I know we’re 2 days into the new year, but procrastination has led me to make this list now. Well, now I’ll be able to bring you the list that will infuriate a lot of folks.
Note: I didn’t see a lot of movies towards the end of this past year. The last movie I saw was The Thing prequel, and that was opening weekend. Some movies I’m leaving off because I didn’t see them, but some I’m adding in, because I saw them via Redbox when they came out. It’s a little bit of cheating, since I didn’t see them theatrically, but I figure, it came out in 2011, and I saw it in 2011, so I’ll add it.
1. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – This was a toughie, as for the better part of this year THE GREEN HORNET was my top movie of the year. A lot of movies came and went, and that one still held the top spot. Then I saw RISE on opening weekend in August, and I knew I was seeing something special. Something almost no one expected to be as good or smart as it turned out to be. Seeing it again when I got the Blu-ray just further slammed it home that I loved this movie. It was entertaining, it had a great plot, and of course, Serkis gave a great central performance as Caesar. Surrounded by a fabulous cast (and sleepy James Franco), his performance carried the film to being a success with an eagerly anticipated sequel being developed. I also liked that they didn’t cheap out and have Franco’s character be named TAYLOR.
2. THE GREEN HORNET – What can I say? I loved this movie. It had a stigma surrounding it before it was released, but once it came out, I immediately fell under it’s spell. Rogen and Chou have such an infectious chemistry that just about everything they did or said was hilarious. Plus we don’t get enough “The sidekick is really the hero” type movies. The fight in the house is of They Live proportions, and James Franco may have been sleepy with his role in RISE, but here he does so much with his small cameo. It’s also a shame that BLOODNOFSKY was killed, because Waltz’ portrayal of a gangster going through a midlife crisis was good enough to warrant a sequel with him in it. I really wanted to give the number 1 spot to both of these films, but I didn’t want to cheap out and do that.
3. THE THING – I’m only on number 3, and I know I’m already pissing people off. I had been anticipating this movie for quite some time. My hype for it was so much, that it really should have made my viewing of it temper expectations, and even infuriate me. As a fan of the Carpenter film, getting another film, one about the Norwegians, was enough alone to get me excited. Seeing it opening weekend, I felt in no way upset with it. Sure, some of the CGI could have been done better, but this was a movie that had a lot of tinkering done with it in post-production. Even going so far as altering the ending. As is, it’s a nice little horror film that stuck to most of it’s guns. The biggest minus to a lot was having a pretty young girl as the lead, but nowhere in the film was there a hint of romance, nor was she played like that. She held her own among the bearded (in one case, ridiculously bearded) Swedes, er, Norwegians, and the makeup effects that were there, were quite effective. (I was cringing at the “hand on the face” scene.) Some good humor (The scene at the beginning of the test where Lars turns his flamethrower on his fellow men after Winstead showed him her fillings and she saw his made the theater laugh). Too many people cried sacrilege, but not this film fan. He gave it a chance, and was rewarded with an entertaining film.
4. DRIVE ANGRY (SHOT IN 3D) – Several things came together for this film. First, I got to see an advance screening of it, because Vanessa’s co-worker got tickets to it, second, it’s got WILLIAM FICHTNER as the second lead, and a (finally) well deserved lead performance to showcase just how awesome he is, and third, it’s A FUCKING AWESOME MOVIE. This is how 3D should be done. Cheap exploitative “THROW IT IN YOUR FACE!” type of gimmicky stuff. There’s a guy with a HAIR HELMET, EL SCORPEEO from Predator 2, TOM ATKINS wearing a t-shirt that has numerous movie spoilers on it, and Nic Cage banging a broad while he kills a bunch of guys. Throughout all this, Fichtner brings his A-game, cracking jokes, and being a badass. It’s such a shame that the movie flopped when it was released, because it demands a sequel starring Cage and Fichtner again.
5. THE MECHANIC – A lean action picture that doesn’t over stay it’s welcome, and has guns blazing almost completely throughout it’s run time. Sure, it doesn’t end the exact same way as Bronson’s original film, but then again, I think we all (or at least us action fans) want to see Statham in another franchise, and I’d love to see him continue to take out sleazoids like that cult leader. West did a fine job directing, and it’s a good hint of what he’s going to be bringing to The Expendables II.
6. THE HANGOVER: PART II – I know a lot of people saw this as basically a remake of the first one, but I found it to be a step up in hilarity, with Galifianakis further stealing the movie, and Ed Helms being the secret weapon. Plus throwing Chow in the movie for a lot longer than in the first, was a good decision. I’m looking forward to the third entry. I just hope they leave off Tyson. He was forced into the movie, and didn’t belong.
7. THE LINCOLN LAWYER – Right from the trailer, this was something I wanted to see. I didn’t know that once I saw it, I would enjoy it as much as I did. Especially by Ryan Phillippe. The guy is re-inventing himself as a character actor, and he can play a good villain. After seeing him in this film, I hope that someone on Dexter sees it and decides to put him on the show.
8. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER – Liked this one a lot better than THOR, and that’s mostly because Joe Johnston made the film almost like a spiritual sequel to The Rocketeer. When Captain America has his first war bond sale, and the girls come out singing and dancing, I was immediately reminded of The Rocketeer, and how this film would have been a success in the early 90’s had it been done then. plus Hugo Weaving and Chris Evans are charisma machines. Especially Evans. He deserves all the accolades he gets.
9. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – This was a great start to summer movies when it came out in June. It also showed that 20th Century Fox isn’t completely trying to put itself into bankruptcy. The biggest compliment is that this film really looks like a James Bond film from the 1960’s, and it gets so much right. Back when I first heard they were going to do a prequel series, I scoffed. Yes, I scoffed at this, and not at The Thing prequel. Then I heard they were casting Michael Fassbender as Magneto, I stood up and took notice. THEN, almost at the time of release, I finally discovered that Kevin Bacon was playing the lead villain. That, coupled with the great looking trailer made sure I was going to see it opening weekend. It did not disappoint. Especially in the beginning when the film is Erik Lensherr: Nazi Hunter. Vaughn was the perfect choice to direct the film, and judging from his track record recently, it’s a good thing Bryan Singer stayed the hell away from directing it. Plus it’s got Jason Flemyng in unrecognizable heavy make-up as Azazel. The father of Nightcrawler.
10. PAUL – A really funny comedy film that is filled with TONS of in-jokes to comic and movie properties. Rogen provides the voice of the titular alien, and it’s always good when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get together. They play well off of each other, as well as with Rogen, and the lovely Kristen Wiig is hilarious as always as the female lead. Doubly so when she discovers profanity.
11. UNKNOWN – This little film showed up on a lot of worst lists, but being a Neeson fan, I looked past that, as well as the silly plot, and found an interesting thriller which kept my attention, and had a cool car chase in the middle. Well fed Aidan Quinn has a solid fight with Neeson, and January Jones continues to puzzle me as how she’s got an acting career.
12. FAST FIVE – 5th films in a franchise have no business being as good as this film. Prior to this film, I liked the 4th one, as well as the second. The first was “meh” at best, and I hadn’t seen the third one. Then this one came along and blew the rest out of the water. the transition from racing movies to heist movies was a very smart move. Then we’ve got Dwayne Johnson. The man is finally living up to that promising start he had in The Rundown. After doing WAY too many family films. There’s also Joachim De Almeida playing a sleazy villain, as only he can. I’m actually looking forward to the next 2 entries which are supposed to be the end of the franchise. Shame it’s coming to an end, just when the franchise is getting interesting.
13. STRAW DOGS – Solid remake that was surprisingly faithful to the original film, and even works in the original poem’s meaning into it. It’s an effective thriller, and you get to see Marsden protect his house with all means at his disposal. James Woods also has the greatest gut this side of Luis Guzman/Gary Busey, and looks like a deranged Tom Landry.
14. RED STATE – Michael Parks owns this film. His performance, and the numerous “strap the camera to the actor” angles, along with a surprising death that caught me off guard when it happened, solidified it as a movie that I knew would make this list. It’s not the “horror film” Smith proclaimed it to be, but it was almost a completely serious film. It would have been much higher on my list if Smith had just left out the silly sex jokes. Those work in all of his other films, but this was a movie that did not need them.
15. FINAL DESTINATION 5 – To round out the 15 entries, I’ve chosen another 3D film that uses the gimmick well. The second film is still the best, but this one makes up for the lackluster fourth entry. It’s got some of the most cringe inducing kills of the series, and all in 3D, as well as Tony Todd returning. The surprise twist ensures that we will be getting more film. Hopefully at least. This is one of the only horror franchises out there still worth a damn.
1. YOUR HIGHNESS – Good film, but would have liked to hear McBride with his normal accent.
2. THE RITE – ANTHONY HOPKINS EXORCISES A PILLOW!
3. CONAN THE BARBARIAN – Momoa owns, Lang owns, film has good action, but misses the mark.
4. DRIVE – Great soundtrack, Perlman as a Jewish Italian, Brooks. Movie just didn’t click too well with me.
5. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON – Bayhem at it’s most unencumbered. In 3D!
6. SCREAM 4 – Good return, but didn’t grab me as much as I hoped. Did make me a Hayden Panetierre fan.
7. JUST GO WITH IT – Made me laugh, and had Nick Swardson as DOLPH LUNDGREN. That’s all I got on this.
8. LIMITLESS – Interesting plot, the effects of the drug were sadly not Body Horror, as they should have been.
9. THOR – Good film, with a charismatic lead performance, but Kat Dennings was sorely underused!
10. BRIDESMAIDS – Wiig is hilarious, but McCarthy owns the film.
1. COWBOYS AND ALIENS – Great actors, great concept, REALLY poor execution.
2. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES – Brilliant trailer, ok film.
3. APOLLO 18 – Another great concept, another crap execution of concept.
1. GREEN LANTERN. BORING BORING BORING BORING Sarsgaard was good BORING BORING BORING BORING BORING BORING.