Sunday, April 12, 2015

MrMovieETC's TOP 10 FILMS of 2011

While it might not be made incredibly apparent by this Top 10 list, I've often referred to 2011 as the "Year of the Comedy". I suppose I could have called it "Another Year of Terrible Remakes", but that gets redundant after a while.

Seriously, does anyone even remember that they released a remake of "Straw Dogs" in 2011? I thought not.

Anyway, after a careful process of elimination, only a small handful of said comedies made it onto this list, because while I spent most of time in the theater or at home that year laughing my ass off to "Horrible Bosses", "Our Idiot Brother", "Friends with Benefits", "Paul", etc., that doesn't necessarily equate to being a Top 10 choice, in my mind. I felt it would be a disservice to the films that did make the cut to exclude them all together only for the sake of what made me laugh. I'm far too picky not to have variety.

So, before I ramble on, here is my Top 10 list of 2011!:


This is the sort of raunchy, yet sweet low budget comedy that cannot help but stand out because of its seemingly oddball premise and the experience of Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. The premise surrounds an insurance award convention at an upscale Motel 6 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the unexpected shenanigans that ensue. Again, a majority of the laughs stem from low-brow vulgarity, but the jokes connect nearly every time and all the main cast bring their own contributions of heart to a story that speaks to the bonds that are formed after allowing one's self to live a little outside of the box. I've watched this one a few times now and I feel it gets better with each viewing.


I know, I never would have thought that I would have a romantic comedy mentioned in the same breath as "Personal Favorites of the Year". However, I must give this film its due praise. The all-star cast doesn't phone it in with likable and characters that can be related to , the story strays enough away from cliche that it stays engaging, and the humor is on point situation-wise instead of relying on obnoxious one-liners to carry all the weight. The pace of the plot and editing were tied together smoothly which comes in handy for a film that has multiple story lines.

The downside is that it is difficult to speak at length about comedies, especially ones like this. "Crazy, Stupid, Love" is a great one, though, and I definitely recommend giving it a shot.


2011 was good year for comedies, and it also didn't treat Ryan Gosling too poorly either. I can assume that "Drive" drew a lot of attention because of Gosling's return to the spotlight with "Crazy, Stupid, Love", you know, "Dirty Dancing" reenactment and stomach veins, etc. I'm also fairly certain that those expecting the same cute womanizer in this film received a hefty dose of reality - Gosling's character in "Drive" says a lot without saying much of anything, especially since his form of communication is driving places in a short amount of time and, oh yeah, bashing peoples' faces in. I've yet to see a movie since "Drive" that turned such a gut-wrenching 180 so quickly. The film does a great job of building the suspense subtly if you pay attention to it with Gosling (his character's name is unknown) quietly starting to lose his patience for the scum-driven brutality surrounding him and decides to take matters into his own hands. The result - brain crushing beauty. This is a lean thriller that will likely continue to leave fists and jaws simultaneously tightened for years to come.


You'll have to pardon me on this one as I've only seen it once and that was back when it was new; however, I do have enough fond memories of how much I enjoyed that it still felt completely safe to put it on my Top 10. A financially down-on-his-luck wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) mentors a rising wrestling superstar (newcomer Alex Shaffer) that comes from a nonsupporting home life. Fair enough, we've all heard plot parallels similar to that, but this is one of those dramedies loaded with passion from a cast and crew that sell that hell out of it. This is coming from a guy that has never enjoyed wrestling on any level, yet when I saw the previews for the film (prior to "Cedar Rapids", as it were) I knew that I had to see it and was glad that I did. I'll watch more than one film about the underdogs of life as long as they are done tastefully well. "Win Win" does that and much more, in my opinion, It is, for a lack of a better term, a win-win.


This film is another that unfortunately falls into the same water as "Win Win" as I'm basing it off of one viewing over 3 years ago. Scorsese's adventure feature may not hold up steadily story-wise throughout its entire duration, but considering what he is commonly known for, this is a delightful film that should be given credit for its ambition alone. Truthfully, I'd find it hard to believe that any big movie fanatic would turn down a story that pays homage to one of the top silent film masterminds in history. Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz do a fine job of carrying a bulk of the film's load as the two young leads, and Sasha Baron Cohen adds a colorful effect to his character, Inspector Daste. I've been meaning to look back at some of these 2011 gems, this one included, if only to revisit one of the more awe-inspiring contributions to that year.


A family drama set in Hawaii. A family drama set in Hawaii starring George Clooney. The only other selling point I can think of is making sure to get it on blu-ray because it's a family drama set in Hawaii and the setting is expectantly gorgeous. Seriously, though, I expected to go into this film and see a good movie with an honest performance from Clooney at a minimum; what I ended up seeing was an excellent drama about the pain of loss, power struggles created by the loss, and finding redemption again through those around you that were the ones that mattered in the first place. This film felt like one of those that slipped under the radar, and I cannot recommend "The Descendants" enough.


Based on a statistic that I completely made up just now, it seems like about 90% of series reboots fail to actually gain any tread  and make an impact on current moviegoers. I wasn't joking about the making it up part, but that's the sense that I'm getting over recent years when trying to turn old classics into something new - it hardly ever seems to work. Not so much the case for "Planet of the Apes", however. To say the series could have used a face-lift from its Charlton Heston glory days isn't as much a negative connotation as it is an honest observation. Be that as it may, an undertaking such as this is risky business due to the justifiable expectations of the fan base. All I can say to that is, thank goodness for Andy Serkis! The man's motion capture acting abilities are second-to-none, and this is true and all the more apparent with his work portraying Caesar. Oh, and the rebooted origins story isn't half bad either. The film knew what it wanted to be and did the best possible job bringing that vision to light. I hope the series doesn't hit a creative ceiling because the ride feels like it's only getting started.

3. 50/50

For the comedies that did end up making this list, I have already spoken in volumes about the importance of the care each story received, the comic veterans that lead them, and that they have more soul than just silly laughter. Each one of this has lived up to my particular criteria, although "50/50" I felt was the absolute epitome from 2011. I don't care what anyone says, it takes some brass to try to make cancer humorous, even though that is the motto society tends to lend out about such things. If anything, it's a fine line; make it funny without being impersonal, and don't make it overly dour with a few chuckles to lighten the mood. A lot of credit obviously goes to the gifted chemistry between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, but equally as much should go to director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser for walking that fine line without wavering. The end result is the colorful sense of humor we have come to expect from the lead cast, but also a more sentimental side that is pulled off with a graceful wit.


I realize that this looks like an overly safe pick, and it a lot of ways it is. If we're being honest though, to have a book series this big and influential on popular media turned into an exceptionally successful film adaptation series that spanned nearly a decade and managed to keep the same cast (mostly) throughout to a legitimately satisfying finale has to count towards honorable mentions. Granted, this is the series that spearheaded Hollywood's new annoying fascination with giving book adaptions unnecessary split finales, but in this case, I'm willing to forgive. All 8 films do feel like the best possible sum to a whole that could be made at this time, and while I would have been perfectly fine with a more drawn out battle of Good and Evil at Hogwarts, this version still fit the bill well enough to be enjoyed until the reboot.

Yes, I say that definitively because Warner Bros. is not above milking the cash cow.





And finally, my Number One film for 2011 is . . .


Oh yes. Ironic, isn't it? I take a jab at all the terrible remakes served cold and lifeless to the general cinema public on what seems like a monthly basis nowadays, and I go and choose a remake as my top film of 2011. You know what, though? I do not feel remotely guilty for doing so, because while my fan-crush on David Fincher is no secret by now, this was a film that was made with an abundance of style and panache that is custom to Fincher and makes "Dragon Tattoo" feel like a brand new film rather than something that was made in Sweden only a few years before. I've put it on my agenda to watch the original trilogy in the near future, especially since this version did not fare too well financially in the U.S. and the other two films are a mystery as far as any type of future. That being the case, I hope that doesn't lessen the value of this American take on the Stieg Larsson series because from the cinematography to the score, a sincere effort was put into this release and deserves more than the typical shunning a majority of remakes receive. For not having much prior experience, Rooney Mara completely owns the title role of Lisbeth, and Daniel Craig shows that he's more diverse than being just the new face of James Bond. In the end, even if its apples and oranges between the two trilogies, I do hope the American version gets rounded out because I feel these characters and the talented actors that play them have more to offer before all is said and done.

Thank you for reading, and see you next week for my Top 10 Films of 2010!

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