16 March 2012

Good and Bad of 2011: Movies - Vol. 3

2011: What I Loved

Two weeks ago, I sat down with one of my co-writers at the student newspaper at school, and we started talking about our best and worst lists of last year. There were a few points where our tastes matched, and when that happened, on those instances, it was uncanny how in tuned we were with each other. My feelings were basically the same as his. But when it came to one we disagreed, there was no way we found common ground. Thus, our Top 5 Best/Worst list was a weird mess of action movies. I didn't want to repeat that with this blog edition. So these ten choices are my definitive choices. Some titles will be a bit of a question mark, which is understandable, and I give my reasons, but at least it's sort of interesting to have a diverse list instead of the same old, same old, eh?

Indeed, these aren't the BEST of 2011. Very film films, I think, of last year were masterfully made. Very few. But the following are movies I would gladly pick out of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection any day of the week and watch with a stupid grin on my face. Without further ado, the Minnesota Geek's take on 2011!


The Green Hornet

Oh, yes. There are four movies in my top ten that could have been absolutely disastrous, but none had that high of an expectation like The Green Hornet, and it's nothing short of amazing that this movie is as good and damn fun as it is. A large part of that goes to - and I can't believe I'm actually going to type this - but Seth Rogen, ladies and gents. This is the one role that he could have truly screwed it big time and would have ruined everything. Instead, Seth Rogen nails Brit Reid. Yes, there are hints of his normal obnoxious guy role rearing its ugly head, but that's part of Reid's character, and when the Hornet becomes something more to Reid than a way to sell newspapers and have fun, that's when it's really obvious Rogen's putting on a true performance, not just showing up for a paycheck. It's Rogen and Jay Chou's hilarious relationship that holds this movie together. I was floored when they have their 'falling out' scene and kick the snot out of each other at Reid's mansion. I haven't seen two 'heroes' duke it out like that in a long while, and thanks to their very real, very honest friendship, that made it all the better. Christoph Waltz gives yet another spectacular performance as Chudnofsky, stealing every scene he's in with suave ease. I love this man, he's terrific, and his one-on-one with James Franco near the beginning reminded me of something taken out of a Quentin Tarantino script. The Green Hornet is a surprise through and through - Chou, Rogen, and Waltz are marvelous (I'm still wondering why Cameron Diaz was even in this movie...), and the script is genuinely fun. Directed by Michael Gondry, the movie passes by at a brisk pace, the action scenes are nicely shot and edited to elevate the excitement factor, and overall, it's one of the better hero experiences of the year. [Read Review Here]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

You better believe it, bub. Okay, so reasons why you shouldn't believe that this flick should be on this list and that I obviously don't know movies. I'm 21, and as a young male, I have a tendency to love/enjoy flicks that have lots of explosions, attractive females, rapid pace editing, and giant fighting robots. It's just part of youth, right? And let's not forget that Michael Bay doesn't make art films, he doesn't make conventional movies - he just films entertainment blockbusters. And, yes, of course, this is a movie about alien robots duking it out in Chicago. So there ya go, a few reasons why you shouldn't take my inclusion of this flick here seriously.

But let's get down to business. This is a good movie. I will not walk up to customers at a video store and tell them to buy Transformers over Citizen Kane because, c'mon, robots are way cooler than finding out the origin of this enigmatic "Rosebud." So let me take a second to make my very simple, direct case. [1] Michael Bay and his style. At this point, his style is part of the Transformers DNA, and it's because of Bay these movies are so damn successful. He is a real director, and he crafts some absolutely beautiful shots. Don't forget that in order to bring these digital entities to life, Bay had to design the shots and figure out how to frame everything. Additionally, action movies are difficult to get right. For Bay, it seems engrained in his blood. So Bay is a major part of why I dig this movie so. [2] Superior script. I won't defend Revenge of the Fallen at all - except to say it was in just as tough a position as Quantum of Solace - but Ehren Kruger's script for this 'final' flick in the trilogy is actually really damn good. Sometimes I wish the story was as simple as the first movie, the simplicity of good guys vs. bad guys and that's it, but in order for a franchise to find its legs and justify further episodes (outside of money wanting by the company), you need to have an intricate script, with a lot of beats and a lot of shit happening. At least I, personally, would much rather have this type of script than 'more bad guys threaten the earth.' [3] The actors seemed to care. At this point, the actors are either happy that their contract is up and they're done so they're giving it their all, or they genuinely enjoy what they do. I hope it's the second one. But everyone's great here, even the blonde newcommer. Nobody is as godawful annoying as pretty much everyone was in Revenge of the Fallen. [4] Digital effects - wwoooww. [5] I had fun. Most important, most important, indeed. This is sci-fi for this generation, and it works. Yes, it appeals to the young adult male part of me, but y'know, I just think it's a damn good movie. [Read Review Here]

The Artist

Believe it or not, I originally had Scream 4 in this spot. I just felt I had to honor the horror franchise that I fell in love with. But this was before I saw The Artist last week, and once I did, well, there was no possible way it wouldn't be on this list. There's a half-billion reviews circulating for this movie, so I'll keep this short and simple. Far too often a movie receives praise that I feel doesn't warrant it. This is not the case with The Artist. All those accolades, all those awards - the movie deserves it. I love that damn dog, Uggie the Jack Russell. I love the meta quality of it all, where George is repeatedly berated by his wife for not talking. I love Peppy Miller, because she is absolutely gorgeous. I love the scene that above screencap is taken from, because it was absolutely hilarious and charming and told you everything you needed to know about these two characters without an ounce of dialogue. I love how the movie is both an homage to the silent era and also becomes one. I love pretty much everything minus two points. One, I didn't dig the score as everyone else. It just didn't feel...enough. Second, when George (not really a spoiler at this point, but, um, SPOILER!) speaks in the end, it's rather startling and throws you off completely when a thick French accent comes out of his mouth. Pretty much one of those "Wah...?" moments. But obviously the pluses outweigh the negatives, and The Artist damn well deserves to be on this list.


Another movie that lived up to its hype. Drive isn't as near perfect as The Artist, but it's damn mesmerizing and amazing. I find fault with some parts of the script - specifically instances where Irene and Driver are bonding where the dialogue is far too clunky and should have been revised - and the too frequent a use of pauses that it nearly reaches uncomfortable proportions. But aside from those minor quibbles, ladies and gents, I bloody love Drive. That opening scene and that tense elevator ride are two examples of "mint" filmmaking [thank you kids from Super 8 for 'mint']. Ryan Gosling is chilling as Driver, a sort of closeted man who doesn't raise his voice or appear to be anything other than what he is on the outside, only to have a darkness erupt out of him when necessary and become some violent, cool-headed brute force. How the narrative goes to shit in the second act and the fallout that brings us to the climax, it's tense material of which I can't pull my eyes away. I've watched Drive four times now, and it does not get old. And I frankly don't expect that's gonna change anytime soon...

Crazy, Stupid Love

What the hell is a romantic dramady doing here? Oh, fine. Thing is, Crazy, Stupid Love falls into the same category as Dan in Real Life [both surprisingly starring Steve Carrel!]. Both are clearly set in an exaggerated reality, but they are so deeply rooted in reality, in a world familiar to us, that I feel like part of the equation. It's, shall we say, an intimate experience. I'm living Dan's search for love or I'm living Cal's messed up marriage. These two movies, Dan and Crazy, work so well because they have well thought out, identifiable characters that are three dimensional and captivating to watch [and yeah, it doesn't hurt to cast Emma Stone]. This movie is fun. It's dramatic, and it's hilarious. Yeah, the ending could have used a bit of a touch up with how it's all sussed out, but screw it. Everything that came before is pretty much perfect, why complain about a good thing? Also, this is one of those rare cases where the ensemble cast feel absolutely genuine. This is a family unit, I don't question it. This is Cal and Emily undergoing marriage issues. This is Jacob's story from womanizer to monogamous man. These actors work so well together, that their relationships are real, and their stories are real, and consequently, I became damn well invested in 'em. So why is this on my top 10 of 2011 list? Because damnit, so few movies actually achieve that.


There was a battle inside myself on whether to go with Thor or The Ides of March, both movies that I cherish dearly and have an insane affection for. Obviously, Thor won out. And amazingly, it mostly had to do because of story. Oh yes, the performances of everyone involved was spot on, with Tom Hiddelston giving us a tour de force portrayal of Loki, but this story of this powerful family being ripped apart by secrets and character flaws, and how the material is handled so perfectly when it could very well have turned to be one of the biggest embarrassments of 2011 - that's worthy of praise. When I think back fondly on Thor, this is what I think of, and this is why it's on the list: Kenneth Branagah, whose visual style is perfect for this type of film. I love the heavy use of dutch angles, I love the color scheme and the wide, sweeping shorts of Asgard. The Shakespearean-esque story of a society on the brink of war and a family being ripped apart from the inside out. I love Asgard. I love the balance of screentime for Asgard and earth. I love Thor. I love Loki. I love manipulative Loki. I love Thor's interaction with S.H.I.E.L.D. I love the emphasis on character and, furthermore, the impact of choices within the narrative. I respect and hold Thor above so many other movies because first and foremost this is a story about a man who needs to be humbled to be a wise ruler, and this is his journey. This is not just a superhero action movie, or a tie-in to The Avengers. This is what I'd call a definitive Thor tale. [Read Review Here]

The Adventures of Tintin

One of the problems of making a definitive list for a blog is that you may be just about to post the list of your favorite movies of 2011, and you just might come across another one you fall head over affordable TARGET-shoes in love with after you post said blog...er, post. Luckily, the day before I post(ed) this, I saw The Adventures of Tintin. My God. How absolutely amazing to watch. First, I take back my proclamation of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as the best visual effects Hollywood had to offer. That was before I saw this. Nothing bests Tintin. It's been a long while - well, eh, maybe since Rango, which wasn't too long ago, but feels long enough - since I've been so completely impressed by special effects. Not only that, but this is utter perfection of the motion capture style. Now I really, really want Robert Zemeckis to go back to Beowulf and attribute this new foundation of excellent effects work, and then it will be one larger step closer to being perfection. So special effects: not a single bad thing to say about it. Adventures of Tintin is pure Steven Spielberg. The movie is pretty much an animated Young Indiana Jones adventure. Hell, even John Williams' music echoes the Indy trilogy (notice: trilogy). There's adventure, there's exploration, there's gold, there's clues - all that interesting journey stuff. And the best part? It's fun! To be upfront, I didn't really care about the big mystery, this Unicorn/ship stuff, it didn't concern me. What I paid attention to were the characters, the special effects, and additionally, the writing [after all, it has two of the Big Names Who Can Do No Wrong: Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright], and nothing in that area disappointed. Oh, and Spielberg - this must be a dream come true. He is the master of the camera, and with it, he commands the screen like a excited kid creating some truly nifty shots. This is Spielberg at his most creative. Beautifully, beautifully shot. I am immensely glad I had the pleasure of seeing The Adventures of Tintin before I published this post, and now that I have, I implore you all to check it out. It's a true Spielbergean adventure.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

In what universe would this movie not be on the list? This is it, this is the end [as Agent Smith said in The Matrix Revolutions], and what a finale to close on. A couple of names: Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe. Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is one giant love letter to these three actors and their jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring talent. It's because of them (and, of course, Jo Rowling's/Steve Kloves' story/script) that each emotional pull is a sucker punch leaving even the strongest of men 'emotionally compromised', that the battle of Hogwarts is thrilling and magical and tragic all at the same time. Harry Potter has been my life since the age of 12, and these movies are extraordinary, and these actors and directors and writers and crew members deserve every bit of applause imaginable. To know that a Harry Potter movie won't be on this list for 2012 is heartbreaking. I don't want it to end. It did, for many months now, but, well, can't we just use that nifty time-turner gizmo from Prisoner of Azkaban? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (both parts) is phenomenal, a thrilling tale of bravery, sacrifice, darkness, friendship, and most importantly, love. Goodbye, Harry Potter. [Read Long Review Here]


The biggest surprise of 2011. Honestly. I don't remember what precisely had come out during this time theatrically, but I do know that as the tickets were bought and mom and I made our way towards the screen [it was a birthday present, seeing Bridesmaids], and I didn't even have the slightest interest in watching this flick. And then the movie started. And Kristen Wiig is riding Jon Hamm, and there's that instant uncomfortableness of watching this sex scene with your mother, and then it became less unconformable because Jon Hamm's character is a dick, and from that moment on, the laughs didn't stop coming. Me, mom, the whole damn theater laughed our asses off. Bridesmaids is frakking hilarious. Perhaps a large majority of people I know saw the flick after all the hype and thus were a bit disappointed by it, but I honestly don't know why they dislike this but love both Hangover movies. Whatever, irrelevant. Point is, on a bad day, there are now two movies I will throw in: the first is American Wedding, because I love that movie, and the second is Bridesmaids, because it will make me smile and laugh and I'll be in a better mood afterwards. The script is air-tight brilliant, and every member of the cast should get a standing ovation [didn't they at one of the award ceremonies earlier this year? Can't remember]. Unless my brain is forgetting some important moment from 2011, sitting in the theater and watching Bridesmaids was the single funnest experience watching a movie last year. What a fabulous, brilliant, hilarious movie.


Now that a good portion of the usual suspects of most 2011 top ten lists have already been accounted for, what on earth could possibly be Andy's favorite of 2011? And will you think he's on crack when he reveals it? Tune in tomorrow for the answer! Questions? Comments? Hit me up below!

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