Rants for the Riff-Raff: Top 10 of 2011
Well, it’s that time of year. Everybody is throwing down their top 10′s of 2011. I’d like to tell you that I’m a non-conformist and won’t be doing the same, but that would be a dirty, filthy lie. I love writing lists, and will do so at the slightest provocation. Unfortunately, there were many, many movies I did not get to see this year that I desperately wanted to. Such is the downfall of no longer working in a movie theater. So, movies like Hugo, Tin-Tin, Attack the Block, and 50-50 will not be gracing this list, though they probably deserve to. Fear not, however, there were plenty of movies I was lucky enough to see, such as-
10. Our Idiot Brother (Dir. Jesse Peretz)
It’s hard not to like this movie. It has a great cast, with Zooey Deschanel as a hyper-sexual indie chick, Rashida Jones as her super cool lesbian partner, Elizabeth Banks as a cold business woman, Adam Scott as her slacker neighbor, and, of course, Paul Rudd as the lovable, eponymous idiot brother. I’ve been a big fan of Paul Rudd for awhile now, and this is one of my favorite performances from him. The movie is funny, sweet, and has some real emotion. A great one to watch on a rainy afternoon.
9. Rango (Dir. Gore Verbinski)
Though rated PG, this is far from a kid movie. Strange in every sense of the word, it tells the story of a pet chameleon who escapes from his caged life and, guided by some road-kill, starts a new life as an Old West hero in the town of Dirt. The denizens of Dirt are far from the cute, cuddly animals we’re used to seeing in animation films. They are prickly, crusty, fascinatingly designed desert creatures, with textures so detailed and layered you want to reach out and touch them. It’s funny, bizarre, and looks great, though you may not want to shove your kid sister out of the room while you watch it.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (Dir. Joe Johnston)
One of three superhero movies on this list. While I never had any interest in Captain America comic books, I was still extremely excited for this movie. Chris Evans plays the Cap’n with just the right amount of “Gee-whiz”-iness, both as Skinny Steve and Suped-up Steve. Hugo Weaving throws himself head first into the role of the delightfully over-the-top Nazi-villain Red Skull, and Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as the grizzled old army commander. While the action scenes are often flat and somewhat boring, everything else is a lot of fun.
7. X-Men: First Class (Dir. Mathew Vaughn)
In contrast to Captain America, I’ve always loved X-Men comics. I’ve also loved all the movies, even the ones I didn’t like (*cough* Wolverine *cough*) just out of pure nostalgia. This one is probably my favorite. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are fantastic as young Magneto and Xavier, respectively. Every scene between them is beautifully written and acted. I would have gladly watched a whole movie of them just sitting around and talking while drinking coffee. On the other hand, some of the performances of the mutant recruits aren’t as up to snuff, and a lot of the scenes with just them drag like a caveman’s knuckles. Overall, though, a great addition to the celluloid Muties canon.
6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Rupert Wyatt)
I was unsure of this movie at first. “Planet of the Apes?” I scoffed. “Do we really need another one of those?” Then I heard that Weta (the special effects team behind Lord of the Rings) was involved. Then I heard Andy Serkis was playing Ceasar, the ape who would be king. Suddenly, I was excited, and for good reason. Weta mo-capped Serkis, and his performance is incredible. Completely wordless, he portrays more emotion and meaning with facial expression and body language than most actors can portray with dialogue. The apes in the film take a bit to get used to, as they look extremely other-worldly, but once you do get used to it, you stop seeing them as an effect and start seeing them as characters. James Franco plays the main human character, but is strangely forgettable. The apes (read: Weta) are the true stars of this film.
5. The Muppets (Dir. James Bobin)
I watched this movie with pure, unadulterated, joy. I had a dopey grin on my face the entire time. The Muppets have been a part of my life for a long time, and it was great seeing them adapted so wonderfully. Bright, cheery, and, of course, funny, this film will melt the heart of the even the most hardened cynic. I saw it in a theater full of people ranging from age 6-70, and every one of them left the theater with the same dopey grin I had. Though the second act has some pacing problems, everything else is glorious and filled with songs, jokes, and, in true Muppet style, celebrity cameos. You can invite your kid sister back into the room for this one, and tell her to bring the rest of the family with her.
4. Hesher (Dir. Spencer Susser)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite actors. I remember watching him in 3rd rock from the Sun back in the day, and since that time he has been systematically been playing great roles, every one of them different. Hesher is one of the latest and greatest. A hard-partying, anarchistic metal-head, he busts into T.J’s (played with gusto by Devin Brochu) house and life with Metallica blaring, and doesn’t leave until he has simultaneously trashed and improved every aspect of it. A great supporting cast of Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson round out the movie into a wholly enjoyable, though surprisingly deep, experience.
3. Hanna (Dir. Joe Wright)
I was surprised by this movie. The trailers made it seem like a straightforward action movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s an action-fairy-tale mixed with a revenge film. Joe Wright has always been a stylish director, but with movies such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice under his belt, he hasn’t had as much of a chance to show off. This is his chance. Beautifully filmed, there are scenes you want to frame and put on your wall. The score, done by the Chemical Brothers, is just as beautiful and has a really cool concept behind it. Wright’s next film is going to be Anna Karenina, and this movie alone is enough to make me interested in that, which is saying a lot.
2. Drive (Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)
The coolest movie to come out in recent memory. It’s a film full of contradictions. Retro, but timeless. All about speed, but often filmed in slow motion. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is primarily wordless, but his partner/friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston) never stops talking. The serious, masculine tone is paired with electro-pop music and ’80s colors and fonts. Yet it all works, and with a vengeance. All the performances are top-notch, especially Albert Brooks as mob boss Bernie Rose. Slick and stylish, I can’t help but feel like the best place to watch this film would be a drive-in theater, and I mean that in the best way possible.
1. Super (Dir. James Gunn)
A superhero movie that kicks normal superhero movies directly in the balls. Kind of like a mix between Kick-Ass and Taxi Driver, it tells the story of ordinary schlubb Frank (played by Rainn Wilson, in a role far from Dwight Schrute) who decides to fight crime. With a pipe wrench. It’s incredibly violent, disturbing, funny, and surprisingly thought-provoking. Ellen Page co-stars as Libby, a girl at the comic book shop who helps Frank become the Crimson Bolt and eventually comes to idolize him. A lot smarter than you think, it has a great script written by James Gunn that perfectly balances the humor, the violence, and all the bizarre things in between. It’s not a movie for everyone, yet everyone should see it.
By: Will Bray
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