Rolocop’s Top 10 Films of 2011

posted by Rolocop

JUST KIDDING!!!

But seriously, before I get into my favorite films of 2011, I would like to reflect a little bit on last year.

I didn’t get to see everything, as I was also busy with Roller Derby and dealing with my Panic Disorder (which made it hard to get to the theater in the first part of the year).  The films I missed that I still want to see are: CEDAR RAPIDS, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (though I heard it’s awful), CERTIFIED COPY, JANE EYRE, INSIDIOUS, MIRAL, WIN WIN, HANNA, KILL THE IRISHMAN, THE CONSPIRATOR, IN A BETTER WORLD, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, FAST FIVE, DYLAN DOG, HESHER, POTICHE, EVERYTHING MUST GO, A BETTER LIFE, TERRI, ONE DAY, THE WHISTLEBLOWER, SENNA, BUCKY LARSON (just curious to see how bad it really is), STRAW DOGS, MACHINE GUN PREACHER, MARGIN CALL, IN TIME, A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS, LIKE CRAZY, TYRANNOSAUR, RUBBER, CORMAN’S WORLD, CORIOLANUS, W.E., and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.

I only saw 162 movies last year, so please bare that in mind when reading my lists.  I will say that it was a very good year for movies.  I gave 14 movies four stars, which is a rare thing.  I do tend to give out my highest rating more than most critics, but still, on an average year I would never give out more than 6 or 7.  But since it was so high, I just had to come up with a runner-up list.

But before that, I’ll share my worst list.  Now, it’s probably not 100% accurate since I didn’t see BIG MOMMAS, GREEN HORNET, the new TWILIGHT, COURAGEOUS, and just about every other crappy looking movie that came out in the first few months.  I’m just going to present the list by name only.  These films aren’t worth my time to talk about them any more.  Here it is:

Worst films of 2011:

  • 10. RED RIDING HOOD
  • 9. THE CHAMELEON
  • 8. SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
  • 7. MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS
  • 6. THE WAY
  • 5. THE SITTER
  • 4. ASSASSINATION GAMES
  • 3. ZOOKEEPER
  • 2. THE SMURFS
  • 1. 30 MINUTES OR LESS

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Overrated Films:

  • ARTHUR CHRISTMAS – It certainly had imagination, but I thought the title character was bland, who didn’t involve me at all.
  • BRIDESMAIDS – This DID NOT need to be 2 hours and 4 minutes.  Half of the scenes seemed half-assed improvised on the spot, and I thought Melissa McCarthy’s performance was just dreadful.  She was acting as if she was in a completely different movie than the rest of the cast.
  • CONTAGION – Soderbergh’s experiment to take the fun out of an epidemic thriller was interesting, but not really enjoyable.
  • LE HARVE – Loved the color palette, and that’s about it.
  • MEEK’S CUTOFF – Yeah, I get it!  The pace is supposed to be deliberate.  I might have liked this when I was a film school snob, but I see through it’s pretentiousness now.  It’s just a poorly written art-house experiment.
  • TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY – The direction and acting were fantastic.  But I just couldn’t get into the story.
  • YOUNG ADULT – Charlize Theron is impressive, but her character is just so darn unlikable.  I guess that was the point, but that still didn’t help me like the film.

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Disappointing Films:

  • CAPTAIN AMERICA – The tone and look was spot on.  But I wanted a self-contained action story and what I got was 4 years of the superhero’s entire WWII career crammed into 2 hours.  Too much.
  • A DANGEROUS METHOD – Cronenberg made an emotionally cold film, despite good performances.
  • THE FUTURE – Her debut film (ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW) is one of my favorite films of the past 10 years, so I guess I was just expecting her follow-up to be, you know, good.
  • THE GUARD – Brendan Gleeson was awesome, I just wish the rest of the movie was.
  • HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN – I really wanted this to be a fun ode to Troma films, instead I thought it tried way too hard to be one.  To be like a Troma film, I don’t think you need to try hard at all, but the filmmakers didn’t realize that.
  • MELANCHOLIA – Beautiful film, but I wasn’t involved with the characters like I was with Von Trier’s last film, ANTICHRIST.
  • PAUL – Was hoping Pegg and Frost’s third pairing was going to be as good as the others, but it was just mediocre.
  • RED STATE – I have a lot of respect for Kevin Smith trying something out of his comfort zone, except that he tired to do too much.  The film shifts tones and character points-of-view so often, that it was impossible for the story to involve me.
  • THE RUM DIARY – Love FEAR AND LOATHING.  This is not even close!
  • SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS – The first one took me by surprise as my expectations were low.  This time they were high, and I was extremely letdown.  It’s a mess.
  • THOR – Not bad, but the tone was inconsistent and Natalie Portman’s character wasn’t really necessary.

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Underrated Films:

  • THE BEAVER – Mel Gibson gave one of the best performances of his career, and the movie was really good.  I just don’t think audiences were ready to see Mel in a movie again.  In fact, they may never be ready.
  • THE CHANGE UP – Sure.  The premise is just rehashed from those awful 80’s switcheroo comedies, but I laughed a lot more than I probably should have.
  • HIGHER GROUND – Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut was a sobering look at how religion affects a family during the 60’s.
  • IMMORTALS – I thought Tarsem’s action-fantasy was a kick ass time, and the visuals were outstanding.  Liked it better than overpraised 300.
  • JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER – This was a very faithful adaptation of the kids books, which I have read with my daughter.  I don’t know why everyone was so hard on a movie that encourages young girls to use their imagination.
  • MARS NEEDS MOMS – This motion capture film flopped hard, but I thought it was a fun adventure.
  • SUCKER PUNCH – Zach Snyder’s misunderstood experiment is full of crazy action scenes and unique imagery.  People complained that there was no story, and I won’t argue there. But I don’t think he was trying to make a conventional film.  I thought it was very bold.
  • THE THING – A very well directed prequel to John Carpenter’s masterpiece.  It was faithful to the spirit of the original, and I’m sad that it didn’t do well.

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And now for the best films of the year.  Before I reveal the Top 10, I would like to mention 11 other films that represent the best that 2011 had to offer.  It was really hard to narrow my favorites to just 10, so these are the films that almost made my list:

Runner-Ups (in alphabetical order):

  • 13 ASSASSINS – A truly epic samurai film that boasts a 42-minute action finale.  Bound to be a classic of the genre.
  • ATTACK THE BLOCK – Quite possibly the most fun I had at all year was at this energetic movie about teenage hoodlums battling aliens.  It’s like The Goonies and Monster Squad, but with more swearing and gore.
  • THE DESCENDENTS – George Clooney gives the performance of his career in Alexander Payne’s terrific new film.
  • HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART II – Easily the best of the series.  Once the action starts, it doesn’t let up.  And every character is given the perfect coda.
  • I SAW THE DEVIL – This was the best movie about a serial killer last year, not GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.
  • IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY – Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut is an unflinching look at the Bosnian war during the 90’s.  It’s an ambitious undertaking for one’s first feature, but Jolie hits it out of the park.
  • PEARL JAM TWENTY – I was in 9th grade when Ten came out, so I found this chronicle of the famous Seattle band completely engrossing.  One of the best docs about a band ever, and certainly Cameron Crowe’s best film.  He needs to make more music Documentaries.
  • RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – This movie completely surprised me.  The special effects are top notch and I loved that the story focused on the apes, instead of the humans.
  • SUPER 8 – J.J. Abrams love letter to Spielberg was definitely one of the most entertaining films of the year.
  • WARRIOR – This is a great movie about 2 mixed martial arts fighters (who are also brothers) competing in a tournament.  Nick Nolte gives a career crowning performance as their recovering alcoholic father.
  • WINNIE THE POOH – Now this is how you pay homage to something.  This was exactly like the old 60’s and 70’s Pooh shorts.  Absolutely enchanting.

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And now, my absolute favorite films of the year:

The Top Ten Films of 2011:

10. MONEYBALL – I could care less about sports, but I have never seen a Baseball movie about how a team is put together before on the technical side.  I found it fascinating.  Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are wonderful, and the script is smart.  Also, Bennett Miller’s direction is beautifully cinematic.

9. RANGO– I’ve seen this 3 times now, and it gets better each time I see it.  Johnny Depp gives one of the the best vocal performances in an animated film I have ever seen.  Gore Verbinski has made an excellent homage to Sergio Leone westerns.  It’s dark, action-packed, full of wonderful eccentric characters and hilarious.  It’s also full of many film references.  Perfect animated film for a film geek.

8. THE INTERRUPETERS – This Documentary about gang violence in Chicago is every bit as engrossing as any dramatic film released last year.  It’s intense, but emotionally rewarding.

7. THE TREE OF LIFE – Terrence Malick has created a true cinematic experience.  It can be interpreted many different ways and is the perfect film to debate with your friends.  It’s an epic story about human nature that’s in the same vein as Kubrick’s 2001.

6. THE IDES OF MARCH – The best political film since THE CONTENDER. Excellent performances from George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and especially Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  The script is in the same league as Mamet, and the movie really shows that Clooney is getting more confident in his direction.  It’s his best film.

5. DRIVE – Ryan Gosling gives an iconic performance in this violent art-house thriller.  The direction is done in a very precise and deliberate way that gives the film a welcome unique flavor.  The soundtrack perfectly emulates the early films of Michael Mann, especially 1981’s THIEF.  It’s a cinematic punch to the gut, and I mean that in the best possible way.

4. TAKE SHELTER – Probably the most emotionally exhausting film of the year.  Michael Shannon gives the best performance of 2011 as a man who becomes obsessed with his visions of the Apocalypse.  It’s masterfully crafted and has my favorite payoff of the year.

3. THE MUPPETS – I am a huge muppet fan.  Honestly, no other film made me cry as much as this one (6 times).  It just touched the kid in me.  The songs are amazing, and did I mention how great it was seeing Muppets on the big screen again!  It was a magical journey into my childhood that I got to share with my daughter.  One of the best experiences of the year for me.

2. THE ARTIST – A beautiful and loving homage to silent cinema.  The filmmakers did their homework.  Everything about it perfectly emulates the lost art form.  The story is a charming heartbreaker.  It’s perfect in every way.

1. HUGO – Martin Scorsese has arguably made his masterpiece.  It’s a love letter to classic cinema, but told in a giant, enormous way.  It pretty much has everything in it.  Drama, action, suspense, comedy, tragedy, romance… it has it all.  Every shot is perfectly thought out, and the story is told with absolute whimsy.  There is a sense of wonder in this movie that has been missing in cinema lately.   Scorsese has made this film to remind us why we started loving movies in the first place, and shows us why they’re special.  And it’s also the first film that I really enjoyed 3-D in.  If you love movies at all, HUGO is an absolute must-see.  It’s a masterful film by a master filmmaker.

(Note: I saw Hugo twice, and The Artist once.  It is possible that The Artist could beat out Hugo for my favorite of the year if I see it again.  It was a very hard decision to make, as both are excellent films that show love, respect and appreciation for older cinema.  If anything, it’s the perfect double feature)

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 3:46 am