I was born in 1976 and outside of “Blaxploitation” movies, there were no African American action or science fiction stars. My favorite movies included “Tron,” “Superman,” “The Last Star Fighter,” and “Dune.” The heroes in those movies had super powers, super intelligence, and had to dig deep to overcome extra-ordinarily difficult situations, often at great personal cost. It is worth noting here that the stars of these movies were all Caucasian males, and none of them looked like me. Hell, in most of the movies with a futuristic theme there was not even a Black person cast as an extra! As if, as Richard Pryor so eloquently put it, white people were not expecting us to be in the future.

It is no secret that many action, fantasy and science fiction movies contain ancient magical and mythological elements incorporated into the fabric of their stories; to see titans, gods, goddesses and fairies as characters in modern day cinema is a fairly commonplace occurrence – with one caveat, these characters almost never appear in movies written or directed by Blacks, or with an all Black cast.

When it comes to Black cinema we have few choices for our movie going pleasure. We have comedies, action comedies, the all important “Jesus Will Fix It” film and “Hot Ghetto Mess Drama,” (usually not the good kind), and last but not least is the “Catharsis Drama” – movies about profound suffering and abuse and how the characters where able to somehow carry on after being both victimized and traumatized. Few Black writers explore the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or create movies with a magical or mythological theme.

To add levels of depth and subtle complexity to their stories, adept writers and directors are able to use the archetypical and symbolic elements of the heroes and heroines of ancient mythological stories and folk and fairy tales. Many times these elements are used so skillfully as to be hardly recognized by the majority of the movie going public, but to the trained eye, these elements are obvious.

It takes study of classical literature, world mythology and symbology in order to use the above mentioned story elements with any level of effectiveness. Study that many burgeoning African American film makers seem all too willing to ignore in their movie making process, as these elements are often sorely lacking in the plots and storylines of the majority of Black cinema.

The “After Earth” screenplay was written by Gary Whitta and M. Night Shyamalan, with the story by Will Smith, tells the type of story that Black entertainment hasn’t seen the likes of in a very, very long time.

Some critics dislike this movie because they know what Mr. Smith is trying to accomplish with this type of movie, and they don’t like it. While Smith’s traditional audience may be slow to co-sign this movie for two reasons, one is they are not used to seeing African Americans play these types of roles, (although they will pay top dollar to watch Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reaves play these roles over and over again,) and two, they don’t really understand the themes portrayed in this movie due to the fact that as a culture, we were stripped of our initiatory practices and our stories, and as a result we are used to seeing these types of roles played by White or Asian actors and actresses.

By and large, the legends, folklore and traditions of Africans and other indigenous cultures, have been demonized through religion and western culture, and so it seems we shun the magical and fantastical images of ourselves as sorcerers, demigods and heroes.

Why “After Earth” is Worth Watching

Below I will outline various elements of the movie “After Earth” that make this movie worth seeing over and over again. Fathers, if you have been looking for a movie to take your sons to that will help you to begin a profound conversation about rites of passage and growing into a man, you’ll want to check this out.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!! – We are going to be discussing the story and plotline from this movie and by doing so parts of the actual story are going to be revealed. If you don’t want to spoil the movie before you’ve seen it, STOP NOW, and then come back after you’ve seen it to participate in this analysis.

Initiation

Let’s begin by taking a look at the theme of initiation that runs throughout “After Earth”.

Initiation was important in indigenous tribes because it was a system by which the young boys and girls of a given culture or tribe were guided through in order to educate, prepare and move them through the phase of childhood into adulthood and all the attendant rites and responsibilities which adulthood entailed.

Training

Initiation always begins with education and training, and in the movie we begin with the main character training with his military academy class. Readers will take note that cadets in the military go through a process of initiation designed to strip them of their life as a civilian to remold them as a soldier, and make no mistake, this system of initiation was taken from the ancient indigenous cultures of Africa and passed down through other cultures and societies throughout the world.

Training involves physical and mental exercise and tests designed to give initiates/cadets control over their bodies, their emotions and their minds.

It is at this point in the movie that we find that young Kitai, while exhibiting impressive physical abilities is lacking in emotional and mental control, issues which he will be forced to deal with later on in the movie.

Below is an outline of initiatory steps as experienced by the ancients and portrayed in “After Earth”

Trek Through Nature in Solitude With a Mission to Complete

Initiate Versus Nature, Beasts, and Self (FEAR)

Initiate must face and overcome several trials in order to reach their goal (manhood)

Endurance (Breathing linked to inhalers)

Initiate must protect and ration limited amount of supplies, ie; food, water, medical

Handling confrontation with potential danger.

It is worth noting here that Kitai failed his first encounter with danger (the monkeys) spectacularly! His Father told him to take control of his Power and watch what he creates. Kitai could not control his fear and anxiety and thus created a scenario where his life was in danger and forcing him to flee from the confrontation he created out of fear. In initiation, this is to be expected. The initiate must fail in order to understand what can result from recklessness and unchecked fear.

This same scenario played itself out in the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke was sent into the “Cave of Darkness” by Yoda. Luke took FEAR into the cave with him and was confronted by it in the form of his Father, Darth Vader – though this Vader was purely a creation of Luke’s fearful thoughts.

More Steps on the Path

Facing medical emergency – poisoning by river leach and self administration of anti-venom.

Surviving the elements – finding thermal heat vents and shelter to keep warm during cold spells.

Defying Authority or “The System” in order to do what is right.

Leap of Faith – Jumping off a cliff in the hopes that his brash act will carry him to his goal.

Surviving a predator – The Raptor or Hawk representing Heru*

Assisting Mother Nature to defend her children – fighting for the lives of the baby hawks against the attacks of the feline predators.

Divine Aid – Initiate is pushed to his physical limits and thus transcends and is able to make contact with the spirit world where he is able to make peace with his dead sister and is given the aid and the protection of his spirit totem, the hawk.

Initiate reaches physical goal but must still go higher in order to reconnect spiritually with his Father – Kitai finds the beacon however it does not send the signal. Out of anger and frustration he hears the spiritual voice of his Father telling him to take a knee, (lower his physical nature so that he may listen to his higher “spirit” nature) – his father then tells him that he must go higher, to the top of a nearby mountain so that he can send their beacon signal (plea for assistance) into the heavens.

Initiate must face and overcome his fear here symbolized by the “Ursa” monster. Note here that “Ursa” is another name for a Bear which in some native tribes had to be faced and overcome by the young teens of the tribe in order for them to become men.

Initiate has to enter the Cave of Darkness/Fear. It is here that the monster reveals itself to the initiate and must be fought to the death.

Initiate is hurled into the abyss and must experience death. This death is not a physical one usually, but represents the death of the childish nature of the boy and the birth of the man. Fear, doubt and disbelief dies here, and the man, the warrior is able to be born. Initiate is put in mortal danger in order to force a change of mind and heart.

Upon reaching the mountaintop, the initiate is able to completely conquer himself and as a result his own fear and is thus able to destroy the monster and send a beacon into the heavens to receive a rescue and a return to his heavenly home.

By completing his task, the initiate is able to return home and redeem (save) his Father who was symbolically dead and in the underworld or in a deep soul sleep from which only the sons sacrifice could save him. **

Archetypes

The makers of “After Earth” also make use of archetypes to help them tell their story. According to the Concise Encyclopedia an “archetype” is “Primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered universal.” Literary critics adopted the term from Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. Because archetypes originate in pre-logical thought, they are held to evoke startlingly similar feelings in reader and author. Examples of archetypal symbols include the snake, whale, eagle, and vulture. An archetypal theme is the passage from innocence to experience; archetypal characters include the blood brother, rebel, wise grandparent, and prostitute with a heart of gold.”

Some of the archetypes that “After Earth” makes use of include, the “Father,” wise and valiant, yet fundamentally separated from his son, due to some perceived weakness or character flaw within the Son. The Son has let his Father down in a profound way, which has caused emotional and physical detachment.

The archetype of the “Son/Sun” in movies has the son following in his Father’s footsteps, while at the same time trying to make his own mark. He loves his Father but is resentful of him because he knows that he has fallen short of his Father’s expectations and/or achievements and he yearns to be like his Father and even to surpass him, in order to gain his love and respect. It is the Son’s job ultimately to redeem or save his Father, which makes him a suitable replacement for his Father, and which earns him the right to become a Father in his own right.

The steps that the Father and Son archetype takes in the movie “After Earth” are listed below.

Son in search of Father

Son fails to achieve an expected goal, and is judged by Father to be a failure. In After Earth this is unspoken, though in some stories the Father tells the Son outright that he is a failure.

Father and Son embark on journey to attempt to mend the rift between them. (This is a mask for the beginning of the initiatory journey.)

Father and Son encounter disaster, which only the two of them survive, leaving the Father severely wounded and having to rely on the Son for salvation.

Father demands absolute obedience and adherence to his rules and commands as he does not fully trust the mental and physical abilities of the Son.

Son is sent out to face the elements and enemies alone, but with the “spiritual guidance” of the Father. In After Earth, the spiritual guidance of the Father is represented by the com-link that keeps them in voice communication, and the “All Seeing Eyes” or cameras that the Father deploys in order to observe his Son’s progress and to watch out for danger.

Son VS Father – The Son begins to question his Father’s authority when his Father exhibits a lack of faith that the Son can accomplish his goals. This is perhaps the MOST important part of the movie when Kitai chooses to outright disobey the direct order of his Father. The lesson is this: when authority is wrong or becomes oppressive, it must be disobeyed by the hero in order for justice to be done.

Son Disobeys Father and is Cutoff, Cast Out or Cast Down. Being cut off from communication with the Father is symbolic of being cast down from heaven, which was shown literally as Kitai took a leap off the top of a waterfall in disobedience to his Father’s order that he return home. This event caused his communication link to his Father to be broken, leaving the Son alone and without guidance at a critical stage of the mission/initiation.

Son Forced to Face Enemy (FEAR) Alone – In the movie fear is represented by the Ursa, which is a monster that tracks its enemies through pheromones released when its prey is afraid. This creature can literally smell your fear. It is only when the Son has mastered himself that he can overcome the fear inside him, which the Ursa beast in the movie symbolizes.

Son Redeems (SAVES) Father, Returns Home a Man, Understands and Becomes Father.

The Heru Mythos

Every hero story you have ever read or saw played out on the silver screen is based on the mythos of Heru. Heru was an ancient African deity or Neter (force or aspect of nature) and the template for all good kings. You can read about his exploits in “The Passion of Osiris (Ausar)” and “A Tale of Two Brothers”. These tales come down to us from the land of ancient Kemet, now called Egypt.

In the myth Heru’s Father Ausar (Osiris) is betrayed and murdered by his jealous brother Set. Ausar is resurrected as the spiritual ruler of the underworld or afterlife. As a ruler, he is perpetually made to sit on a throne and cast his judgment on those who have recently passed on. [This is shown symbolically as Kitai’s Father Cipher was stuck in the chair inside the ship and using the ships camera’s (spiritual eyes) and the comm. Link (spiritual communication) to watch over and provide guidance to Kitai]

The throne motif is important as it was foreshadowed in After Earth by the soldier in the wheelchair, who approached the General and his Son. Upon approaching the General, the soldier declared that the General had saved his life and asked to be “stood up,” or in Biblical terms, “made upright”, by his companions so that he could make a proper salute to his hero (savior). This theme would play itself out again as the General would make the request “stand me up”, so that he could salute his son -this particular movie sequence represents the son “redeeming” or “saving” his Father.

Getting back to the mythos of Heru… after his father Ausar (Osiris) is murdered and his brother takes over the kingdom of Kemet, it becomes the mission of Heru and is Mother Auset (Isis) to get Heru on the throne as the rightful ruler of the land. Heru has to go through years of training under the auspices of his Mother Auset, His Aunt Nebhet (Nephtys) and the diminutive Bes who is the Neter of child birth, happiness and war. It is Bes who trains Heru to be a warrior. In the movie Star Wars Yoda played the part of the trainer (Bes) to Luke Skywalker (Heru).

The symbol of Heru was the Hawk. He was often depicted with wings and having the head or mask of a hawk. In the movie After Earth we see the relationship of the Hero to the Hawk in the “Leap of Faith” sequence where the hawk chases Kitai down and then carries him off to her nest to be food for her baby chicks. Kitai awakes while being nibbled on by the newborn chicks, but finds that the hawk nest is under attack by feline predators intent on eating the chicks.

Kitai helps the hawk to defend the nest but fails to keep the predators from killing all of the baby birds.

The hawk mourns the loss of her baby chicks with a screech of rage and begins to follow Kitai in the air, which seems menacing in the beginning, but we find out later that the Hawk has bonded with Kitai and she later drags him to safety and protects him from the cold by using her own body heat to keep him from freezing. This is an obvious symbol of Kitai’s mythic relationship to Heru the Neter*** of the Sun and the Sky… the original sky – walker.

After many contentious battles and adventures, Heru, with the help of his Mother would go on to gain rulership of the land of Kemet (Egypt) and thereby redeem his Father Ausar (Osirus).

It is important that you know that the story of Ausar (Osiris) and Heru (Horus) has been told and retold across the world and can be found in many variations, the names and characters and even some of the circumstances may change, but the root of the story remains the same. It is the duty of the Son to succeed his Father as ruler of the land or EARTH, but only AFTER he has proven himself worthy to do so. So you can see that the movie After Earth has a lot more depth to it than meets the casual eye.

There are many other examples of the mythological and archetypal symbolism that are incorporated into the movie After Earth that I was not able to touch on like the Mother as the “Queen of Heaven,” or the Sister as the “Spiritual Guardian” of her Brother. This movie is chock full of all the elements that make a great story and I for one feel that the story of After Earth was masterfully told. I’m looking forward to more of this type of movie from not only Will Smith and crew, but from other Black film-makers as well.

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

As we kick off a new year in cinema, I thought I’d take time to look ahead at the films we’ll be hit with over the course of the year. In this article, I’ll be going over what my 15 most anticipated movies are for the year. Now it should be noted, these aren’t the movies that I feel will be the best of 2011 necessarily. Rather, they’re the ones that, as of the time of this writing, I am anticipating the most. So without further ado, here are my most anticipated movies of 2011.

1. Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya

Stars: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish

Release Date: March 25, 2011

Genre: Action Fantasy Thriller

What is it: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.

Why it should be good: Really hot and badass chicks wearing schoolgirl outfits and other skimpy clothes, with swords and guns, coupled with Snyder’s awesome visual flair? Yea, definitely count me in. The trailer for this thing just looks completely awesome. From the style to the action, even the story (while seeming a bit out there) seems cool. I’m beginning to thoroughly enjoy Snyder’s work. If The Adjustment Bureau could be this year’s new Inception due to its mindfuck story, then Sucker Punch could absolutely be this year’s Inception meets The Dark Knight meets 300 meets Inglorious Basterds due to it’s style and epic adventure, yet dark tone with alternate realities. This movie just oozes style and badass-ness and I really can’t wait for what is sure to be an absolutely entertaining, epic adventure.

Why it could suck: Snyder can be a bit off his mark sometimes. While Watchmen was enjoyable, it did get a bit boring. And Legend of the Guardians is said to suffer from some pacing issues as well and has drawn mixed reviews from critics. Though to be fair to Snyder, he wrote neither of those movies, but is responsible for the writing (or at least screenplay) of the badass 300.

2. Sherlock Holmes 2

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writer: Kieran and Michele Mulroney

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry

Release Date: December 16, 2011

Genre: Action Mystery

What is it: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

Why it should be good: I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan. The Doyle stories still stand as my favorite books today. I love Sherlock. He’s such a badass. And finally, a movie seems to have captured that pretty well. The first was one of the better portrayals of Sherlock I had seen. Rather than being portrayed as a snooty, ‘proper’ and sophisticated Englishman, he was shown with all the rough edges that Doyle wrote him with. While the movie was indeed Hollywood-ized beyond anything you’d find in the books, it was a fun adventure and quite an enjoyable movie. Guy Ritchie is a very good filmmaker as well. For these reasons, and my love for Sherlock, I’m very much eager to see how Part 2 turns out, especially as they go head-to-head with Moriarty. Also, I’m eager to see how well Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,etc) does in her Hollywood debut.

Why it could suck: New writers. The original writers from the first aren’t coming back instead Kieran and Michele Mulroney are taking over the job. So let’s see how they handle it. Relatively new to writing, the two previously wrote Paper Man which didn’t fair so well with critics.

3. Paranormal Activity 3

Director: Tod Williams

Writer: Christopher B. Landon and Michael R. Perry; characters by Oren Peli

Stars: Katie Featherston

Release Date: October 21, 2011

Genre: Horror

What is it: Well, we have no idea what this one is going to be about as nothing has been given. However, the first movie followed a couple that were being haunted by an evil spirit who possessed Katie. The sequel (which was more of a prequel) followed Katie’s sister’s family as that same spirit haunts them and their baby. This all culminates to the two stories converging at the end of Part 2 where it gets to the point where Part 1 ends and we see what happens after the whole event. Undoubtedly, Part 3 is set to pick up where Part 2 and 1 left off. What happens from there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Why it should be good: The first Paranormal Activity became something of a cult phenomenon/sensation. Hailed as the scariest movie of the year, people flocked to the film making it a huge success. And rightly so in my book. It was a minimalistic horror movie that took it back to the roots of the genre by using tension and suspense to really instill fear and terror in the minds of the audience. Part 2, while some people seemed to not like it as much as the first, did more of the same. I actually thought Part 2 was pretty much right on par with the first. And the ingenious storytelling that created a parallel prequel to the first was definitely cool. The creator and writers of this franchise have really shown that the horror genre can be revived and doesn’t have to be all about gore and such. They’ve done a good job with instilling that fear in the audience as well, tapping into that fear, leaving the audience’s imagination to run wild while being completely captivated. I expect no less from the third.

Why it could suck: If you feel the second was worse than the first, then you may be in for some disappoint when you find out the same writers and director of the sequel are back. However, like with Part 2, Oren Peli (the creator of the franchise) is still very much involved and is serving as producer on this film.

4. Paul

Director: Greg Mottola

Writer: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

Stars: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Seth Rogen

Release Date: March 18, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Comedy

What is it: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town-a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.

Why it should be good: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back together again. That should be enough. Seriously. When these two guys get together it’s gold, as evidenced by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This might be my favorite duo around these days. They’ll also be pairing up to write this which is always a good thing as well (well, this will be Frost’s first real writing job, but Pegg has been responsible for their first two outings together). Now, they won’t be reuniting with Edgar Wright for this one, instead they’ll be teaming with the director of Adventureland andSuperbad, two movies which I definitely enjoyed. On top of all of that, they have comedic star Seth Rogan joining them. Sounds like quite the team really and I’m rather excited for what I’m sure will be a very funny movie, and possibly end up being the comedy of the year.

Why it could suck: You do have to wonder if some of that magic from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will be lost as Frost and Pegg carry on without Wright. I think they’re great comedic talents though and can stand on their own. And the somewhat all-star get-together should compensate.

5. The Adjustment Bureau

Director: George Nolfi

Writer: George Nolfi; Based on Short Story by Philip K. Dick

Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp

Release Date: March 4, 2011

Genre: Thriller

What is it: Just as he is on the brink of winning a senate seat, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Though David is smitten, mysterious men conspire to keep him away from the beautiful dancer. David learns he is up against the powerful agents of Fate itself, and, glimpsing the future laid out before him, must either accept a predetermined path that does not include Elise, or defy Fate to be with her.

Why it should be good: Honestly, this sounds like it could be this year’s Inception. With plenty of mindfucks going on, it’s a thriller involving different levels of reality and mysterious forces. Matt Damon really tends to shine in these types of movies. The trailer has me rather intrigued and looks like it could provide quite an enthralling adventure. While this is Nolfi’s directorial debut, he did write The Bourne Ultimatum, thus will be teaming up with Damon once again. The movie is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose work has been the grounds for such movies asBlade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and A Scanner Darkly. So with presumably some good source material, and a writer that can definitely do the part (as illustrated with The Bourne Ultimatum) we could be in for a real treat.

Why it could suck: This is Nolfi’s first time in the director’s seat, so we’ll have to wait and see if he’s in over his head. Furthermore, it is being billed as something of a romance thriller. So let’s hope they don’t go overboard with the romance part and make it some sappy romance film for which they sacrifice some of the plot to focus on the romance.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director: Rob Marshall

Writer: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane

Release Date: May 20, 2011

Genre: Fantasy Action-Adventure

What is it: Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

Why it should be good: Some people have hated them. Some have thought they’ve gotten worse as they went along. I’ve found the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be a fun adventure. Just a fun movie with plenty of adventure, some cool special effects, and just good times. And maybe it’s my man-crush I have on Depp, but I’m absolutely thrilled to see him back as Jack Sparrow. The character is so much fun and always provides for some entertainment. Should be interesting to see how they go about freshening up the franchise as well as they get a new cast of characters while Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are out.

Why it could suck: It’s a Hollywood sequel, those always have chances of sucking. Also, the exclusion of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann could put a damper on things. While there is a chance that it could freshen it up, there is just as much a chance that some of that magic might be lost as they look to replace those characters. Also, while we do get the same writers back, we have a new director taking on this sequel. Pirates seems to be out of Rob Marshall’s comfort zone (best known for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago) so we’ll have to wait and see how he can handle an action adventure of this scope.

7. The Hangover 2

Director: Todd Phillips

Writer: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha

Release Date: May 26, 2011

Genre: Comedy

What is it: Not a lot is known about the plot of this sequel. What is known is that the gang is back to get into more trouble as they travel to Thailand. And Phillips promise a lot of fucked up surprises and hilarity.

Why it should be good: The Hangover was hilarious I thought. The cast of the original had good chemistry and the writing was hilarious. It provided for several laugh-out-loud moments and was one of the funniest movies of the year (one of the funniest I’ve seen in a while too). Hopefully, getting the gang back together will provide for more hilarity that the first one delivered.

Why it could suck: New writers. The writers from the first aren’t coming back and have been replaced. Instead we get Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin that have brought us such garbage asSemi-Pro, Starsky and Hutch, Scary Movie 4 and Superhero Movie. If their past work is any indicator of their talent, the writers could really butcher this franchise.

8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson

Release Date: July 1, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Action-Adventure

What is it: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets, which could turn the tide in the Transformers’ final battle.

Why it should be good: I’ve enjoyed the franchise so far. While Part 2, was blasted pretty well by critics, I didn’t hate it that much. Granted it wasn’t as good as the first, but I still found it fairly entertaining. And the movies are always a fun visual treat. Also, Michael Bay. I still have no idea why he receives so much crap while James Cameron is given a pass. Bay is just as adept a director as Cameron is. Anybody that still likes to tell me there’s a difference between Pearl Harbor and Titanic will kindly receive a “fuck off” as you buy into the pretentious drivel. At least Bay knows his place (a mindless action director who can make pretty movies and fun explosions). Whereas Cameron believes his some gift to cinema which often leads to his films being poorly written, yet pretentious as hell. Seriously, I’ll take Armageddon, Transformers, The Rock and Bad Boys over Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, and T2 any day of the week. Even though, yes, I know that will enrage many people and get me flamed for that opinion. Now, this movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) surely won’t be a great cinematic piece. But as a mindless “let’s make some cool special effects scenes and also blow some shit up” type of movie, it should be entertaining.

Why it could suck: Well, if I had to pick one movie from the franchise that was better, it’s definitely the first. The writer for this third film, unfortunately, is the same writer from Part 2 rather than the first. Also, it’s still Michael Bay. He’s not the greatest of directors.

9. X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writer: Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller, Jamie Moss, Josh Schwartz and Zack Stentz; story by Bryan Singer

Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence

Release Date: June 3, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Action

What is it: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.

Why it should be good: A look at when Xavier and Magneto were younger. A backstory to where it all started. For such a thrilling franchise, this could be a nice take on the story and provide quite some entertainment and thrills. Plus, having directed movies like Kick-Ass andStardust, Matthew Vaughn is, I believe, much more adept at creating a movie like this than say a Jon Favreau or such. Vaughn also has the enjoyable Layer Cake under his director’s belt, which very much shows off that he learned well producing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels andSnatch. Furthermore, his friendship and learning under the great Guy Ritchie, only further adds value to his role as a filmmaker. Meanwhile, the writers have brought us such movies as Stardustand Kick-Ass as well as TV shows such as Fringe and Chuck. Also, it has a pretty good cast.

Why it could suck: Well, those writers did also bring us The Sarah Connor Chronicles andAndromeda. Also, prequels sometimes have a tendency to not do so well. It’s, sometimes, almost as if a prequel is a last resort when the writers have run out of ideas of where the current story can go, so they decide to go back and cash in on the name once more by filling in some gaps from the beginning. I guess only time will tell if this becomes a Batman Begins (ie a very good prequel movie that did very well to reboot the franchise) or it falls more in line with The Scorpion King (ie a complete waste of my time that probably shouldn’t have even been made).

10. Source Code

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Ben Ripley

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

Release Date: April 1, 2011

Genre: Action/Sci-fi-Thriller

What is it: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

Why it should be good: The trailer just makes this like it could be a cool creative story that provides for an entertaining thriller that could keep you on the edge of your seat. This is Duncan Jones sophomore release, after 2009′s highly acclaimed Moon. So, if he delivers again, we could have a nice treat on our hands and he could solidify his place as a talented filmmaker. I also really enjoy Jake Gyllenhaal. I think he’s a great actor and should do fine in leading this movie. Vera Farmiga is also a really talented actress and one I definitely don’t mind seeing. Meanwhile, Michelle Monaghan isn’t too bad either.

Why it could suck: This is coming from an unproven writer. And while Duncan Jones’ Moon was well-received, it’s not rare that a filmmaker comes in to become something of a one hit wonder. Let’s just hope Jones can deliver a worthwhile follow-up.

11. Battle: Los Angeles

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Writer: Christopher Bertolini

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan

Release Date: March 11, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Action

What is it: A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.

Why it should be good: The official trailer makes it look so damn bad-ass. Maybe that’s in part due to the great song selection for the trailer, but it looks just completely thrilling. It looks to be a sci-fi action movie that actually has some depth too. It sort of reminds me of Independence Day but with the seriousness, depth and emotional-center of some type of good post-9/11 movie. It’s like we may finally get a really good sci-fi movie with the heart of the best war movies, coupled with the awesome actual and visual treats of some of the best sci-fi/alien movies. Eckhart is a good actor that should do well in this movie as well. Also, the writer’s only past feature film work was The General’s Daughter which I thoroughly enjoyed. So if that’s any indication of the type of writing we’ll get for Battle LA then we should definitely have a compelling story to go with the visual flare of it all. Likewise, Jonathan Liebesman has brought us The Killing Room which I felt was a fairly enjoyable suspense/thriller movie.

Why it could suck: Liebesman also brought us Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginningwhich was garbage. On top of that, movies like this can often take themselves too seriously and often times become pretentious and/or preachy and just plain unimaginative with no real heart to the movie (I’m looking at you War of the Worlds). Let’s hope they avoid that here.

12. Cowboys and Aliens

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof; based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde

Release Date: July 29, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Action-Thriller

What is it: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.

Why it should be good: It just looks fun. It’s like Indiana Jones meets Men in Black with a good western feel to it. This also comes from the writers that brought us such movies as Transformersand Star Trek, and such TV shows as Alias, Fringe and Lost (though in my book “Lost” might be a bad example, though others seemed to enjoy it). Also, there’s a good cast (Craig, Ford and Wilde), coupled with a nice supporting cast which includes Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano. At the end of the day, it may end up being a mindless action movie, but still looks to be fun.

Why it could suck: Jon Favreau. I’m sorry, but the guy hasn’t sold me. People seem to like him, but I’m not entirely sure why. The guy hasn’t delivered any really great movies. And only a few decent ones. Well, Elf I thought was really funny. Both Iron Man movies were really nothing to write home about though. Both were enjoyable, but they definitely weren’t spotlights in their genre. And the second one was panned quite a bit (though I enjoyed both, but the second was a bit lacking). And that’s really the only movies (Iron Man) that he’s done in this genre/realm. So that doesn’t give me a big vote of confidence in the guy. His other movies: Zathura was crap andMade was decent. Nothing else to note really. On top of that, the writers did also give usRevenge of the Fallen, which I enjoyed well enough, but wasn’t on par with the first Transformersmovie. And they’re also responsible for such things as The Island and Legend of Zorro.

13. Apollo 18

Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

Writer: Brian Miller and Cory Goodman

Stars: None Given

Release Date: April 22, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Horror-Thriller

What is it: Apollo 18 is a found-footage movie that claims to be “a film about the real mission to space in the 1970′s that was canceled by NASA.” With the tagline “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon”, while implying a government cover-up of monsters existing on the moon.

Why it should be good: With these found-footage movies, they tend to go terribly wrong or be very entertaining. This one is looking to go the way of the latter. It’s giving a fresh take on the rising sub-genre and taking us to an interesting location. Furthermore, it’s basing itself on some real actual events, thus adding some extra layer to it. The viral marketing on this movie is going along nicely and the film has become something of a hot ticket. Gonzalo is a Spanish-born director who has had a couple of critically-acclaimed films in the past as well.

Why it could suck: It’s kind of the nature of the genre. If they don’t hit they mark, then they tend to really suck. Couple that with a pair of brand-new writers, and there are no guarantees for this movie. I’m getting a feeling though that this will end up being up there with Paranormal Activity.

14. Unknown

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer: Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cromwell; based on the novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert

Stars: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and January Jones

Release Date: February 18, 2011

Genre: Drama Mystery Thriller

What is it: A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.

Why it should be good: Liam Neeson is a bad-ass. Watching the trailer, I’m reminded of Neeson’s past movieTaken. Seems to be that similar mystery action thriller type movie. And I absolutely loved that movie. Neeson made it a very good film showing off his bad-assness in it. If Unknown turns out to be as good as Takenwe’ll have a very entertaining movie on our hands. Didier Van Cauwelaert, whose novel the movie is based on, is an award-winning author with multiple best-selling novels. The novel this movie is based on has met plenty of praise. So, we’re sure to find that the story/source material is good.

Why it could suck: Two virtually unproven writers. While the source material may be good, they could mess it up and adapt a bad screenplay. On top of that, the director is responsible for such things as Orphan and House of Wax, neither of which were that good.

15. Red State

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Stars: Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Michael Angarano

Release Date: TBA (Screening at Sundance 2011)

Genre: Horror Thriller

What is it: A horror film in which a group of misfits encounter fundamentalism gone to the extreme in Middle America.

Why it should be good: Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors around. While last year’s Cop Out was rather bland, this year he returns to writing his own material with Red State. Furthermore, he’ll be treading into a new genre with his first horror movie. I love Kevin Smith as a writer/director and have been fond of pretty much all of his work. From Clerks to Mallrats to Clerks II to Jay and Silent Bob, everything Smith has actually wrote and directed, I’ve enjoyed really. Couple that with the enjoyable John Goodman and the “fresh off an Oscar-worthy performance” Melissa Leo, and we should be in for a real treat.