Top Ten Movies of 2011

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This passing year had a solid group of blockbuster hits but for the most part was an okay year for movies. It didn’t have many fantastic movies but it had many solid films. The last six months provided the year with some of the best films, and here is the list.

10. Limitless

Bradley Cooper up to this point was known mostly for his comedic roles from Wedding Crashers, Hangover, Failure to Launch and Yes Man but in Limitless he showed much more range than we are accustomed to. Limitless is a film that is loosely based off of the novel Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. He started the film off as a bit as a loser, a struggling author who can’t bring himself to write a page. When he is giving a pill by an old friend that is said to allow its user full access to their brain. When he is under the effects of the medicine, he becomes the best version of himself. It all leads to an engaging film with a solid acting performance by Bradley Cooper and the stylistic direction of Neil Burger. Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish star in this film as well.

9. Source Code

Duncan Jones is making a name for himself by making strange, but engaging films like this one and Moon. This film stars Jake Gyllenhaal plays solider Colter Stevens but wakes up to find himself on a train with a woman he does not know, and even more troubling he is not in his own body. Shortly after, the train he is riding on explodes and he wakes up to hear a woman’s voice asking him if he was able to successfully identify the bomber. Colter Stevens had been put into an experiment called Source Code where they transfer him into a person’s body for a certain amount of time. In this case, they were using him to identify a terroist who threatens to blow up other bombs across the city. It is a science fiction film, with a touching romantic story between Colter and Michelle Monaghan’s character Christina Warren. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright also star in this film.

8. The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in this romantic action thriller that was loosely based off of the short story “Adjustment Team.” Matt Damon plays a promising, young political candidate that runs a unsuccessful campaign but meets a beautiful woman after he loses his campaign. He meets her again on a bus as he heads to work and the two hit it off. Men in suits and top hats are for lack of better term, adjusters, as they make sure everyone stays on their path to live their lives the way they are intended to. The film depicts these adjusters as almost angelic like beings that enforce destiny and shun free will. Damon’s character avoids them to the past of his ability as they shun him from seeing Emily Blunt’s character. It was a surprisingly good, and deep film with it’s undertones dealing with religion.

7. The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer is thriller based off of the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly. Matthew McConaughey stars as a criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller who operates around Los Angeles County out of the backseat of his Lincoln. Haller takes on many cases from a wide variety of criminals and then he gets the case of a lifetime in the disguise of one Louis Roulet, who is played by Ryan Philippe. Roulet is a Beverly Hills playboy who happens to be the son of a local real estate mogul. Roulet was accused of brutally beating a prostitute Reggie Campo, Roulet stresses to Haller that he is innocent and simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It all begins to feel a bit familiar to Haller as he had a case very similar to it with an old client by the name of Jesus Martinez. It all comes to a thrilling conclusion thanks to the superb performance by McConaughey and the tight script. Brad Furman also does a terrific job of directing this courtroom thriller.

6. Super 8

Super 8 is a science fiction film that is written and directed by J.J. Abrams, while also being produced by Steven Spielberg. There are inevitable comparisons from this film to E.T. as it deals with little kids and an alien but the film is wildly entertaining despite even having a few story telling flaws here and there. The plot follows Joe Lamb, played by Joel Courtney, a 14 year old boy and his friends filming a movie with a Super 8 camera at a train station and witness a horrific train crash that unleashes some dangerous creature on the small town. The main source of drama throughout the film comes between Joe Lamb and his deputy father Jackson who is played by Kyle Chandler. The special effects in this film are impressive, and should be considering the talent that is behind the camera. The child actors all do an impressive job as it is their first gig in the business and Kyle Chandler does a fantastic job with his role. Elle Fanning and Noah Emmerich also star in this science fiction film.

5. X-Men: First Class

Who would have thunk it? Bryan Singer returns and has a part in the development of this X-Men film and it turns out to be possibly the best X-Men film to date. Matthew Vaughn does a terrific job of following up his hit Kick-Ass with this film that stars James McAvoy as a young and cocky Charles Xavier. The film is an origins story as to how Xavier came to be the man we know from the X-Men trilogy. Michael Fassbender steals the show as Erik Lensherr and seems to be turning the corner on his young and bright career. First Class works so well because of the chemistry between Fassbender and McAvoy but it still has a terrific story at the core. In short, the story takes place in 1962 as the government enlists the help of of mutants to stop a dictator by the name of Sebastian Shaw who is determined to start World War 3. Overtime, the friendship between Xavier and Lensherr becomes strained as they both have opposing viewpoints on humanity. Xavier thinks it is on mutantkind to be an example for the humans to be the better man, while Lensherr feels that they are the better man and that humans naturally are violent and will do harm to mutants when they begin to fear them.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part Two

The final one. Harry’s final stand against the dark one Voldemort. In this film we see Harry, Ron and Hermione search for the remaining Horcruxes. I’m not a big fan of the series as a whole, but the final few films did a very good job bringing everything back together. It was nice seeing everything little detail come together as something with a bit of importance for the final battle. My problems with the film may lie with the acting ability of Daniel Radcliffe, but the direction, tight script. some impressive special effects and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort all being very good there is not too much to complain about. It is also hard to argue that this wouldn’t be a top film of the year considering the money it brought in at the box office, but then again it is essentially pre-sold with the fan-base from the book series and the people that have seen the previous installments. It was the perfect storm of money making.

3. Moneyball

And another movie based off of a book. This film centers on general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane, and his hopes to turn the odds in his favor. He is managing a team that had just lost three excellent players, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen to big market clubs and tries to fill their shoes in different ways then normal scouts would. He picks up players that simply get on base. The film does a great job in not only showing the struggles of the Athletics but also the internal struggles Billy Beane is having. They frequently show flashbacks of his playing days when he skipped on college to go sign a contract with the New York Mets and jumped to the major leagues rather fast. His major league career didn’t pan out well at all, thanks to what he viewed as a somewhat flawed scouting system that has been in place. He and computer guru Peter Brand use sabermetrics to come up with runs for his baseball team which ultimately lead to wins as they effectively change the scouting system. The methods that Beane used are now being used in baseball much more frequently to this day. Brad Pitt starred as Beane, and did a great job in the part to no surprise. Jonah Hill, getting away from his comedic roots, played as the computer guru Peter Brand and surprisingly did a fantastic job next to Brad Pitt.

1b. Drive

A good portion of people may not agree with this, but you either love it or you hate it. There will not be any kind of in between. Out of all of the films this year, in terms of direction this film stood out the most thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn is mostly a foreign film director with his biggest movie probably being Bronson, and this was a good film to start off with for his introduction to American audiences. There are so many scenes within the film that still to this day that have stuck with me, such as the car chase that leads to a shot of Christina Hendricks holding on for dear life, scared for her life as we see through the rear windshield the car that had been chasing them flipping through the air. Some will criticize this film for it’s lack of dialogue, but that’s what separates it from the rest. You can feel the emotion, you can feel the passion through Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan’s performances. I was not much of a fan of Gosling before this film, but now I think he is a top actor in Hollywood thanks to this film. It’s aptly titled Drive, as it shows this man’s drive to keep a woman safe from harm in the most badass, and artistic of ways imaginable.

1a. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Caesar is home. Caesar is happy. Caesar should get Oscar. The film does enough to pay tribute to the originals, in somewhat of a corny way at times, but director Rupert Wyatt does a good job of making this film his own. The motion capture effects used to create the apes were downright amazing. I’ve never felt so much emotion and felt so sad for an ape before this film. James Franco stars as a doctor trying to work on a drug that will cure Alzheimers which he is testing on apes that the company brought in from the wild. The drug however heightened their intelligence and the one that he was testing the most had a child that he took home as his own when something went horribly wrong at the lab. All of the apes were ordered to be killed, but when the baby ape was found, Franco’s character Will took it home and developed a relationship with the ape. He named it Caesar as his father, who suffered from Alzheimers, loved the book Julius Caesar. It all leads to a very entertaining, deep, and emotional filled film that will leave you on the edges of your seats all the way up until the end of the film. I guarantee when the credits roll you will be very satisfied.

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