Looking back at 2011, there are few films that really stood out from the rest, and I want to highlight a few of my favorite from 2011:
“The Way Back”
“The Way Back” is a film that most people never even heard of, let alone saw — it was a film I was not sure about seeing, but once I did, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It could have been a dramatic and hard story to watch about a group of prisoners who escape from a Russian gulag — instead, it was a miraculous story of survival and friendship. It was moving, touching and utterly inspiring. It is a film that more people should watch. You’ll be surprised!
Another film that took me by surprise and was vastly entertaining was “Unknown.” It cemented in my mind that Liam Neeson is an action hero and a sexy leading man. The twists and turns were delightful and it had a superb ending. A must-see for fans of mystery/thrillers.
“Source Code” was an unexpected sci-fi love story. It invited us to believe in the impossible and hope that it could become a reality. The idea that love transcends time and time dimensions still captivates and this story told it beautifully.
“Super 8” is an astonishing film about a group of young teens who stumble across a mystery not-of-this-Earth. The close focus on their perspective combined with the genuine wonder of how such a thing could be possible, encouraged us to believe that there is indeed life out in the stars that occasionally ends up on Earth. The film charms and delights. A must-see for fans of classic Spielberg.
My pick for the Best Picture of 2011, “The Help” was simply put: extraordinary. It also could have chose the dark and dramatic path, and instead focused on the absurd comedy laced with doses of sad reality. It made for a fine concoction of fun and glistened from the Oscar-worthy performances of its entire cast. It took my breath away and told a story that everyone deserves to see.
Another film that took me by complete surprise was “Moneyball.” Not an avid sports fan, I was delighted to find that the story was entertaining and relatable. It made the complex world of sports statistics suddenly vital and interesting. It is another film that simply must be seen to be believed. I’m also rooting for Oscar nominations for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, whose performances elevated this sports film to Oscar-contender.
It is hard to believe that a film about a young man finding out he has cancer could be so funny, humorous, touching and real. Thanks to the stellar performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen — plus, a good deal of scene stealing by Anna Kendrick — the film sails right through the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. With a charming ending, the film makes for a pleasant and heart-warming story.
If you have only seen the previews, you have no idea what “Hugo” is really about. It is about a boy who discovers a hidden message in a mechanical automaton and how fate leads him to befriend an old store keeper and his god-daughter with wondrous results. It is heart-warming and utterly spectacular visually. They aimed for the stars and they struck gold with how magnificent this film turned out. A treat for everyone.
“My Week With Marilyn”
“My Week With Marilyn” is a breezy, funny, touching intimate look into the private life of a movie icon as seen through the naive eyes of a young man trying to break into the film business in England. With healthy doses of charm, innocence and a jaw-droppingly phenomenal portrayal by Michelle Williams, the film is positively delightful. Sprinkle in incredible performances by Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh, and the film is a must-see work of art.
“We Bought A Zoo”
Topping the list as my favorite film of 2011 is “We Bought A Zoo.” It is a family film filled with heaping amounts of family love and animals that will make you want to adopt them. The film based on the true-story is just what you would wish for under the Christmas tree. It makes you laugh, smile, and cry with joy. It warms the heart and tickles the soul. This is a family that you want to spend more time with and that you will certainly fall in love with. Run right out and see this amazing film!
Other films seen in 2011 (with brief comments and impressions):
“True Grit”- Loved. Great retelling of a classic tale, with astounding performances. Hailee Steinfeld was awesome.
“No Strings Attached”- Cute story, with great chemistry between Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. Deservedly R-rated for nudity and sexual situations.
“I Am Number Four”- Intriguing teen sci-fi story with cool casting (including “Justified’s” Timothy Olyphant), but showcasing really absurd villains and has an open-ended ending.
“Just Go With It”- As to be expected Adam Sandler comedy film, with fun performance by Jennifer Aniston.
“Take Me Home Tonight” – Reminiscent of classic ’80’s films, the tale of young man trying to woo the girl of his dreams in one night. Deft comedic performance by Topher Grace.
“Jane Eyre” – Lush, romantic retelling of the class Bronte story. Starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska, it will take your breath away.
“The Adjustment Bureau” – Interesting story of star-crossed lovers racing against fate and time to be together with sci-fi twist. Very romantic. Great performances by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
“Red Riding Hood” – Visually stunning and wonderfully portrayed by Amanda Seyfried. Will make young teens and other romantics swoon. Very “Twilight”-esque feeling.
“Hanna” – The story about a young girl engineered to be a weapon is adrenaline-pumping, but also a bit disturbing. Saoirse Ronan is incredible, but the villains are twisted and terrifying.
“Fast Five” – High-octane, thrill ride with fun performances by Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel. Great installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
“Something Borrowed” – Charming film about stealing your best friend’s fiance. Unexpectedly heart-warming and incredibly beautiful visually. Must-see for romantics — and with great scene-stealing performance by John Krasinski.
“Thor” – Fun superhero film, helping to set up “The Avengers.” Natalie Portman woefully underused, but still great to see her chemistry with Chris Hemsworth.
“Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” – Another zany adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow, alas just missing the mark.
“Hangover 2” – Also failing to live up to its predecessor, this film is a must-skip.
“X-Men: First Class” – Breaking the trend, this prequel story was a non-stop thrill ride that leaves you clamoring for more. Great casting with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender elevate it to being more than just another superhero film.
“Green Lantern” – An indepth look at the makings of an unexpected superhero, with some outrageous comedy and an absurd villain thrown in the mix — though with nice chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
“Another Earth” – A slow, complex sci-fi story about the discovery of another planet identical to ours and how it painfully intersects two lives and yet helps them find love and peace again.
“Monte Carlo” – Predictable romantic-comedy showcasing Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy. A delightful film for teens and the young-at-heart.
“Harry Potter: The Deathly Hollows (Part 2)” – Stunningly well-done end to an epic fantasy series. A must-see for fans.
“Larry Crowne”- Light-weight film with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts as their characters overcome the daily misery of their lives and find a way to embrace a happier future. Fun for fans.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” – Another indepth look at the makings of a superhero and setting up the film “The Avengers.” Fantastic performances by Chris Evans and Haley Atwell.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” -Very delightful film about finding your one true love. Very adult comedy with sexual situations, but utterly engaging and makes you root for the unexpected heroes. Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell also make a great pair learning the art of wooing women.
“The Change Up” – Clumsy film attempting to showcase appreciating what you have in life. Very crude, rude and painful to watch.
“One Day” – Watching these star-crossed lovers slowly find their way to destined love, as we see them only one day a year over a 15 years timespan, is intriguing and very beautifully done. But the sad ending that will leave romantics crushed.
“Rise of the Planet of The Apes” – Well-done tale as shown through the eyes of an ape who first bonds with and rejects humans as an experimental drug raises his IQ.
“Like Crazy” – Beautiful, yet painful story of two young people who fight the red-tape of the U.S. immigration system and who struggle to maintain their everlasting love in the face of many obstacles. Astounding performances, but rather sad and ambiguous ending.
“In Time” – Fantastic sci-fi story about humans obsessed with buying, selling and stealing time in order to survive. The fast-paced story of star-crossed lovers turned Robin Hood time-bandits to help those less fortunate, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Also great scene stealing performance by Cillian Murphy as their nemesis.
“Immortals” – Visually stunning film about the beginning of the war among the Greek gods and the human they try to aid in his quest for vengeance against those who killed his family. Graphically violent with stylistic gore. Luke Evans also nearly steals the spotlight from Henry Cavill in this adrenaline-infused film.
“The Descendants” – Very sad and absurd film about a father who goes in search of his dying wife’s lover so that he can have the chance to say goodbye. The big named stars overshadow the characters they are supposed to portray and it makes a caricature of each.
“New Years Eve” – A somber look at a group of people attempting to celebrate New Year’s Eve, with predictable results and unexpected pairings.
“Breaking Dawn” – Wonderfully romantic addition to the “Twilight” saga. Fans will be pleased.
“The Iron Lady” – An interesting look into the life of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but with the unexpectedly sad twist of her slow demise into dementia.
“J. Edgar” – Also interesting look into the private life of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, back-dropped by a touching love-story with his life partner.
“War Horse” –Classic Spielberg story-telling about the bond between a young man and a horse and how WWI tears them apart, taking them on a dark journey before reuniting them again. Not an easy film to watch for animal lovers as war is not kind to animals. Otherwise, superb film with wonderful ending.
“The Ides of March” – Insightful look at the U.S. political system and how it is influenced by the mistakes of politician’s personal lives and the mechanisms use to manipulate the players.
“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” – Fun adrenaline-thrill ride that will leave you breathless. Ends on an unexpected touching note that will leave you wondering when the next film will be ready. Also great haunted performance by Jeremy Renner.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” – Another fun adrenaline-rush film that offers great comedy mixed in and delightful bromance performance between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Nothing like the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, but still a fun interpretation which fans will enjoy.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”- Cleverly crafted and constructed complex tale about a serial killer, an antisocial investigator and a newspaper reporter whose fates collide. Unpleasantly graphically violent — warning to sensitive viewers. But superb ending and fantastic chemistry between Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
“The Top 10 TV Shows of 2011”
“R.I.P. – Remembering 2011’s Memorable Television Character Deaths”