Russell’s 2011 Year End Movie Wrap Up

In my Year End Movie Wrap Up, I look back at the films I saw in theaters over 2011. You’ll see two in there (The King’s Speech and Tangled) which were released back in 2010, but since I did see them in theaters in 2011, they appear on this list. So, here we go:

The Great

Rise of the Planet of the Apes — Worthy of a longer review, I just didn’t get around to it. This could have been a slap-dash money-grab, trying to cash in on the name recognition, but, instead, director Rupert Wyatt (who?) fashioned a tale of anger and betrayal. The betrayed party just happens to be a chimp. Much has already been said about Andy “Gollum” Serkis’s performance as Caesar, the leader of an ape rebellion in the film, and the kudos are more than deserved. It’s also the most heart-warming film about the end of humanity that I’ve ever seen.

Captain America: The First Avenger

X-Men: First Class

Life in a Day

Horrible Bosses — Frickin’ hilarious from beginning to end. And can you beat the casting of Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey as the titular bosses? No, you can’t.

Sucker Punch — How did I not review this one when I saw it? Yes, it’s filled with ridiculously fetishistic imagery of women in skimpy clothes… but they’re really bad ass women in skimpy clothes. I enjoyed the layering of fantasy sequence upon fantasy sequence, because it turns the film into a bit of a puzzle box to sort out. It really is kind of the female flip-side of the uber-male 300.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II — If you don’t want to plow through the linked post that talks at length about the entire 8 film series, here’s my capsule review of the capper. It’s a good resolution, with some exceptional moments, but it’s far from the best of the series. I almost put it down in the “Good” portion of this wrap-up, but it’s hard to divorce how I feel about this film from the rest of the series, which, while not without its lows (I’m looking at you, Half-Blood Prince), remains a remarkable cinematic achievment.

The Good

Tangled — Charming and fun. Props to Zachary “Chuck” Levi and Mandy Moore for their voice work.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Fast Five

Contagion — For anyone who thought the ending of Seven would have been better if we saw Gwyneth Paltrow’s autopsy, we now have Contagion, a surprisingly gripping story about a disease that threatens to wipe out humanity, and not in an action-packed Outbreak kind of way, either. More of an “is everyone really going to die?” way.

Green Lantern

The King’s Speech — Everyone talks about Colin Firth as the stuttering new king, and Geoffrey Rush as his therapist, and, yes, they’re both great. But let’s not forget about Helena Bonham-Carter in one of her least scenery-chewing roles as a loving, supporting wife, or Guy Pearce as the cowardly older brother. The film is just brimming with talent.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol — I should have given this a proper review, but unlike most viewers, I wasn’t wowed by this one. Yes, it has some exceptional sequences (climbing the tallest building in the world, car chase in a dust storm, etc) but what it doesn’t have is some new angle, some new lens to view the IMF world through. DePalma’s original film feels like an independent European director got hold of a huge budget. Woo’s follow-up is like all his films: charged up with Hong Kong intensity. And Abrams’s third film puts an All-American candy-coated gloss on the proceedings. Bird’s film truly feels like a sequel, which disappointed me.

Source Code

Fright Night — Never saw the original, but this one, with a sleek and hungry-looking Colin Farrell as the vampiric bad guy is funny and exciting.

Moneyball — When you’ve got Aaron Sorkin working on the screenplay, even a story about the mechanics of running a Major League Baseball franchise on the cheap (because you have no money) can be engaging. And Brad Pitt does some nicely understated work as the put-upon manager of the Oakland Athletics.

The Ides of March

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Conan the Barbarian — This remake is everything the Milius original is not: it’s fast-paced, funny, filled with good special effects, and made me enjoy it. Sorry, purists. That’s how I feel.

Scream 4

The Okay

Everything Must Go

Thor

Battle: Los Angeles

Super 8

Immortals — I considered putting this up on the “Good” list… and then I realized how very little I remember about it, even though I saw it , what, six weeks ago? Some great imagery, but little meat on the bone to draw me back for a repeat viewing.

The Adjustment Bureau — Kind of a super-simplified version of Fringe, but with hotter leads. Enjoyable, yet disposable entertainment.

Cowboys and Aliens

Colombiana — Ah, a revenge story with a scantily clad woman. What’s not to like? It was kind of fun, but I don’t think anyone is thinking about Colombiana 2.

Priest

The Bad

The Green Hornet — A couple of funny scenes and some truly original special effects didn’t save this waste of celluloid.

Red Riding Hood

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 — The previous three films in the Twilight “Saga” seemed to be getting incrementally better. By the time they got to Eclipse, I could actually call it “Okay”. Oh, how sad that the trend did not continue. Boring with a helping of really boring. If there isn’t 100 minutes of non-stop awesome in the finale, then they had exactly no reason to split the final book into two films.

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