Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Films of 2011.

First of all, I know I've been a poor blogger of recent months. I'm still watching plenty of movies, just not giving myself enough time to finish up the reviews. However, beginning with this post, I will make sure I'm more attentive.

Though we are nearly six months into 2012, DVDs have finally let me view all of the films I intended to last year. Here we go:

tie-10) Warrior/The Help
Believe it or not, both of these movies had some things in common. While both films had cheesy and predictable moments throughout, they each had terrific performances that couldn't be ignored. With Warrior, the trailer said everything but Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy gave real gritty performances that kept the audience involved. The Help, on the other hand, didn't have as much cheese but it was there. What put it over the top were the great jobs done by Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. To me, those two made the movie.

9) Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
I went into this movie just expecting a simple documentary about what happened to Conan between his exit from The Tonight Show and his standup tour over the summer of 2010. What I got was a very deep film about what was going on in his head. You got to see the emotion, the disparity, the sadness and the joy he got while on tour. It was the hardest time of his professional life and the viewers got to see all of it. O'Brien didn't hold anything back and the film was better off for it.

8) 50/50
What a great look at how it must feel for a young person to go through the stages of cancer. 50/50 used humor to not only mask, but also reinforce the emotions that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is going through. This movie got royally shafted in the 2012 Oscar race. It could've easily taken a Best Screenplay nomination, if not a victory.

7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
The final film of the Harry Potter series may have been the best one. To this day, I'm still undecided on whether it's better than Prisoner of Azkaban, but this one was damn close. It ended the series perfectly, keeping the characters' stories rich and full while finishing them in a way that satisfies the audience. With my wife having read all the books and me not, I can say that, from both perspectives, this movie was a fitting end.

6) The Artist
The Oscar winner for Best Picture was a niche film. But it was so beautifully done that I have no problem with it claiming the top prize. The Artist, even with no sound and in black and white, easily maintained the feelings and depth that many talkies strive for. Jean Dujardin gave an outstanding performance, but I believe that James Cromwell's role as George's servant went unnoticed. I could've seen him getting a Best Supporting Actor nod.

5) The Muppets
Jason Segel did it. He managed to make the Muppets relevant again in a world that may have forgotten about them. The humor and the music was so upbeat and fresh that it kept me enthralled from the get-go. Nothing was funnier to me than Chris Cooper saying "Maniacal laugh" instead of actually laughing. I can see myself watching this movie for several years to come.

4) Contagion
I love thrillers. If done correctly, they may be my favorite film genre. Contagion took the thriller movie to the realms of the conspiracy theory genre. This film makes you believe that this could happen in real life. The sheer terror and utter chaos that would erupt if a deadly virus took hold of the world. Despite the entire Marion Cotillard storyline, this movie was near-perfection to me. Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet...they all gave outstanding performances within the ensemble cast.

3) Hugo
Martin Scorsese's ode to films was such a magical journey. While I regret not seeing this in 3-D, the 2-D visuals are more than enough to keep me enjoying the movie. Set in a Paris train station, Hugo makes you feel like you're in this vast setting even though you're not. Throw in terrific performances from Ben Kingsley and Chloe Moretz, and you have a movie that will go down as one of Scorsese's best. Even though it has no gangsters or swearing.

2) The Descendents
Alexander Payne made his masterpiece. He managed to direct a terrific movie that combined humor, heart and despair. George Clooney was outstanding as a man who battled the emotions of a wife in a coma and the revelation that she was cheating on him. I would have given this the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actor and even Best Director.

1) Drive
Shades of Tarantino, shades of Kubrick and shades of Scorsese are all brought together in this brilliant piece of cinema. Drive manages to keep the action-movie pace alive while rolling through the plot in a very slow, decisive way. Ryan Gosling barely speaks, but you can see his emotions and rage in his actions. But the real star of the movie was Albert Brooks. His methodical take on a mobster was refreshing. Brooks could have easily taken Jonah Hill's spot in the Best Supporting Actor nominations. Thank God this is now on Netflix, I may never stop watching.

Now, the Bottom Five of 2011:

5) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
I won't dog this film for its plot or the incredible annoyance of Thomas Horn. This movie sucks because the filmmakers are trying to make the audience cry. The characters are supposed to make us do that, not the studio heads and suits. Also, Thomas Horn was crazy annoying.

4) Killer Elite
What the hell just happened? Jason Statham is trying to save Robert De Niro from some Arab guy, while Clive Owen is trying to kill Jason Statham for no apparent reason. So, there's the plot. This movie could have been saved a little by the action/fight scenes, but they sucked, too.

3) Hall Pass
What happened to the Farrelly Brothers? Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary. They used to know how to make an adult comedy that worked on many levels. Hall Pass, on the other hand, made Say It Isn't So look like gold. And this is coming from someone who likes Jason Sudeikis.
2) The Green Hornet
A terrific-looking trailer turned into an extremely disappointing movie. While Seth Rogen was wrong for the lead role, he was hardly the real problem. That belonged to Michel Gondry. The once-talented director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a terrible action director. The film was so disjointed and uneven that I lost interest almost immediately. Some of the action scenes were cool, but I actually left this movie feeling like I completely wasted two hours. That doesn't happen often.

1) Battle: Los Angeles
Combine every single alien action movie of the last 20 years and you have this God-awful excuse of a movie. The war scenes sucked, the acting was phoned-in, the plot made no sense and the graphics made it look like I was playing Halo made for Nintendo 64. The filmmakers should consider themselves lucky that I even made it through this movie. I'm happy to see it wasn't a success that would have spawned unnecessary sequels.

There you have it. My long-overdue Best/Worst Of 2011 list.

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