"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Best and Worst of 2011

I thought I'd do things a bit differently this time.  I feel I haven't seen enough of the best of the year as they haven't released in this part of the world yet so I don't feel like making a half-heartened attempt at a top ten list.  Instead, I'm just going to randomly name films that I truly felt moved me, made me laugh and made me think.  Without further adieu...


Heartbreaker (L'amacoeur): While this film released in France in 2010, it got more worldwide release in 2011.  It's your typical French romantic comedy with Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris as a con man who tries to derail heiress Paradis' upcoming nuptials.  Oh, there is a big Dirty Dancing theme throughout the film.  As the French say, this one was tres charmante.

Rango: What does it say that the best Western this year was an animated one?  Gore Verbinski's take on the Western and its inhabitants was mighty entertaining.  As the titular character Rango, it looked like Johnny Depp was having a lot of fun and his interactions with the rest of the cast was priceless.  Also, I would request that the recordings of the voice talents should be made into a separate film, I would totally watch that.

Source Code: The second film from Duncan Jones (Moon) did not disappoint.  A sci-fi take on Groundhog Day that I wouldn't mind watching again and again.  And, ooh look, it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.  Sold!

The Adjustment Bureau: This was one of the surprise hits of the earlier part of the year which I enjoyed thoroughly.  The chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt took us through the journey and I loved the universe the film was set in, it creates such possibilities.

Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen continues to surprise.  While I didn't care much for his last feature, this one I absolutely loved.  Set in Paris, the movie takes us on a wonderful journey that I wouldn't mind taking myself.  Owen Wilson plays a struggling novelist who stumbles back in time to 1920s Paris and meets his literary legends in Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Not only that, he stumbles across a time that he imagines is the perfect era to live in and to be amongst the contemporaries in the fields of art, music and the written word.  Anyone would envy such a choice and this film will turn out to be one of Allen's best so far, a glorious love letter to Paris.  While Woody Allen is known for his New York films, his European excursion is proving to be quite the delight.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: This one was bittersweet.  The last in the world of Harry Potter but it was such a satisfyingly well-done series with characters and worlds we have grown to love over the last decade.  We will definitely miss the countdowns and anticipation of the next films as there are no more Harry Potters to look forward too.  Thank you for a decade of friendship, courage and great movies.

Bridesmaids: The funniest film on female friendships you will see this year.  And we don't see many of them, it's mostly always about male bonding.  Kirsten Wiig and Melissa McCarthy gave fearless performance in a laugh-out loud film about weddings and craziness that goes behind the scenes.

Jane Eyre:  The best and perhaps only period film out there this past year.  Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Bronte's work was a different, somber take on the subject.  Great casting with Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  Bonus for Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax.  She makes every film she's in better.

X-Men: First Class: Speaking of Michael Fassbender, because of his and James McAvoy's performances as Magneto and Professor Xavier, this superhero movie was even more interesting.  I only wish they had spent more time on their friendship turned conflicts.

Crazy Stupid Love: Ryan Gosling should act in more comedies.  This was a hilarious all star cast of gigantic misunderstandings and Steve Carell and Gosling made the best odd couple of the past year.  One of the better romantic comedies made in a long while.

The Adventures of Tintin:  The intrepid boy reporter is back but this time the tale is told through the joint effort of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.  Not bad, eh?  The real star of the film though is Snowny who is the real right hand of Tintin.  However, this film is only for real fans for the comics, for not everyone "gets" Tintin.

Attack the Block: This film was a real surprise, wasn't expecting to get caught up in the story.  A group of teenagers get caught up in a war of us against them.  Them being the aliens.  A highly entertaining film and for once I was pleased to see an alien film not always located in USA but this time in the tough  neighborhood of London.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: One of the best films of the past year in every aspect, maybe it may not be on most critics' list but as a moviegoer and fan, I was glued to my seat throughout it.  They've already announced the sequels following the success of the film and its use of motion capture.  Viva la Ape Revolution!

The Help: Now here is a film that can be found on most critics' lists and with good reason.  Based on the novel by the same name, The Help was a deeply moving film dealing with race relations in the South in the 1960s.  Told mainly from the point of view of the maids that worked in the white households, the film showcases the acting talents of Viola Davis as Abileen, Octavia Spencer as Minny, Jessica Chastain as Celia, Emma Stone as Skeeter and Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly.  Filled with many touching moments, this one should be on your must watch list.

Kung Fu Panda 2: In a year where sequels dominated, so did Po the Panda.  I'm glad that the second time around was just as fun.  With a female director, Jennifer Yu Nelson, at the helm, a rarity in animation, the film dealt with question of Po's parents.  The emotional stuff was very well done and I think and hope the story will be continued into the next film as well.  The goofy yet brave panda has truly won over our hearts.

Limitless: Bradley Cooper completely owned this role about a struggling novelist (are there any other?) who pops a wonder pill that allows him to use his brain to its full potential.  The results are, to say the least, incredibly mind-blowing.  Who wouldn't want to be the person that they were actually meant to be?

Super 8: JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg got together to produce a film that was an ode to 1980s.  A very impressive young cast who are fully committed to making movies stumble across something much bigger than their film that completely changes all their lives.  Look past the monster flick to the story of little town and its people.

Special Mention: 

Delhi Belly: This Hinglish movie was all kinds of crazy.  Crazy in plot, crazy in the situations the characters found themselves in and yet I couldn't help laughing along.  In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I had such a good time laughing with the rest of the audience in the theater.  We were all horrified and entertained at the same time.

Incendies: The best foreign film I saw this year.  A mother leaves behind a note for her twin children, a young girl and boy, informing them to find their presumed dead father and brother.  Their quest to find their lost relations takes them to the cold hard truth that had been buried for decades.  The ending still haunts me to this day.  What a film!

Honourable Mentions: 

Horrible Bosses: The comedic trio of Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day combined to bring us a very funny tale of three ordinary workers trying to snuff their evil bosses.

Columbiana: Zoe Saldana was mighty impressive as a ruthless assassin who plans a slow and simmering revenge against her parents' killers

Beginners: Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer give award worthy performances as a son and father dealing with their relationship after a life-changing reveal.  Special kudos to the little dog who plays Arthur.  He will steal your heart.

Moneyball: Brad Pitt is the movie; he plays the GM of the Oakland A's who employs a radical new approach to scouting in baseball.  Could this actually change the game?  Watch and find out.  Jonah Hill also impresses in a very serious role as an economics graduate who helps Pitt's character run the numbers.

The Lincoln Lawyer: Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer who will defend anyone for money but what happens when he suspects that his defendant is actually guilty?  Oh, and his office is his car; therefore the title.

The Guard: Now I get why Brendan Gleeson was nominated for Golden Globe as a racist, immoral Irish cop who might just be the smartest detective in Ireland.  Don Cheadle also stars as an FBI agent.


Red Riding Hood: Here's a fairy tale retelling that didn't work. At all.  Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), it seemed poised for another gothic retelling.  I felt this one had such potential but it became like the pale cousin of the Twilight series.

Gulliver's Travels: Another disappointment.  Jack Black as the boorish "Gulliver" in the land of the Lilliputians should have drawn huge laughs but no smiles were to be had.  All the best moments were already revealed in the trailer.

Cowboys & Aliens: Joss Whedon tackled this sci-fi meets the Western much much better in long departed yet much missed TV show Firefly.  The movie cast Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) vs. James Bond (Daniel Craig) yet the movie didn't give them much to do except look surly. A truly missed opportunity.

Love Wedding Marriage: I don't why I watched this movie only maybe so I could complain about it later.  The worst movie of the year!  I hated all the characters and whiny problems.

Just Go With It: Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston were making this movie on auto-pilot, it seemed.  Such a yawnfest and highly unbelievable.

Little Fockers:  There was absolutely no point in this movie anymore.  It's been done to death with the previous two movies.  It's just prolonging the one-note joke.  No more, please!


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