Something old, something new, something remade
So 2011 fizzled at the movies. Attendance and box office were down — by some measures, back to 1996 levels.
The familiar franchises did OK, but audiences avoided plenty of good- to-near-great movies, as well as the weak ones. The mega-hits were few and very far between.
And the holidays were a sobering experience for those banking on brand names like Spielberg ("War Horse," "The Adventures of Tintin") or Matt Damon ("We Bought a Zoo") to pack them in.
The awards contenders may gather some steam as the conversation turns toward Oscar. But right now, they're a pretty anemic looking lot.
The 3-D boom turned bust. So when you see previews of a coming attraction that say "in 3D" — and there are scores of those in 2012 — be certain that the studios want you to know that the title will also be shown in 2-D, for those who don't want to spend 3-D money (i.e., most of us).
What about 2012? There are more 3-D titles, more remakes and sequels and more movies plainly aimed at the more important overseas audience.
But Bella is back ("Breaking Dawn" Part 2, Nov. 21), and Bond ("Skyfall," Nov. 7). And Batman. Bourne returns ("The Bourne Legacy," Aug. 3) without Jason Bourne or Matt Damon.
And those Men in Black are back. So are "The Expendables," Tyler Perry, Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained," Dec. 25) "Ghost Rider," Barnabas Collins (Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows," May 11), the "Madagascar" zoo animals (June 8) and the extinct stand-up comics of "Ice Age" (July 13).
And those "American Pie" kids. Why, why, more "American Pie" ("American Reunion," April 6)?
"Finding Nemo," "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" and "Beauty and the Beast" return — in 3-D.
Remakes? "Judge Dredd" ("Dredd," Sept. 21), "Total Recall" (Aug. 3) and even Spider-Man ("The Amazing Spider-Man," July 3).
We have dueling Snow Whites ("Mirror Mirror," Mar. 16; "Snow White and the Huntsman," June 1), dueling Abe Lincolns (Spielberg's "Lincoln" in December and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," June 22). and more serial killers, zombies and Jason Statham and Adam Sandler movies than you can shake a disdainful stick at.
But there are promising titles mixed in with the overly familiar, the franchised and the feeble.
- "Haywire" (Jan. 20): Will the possibly-retiring-soon Steven Soderbergh make a movie star out of mixed martial artist Gina Carano?
- "This Means War" (Feb. 17): Reese Witherspoon two-timing secret agents Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. The trailers to this are hilarious.
- "The Raven" (Mar. 9): John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe, hunting a killer who is inspired by his stories. When did he find time to drink himself to death?
- "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" (Mar. 9): Ewan McGregor is a fisheries expert trying to help an Arab sheik blow his cash on creating a fly fishing mecca (ahem) in the desert.
- "The Hunger Games" (Mar. 23): This sci-fi adaptation of a popular series of books is being hyped as the teen audience replacement for "Twilight." Or it could be "Logan's Run: The Next Generation."
- "Wettest County" (April 20): Shia LaBeouf tucked into an all-star cast in the middle of a West Virginia moonshining war during the Depression. This one sells itself.
- "The Dark Knight Rises" (July 20): The trailers suggest that this will tap into the world zeitgeist, with the villains out for payback from the 1 percent — people like Bruce Wayne.
- "Frankenweenie" (Oct. 5): Tim Burton revisits one of the short films that gave him a feature film career, about a mad scientist lad named Vincent who brings his weiner dog back to life — Frankenstein fashion.
- "The Gangster Squad" (Oct. 20): Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte and Josh Brolin star in this drama about the efforts — legal and otherwise — that the LAPD went through to keep the mob out of 1940s and '50s Los Angeles.
- "47 Ronin" (Nov. 21): Keanu Reeves surrounded by Japanese actors, all of them playing vengeful samurai? We have GOT to see this.
- "Les Miserables" (Dec. 7): Hugh Jackman vs. Russell Crowe in a sing off, the musical based on Victor Hugo's epic of poverty, class, revenge and big red flags.
- "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Dec. 14): Peter Jackson goes back to Middle Earth with a song in his heart.
- "World War Z" (Dec. 21): Brad Pitt stars in the cinematic climax to Zombiemania? One would hope.
- "The Great Gatsby" (Dec. 25): Aussie Baz Luhrmann cast Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, but Brits and Aussies in most of the other roles for this film of the Great American Novel. If he blew it, we're pulling his work visa.