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Posted at 1:40 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

11 movies to look forward to in 2011

By Jen Chaney

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, on the edge of their seats in "Paul." (Universal)

The year is still relatively new. And for film buffs, that means 2011 still holds all the exquisite promise of a potentially terrific time for movies.

(And yes, I am aware that both "Season of the Witch" and "The Smurfs in 3-D" will open in theaters in the coming months. But thanks for the distressing reminder.)

For some, the key film to anticipate is the second part of the boy-wizard-battles-the-root-of-all-evil finale, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two." For others, it's the first part of the epic vampire-woos-angsty-teen romance, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part One."

As for me, there are a number of films I'm intrigued and/or excited to see, more than I can cover in a single blog post. I've whittled down the list to 11 titles, for the purposes of your quick, time-constrained reading pleasure. Here's what makes me optimistic about our collective multiplex future. Peruse the titles, then feel free to share what you're most excited to see in 2011 by posting a comment.

"Paul" (Releases March 18)

Simon Pegg reteams with Nick Frost. They go to Comic-Con. And they meet an alien with the voice of Seth Rogen. Sounds like geek-comedy heaven to me.

"The Beaver" (In limited release March 23)

The much-delayed attempt to re-ingratiate Mel Gibson to the public by having him talk to a puppet finally arrives in theaters. The odds of this succeeding as Gibson-image rehab seem insurmountable. But watching the attempt should be intriguing.

"Win Win" (Releases March 25)

Tom McCarthy -- the actor and writer-director behind "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor" -- has a knack for capturing the everyday poetry in human relationships. That's why I'm eager to see what he does with this indie about a frazzled lawyer and part-time wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti), which debuts later this month at the Sundance Film Festival.

"Hanna" (Releases April 8)

The trailer for this high-brow spy thriller conveys intelligence -- no surprise since Joe Wright directs and Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett star -- as well as a high level of butt-kicking awesomeness. Here's hoping the film delivers on those promises.

"Thor" (Releases May 6)

There are plenty of superhero movies coming to theaters this summer: "X-Men: First Class." "Green Lantern." "Captain America." All of them have potential. But "Thor," which is the first big-muscle movie of the season, may boast the most impressive pedigree: director Kenneth Branagh and a cast that includes Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and newcomer Chris Hemsworth.

"Super 8" (Releases June 10)

This is an homage to Spielbergian sci-fi of the '70s and '80s that's directed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Steven Spielberg, features music by Michael Giacchino and stars, among others, Kyle Chandler. Oh, and since Abrams is involved, the details are shrouded in a veil of viral-marketed mystery. Translation: There is no other 2011 movie that I am more excited to see.

"Cowboys & Aliens" (Releases July 29)

More extra-terrestrials, plus Western landscapes, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Jon Favreau in the director's chair and, oh yeah, Spielberg executive producing, too. (That guy's everywhere this year.) The footage shown at Comic-Con and the trailer make a convincing case for this one.

"The Help" (Releases Aug. 12)

Hey, it's Emma Stone again, this time in the adaptation of the wildly popular novel about the relationship between African American housekeepers and their white employers circa the early '60s. Stone is joined in the cast by Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney. The members of every book club in America will be there.

"Moneyball" (Releases Sept. 23)

Bennett Miller finally follows up on his "Capote" success by helming this adaptation of the book about the Oakland A's and their unconventional approach to assembling a successful team. Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill and Robin Wright star.

"Contagion" (Releases Oct. 21)

Steven Soderbergh, the man who gave us "Sex, Lies and Videotape," ventures into 3-D territory with this thriller about a deadly disease the CDC is trying to contain. (And no, it does not appear to be zombie-related.) The cast boasts yet another stellar roster of actors: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston and even more names that I can't fit in here.

"Hugo Cabret" (Releases Dec. 9)

Yet another revered director -- Martin Scorsese -- leaps into the 3-D realm with this family adventure, adapted from the Caldecott Medal-winning "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." It stars (among others) Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen.

By Jen Chaney  | January 6, 2011; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  
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You should've put The Beaver trailer at the end because I just can't get past it. Because that trailer -- which, thanks to Celebritology posts, I have now watched TWICE thankyouverymuch -- makes me want to:

* Build a Panic Room, lock Jodie Foster and her two Oscars in it, and break the key into pieces with a chainsaw.
* Lock Mel Gibson inside a rocket and shoot him and his delusions of acting into space forever.
* Go see "Yogi Bear" again, and lemme tell you, that was probably the worst movie I've ever seen.

Somewhere I read that the world is supposed to end on May 21, 2011. I'd say earlier, like the date this movie will be released. I gotta go carm down now....

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | January 6, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I am ALL IN for "Super-8."

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | January 6, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

As a long-time Marvel fan, I am *really* looking forward to Thor. But after seeing these previews, I think Paul might be the movie I run to go so on opening night.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | January 7, 2011 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Gotta see Rango - Johnny Depp as a lizard, shades of Fear and Loathing, I'm there.

Posted by: MStreet1 | January 7, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

So, let me get this straight. Mel Gibson is trying to rehabilitate his "I'm a crazy nut" reputation by playing a man with a serious personality disorder? This might be the most uncomfortably funny thing I've seen in the last year.

On the other hand, Paul looks like it's going to be right up my alley.

Posted by: DCLocal20 | January 7, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

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