Last week provided a relatively uninspiring crop of movie releases thanks to Twilight Saga:Breaking Dawn Part 1. So while Kristen Stewart is having vampire babies I’m going to start off the movies section by ranking every 2011 release I’ve seen so far. I also provided some quick thoughts if I had a strong feeling about a film or felt its ranking needed justification. As with any time I do a list, we will start at the bottom. If you’re going to read a ranking list you might as well be allowed the enjoyment of slowly scrolling down until you reach number one, right?
26. Hangover Part 2
To earn the bottom spot you can’t just be bad, you have to be disturbing. I enjoyed the first installment as much as the next person. It had its flaws but provided a fun time at the movies and that is worth something. In contrast part 2 wasn’t enjoyable or funny and was in a word, disgusting. Outrageous/gross out humor has it place but like any other type of comedy there is an art to executing it. In this case director Todd Phillips failed miserably. One of the most uttered criticisms of the film was that it was a nearly scene for scene retread of the original but in a different setting. I wouldn’t have an issue with that device if it was done in a purposeful, clever way but this felt like the product of lazy filmmaking.
25. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
23. Hall Pass
22. The Green Hornet
21. Reel Steel
You should’t infer from this ranking that I hate animated features. Up would be irrationally high if I was doing a best of the decade list. Rango just did’t do it for me. Without doing much research, I would venture to say 2011 has been the weakest year for mainstream animated film since the turn of the century.
This is probably more of a preference issue. The performances actually weren’t bad but I just couldn’t get past the subject matter.
18. Bad Teacher
16. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
15. Captain America: The First Avenger
This is a good example of a movie I appreciate more than like. I understand why it was a hit both critically and commercially. There are some good performances by some very funny women, especially Melissa McCarthy. The problem is that I just didn’t laugh much. I’m not entirely sure why, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me the way it seemed to with so many others. Despite that, I do hope it spurs on the production of more female-driven comedy.
13. Tower Heist
It would take days to list all the flaws in Tower Heist but I had a darn good time watching it. It isn’t great and you may not remember half the movie 20 minutes after you watch it, but I bet you enjoy it. It is has on old school kind of wackiness to it and Eddie Murphy appears as something other than a talking donkey or group of fat people. Win/Win.
12. Source Code
11. Adjustment Bureau
This is the third of three movies I felt much the same way about. Limitless, Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau all have fascinating plots but fail somewhere in execution. Limitless is hampered by a confused message and mediocre performances. Source Code is actually the most successful at executing its premise and would have much higher if not for an unforgivably bad ending. That leaves The Adjustment Bureau at the top of the philosophically driven science-fiction thrillers. The love story muddles and overtakes the deeper issues at hand but overall it works. It somewhat bails out before reaching full potential where the supernatural elements are concerned, but the actors are likable and it’s well paced. Again, Source Code is much more ambitious and a much better film… as long as you turn the TV off 10 minutes (or something like that) before the credits.
10. The Lincoln Lawyer
9. Fast Five
Another “fun at the movies” entry. Someone involved in this franchise finally realized what it actually is and thank goodness. Armed with a new self awareness Fast Five delivers in a way no other installment of the franchise has. With the exception of a brief lull in the middle its fast paced, energetic and willing to laugh at itself. Thanks to awesome stunts, brief moments of
unintentional comedy and an all-time great car chase Fast Five makes the top 10.
Am I biased because this is directed by Craig Brewer who is one of the few positive ambassadors my hometown (Memphis, TN) has to offer? Probably just a little. I say only a little because Footloose is a very entertaining film. It meets a key requirement for a good movie: It is the best version of what it is trying to be. It is a film that relies on feel and while the first half nearly goes too far into cheesy territory, the final act contains emotional performances that feel authentic. I’m also a sucker for watching people dance, so there’s that.
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love
5. Super 8
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Super 8 so my memory is somewhat foggy on some of the details. What I do remember was how nostalgic it felt and beautiful it looked. I also remember some serious acting from the kids. Anytime there are a bunch a kids at the center of a plot and you aren’t distracted by the acting the director deserves some credit.
4. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
This movie is for Harry Potter fans. There are films in the series that can be understood and enjoyed without any prior exposure. This is not one of them nor should it be. When a film is the eighth installment of a series this epic it owes it to the fans to deliver without dumbing down the mythology. It is a successful end to the 10-year run. While some were definetly better (Prisoner of Azkaban) than others (Chamber of Secrets), what other franchise has gone beyond a trilogy without a single stinker?
This is a fascinating take on a familiar subject. The worldwide, civilization-threatening virus outbreak story has been depicted into the ground. However, Contagion explores several different perspectives and ultimately offers a more realistic portrayal of how the dilemma might actually play out. The pace is slow and steady but it stuck with me after I left the theater and in a good way.
2. X-Men: First Class
Confession: I have an irrational affinity for this movie. The first time I saw it I really liked it and probably would have ranked it behind X2: X-Men United as the second best in the series. Then I saw it again, and again and the more I watched the more fond I grew of it. After re-watching X2 I would definetly swap them. It isn’t without some winks and nods to the source material played for humor. Outside of that, it takes itself very seriously and makes the mutants identifiable. The stakes feel legitimate despite their implausibility and the fact the audience is largely aware of how it ends. I’ve seen it more than any movie on the list and haven’t tired of it yet.
While I enjoyed many of the movies on the list, the battle for number one wasn’t really close. It’s painfully funny but the comedy isn’t dark comedy per se. It is very good comedy that happens to revolve around a dark subject. With the exception of a single scene, the movie is tonally perfect. The best compliment I can give it is that the comedy wasn’t funny because it was set against a dramatic background and the drama wasn’t moving because it took place in a comedy. The movie doesn’t fit into a genre, it is simply the story of one man’s battle with cancer and its impact on the lives of those around him.