Monday, January 16, 2012

My Favorite Movies of 2011

2011 was a fairly ho-hum year for films as far as I'm concerned. I only saw 23 releases which is well under my usual average. Frankly, I just couldn't be bothered. Many of the films I chose to see were praised by critics but left me feeling "meh." I still have a handful of 2011 films to see (The Artist, A Dangerous Method) and there were a few I decided to skip (Bridesmaids), but I'm hoping 2012 will be better than the lackluster 2011 as far as movies are concerned.

My top 10 in no particular order:

1. Fast Five - You'd think the Fast and Furious franchise would have run out of gas by now. Vin Diesel's return to 2009's Fast & Furious injected new life into the formulaic cars + crime + girls + action scenes plot and Five just upped the ante. It's not making critic's lists or winning Oscars, but for action-packed popcorn fun, this flick delivers. I'm looking forward to number 6 in 2013.

2. Harry Potter Deathly Hallows 2 - I missed part one in the theaters and had to Redbox it before seeing the final installment. It was a spectacular ending to the decade long series although I couldn't help feeling (as I did with the other Harry Potter movies) that so much was expurgated from the books to fit into the confines of a two-hour running time.

3. Bad Teacher - Very raunchy, very funny. Think Bad Santa with Cameron Diaz in the Billy Bob Thornton role. The real revelation, however, was Justin Timberlake. You will never be able to look at the pop heartthrob in the same way after this movie.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Way long and felt like two movies smashed together, but still engrossing, gripping with great performances.

5. Jane Eyre - I'm a sucker for period dramas and this adaptation of the Bronte novel delivers with gothic castles, costumes and a smoldering hero in the form of Michael Fassbender.

6. The Muppets - Just nostalgic fun. Following the Dracula puppet show which served as the final scene of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segal was the perfect choice to write the Muppet reboot. Not all of the human cameos work, but it's great to see the old gang back together again. The performance of "Man or Muppet" by Jason Segal featuring Jim Parsons is worth the price of admission alone.

7. Anonymous - As I mentioned, period dramas are particularly appealing to me and I'm fascinated by stories set in the Elizabethan era. I once did a college paper on the possibility that Christopher Marlowe was the actual author of Shakespeare's works but the conjecture that they were penned by the Earl of Oxford was a theory I was not familiar with. Rhys Ifans, who played Hugh Grant's bumbling roommate in Notting Hill, is a magnificent Edward De Vere--proving that some things do indeed get better with age.

8. Moneyball - Nice performance by Brad Pitt, but Jonah Hill pretty much walks away with the movie. Even if you're not a sports fans and you find baseball about as intriguing as watching paint dry, you'll be completely sucked into this story.

9. Source Code - Taut, sci-fi thriller. Borrows from a number of similar stories--including 2006's Deja Vu--but does it with style.

10. The Help - Great performances and touching moments. Really does a great job of conveying the pre-civil rights South.

And the rest:

Crazy Stupid Love - Fairly enjoyable with the exception of the obligatory "big speech" moment.

Tower Heist - Silly fun. Like eating cotton candy: more air than actual substance.

The Adjustment Bureau - Damon and Blunt have chemistry and look great together but the fate vs. free will plot stretches belief beyond the breaking point.

The Descendants - Despite the Golden Globe awards I found it too meandering with way too much voiceover exposition.

The Ides of March - Watching the machinations and the dirty underbelly of the political machine will make you want to tear up your voter registration card and move to a nation ruled by a beneficent despot.

J. Edgar - Unfortunately this was so much weaker than I could have imagined. Too much narration, too little action.

50/50 - Joseph Gordon Levitt fights cancer and woos his therapist but the real "romance" is the friendship between his character and Seth Rogen's. The plot wandered a bit for me, but overall it was a decent movie.

Drive - Raves by reviewers and Ryan Gosling. This noir piece had its moments (not to mention one of the most violent scenes I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing), but while most of my friends (and yoga instructors) loved the techno soundtrack, I found it to be intrusive and distracting. Albert Brooks completely upends his traditional neurotic nerd character.

Young Adult - Diablo Cody has come a long way since Juno. Young Adult bears no traces of the unbearably cloying hipster-speak that made her first flick so precious. It's a dark film about damaged people (well, Theron and Oswald's characters, anyway). A much deeper examination of the war zone that is high school than the incessantly flip Juno.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy - Reviewed earlier--good, not great.

The Company Men - I reviewed lessons learned from this film on another blog.

The Guard - Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson in an "In Bruges"-esque film. Definitely worth renting.

Super 8 - The Spielberg influence was evident in this cross between E.T. and Cloverfield. Again, good not great.

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