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What to look forward to in 2011

We closed the books on 2010 with an A to Z rundown of the year in pop culture back in December, so in this first A&E section of the new year, it's only fitting that we look forward to the most promising Arkansas-tied arts and culture scheduled for 2011.

Little Rock native Jeff Nichols' new film "Take Shelter" debuts at Sundance at the end of the month. After the critical embrace of Nichols' debut, "Shotgun Stories," look for "Take Shelter" to attract a good bit of attention at the festival, particularly with respected indie actor Mike Shannon ("Boardwalk Empire") once again starring for Nichols.

The film, which centers on a husband and father (Shannon) who can't decide whether his dreams of an apocalyptic storm are prophetic or the onset of an inherited mental illness, should make it to Little Rock for the Little Rock Film Festival at the latest.

Little Rock-born filmmaker David Gordon Green's latest action comedy, "Your Highness," will open nationwide on April 8. If audiences can wrap their heads around the idea of a stoner medieval fantasy comedy — and with a cast that includes Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel here's betting they will — it'll likely rake in gobs of box office cash.

Another one likely headed to the Little Rock Film Festival: Rwake front man CT's long-in-the-making documentary on the Southern metal scene, "Slow Southern Steel," featuring interviews with Hank III, members of Eyehategod and just about every other Southern metal band around.

Speaking of Rwake, the internationally beloved sludge act has two albums releasing in the first half of the year. On March 1, Relapse re-releases a re-mixed and re-mastered version of the band's 2002 album, "Hell Is a Door to the Sun," and later in the spring, likely sometime in May, the label is scheduled to put out the North Little Rock band's latest, tentatively titled "I've Given My Hands to the Devil."

Later in the year, another of CT's bands, local supergroup Iron Tongue — now featuring Brother Andy and Bonnie Montgomery — will put out its debut on Neurosis' Neurot label.

Sometime in the spring, Greers Ferry — the local yacht rock group, featuring members of Big Silver, The Easys and Salty Dogs — plans to debut a full-length. If the rest of the album is as good as lead single "Sea Gulls," it'll be the soundtrack to our summer.

More to music to anticipate: the third release from The Big Cats, due early in the year; the debut solo album from The Boondogs' Indy Grotto, featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Pete Thomas and Cracker co-founder Davey Faragher, otherwise known as Elvis Costello's rhythm section, scheduled for a spring release; and, while no release date has been confirmed, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Stones Throw sister label Now-Again will finally put out its compilation of Little Rock's True Soul Records sometime this year.

Another thing to keep your fingers crossed for: That AMC picks up "The Wreck," the college football drama that Times columnist Graham Gordy co-created. If the network gives it a green light, it'll almost certainly debut in the summer or fall.

Mary Steenburgen stars (and sings) in "Outlaw Country," a new series from FX that involves the Dixie mafia and country music. No debut date yet.

Also on the small screen, '80s teen-pop divas Tiffany and Debbie Gibson star in the SyFy monster mash "Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid." Helena native Mary Lambert (Blanche Lincoln's sister) directs what's sure to be a camp classic. Look for it on Jan. 29.

I'm sure there's plenty of Arkansas-tied literature worth anticipating, but the only announced release that's come across my radar is "Any Empire," Nate Powell's 300-page follow-up to his Eisner-winning "Swallow Me Whole." Due in July, "Empire" "examines war and violence, and their trickledown effects on middle America," according to publisher Top Shelf.

Finally, circle your calendars twice: Spike Lee comes to Reynolds Hall at UCA to give a talk on Monday, Feb. 7.

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