Time for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw. Now, I fully admit that most of these were seen on an airplane or via iTunes rental on my iPad. That's about the only way I can find time to see movies anymore. Still, I don't think the small screen influenced my decision any. Stupid crap like Your Highness isn't going to suddenly become brilliant if seen on the big screen...
#1 Captain America. Captain America in the comics has been a mixed bag. When played as the American icon he was created to be, he seems cheesy and dated. When played as a straight super-hero he seems flashy and lame. But they somehow managed to sidestep both of these obstacles to not only make an awesome super-hero film, but an awesome film period. My review of the film is here.
#2 Thor. My only problem with this film... only problem is that the timing was way off. It seemed to take place over days when the events pretty much dictated that it should have taken place over months. That being said, director Kenneth Branagh and Co. did the impossible: film a magical super-hero film in a realistic way without having it turn into a big joke. Loved this movie more than I ever thought I would.
#3 Paul. Reaffirming my belief that Simon Pegg & Nick Frost can do no wrong (seriously... Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead!) they turn their engaging comedic talents to geek sci-fi. As if that wasn't an intriguing enough premise, Seth Rogan was cast as the voice of titular alien escapee "Paul." The result is a new take on the buddy comedy movie with a sci-fi twist and plenty of surprises. Genius.
#4 Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol. Brad Bird, the mastermind behind such animated genius as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, makes an effortless leap to live action in one of this year's most exciting and stylish films. Ghost Protocol is the best M:I installment yet, with the entire IMF team being disavowed and having to clear their name in one awesome action sequence to another.
#5 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I'm not sure that I liked this David Fincher remake as well as the Swedish original, I can say it's a great film in its own right. Dark, disturbing, beautiful, and wholly engrossing, this movie is the whole taco. Disgraced reporter Mikael Blomkvist sets out to solve an old family mystery with the help of brilliant anti-hero Lisbeth Salander. The journey is more interesting than the ultimate end, but Fincher gives us one heck of a ride.
#6 X-Men: First Class. FINALLY! After three increasingly shitty films, we finally get a decent X-Men flick. Check that, it's more than decent... it's brilliant entertainment that fully captures the promise of what an "X-film" could be. Showing the early beginnings of the Marvel Universe's most famous mutants, First Class gives us engaging characters with enough super-hero action to keep things interesting. I am hoping beyond hope that they continue this story in future films instead of sliding back to the Bryan Singer franchise shit-fest.
#7 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Make no mistake, the Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's films is not the Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels. He's a sad imitation that happens to be entertaining as hell. So if you can manage to leave the "real" Sherlock behind, this is a highly entertaining film with nice stylistic touches and a decent story to boot. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are both note-perfect for the material, and the addition of Jared Harris as arch-nemesis Moriarty has me liking "Game of Shadows" even more than the first film.
#8 Horrible Bosses. By all accounts, this movie should have been an embarrassing mess. The previews assured me that it was one of those "so stupid it's stupid" flicks instead of one of those "so stupid it's funny" treasures. But my sister wanted to see it, so off we went... to one of my favorite films of 2011. I loved the way all the various plot-threads resolved themselves at the end. I loved that the characters were funny and felt three-dimensional and unique. I love that the "horrible bosses" were note-perfect in every way. Kevin Spacey was given room to be pure evil psycho genius. Colin Farrell was plain reprehensible. And then there was Jennifer Aniston... holy crap. Jennifer Aniston was not only brutally hot, but hysterically funny.
#9 Source Code. Duncan Jones, who gave us the utterly brilliant sci-fi film Moon, now gives us a thinking man's time-travel sci-fi thriller as a follow-up that doesn't disappoint.
#10 Bridesmaids. You will note that The Hangover 2 does not make my list. That film was just a pathetic retread of the original movie in a different location. The worthy successor to the R-rated comedy crown of The Hangover is actually Bridesmaids, which takes a similar idea to all new territory.
#11 Attack the Block. This flawless British sci-fi horror flick was a complete surprise as I was trying to kill time on the long, long flight back from Australia. It's action-sci-fi thrills that don't disappoint. Aliens are descending on street gang's turf in London and the war is on.
#12 Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I have no idea where this redneck-buddy-comedy-horror-movie came from, but it was a guilty pleasure that was worth watching from start to finish. The film is more inline with the genius that is Shaun of the Dead or Evil Dead than stupid crap like Scary Movie. As if that weren't enough, it's got an actual message to it.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS...
Winnie The Pooh. Go ahead. Laugh. But as an animation-lover who has been a fan of Pooh for as long as I can remember, this movie was amazing.
Here are some movies that might have made the list had I the time to have seen them...
Miyazaki genius Arrietty; Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed 3D epic Hugo; Cancer buddy comedy 50/50; Cold War LeCarre thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Romanian black comedy Tales from the Golden Age; Johnny Depp animated madness Rango; Monkey armageddon in Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Disease outbreak thriller Contagion; Classic cartoon adventure with The Adventures of Tintin; Heavily-praised chase film Drive; Silent B&W art flick The Artist; and Planet-demolishing mind-bender Melancholia.
THE SIX WORST...
There were quite a few disappointments in 2011 (like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) but there were few movies I actively loathed (though none of them as badly as the steaming pile of crap called Black Swan from last year)...
#1 Green Lantern. One of my favorite comic book characters was completely butchered on the big screen with a hot mess of a story and an over abundance of shitty CGI effects. Yeah, It's probably not the worst movie of the year, but such a crushing disappointment made it feel that way. You can read my review here.
#2 Sucker Punch. Zack Snyder is a fascinating director. His take on 300 was genius. And, despite my disgust at the unnecessarily altered ending, I thought his take on Watchmen was also excellent. So when I saw the jaw-dropping visuals in the trailer for Sucker Punch, I was understandably excited. Finally Zack Snyder was giving us a world he wrote instead of reinterpreting what he'd seen in a comic book. Unfortunately, the film was absolute garbage. Sexist, convoluted, trite, boring, senseless, asinine, garbage. Abused girl is dropped into a mental institution to be lobotomized, but "escapes" into her imagination in sequences that alternate between pole dancing and super-heroics. This film is the epitome of style over substance and failed on just about every level. Let's hope Snyder doesn't bury his Superman movie under such a huge layer of idiotic crap like he did Sucker Punch.
#3 Tree of Life. This was a beautiful turd of a film. Wonderful to look at, but ultimately a pile of self-indulgent bullshit that was so pointless and boring that I was praying for it to just END already, even if it took the destruction of the entire earth to make it happen. I keep seeing this movie on people's "Best List" and am completely clueless over what I missed as I was being bored to tears.
#4 Cars 2. Holy shit... a Pixar film made my "worst list?" What is the world coming to? Admittedly, I wasn't a big fan of the original Cars, but it had enough charming moments to make me ultimately like the film. The sequel tosses all that out the window and instead gives us an extended Larry The Cable Guy comedy routine that is stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID! How in the hell this film ever made it out of the storyboarding room at Pixar is a complete mystery to me. An obvious cash-grab by Disney if there ever were one.
#5 Arthur. If you would have ever told me that I would have a movie with Helen Mirren end up in my "Worst List" I would have bitch-slapped you so hard your teeth would fall out. It's inconceivable that an actor of such renown would ever agree to be in such a film. And then the shitty and embarrassing Arthur remake happened. Holy crap what a soulless pile of shit. I guess my sole consolation is that Helen Mirren was the best thing in this worst film.
#6 Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Chicago is one of my favorite cities on earth, and the opportunity to see it blown to shit was too good to resist. Even if it meant having to suffer through another crappy "Transformers" movie with crappy Shia LaBeouf as the crappy focus instead of the fucking cool Transformers as it should be. Shockingly, these movies continue to be successful, so I'm guessing a fourth one will be crapped out of Michael Bay's ass any day now.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS...
The movie so bad it couldn't be saved if Cameron Diaz was nude the entire time Bad Teacher; The "OMG I can't believe I watched it even if I was bored on an airplane" Mr. Popper's Penguins; So stupid it's stupid medieval farce Your Highness; This year's sci-fi answer to last year's absurdly stupid "Skyline" is the absurdly stupid Battle: Los Angeles; Shameless retread of a terrific original The Hangover 2; Insanely stupid and disrespectful adaptation of a great character in The Green Hornet; Scary trailer for a not scary and totally shitty movie with Apollo 18.