Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

14 films vie for my top ten of 2011, which I’ll announce tomorrow. I've been badmouthing this year all late November and early December, but when I finally got around to seeing the year-end movies, this turned out to be, in my opinion, one of the better movie years. My quota has been 65 in years past but I've reduced it by 5, so I’ve viewed 60 films this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [14]

Artist, The. Eight reels of joy.

Descendants, The. Quiet little movie manages to stay just this side of too depressing.

Dogtooth: Bizarre film is edge-of-your seat fascinating.

Drive. Dreamlike, retro, David Lynchian, love in a brutal world; has a catchy song too (!)

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The. Slick movie is everything you'd want in the novel's adaptation, although it comes off a bit as cold as it's locale.

Hugo. Magnificent ode to cinema, a delight in 3-D.

Iron Lady, The. Sympathetic character study, almost incidentally includes politics and policy, with a fine performance by Streep.

J. Edgar. Dense and well-directed, makes you want to know more.

Midnight in Paris: A breath of fresh air; a charmer.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. How often does an audience spontaneously burst into applause at an action sequence well done?

Moneyball. Story-driven film with excellent performances; maybe could have used a little Frank Capra in the final analysis.

Muppets, The. The magic is back (even if the cameo star-power wasn't).

My Week with Marilyn. The performances reel you in.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The boys are back in another colorful, location-hopping adventure.

Recommended [19]

Adjustment Bureau, The: Nice little generic Matrix-type.

Bad Teacher. Surprisingly funny little film; Diaz, a bit too old for this kind of thing, to her credit, pulls it off.

Bridesmaids: Funny, but wildly uneven.

Captain America: The First Avenger. A great popcorn flick that offers a few happy surprises and a nice eye for the era it depicts.

Cedar Rapids: Funny film peopled with perhaps two-dimensional characters, but ones with which you’re happy to spend 87 minutes.

Contagion. Solid, well-paced, star-studded genre piece.

Hangover, Part II, The: Critically lambasted sequel actually delivers the laughs; in terms of believability makes the first film look like a documentary.

Help, The. Feels like ‘80s-era Oscar bait: prestigious, not-too-deep, and a little long, overall though, a good night at the movies.

I Am Number Four. Entertaining sci-fi adventure, with action-packed finale.

Ides of March, The. Very 1970s Robert Redford.

Just Go With It: Throwback comedy is idiotic but makes you happy; cheesecake outweighs beefcake by a factor of about 1,000,000.

Limitless: Wraps up a bit too pat, but a very interesting ride and something that does make you think.

Lincoln Lawyer, The: Solid story and acting, but wouldn’t call it a classic.

Paul: Delightful little nothing, has its script problems, but the laughs put it over.

Separation, A. As interesting as the story became there was something distant, perhaps this would have been a better novel, or maybe there is just something about dramas where everyone loses that make for this kind of reaction.

Thor: Surprisingly well done comic book epic has great dramatic tension and a few laughs but could have used even more comic relief.

Water for Elephants: Well done adaptation of the popular book, offers very little cinematic surprise.

X-Men: First Class: Nicely cast and plotted backstory entry nonetheless lacks in any true depth.

Young Adult. Grows on you; Theron— looking decidedly Michelle Pfeifferish, feels real.

Skippable [20]

50/50. Despite it's best effort, morose.

Adventures of Tintin, The. Wavers between Raiders-lite and who cares.

Battle: Los Angeles. The action is a long time coming

Conan the Barbarian. Truly never a dull moment (not a down second), but pretty cheesy and suffers from the fact that it's just impossible to erase Arnold from memory.

Cowboys Vs. Aliens. A reasonably entertaining summer flick, offers little originality outside of the premise.

Fast Five: Only has its outrageous finale to recommend it, which of course results in not a single civilian casualty.

Green Hornet, The. Considering the director, not much; Rogen and Chou do their best.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Eyefilling finale (especially in 3D) lacks in any real suspense and has far too many "explaining" scenes; trio of stars still shine brightly.

Horrible Bosses: Pleasant and nicely cast but a little too ‘stupid’ and farfetched and far too reminiscent of a movie with a real plot: ‘9 to 5.’

Mr. Popper's Penguins. Old-fashioned to a fault.

Rango. Amusing western send-up with bevy of unusual creatures to sustain it, if barely.

Rio: Cute and colorful, I would have preferred more screen time for the ‘humans.’

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Lacks true depth, and doesn't really come together until the sequel set-up sequence during the credits.

Source Code: Widely overpraised fantasy is never dull, but hardly worth a second look; Jeffrey Wright was genius, however, as the genius.

Super 8: Nice atmosphere is however overplayed and takes far too long to show its hand.

Tower Heist. Silly time waster is entertaining enough but has a really dumb finale.

Tree of Life, The: Pitt is excellent, but the style just didn’t come off: did at least get better as it went along.

Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, A. Mild.

War Horse. War Horse is hell— okay, not really, but couldn't resist the pun: it's just a perfectly pleasant prestige picture.

Win Win: One of those “gems” that you really don’t need to bother with, but you couldn’t pan either.

Avoid [7]

Dilemma, The: Surprise, it’s a drama!

Green Lantern, The: The weird nemesis— a blob— is just the beginning of its problems.

Hanna: A film produced by location scouts.

London Boulevard. Mish-mosh.

Shame. Plays out like the off off Broadway show your friend is in so you're forced to see it.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon. A lot of effort, but as with the previous films, seems to think a relentless assault on the audiences' senses (and in this case never ending and downright exhausting) equals entertainment.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn— Part 1. Finally becomes a movie toward the climax, up until then a ping pong match between music cues and dialogue.

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