Wednesday, December 28, 2011


In 2011 I saw 24 new release movies (three twice) and 2 “retro” movies at various special screenings for a total of 29 visits to the theatre..  This is an increase over the 25 times I went to the movies in 2010, and I will say that overall the quality of this years movies was a lot better.

I have to say I had the most fun at the two “retro” movies.  Jaws is my all time favorite movie (nothing else comes close).  My wife and I sat down to see a pristine copy of Jaws in a packed movie theatre that was a perfect experience for a midnight movie.  I was shocked to discover that the people in front of us had never seen Jaws before (based on their jumps)…come on.  How do we let something like this happen in this country?  Robocop has always had a fondness in my heart for the pure level of violence and extremely dark humor.  Seeing it with my brother on the big screen this summer was a truly fun time.  Hard to believe the first time I saw the movie was over 20 years ago! 

Keep in mind my comment list only includes films I saw at the theatre (home rentals do not count) as I managed to see many of these movies Trollhunter, Red State, home.

The worst movies I saw in 2011 were SUCKER PUNCH (great CGI surrounded by a lame story…and I am a huge Zack Snyder fan so it was tough to experience) and THE HANGOVER PART 2…just wasn’t very funny because they tried to be gross and merely repeat jokes that were funnier the first time, also it’s easier to be funny in Vegas than Thailand.

The best movies were incredibly difficult for me to narrow down this year.  When I began the list I thought it would be simple, then I reread my choices and spent 30 minutes just sorting and resorting.  2011 was clearly the year of the GOOD superhero movie as 4 made it onto my list.  Plenty of great action movies stepped forward this year as well which is nice to see.  If this list could have been the Top 12 then my job would have been a lot easier.

The TOP TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2011 (in my opinion):

10. A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS – Some movies just hit me the right way.  In 2011, no movie made me laugh as hard as this one!  Wafflebot, Neil Patrick Harris, riffs on claymation, A Christmas Story, and shooting Santa Claus.  This was some seriously funny stuff.  If it wasn’t so perverse and violent, I’m sure it would become a holiday classic.  Still, file it along with Bad Santa for the Adult-time Christmas Movie Festival. Remember…Waffles + Robots = AWESOME!

9. THE GREEN HORNET – Most likely this will be this year’s divisive movie on my list.  Many of my friends don’t like it, and I won’t argue the point with them.  I’ve always been a fan of the character and I do think that Seth Rogan made a funny movie that plays as a great origin movie.  Having re-watched this movie on TV, more times than I care to admit, all I know is I enjoy it every single time.

8. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 – I still think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the best book and movie in this series, however, there really hasn’t been a bad Harry Potter movie.  Eight movies, all blockbusters and all good!  Wow!  That’s impressive and shows how good the source material was.  The battle of Hogwarts and Professor Snape’s revelation here are the defining moments and they’re perfect.  I was also impressed that the final battle between Harry and Voldemort was better in the movie than it was in the book (that rarely happens with movies).

7. SOURCE CODE – So someone took Groundhog Day and made it into a sci-fi movie…a VERY good sci-fi movie.  I had zero expectations for this movie, and it kept me glued to the screen for the entire runtime.  Just when you think you have things figured out the movie throws a new curveball at you…right up until the conclusion.  I see it’s on Netflix now…so most likely I’ll be giving it another viewing to look for clues that I may have missed the first time around.  The sign of any good sci-fi movie is the ability to talk and dissect it upon viewing, and Source Code allows for plenty of conversation.

6. THOR – I’ve never been a Thor fan.  Even as a child watching the cartoon, I found the premise somewhat silly.  The Thor comics…bore-fest.  So, I wasn’t too excited for the movie.  But, when my wife showed an interest in this movie I decided to give it a chance.  Wow, glad I did.  Kenneth Branaugh delivers a solid movie that is a spectacle to watch.  There’s a lot of mythology to explain but it is all handled well especially when dealing with the Thor-Loki (brother vs. brother) scenario.  My only minor gripe is the lack of a truly memorable action sequence.  Still, I would never have expected a movie about the Norse God of Thunder to even make the list.

5. SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS – This was the final movie of 2011 that I saw.  I ended the year on a good note.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Robert Downey Holmes movie (in fact the BBC’s Sherlock made for TV movies are superior in every way) but it was satisfactory.  I ended up liking this sequel much more.  Guy Ritchie slows down the camera and much of the dialogue and delivers a cat-n-mouse chase scenario that is fun at every step.  The inclusion of Professor Moriarty (and his showdown with Holmes) is the difference maker in this sequel.  Shockingly, when the movie was over I found myself thinking, “I’d enjoy seeing another adventure with these characters.”

4. X-MEN FIRST CLASS – I pretty much hated the first three X-Men movies.  This is coming from a lifelong X-Men comic book fan.  The translation from comic to movies just rubbed me the wrong way.  They got Wolverine right and everything else wrong (especially when they let Halle Berry exercise her “creative control” on the series).  Then this movie comes along which I was hating before I sat down to watch it…and then…I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT.  Michael Fassbender is the ultimate bad ass as Magneto.  I’d pay $10 to watch him go kill Nazis for 2 hours anytime.  I hope this movie made enough for a sequel and that it remains in the same creative hands.

3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Somewhere there had to be a movie without action and superheroes…right?  Yeppers.  I’ve seen the original version of tGwtDT and I’ve read the book.  Both were excellent.  Still, this new version by David Fincher is even better.  The story is gripping surrounding a 40-year old mystery and the means of solving it are handled exceptionally well and quite gripping.  Still at the heart of the story is the odd partnership between journalist Blomqvist and hacker Salander and this character study keeps things constantly moving and never dull.  If you’re interested, you can’t go wrong with any version of this story.

2. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL – I’m a fan of all of the Mission Impossible movies.  None are great, but as a series they each feel quite unique.  I wasn’t even excited to see MI4 until the movie began.  Brad Bird made a stellar action movie with some of the best (and most intense) set pieces this year.  When Ethan Hunt climbs the tower in Dubai…I was on the edge of my seat.  I’ve been a huge Jeremy Renner fan since S.W.A.T. and it was great to see him enter this franchise.  Kudos to the cinematographers for filming a movie that is so fast paced, but edited in a way where I can smoothly follow every single scene.  It’s nice to leave a movie without a headache.  The MI movies are America’s answer to James Bond, and if you’ve never seen them go ahead and start with this one because you’re in for a fun ride.

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER – The best movie of 2011 and one of the best superhero movies ever made.  The time period is nailed perfectly.  I loved the pacing of the origin story and the use of CGI to turn wimpy Steve Rogers into human-perfection Captain America was stellar.  I smiled through this entire movie because Joe Johnston (who also did a remarkable job with The Rocketeer for the exact same reasons) molded a solid adventure story that reminded me of how fun attending a great movie can (and should) be!  It was an added bonus to see Tommy Lee Jones having as much fun on the screen as I was having in my seat.  This was also the first movie in years that had me stopping at a Best Buy to purchase the DVD on the day of release.  This movie ranks alongside Superman The Movie, The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man 2 as one of the best superhero movies ever made.


*Shark Night 3D…could have been so much more.  Still, it did have a decent grindhouse feel to it.  I wish the film makers had followed the Piranha 3D model and gone for more violence and nudity instead of the watered down PG13 which in the long run hurt the movie.

*Green Lantern…could have been epic, but wasn’t a disaster.  Warner missed a surefire franchise opportunity because they didn’t make good casting, directing, and writing choices.  Hope they learned their lesson before they make that Flash movie.

*Conan the Barbarian…see my reviews for Shark Night and Green Lantern.  This could have been the start of a new franchise…instead it felt like a made-for-TV movie.

*The Muppets…it was funny and entertaining.  My wife is the true Muppets fan, so I know it made her Top 10 list.

*Battle: Los Angeles…was there a story in this movie?  Still it was made decent enough to entertain me for two hours…but 5 minutes later I was hard pressed to remember anything that happened in it.

*Transformers: Dark of the Moon… “If I’m a giant robot, why do I need to turn into a car?”  This concept has always confused me.  I hate Shia LeBouf and Michael Bay.  And yet, there was so much eye candy that it kept me watching.  When the building collapsed…that looked cool!

*Final Destination 5…and when the bridge collapsed in this movie…that was cool too!  These “snuff” films keep being made…and me and my “Netflix Group” have to attend them all and skewer away…and we do with joyful merriment.

*Fright Night…the original Fright Night is one of my all time favorite movies.  This one didn’t have a chance.  But, it was different enough to at least not have me hating it.  I still think they wimped out at the end by not delivering a stellar battle with a bad ass vampire (see the original to experience that).

*Scream 4…I like the Scream franchise and this one did everything right.  I had no real complaints, it just wasn’t strong enough to make a run for the Top 10.

*Cowboys & Aliens…not sure why so many people turned on this movie?  It mixed sci-fi and westerns perfectly.  For a summertime popcorn movie it did its job as well.  At times it reminded me a bit of Independence Day and I think that’s why I couldn’t get it onto the Top 10 list.

*Rise of the Planet of the Apes…before I saw this movie I had it pegged as a summertime BOMB!  Wow!  I was wrong.  It was smart, entertaining, and ended up being a nice hit.  It took a long time for me to decide if it was going to make it into the Top 10.

*Fast Five…Man I SO wanted this movie to make it into the Top 10.  Then it got bumped.  But, make no mistake.  I love this movie and the entire Fast & Furious franchise.  This was a solid action movie and heist film…that delivered a great Vin Diesel vs. Rock showcase fight.  I can’t wait for Fast 6 and 7 which are in the pipeline.

My rundown of the 2011 movies I saw in the theatre and the order in which I viewed them…wow did I end the year on a strong note with some great films.  Do yourself a favor and go see some of these (or rent them) and have a few hours of fun and entertainment.

2001 at the movies…remember I saw a few more than once…
The Green Hornet
Sucker Punch
Battle: Los Angeles
Source Code
Scream 4
Fast Five
The Hangover Part 2
X-Men First Class
Green Lantern
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cowboys & Aliens
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Final Destination 5
Fright Night
Conan the Barbarian
Shark Night 3D
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
The Muppets
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Bring on 2012…

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