Marcus's Top 10 2011
Marcus list his Top 10 movies of 2011 as well as a few other bit and bobs...
2011. Once again it's time to list my favourites films of the year. Generally I thought 2011 was a bit lacklustre movie wise, that was until I got down to sorting out my list and realised I actually liked quite a bit over the last twelve months and while there were still a fair few movies that just fell into the mediocre arena (y'know like Super 8), 2011 served up more great movies than I first thought.
As usual the UK suffers a bit with The Descendants, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shame and a number of other titles hitting 'Best of the Year lists' (like Jonathan's - check it out) not being released here yet, so don't expect to see those on the list. Also, I still haven't got around to seeing Fincher's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo yet or Hugo (the universe seemed to be against me on that one). Lastly, I'll take the odd hop off of the Top 10 to look at a few other areas of 2011 movie releases just to mix it up a bit.
First up, let's take a brief look at the ones that just missed my Top 10, the ones that I liked lots and feel bad leaving off the list, or the ones that might take a second viewing in order to nudge their way into the Top 10.
I almost feel sick not having either Rise of the Planet of the Apes or X-men First Class in the Top 10 of 2011. Both totally took me by surprise as great prequels / reboots and both are blockbusters from 20th Century Fox that totally worked - I know right? It feels like ages since that happened. The Fighter was one of the year's early gems as were Black Swan and True Grit. The Art of Getting By is one movie I think might nudge itself into my Top 10 on a second viewings, the same goes for the brilliant Get Low and indeed Sleeping Beauty which just sort of stuck with me for a good few weeks after seeing it. Rango and Happy Feet 2 have a soft spot in my heart. The Ides of March was brilliant and that combined with Drive, Crazy, Stupid, Love and Blue Valentine (most of which narrowly missed my Top 10) made Ryan Gosling one of the stars of 2011 in the Doidge household. Tree of Life and Melancholia were superb but maybe not Top 10 material for me, just because I'm in no hurry to rewatch either of them any time soon really. Slightly off track I really dug Your Highness, Green Hornet and despite general opinion I thought Sucker Punch was an absolute blast. However these are just the movies that missed the big ten. So without further ado, lets get on with it shall we?
Against the odds Dreamworks didn't balls up this sequel about Po the dragon warrior like they dropped, burst and destroyed the ball with the Shrek franchise. Kung Fu Panda 2 just totally won me over, taking the crown as the best animated movie of the year for me. Not only does the entire film look absolutly fantastic but the story here packs a hell of a punch in both action sequences and emotional twists and turns. I don't know what it is with that fat panda but Jack Black somehow manages to level this performance off at all the right moments and I genuinely like Po as a character. In this sequel we get more great Kung Fu, more backstory to Po's origins and even though most of the Furious Five have very little to do here plot wise, Tigress gets a fair few moments to shine and though Po's eyes this team are still celebrated. I'm still not sure if it tops the original film for me yet but there's something about the pay off here with Po's quest for inner peace and the almost overwhelmingly cool climax when Po starts throwing cannonballs back at the cannons that fired them that makes me love this animated movie to bits and for now that's enough for it to take a place in my Top 10 this year.
Check out reviews from Me and Gabe.
"I shall accomplish your task... with magnificence"
Takashi Miike knocked it out of the park with this utterly fantastic movie that gets deliriously close to feeling as good as those Kurosawa classics. With the group of assassins coming together against Lord Naritsugu and turning a simple town into a "Town of Death" in order to take him out (as well as his army - you didn't think it was going to be easy did you?) the last forty minutes or so of this movie explodes off of the screen. The slow, yet brilliant build up that enabled us to get to know our thirteen comes with a hell of a pay off. Each individual battle that takes place feels better than the last. Each character shows off their skills and as each trick unfolds in the town (of death) the swords start to fly and the blood really starts to flow / spray / explode. 13 Assassins was an absolute thrill ride once it really got going and was a great celebration of all those Kurosawa movies we all love as well as shining a spotlight on the great Takashi Miike once again.
Check out reviews from Me, Chris and Jonathan here.
"You can fool me, but you cannot fool Ernest Hemingway!"
Woody Allen does a time travel movie... seriously. Midnight in Paris was like a breath of fresh air. I only actually caught up with it recently and watching it over Christmas somehow made it more delightful. Woody Allen's approach to time travel is extremely simple. No running around trying to stop someone from preventing your existence. Nothing about the consequences of your actions in the past - just a wannabe novel writer (Owen Wilson) meeting his heroes (like Ernest Hemingway, The Fitzgeralds, Cole Porter and more as he takes car rides to and from 1920s Paris (all without going over 88 mph). Owen Wilson is back to brilliant here and playing against a great cast, including a great performance from Marion Cotillard (who I think I may have fallen in love with in 2011 thanks to this a few other roles) its hard not to feel all happy around this latest Woody Allen film as he plays with love, longing for a golden age and Paris... oh and of course time travel. Don't forget time travel.
Taking my first time out, I wanted to look at how the summer movies of 2011 fared. This used to be my favourite time of the movie calendar but the last few years have been full of bad sequels, franchises I couldn't care less about and little in the way of thrills. So how did 2011 get on? With the first of the blockbusters arriving in March, we kicked off with Sucker Punch and I have to say I have zero problems with this one. Sure it's pretty crazy but with visuals this great it's hard not to get excited about what Zack Snyder is going to do with Superman: Man of Steel in 2013. As for the superheroes (who seemed to come in their droves this year). Thor started us off strong with a great bit of summer awesomeness, even if the movie felt like it was missing an act somewhere. Captain America also did Marvel proud and for a character I have never liked I have to say I was won over. For me X-Men First Class took the Marvel crown and more so on repeat viewings it held up. So much so I think I now put it above X2 as my favourite X-Men movie. As for the disappointments they were still there. Transformers 3 was a painful watch. The trailers had managed to convince me Bay was gonna turn it back around but I ended up hating this one more than Revenge of the Fallen and that's a whole lot. Green Lantern also stank up the place and knocked the wind out of any excitement about DC comics matching Marvel on our big screen, outside of Batman obviously. I thought Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was okay, better than the other sequels anyway, Harry Potter went out well enough but the franchise had left me behind a few movies back to really feel the epic climax to the series. However with the genuinely great Rise of the Planet of the Apes upping the ratio of good vs. bad summer movies I'd say Summer 2011 showed signs of improvement, Anyway back to the Top 10.
"The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy"
This two man cast of Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones brought one of the first movies this year that I was genuinely won over by. The simple set up, written by Cormac McCarthy, is about two men, Black and White. We find out Black has prevented White from committing suicide and over the course of the evening the two men discuss each other's beliefs and White's options in life. Now with Tommy and Sam leading the way you know this was always going to be good and with Cormac McCarthy's words there's not a lot of room for error but it's the dark places this goes that grabbed hold of me. In a world full of positive messages in movies, the good guys always wins, happiness is the ultimate goal and all that upbeat stuff movies are made of, The Sunset Limited manages to pull that rug out from beneath its audience a good few times and grounds the negative sides of life in a way not many movies manage. To say much more would take away from the discussions laid out in the story but I have to say this one stuck with me throughout the year and I can't wait to revisit it sometime soon.
"You lost your wife. And you lost your mom. I lost my nut"
Hesher is an odd little film. For most of its run time you aren't sure what's really going on, why characters just accept Hesher's presence in little T.J.'s life, who the hell Hesher actually is, or indeed might be and generally what he wants but that is the the draw of this movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to knock out great performances in great movies (his role in 50/50 this year was very good I thought) and Hesher is a character that he gets to have a bit of fun with. The arrogant, couldn't care less attitude and how it reflects on the little boy he's "befriended" has a feeling of emotional significance to it and the slow build to the emotional breakthrough the film provides is a fantastic journey to take. Rainn Wilson and Natalie Portman also provide a great supporting cast here and the performance from the very young Devin Brochu, who leads the movie is extremely heartfelt. For a movie that seems brash and dirty, Hesher packed a hell of a warm punch to the heart and earned its place in my 2011 Top 10 easily.
"How can you not get romantic about baseball?"
Let the gushing commence. I outright loved Moneyball. I loved it was about baseball but wasn't really about baseball. I loved Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, I loved Jonah Hill's fish out of water performance and Brad Pitt was so damn great in this movie I'd give him the Oscar right now. Everything about the pacing and the drip feeding of information about Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) had me hooked. It had The Social Network feel about it, in that it felt intelligently laid out and expected the audience to follow as opposed to being spoon fed. I was on board from pretty much the first shot of Brad Pitt listening to a game on the radio. There was something about this character and his relationships to the people around him that, like all good sports movies made me want to see him win. Against the odds, through all the tough times and of course that sense of personal achievement. I wanted to see Billy Beane succeed and the journey through Moneyball proved to be a great one.
"In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason."
From the first trailer I NEEDED to see Rubber. Something about it drew me in. A movie about a killer tyre. That HAD to be seen, right? What I didn't expect was to totally love the flick. From the opening scene where a car travels down a dusty road knocking over chairs and Lieutenant Chad, with a glass of water climbs out of the trunk and informs us that "The film you are about to see today is an homage to the 'no reason'", I was in! Rubber goes to crazy places. Of course the killer tyre, who falls in love and doesn't like being stopped by anything is pretty madcap as it is but having us watch the audience who are watching the story via binoculars and have scenes that have Lieutenant Chad step out of character and try to explain to his troopers that the film is over and they can step out of character is so mental it's genius. There are many, many moments that make little sense and celebrate 'No reason' and it's all handled so well. So, Quentin Dupieux is a director I will be keeping my eye on in the future and Rubber sits snugly in my Top 10 for 2011.
Check out my full review here.
Okay, as is tradition, let's take one more break to look at the lower end of the movie year. The movies that just let 2011 down and stank up the place and we can treat this section as the place we load up all the bad movies and purge them from our memories. I've already mentioned Transformers 3 and Green Lantern, so lets forget they existed. Any movies that crossed a shark with anything (Octopus/Sand/Dinos) were of course terrible. The Ward was pretty bad, despite Amber Heard's attendance. The Dilemma seemed to be a waste of a lot of talent (even though I thought Channing Tatum was brilliant in it). Battle Los Angeles was soooo dull as was Cowboys & Aliens for the most part. I'm not really sure what Hereafter was out to do but beyond the Tsunami set piece that movie really left me cold. And with that I can't say I took offence to much else this year. Critics questioned The Hangover Part II but I still laughed my way through most of it. As mentioned above Sucker Punch got beaten to death but I still enjoyed it and even though Cars 2 was a seventy odd minute commercial for toys, it was still pretty to look at in places (yeah okay, that one did suck didn't it). Now with that all out the way, it's back to the my Top 3 movies of 2011.
It was out after the summer rush, which was probably a good thing but I have to say Real Steel was pretty much the perfect summer movie for me. I didn't really know what to expect from this movie. The two trailers on the build up to the release were not what I expected at all, the story was about boxing robots but the feel good factor here was very high. Hugh Jackman leads the way as the lovable rogue of a dad forced to look after his 11 year old son and the combination of the father / son dynamics, the cool ass fighting bots and the good ol' sports movie plot, I have to say this one hit hard and right up until the final bell and that awesome flying punch Hugh Jackman pulls, I was on team Atom. Real Steel felt like those summer movies before they were all franchises and dark turns in a saga and what not. It felt like something new, something for all the family and despite having a plot as old as time itself, it still managed to feel fresh and fun and everything a summer movie needs to be to rise above the latest adaptation from a comic or teen book series. I honestly can't wait to see this flick again.
"You had a choice, okay. You had a choice."
What's with all the sports movies in the list this year? Warrior is another fine example of how to do a sports movie right. Likened a lot to The Fighter from earlier in the year, the high class performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte all deserve some sort of recognition at the Oscars. However despite the mixed martial arts tournament and all the drama that comes with a sports movie, Warrior feels like so much more than a simple sports movie. This story is 100% about the two brothers and their father. The strength of this film comes with our connection to this family and how all of their problems are coming to a head. Tom Hardy's, Tommy is a heartbreaking performance and having the more straight laced Brendan (Joel Edgerton) heading on a collision course to face his brother in this tournament makes choosing a side in this battle near impossible, especially as we find out more and more information about the two. Warrior was an emotional rollercoaster of a movie, with the tragedy of this family's history more powerful than the ever intensifying fights in the ring (and man some of these fights are very well done). This movie broke my heart in a handful of ways and really stood out amongst the crowd this year.
"Shut up Crime"
There are movies I love for their actors' performances or maybe their technical achievements or just because they move me or make me laugh and then their are movies that I just adore because I can't get enough of them. Super is one of those movies. Everything about this movie makes me love it a little bit more. For starters Rainn Wilson's Frank D'Arbo is a character I can't help but root for. Dealing with his situation by becoming a vigilante is fantastic stuff, his visions that lead him on his path are utterly terrifying but add weight to his choices perfectly all making for a great Crimson Bolt alter ego and let's face it it's dead funny too. On top of that Kevin Bacon (in his second great villain performance of 2011) is devilishly bad here. Sure he's fun but the closing scenes with his treatment of Liv Tyler's character gets suitably dark. All of this set up has me, it's absurdness, the comedy slant and the lo-fi nature of it all but as I mentioned in my review earlier in the year it's Ellen Paige's Boltie that seals the deal with my love of this movie. Boltie is fantastic. Ellen Paige's performance is utterly wide eyed and over the top excited, like a Robin on crack or something and it gets me every time I watch it. Boltie's involment takes Super from being a movie I would no doubt have liked anyway to a place where I adore it and bursts the movie out of the 2011 line up and sits it solidly at the top of the pile.
Check out my full review here.
So there we have it, my Top 10 of 2011 all done and dusted but I can't leave it at that can I? We have to have a glance at what's to come next year right?
Well after the trailer over Christmas Prometheus shot up the list as the 'can't wait movie of 2012'. Honestly I didn't expect to get this excited and even though I constantly battle my belief that this might possibly be brilliant as opposed to terrible, that trailer currently has me uber excited. The massive gamble that is The Avengers will finally hit us and even though I'm excited to see the Hulk own that movie as I'd imagine they'll just let him smash rather than retread the same old plot, I'm still not sure how this one will play out. Still excited though. The Amazing Spider-man and the 'untold story' that been told a thousand times before looks like it could be fun but it's hard to get proper excited about The Lizard despite being pretty sure Andrew Garfield will rock as Peter Parker. A new Underworld, Men in Black III, The Expendables 2 (more Arnie this time - whhhooooo!), a remake of Total Recall and a new Bond Movie fall in the middle ground for me but are still big deals. Of course come December the world will be going apeshit over The Hobbit and the Twihards gets to finish up their Twilight Saga too. Tarantino's back with Django Unchained so lots of excitment coming there. Be nice to finally see a World War Z movie and I'd be kidding myself if I said my indifference towards 3D is stopping me from getting excited about seeing The Phantom Menace on the big screen again. Rounding up, for me Dark Knight Rises is the one 2012 is all about. Those trailers and prologue have me sick excited about where Nolan is going to take this trilogy next and seeing Bane treated right on screen for a change suddenly makes this choice of villain and potentially what he might do to ol' Bats too much to make the wait an easy one. Looks like this might be a great movie year and hopefully the Mayan's were wrong and we'll have an equally good 2013 to follow.
Happy New Year everyone and remember feel feel to list your own Top 10 and such in the comments below and be sure to give us your 'Like' on our Facebook page.
Editorial by Marcus Doidge
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