I watch a lot of movies.1 Whenever people complain that Hollywood isn’t making any good movies I get annoyed, because most of the movies I see are pretty good. Yes, there are occasionally turds, but really, I saw a lot of great movies this past year, and only one or two that I felt were a waste of my time. I ran through the list of movies released in 2011 and marked down which ones I’d seen, either in theaters or at home, and here’s that list:
- The Green Hornet
- No Strings Attached
- The Mechanic
- Just Go With It
- I Am Number Four
- Drive Angry
- Source Code
- Scream 4
- Fast Five
- The Hangover II
- Kung Fu Panda 2
- X-men: First Class
- Super 8
- Green Lantern
- Bad Teacher
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Horrible Bosses
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Friends with Benefits
- Cowboys & Aliens
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
- Attack the Block
- The Devil’s Double
- The Change-Up
- 30 Minutes or Less
- Conan the Barbarian
- Fright Night
- Our Idiot Brother
- The Debt
- Red State
- Real Steel
- In Time
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Keep in mind this isn’t all the movies I watched this year. These are only the ones that I saw that were released theatrically in 2011.2
I started writing little mini-reviews for all of the above, but that got tedious. Instead, I’m going to jot down some choice notes–
Fast Five was my favorite film of the year. It’s an awesome heist film. I had to brow-beat people into seeing this movie, but they have all not only loved the flick, but they’ve walked away wanting to see the other films in the series (if they hadn’t already). I’m telling you, if you have doubts, put them aside. The flick is a winner.
Attack the Block was the worst film I saw. It’s about a group of kids that fight back an alien invasion. Only the movie starts with the kids brutally attacking and mugging an innocent woman, then hunting down and beating to death the first small alien that lands, then dragging its carcass back to their building to present as tribute to a drug dealing gangster. Yeah, great people these kids.
No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits have the same set-up, but FWB executes better. It’s tempting to say that these are really the same movie, but honestly that’s not fair. Although they share the same premise, and basically end up in the same place, they feel very different, in large part due to a strong subplot dealing with Justin Timberlake’s father in FWB. I also have to say that I think Mila Kunis did a better job in her movie than Natalie Portman did in hers — Kunis sells being in love better than Portman does.
The sequence in Transformers: Dark of the Moon where the building falls over is the most amazing action sequence I’ve ever seen. The movie is worth seeing just for that. That said, I couldn’t get over how weird the new love interest’s lips were. Plus the plot makes absolutely zero sense, and is wholly inconsistent with the previous films. Also, it’s too long. Come to think of it, I kind of hated this movie. Still, Patrick Dempsey brought his A-game and that action sequence was badass.
This was the year of comedies, and it’s very hard for me to pick a favorite (so I won’t), but I will note that Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Change-Up are full of hilariously surprising moments. I mean, look, I’m a pretty sophisticated movie goer, and I’m a pretty funny guy3 but a lot of the jokes and plot points in these two movies caught me completely off guard. It’s great to see a movie like that. Two in one year? Amazing.
Melissa McCarthy owned Bridesmaids, and that’s saying a lot given that the film was chock-a-block full of funny ladies. Likewise, Kevin Bacon dominated X-men: First Class, though with decidedly fewer funny ladies to compete against.
Cameron Diaz vs Lucy Punch! Bad Teacher turned out to be a really funny movie.
John thought Just Go With It was a Katherine Heigl movie. It’s that Adam Sandler flick where he has to pretend to be married to Jennifer Aniston in order to pork a twenty-year-old model. I liked it. There’s a great Nicole Kidman cameo, and Nick Swardson is awesome (as always). I mean, it’s neither Sandler nor Aniston’s best work (and she was also in the great Horrible Bosses this year), but it’s worth a viewing, if only because there’s a refreshing message about dating someone age-appropriate here.
Real Steel is the Hugh Jackman robot boxing movie. It’s a modern day Over the Top. If you’re not sold after those two sentences then we’re probably not friends.
Kevin Smith’s Red State was surprisingly good and a mess at the same time. Ed Burns’s Newlyweds was unsurprisingly good, but felt cheap.4
Drive Angry stars Nick Cage as a man that escapes Hell in order to rescue his baby granddaughter from a Satanic cult. The movie is as awesome as it sounds. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is fun, fun, fun. Plus there’s Amber Herd being hot, and William Fichtner being creepy, but in a funny way.
If you haven’t seen the original Fright Night you’ll probably really enjoy the remake. If you have seen the original you’ll probably be disappointed. I don’t blame the filmmakers, though. Recapturing the feel of the original is a tall order (even the original film’s sequel couldn’t pull that off). At the very least it’s a good vampire flick.
Source Code is a fantastic movie. I haven’t ranked the movies I saw, but it would be near the top of the list if I did. It’s a perfect mix of mystery, sci-fi, romance, and drama. It’s a remarkably beautiful film.
I wanted to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but just didn’t get around to it. I’m not sure if I’ll see it in theaters.
So 2011 turned out to be a very good year for movies. 2012 has (among others): Haywire (Soderbergh’s Gina Carano punching guys in the face movie), Underworld: Awakening, The Grey (Liam Neeson being badass), The Woman in Black, The Lorax, The Hungar Games, Wrath of the Titans, American Reunion, The Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Snow White and the Huntsman (one of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long while), Rock of Ages, Prometheus (Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel and THE best trailer I’ve seen in a long while, Jack the Giant Killer, GI Joe: Retaliation, The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises, another Bourne film, the Total Recall remake, another Resident Evil, new Judge Dredd, another Taken, Frakenweenie, Skyfall (the next James Bond movie), the Red Dawn remake, and, last but not least, Premium Rush (No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to either.). So, yeah, no good movies anymore, right?
- This is qualitative, not quantitative. I don’t know how many new movies the average person sees a year, and the only people I can compare myself to are 1) science nerds, 2) LA/Hollywood people, and 3) my family. So I have no idea what normal people are like anymore. [↩]
- For example, I also watched My Dinner With Andre for the first time. Or maybe more accurately, I sat there while My Dinner With Andre happened in front of me. WTF were these guys talking about? [↩]
- Based on the fact that women always laugh when I take my pants off. Hey, wait a minute… [↩]
- Which it was. The budget for the film was $9,000. Yes, nine thousand dollars. [↩]