No, I’m not too cool for Top 10 lists. As my look back on 2011 continues, I wanted to give some props to 10 films and/or performances that I really loved. These don’t stand much of a chance of winning any awards, but they are just fun and enjoyable. That’s why most of us go to the movies in the first place, right?
My criteria for this list was simple: These 10 films/performances were amongst my favorite of the year as judged solely on entertainment value, not taking into consideration the overall quality of the film, the performances, or how either of these held up to my critical scrutiny. Some of these will assuredly land me in hot water with some of my movie critic colleagues.
Top 10 Guiltiest Pleasures of 2011:
10. The child stars of Super 8. While I was disappointed in the over-the-top CG effects that seemed counter-productive to the film’s nostalgic feel, the cast of talented children stars left me truly giddy. Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Riley Griffiths, and Elle Fanning had great chemistry, and watching Super 8 threw me back into that wide-eyed wonderment of films from my childhood.
9. Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne. This film was given a severe beating by critics, but how can you not love watching Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in anything? I liked the film, but on paper it’s nothing special…what makes it special is the familiar star power of two of the most well-known and well-liked performers of our generation…I kind of feel like I could watch them in anything.
8. Dolphin Tale in 3D. Having low expectations for a film can sometimes be advantagous, as was the case when I went into Dolphin Tale. What I found was perhaps the best family film of 2011, containing what should have felt like a hodge-podge of worn out cliches. Somehow, the movie was inspiring and fresh in the face of the many other humdrum family films of recent years.
7. Scream 4. Another example of low expectations paying off, Scream 4 somehow breathed new life into the franchise that had been dormant for the past 11 years. From the clever open to the barrage of self-referential pokes, Scream 4 unexpectedly delivered.
6. Hank Azaria in The Smurfs. Forget the film and it’s crap premise (really?? Another “lost in NY” story??), Hank Azaria as Gargamel was frickin’ awesome. For me, he kept the film enjoyable and created a more comedic, sarcastic version of the cartoon villain…it was Gargamel infused with the sharp-tongued wit of Phineas & Ferb’s villainous Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Smurfs 2? Probably on my skip list. But Hank Azaria in a Gargamel spin-off? That would be delightful.
5. Julianne Hough and Kenny Wormald in Footloose. As my status as “respected” film critic continues to deteriorate, I have to admit that I was in total lock-step with this year’s Footloose remake. Julianne Hough’s sexy-and-she-knows-it portrayal of Ariel was surprisingly vulnerable, and Wormald gave justice to Kevin Bacon’s original bad boy Ren McCormack. Trust me, I wasn’t happy that I dug Footloose, but these two had me totally into it.
4. Fright Night. The original 1985 version of Fright Night was one of the first horror movies that I remember watching as a kid, so there is definitely a soft spot in my heart for this vampire-next-door tale. To my joyous surprise, I found this year’s remake of the original film campy yet horrifying…the exact qualities that made the first one so endearing. Colin Farrell had a lot of fun playing a bevy of eccentric characters this year (Horrible Bosses, London Boulevard, and Fright Night), and to see a cameo from the original neighborly blood-sucker (Chris Sarandon), just made me feel all tingly inside.
3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Quite simply, I had forgotten how much fun you could have at the movie theatre until I had been reminded by MI: Ghost Protocol. It was one of the best action films of the year and of the series, and I find it remarkable that the franchise can continue to deliver breath-taking, iconic scenes of intense stunt and camera work that seem unrivaled by the other countless movies in the genre. Multiple times I wanted to clap when the good guys escaped danger, and I found myself on the edge of my seat seemingly every few moments. A must-see in IMAX!
2. Source Code. It still holds up as one of the smartest films of 2011. This sci-fi thriller was unique, thought-provoking and entertaining from start to finish. Usually in many films dealing with time travel, you can poke holes in the logic after discussing it afterwards. Well, after thinking about this film for the past 8 months, I’ve yet to find any loopholes in the logic that the film creates.
1. The Muppets. Loved…loved!!!…this movie, and couldn’t think of a better way to introduced the beloved Muppet characters to a whole new generation. The innocent, self-aware comedy of the Muppets is refreshing in an era where sarcasm and black humor reigns supreme. Seeing the old gang back together was like revisiting my childhood. And who could have imagined that The Muppets would bring us not one, but three amazing new songs (Life’s A Happy Song, Pictures In My Head, Man or Muppet)? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll leave feeling like you haven’t spent nearly enough time in the optimistic world of the Muppets.
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