plausible people doing things even they wouldn't do.The Muppets
- Maybe you can hold out on Kermit and Fozzie and Rowlf, but I cannotC+ - Too stuck in Old Hat jokes, leaving too little time for cutting loose. Still, plenty of chuckles. Quick gags are best.
Gun Hill Road
- Intriguing inroad into a solid-looking transgender-themed drama
- Audiences rejoiced at Chicago Festival; I had a ticket but had to skip.MAKE IT HAPPEN(i.e., still hanging around in cinemas)Higher Ground
- Vera's motive enough. Even better: serious probe of complex beliefs!B - U.S. drama of faith minus cheap shots or Crazy Zealots, where a good woman's unsure about her family? Is it 1974??Senna
- Tim Robey and Guy Lodge have gone really strongly to the mat for this docB - Patently myth-burnishing and family-approved, but a kinetic mix of color, sound, movement, and story even for non-racing fansThe Whistleblower
- I'm so impressed this got made there's no way I'm missing itC - Bold courage of convictions, tough young actors, but story stutters and visual and spatial execution gets wobbly.The Interrupters
- Hometown documentary sold out all shows for two weeks at SiskelA - An achievement fully comparable to Hoop Dreams, with some of the year's most indelible moments and characters.Project Nim
- Intriguing; for some reason, have dragged my non-prehensile feetB - Tests our patience with vague, imbecilic "scientists." Style rings a bit hollow. But story compels, details provoke.The Guard
- Keep hearing I might like this even if In Bruges wasn't for meC - Enjoyable lope to Gleeson's and Cheadle's work in self-satisfied comedy. Lighting is coarse, sound anemic. Not my thing.GET YOUR NUMBERWarrior
- Totally Team Edgerton here, but I gather Hardy and Nolte are reasons to goB - Three hearty courses at the Steak 'n' Shake. Leonine lunges at emotion pay off even when they cheat. Edgerton best in show.Moneyball
- Again, I'm so impressed they pushed this project through I feel obligatedB - Rich dialogue, smart sound design, a great star performance, but seems more rhetorical than substantial as it unfoldsThe Descendants
- Never loved a Payne movie, but this one has a lot going for itF - A total farrago. Ersatz photography, crude script, lobotomized score. Badly needs subterranean albino flesh-eaters.Immortals
- I'm a big Tarsem fan, but I hope this isn't his Watchmen momentC - I'd like six McChickens, large fry, super-sized CGI, a gold breastplate, and a blender to go. Blood on the fries, please.
- I liked Gattaca
a lot, but do I want to see it a second time? Uneven cast.W.E.
- Curious about Riseborough, costumes; shamefully hoping for Royal ShowgirlsSOMEDAYThe Ides of March
- Even kinder reviews described just the film I'd hoped this wasn'tB - Connects strongly with audience, flails at delivering more. Somewhere between Obama and Edwards in movie form.Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- Moderate trust in Daldry and savory castC - Pockmarked by problems, even premised on some, but takes real risks. Unafraid of emotional mess.Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
- Kicky trailer trumps punctuation nightmareB - The Passion of Tom Cruise. Even iffy jailbreak intro is OK. After? Humdingers aplenty. Bliss.
Texas Killing Fields
- Curious about director and stars. Waiting on Venice word.
Paranormal Activity 3
- I liked #2, but surely getting ridonk? Catfish
- I dislike the play and distrust the casting, and yet, I won't miss it. Why?C+ - Spry with angles. Rustles some laughs. Winslet my favorite. None of this makes the play less hollow than it's always been.J. Edgar
- Flailing star meets unreliable director in bio of a hateful character?C - Frequent gaffes of structure, writing, and acting, but odd peaks. The mess resonates more than in other Eastwood misfires.War Horse
- Will wear my Kevlar Anti-Sanctimony Jacket and hope for the bestB+ - Wistful, moving, wise. The I'm Not There of WWI movies, refracting myth through a prism of era-specific national styles.
- I can't remember the reviews I've already read. A bad sign?Hugo
- Hard to imagine skipping, and maybe reviews'll be kind, but I'm not intriguedC - Flashbacks to Méliès studio delight, yet film feels both thin and overstuffed, sapped by poor edits, iffy acting, flat sound.The Iron Lady
- Mary Stuart proved Lloyd's credentials, but I still cringe at trailerC - A Portrait of the PM as a Vague Blur. Where The Queen was inertly non-dramatic, this one's vigorously noncommittal.DON'T FORGET ABOUT US(i.e., late additions to fall itinerary)Sleeping Beauty
- Enticing since Cannes; I adore an Antipodean gal with a strong POVA - Astounding control of image, color, pace. Tensions grip, enigmas fascinate. Brisseau + Buñuel + Barney ÷ Breillat.Pina
- An inspired choice for 3-D treatment; likely to impress and to inspireA - A glorious unbiopic, remarrying cinema to movement, its ghostly temporalities suffused with tension, pleasure, warmth, loss.House of Tolerance
- A film about fin-de-siècle semen-weepers? I'm obviously there.3
- Not a Tykwer diehard, Venice response tepid, but scenario, cast compelB - Comic, sexy, somewhat noodly urban fable about married couple banging same man. Tykwer regards humans fondly as loose electrons.Tyrannosaur
- I'm a Considine fan, but really this is about Colman hypeB - Generic beats, typecast men, and some narrative extremities dull its impact. But impact it has, especially via Colman.Silent Souls
- Venice reviews were stunners, and it's sure to be one of a kindB - Tender, enigmatic, contentedly odd elegy for a wife, a friend, a father, and a culture; like Auden meeting KaurismäkiRampart
- Despite divisive reviews, cast and Messenger assure I'll be thereB+ - Roaring blast of paranoid Ellroyan rot, raining coarse-edged, livid-hued slivers. Sound mix, lensing, actors, edits amaze.
Into the Abyss
- Herzog has grated on me lately, but this keeps winning good notesAnother Happy Day
- Barkin seems proud; ensemble promising, premise less soC - Good casting. Humor helps. Tonal swerves exciting but unwieldy. Good plane reading, except plane never takes off.The Last Circus
- Pissed off everyone at Venice except the jury; what's going on?C - Livid, pitiless allegory, hyper-violent and jejune, in which rival maniacs break the back of easily-seduced Spain.
Elite Squad 2
- Bus 174
helmer; Tim Robey can't say enough good stuff about itIf a Tree Falls
- Not on my radar till John Waters's Top 10, then Oscar shortlistC+ - Equanimity derives from both ideological maturity and rather timid assembly. Compels as a story, but not as film.I WISH YOU WELLMargin Call
- Festival audiences were unmoved, but I do appreciate the effortB - Play material opts shakily for film to reach more folks. Camera plods, storytelling wavers, but it packs a cold sting.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
- Potential for soapboxing is high, but fingers crossed
Fireflies in the Garden
- Reviews are tepid, and it's been sitting a while, but Roberts!
- I'm ready for a breakthrough in my dissatisfying relationship to Gordon-LevittThe Lady
- Appreciate gumption of making it and opportunity for Yeoh. But, bad smell.
Machine Gun Preacher
- Looking to critics to see if Butler pulls off game-change
- I don't usually skip Kidman, as long as reviews at least surpass Bewitched
- Iffy premise, but drew an intriguing cast (Biehn, Martin, Burton...)
We Bought a Zoo
- I've been glad to keep the Crowe file closed, but I'm swayable
- Marginally curious for "real Western," but then I paid for Appaloosa
I Melt with You
- Wow, where's Pellington been? Inauspicious release date, though.I DON'T WANNA CRY
- I want to trust Van Sant, but I see hipsters with IV drips, chirping, sobbing
The Adventures of Tintin
- This motion-capture stuff is so tiresome. Can I say that?
The Rum Diary
- I got irritated at Depp about 10 years before everyone else did
- They make this every year. I still haven't seen the Sharon Stone one.
The Big Year
- Doesn't Huston have good buzz for this? Wilson, plot scare me off
- Redgrave points. Possible drinking game with English Dept colleagues?LANGUISHING
- "We've gotta rob this guy. We're gonna need a black man
- Not sure what's up with DGG, but I'm willing to be cajoled back
New Year's Eve
- If only for the science fiction of Ludacris and Swank as a couple
Happy Feet Two
- I was underwhelmed by the first, but I'll read the notices
- I go both ways on Statham. Mendelsohn helps. De Niro doesn't.
- Still waiting for Juno Temple to charm me. Bad buzz dogging this one.
- Even if I were more curious, I would have to clock the original first
What's Your Number?
- Despite cult of Faris, I only got 30 minutes into House Bunny
- Kevin Smith: always up for easy targets and obnoxious ways to sell 'em
- Dolphins R Cute? Is Cove
guy ready to fire off some rounds?
The Darkest Hour
- This year's Day the Earth Stood Still
, I'm guessing. Or Skyline
Puss in Boots
- I'm clearly far from the target audience, unless it gets Bolt
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
- I've tried both films and couldn't finish either
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
- Why on earth would I start now?UP OUT MY FACE
- Why watch a supporting cast this tony slaving for that block of wood?
- I've never seen the original; there's no way I'm starting here
- This looks so. dumb.
I assume it must have some kind of ace up its glove?
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
- Despised the last one. Is series redeemable?
- I've never seen the original; there's no way I'm starting here
I Don't Know How She Does It
- I don't, either, but I'm afraid I mean that unkindly
The Three Musketeers
- 20 years later, I'm still annoyed at the Chris O'Donnell one
The Father of Invention
- Kevin Spacey and
Heather Graham. A poison dart.
Johnny English Reborn
- I ignore Atkinson at all costs. I just can't go there.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked
- Only next-to-last to make a point about...
Jack and Jill
- I completely, sincerely consider this an attempt on my life. What'd I do?CAN'T LET GO(i.e., catching up on DVD)Cold Weather
- 2011 title I most regret missing despite two chances; I ♥ indie oddities.Source Code
- As a Chicago boy, I shouldn't have let this pass. Plus, Farmiga!C - Affects smarts the way Moon did but with even squishier center and greater sense of stalling out on its own conceptsFast Five
- Worth catching both for action choreography and sociological reasonsB - Ocean's Favela. Bromances no longer bristle. Livelier actors might help. But: energy high, stunts deft, edits exciting.City of Life and Death
- Premise, aesthetic not my cuppa, but reviews are paeansOf Gods and Men
- For some reason I'm expecting porridge but I refuse to just skip itHoney (Bal)
- Top prize-winner at Berlin and a Turkish change of pace from CeylanRise of the Planet of the Apes
- I like how enthusiasm for this has persisted all yearC - Furor eludes me. Tale and unremarkable images adhere to familiar arcs laid down in first 15 minutes.Armadillo
- I liked Restrepo
but didn't love it; this sounds even stronger?A Better Life
- Strong notices for Bichir, so good so fast in Che, have intrigued meC+ - Leans as hard on Bichir as Frozen River did on Leo, with comparable upshot: essential character work, shaky vehicleLondon River
- Sad this took so long. Bouchareb plus Blethyn a fascinating prospectX-Men: First Class
- Another mall flick I skipped that's really lingered for peopleC - Laudable thematic ambition and revisionist brio, but very clunkily directed, visually unappealing, and preachy13 Assassins
- Despite my genre nerves, I'm still eager to see those last 45 minutesWinnie-the-Pooh
- Seemed somehow sacrilegious, but now I'm wishing I'd caught itC+ - "Pooh left feeling unsatisfied, and a little out of sorts." Me too, Pooh. Amiable, listless pastiche of old gems.The Double Hour
- Venice prizewinner got great notices and healthy box-officeAttack the Block
- Sounded fun but skippable, but cult of fans keeps growingBombay Beach
- In somewhat patchy year for docs, this has among the best noticesB - Like a real-life George Washington, or Dark Days above ground. Aggressively directed yet very candid. Could go deeper?Rapt
- Tim Robey's admiring capsule ran like a decade ago; racking up U.S. fansTrust
- Chicago supported local boy Schwimmer, but I dawdled; Liberato intriguesC - Schwimmer hampers able cast with vague ideas about camera and edits, a truncated final act, and discomfort with preteen lustI Will Follow
- I'll walk a mile for a creatively self-distributing black female directorBellflower
- Sounds like I can at least expect a memorable look and an eccentric joltIn a Better World
- Despite what von Trier thinks, Oscar can't be for nothing... right?Fright Night
- Reviews were buoyant, and I need Supporting Actor possibilitiesB - Rhythmic, tonal peaks and valleys. A bit bare-bones but plenty of kick. Poots, Farrell, and Yelchin click like crazy.Terri
- I tread very carefully around Reilly but some notices were really warmThe Devil's Double
- Notices veered from elated to poisonous, and I'm still curiousSympathy for Delicious
- Sounded like a truly odd duck, but that in itself is incentiveMiral
- Nary a nice word has been uttered, but when you're a Redgrave completist...Even the Rain
- Water-rights drama could get pedantic but it looked enticingRio
- I honestly have no impulse in this direction except trusted friends tell me to tryLOVE TAKES TIME(i.e., confirmed postponements)Wuthering Heights
- I'm guessing this is Spring-bound, but a fellow can hopeALPS
- Since I'm advisedly skipping spoiler-ish reviews, please open this soon!Miss Bala
- Mexican cinema continually fascinates; reviews couldn't be stronger on thisA - Polanski's Pianist remade as ballistic drug-war suspenser, as terrorized, evacuated lead withstands a hellish picaresqueThe Deep Blue Sea
- Portends sublime match of artist to vehicle, though buzz is quietKiller Joe
- Word from Venice isn't yet in, but Friedkin, Letts bonded well last timeSafe
- Does Statham think he's just making one unending film? Yakin at least intrigues.Piranha 3DD
- They deserve a prize for that title, but I doubt it'll be my $15Wanderlust
- Aniston, Rudd dead set on having "Wasted" carved on their tombstones
Labels: Looking Forward, Movies of 2011, Site Features