Monday, January 2, 2012

Best & Worse Movies 2011

If you don’t know me well, it’s important to note that I’m a harsh critic. I firmly believe that the adjective “great” (as in 5 star rankings) is as overused in film as in sports.

Moreover, since I’m not a professional critic, there are several films which would make most lists, but I haven’t seen yet. “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin” are two recent films which appear worthy to make most “Best of” lists, but I haven’t made time for as of this writing.

Biggest Surprise of 2011 – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

As the release date was move forward and back during 2011, it truly signaled a warning that the film would be a flop – this was not the case.

The Andy Serkis motion-cap Caesar was amazing, engaging and a true highlight to the year in movies. The ending of “Rise” delivered a satisfying setup for sequels without a cheesy Hollywood spoon-feeding of cliches.

Biggest Disappointment of 2011 – “Super 8″

It’s my own fault.

Steven Spielberg…JJ Abrams…A great nostalgic 80′s feel and an amazing trailer – the result was a major let down.

Don’t get me wrong, “Super 8″ was a good film, especially in the theaters, but on further viewings falls short. The alien knockoff of “District 9″, “The Fly” and well, about a dozen other sci-fi films, should never have been shown. The creepy, suspense built by the filmmakers in the first half of the film were quickly lost once we learned what the kids were facing.

Worst excuse for a sequel – “Hangover 2″

This was one of the biggest disappointments of 2011 as director Todd Phillips recycled the first film plot point by plot point. A monkey replaced the baby, the boys lose a bride’s brother instead of the groom, and on and on (read my analysis here)

A missed opportunity in my opinion.

“The Muppets” – laugh, cry and if you watch ‘Big Bang Theory’ – truly get surprised

Countless cameos were sprinkled in with song and dance numbers as the “Gang got back together” in the best Muppet movie ever made. Well, in my opinion none the Muppet films were “great” movies and this one was…on many levels.

Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo – the whole gang is there with a two new additions: Walter and Jason Segel, both will entertain you.

Oh yeah, if you want to see that “surprise” I mentioned – check it out here.

Jack Sparrow, Captain America, Thor and the Source Code

All of these were worth a view in 2011.

Even my wife who avoids the comic book fandom at all costs found “Thor” to be particularly entertaining. Sure Chris Hemsworth is obvious eye candy for the female moviegoer, but Tom Hiddleston as Loki was so impressive, that the film deserved an extra star.

Johnny Depp’s fourth “Pirates” film returned to the excitement, fun and fast pace which made Jack Sparrow so appealing to audiences. Unfortunately Ian McShane was underutilized as Blackbeard in a hollow and bland role. Overall “Stanger Tides” was a treat during the summer a positive return for the Disney franchise.

The complex psychological thriller “Source Code” fell off the radar screen quickly after a Spring release. Jake Gyllenhaal and director Duncan Jones set a stage of increasing intrigue and excitement (check out a full review here), but it was “Captain America: The First Avenger” which truly shined.

I shared the skepticism of many fans who didn’t feel Chris Evans could ever pull off the iconic Marvel hero. Not only was it a success and highly entertaining, Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull was incredible. From the classic comic feel, the World War propaganda to the USO sequence, the nostalgic Cap was perfectly set up and evolved into the idealistic patriot that Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created. (The review of First Avenger – here)

Transformers & Twlight win at the box office?

So disappointing is that this mindless blother found the most viewers at the box office. Worse yet is that another film is set in both franchises.

Not surprising when audiences will pay to see Ryan Reynolds in a CGI fest disguised as “Green Lantern” and endure the inane gags in “Horrible Bosses” or possibly…quite possibly have sat through the worst film “Arthur”.

The Great Harry Potter wrap-up

It’s finally over.

Wow, what a ride.

The final film truly delivered as the CGI was awesome, the action was spot on with the book and it was truly engaging all the way to the end.

Best of the Year: “X-Men – First Class” & “Courageous”

I didn’t think they could pull off an X-Men prequel but James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender can’t make the sequels fast enough in my opinion. Set in the 1960′s during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it adds the history and intrigue as a backdrop to make the new cast blend to the Bryan Singer X-Men mythology.

“Courageous” is a must see for every father on the planet.

Alex Kendrick rips your heart out, twists and turns to force you to question “How good of a father am I really?”

You won’t find “Courageous” on these lists because it’s a Christian movie, but it was rewarding to see it make a huge profit – over $33M at the box office on a $2M budget.

Some other notables:


“Contagion” – A great scientifically accurate interpretation of the super virus scare. There are a few loose ends and if the whole “Outbreak” film is NOT your thing, you will be bored.

“Battle: Los Angeles” – Aliens come, Marines fight back. Not much else to report here, but I found it surprisingly entertaining.

“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” – I’m a bit biased for “Mission” films even though I loathe Tom Cruise. This is fast-paced, the secondary characters are entertaining and in IMAX – WOW!

Don’t Bother

“Sucker Punch” – How did Zack Snyder get the “Man of Steel” job after this mess.

“Priest” – Just boring. Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, vampires, action….still don’t care.

”Rango” – Okay, it’s not bad, it’s just not that good. I didn’t find it exciting or that funny.

“Green Hornet” – Horrible. Just awful. Seth Rogen can’t do fight scenes, he can’t act and he’s only funny about half of the time. Let’s add Cameron Diaz and see how bad this movie can’t get.

“Cowboys and Aliens” – James Bond, Indiana Jones, the director of Iron Man and the hot girl from Tron — the result: boring piece of poo.

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