As far as I am concerned, in the world of movies, 2011 is remarkable only for being so remarkably unremarkable. There were very few movies released this year that were worth the ticket price and running time but gladly, there were some. Let’s begin.
This year, more than ever before, Hollywood took the 3-D gimmick from an interesting and fun way to enhance the cinema experience and over flogged it until it became an annoying distraction. There were so many movies that looked good on screen but lacked coherent plot, character development or even bloody basic common sense. The worst offender under this category was undoubtedly Transformers 3-D: The Dark Side of the moon where Michael Bay managed to ruin a plot premise with great potential and ended up producing a cornucopia of noise, light and bland one-liners. Another prime offender in the look-good-but-make-little-or-no-sense category was Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. In trying to be philosophical and produce something ‘cool’, he quite simply lost the bloody plot and gave us a barely-watchable 2 hour sequence of pretty imagery without conveying any sensible story along the way.
Beauty without brains was not the only plague upon Hollywood this year. There were a slew of sequels and remakes that failed to live up their originals (Ironically, some of the best movies this year were also sequels/remakes, but we’ll get to that later). I could not bring myself to watch the latest instalment of the Caucasian girl’s Bestiality vs. Necrophilia eternal struggle that is Twilight: Breaking Dawn but apparently it is one of the most poorly critically reviewed in the series. I’m not surprised. Based on the first instalments which I watched, I suppose it’s just more of what the fans have shown they want: uneven storytelling, maudlin dialog and horribly one-dimensional acting with the occasional removal of shirts.
Conan the Barbarian was just a daft and unnecessary remake of the original Schwarzenegger movie. Although the original was not a triumph of cinema, it did have decent acting and managed to convey a sense of danger and adventure that this version lacks. To be fair, it begins decently enough; the first 20minutes or so are quite watchable but in the end it all devolves into meaning drivel more like a music video than an action adventure movie. Also in the sequel/remake offender list Scream 4 (help). Wes Craven could not inject new life into his own horror-movie-based-on-horror-movies sub genre. It was not entertaining in any way. I also didn’t bother seeing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie or the Three Musketeers remake. I could spot the mediocrity from a mile away. And err.. while I’m on the topic…. Spy Kids 4-D?! Seriously? Robert Rodriguez? Seriously? Why are you doing this to me? *sigh*And there was another Big Momma movie? Someone please stop Martin Lawrence.
ALSO! Can someone please beg Nicolas Cage to stop making movies? It’s just embarrassing now. If that fails can we organize an intervention to have him released from the calabash he is currently languishing in?
Thankfully, not all sequels/remakes were terrible. Some were actually quite decent and some were actually a joy to watch. In the ‘Decent’ category, there was The Hangover Part II (which quite honestly was just a re-hash of the first movie but still buckets of fun to watch), Kung Fu Panda 2, Paranormal Activity 3 and Fast 5. In the joy to watch category: X-men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the apes (ROTPOTA). When I first saw the preview for ROTPOTA, I laughed my head off thinking it would be another sequel/3-D debacle. I was wrong: spectacularly so. With a brilliant plot, some skilful directing – managing to balance the drama, action and romantic aspects near-perfectly and a tour-de force performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, the movie managed to hold me spellbound from start to finish. In the same vein, X-men: First Class managed to balance the action and drama quite well. I didn’t like the CGI in some places and some characters seemed extraneous but in the end, the movie ended up being highly entertaining especially with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s acting skill.
Immortals was one of the most anticipated movies of the later part of the year and although it was not a bad movie, it was quite disappointing. It looked beautiful and the fight scenes were epic but the movie is no 300. It seemed to lack a soul (probably because the story didn’t really make sense and doesn’t conform to any of the actual Greek myths of Theseus). That and the half-believable acting by its leads ensured the movie never lived up to the hype. Another movie that did not live up to its hype was Super 8. When you have J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg collaborate on a movie, you expect awesomeness to ensue. What we got instead was ‘not bad’. The best part of this movie to me was the train crash. Limitless on the other hand, was one of the most engaging action-thrillers released this year. The ending was a bit of a let-down but that takes away little from the greatness of the movie.
There were a few decent straightforward action movies as well. The mechanic was probably one of the best examples and is better, in my opinion, than the highly entertaining but ultimately predictable and cliché Colombiana. In Time, Justin Timberlake’s latest foray into acting was the epitome of mediocrity. Insidous was probably the scariest movie released this year which says everything that needs to be said about the Horror genre in 2011. Hanna, the story of a child assassin played to perfection by Saoirse Ronan was a movie I loved but a lot of people I spoke to about it complained about the choppy editing and drawn out action scenes. I guess I see their point but it’s still a very good movie. Drive was a surprisingly violent action-drama that was quite interesting but perhaps could have been a bit more so in the hands of a better director. Ryan Gosling did put in an excellent performance. Speaking of Ryan Gosling…
Crazy. Stupid. Love. A movie that managed to escape the doldrums of stereotypical romantic comedy hell by combining at least 3 stereotypes and intertwining them skilfully and then populating the scenes with good actors. Surely one of the years better movies. Probably the most interesting racial drama of the year, The Help was a good movie by every standard. An interesting screenplay that managed to not lose itself in the major events of the period in which it was set. I especially like the ‘eating shit’ part of the story but I feel it glossed over some of the more touchy issues as though it was trying not to be depressing but in so doing, lost the potential for great drama in my opinion.
One of my joys this year was Red State. I was completely unprepared for this furiously directed Drama-Comedy-Horror-Thriller-Action hybrid with supernatural, political and philosophical undertones. With one of the most original stories and probably the most unpredictable ending of any movie this year, it was thoroughly engaging for me. Another engaging, unpredictable movie I saw was Super. This off-kilter story of a mentally unstable man, who decides to become superhero after being touched by the hand of God, is simultaneously funny and shocking. Melancholia, like all Lars von Triers movies is controversial and divides audiences. I enjoyed some parts of the movie, was confounded by some parts and completely hated some others. When all was said and done and the movie was finished, I was glad I saw it. It is certainly a unique work and contains what is probably Kirsten Dunst’s best acting role to date.
When it came to superhero movies, it was a hit-and-miss year I’ve already mentioned what I thought the biggest hit was. The biggest miss was unquestionably Green Lantern. When people call you from across the Atlantic to warn you not to watch a movie, you HAVE to take them seriously. I cannot review it because I could not bring myself to watch such an offence to the cinema, but Google reviews and you will see testimony from victims that did. Captain America and Thor were decent entries that were not as great as The Dark Knight or Iron man, but were good movies in their own right and set things up quite nicely for the Avengers movie next year.
If this year will be remembered for anything, it will be the continuous onslaught of politically incorrect, raunchy comedies. There were so many of them, one would be tempted to think that there was a Buy-one-get-one-free promo on raunchy comedy scripts in Hollywood. The Hangover Part II, The Change Up, Your Highness, Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Bad Teacher, 30 minutes or Less but in my opinion, the most balanced, original and best of the lot was Bridesmaids. There were laughs to go round for everyone and I think Melisa McCarthy injected a dose of ridiculousness that was hard not to laugh at. The best thing about the movie was that it had more coherence than all the others aforementioned – every scene in the movie was relevant.
Oh! While we are talking about comedies, I wonder why we had to watch the same movie twice this year. No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits were basically the same thing. Ok…fine, Friends With Benefits was a much better movie but still…too predictable and cliché to be remarkable. Tower Heist was surprisingly entertaining though not remarkable either. Probably my worst cinema experience this year, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a critically acclaimed thriller that failed to thrill me in any way. Tricked by the preview, I went in accompanied by friends, expecting to see a few intense action scenes along with a brilliant, complicated plot with some superb acting. We got a lot of the latter but the former never came. It was basically a lot of men talking and looking severe. Great for the Oscar committee, bad for me.
There was no action and consequently, no thrills. We ended up walking out before the movie ended. I’m sure if I had seen the movie on my own in my bed with glass of whiskey, I would have a different opinion but in a cinema? No good sir, the movie was a snooze fest. The Debt on the other hand was an expertly crafted thriller about a botched Mossad attempt to capture a Nazi and the ensuing cover-up. Brilliantly directed by John Madden, this was surely my favourite thriller of the year by far.
Other movies I should mention include: the ludicrous Johnny English Reborn, the slightly above average The Eagle, the decent Source Code, the interesting Adjustment Bureau, and the engaging fight-fest Warrior. There are a few other good movies that were released this year that I have not reviewed here, mostly because I haven’t seen them as at the time of writing or because they were, like the rest of the year, decent but unremarkable. The bad ones I tried to stay away from.
I have selected my top 10 movies of 2011. Feel free to share your thoughts and perhaps, your own top 10
1. Rise of the planet of the apes
2. Red State
5. The Debt
6. Xmen: First Class
8. Crazy. Stupid. Love
9. The Help
10. 13 Assassins
Those of you that know me may know that I’m a huge movie lover. I wrote this review for myself and will share it on TheNakedConvos. Its my opinion and is meant to you thinking about the movies you loved this year. Maybe we can learn from each other. Share
(P.S.: Did you notice how I managed not to mention the name of the Hairy Potted Ogbanje Child movie? You did? Good. it’s intentional, let’s keep it that way. Thank you)