We are about midway through 2011 and have quite the selection of movies that are now under our belts. As it happens just about every year I haven’t had the chance to see everything that I have wanted to see, but I feel like I’ve seen enough to pick out some of the highs and lows of the year so far. I’m more than delighted to say that I have only a couple of lows, a vast selection of movies I really enjoyed and a handful so far that I’ve loved.
Theatrically I feel like I have yet to run across that movie that just leaves me breathless by the end, but I have been hit with plenty of charm and excitement in some of my favorites while being bored and extremely let down by some others. Here is my list of best and worst movies so far in 2011 and here’s hoping for an explosive second half of the year!
Note: Movies are listed in no particular order. Also, this is by no means every movie I’ve seen and liked or disliked, just a selection of my favorites and least favorite. Take solace in the fact that there is far more that I liked than I hated.
BEST Movies of 2011
Win Win: Tom McCarthy’s WIN WIN was equal amounts of charm and genuine comedy. Solid performances from Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and newcomer Alex Shaffer certainly put WIN WIN in a good position to end up as one of the best films in 2011. Of the comedies I’ve seen so far this year WIN WIN is the most wholesome and good natured form of comedy and strays far away from the raunchy style of films like BRIDESMAIDS and THE HANGOVER PART II. Along with the spectacular comedy, WIN WIN is also quite heartwarming as well. [Read My Review]
X-Men: First Class: When this prequel was announced my excitement was almost non-existent. I have seen all the X-Men movies that came before, enjoyed three of them and loathed another but didn’t love any of them. I loved X-MEN: FIRST CLASS despite some of my complaints about the cheesiness in the script and some shaky special effects here and there. Michael Fassbender’s performance as Erik the tortured concentration camp survivor who becomes Magneto was very compelling and stole the show. James McAvoy was also far better than I expected and Matthew Vaughn gives the film a very sleek and effective look while placing the X-Men in a historical setting. [Read My Review]
Bridesmaids - I’m actually a little shocked to be able to be including this one on the list. When I saw the previews for BRIDESMAIDS I thought for certain all the good stuff was in the trailers and the rest would be complete chick flick fluff. Color me surprised that I found BRIDESMAIDS to be extremely funny, charming and able to avoid making an all female cast come off like a bunch of shill annoying witches. Kristen Wiig is very funny and relatable and the rest of the cast has a handful of very funny moments. Overall though, even as the film devolves into some over-the-top comedy the heart of the film feels very real and down to Earth. [Read My Review]
Red State: Kevin Smith’s RED STATE has yet to see even a limited release so far this year, but I did get a chance to see it back in March and in some way shape or form had a great time with it. The movie itself is dark with the hateful and violent nature of the people that inhabit the Five Points church, but there are still hints of Kevin Smith’s signature humor. Michael Parks gives one of the most intense and riveting performances I’ve seen all year so far and the rest of the cast surrounding him are very engaging as well. Smith’s fans (I’m one of them) will eat up every bit of RED STATE, but more importantly I believe even Smith’s haters can get just as much enjoyment from it. [Read My Review]
Super 8 - Lots of people seem to have written SUPER 8 off for its sense of nostalgia and even more nitpicking over certain events that to me didn’t even factor into my overall enjoyment of the film. The train derailment is over the top but 100% awesome in grand fashion, there are certain things that don’t make complete sense, but NONE of it lingered in my mind as a reason to not like the movie. For me, SUPER 8 was phenomenal and I feel that way due to the quality of the child actors. The performances all around were very enjoyable; the special effects were great as well as the tension during the attack scenes. Aside from one scene towards the end of the film that did not pay off the emotional resonance built throughout the film I found SUPER 8 to be MINT (just in case no one’s sick of that word yet). [Read My Review]
Insidious - As a fan of horror movies it saddens to report that there is a serious lack of good horror movies so far this year. It seems the majority of horror I’ve been watching and liked have all been from last year or films just being released on DVD this year but premiered long ago either at film festivals and never played nationwide. INSIDIOUS is filling in that very large gap in my heart because I don’t consider RED STATE or SUPER 8 to be horror movies. INSIDIOUS is however and for the first two thirds of the movie it is a stellar one at that before it really asks the audience to make some tough choices in the finale. The choices being to go along with some very absurd moments or abandon ship altogether. While I was on board I recognize the of kilter moments at the end and because I didn’t abandon ship I came out really loving the film. [Read My Review]
I Saw The Devil - This is kind of a cheat pick for the list because technically I SAW THE DEVIL found an extremely limited 2010 theatrical release. That release didn’t find its way near me though, so while you probably won’t see this on the year end top 10 list I felt it deserved its just desserts. If I could go back and redo my top 10 of 2010 I SAW THE DEVIL would have easily stole the number 1 slot from BLACK SWAN; that’s just how much I loved this movie. I SAW THE DEVIL is brutal and uncompromising in its violence and despite the familiar revenge movie tropes it finds twists and turns that kept me guessing. If you haven’t seen I SAW THE DEVIL I can’t recommend it enough. [Read My Review]
Scream 4 - No list is ever really complete without something a tad bit controversial and with a slew of sequels to pick from I figured I’d pick the one I like the most. I already mentioned how lackluster the horror releases have been this year and of course my disdain for Craven’s previous effort MY SOUL TO TAKE. All those considered I really loved SCREAM 4 and it makes no difference to me how few people agree. The fourth sequel in more ways than one improves on SCREAM 3 while also being somewhat of a reboot of the series. Keep in mind though it does not improve on the first SCREAM, but the kills are brutal, the script is funny and I tip my cap to the batsh*t crazy finale that goes on way too long. [Read My Review]
WORST Movies of 2011
Sucker Punch - Zack Snyder’s fantasy film is as hollow and full of hot air as the reanimated zombie soldiers in the center of one of the film’s better action sequences. Aside from some of the cool visual effects there is little to zero substance behind any of the cool CGI effects. I can make peace with the fact that many people did find enjoyment in the film, I myself had some fun in laughing at some of the terrible dialogue and incoherent nonsense Zack Snyder threw on screen. However, the entertainment I came away with was not the kind I wanted and certainly not the kind I will ever sit through again. [Read My Review]
The Rite - I really wanted to like THE RITE. Going in I had little hope that it was going to be any good, so at the least I was hoping for something that would surprise me and be marginally decent. Unfortunately, THE RITE is painfully boring with an even more painfully dull performance from Colin O’Donoghue in the lead role. Anthony Hopkins gives it a decent go but just can’t save THE RITE from collapsing on top of itself. With the exception of THE LAST EXORCISM I’m still waiting for the next great exorcist/exorcism film and THE RITE certainly is not it. [Read My Review]