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Friday, December 30, 2011

Aaron's 2011 Wrap-Up Odds & Ends


I had an incredibly tough time trying fit in all of the films that I wanted to give credit to within one list.  As I have mentioned, I believe it was an incredibly good year for films, which left me with way too many films to simply count out for the sake of just ten films to mention in the end.  So, with the Top 10 out of the way, here are a batch of other notable films, disappointments, and a worst of the year list.  Enjoy.

Top Films:  11-20 (Alphabetical):


13 Assassins - A fantastic films from director Takashi Miike.  It owes a lot to Kurosawa (in a good way) and features one of the best action sequences of the last decade (a 45-minute action climax!) 

 
50/50 - A very good comedy-drama, featuring a great lead performance from Joseph Gordan-Levitt as a young man dealing with cancer, and strong supporting performances from both Seth Rogen and Anjelica Huston.
 
The Artist - A lot of films dealt with nostalgia this year, and The Artist was a prime example.  A wonderfully likable silent film, featuring charming characters, a great dog, and some very nice B&W photography.

Insidious - My favorite pure horror movie of the year.  A cool, cheap (and very successful, yay!) flick that starts out as a haunted house film and turns into something else...

I Saw the Devil - This movie was killer!  A crazy revenge-thriller that has one man using devilish tactics to get back at a psychopath.


Kung Fu Panda 2 - Both a worthy successful to the very enjoyable Kung Fu Panda and one of the best action films of the year.  Superb animation, handle on characters, and fight choreography.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Fitting into the Batman Begins school of reboots.  Here's a quality film that served as both a fun blockbuster and a strong film in its own right, featuring a fantastic mo-cap performance from Andy Serkis.


The Skin I Live In - Mysterious.  Creepy.  Beautiful.  The new Pedro Almadovar film is a wonderful foray into horror territory, despite still being a beautiful Almadovar film about identity.

The Tree of Life - Certainly a lock for cinematography.  Another beautiful film about life as a whole, moving back and forth between the cosmos and a small family in the Midwest.  All handled Malick-style.

Win Win - Such a good story with strong performances from Paul Giamatti and especially Amy Ryan.  A lawyer/wrestling coach does what he can so he can pay the bills, with various kinds of fallout from there.  Very enjoyable comedy-drama.




Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical):

The Adventures of Tintin - Spielberg made a very fun mo-cap animated film based on a popular, international comic book character.

Beginners - Incredibly charming film.  Well acted and made with a positive amount of indie spirit.

Bridesmaids - Just a good movie.  Very funny overall, has it's raunch, has its drama, but it is a solid, well-written comedy regardless.

Contagion - Not quite the Traffic of desease-outbreak movies, but Soderbergh does great work with a streamlined story that lacked deeper characters in favor of a strong procedural.

Fast Five - One of the most enjoyable action films of the summer.  I knew it would be fun, but was not expecting this to become the best of the franchise.  Pure, unadulterated fun.
 
Fright Night - I wish this film did better.  Solid horror-comedy with a fine performance Colin Ferrell as the charming vampire-next-door.
 
I Love You Philip Morris -Sadly underseen here, as it features on of Jim Carrey's best performances.

The Illusionist - A tricky film not to put higher, simply because it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at last year's Oscars.  From the director of The Triplets of Bellville, The Illusionist was another wonderful little work of art.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol - If Hugo is the film that you NEED to see in 3D, Mission: Impossible is the film that you NEED to see on a huge IMAX screen.  Completely worth it for this incredilby enjoyable action film, brought to you on a large scale.

Red State - Kevin Smith's attempt to shake up his own filmmaking sensibilities and be much more ambitious paid off in my eyes.  This dirty, little indie managed to great work at spinning a thrilling story, with strong work by Michael Parks and John Goodman to match.

Submarine - A very stylish coming-of-age story, featuring a young protagonist and his attempts to be with a girl and resolve problems within his family.  Self-acknowledgingly pretentious at times, a picture of awkward humor at others, but still enjoyable in an incredibly New Wave/Wes Anderson kind of way. 

Warrior - A very old sports story is made better by the two-for-the-price-of-one approach and the very strong performances from its cast.

X-Men: First Class - Matthew Vaughn did tremendous work on creating both a prequel and reboot to the X-Men film franchise.  Adding Michael Fassbender, among other factors, to this project was a huge plus as well.

and of course Captain America: The First Avenger - For pure heroics, look know further than Captain America, a guy so good that his only agenda is fighting for what is right.  Joe Johnston did a fantastic job at making a superhero film that feels modeled in the realm of old serials, much like his other film, The Rocketeer.

Films I Wish I Had Seen:

Being Elmo
Certified Copy
A Dangerous Method
Terri
Tyrannosaur
We Need to Talk about Kevin

Most Disappointing Films: 

Cowboys and AliensThere was so much potential and promise in this film.  Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig as leads; Jon Favreau directing; Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer producing; a ridiculously fun idea for a story; all of this and the movie was still a big bore.  As this was near the top of my most anticipated list, I was saddened to not enjoy it as much as I would have wanted. (Review HERE)

Drive Angry 3DI was not as saddened by this movie as ‘Cowboys’, but I was still hoping for much more given the combination of the team behind the surprisingly entertaining My Bloody Valentine 3D and Nicolas “Rage” Cage.  Somehow, the movie titled “Drive Angry” did not feature nearly enough angry driving and had a fairly low-key Cage, when his wild-man nature was really needed.  At least William Fichtner was awesome in this film, but not much else was.  (Review HERE)

 
Top 10 Worst Films of 2011:

Luckily I was able to avoid a number of movies, including two terrible looking Adam Sandler films, whatever the hell Bucky Larson was, a movie about a married horse mother that was supposed to make us imagine how she does it, the arrival of a full-sequenced centipede, and Season of the Witch – starring Nic Cage’s hair.  Still, I found a number of pretty bad flicks to list out here:

10.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesAs a person who really likes the first three ‘Pirates’ films, I was supremely disappointed with what ‘On Stranger Tides’ had to offer.  Lackluster and boring, everything that people were ironically expecting before the fun surprise that was the first ‘Pirates’ film, is exactly what we got in this fourth entry.  Deadly mermaids were not enough to save this one for me. (Review HERE)

9.  SanctumA film that could have been a decent B-movie, with a James Cameron stamp of approval, based on the use of 3D, turned out to be terrible due its clichéd disaster plot-like story and having the worst performance I have seen this year.  Mr. Fantastic himself, Ioan Gruffud, is so bad in this movie that I almost wanted to crawl into an underground cavern to escape him.  (Review HERE)

8.  No Strings Attached Well it made me either more or less curious about watching Friends with Benefits...moving on (Review HERE)

7.  Straw DogsPointless remake of a movie I don’t even care for that much, but was at least aware of its controversy and themes.  This remake might have been better received by me if it did not brand itself within the same guise as the Sam Peckinpah-directed predecessor, given that it practically reverses the original’s purpose, but no, it’s just a trashy story that builds to a violent climax, designed to appeal to audience desires.  Cyclops himself, James Marsden, might as well have said, “Gotcha suckers!” at the end.  (Review HERE)

6.  The ThingI was on board with the idea of this film from the outset.  The fact that I heard good things about the practical effects usage early on was also promising.  The result?  A really stale story that had none of the foreboding paranoia that made John Carpenter’s The Thing so effective, along with laughably bad CGI effects.  Bonus points for having the laziest prequel/sequel title this side of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.  (Review HERE)

5.  I Am Number FourHey, it’s Twilight with Aliens!  (Review HERE)

4.  PriestDuring this movie, Paul Bettany rides alone on his futuristic motorcycle for days before arriving at his destination.  It is one of the more humorous montage scenes of the year.  And then there’s the rest of this fairly lame sci-fi/vampire/horror/action/western film to sit through, featuring verbal sparring between Bettany and Cam Gigandet, a wasted Karl Urban, and horrendously bad dialogue.  (Review HERE)

3.  Red Riding Hood – This movie is amazing according to my favorite review comment thread participant - HERE

2.  The Roommate – At least this movie didn’t call itself Single White Female.  Not being a remake is a plus, but being a really terrible rehash of a film, featuring a story that’s been done to death is not much better.  The only suspense here may come from deciding on the amount of time it takes before you turn the film off.  This is the film that featured a murdered kitten to shock audiences and also features Cam Gigandet in his second appearance on this list. (Review HERE)

1.  Larry CrowneAlmost as insultingly nice as it is bad.  Despite being well-meaning, Larry Crowne, to me, is the biggest dud of the year.  Tom Hanks’ second theatrical feature he has directed pales in comparison to That Thing You Do and offers next to no entertainment value.  Instead, we get Hanks in his whitey tighties, That 70s Show’s Wilmer Valderama as the head of a scooter gang, Julia Roberts looking miserable, and the great Bryan Cranston somehow playing beneath himself, with dialogue that seems on par with lines from The Room.  Not even co-star George Takei’s, “Oh My’s” were enough to save this utterly sad film.  (Review HERE)

Not quite top 10 worst, but still pretty bad: 

Apollo 18, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Scream 4, Sucker Punch

And that should do it for me, with this year’s wrap up.  Have a Happy New Year Everyone!

Here's the Top 10 of the Year Again:


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