Maryland movie talents to watch in the new year

In what could be a benchmark year for Maryland-influenced movies, Edgar Allan Poe's mad creations will haunt the world's big screens, Jim Henson's lovably-loony puppets will frolic all over them and movie giants like Tim Burton and George Lucas will highlight homegrown Baltimore talent. Here's a list of red-letter movies for the Old Line State in 2011.

"The Raven"An anonymous devotee no longer leaves three roses and a half-bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe's grave in Baltimore on the writer's birthday. But this year, Hollywood will offer Poe its own bouquet and toast with "The Raven," a fictional account of the writer solving serial killings that are based on his own short stories. With John Cusack as Poe, this freewheeling fantasia promises to have the zesty thrills of a prime Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes pastiche, like "The Seven Per Cent Solution." If all goes according to plan, it will land in theaters long before Poe's 202nd birthday rolls in on Jan. 19, 2012.

"The Cold Light of Day" The production company behind "The Raven," Intrepid Pictures, is also collaborating on this international kidnap thriller, starring Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver. Novelist Richard Price, who wrote for "The Wire," did the final revision of the script. Executive producer Kevin Mann grew up in Bethesda.

"Dark Shadows" Baltimore-born actor Kirsten Van Wagner graduated from Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She last hit local screens in an uncredited part in "The Blind Side," the smash big-screen rendition of Michael Oher's pre-Ravens life. Early in 2011, Van Wagner begins work as the female lead in Tim Burton's renovation of the hit horror soap opera "Dark Shadows," starring Johnny Depp as that hard-to-resist vampire, Barnabas Collins.

"Rise of the Apes" Another Baltimore-born actor, Karin Konoval, has been acting in TV and movies for a quarter of a century, including last year's young-adult hit "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." This year will unveil her highest-profile role yet, as the orangutan Maurice in the "Planet of the Apes" prequel, "Rise of the Apes." (It's being made at 20th Century Fox, which is run by Baltimore's own Tom Rothman.)

"Red Tails" Rick Otto, the son of a major in the Baltimore City Police Department, planned to enter law school after graduating from what is now Loyola University Maryland. But hanging out on the set of "Homicide" led him into acting, including a recurring role on "The Wire" — and now, a part in the World War II film "Red Tails," the saga of the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering African-American combat pilots. It's long been a dream film for executive producer George Lucas, who also wrote the story; filming is completed but no release date has been set.

"The Muppets" You could argue that no Marylander except for Poe has had a wider impact on pop culture than Mississippi-born Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. After moving to Hyattsville, he attended Northwestern High School and the University of Maryland, College Park, and experienced his creative breakthrough at WRC-TV in Washington. Twenty-one years after Henson's death, his "Muppet Show" characters have reconvened for the movie that industry pundits predict will be the breakaway hit next Thanksgiving.

—Michael Sragow

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