The Best and Worst Films of 2011

The Best and Worst Movies of 2011

OK, now I know this is a LONNNNNNNNNNNNNG time coming, but I finally have gotten the stamina and motivation to complete these lists. I may be seven months late, but you know what, there’s always movies someone hasn’t seen and they are always looking for a fresh perspective. (Heck, The Artist just released to home video a week or so ago.) Some of these being hardly a year old I figure there’s still no expiration date for reviews! I still thoroughly enjoyed the movies on my “best of list.” It may be a bit more unconventional than your average film junky’s, but I think this is quite the list none-the-less. 

Unlike the Academy, my opinion on films differed quite exponentially than what they chose for their Best Picture nominees, and the Academy Award Winners My 2010 favorite movie list had some predictability, but this year you may see a few curve balls I never expected to like. These films I’ve chosen for 2011 are all winners in my book, and I look forward what the rest of 2012 has to bring.

(There will be no spoilers involved within any of these micro-reviews)

20 Best Favorite Films of 2011:

Honorable mentions: Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Super, Moneyball, Paul, Hanna, My Week With Marilyn, 30 Minutes or Less, Super 8, Like Crazy, Our Idiot Brother, and 13 Assassins.

Bridesmaids Movie Title

20: Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
Within in moments of viewing this trailer I knew it was going to be a hit. From what I assumed, it would be The Hangover of 2011, but driven by a powerful train of women. It is that and so much more. But than again it is its own thing.

A very multifaceted group of talented comedians, Bridesmaids brings the laughs, but hits a strong range of emotions. This film almost didn’t make the list due to some of the bits that over-stayed their welcome, but due to it’s originality, charm, and incredible chemistry among the cast, I couldn’t say no to Bridesmaids. Plus Melissa McCarthy is a gem to behold.

The Skin I Live In Movie Title

19: The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar)
If you’re looking for disturbing, this film hits the jackpot. I had no idea what to really expect when I came into this film, but the further down the rabbit-hole I traveled, the more I was caught up in the estranged affair between the the mad scientist (Antonia Banderas) and his patient (Elena Anaya). The Skin I Live In bested me with this complicated relationship and is by far one of the most interesting stories within this list.

Beginners Movie Title

18: Beginners (Mile Mills)
Christopher Plummer you sly dog you, how do you do it? Plummer is the key ingredient that kept this movie from being anything but ordinary. His charm will melt your heart. Between father and son, Plummer and McGregor work wonderfully on screen together and it is this relationship that gives the film a reason to empathize toward the characters.

Insidious Movie Title

17: Insidious (James Wan)
There’s always that one horror movie that stands out from the rest every year, and that film is the terrifying Insidious. Right from start the hair on the back of your neck stands up and never settles for a second. This film never lets your heart take a break for a second, the scares continually build throughout the entire movie and never back down.

If you take a second to breathe during this film, you might realize how hard you’re gripping your seat, arm, or person’s hand you are viewing this movie with. If you’re sick of all the splatter-infested, torture porn, seek out this little ghost/demon story. Just see for yourself how little time it takes until you are wanting to turn on the lights.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Title

16: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt)
I never in my wildest dreams would have thought this film was going to be as good as it is. Thanks to an amazing performance by Andy Serkis, who played the main ape, Ceasar, this prequel packs a lot of emotional weight that came unexpected. Pitched in the trailer as an action packed uprising of the beginning of the end for humanity,Rise of the Planet of the Apes delves into a more complex story than it appeared to be. James Franco isn’t terrible, but this is isn’t his story, it’s Ceasar’s; he truly steals every moment of this film.

My only gripe is that I wish they would have stuck with the original title, Rise of the Apes, rather than catering to audiences who may have not connected it with the Planet of the Apes franchise.

Win Win Movie Title

15: Win Win (Thomas McCarthy)
If there is one actor who can truly never disappoint it’s Paul Giamatti. This little indie dramedy pits Giamatti, a high school wrestling coach, against a very unique young man played by Alex Shaffer. As a duo, these two command a very strong bond between mentor and student that put The Blindside shame. Win Win can be quite emotional at times, and Shaffer does a great job playing an angst ridden teenager who only wants to put himself before others.

Martha Marcy May Marlene Movie Title
14: Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
I’m beginning to see a pattern here where a lot of the movies listed so far have had key actors that have just shined, engaging audiences further than just what you see on screen. This holds true to Elisabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Martha, a very distraught, confused young woman who escapes the lifestyle of a cult only to find re-adapting to regular society difficult.

Never quite knowing how Martha would react to certain stimuli, Olsen blows this movie away with her ability to make you feel just as uncomfortable as she is on screen. The way Olsen is able to convey tension, in fear of her past catching up with her, is simply brilliant.

A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas Movie Title

13: A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas (Todd Strauss-Schulson)
Here’s a curve ball for you. After years of playing around with a formula of penis jokes and Neil Patrick Harris cameos, the guys behind the Harold and Kumar franchise have found the perfect mix of heart and comedy. Not to mention the 3D is utilized very well too.

This is a really fun flick – you could tell the actors really loved doing it – which allowed you to sit back and enjoy the many hijinks of two of America’s favorite minority BFF’s. Crack babies, a claymation set piece, Danny Trejo, and a song and dance number with NPH, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas stood out as one of the best silly comedies of the year.

Kung Fu Panda 2 Movie Title
12: Kung Fu Panda 2 3D (Jennifer Yuh)
There has got to be one animated movie of the year and to me it was Kung Fu Panda 2. Although Rango is pretty good, KFP2 had a depth of emotion Rango did not. Po’s adventure went deeper into the mythos of the furry panda and we learn where he came from. The back story did a great job integrating with the story of Shen (Gary Oldman), and it brought a stronger bond between audience and Po. The 3D is also utilized fairly well off the screen, along with a great depth of environment beyond the screen.

X-Men First Class Movie Title
11: X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn)
When I heard that Bryan Singer would be back to aid with a next X-Men film after his departure from the franchise after X2: X-Men United I was very excited. When I heard that the director of Kick-Ass would be directing this prequel/reboot I was ecstatic.

The combination of Singer’s story and Vaughn’s direction brought life back into the X-Men franchise after X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand left a bad taste in fan’s mouths. This fresh insight and new beginning for the franchise is just what we needed and a great way to bring the X-Men back to the big screen.

Carnage Movie Title

10: Carnage (Roman Polanski)
I can’t say I’ve seen another Roman Polanski film aside from Rosemary’s Baby, but the stage play re-written for the big screen is quite a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed every second John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Chrisoph Waltz, and Jodie Foster bickered on screen. What would be called a bottle episode on TV, this set restrictive film shot entirely in one apartment, works fantastically in the confines of the limited space. And although the story relies heavily on the acting prowess of the four actors, it proves to work incredibly well.

Shame Movie Title
9: Shame (Steve McQueen)
Did you like Requiem for a Dream? Think of that movie, but replace the story of drug addiction to sex addition. Michael Fassbender plays a silent and mysterious nymphomaniac that doesn’t fall short from those D-List celebrities sent Dr. Drew’s rehab. This guy has serious issues and his downward spiral is dragging everyone in his path.

There is a chilling sensation throughout then entirety of the film that is borderline depressing, but at the same time is fascinating to watch thanks to the stellar performance by Fassbender. Shame isn’t bold, nor is it exploitative in the least bit; Shame is a compelling tale of one man’s lust for sexual release.

Midnight in Paris Movie Title

8: Midnight In Paris (Woody Allen)
I felt this film really took Woody Allen out of his comfort zone, which presented a film that isn’t just charming, but to me also very unique. It’s like Lost in Translation in Paris, while adding an element of time travel. And I’m not one to seek out films with Owen Wilson in them, but he is quite toned down from his confused typical self he portrays in a lot of roles.

Among all of the elements of plot and characters woven together, Midnight in Paris just works beautifully well. The most notable aspect of the film are the portrayals of all the historical literary icons, from Ernest Hemmingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, everyone did a fantastic job.

Young Adult Movie Title
7: Young Adult (Jason Reitman)
Jason Reitman you sly dog. You have easily depicted one of the greatest monsters of all time embodied by the lovely Charlize Theron. I was a little worried for Diablo Cody’s story after Jennifer’s Body was a pure disaster, but I had faith in Reitman making the choice to re-team with her after their work with Juno together.

As much as I despise real life young adults who act like Mavis Gary in this film, I found Young Adult hilarious and sad. Now this isn’t quite like Step Brothers, but you could somewhat relate the two, but the thing is here, Mavis doesn’t quite understand her flaws like Dale and Brennan do – she’s a cold-hearted sociopath.

Holding no regard for anyone in her path of destruction, Charlize Theron is superb as the unlikable Mavis. To counteract her shenanigans, Patton Oswalt does an incredible job as her Jiminy Cricket. Between these two stars on screen and the wonderful direction from Reitman, Young Adult is sadly a highly overlooked film.

We Need To Talk About Kevin Movie Title

6: We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay)
Speaking of monsters, let me tell you a little something about We Need to Talk About Kevin. This movie is frightening. If you are on the fence about having offspring, I’d highly advise you not to watch this film. Little hints throughout this film pave the way for the climactic finish, but I can’t reveal too much without really spoiling the movie.

The way Tilda Swinton handled this role is remarkable and Ezra Miller as Kevin is just unsettlingly good. One of the best slow burn movies you will ever seen, WNTTAK will stick with you for quite some time. This is by far one of the most chilling tales you’ll ever watch. Think of what may have happened if we saw Rosemary raising her baby.

The Descendants Movie Title
5: The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
With standout performances from George Clooney and a lovely, up and coming young actress, Shailene Woodley, The Descendants is truly a tragic and heartwarming tale. Oddly enough, this film is co-written by one of my favorite actors from Community, Jim Rash. And hey, they did win the Oscar for Best Writing! (In my opinion, this film should have won Best Picture.)

Hitting every tone perfectly – and this film had many different tones – you couldn’t have asked for a better written and directed piece. Not many films can piece together various moods as seamlessly as Alexander Payne has done here. You don’t find too many films with this level of controversial and bold plots, but The Descendants handles it very well.

Crazy Stupid Love Movie Title
4: Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
Now I’m not one to enjoy those movies where different story lines intersect and revolve around characters that face similar dilemmas like Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into Me – they’re just sloppy and they’re really hard to feel for the characters – but Crazy, Stupid Love. manages to nail this type of storytelling exquisitely.

I loved everything about this movie. It had to be the best romantic dramedy I’ve seen in quite some time. (Probably since (500) Days of Summer.) The more you watch this film, the more you can appreciate every little aspect of each character’s plight. Everyone is cast perfectly and each genre is nailed stupendously. The messages were spot-on and every subplot is entertaining to a tee. I wish there were more original romantic dramedies like this. (Surprisingly enough, the writer of this film specializes in kids films such as Bolt, Tangled, and Cars 2. That’s crazy!)

Drive Movie Title
3: Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
When I think about this movie, one word that comes to mind: unexpected. The production company may have been sued because they allegedly advertised the film to portray itself as a The Fast and the Furious type, but rest assured, Drive is no where near that low of caliber.

I honestly wouldn’t like to talk about how this movie takes a left-turn into crazy town because you don’t really see it coming. And to tell you why it takes such a dramatic change of pace would ruin the experience and the movie. The first 10 minutes of the film is one of the most actionless, but heart-pumping moments in film you’ll see. Drive may be a slow burn at first, but endure the long haul and it will be worth it my friends. The score is excellent too.

Ryan Gosling does a fantastic job as The Driver. Calm and collected, Gosling manages to deliver one of his best roles ever. (Yes, I have a man crush on Ryan “Huggalo” “Baby Goose” Gosling. Who wouldn’t?) Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston also bring a great dynamic of character to the picture. Oh yeah and Carey Mulligan is in this film too, she’s a sweetheart.

Watch this movie like it was yesterday!

Friends With Benefits Movie Title
2: Friends With Benefits (Will Gluck)
Do you want the perfect romantic comedy for date night? Look no further. Aside from the obvious title, Friends With Benefits has its advantages for both men and women alike! For the ladies we’ve got Justin Timberlake in your not so ordinary romantic comedy. It is very relatable and reeks of those feelings that women love. For the gentlemen we’ve got Mila Kunis in many raunchy positions (that’s why you guys went to see Black Swan right?). But there is a lot of self-referential, pop culture hilarity that ensues, which makes it one of the best comedies of the year too!

Friends With Benefits may feel stale to those who have seen the semi-average No Strings Attached that was released previous to this film, but let me tell you, FWB blows NSA outta the park. Where NSA fails FWB succeeds. The film is also very meta, which is what I love about it, and why I love Community. It knows that it’s a romantic comedy and it plays fun with the stereotypes.

While the story tries to portray a non-conventional romantic comedy, it can’t escape from what it truly is, a romantic comedy. Don’t let that lead you astray! Friends With Benefits is one of the best modern day romantic comedies of its time. The actors have tremendous chemistry together and there is actually a lot of heart where most romantic comedies fail so miserably at.

50 50 Movie Title
1: 50/50 (Jonathan Levine)
This film hit me the most. It is touching, funny, and very dramatic. Like The Descendants, 50/50 does an incredible job at capturing every tone perfectly. Based on a true story, writer Will Reiser injects a lot of his personal experience surviving cancer, and it is translated very well on screen.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a spectacular job nailing every moment that is asked of him. Depicting a cancer patient is no easy task, and this film couldn’t have been made possible without Levitt’s ability to draw you in emotionally. (Oh yeah, and I teared up at one particular moment.)

Don’t let Seth Rogen’s appearance in this film fool you! He is not just your average stoner, fumbling around like some dolt saying inappropriate things just for shock value. Rogen magnificently has transformed into the very likeable and supportive bestfriend who just happens to smoke weed too. (Rogen is becoming very good as the bestfriend of terminally ill characters.) It’s a great duo between Rogen and Levitt. On screen, you could tell Rogen had put a lot of personal experience into the film being a friend of Rieser’s as well.

Absolutely my favorite film of 2011, 50/50 beats the competition with its ability to bring home incredible depictions of family, friendship, love, death, heartache, and growing up. You couldn’t ask for a better film that reaches every emotion so wonderfully like 50/50.

10 Worst Films of 2011:

10 (Tie): Battle: Los Angeles 
One of the most shaky cam pieces of garbage I have seen in quite some time. Characterless, this film could have you care less whether Earth won or not. From the most basic of good guys versus bad guys story, there is no depth beyond humans fighting for their planet. The incredible trailers were a huge let down and the characters were very stereotypical of many war movies.

10 (Tie): Sucker Punch
Despite being visually entertaining to the eyes, Sucker Punch has to be one of the biggest disappointments in cinema history. It had guns, action, zombies, dragons, burlesque dancing women, and samurais, how could it go wrong?! By having a horrendously told story that leaves you empty inside. Not at any point did I want to care about these girls escaping this mental facility because there is no way to get a grip on reality or feel a real sense of danger. Mr. Zack Snyder you need to stick with your adaptations please. Maybe in a few decades we can forgive you and then, and only then can you attempt an original story again.

9: Hall Pass
I may have laughed a few times, but whether you cared or not if these guys had a sense of self-respect or dignity toward their wives is completely lacking. This film is boring. It is said to have this one “controversial” gag that is suppose to be incredibly funny, and it ends up being some over the top toilet joke. This film should have gone in the toilet.

8: Cowboys and Aliens
Talk about your lack of character. Cowboys and Aliens is just some goofy western injected with convoluted plots and aliens. Harrison Ford is his typical old man, grumpy self, but it is the plot holes and uninteresting story that killed this film.

7: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Another very disappointing film, and written by Guillermo del Toro too! How could this have gone wrong? By creating non-threatening creatures that were hardly terrifying. You know those horror films where you just scream out in your head, “JUST GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!” well this film could have easily been over if that piece of advice actually went through the characters heads. Sometimes films are good about introducing ways that the characters are forced to stay, but this film never went there. You know what else never went there, my interest in whether the family is going to survive or not.

6: I Am Number Four
This movie just plain sucked.

5: Limitless
If I wanted to see some guy become smarter, more popular, and rage at over-the-top parties all because he is popping some pill, I would have just gone to my local state college and checked into Fraternity row. Limitless is limited by its inability to seek out a plot that went deeper than one level. It’s basic, the cinematography is crap and lifeless, and I couldn’t have been more bored.

4: Shark Night 3D
I love me some dumb horror movies, but Shark Night 3D was a lost cause before it began. Beginning with a close rip-off of Jaws’ opening moments, SN3D went completely downhill from there. Introducing every young adult stereotype in the book, the characters were more dumb than Adam Sandler at his worst.

The plot is something to laugh at; it’s practically laughing at itself. And if you dare venture past the end credits, God have mercy on your sole because you will witness one of the worst post-credit scenes you’ll ever lay your eyes on.

3: Just Go With It
Adam. Sandler.

2: The Art of Getting By
Coming of age, romance dramas can be cute, quirky, and endearing, but The Art of Getting By is very droll, boring, and lacked any sort of conviction for you to care whether the two main characters ended up together. There is no personality among either of the actors and this presented a unrelatable film.

At no point did I ever feel as though these two deserved each other and the main lady played by Emma Roberts is just some crass, soulless void – and I enjoy Emma Roberts too in most of her stuff. Don’t seek out this film, it will just annoy you to tears.

1: Hop
I don’t hate this film because it is kiddy – I enjoy children’s films –but even I think kids could see past the stupidity of this movie. I love The Santa Clause, and Hop takes a lot of its premise, but it does so in such a poorly developed way that it is hard believe what it’s trying to sell. This film is overly corny, and I don’t believe I heard laughter at any point during my viewing, from kids or adults.

The sad part is also that it takes from the popularity of Despicable Me with the yellow minions, but instead here we get little yellow chicks. My eyes almost rolled out of my head from every bland joke and over the top physical humor. There are dumb fun kids movies that can still be enjoyable, and than there are kids movies that are just plain moronic.

10 Most Disappointing Films of 2011:

This list is dedicated to those films I felt were going to blow me away and fell miserably short. I had high hopes for all of these films and in the end they just turned out mediocre and sub par to just plain old crap. A lot of these movies had such great potential, but due to horrible direction, storytelling, logic, bad acting and characters, or all of the above, these films have made this list. In no particular order:

Battle: Los Angeles
Sucker Punch
Scream 4
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 3D
Cowboys and Aliens
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Apollo 18
Red State
In Time

10 Most Surprising Films of 2011:

This is a list of films that I thought were going to be complete and udder garbage but turned out to be pretty great. From bad and horrible premises based off the trailers, I thought these films were quite unique in their own right. Many of these films I didn’t really have any opinion on as well and just shocked me. I enjoyed each and every one of these films. In no particular order:

X-Men: First Class
The Change-Up
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Paranormal Activity 3

Here’s a list of all the movies that were released in 2011 that I had seen before writing this piece:

No Strings Attached
Battle: Los Angeles
Sucker Punch
Hall Pass
The Adjustment Bureau
Source Code
Scream 4
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Hangover Part II
Kung Fu Panda 2 3D
X-Men: First Class
Super 8
Green Lantern
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D
I Saw The Devil
Bad Teacher
Horrible Bosses
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 3D
Cedar Rapids
Friends With Benefits
Captain America: The First Avenger
30 Minutes or Less
Midnight In Paris
The Green Hornet
The Change-Up
Cowboys and Aliens
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Just Go With It
The Tree of Life
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I Am Number Four
The Help
One Day
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Our Idiot Brother
Apollo 18
Hobo With a Shotgun
The Ides of March
Red State
Paranormal Activity 3
The Ward
Martha Marcy May Marlene
In Time
13 Assassins
A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas
Take Me Home Tonight
Hugo 3D
The Descendants
Like Crazy
Win Win
The Beaver
The Art of Getting By
Young Adult
We Need To Talk About Kevin
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Muppets
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Another Earth
The Skin I Live In
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
We Bought A Zoo
War Horse
My Week With Marilyn
Attack the Block
A Dangerous Method
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
The Artist
The Iron Lady
Straw Dogs
Shark Night 3D
Take Shelter

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