A woman lives in disguise as a man for two decades to secure decent work at a Dublin hotel in male-dominated 19th century Ireland, but comes to regret the decision to do so after falling in love.
Get excited: It's the first good big-screen leading role for Glenn Close in ages, and it seems like a perfect (i.e., Oscar-worthy) showcase for her talent: she won an Obie for playing the same role on stage in the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs in the 1980s. Close herself adapted the play for the screen, along with John Banville (Booker Prize-winning novelist of The Sea). Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Brendan Gleeson also star.
Then again: The film has already been delayed more than once, and is not guaranteed to make it out by the end of the year.
This character-driven historical drama is set in 1900 during the Philippines-American War, where American occupying forces meet resistance from local villagers.
Get excited: Writer-director John Sayles reunites with Chris Cooper, the star of one of his best films (Lone Star). The story of a controversial American occupation could have interesting parallels with today's conflicts.
Then again: Reviews out of Toronto last fall were mixed at best, with few observers ranking it among Sayles' best work.
Much to his surprise, a man discovers that his dying 75-year-old father is gay.
Get excited: It's only the second feature film for acclaimed music video director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), who based the screenplay on his own real-life experiences with his father. Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer handle the two lead roles, which can't be a bad thing. Reviews out of Toronto were very positive, and the film wisely incorporates comedy into what could have been a depressing tale.
Then again: Some people may not care for Mills' jumping narrative and highly stylized approach, which incorporates visual trickery and even a talking (in subtitles) dog.
An English writer and French woman discuss love, art, beauty and marriage, blurring the lines between what is real and what is fake.
Get excited: Reviews were positive when the film premiered at Cannes in 2010, where star Juliette Binoche won the best actress prize. It could be the most accessible film Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (Ten) has made to date.
Then again: A film that plays out as a conversation between two people is not for everyone. Did you like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset? That might be the question to answer before seeing Certified Copy.
Shakespeare's violent tragedy is set in the present day (think gun battles and explosions, though it retains much of the original dialogue), as a general-turned-politician seeks a brutal revenge on the city that banished him.
Get excited: This directorial debut for actor Ralph Fiennes (who also stars in the title role) is currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit.
Then again: Will Shakespeare's dialogue hold up in the setting of a modern, action-filled political thriller that looks as gritty as The Hurt Locker?
The Deep Blue Sea
Set in 1950s England, this drama based on Terence Rattigan's play of the same name centers on a married woman (Rachel Weisz) who is having an affair with a former RAF pilot.
Get excited: We haven't had a dramatic film from Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives) since 2000's The House of Mirth.
Then again: There's no guarantee the film will reach the States in 2011.
To restore his father’s honor, a young Roman commander and his slave set off to recover the emblem of the Ninth Legion, a golden eagle.
Get excited: Stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell should appeal to a younger audience, and director Kevin Macdonald has shown skill at building suspense in his previous films (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland, and State of Play).
Then again: Centurion, another story about the Ninth Legion, came out in 2010, and even with solid reviews, it couldn’t get people into the theaters. Are filmgoers tired of sword and sandal action thrillers?
Everything Must Go
A struggling middle-aged alcoholic prepares for a yard sale after a terrible day in which he is fired and his wife leaves him after locking him out of the house and scattering his belongings on the front lawn.
Get excited: It's a rare (mostly) dramatic turn for star Will Ferrell, who demonstrated in the past he can step out of his goofy comedy comfort zone with films like Stranger Than Fiction. The film is loosely based on a Raymond Carver short story.
Then again: Despite a good performance by Ferrell, reaction was mixed after the low-key drama screened at several major festivals last year.
Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story follows the unlikely friendship that forms between a young white woman just out of college and the African-American maids that work in the houses of early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi.
Get excited: The book is beloved by many, and the cast is strong: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney, and Octavia Spencer.
Then again: You probably haven’t heard of director Tate Taylor’s only previous feature, Pretty Ugly People, so entrusting a popular book to inexperienced hands is a genuine risk, even if he’s a friend of the novelist.
After taking the position of governess at Thornfield House, young Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) discovers love, a dark mystery, and her own inner strength.
Get excited: Michael Fassbender has already shown great range in Inglourious Basterds and 300. Jane Eyre could also ride the current Jane Austen popularity wave and bring even more Bronte to the screen.
Then again: Jane Eyre has already been adapted many times over. It will need to be both a fresh take and respectful to the novel to keep audiences from opting for one of the other versions.
Live With It
A young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) attempts to deal positively with a diagnosis of cancer.
Get excited: The strong supporting cast includes Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen (who also produces), Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, and Philip Baker Hall, and the film is based in part on screenwriter Will Reiser's own life story. Early word on the still unfinished film is positive.
Then again: The rather turbulent production has seen the film go through multiple titles, lead actors, and directors.
In the year 1845, a group of settlers get lost along the Oregon Trail and must decide who to trust so they can survive.
Get excited: Reviews out of Toronto and Venice were extremely positive for Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to Wendy and Lucy. The cast is impressive: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kazan and Will Patton.
Then again: Typically viewers either love or hate Reichardt’s sparse, observational style. Some find it slow and ponderous, others contemplative and mesmerizing.
This long-in-development story is based on the real-life general manager of the Oakland A’s, played by Brad Pitt, who must put together a winning team on a (relatively) tiny budget with the help of mathematical statistics.
Get excited: It’s been a while since we’ve had a good baseball movie, and this one also features Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, and Chris Pratt, and is directed by Capote director Bennett Miller.
Then again: Steven Soderbergh was set to shoot the film over a year ago, but the plug got pulled at the last minute. Here’s hoping the film is not cursed.
My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) stars as Marilyn Monroe in this drama about the actress' relationships with a young British man -- who escorts her around the country after Monroe's new husband Arthur Miller departs -- and her co-star Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) while making the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl.
Get excited: You had us at "Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe."
Then again: The internet community seems much less impressed with the unconvincing first pictures (see above) of Williams as Monroe.
The Other Woman
Based on the novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, the drama centers on a woman's unhappy relationships with her stepson and the boy's mother.
Get excited: The film stars Natalie Portman and is directed by Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex).
Then again: There are plenty of warning signs: The film has been gathering dust for two years since it was completed, and Roos' most recent films (like 2005's Happy Endings) have been unsuccessful. A screening at the Toronto festival last fall left viewers underwhelmed.
The Rum Diary
Withnail & I director Bruce Robinson helms this adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s early novel that stars Johnny Depp as the surrogate writer who moves from New York to Puerto Rico, starts drinking rum, and falls for a woman (Amber Heard).
Get excited: Depp gave one of his best performances as Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and is rumored to have personally selected Robinson to direct the film, which co-stars Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Richard Jenkins.
Then again: Robinson hasn’t directed a movie since 1992’s Jennifer Eight, and this film has been delayed for over a year, allegedly due to distribution issues.
Take This Waltz
A young married woman finds herself falling for another man with whom she has an instant connection.
Get excited: This second directorial effort for actress Sarah Polley comes four years after she received tremendous praise for her debut, Away from Her. Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, and Sarah Silverman head the cast.
Then again: We are curious to see a trailer for the film, since the presence of Rogen and Silverman (who reportedly has a nude scene) suggests a more comedic tone to a film that so far has been promoted as a drama.
Two parents deal with the chaotic aftermath of the rape of their 14-year-old daughter by a sexual predator she met online.
Get excited: It's only the second time behind the camera for former Friend David Schwimmer, but he has a good cast to work with, led by Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, and Tom McCarthy.
Then again: Schwimmer's first directorial effort was the disappointing Run, Fatboy, Run, which obviously was much lighter in tone.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
A dying man reflects on his past with the help of his dead wife's ghost and the spirit of his long-lost son, now inhabiting the body of a monkey-ish creature.
Get excited: The Thai film was the surprise recipient of the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes festival -- the first Asian entry to win that prestigious award since 1997. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul may not be a household name in America, but critics seem to love his films, which include Tropical Malady, and early reviews for this one praised the film as moving and funny.
Then again: Depending on how you feel about elliptical movies that place mood above plot -- and feature sex scenes involving catfish -- this might not be the movie for you, though it is more accessible than some of the director's previous work.
A former boxer and recovering alcoholic trains his Marine son to become a successful mixed martial arts fighter, and he must eventually take on the biggest of underdogs: his own brother.
Get excited: The cast is topped by Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy.
Then again: Comparisons to The Fighter -- another blend of professional fighting and family drama -- will be inevitable, and we can already predict which is the better film.
Water for Elephants
In this adaptation of the best-selling Sara Gruen novel, a veterinary student joins a traveling circus and falls in love with the wife of the head animal trainer.
Get excited: Robert Pattinson plays the vet while Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz play the couple. Writer Richard LaGravenese (The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer) has had success adapting adult romances for film.
Then again: Director Francis Lawrence’s resume (lots of music videos, Constantine, and I Am Legend) wouldn’t make him the obvious choice to direct the film.
What do you think?
What movies are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the discussion section below, and don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our 2011 Movie Preview for more details about the upcoming year's biggest films.
Writers Nick Hyman, Keith Kimbell, and Mike Thompson contributed to this article.