Top Ten Movies I Saw in 2011, In No Particular Order

Jan 22, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: lit

Rango (USA)

This was the trippiest animated film I have ever seen. Our titular character (voiced by Johnny Depp) is thrown into the harsh West to save a ghost town that’s going dry fast. Although it’s not as brisk as it could have been, I have to give this one props for originality and truly breathtaking imagery.

I Saw the Devil (S. Korea, pictured above)

A truly repugnant revenge film beyond any comparison; I Saw the Devil tells the story of a police officer seeking revenge on a serial killer. As the story continues, our antihero dishes out increasingly stomach-churning punishment on the villain, to the point where he starts to become the monster he’s chasing. Part horror-film, part action-picture, I Saw the Devil features some of the best action sequences in a long time, but with a level of violence that could not have been made in America.

Source Code (USA)

I’m still trying to figure this one out. Source Code is a high concept picture that warrants repeated viewing like Donnie Darko (which also happened to star Jake Gyllenhaal). I won’t give any of the plot away, but I can assure you that this is a film that goes so fast there’s no way you will not be entertained, even if you don’t know what the hell happened at the end.

Enter The Void (France)

Okay, this technically came out in about three theaters last year, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a 2011 release. Director Gaspar Noe gives us his most mind-blowing film yet. A young drug dealer has an out-of-body experience in Tokyo, while under the influence of a drug called DMT. This narcotic releases endorphins that supposedly only occur naturally in humans when we are born and when we die, so as you might imagine this is going to be a bumpy ride. Be warned, this is as extreme as cinema gets, and Enter the Void does not shy away from anything; be it sex, violence, or an abortion scene. Although the movie does suffer from stale acting (performed by non-professionals) and might be too long, it more than makes up for it with its visual execution. It is very rare that a movie can show you things that you have never seen before, and Enter the Void is a film destined to remain inimitable.

Super 8 (USA)

The latest from Hollywood juggernaut J.J. Abrams plays like a modern day hybrid of Goonies and E.T. Apparently too much for some folks, but I enjoyed it. Super 8 is a lot of fun and travels at a breakneck pace until the end, where it does kind of run out of steam. Still, for entertainment-to-dollar value, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better popcorn movie.

The Help (USA)

The Help surprised me, and it was not nearly the “chick flick” as I thought I was doomed for. A group of young, black maids, encouraged by one of the few open-minded young women in the town, finally rebel against their elite, Caucasian employers. Although certainly not lacking in laughs and over-the-top situations, it’s the scenes of raw racism when the film is the most powerful. Indeed, the characters’ humor seems to be the only thing masking their despair and frustration at an existence they had very little choice in. These are the types of films that Hollywood should be making more of.

Red State (USA)

Without question, this is the best film of Kevin Smith’s career, if not his most unusual. Three teenagers end up the captors of a homophobic, doomsday cult armed to the teeth and ready for the apocalypse. Red State is a breakneck-paced action/horror film that never lets you breathe and goes in directions I just did not see coming. The cult leader (Michael Parks) is especially effective playing a preacher that makes Fred Phelps look compassionate.

J. Edgar (USA)

Clint Eastwood’s latest has not been a darling for audiences or critics, but I was impressed with it nonetheless. Leonardo DiCaprio is in top form as the ruthless and enigmatic leader of the F.B.I. The film is ambitiously constructed, covering pivotal events in American history through Hoover’s perspective, who proves to be a less-than-reliable narrator. The editing is especially noteworthy.

A Dangerous Method (Canada/UK)

David Cronenberg has definitely become more mainstream with his last few pictures, but that doesn’t mean A Dangerous Method is easily digestible. The director’s theme of mutation is still present, although he goes more for the psyche in lieu of the bodily horror that made him famous. I really don’t enjoy Keira Knightley, so the fact that this is on my top 10 list should tell you how good this movie is.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (USA)

This was definitely the biggest movie of the year for me. I know that critic’s lists are supposed to showcase the finest in film art, but screw it. This movie will throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. It’s filmed in IMAX and has lots of explosions, foot chases, car chases, gunfights, fist fights, and a terrific sequence on the world’s tallest skyscraper to make this a very effective action film. Some folks would call this “mindless entertainment,” but these movies are very hard to make, and even harder to make well.

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