“Season of The Witch”? Yep, saw it. Here’s why: Nicolas Cage in hand-to-hand combat with packs of flying wolves, ninja-like zombie monks and The Real Devil Himself. The mere fact that he didn’t shout “Booyaahh!” every time he vanquished one of these evil marauders is a testament to his Academy Award-winning actorly restraint.
So, obviously, 2011 is off to an inspiring start at the movies. And while Oscar talk bores you senseless, it’s time to start eagerly waiting for the real cinema enjoyment of the coming year. Let’s talk about the guilty pleasures of the movie world, those films where you may scorn the trailer after seeing it with your friends, but are secretly memorizing the release date and wondering how you can get that day off work. These films won't be lining up for Oscar next year, and that's probably just fine with them. There isn't a category for "best giant robot fight" anyway.
'Your Highness' (April 8)
This ye olden tymes stoner comedy features the proud participation of “Pineapple Express” alumni Danny McBride and James Franco. It also stars everyone’s current favorite mentally ill ballerina Natalie Portman (and now you know how those eyes got so red).
'Real Steel' (Oct. 7)
The movie that promises to answer several ongoing hot-button cultural questions. Like, what would happen if we could train robots to be our friends and also to box each other in a seriously violent way? Wouldn’t that be great? Also, what won’t Hugh Jackman do for his craft? He’s already bared his chest for the sake of art so many times. What more does he have to give? And then you hear it in his voice in the teaser trailer when he bellows “BRING IT!” to his robot pal. That’s a cry of the soul; the man has gone someplace deep. $eriously.
'The Roommate' (Feb. 4)
Kids need remakes. They can’t be expected to go back and watch movies from the good old days before they existed. So you can keep your “Single White Female” and your vintage early 1990s fashions. It’s time for an updated take on the psychotic young murderess who traipses around murderessing people who get in the way of her achieving BFF status with some random hapless dorm assignee. And it stars Leighton Meester, a woman whose name might as well be spelled with emoticons.
'The Smurfs' (Aug. 3)
The Smurfs get themselves wizarded by the evil Gargamel (you remember him, yeah?) out of their other-dimensional Smurf World and right into Central Park. Fortunately it’s a place that’s a lot safer for Smurfs these days than it would have been if they’d been plopped down there during the era of films like “Maniac” or “Cruising.” Basically take “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York,” trade Macauley Culkin in for smaller, bluer “people” and boom, there’s your movie. Low-bar quality test: it only has to be smarter than “Marmaduke.”
'Battle: Los Angeles' (March 11)
Unlike last year’s misery-filled “Skyline,” a movie whose minuscule audience wound up cheering each time a character got eaten by L.A.-invading aliens, this one features Michelle Rodriguez. That's going to make all the difference. Is there an actor alive that embodies the concept of badass-alien-fighter more than this woman? Is there another human being we’d like to see kill all monsters with extreme prejudice and stylish swagger? No, there isn’t. And someday she’s probably going to be President of the United States.
'Apollo 18' (April 22)
“There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon,” says the first wave of marketing campaign. And while the real reason is because either a) it was crazy-boring up there or b) it was all a hoax they staged in a high school gym somewhere in Phoenix, this movie posits that it’s due to megamonsters that lurk inside all those moon-caves. But as long as it doesn’t involve some studio exec’s attempts to keep resurrecting “Predators,” then bring on the astronaut-chasing creatures. The movies need a fresh supply for summer.
'The Beaver' (April 8)
Yes, yes, we’re all still so angry with Mel Gibson for being the jerk we always figured he pretty much was. But this movie is about him walking around with his arm stuck inside a beaver puppet 24/7. If it turns out to be a genuinely good film then we’ll give him another chance and everyone will get to feel cuddly toward him again, kind of like when Cookie Monster sang “Silver Bells” with Jeff Bridges on SNL. And if it’s a trainwreck, then we all indulge in feeling a little sorry for him. Maybe. OK, probably not at all.
'Piranha 3DD' (August)
When legendary exploitation director Russ Meyer died, it was like he took all the great titles with him. Movies called things like “Wild Gals of The Naked West,” “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.” Consider this 3-D sequel to a remake about carnivorous fish devouring large-breasted college girls (and Jerry O’Connell’s penis) an homage to an auteur.
'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,' Nov. 18
Sure, if you’re not already a Twi-harder you were probably bored out of your mind by the earlier installments. But this one’s finally going to have all the good stuff they keep promising: the super-fighting, the vampire sex and the monster babies. Come on, you know you’re in.
Dave White is a film critic for Movies.com