Soooo... once again, I didn't finish this article as soon as I wanted. Hopefully you're still interested in lists of this nature this late in the game. There were plenty of movies I missed out on for one reason or another, but I know that these 10 are still worthy of being listed. May I impart once again that this is a list of what were the best films of the year to me. TO ME. Carry on.
10. Super 8No other movie in 2011 packed as much old-school cinematic magic as JJ Abrams' love letter to his childhood did. Accompanying buzzwords "Spielberg" and "Goonies" are spot on. This has to be the best collection of young actors is some time. Extra special props go out to Elle Fanning (she isn't gonna be known just as Dakota's little sister for long). Unfortunately, those kids and Kyle Chandler couldn't save its third act from leaving quite a bit to be desired, as it keeps the movie from being entirely mint. That and those damn lens flares (seriously, dude. Stop.) But there's so much fun to be had here, I just couldn't leave it off the list.
9. Page One: Inside
The New York TimesI didn't get around to watching any other documentaries in 2011, but this one was phenomenal and probably would've made this list even if I had seen others. This film gives an inside look at how the Times operates and how it has dealt with the decline of the newspaper industry, increasing budgetary constraints, new-found competition and living up to its own reputation. A perfect recipe for a journalism junkie like myself.
8. Attack the BlockOh, man, this movie was fun. Going in, I was led to believe this was going to be a comedy. It does have its funny moments, but this is essentially Die Hard with aliens in the South London projects, which is so so so so much more AWESOME. The aliens aren't going to blow you away with their design, and I believe that's the point. Their makeup is the antithesis to all the Predator-esque aliens chasing their prey movies we've had for so long. While Abrams spent 2011 embracing his childhood, Attack's director, Joe Cornish, celebrates the now with these kids, some of whom are pretty hard to like at first. Coupled with some dashes of humor, we get plenty of energetic action scenes with those creepy aliens delivered with constant style. The best part is that it just never stops - just a wonderful job at pacing in a genre film. SEE THIS.
7. Rise of the Planet of the ApesYes, this is a summer-blockbuster movie. But it doesn't insult its audience or dumb much of anything down (at least not more than a movie about apes taking over a major American city has to). Look, I'm a big Planet of the Apes nerd. Like, really big. Like I had a PotA poster on my wall as a college freshman. (Still not sure why I didn't get laid often then.) So when word came out that this new installment was going to be a "reboot" of 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth and best of the original series, I was juuuuuust a bit excited. While Rise is not a full-blown remake of Conquest, it shares the similar plot of revealing the beginnings of the advanced ape population we see in the remainder of the series. Rise excels in making these intelligent apes realistic by employing the great Andy Serkis (in another CGI performance capture he's been so wonderful at in recent years) as Caesar and by utilizing modern science as a basis for the rapid advancement of the apes' cognitive abilities. All of this adds up to an intense action movie with a lot of brains behind it.
Find out my top six after the jump...
6. The Tree of LifeWith it's sweeping narrative that stretches from the dawn of time deep in the cosmos to carnivorous dinosaurs to 1950s Texas and all the way to modern times chilling in an elevator with Sean Penn, I won't pretend to act like I know what Terrence Malick's latest is about. What I do know, however, is how Tree of Life made me feel. And even that is difficult for me to articulate my awe. "Good" sounds inadequate on many levels, but I really can't come up with a better description of it. I guess what I'm trying to say is watch Tree of Life.
5. The GuardHands down the funniest movie I watched this year. Gleeson is amazing here, and is surrounded by a top-notch group of other actors. Black humor at it's finest.
4. Margin Call2011 was the year I became obsessed with the financial meltdown of 2008. I spent a lot of the spring and summer reading some books on it and endless posts on zerohedge.com, among other things, because I was completely enraged at the whole situation mainly after watching 2010's best documentary, Inside Job. There hasn't been much discussion of Margin Call that I've noticed online, but there should be. It doesn't overload you with details of how mortgaged-backed securities led to the near-downfall of our financial institutions, but if you can see the script was essentially ripped from the headlines. Movies like this are a nice beginning point for the masses to see how this mess happened. If you want to understand what the mindset of the 1%'s bosses is, this is a good start.
3. WarriorI've seen a lot of comparisons to the original Rocky when reviewers tackle Warrior. There's only one problem with that. This is better than Rocky. Yeah, the final match-up is pretty easy to guess from the outset, but the entire MMA tournament these two estranged brothers enter is thrilling for the duration with epic fight scenes galore. What makes Warrior an instant classic, though, is how you can't choose who to root more for when it gets to that point. Each story for the brothers is set up with such brilliance, I don't know how you can without feeling guilty for not backing the other. Nick Nolte is getting a lot of attention for his role as the father of the two combatants' troubled father. The rest of the cast is strong too. But this movie belongs to Tom Hardy. Everything about Warrior is intense. It might be the best sports movie I've ever seen.
2. Captain America:
The First AvengerAnd here's where I'll lose a lot of you. I could not have LOVED this movie more. Full disclosure: I am a massive Cap nerd, so I was probably gonna like this even if it was lousy. Fortunately, it's basically perfect for a comic book movie (the set-up for this year's Avengers movie was the only real misstep in it, and that's only because they forced it in), which is some feat considering my exceptions going in. Aside from my fandom, I really don't think we've seen a better origin story for a superhero filmed yet. News came out this week that Joss Whedon has anchored the story around Captain America to ground the giant cast for audiences. So, if you're planning on seeing The Avengers, it may behoove you to give Cap another spin.
1. DriveMovies I enjoy as much as I did this one come around once every five years or so. Director Nicolas Winding Refn's combination of the action from a gritty crime flick with arthouse film sensibilities puts Drive in a class by itself amongst films released this year. It's essentially what I strive to deliver you here at LowBrowMedia - taking "B-movie" or "dime novel" material and treating it with the respect and attention it often deserves. So, you can believe I savored this one. I've never seen Ryan Gosling in anything before Drive, and I've been asking myself "why not?" ever since. And he's just the beginning of a stellar cast that also includes, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Ron Pearlman. I'm hesitant to disclose any more about Drive here for those of you that haven't seen it yet. I went into it cold, and I know that's a major reason why I loved it. Too many tiny details are spoiled for my taste even in the teaser trailer. I only knew it was a crime movie that nearly everyone seemed to like (except for the idiot broad who sued film's distributors because it wasn't like the Fast and Furious flicks). Know that it openly embraces quiet moments, and because of that it's turned some viewers off. But those slower portions of the film only make the bursts of suspense and gruesome violence even more nail-biting and explosive. I celebrate it because it is more than just car chases. Drive is different. Not blow-your-mind different. Just unique enough to become memorable. And that's what we don't get enough of in the movie theaters.
Some Thoughts on Other Films of 2011
It Didn't Suck, But Trust Me, Read The Book Instead:
Awesome Performance In An Otherwise Mediocre Movie:
Dominic Cooper in The Devil's Double
Good First Half Of A Movie Ruined By An Awful Second Half:
Best Movie About A Second Planet Nearing Earth:
Best Vampire Movie:
Movie That Could've Best Been Summed Up In Two Lines Of Dialogue But Instead Stretched Out for 90-Minutes-Plus To Make Sure We Got The Point:
Midnight In Paris
Dumb Movie Series Installment That Is Close To Making Said Series Almost Respectable:
Movie About An Underground Network Of Criminals Starring Jason Statham That Gives Me Hope "Parker" Will Do The Source Material Justice:
Movie About An Underground Network Of Criminals Starring Jason Statham That Strikes The Fear Of God In Me That "Parker" Will Fail The Source Material Miserably:
The Killer Elite
Movie That Caused Me To Ask Myself When I Last Saw A Movie That Bad:
Sucker Punch (Extended Edition) [ed. note - I was unable to recall one]
------------------------------------More of the Best of 2011
Best Albums Of The Year
The Year In Television
Genres & Judgements: The Films of the Year (2010)