Merry two days after Christmas and Happy five days before New Year’s! Every website, TV show, and magazine has their own year end lists and we are no different. As the movie self professed movie buff of digitaldailyfix.com, I put myself through countless hours of watching terrible movies either for reviews or for laughs. The flip side to that coin is that I am able to give myself an excuse or two to watch some good films as well. 2011 proved to be a year that provided so many highs and lows in cinema this year that I couldn’t decide on just 8 for this list. So for this year-end list I’ve bumped it up to a Top 9 with some haiku for the honorable mentions. After all it is the season for giving!
Trying to kill Cate Blanchett
Haven’t we all though?
Captain America: The First Avenger
Human Torch has shield
Destroying steam punk Nazis
Old frozen virgin
Pegg and Frost are nerds
Alien fart and pot jokes
Overworked white guys
Dream of killing their bosses
Was this based me?
Big fighting robots
Hugh Jackman is an asshole
Kid out-acts The Beef
And now for the feature attraction!
9: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was another film in the long line of prequels, sequels, or reboots that Hollywood has been churning out for the past few years. Were fans clamoring for this to be made? Not after Tim Burton raped the franchise? Was this film necessary for the canon? Absolutely not. Despite this Rise of the Planet of Apes may have successfully resurrected the franchise. The plot centers on a young scientist (James Franco) who tests a cure for Alzheimer’s disease on an ape and then takes it home after the trial is shut down. Without giving away too may spoilers the proverbial feces comes into contact with a room cooling device and the apes run amok. Franco and his love interest (The lead actress from Slumdog Millionaire. The hot one, not the seven-year old.) are not very memorable nor do they need to be. The true stars of this movie are John Lithgow, Franco’s father who is battling Alzheimer’s and mo-cap master Andy Serkis portraying Caesar, the smartest primate since Magilla Gorilla. Serkis has even garnered several supporting actor award nominations further cementing his status as the best thing to ever happen to CG.
When I initially watched the trailer for Limitless I was very intrigued. Whoever was tasked to cut the trailer did a fantastic job: it showcased the actors, highlighted the major plot points, and managed not to give away the entire story. If I had known the plot of this film going in I may not have been as captivated by it as I was. The easiest way to describe Limitless is to combine equal parts Trainspotting and Fight Club, add a lemon wedge of Bradley Cooper’s charisma and a dash of Robert De Niro not acting in a movie with Ben Stiller. Bradley Cooper is a down and out writer that has lost everything. In fact he is quite the loses until he discovers a wonder drug that turns him into a modern-day Kent Allard. Limitless begins as a drug movie, slowly morphs into a character study, and by the conclusion it is one of the best origin stories for a superhero that I have seen in a long time. It also makes me want to start taking every pill in sight to become smarter.
7: Attack the Block
I had the good fortune to catch Attack the Block while it was still showing in Austin Drafthouse here>. While I did write an abbreviated review for the film I can’t leave this one off of my year end list. Attack the Block was a very creative, funny, and realistic view of an alien attack. I found this movie much more believable than J.J. Abrams remake of E.T. and the characters more interesting. Thugs from the ghetto trying to hunt down and kill aliens with make shift weapons such as cricket bats and lead pipes only to run for their lives is much more interesting than a misunderstood alien being wrongfully persecuted by the assholes in charge. It is actually refreshing to see an invading force as the actual evil and this gives the writer and director more opportunity to develop their characters. Attack the Block is loads of fun and provides some legitimate scares. All without a slew of jarring cuts or shaky cam. God bless you, Joe Cornish.
6: The Muppets
I have kept this secret for way too long. I should have come clean about this years ago but I was afraid of being shunned and ridiculed. Here goes nothing……..I’m not really a fan of the Muppets. I do like Bunsen and Beaker, The Muppet Movie was well made and I was a sucker for Hulk Hogan’s cameo in Muppets From Space but I have always failed to see the mainstream appeal. Even as a kid I had a hard time suspending my disbelief when it came to the Muppets and Muppet Babies made it even worse. Nanny’s socks didn’t even match her outfit! When I learned there was a new Muppet movie in the works I was not expecting much. Shortly after I read it was being directed by the same man who directed Da Ali G Show and my expectations were lowered even more. However the finished product was my second best surprise of the year. Jason Segel was the driving force behind the script and I could see true effort being put into the film. Each character got a chance to shine and the movie was actually about the Muppets (take note, Michael Bay). The script was great and gave time to each character. The songs were pleasant but not saccharin sweet. The jokes were a great mix of silliness, in jokes, and torturing Jack Black. Not to mention Amy Adams is in The Muppets. And I love Amy Adams.
5: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Do you remember that one time earlier in this list when I gushed about the trailer for Limitless? The trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the opposite of that. It was extremely jarring and gave no insight to the plot or characters. In fact this was the first time that a film trailer gave me a headache. Not even The Three Stooges trailer could do that. This is the first in a trilogy that is based on the popular novels by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines many genres into an entertaining and shockingly gritty ride. For those who haven’t read the books, seen the Swedish movie version, or who hate the trailer as much as I did The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the story of a journalist (Daniel Craig) hired to solve a 40-year-old murder mystery and a rebellious social misfit (Rooney Mara) is hired to assist him. The most important factor with this film is that it is directed by David Fincher. Fincher’s fingerprints are all evident throughout the entire film. His art direction is second to none and he has a great ability to give all of his characters an air of mystery and coldness while still making them likeable and heroic. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (the other guy from The Social Network soundtrack) return to Fincher’s side once again and I can see the duo grabbing back-to-back Oscar nods. A great film from top to bottom. The only down side was that I couldn’t be that one guy who complains about all of the stuff they cut from the book. Looks like I will have to do some reading before the next film is released.
4: Midnight in Paris
2011 has been a year full of surprises. I was able to move half way across the country. Osama bin Laden was killed until he died from it. Zack Ryder is featured heavily on WWE programming. And the biggest shock of the year: I LIKED A WOODY ALLEN MOVIE!! This is the first time this has happened since Bullets Over Broadway and that was all the way back in 1994! Woody Allen is at his best when he is directing awkward scenes of dialogue between neurotics and women, or when working on a self-discovery film. Midnight in Paris combines Allen’s two greatest strengths as a film maker while allowing him to pay homage to the great music and literature figures of the last century. Owen Wilson plays a hack writer turned wannabee novelist in Paris with his fiancee and her parents. While wondering the streets of Paris he is picked up in a taxi and taken to the 1920s. During his time in the 20s he meets several of idols including Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter. Woody Allen writes and directs these scenes with such matter of fact that the audience is never taken out of the trip. As Owen Wilson’s character becomes more ingratiated in the lives of artistic icons he learns more about himself as a writer and as a person. Midnight in Paris is a very good movie that suitable for either a date night or to dissect and discuss. Hopefully Allen has some more good ideas up his sleeve.
3: X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class ran away with the title of ‘best superhero movie of the summer’ quite early on. Matthew Vaughn took over the series and was given a serious burden: to fix the series after X-Men: The Last Stand. The decision makers decided to reboot the series, which I actually agreed with. X3 was so terrible and did so much damage to the most notable X-Men that there was no other choice than to start from scratch. I will readily admit that a lot of the CG in First Class looked cheap, the villain was under developed, and January Jones should never be allowed to speak on camera again but the film wasn’t about those things. It was about the relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and how their clashing philosophies came to a head thereby ending their friendship. McAvoy and Fassbender were fantastic and for the first time had me believing that Professor X and Magneto were actually friends once upon a time. The supporting characters appear to be cast by real actors as opposed to ‘looking good for the role.’ This is especially evident with Jennifer Lawrence who was cast to play Mystique. I think I can safely say that most X-Men fans were begging for movie that didn’t focus entirely on Wolverine and we finally got one. I am personally looking forward to X-Men: First Class II, or X-Men: Second Class, or whatever they decide on the sequel being called as long as Vaughn, McAvoy, and Fassbender are on board.
2: Win Win
Win Win is an independent comedy/drama directed by Thomas McCarthy (Dr. Bob from Meet the Parents and Little Fockers. Did I just write that? That can’t be possible. It is. HOLY SHITBALLS!) starring Paul Giamatti and a bunch of people who are fortunate to be in the presence of Paul Giamatti. Win Win follows a lawyer and high school wrestling coach (Giamatti) as he double crosses one of his elderly clients for a monthly stipend. Although his wrestling team makes the Bad News Bears look like Team Iceland from D2: The Mighty Ducks his life is going fairly well. That is until his client’s grandson crashes on his door step. The strength of Win Win is McCarthy’s ability to tell this story without being predictable. Every character is funny, likeable, empathetic, and complex. This is the type of film that Paul Giamatti is famous for: low key festival films that deliver great acting but will have a limited audience. I won’t give away too much more since this is most likely the movie that has been least seen on this list. It has been available on DVD for a few months now so you should have no trouble finding it. Go watch it. Do it!
And number 1 (of the movies that I have seen this year) is……………………
I wrote a review of Drive a few months ago. If you didn’t read it in September here it is: http://digitaldailyfix.com/2011/09/18/drive-the-anti-transporter/ This is the only film of the year that I have seen in the theater more than once and the film may even deliver a bigger impact the second time around. The performances are great from every actor involved. Gosling is great as the quiet bad-ass, Albert Brooks is the most intense that I have ever seen him, and Ron Perlman even went so far as to shave his comedy beard to be taken more seriously this time around. The music for this film is beyond perfect and I do not see how Drive can’t win some awards in that category. The action is brief but the slow build makes a short car chase much more important than say………a one hour-long fight between giant robots in one of the largest cities in America. If you haven’t seen Drive yet you are doing yourself a huge disservice. As far as I know it is no longer in major theaters but you may still be able to find it playing in smaller screens. Go watch it, then read my review. It will make a lot more sense.
Thus concludes my Top
8 9 best movies of the year (that I have seen). While not the strongest year for film there were several gems released from both major studios and smaller, independent houses. Check back for the Top 8 9 worst movies of the year and hopefully a second edition of my and Smitty’s Best Picture Blowout. Thanks for sticking with us and have a Happy Festivus!