It took a while, but we can just about close the book on 2011 with our own ‘Best of’ list for last year. I figure, if the Academy can wait till tonight to give out their awards for last year, why not the Red Band Project as well? Also, the extra time gave me the opportunity to catch up with a few more 2011 films in theaters and on DVD. So without further ado, here are my top films of 2011 . . .
You take the director and star behind the hugely successful Pirates franchise and throw in one of the most powerful effects houses in the world, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), and you could have the makings of a pretty unique film. All of these traits are evident in the finished product–Rango, a quirky animated Western comedy. The animation alone is reason enough to watch the film as the animation style employed by ILM is probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s so hyper-realistic that things look and almost feel as if they’re real. Then you have Johnny Depp providing the voice for probably one of his most memorable and quirky characters ever in Rango, an eccentric chameleon who stumbles into becoming sheriff. It’s a fun story with lively characters and great animation.
#8 THE INTERRUPTERS
With urban violence in Chicago at an all time high, a group of mediators called Ceasefire is stepping in to help curb violence before it starts. These ‘violence interrupters’ put themselves in harm’s way to diffuse situations by talking to both parties to try and calm them down. Just how are they able to reach these individuals? It’s because members of Ceasefire are former gang members and criminals who know what it’s like on the other side of the law. The film is a powerful look at the members of Ceasefire, the daily struggles they go through, the families and people that they work with, and an up close and personal look at why inner city violence escalates so quickly. The film showcases some pretty powerful and authentic moments and doesn’t shy away from the fact that not everything the group does works out. If you have the time, check out The Interruptors for yourself, for free, over at the PBS website.
#7 CAPTAIN AMERICA
This was probably one of the most fun movies of the summer if not the year. Leading into last summer I was really worried about Captain America due to the problems inherent in a character that’s not of this time. In the end it was a good move for the creators to set the film during WWII–the original era that Cap is from. The superhero period piece stayed true to the character and was a great way to provide his backstory. While we did a bunch of Avengers porn at the end, overall the story focused on Steve Rogers and how he became Captain America–a story portrayed really well in the film.
#6 THE ARTIST
You really have to hand it to this film for trying something bold as not having dialogue and mainly relying on the audience to ‘feel’ our characters’ performances. As Wall•E proved a few years ago, you don’t have to say anything to let people know how you feel–we can pick it up from the way a character moves and looks. Beyond the Hollywood nostalgia for the good ole days, what The Artist does so well is focus on the basics: have your actors give us a good performance to tell a story.
What I love about Hugo is that it’s a story about magic. The magic of imagination, the magic of cinema, and the magic of storytelling. Martin Scorsese crafts a wonderful tale about Hugo Cabret, an orphaned boy trying to unlock the secret of a mechanical automaton. Through this process Hugo encounters a lot of different people and ends up discovering a secret that the automaton has been hiding. The film is pure magic with it being shot really well and makes the best use of 3D since Avatar.
Out of all the movies I saw last year, I really wish more people had gotten a chance to see 50/50. It’s definitely not an easy sell as it deals with the subject of what a person goes through when they find out that they have cancer, but it’s definitely worth catching up with if you have the chance. Joseph Gordon Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard anchor a supurb cast in a well written story that will have you laughing and crying before the end.
#3 The Descendants
What else can I say that hasn’t already been said? From top to bottom I thought Alexander Payne put together a really great film. From Clooney’s performance to those of all the supporting characters to the way situations are dealt with to theportrayal of Hawaii, The Descendants has it all.
From the opening sequence of the film, this movie had me. Ryan Gosling’s Driver is just so cool that it made me want to go drive around with a toothpick in my mouth after I saw the film. With just a few looks and not much else you can feel what his character is going through or know what he would say even though he doesn’t say anything. You also have Carey Mulligan providing a pretty solid performance as Driver’s love interest and the chemistry between them is so great that you get a sense of electricity between them even though they may just be riding together in a car or just talking with one another in the hall. Director Nicolas Winding Refn really puts together a great film with some nice visuals and a solid soundtrack.
#1 Attack the Block
This movie was the most fun I had at the theaters last year and ironically, at the time I saw it I was the only one in the theater when I saw it. What happens when an alien invasion occurs in south London and a street gang of teens are the only ones around? They kick ass and save the day that’s what. The simplest way I can describe the film is that it’s Aliens meets Goonies as you have a group of kids on an adventure to stay alive and battle these aliens who have descended on their home. The creature effects aren’t the greatest, but that doesn’t matter since the storytelling and characters more than make up for that. The whole time you’re rooting for the gang to win even though you’re not sure who is going to live and who is going to die. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. I promise you, you’ll have a lot of fun.
Looking forward to in 2012
The Dark Knight Rises: I know, I know, this is obviously the most anticipated movie of the year. It’s just one guy, but yes, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises easily beats out the Marvel team-up of The Avengers as the movie event of the year. So much has already come out from trailers to a ton of set photos to the prologue itself that I can’t wait for July.
The Raid: After Dark Knight, this is easily my second most anticipated film of the year. Why? Because the movie looks like it’s going to be an action packed thrill of a ride. I’ve been tracking this film since it debuted last year on the festival circuit and briefly discussed it when it played at Sundance last month. Thankfully I hear that it’s coming to Consolidated Theatres Kahala next month so I we won’t have to wait long to see this one.
Prometheus: Every time I see the trailer I can’t help but get a little more excited for this film. Initially I wasn’t, but there’s just so many good components to this film that I can’t help but get excited. I’ve always been a sci-fi guy so I’m always down for a space thriller, but you throw in great actors (Michael Fassbender & Charlize Theron to name a few) and the director of Alien; count me in!
Discoveries: Of course there’s still a bunch of stuff that I’m looking forward to seeing; the big Marvel team up of The Avengers and then there’s Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in December, but I’m also looking forward to the surprises that nobody really knows about yet. The ones we won’t discover until they come out in the theater. Hopefully they’ll be just as many this year as there were last year.
Best of 2011 from other local bloggers . . .
The good folks over at the Popspotting podcast give us the ‘Best of 2011′ not just for movies but for everything popculturey. [Popspotting]
Here’s their favorite films from 2011 from the book and film themed blog [I Adore Books and Film]
Nonstop’s movie guru Myong Choi lists his Fab Five Films of 2011. [Nonstop Honolulu]
And finally, the Star-Advertiser’s movie reviewer Burl Burlingame gives us his top 10. [Honolulu Pulse]