2011 Movies Reviews

Welcome back.

That was more to myself than to you. I’ve been holding off on my end-of-the-year wrap-up thing because I’ve been fighting a ferociously infected index finger, and it makes typing and adventure. I’ve also been taking the time to ruminate, and make a battle plan, which goes thusly; I’m going to post series of smaller blogs focused on various elements from 2011, like work, relationships, etc.

Will each one be its own short story? Probably. But this will keep them from becoming a single, full novel. So there’s that.

To kick things off in my normal, light, fluffy, incredibly acerbic tone, I thought I’d start with movies. To me, this wasn’t a great year for film. At this sitting, I haven’t seen a few things I really wanted to like Dangerous Method, J.Edgar, Ides of March… but that being said, I’ve only been truly impressed by two films this year.

This isn’t everything I saw this year, but it’s everything I had something to say about. It also helps that the Oscar nominations came out, so I can bitch about Contagion, my favorite film of the year, getting the big middle finger. War Horse? Really?

Okay, okay…

The Mechanic

This wasn’t spectacular by any means, and it had a bullshit Hollywood ending tacked on, but for a remake of a really tight, well done Charles Bronson film, it’s surprisingly unshitty.

Adjustment Bureau

This, on the other hand, was incredibly shitty. Pointless, frustrating, and built on a plot that makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Hollywood has had some egregious magical negro movies, but never one where the MN in question was literally the only black guy in the film.

Rango

Wow. Yeah. I have to give Rango credit; it’s a helluva lot more than a movie about a CG-animated lizard version of Johnny Depp’s Duke character. If Gabriel Garcia Marquez had written this screenplay, it couldn’t have had more magical realism. I can’t say I actually liked it – in fact, I don’t know what I thought if it – but any movie that delivers its deus ex machina in an actual machine (in this case, a golf cart) embodied by the spirit-form of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name,” deserves a modicum of respect.

Battle: Los Angeles

Every bit as stupid and pointless as everyone says it is.

Paul

Simon Pegg should be ashamed of himself.

Attack the Block

People raved about this movie as if it were the hope and savior of modern genre film. It isn’t. A story about a completely indistinct pack of underage refugees from a Guy Ritchie film fend off a handful of alien attackers who come after them in the block of London council flats.

Unfortunately, there are too many characters, too many dead spots and too many lapses in logic. It also wasn’t lost on me that, once you know what the aliens are after, they actually have the moral high ground.

This is a well-done, entertaining movie, but contrary to fanboy opinion, it doesn’t transcend its genre trappings.

Sucker Punch

Finally, everyone else was able to see what I’d been saying about Snyder all along; he’s an emotionally and sexually retarded 14-year-old boy.

Source Code

When you just can’t get enough of a train blowing up. Duncan Jones, director of Moon, hit his sophomore slump hard with this one.

Hanna

It isn’t sarcasm to say this is the best adolescent female killing machine movie I’ve ever seen. Smart, tight, and (except for the slightly Hollywood ending), really well done. Looks amazing with pacing to match the visuals.

Killer Elite

It takes balls to remake an utterly obscure 1975 Sam Peckinpah movie. It takes even bigger balls to not only set the movie in 1980, but to shoot it as to look like a 1980 film in every way. Like The Mechanic, this is far from great, but it’s a creditable attempt.

Thor

I never would have believed that I would see a big-screen adaptation of my favorite comic from my youth. I would have had an ever harder time believing I’d get one that was actually good. Is Thor perfect? No, but it’s everything King Lear-cum-superhero film should be in the hands of a director like Kenneth Branah; it’s brash, loud, full of sound and fury and spectacle. Yes, the town was ridiculously tiny and shy of inhabitants, and yes, Natalie Portman seems to have been rendered incapable of real emotion at the hands of George Lucas, but I still thought Thor was a blast.

X-Men: First Class

After the abortions that were X-Men: Last Stand and Wolverine, I never thought we’d see an even half-decent superhero flick from Fox, much less a solidly excellent one. First Class is a James Bond film with mutants, and it does a better job with the characters than I could have hoped. Yeah, the women all kind of stink (I call it Sin City syndrome, except the women in that movie were cast because they’re hot… these girls… notsomuch), and Kevin Bacon was an odd casting choice, but the movie is great.

Captain America

The best Marvel Comics superhero flick ever. Joe Johnston, who has been a hack for his entire career, pulls it out to make Cap such a great, involving ride I might have to take back some of the awful things I’ve said about him. From the design to the Easter eggs (the original Human Torch, for fuck’s sake!) to the alterations made to help this film fit in as the “grandfather” of the celluloid Marvel universe, Captain America is spot on.

Green Lantern

A glowing green pointless pile of tedious garbage.

Super 8

JJ Abrams does Spielberg better than Spielberg has in years. Much as I dislike the guy (don’t get me started on Dawson’s Trek), I enjoyed this a lot, though a cleaner emotional through-line for the Cloverfield monster’s uncle at the end would have been helpful.

Cowboys & Aliens

The director’s cut is… less bad… but this will never be a good movie.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Except for James Franco, who is so painful to watch I just can’t stop cringing, this was an excellent attempt to wipe all previous Apes sequels from the public consciousness.

Contagion

The. Best. Movie. Of. The. Year. Without exception, without reservation. Contagion is smart, serious, brilliantly shot and acted, and scary as hell. A fantastically real take on the near end of the world.

Drive

I’m so tired of fighting this battle. Was Drive a good film? Except for the retarded falling-in-love section that gave me Attack of the Clones flashbacks (skipping stones in the river? Really?), yes, it undeniably is. Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston are both great. Ryan Gosling is… well, vacant, which is what he does so well. But I can’t forget or forgive that Drive is also a beat-for-beat rip-off of Michael Mann’s far superior Thief. Even the title treatment is the same. The only difference is the opening, and Gosling’s character… which are lifted directly from Wlater Hill’s The Driver. If you’re a fan of Refn’s “modern-day noir,” take a look at either of these originals and you’ll see what I mean.

Thing

I hated this movie as much as I love Carpenter’s original.

Three Musketeers

I hated this even more. My friends John & Brusta drug me to this shitfest, and I still haven’t forgiven them. From the ridiculous performances to the moment when the screenwriters just threw out the laws of physics en toto, this is a deeply awful film.

Margin Call

Wall Street for our times, only all the way ’round better. Because, y’know, Oliver Stone is a fucking hack. If you don’t believe that, check out his Wall Street for our times, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Ugh.

Rum Diary

Jonny Depp continues his love affair with Duke, but in a more linear, but less entertaining, Hunter S. Thompson adaptation.

Anonymous

When the director of 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow decides to make a movie about Shakespeare, you know you’re in trouble. At least the effects were good.

Hugo

Incredibly pretty and mildly dull, Scorcese obviously wanted an excuse to get the lovingly restored A Trip to the Moon in front of audiences. He should have just made a straight biopic of Georges Melies.

Shame

I was so much less impressed with this than many critics, because I am not gay and am not in love with Michael Fassbender. Slow, ponders, pouty and incredibly self-absorbed, this movie has no characters, and no structure. Director Steve McQueen seems to have forgotten to have things happen.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The second movie that impressed me this year. I’m a huge fan of the original British miniseries, but this is actually tighter, and manages to leave nothing of substance out in only half the time. A fantastic films.

MI4

Yes, I saw this primarily to see the Dark Knight Rises prologue in IMAX, but the fact is, Mission Impossible 4 is like a really stupid, really hot blonde you just want to fuck; dumb as a bottle of dirt, but a lot of fun for a few hours. Thank god for Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, who voice most of the audience’s “bullshit” moments aloud, saving them the trouble.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I love David Fincher; or rather, I used to. Lately, our romance has run cold. I’m not a huge fan of The Social Network, and I greatly preferred the original Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo, particularly the extended cut. It’s brilliant, and Fincher’s is… well… flat. And Rooney Mara is an unfit comparison to Noomi apace in the same way a Beetle is an unfit comparison to a Bentley, even though they’re made by the same company.

Young Adult

This is an incredibly polarizing movie, and I consider that a good thing. I love Jason Reitman, and Up in the Air is one of my favorite films. He and Diablo Cody have painted a portrait of a truly awful woman, and then had the guts to not redeem her in the audience’s eyes by the end. This movie is bold and shameless.

The Descendants

I’m not quite sure what all the hoopla is about this film. Is it a drama? A comedy? Is the moment at the end when Clooney decides not to sell an apotheosis, or just fear of change? I honestly don’t know. And what’s with the narration at the beginning that vanishes after the first twenty minutes? The hell is that? This felt like a movie that was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So that’s it for the 2011 movies. I’ll be back shortly with a wrap-up of my career, such as it was, in 2011.


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