Now that 2011 is over and done with I’ve gone over some of the films that I’ve watched through the year and came up with this top, fifteen best. This is the cream of the crop of 2011 according to The Film Connoisseur! Keep in mind that this list is made up of films that I’ve actually watched; sadly I didn’t get to watch all the films that I wanted to.
For example, I’ve yet to watch the following films: Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all of which sound amazing. I’m sure a couple of these would’ve made it on to my list had I seen them. I also missed Woody Allen’s Midnight in
…*sigh* so many movies, so little time. I’ll eventually get to them, which means you, my dear reader will eventually get to read reviews for them as well. Paris
Hope you’ll get an idea of what films to see next time you go to the cinema (go watch Hugo now!) or on your next trip to the video club. So, without further ado, I leave you with The Film Connoisseur’s top films of 2011!
Title: Attack the Block
Director: Joe Cornish
Synopsis: Attack the Block is all about a group of hoodlums who suddenly find themselves face to face with an alien invasion! They have to learn to work as a team and care about others in order to survive. Why do the deadly aliens follow them everywhere they go?
What I liked about it: This is a very simple film that is also lots of fun. It’s basic premise is that of a group of kids trying to survive the alien invasion, but what I liked most about it where the characters; a lively bunch of teenagers who played out like the potty mouth version of The Goonies (1985) or Explorers (1985). These aren’t exactly squeaky clean teenagers, in fact, they are the complete opposite of that, yet they still manage to come off as likable. Another cool thing about the film were the alien creatures; they have a really original looking design to them, I hadnt seen creatures like these before. Another thing I really enjoyed about the film was how much it felt like a film from the 80’s, with a bunch of teenagers going on an adventure, which leads me to the next film on our list that paid tribute to the 80s...
Title: Super 8
Director: J.J. Abrahams
Synopsis: A group of teens are filming their own DIY (that’s Do It Yourself for those not in the know) zombie film. While filming a scene that takes place at a train station, the train crashes right before their eyes and their camera! As a result of this crash, the military over takes their town searching for something that was lost in the train crash. What is it?
What I Liked About It: Again, same as with Attack the Block, it’s the chemistry between the main characters that works wonders for the film. The children are all very likable and funny. The film was also J.J. Abrahams homage to Spielberg films, this is probably the main reason why the film felt like at times a lot like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982).
Director: Joe Wright
Synopsis: Hanna is a young girl who lives out in the woods with her dad. Her dad has raised her in a technology free environment, teaching her to survive in the world on her own. She’s good with hand to hand combat, with guns, and she’s a great hunter. Here’s a girl who won’t die of hunger if she gets lost in the woods one day. But what happens when Hanna wants to venture to the outside world filled with cars, pollution, evil people and technology? Will she be able to adapt? And why is the government after Hanna?
What I Liked About It: I liked many things about this film, number one; I loved how Joe Wright’s stylish visuals and the music by the Chemical Bros. matched to perfection. This is one of those movies in which every cut, every camera movement perfectly synchronizes with the images we see. I also enjoyed the films subversive nature, how it urges younger generations to wake up from the stupor, disconnect from technology, take control of their lives and stand up to the evil. Hanna represents what young people should be like in this cruel new world we live in, where the powers that be want nothing more than to control our every breath and movement. In this film, Hanna is fighting for her right to freedom, something that should be a priority in all our lives.
Director: Neil Burger
Synopsis: Eddie Morras is a writer who for all intents and purposes is you’re a-typical looser, a fuck up of gargantuan proportions. He wants write the great American novel but he is so disorganized and out of it, that he gets nowhere. Fortunately, he stumbles upon a friend of his that presents him with a new designer drug called NZT. This drug allows humans to use 100% of their brain as opposed to the 10% that we normally use. Suddenly Eddie writes his masterpiece in no time flat! He has acute understanding of the money market, his brain moves so fast that he soon rises to the top of the financial world! But, does the drug have any secondary effects? Can Eddie make it to the top on his own, without NZT to help him out?
What I Liked About It: My favorite thing about this movie was how it presents us with the idea that if we focus, and get our thoughts straight, we can accomplish anything. I liked the idea of the looser suddenly getting a laser sharp brain and achieving more than he’d ever achieved before. It’s something we all hope we can accomplish. On the other hand, the film also criticizes drug abuse, and explores the after effects of abusing them. The films stylish visuals and direction pulled me in as well.
Title: 13 Assassins
Director: Takashi Miike
Synopsis: 13 Samurais gather to bring down an evil politician that is slowly rising to power. Will they allow him to become Shogun so that he can rule over the land with his murderous mentality? Or will they take matters into their own hands and stop him?
What I Liked About It: It seems that every other Samurai film ever made is about toppling over an evil government, and 13 Assassins is no exception. This is a theme that never seems to go away, apparently people are never happy with their governments. Apparently, they have always abused and stolen from their people. The film takes the evil ruler and places him face to face with a representative of the people, and tells him exactly what he is doing wrong. It’s the kind of film where a worthy representative of the people takes a stand against the evil by organizing a revolution. The final scene is an hour long battle between the Samurais and the evil government. Who will win at the end of the day? And will it all have been worth it?
Director: Benny Chan
Synopsis: The Monks of the Shaolin temple suddenly find their way of life threatened when an evil war lord decides to make them pay for helping the enemy. This war lord is your basic tyrannical douche bag. But what happens when the evil war lord suddenly finds himself without power? When he suddenly finds that it is he who needs the help of the Shaolin Monks? Will this evil warlord ever learn humility and love for his fellow man?
What I Liked About It: I’ve always loved films about the mystical
. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) and it’s sequels are some of my favorite Kung Fu movies. The idea about a mystical temple where you can lead a beautiful clean life, learn about love and humility and at the same time train yourself to protect your way of life with KUNG FU always caught my imagination. This was a very expensive Chinese movie that broke all kinds of box office records in Shaolin Temple China and . The money spent on the film is on the screen, they built a whole temple just to make this film! As an added bonus, Jackie Chan appears in the film as a cook who mixes his cooking techniques with Kung Fu! But the coolest aspect of the film is how grand it is, and the kung fu action is nothing short of spectacular. I also enjoyed the fact that the evil politician has a change of heart…something I wish would happen more often in the world. Japan
: The First Avenger America
Director: Joe Johnston
Synopsis: Steve Rogers is a skinny kid with a lot of heart, his biggest dream is to be able to join the U.S. Military so he can defend his country. Unfortunately, he is so skinny that he is continuously picked on and made fun of. He’s even rejected by the military for being so thin. But kids got a lot of heart, which is why he is chosen for a top secret military experiment that turns him into the super strong, ultra muscular, Captain
! Now he doesn’t only have super strength, he’s also a nice guy! As soon as he is transformed, he immediately gets involved in the war, and fights for the America against the Red Skull, a power hungry mad man looking to destroy the world. United States of America
What I Liked About It: At times Captain America: The First Avenger felt like part of an ad campaign paid by the U.S. Military, and this is really the only aspect of the film that I didn’t like, because I despise the idea of killing other human beings over political ideologies, as far as I’m concerned, we’re all in this planet together, and we’re all brothers. But aside from the films “Go Army!” mentality and nauseating nationalism, the film also happens to be a great superhero film, with some awesome action set pieces and special effects. So if you can ignore the fanatical nationalism, you should be able to enjoy a fine superhero film.
Title: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Synopsis: Caesar is a test lab chimpanzee who is being treated with an experimental drug which makes him smarter. Caesar becomes domesticated and learns to read and write. Unfortunately, he ends up being incarcerated with other test lab chimpanzees’ because he is considered a danger to society. But Caesar isnt just any old monkey, this monkeys got a brain on him and he aims to use it! Soon, Caesar begins to organize all the chimps and orchestrates an escape. Can he organize the other chimps in order to escape their prison? Will they ever be truly free?
What I Liked About It: I liked this movie because it speaks about a lot of things that are happening in the world today. For example, the attack on education. The powers that be in many countries do not want their people getting smarter, they want people dumb, so they can do whatever they want with them. Therefore education is being made difficult to get for the underprivileged. It’s as if the people have gotten too smart for their own good, so the powers that be take that away from them by making skyrocketing tuition prices to ridiculous heights. It’s getting to the point where only the rich can get themselves educated, it’s either that or start your life out with a huge ass loan on your back, take your pick. This film addresses these issues through Caesar, a chimpanzee who gets incarcerated for being too smart. Though his superiors refer to him as a “damn dirty ape”, he knows he is much more than that. In the film, Caesar gets tortured and mistreated by his superiors when he acts independently or stands up for himself, same as some powerful governments do with their people when they start to speak up. The symbolisms are quite clear on this film, this film speaks about standing up for our true freedom and fighting for a better world! It is no surprise that the films tagline is “Evolution becomes Revolution!” To Caesar’s credit, he doesn’t give up in spite of the abuse! He actually teaches his fellow chimps to get smarter; he organizes them, arms them and then leads them to the revolution!
Director: Tarsem Singh
Synopsis: Evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) wants to wake up “The Titans” so they can bring havoc and destruction to the world, in revenge for the death of his family and the fact that the gods never did anything to save them. Good thing Theseus is ready to fight him! Will the gods intervene and stop Hyperion? Or will humanity have to learn to sort out their own dirty laundry?
Why I Liked It: I liked it because of director Tarsem Singh’s strong visuals; I mean I personally couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen the whole time. The 3-D was rather excellent in my book, and the action and effects where well executed. Immortals isn’t a deep film per se, a lot of the enjoyment comes from simply taking in the visuals. Immortals is a good example of style over substance, but so be it, I love stylish visuals and indulging in them from time to time! To me, this film felt like what that cheesy Clash of the Titans remake should have been more like.
Title: The Adventures of Tin Tin
Director: Steven Spielberg
Synopsis: Tin Tin must try and find four scrolls that will lead the way to a secret sunken treasure. This treasure belongs to the Haddock family, and the last member of the Haddock family should get it, unfortunately, he is an absent minded drunkard. At the same time, this evil douche bag called Sakharine whose family has always been at war with the Haddock family also wants the scrolls and he’ll stop at nothing to get them! So of course, a race across the world ensues to see who finds the treasure first!
Why I Liked It: The excellent animation feels so vivid and real that I think this film has set new standards for realism in computer animation. It gets kind of scary when you think of the things that they can do nowadays in computers. I also loved this film because it is everything that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) should have been; it was non stop spectacular action from beginning to end. It’s as if Spielberg wanted to compensate for that awful Indiana Jones picture with Tin Tin, and if you ask me, he achieved it. This movie goes from one amazing action packed sequence to the next. The only negative point for me is that it plays out a lot like Spielberg’s own Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), but that’s about as negative as I can get about it.
Title: The Skin I Live
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Synopsis: In this one, we meet Dr. Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who is attempting to create the perfect skin. You see he is performing a series of experiments that are considered illegal by the scientific community; but he goes ahead with them because he has his own agenda behind his experiments, like revenge!
What I Liked About It: I loved this one because it felt as if Almodovar was directing a horror movie at times. We got the mad scientist, the spooky dungeon…the illegal experiments. The Skin I Live In had many of the elements you’d find in a Frankenstein or a Re-Animator film, but with that special Almodovar touch. This film is filled with twists upon twists upon twists, plus, Almodovar’s lush beautiful visuals don’t hurt the retinas either. It’s a pleasure seeing Almodovar cranking out great film after great film, the guy hasn’t disappointed me yet.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Synopsis: A stunt driver moonlights as a driver for criminals and he is the best at what he does. He is punctual, focused and one hell of a driver! He falls for his next door neighbor, a beautiful humble blonde, with a son. Unfortunately, this beautiful neighbor is involved with a man who’s just gotten out of jail and his past crimes are now threatening his family. Will the driver get involved and help them out?
Why I Liked It: Drive thrives in its simplicity. It’s a movie whose main character is the strong silent type, he doesn’t say much, but he gets things done. It’s as if the film was commenting, through its main character on how actions are more important than words. What I really liked about Drive was the way the story is told. Refn chooses not to drown the movie with explanations and a lot of dialog; instead, he chooses to tell his story through visuals and emotions, emotions that come to us through the actors’ facial expressions and eyes. The awesome soundtrack makes everything all the more pleasurable to watch. One of my favorites of the year no doubt; this is my friends is a film that oozes lots and lots of cool.
Title: Tree of Life
Director: Terrence Malick
Synopsis: Sean Penn plays Jack, an aging man who is living his adult life in the middle of the suffocating big bad city. The buildings, the glass, the iron and the cement he lives amongst makes him yearn and remember those simpler days when he was a child, living with his family in the country. The film is all about Jack remembering how life was with his parents, and all the things he loved and hated about growing up. We follow Jack from birth, to childhood, to adulthood, it’s one of those films that spans a life time.
What I Liked About It: This film was so powerful, it really got to me. It says so much with so few words. Rather, the film speaks in emotions, and visual poetry. Tree of Life comments on so many truths and addresses so many relevant themes that I left the theater truly impacted. Malick captures some moments that feel so genuine, that they could only come from real life experiences. You’ll truly remember what it was to be a child. It’s one of these films that encompasses so much, it’s like watching a poet speak about all that he knows about life and the world he lives in. To me these are the best kind of films, the ones that truly say something about those really meaningful themes we usually don’t have the answers to. Themes that range from God, to death, to the afterlife…to the universe. If you like your movies with a heavy dose of emotion and philosophy or films that address themes and ideas that few other films would, then look no further.
Director: Martin Scorcese
Synopsis: Hugo is an orphan child who lives behind the clocks of a train station in
. No one knows that he’s been living there for years. Apparently as long as the giant clocks in the train station work, nobody cares. When not fixing the clocks, Hugo works feverishly to bring back to life a toy robot that his dead father was working on before he died, he seems to think the robot will give him a message from his dead father. Will he ever find the key that will make the toy robot work like it should? Will he ever discover the true mystery behind the automaton? France
What I Liked About It: I loved this movie, and it is my number one pick for 2011 because it reminded me why I love movies. Same as The Adventures of Tin Tin, this is a film that has a lot of magic and wonderment to it. It seems that only the old directors, the master filmmakers truly know what it means to infuse a film with magic; with that sense of mystery and excitement. Scorcese has truly carved a masterpiece with Hugo; it is a beautiful film to look at filled with amazing colors and vistas. The 3-D was astounding on Hugo, this is a film meant to be enjoyed on 3-D! This is Scorcese squeezing 3-D for all its worth, and doing it well! On top of that, it is also a film that expresses true love for books and films. At times, you’ll feel like Scorcese is giving you a film history lesson. Scorcese also explores why films are “our great escape”. To me this film was the perfect Christmas gift from a master storyteller.
Well, that’s it boys and girls, the best of 2011 according to The Film Connoisseur, hope you liked the list and find it useful!