Well, last time I brought you the top five worst films of the year to some complaint (apparently Transformers 3 isn’t half as bad as Jack and Jill, but just because I saw a review doesn’t mean I saw the movie). Now, I present the Top five best films of the year, along with two honorable mentions and a wild card. Let’s start with that first.
Wild Card: Paranormal Activity 3 – Again, won’t come anywhere near anybody’s best list, but it impressed me with the amount of “simplicity” in it. In a year that also brought us Fast Five, Horrible Bosses and Paul, we also had the third installation of the Paranormal Activity franchise. I have to admit, this one was the first I saw, but apparently it didn’t matter because the franchise delineates. This movie happens before the other two. I must admit, it actually came across as pretty scary, even a bit freaky. I really enjoy the paranormal; in fact, I’m a big fan of the show Ghost Adventures. Seeing things like shadow people and poltergeist activity in the movie felt believable because I’ve seen those things happen. It’s a basic horror movie, but it also pokes fun on the typicality of horror movies as well. There are a couple of jump scares, but even those are played for laughs even to the characters. While yes, the ending makes no sense, the movie actually proves itself worthwhile. Let’s just hope the franchise doesn’t wear off its welcome.
Honorable Mention 1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II – yeah, by putting this on the list, it becomes obvious that I am a fan of the books. I would never dress up for the premieres because I’m not THAT big of a dork, but I have never missed a movie. This one ended the franchise well. We all needed this movie not because it provided the final bookend to most of our childhoods but because the movies had their ups and downs. The first three movies were great, but the fourth and fifth movies proved disappointing when compared to the books. The last three movies returned the “magic” to the movies. We’ve seen these guys for eleven years, and they’ve grown up with the characters. Rupert Grint surprisingly gets better with his character as he matures. Of course, the story’s great and the adventures are unforgettable, but this movie relies on the ultimate battle, and did it pay off. Edge-of-your-seat fights with everyone in Hogwarts, all in the name of defending Harry Potter. Like Paranormal Activity 3, this movie suffered in its ending; also Voldemort started to ham up the movie. When he shouted “Avada Kedavra”, he just sounded weird. Other than that, Part II satisfies in the final brawl that we wanted to see, and Emma Watson still looks great as Hermione.
Honorable Mention 2: Rise of the Planet of the Apes – I barely caught this movie this year, but I finally saw it thanks to a friend of mine who pressured me into seeing it. The apes overshadow the humans in performance and even in interest. On the other hand, they really are the point of the movie. Andy Serkis has to be the greatest actor that you never see perform because he’s brought us some really good characters. Gollum, anyone? He really makes Caesar, the lead ape, come to life: something that almost seemed implausible. The facial movements, the physical acting, this almost seemed unlikely in today’s world of extreme special effects. Most people would make all of that look fake. All of the apes look really cool and very realistic despite being CG. James Franco needs to work on his acting; the Academy Awards doesn’t even scratch that surface. However, the apes and an interesting premise make up plenty for that. On top of that, one moment in the movie just blew me away. Most movies tend to “jump the shark”, well this moment does the opposite; it trenched the shark. It happens in the middle of the movie, when Caesar fully evolved as more human, and it was so amazing that nothing could ruin the movie after it. Many people would think this movie explains how the apes took over the world, but it doesn’t really. It actually hints as to how the human race dies out, and it does so much with the few minutes they used to explain it. Smart, entertaining, great effects and a killer second act, Apes really earns recognition.
now for the top five.
5. Contagion – A new tradition for me is that I reserve the five spot for what I think was the most underrated film of the year. Last year, it would have been Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I knew this movie would be underrated after watching it because few people find this style popular anymore. This level of realism regarding the subject matter wouldn’t survive in this era of escapism, but it really works. Upon hearing the premise of the movie, I thought it would be something like 28 Days Later; and although it wasn’t, I wasn’t disappointed. The story really held together pretty tightly, leaving few loose ends and connecting everyone with each other somehow. Even though it had a number of big names, they blend in to the point of being like one of us. Only a couple of performances truly stand out as a result of it; Lawrence Fishburne as the director of the CDC and Jude Law as a conspiracy journalist were truly superb. Fortunately, it works in this case because the ensemble holds everyone up very well. Steven Soderbergh directed a really interesting, really true account of how we as a society will respond to a potentially fatal disease and even shows how it effects not just the people but everyone trying to combat it. The ending of the movie is by far his most clever part of the movie. Not to spoil anything, but it answers a really big question regarding the disease. Well written, well acted, well directed, and well explained, Contagion is a diamond in the rough.
4. 50/50 – What Bridesmaids failed to do, 50/50 accomplished. It took a rather dramatic subject and brought some positive light to it. It helped us feel better while the main character tried to feel better about his cancer. I must admit that I wasn’t a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The only thing I saw him in other than 3rd Rock from the Sun was Inception, and no one remembers the acting in that. This movie proved him capable of this level of dramedy. Seth Rogen plays himself like he does in all of his movies, but this role may be his most likable. He doesn’t try to hog the movie; he knows his place and he accepts it. Anna Kendrick’s adorable as always. Of course, this was also a diamond in the rough this year as only a few people saw it. It’s a shame because more people need to see it especially in these times. It’s about how one person can cope with living in a terrible time in your life and figuring out how he’s not alone in the pain. Again, nothing can be spoiled, but let’s just say this is a personal story for the writer of the movie. It had some funny moments and some dramatic moments, but it has a lot of charm and heart despite being very dramatic. Like Funny People, audiences shouldn’t see this as a dramatic comedy but rather a comedic drama. That’s really what it is. 50/50 is 50% comedy, 50% drama and 100% satisfaction.
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Say what you want about the original movie, but this movie really is brilliant. I’ve already exhausted my praise for David Fincher enough. He’s a great director, probably the best working. Watch his other movies and tell me I’m crazy. The mystery really does intrigue people, but the cinematography and pace make it even more gripping. The intense scenes in the book really are more intense in this film. I already compared the original with the American version, so those who read it know how I saw it. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth deserves recognition not just from the Academy but from everyone. Even Daniel Craig gave a good performance, probably his best one yet. He actually gave Mikael Blomkvist a personality. The stylish depiction of the investigation and the mystery really separates this from the original, but few people actually recognize it enough. Sure, the story’s the same, but the dialogue is much better. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross makes the score subtle, quieter in comparison to their Academy Award winning score for The Social Network, but I think this score works. It’s not ostentatious; it blends in with the surroundings and adds to the Impressionism of the movie. I knew this movie wouldn’t do so well on its opening weeks because of the timing and the nature, but surprisingly this movie is getting a lot of positive feedback from the viewers. Maybe this’ll do better on DVD or Blu-Ray like Fight Club. I don’t care how you see it, you need to witness the briskly paced, beautifully shot, well-acted and very compelling version of the international bestseller.
2. The Muppets – I read that this movie tries to espouse some form of leftist politics to children, but even I say that these people need to lighten up. IT’S THE MUPPETS! Nothing is supposed to be taken seriously. Yes, I know the villain is an oil baron trying to destroy the theater for oil, but that’s Mr. Potter stuff. That’s an old hat. Hell, his name is Tex Richman. It’s not like The Day After Tomorrow which tries to scare us into buying global warming or Ferngully which tries to make us save the rain forest. It’s meant to make us laugh. The whole movie tries to make us laugh, and it really entertains. Jason Segel is a better writer than he is an actor, and it shows in this movie. He’s fun, he’s charming, and he’s brothers with a Muppet (don’t ask how that works. I’m not so sure myself). Plus, he has Amy Adams along. Adams not only is pretty but also very talented, giving her trademark cuteness that made her own Giselle in Enchanted. But this movie really isn’t about them, per se. It’s about bringing the next best thing to Mickey Mouse, the Muppets, together. This creation from Jim Henson never grows old no matter how much we may, and this movie proves it. They provide their trademark humor and charm that doesn’t run out in the movie. What could make this movie even better? Music from half of the Flight of the Conchords, Brett MacKenzie. His songs are fun, memorable and make for some great laughs. “Man or Muppet” probably is the best one of the soundtrack. If you think something’s wrong with this movie, you need to really evaluate yourself. The Muppets is just great fun for the nostalgic and the child at heart.
and the number one film of 2011 is…
1. Hugo – I can’t even describe this movie without using the word “magical”. It’s interesting because it’s directed by Martin Scorsese and looks nothing like a Martin Scorsese film. I never expected the director of The Departed and Goodfellas to actually make a kids movie and really make it an incredible experience. I was wrong. It not only glorifies the human ability to achieve things beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations with a little magic, but it also glorifies the foundations of cinema. One of the characters is Georges Melies, played wonderfully by Ben Kingsley, who filmed the first science fiction movie A Trip to the Moon. However, he’s given up on that dream a while ago until he meets Hugo, an orphan who runs the clocks in the train station. He befriends Melies’ bookish niece, played by Chloe Grace-Moretz, and shows what magic he can procure. It’s a beautiful tribute to the human will and ability to create amazing things. Sadly, this movie isn’t doing so well. People need to see this movie when it comes out to DVD. It has some great characters and great moments. It’s perfect for movie lovers and those who believe that movies need to take our breaths away by what we can do with them. Scorsese proves himself a great director if his past movies didn’t appeal to you (and many don’t to me). It’s a beautiful, fun, well-acted, and magical (there I go again) experience that works for everyone. It definitely is the best movie of 2011.
And that’s my list. I’m looking forward to 2012 and hope that it turns out better.