7. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas ★★☆☆☆
8. Push ★★★☆☆
9. The Forbidden Kingdom ★★★☆☆
10. The Sting ★★★★★
11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes ★★★★☆
12. Biloxi Blues ★★★☆☆
13. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World ★★★☆☆
14. Stars Wars: A New Hope ★★★☆☆
15. A.I. Artificial Intelligence ★★★★☆
#6 | Drive (2011) ★★★★★
Intense, quiet, brutal, and captivating, Drive wasn’t what I was expecting, but it gripped me tight and still hasn’t let go. Ryan Gosling stars as the Driver, a mysterious loner type who works as a mechanic and stunt driver while also moonlighting as a criminal getaway driver. He lives a solitary life and likes it that way. Enter Irene (Carey Mulligan), his beautiful neighbor with whom he has an instant connection with. What starts off as a simple, beautiful relationship gets complicated fast when Irene and her son get sucked into the criminal world after her husband is released from prison. Driver goes to any means necessary to protect her while risking his life and his humanity. The film is extremely stylish and the cinematography, which is bright and colorful, works with such a darkly themed film. The soundtrack is absolutely divine, every song enhances the story and isn’t just music for music’s sake. All the performances are flawless, Gosling’s in particular. This film definitely deserves the praise it’s been getting.
#5 | War Horse (2011) ★★★★☆
Set during World War I, War Horse tells the story of a horse named Joey and Albert (Jeremy Irvine), the teen boy who raised him. The best friends become separated when Joey gets sold to the British Army by Albert’s father. It’s then that Albert promises to find Joey again and throughout the film Joey is determined to get back to Albert. We follow Joey through the war as he works for both British and German troops and when he is briefly taken in by an elderly French man and his granddaughter. As Joey’s fate unfolds, we are introduced to a slew of different characters who take many different roles in the war. Some are bad, but most are good and no matter what side they’re on, they all want Joey to survive. The horse seems to remind the humans of their humanity. For me, the most memorable scene in the film involves a British and German soldier working together and being generally chummy in the middle of no man’s land to unite in the task of freeing Joey from barbed wire. It was so wonderfully executed, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face even if I tried. There was definite manipulation on Spielberg’s part to get tears from the audience, but it wasn’t so overly sentimental as to become cheesy. War Horse feels like a throwback to films such as Black Beauty, but with a more modern touch. I absolutely adore it.
#4 | Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) ★★★☆☆
A muted and understated psychological drama, Martha Marcy May Marlene stars Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) as a woman who has recently escaped a cult to stay with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). The film mixes past and present seamlessly, oftentimes you can’t tell which is which until other characters are shown. I really appreciated that, it was very well done and helped the audience get into Martha’s head; you get the real sense of paranoia and confusion she’s feeling throughout the film. It’s a quiet paranoia and the suspense really creeps under your skin, enough that I jumped during a particularly tense scene. Although an intriguing story, the movie as a whole fell slightly flat. The film cut off so abruptly that it really threw me off, which I guess is what the filmmakers were going for, but it just didn’t work for me. It was maybe just a bit too minimalist for my tastes. The great performances, fantastic editing and cinematography only just make up for the mind-numbingly slow pace(one particular scene of Martha swimming in a lake was minutes longer than it should have been) and frustratingly ambiguous ending.
#3 | The Philadelphia Story (1940) ★★★★★
One of the most enjoyable, classiest and wittiest romantic comedies I’ve seen, The Philadelphia Story centers on Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a slightly arrogant but charming socialite and the three men that love her. Two years after Tracy kicks husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to the curb, we find her engaged to stuffy George Kittridge (John Howard). Enter Dexter once again, who shows up with two Spy Magazine reporters, Macauley Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), to shake things up days before the wedding. Connor ends up falling head-over-heels for Tracy, and that’s where things really start to get interesting. Hepburn, Grant and Stewart have the most amazing chemistry together, I couldn’t get enough! Sharp, clever dialogue, great understated performances, beautiful costumes…this film has it all.
#2 | Bridesmaids (2011) ★★★★☆
I wouldn’t go so far as to call this comedy of the year, but it’s definitely a hilarious and enjoyable movie. What makes Bridesmaids so good is not the over the top bits, but the more subtle, personal interactions between the characters. I wasn’t a big fan of the overlong gross-out scene at the bridal store; that I mostly skipped. I liked the real-life humor more than the typical gags of big-budget comedies. Wiig did such a great job with her character Annie that even when she was fucking everything up and being slightly annoying, you rooted for her all the way. All the actors gave wonderful performances and had such great chemistry, you can tell they were really having fun while making this movie. That translates throughout the film — even in the less funny parts — and is what makes Bridesmaids such a joy to watch.
#1 | The Trip (2011) ★★★☆☆
A six-part series that has been cut into a film, The Trip follows Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon — playing highly fictionalized versions of themselves — as they eat, drink and bicker their way across Northern England’s countrysides. Their improvised impression battles are an absolute joy to watch(the slew of Michael Caine impressions are especially hilarious), though they do get a little repetitive. The film does drag at times, but it never bores. Perhaps The Trip would be more enjoyable in it’s original uncut format. As it is, this is a sweet and insightful film that fans of British humor will enjoy.
I’m going to try watching at least one movie a day in 2012. 365 days of film. I’m not limiting myself to just one movie a day, though.
It will be challenging due to my long work hours and ever-changing schedule, but this is something I really want to do. I’ve been compiling a list for weeks now and I want to use the first couple of months to catch up on the films of 2011 I failed to see.
In the recent years I’ve been good with keeping up with movies, but in 2011 I pretty much ignored every movie that came out that wasn’t Harry Potter or a Marvel movie. lol Late December would be when I decide to take film seriously again. Honestly, Julia…