Top Ten Movies of 2011

With 2011 almost over, it’s time for my third annual Top 10 Movies of the Year list.  While not as strong as last year, we definitely had some gems.  And this year more than any other year, the summer blockbusters out did the more Oscar friendly fare.  In fact, the awards season kind of sucked.  But don’t worry, we got a good mix of superheroes, comedy, and…silent films?  Let’s get to it: The Best Movies of 2011.

10) Midnight in Paris

-Clever as hell, and a lot of fun.  I didn’t really know anything about this before going in, and I’m glad I didn’t.  This has to be Owen Wilson’s best work since 2001’s the Royal Tenenbaums.  Everyone in the cast is fantastic, especially Marion Cotillard as Adriana, the woman of Owen Wilson’s character’s (Gil) desires when he enters the 1920’s literary world.  Woody Allen hits this out of the park.  We have no idea how this little fantasy world works, but we don’t care…its pure fun.

9) Captain America: The First Avenger

-A great start to a superhero franchise.  Chris Evans really sells you on this character, especially when he’s skinny Steve Rogers.  And this is one of the few superhero films that actually has a charismatic leading lady in Hayley Atwell.  And how can you go wrong with Hugo Weaving as a villain?  Great cast, great hero, great villain, and great score, this was one stellar ride.

8) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

-While this is eighth on my list, it should have been one.  This is the most disappointing film of the year.  The last fifteen minutes (not including the epilogue) are a complete joke.  The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, and everything going on around it was a huge misfire.  It de-rails the entire movie.  It’s really a shame, because everything leading up to it met my expectations.  Alan Rickman was incredible as Snape, and this movie really does have some truly powerful moments, but the cartoonish and comedic final battle hinders it from reaching legendary status. 

7) Rise of the Planet of the Apes

-Certainly the biggest surprise of the year.  After Tim Burton’s 2001 re-make of the original, I completely wrote this franchise off.  I could have cared less about this film.  But when I started hearing about how great it was, I had to check it out, and wow, it was spectacular.  I’m not going to sit here and say Andy Serkis should be nominated for an Oscar, but what he does as Caesar the Ape is impressive.  And that’s the real heart of the movie.  But the human characters are also strong.  Even James Franco gives a good performance, and I normally don’t like him.  But Caesar is the star of the show, and he’s one of the more compelling characters of the year.

6) Carnage

-This is a really funny movie, but not in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, more of a chuckle to yourself kind of way.  This is just four characters going at it in one setting for eighty minutes, that’s it.  When the child of one pair of parents hits the child of another pair of parents, they meet and talk it out, but it just spins out of control as these people go ape shit towards each other, and it’s just hysterical to watch.  Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, and Kate Winslet are a winning ensemble.

5) The Artist

-This is a silent film, and I was very skeptical, thinking it was going to be nothing more than a gimmick with no real substance.  I was dead wrong, as the way it uses silence to tell its story is just brilliant.  Director Michel Hazanavicius is masterful as the tone shifts from light and happy to heavy and dark, but the transition is seamless.  The two leads (Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo) really give this film its charisma though.  Trust me, I could careless about silent films, but I loved this movie.  Don’t be afraid, and check it out.

4) Thor

-The perfect blend of high octane action and character development.  Director Kenneth Branagh went into this with a very serious approach, taking cartoonish and silly material, and turning it into compelling drama.  Not only are the visuals glorious to look at, but the acting is top-notch, especially newcomer Chris Hemsworth as Thor, who just commands the screen. 

3) Warrior

-If you weren’t already excited about Tom Hardy’s upcoming performance as Bane in next summer’s the Dark Knight Rises, just go see Warrior.  Not only does Hardy give one of the best performances of the year, but his fighting scenes are absolutely vicious.  Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte are also equally impressive.  This film takes the sports movie genre and turns it on its head.  It’s packed with big time emotion.  The final scene is my personal favorite from any movie this whole year.  It’s been compared to the Fighter, but I say it’s ten times better.

2) X-Men: First Class

-It gave me Batman Begins vibes, and when you start throwing around those comparisons, you know you got something special.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr out-do Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  There had been four X-Men related films before this, and First Class is by far the best.  There’s so much shit going on, including great performances by Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast.  What impressed me about this film most of all is that you know the ending, but it’s still heartbreaking to watch.  First Class is riveting from start to finish.

1) Drive

-I had no idea what to expect with this film, and when the credits rolled, I was in total awe.  Ryan Gosling gives the best performance of the year with barely any dialogue.  His facial expressions could cut through steel.  He is absolutely fascinating.   The supporting cast of Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman are also brilliant.  The tone of this film is so intense, and I was just on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The music is outstanding.  This is the #1 film of the year with a bullet.

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