Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 in film

2011 was a pretty big year for movies, too.

(let's see if my shot at reviewing the films I saw over the year fares better than my music list.  A quick disclaimer [unfortunately, a necessity]: I need to reiterate that everything is my opinion, but I think I'm in safer waters with movies because film has a much smaller spectrum than music meaning there's a lot less room for disagreement.  That isn't to say that disagreement isn't possible, oh no.  That's the magic of opinion: as an individual you're able to like or dislike whatever the hell you want, and you'll always find someone who agrees with you just as easily as you might find someone who disagrees with you.  I realize some people did not find Bridesmaids funny; I did.  I realize some people don't like superhero movies and therefore didn't like or even see X-Men: First Class; I did, and I loved it.  With all that in mind, in the opposite sense, I likely will speak poorly of a movie you might've enjoyed.  I say for one final time: this is based entirely on my opinion, and I do not act as if what I have to say or how I view things or what I like to be absolute ruleIt is, after all, my blog, and if you're uninterested in what I have to say, spend your time elsewhere)

What was I saying?  Right.  2011 was a pretty big year for movies, too, and to strike up the spirit of annual tradition, I'll echo what I did at the end of last year and consider the movies released in the year.  Much like last year, I can't see how ranking a list would be productive: of the hundreds of new movies made in 2011, I probably only saw a handful of them - in fact, I don't even know if I've seen more than ten - so it wouldn't be logical to make a ranked list of what I've seen when something like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 would end up at number 10 because it happened to be one of the few I've actually seen and therefore, by default, it must appear on my list.  (if that were to happen, I would certainly not enjoy being pointed at and deemed "he who listed Breaking Dawn on his list of the best movies of 2011") So, instead, I think it'd be more effective to consider the movies I've seen as 'good' or 'bad' - think of it as a series of mini movie critiques.  Regretfully, I have yet to see a handful of films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has yet to be released, and I'm ridiculously excited to see it and judging from the promotional material it looks absolutely fantastic; I've been meaning to see A Dangerous Method and Shame and Melancholia and a whole slew of other Oscar bait movies, and therefore once again it would be incorrect to treat this list as a "best of" if something like Bad Teacher appears just because I've seen it and haven't seen Shame.

(one final time: this is not my list of the best movies of 2011, because trust me, Sucker Punch or Bad Teacher would be nowhere near a list of that nature; instead I'm giving snapshot reviews on a handful of movies I actually saw.  Just to be clear)


I figure the most productive way of going about this is to list the handful of 2011 movies I've seen in the chronological order of their release.  In addition to the movies I've included, I also saw the following this year:
  • Jane Eyre (really great adaption of the book, visually stunning)
  • Super 8 (a pleasant surprise considering I had low expectations)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (quite the spectacle, but I admittedly didn't exactly pay attention or follow along)
  • Friends With Benefits (sadly, the only funny parts were advertised; otherwise lackluster)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (another genuine surprise; it's much more than just a silly rom-com and is instead rather funny)
  • The Help (fantastic, and I wish it the best with the upcoming awards season)
  • Contagion (a well done movie which served as an amplifier for my hypochondriac neurosis)
To write about, I handpicked - from the movies I saw this year - the ones that stuck out to me for whatever reason: whether it be quality or hilarity, awfulness or mediocrity, or in one case, its vomit-inducing powers (yes, that happened), I hope what I've offered as pseudo-reviews encourage you, my reader, to at least ignite an interest to see something new based on my recommendation!  (or, conversely: just stay away from the last two films I'll talk about)

Sucker Punch
Visually, the movie is orgasmic (I can't think of a better suited word), much like Zach Synder's Watchmen was despite it being a serious disappointment and honestly disrespectful to the graphic novel.  Stepping away from the visuals of Sucker Punch - and the concept for that matter (girls with guns fighting dragons and samurais and robots oh god) - the story isn't that great.  The problem with the film is that it tried to be too ambitious: the plot involved several layers of reality much like Inception had masterfully done previously, and I was honestly confused coming away from Sucker Punch due to the muddled narrative.  Reading about it online after the fact I was actually shocked to discover what actually occurred - that is, that [spoiler] the main character wasn't actually that much of a main character at all (that wasn't that big of a spoiler, and it should make sense if you've seen it) - and looking back at the movie itself only the most subliminal and indirect of details made this fact true, and honestly, I would've never picked up on them if not for reading about what actually happened.  You might say that it went over my head completely and that I'm just dense, but trust me: even explaining the actual plot aloud to others, it just simply does not make much sense when I reconsider what I actually viewed.  It's tough to see past the big explosions and girls with guns and swords to see the plot which is too complex for its own good.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it's confusing with respect to the way in which it was presented, and I'm sure had it matched narrative content with its already existing visual grandeur it would probably be one of my favourite movies.  (really, at first glance it screams "Matt movie")
Matt's verdict: gorgeous though weak.

Scream 4
By regular standards I'd say I'm a pretty big fan of horror movies, because who doesn't love a big slashfest of gore?  (the answer is nobody) I'd truthfully say that the original Scream is among my all time favourites, perhaps even ranking rather high, because I love its originality and metatheatrical component - that is, the fact that nearly every other line makes reference to the fact that it is a horror movie; characters lament about how "if I was in a horror movie, I'd be the killer!" or comment on the stupidity of horror victims only to trace their footsteps in a matter of minutes.  Naturally, I was eager for Scream 4 since its announcement, as it involved the original cast and would serve as retribution for the not-so-great Scream 3.  (although I still enjoy watching Scream 3 often; I just know it's not that great and doesn't hold its own against the original and its strong sequel) I loved Scream 4, but it might just be because I'm a huge fan of the franchise: otherwise, I still maintain that compared to horror movies of recent times, it's damn good, because it's smart and gory and manages to reinvent itself despite the genre being massively recycled.  I didn't anticipate the ending whatsoever - [spoiler] the killer is.. I won't say so, I do have a heart - and seeing it in theaters and experiencing the same reactions of the audience was a blast as it usually is when seeing horror movies in the cinema.  Like I said, I only advocate love for this movie so much mostly because I love the franchise (and I can see it being mediocre to a casual fan), but even still, it beats modern day horror films by miles.  Oh, and Sidney's still a badass.  Gale too.
Matt's verdict: go for it if you like horror movies / the series.

Speaking of great theater experiences: I have never laughed harder in my life than I did the night I saw Bridesmaids with two of my friends; I think at one point - it was the airplane scene - I actually cried of laughter.  I realize that I gush about this movie constantly.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I know the entire film verbatim despite only seeing it enough times that I can count on one hand - but I attribute that to the fact that I experienced absolute hilarity in the theater with an active and fantastic audience.  (it's the same deal as horror movies in theaters: I'd say The Grudge is the scariest movie I've ever seen, but it's because I saw it in theaters and it was [I'm breaking my swearing rule] fucking terrifying on the big screen with booming sound and an equally terrified audience; I've watched it since and have not been scared because I'm familiar with the scares, and even the same bodes for Bridesmaids - I howl with laughter still, but never as much as I did the first time in theaters) Excuse my digression.  Back to Bridesmaids: hilarious.  I much prefer this over The Hangover because I haven't quite adhered to the supposed hilarity that is The Hangover.  I'm a huge fan of Kristen Wiig on Saturday Night Live because I love her mannerisms; my labeling of Bridesmaids as hilarious is in part due to the fact that I kill myself laughing at Kristen Wiig's faces or the way she says certain things, so it's natural that I find Bridesmaids to be, by far, the funniest movie of the year, and perhaps one of the most funny movies I've ever seen.  (I'm more sensible than to say "funniest movie ever" because even if that was my religious opinion I'd never believe it to be true)
Matt's verdict: without a doubt I would suggest this movie to anyone, but my prescription is reserved considering I've come across many people who didn't like it.  I say, it's absolutely hysterical.

X-Men: First Class
No secret: I'm a massive X-Men fan.  I love superheroes in general, but there's something about the diversity to the X-Men universe that I love; yeah, I love Batman just as much, but X-Men is much more exciting (in some respects) because instead of just one superhero with one power, you have telepaths and people who can control the weather and metal and ice and fire and can shoot lasers from their eyes and oh god.  Truthfully, the movies gradually declined in quality: The Last Stand is an embarrassment and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the bane of my existence.  To hear of First Class' development was like Christmas morning to me: to hear that the cast includes James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones.. I can't breathe.  I will continue to write objectively: the movie is, truly, incredible.  Its production is flawless, the acting impeccable, the visual spectacle chill-inducing.  (I'm thinking particularly of the shot of the missiles; given that I'm a sucker for the visuals of movies, I was in heaven) Take it as the truth: within a matter of days I converted a friend of mine - a friend, worth noting, who is not the most likely person to enjoy X-Men - into a fan big enough to see First Class twice within the same week.  (a feat that matched myself) It's hard to even consider it strictly a superhero film, much like how I view The Dark Knight: the plot is so intelligent and intricate (it weaves the mutant characters into real life history - how cool is that?) and the film is so expertly made that it's easy to forget that the central theme of the movie itself involves superheroes.  It's just amazing.
Matt's verdict: no-brainer for X-Men fans; must see for superhero fans; highly recommended to everyone else.

Bad Teacher
You might suspect, at first glance, that I've included Bad Teacher because of some sort of unwavering love for the movie.  If you are still under the pretense that this is a list of the best movies of 2011 to me, please get your eyes checked, because I actually hated this movie and I'd rank it even below Breaking Dawn.  (I'm explain that in a bit, if, god bless you, you wish to carry on reading) Much like with Friends With Benefits (interesting.. two poor romantic comedies starring Justin Timberlake), the funniest parts of Bad Teacher - I use the term "funniest" lightly - were advertised in the commercials.  I hate to sound melodramatic but I maintain that Bad Teacher was probably one of the worst movies of the year, and no, that is not just personal bias.  The thing that stuck out most to me is the fact that the protagonist, obviously Cameron Diaz's bad teacher, is despicable.  It's tough to watch a movie where the main character is in no way redeemable or relatable; in fact, the character made out to be the "antagonist" (I suppose that would be the strange looking redhead teacher whose name I don't recall), the only subjected to humiliation and defeat, is the only character with sense.  It might seem as though I'm laying into this movie with unnecessary harshness, but I'm failing to come up with something redeemable about this movie.  If you're in the mood to watch the most awkward sex scene ever involving dry humping and Justin Timberlake's premature ejaculation in his pants, then this movie's for you.
Matt's verdict: avoid.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2
I've previously voiced my opinions on the final chapter of the Harry Potter film saga, but I'll rehash the ideas once more as I value Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 as one of the best movies of the year.  (If I were to actually rank the movies I saw in the year, it's obvious that I'd rank Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class and Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 amongst the top of the list, but that's neither here nor there) I'm glad I had a unique experience when seeing this movie in theaters: lining up as early as 9pm, my friends and I waited in a line wrapping all the way around the theater before being let it around 11 and stampeding toward the theater for good seats.  The chance to see Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 at midnight is an irreplaceable experience I've had; I felt it to be a fitting send off to the franchise that I quite literally grew up with, and I'm glad the experience was made that much more special.  God, I feel like a loser, but it's fact: I grew up with Harry Potter, and knowing the last book was split into two movies prolonged the inevitable acceptance of the absolute conclusion.  To be honest, though, seeing this movie never exactly hit me as hard as I thought it might - I figured I'd be on my knees weeping and screaming Why, God!? as the credits rolled as an outcry against having to accept the closing of a huge part of my life, but that never came.  I suspect the reason was that I held the book in extreme high regard, and although the film was near perfect, it wasn't perfect.  It was a joy to see the epic final battle made literal through visuals, and I can even think back to various instances sitting in awe.  I'm glad that the movie is about as visually gorgeous as possible, and the sheer spectacle was enough for me to be beyond pleased with it.  (this is hardly a review of the movie itself, but if you haven't yet seen this, you're a drunk, and get off of my blog)
Matt's verdict: obviously incredible.

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)
Don't watch this movie.  I don't know why I did.  I've seen the first out of a disgusting curiosity and I immediately regretted my decision, barely able to actually make it through without gagging.  If you're unfamiliar with the premise, well, tough luck: I'm not putting it in words.  I guess in the most vague of terms, The Human Centipede involved a crazed doctor whose dream was to surgically connect three people - yes, connect that way - to make a single digestive tract.  Infer the inevitable and run to the nearest garbage receptacle or toilet.  I had no intention of watching the sequel, but yet again, a twisted curiosity rose up upon my reading of the new extreme measures of disgusting horror to be seen in the sequel.  The roster ups from three to twelve.  The protagonist (villain) is not a doctor this time around, so his method of assembly is not surgical and therefore is messy and barbaric - and it is entirely shown.  I'm not exaggerating when I truthfully say a moment of the construction process actually made me physically ill and I had to take time away from the movie before I could carry on.  This moment involved knives and knees, and I don't want to say anything more, but it's fucking graphic.  And the centipede wasn't even together.  Yes, THEY SHOW WHAT HAPPENS.  WHAT HAPPENS.  AND SINCE THE PEOPLE WERE PUT TOGETHER CRUDELY YOU SEE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.  And then there's the matter of a fucking graphic scene involving a newborn baby. As a film, this is putrid.  There isn't much of a plot whatsoever: quite literally, the first hour consists of the villain knocking out people and collecting them as segments; the last half, then, is devoid completely of plot and merely exists to top itself with the level of sheer disgusting violence.  The sole purpose of this movie is to assume the distinction of "the most disgusting film ever," and don't be stupid like me who watched it to verify this: believe it.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
Yes, I spent money on seeing this movie.  (the quality of my list took an absolute nosedive between this and the previous movies.. yikes) Actually, more accurately, I had enough Scene points on my card for a free movie, so I only actually spent money on popcorn, so it isn't exactly a loss.  Here's the deal: Twilight is horrid, obviously.  This movie is no exception: the book is a travesty (yeah, I've read it..) and the decision to split it into two movies only amplifies the horror.  I can't say much about content without being cliche and beginning to rant - the vampires sparkle which is stupid, yes, the romance is dumb, yeah, Edward's a pansy, mmhm, Kristen Stewart is awful - however, I'm admittedly a KStew fan, and she not only looked great in this movie but she honestly was not that bad.  She smiled, she had better posture, she didn't blink every millisecond and she's stopped grunting.  It was pleasing.  The rest of the movie was not.  Props for making the birth scene relatively graphic.  ("graphic," pah; you want graphic you go watch Human Centipede) Objectively considering it as a film, it is rather well done - and I mean that only technically.  Again, the visual was aesthetically pleasing, and the mechanical conventions of what it means to be a good movie were all there and successful.  However, it was still fairly bad.  Don't go watch this if you're craving nice photography, because the plot and narrative is punishment.
Matt's verdict: it's a Twilight movie.

There you have it.  Wordy, but what else do you expect!  I part with a conclusive statement: 2011 was not a bad year for movies.  Oh, AND DON'T WATCH THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE).  EVER.

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