The Best Movies of 2011! (So far...)
OK folks, weíre halfway through 2011, and now, just before the next wave of summer blockbusters hits us, is probably as good a time as any to look back at the movies that hits screens throughout the first six months. So how has 2011 chalked up so far? Read onÖ
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS : While itís been struggling a tad at the box office compared to the previous installments, I doubt anyone would argue that FIRST CLASS is not only the finest X-MEN film since X2, but also one of the best films of the year- blockbuster or not. I dug the hell out of this flick and I know a lot of you share my opinion on this one. Matthew Vaughn redeemed the franchise here, with a unique, sixties-James Bond style vibe, and a pitch-perfect performance from Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Despite being the lowest grossing film of the franchise, itís still had good legs at the box office, and hopefully this wonít be Vaughnís only shot at the franchise, as heís got the knack.
SUPER 8 : While Iím maybe not quite as hot on this one as a lot of you, I still really enjoyed it for what it was, which is a nostalgic throwback to the Ambliní blockbusters we grew up with in the late-seventies/eighties. Itís also nice to see something thatís not a sequel/superhero flick do some damage at the box office.
BRIDESMAIDS : Speaking of doing damage at the box office- how about BRIDESMAIDS? Itís the sleeper hit of the year, already raking up $158 million. Itís made a star out of Kristen Wiig (I hope), and itís proven once again that a film doesnít need a mega-budget, or huge stars to capture an audience. Sometimes, all it has to be is, ya know- good.
TREE OF LIFE: OK, so this is definitely not a film for everyone, but, say what you will about Terrence Malick, his film cannot be dismissed. Personally, I loved TREE OF LIFE, although, Iíd wager that in Malickís cannon, itís far from my favorite (with that spot still belonging to BADLANDS). However, itís still a great film, and if thereís really a three hour cut out there, bring it on!
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS: Woody Allenís finest film in years and a real sleeper hit, as far as the Woodmanís films go. Itís a charming rom-com, featuring some gorgeous scenery, some gorgeous women (Marion Cottilard, and Rachel McAdams), and a real comeback performance by Owen Wilson, whoís better here than Iíve ever seen him outside of a Wes Anderson film.
BEGINNERS: Why arenít more people seeing this? This is a deeply affecting indie comedy starring Ewan MacGregor, as a man who tries to open himself up to an intriguing new woman (Melanie Laurent), while dealing with the scars left behind by the untimely death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who, shortly before passing, announced that heís gay. Despite being an under-the-radar film, expect this to get some play later on this year around awards time, as Plummer seems a shoe-in for a long overdue Oscar nod.
SUBMARINE : The directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, of THE IT CROWD, SUBMARINE was my favourite film of last yearís TIFF, and probably the least maudlin coming of age film youíre ever likely to see. I adored it. It also has a great song score by Alex Turner of The Artic Monkeys, which might actually convince me to give them another shot after suffering through a really half-assed concert they gave in Montreal a few years ago (thirty-five minutes, no encore- boo!!!!!!!).
BEST FILMS THAT HAVENíT COME OUT YET
TAKE SHELTER: A brilliant piece of work by Jeff Nichols (SHOTGUN STORIES: if you havenít seen it, watch it!), TAKE SHELTER, which I was lucky enough to catch at Sundance, features the amazing Michael Shannon as a family man suffering from apocalyptic visions. Imagine CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, minus the aliens, as directed by circa 1978 Terrence Malick (when he was linear), and youíve got an idea of the kind of ride youíre in for. My personal favourite of the year so far.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE: Another amazing Sundance selection, this is the harrowing tale of a young woman, played by the phenomenal Elizabeth Olson, who escapes a cult run by a creepy but magnetic John Hawkes (even better here than he was in WINTERíS BONE), and tries to re-establish a normal life for herself. The last forty minutes of this are among the most harrowing Iíve spent in a movie theater all year. For me, THIS is a real horror film.
HANNA : Joe Wrightís child assassin tale is easily the best action film of the year so far, due to some dizzying technique (that one-shot underground parking lot fight is incredible), a pulse-pounding score by The Chemical Bros., and two standout performances by Saoirse Ronan, and Eric Bana (why isnít this guy a mega-star?).
WORST OF THE YEAR:Alas, this is a long list, with several truly bad films having already seen the light of day, including PASSION PLAY, which Iíve been dedicated to warning people away from since last yearís TIFF. No film can possibly measure up to its level of badness, but the following give it a good shot: RED RIDING HOOD, LARRY CROWNE, SUCKER PUNCH, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, THE DILEMMA, and sadly, GREEN LANTERN.