Brad’s Top Ten Films (and More!) of 2011

| January 13, 2012

Looks like it’s my turn to do this! If you really don’t wanna sit through 3 hours of podcast to find out what my favorite movies of 2011 were, here you go. Again, I feel the need to clarify, these are not Oscar picks. These are simply the movies I enjoyed (which are better than Oscar picks!) on some level in a year of mostly underwhelming cinema (in my sole opinion it seems). I saw 57 different films away from home this year (none more than once) and I’m going to cover them ALL in the following blog.

That’s right, by reading this, you’re getting bonus content not featured on the show! And James isn’t here to complain about my choices. I still maintain Enter the Void: Director’s Cut qualifies as a 2011 release. And if not, and I did keep a legitimate 2011 movie off my list because of it, does anybody really care that Brad’s top ten was devoid of Paul, Attack the Block, Rubber, or Tucker & Dale? Of course not.

I form my list based on what I see in theaters in any given year. And limited release movies have weird, sporadic release schedules. Some small movies can take up to a full year to travel the country. Does that mean I have to exclude something from my list that debuted in New York in October and couldn’t physically see in Denver until February? I don’t think so. And I’m pretty sure if James had the chance and it was 2003, he’d put the Alien: The Director’s Cut on his list. So ha! Okay, rant over. You can read my list while I read James’ impassioned response to what I just wrote.

Midnight Madness – Classic films they show late every weekend. I only went four times this year. Boo.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

Corny, charming, innocent humor. Surprised it still entertains after all these years.

Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis

The 80’s synth music was bizarre at first, but now I can’t seem to enjoy it without it. Unfortunately, I was also exhausted so I nodded off during the final act. It’s on streaming so I’m gonna watch it again soon.

Tron

The original Tron back on the big screen! I know it’s a classic, but I’d rather watch Tron: Legacy again.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

My all-time favorite movie back on the big screen for the second year in a row. Of course I loved it!


2011 New Releases

Creature

We have a whole episode dedicated to exposing how shitty this was. I don’t think I need to say more. Really sad this got into more theaters than Tucker and Dale.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The only thing this movie inspired was a chance to rake in 3D money. Lazy and dull, it relies on its score to generate any excitement. There’s a sword fight akin to the lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader from Episode IV. And the great Ian McShane is wasted as a pussified Blackbeard.

Immortals

I’m pretty sure this movie was made because studio execs quickly wanted a 3D version of 300. Unfortunately it all style and no substance. And if the Titans are so dangerous, why did the infinitely powerful Gods imprison them instead of kill them, which they have to do anyway once they escape? I heard that both gods and titans come back to life after they’re killed, so what’s the point of getting upset and fighting anything really?

Sucker Punch

Stylish for sure, but the characters and plot are so arbitrary and dull that I was looking around the theater for something to watch.

The Rum Diary

Boring.

Unknown

Basically Taken 2 as Liam Neeson is trying to rescue his taken identity. I wasn’t impressed with Taken so naturally this didn’t excite me either.

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan is supposed to be fearless but he mopes around for a lot of the movie. So he actually fears becoming awesome. Hammond screams painfully in every scene he’s in, and the experienced Lanterns use chains to tie up Parallax the fart cloud. The CGI on Oha was pretty good though.

Green Hornet

Much better than audiences and critics treated it. But Gondry’s quirky sensibilities clearly clash with the studio’s blockbuster expectations all over the screen.

Captain America: The First Avenger

I liked it better than Thor, and the scene with Stanley Tucci before Rogers’ transformation is wonderful, but Bucky’s friendship feels like an afterthought and the Avengers’ shoe-horned ending robs Captain America of his own movie’s resolution. The Tesseract is this year’s Macguffin.

Thor

Thor charms the audience but I still don’t feel like he really earned his powers back. His romance with Natalie Portman feels thrown in just cuz. The gods apparently live in Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road and their city looks fairly empty for a metropolis.

Source Code

A cool concept, but lacks the visual style I adored from Moon. Might have followed it better had I not seen it at a theater with mono sound.

Hugo

Not the crappy kids CGI fest I expected. It’s pretty boring until the plot celebrates the history of cinema. After that, I just want to watch a documentary about George Milei.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Better than I expected, but I still don’t think a monkey revolt is that interesting.

Real Steel

Another surprise. Had a deeper emotional core than I expected and the robots, CGI or not, are pretty convincing.

The Hangover: Part II

Pretty funny. Hits the same beats as the original but I find it hard to relate to as I’m not a blackout partier/drinker.

X-Men: First Class

Pretty good except I feel they missed an opportunity to build Xavier and Magneto’s relationship in future movies. The history of the X-Men makes it seem like they spent years as buddies saving the world and promoting pro-mutant sentiment. But here, they seem to meet and turn against each other over a couple weeks.

Cars 2

Even the weakest Pixar film is better than most other CGI features. Not a Pixar classic but it’s still fun and clever in some ways.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

About as good as the first one. The final act action is impressive in 3D. But Megatron sulks and thinks so lowly of humans he doesn’t just squish Witwiki’s girlfriend when she calls him a bitch? Meanwhile all the other Decepticons are running around killing every human they see?

The Thing

Pretty standard horror flick. It’s pretty much the same plot as the original although it fits in as a prequel pretty well. I saw this before the original and it makes parts of the original seem unnecessary without the prequel.

Bellflower

A trippy film about two Road Warrior fans. One of them meets a chick who breaks his heart and you follow the resulting downward spiral. Pretty cool in some aspects, but sometimes the characters are rather unlikable.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

I’ll admit, as a franchise, the Harry Potter films are respectable and an amazing achievement for maintaining their quality for so long. But unless you’re a fan, you’re just watching actors grimace and point sticks at each other for most of the movie. Would be more interesting if there was some method to the magic madness.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas in 3D

Pretty funny at the time. The 3D didn’t impress me because most of it occurs over high-speed slo-mo screen grabs and alternates between cardboard cut-out 3D. Doesn’t resonate, but comedies don’t really have to.

The Devil’s Double

It was two hours of watching a dictator’s son be a dick to everybody. But pretty impressive that Bucky pulled off both roles and the director of Die Another Day made it.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

A tense examination of the psychological damage resulting from life in a cult while also demonstrating the psychological damage from dealing with your own family.

Young Adult

I like Jason Reitman’s resume, and Patton Oswalt’s performance, but Charlize Theron’s CHARACTER is SO unlikeable, I can’t see myself watching this again without a good reason.


Honorable Mentions in no particular order.

These films all fit into my bottom three. Some were tough to leave out.

Cedar Rapids

A fairly funny film about a goody-two-shoes that comes to terms with his corrupt world that felt like an adult comedy from the early 90’s.

13 Assassins

Kind of boring until the second half which is one epic battle. Like 300, it’s 13 samurai standing against an entire army and plenty of badassery ensues.

Rubber

I unfortunately forgot to mention this on the podcast. I was excited about the prospect about a film about a killer tire. Instead I got a film about a killer tire wrapped in a film examining “the no-reason” aspect of films. Why is there a killer tire? No reason.

The Muppets

In one episode I said “The Muppets would be successful if they didn’t pander to modern audiences and simply embraced their nostalgia”. And that’s what Jason Segel did to make a quality film that brought the Muppets back into the public eye. It’s full of corny and now meta-humor that’s very faithful to the characters and older films.

Attack the Block

The kids were likeable, but they were also shithead little punks and it kept me from liking the movie more. The aliens alone were very creative.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

A lot of horror movies do the same thing: a group of teens get killed in the woods. One survives to kill the killer. Tucker and Dale does something new by making those teens the villains and the slasher not a slasher at all. Finally something different from the genre and a super funny film.

Anonymous

A very good “what if?” tale if you don’t assume the filmmakers are out to prove something. Felt convoluted because some of the Old English dialogue was hard to follow and has a very expositional climax. But otherwise, very impressive.

Moneyball

So good, it actually made me interested in the business side of baseball. Wally Pfister’s in-game cinematography is beautiful.

The Illusionist

Great animation and silent storytelling about a magician finding his way in a world bored with illusions. When he becomes the surrogate of a runaway girl, he discovers his life is it’s own illusion.

Paul

A solid comedy homage to science fiction and although Seth Rogen is funny as Paul, his voice is too recognizable to not distract me from the fact that Paul is being voiced by a famous comedy star. Paul should feel like his own character and not Seth Rogen wearing an alien mask.

War Horse

Spielberg shows why he’s a master of cinema with beautiful visuals and solid storytelling, but he doesn’t step outside his comfort zone. Impressively he gets you to connect with a horse as the protagonist and the scene with the Brit and German releasing it from the barb wire is one of the best scenes I’ve witnessed all year.

Submarine

The disclaimer at the beginning sells the movie as this bizarre, one of a kind story but it’s not as weird as we’re led to believe. It’s still quirky and weird throughout but it’s still just about a kid who lashes out against his parents breaking up.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Another anime movie based on a show I loved, but this feels only like an extended episode. No revolutionary animation or deeper insight into Vash’s character. The villain isn’t even that much of a bad guy, he just loves stealing for the fun of it. Good to see Vash on screen again though.

Cowboys & Aliens

Under-appreciated, although the aliens are pretty unconvincing and Olivia Wilde’s character turn is a cop-out. What breaks my heart is to see Harrison Ford back in movies and the audience rejecting it for a third time. Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it because I watched The Fugitive this weekend and remembered how awesome that movie was.

Horrible Bosses

Really funny. I don’t know what else to say. Just really funny.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Another film I was impressed was better than I expected. But there are several moments that so beyond belief, it just makes Holmes look like a cartoon.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Maybe it was just me, but this movie is so complex at times I couldn’t enjoy following it. Plus I’m not a fan of “let’s go hear this guy’s story” detective work. Gary Oldman gets to sit around, interview people, and look simultaneously scared and stoic.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I wasn’t impressed with this at first, but it haunted me in the weeks that followed. Visually it’s amazing and Lisbeth proves she’s a cool character, but again I’m not a fan of Daniel Craig interviewing people over and over. And Ryan’s right. If you’re familiar with detective stories, you know who the killer is two hours before Mykiel does.

The Adventures of Tintin

I love seeing what Spielberg can do with a camera unlimited by the physical world. Every scene is staged and shot so creatively it makes up for Haddock’s overly long memory breakthrough plot point. It’s a lot of time wasted with exposition but Spielberg at least tries to creatively show you what Haddock’s mind is working through.

My Favorite 10

10. Enter the Void: Director’s Cut

I didn’t actually love this movie. It’s really boring in many places and 3 hours long. But it’s on my list because of two things. One: It’s daring in the way it tries to show you something different. Two: It contains a couple of the most terrifying sequences I’ve ever seen in a film. I recommend seeing it at least once because I guarantee it’s a film you’ve never seen anything like before.

9. Evangelion 2.0

I grew up a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion. I was expecting these new movies to be prettier version of the show I already new. But this second installment changes that and goes off in a bold new vision of less introspection. This movie ends pretty much where the show does, so I’m VERY curious to see where the next two movies go.

8. Red State

I liked Red State because I appreciate when an artist tries to do something outside their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s a treat to screen the movie with the writer/director in the house. I’m not crazy about the expositional climax. In fact, when I watched it, I was actually hoping he’d go balls out and throw the audience the apocalypse curve ball for another shocking twist (but because we already saw that in Dogma, it makes sense why he wouldn’t go back to the well on that one) so what he did go with seems regressive after everything Smith did to break out of his safe zone. However, what leads up to it is thrilling and compelling.

7. 50/50

You wouldn’t expect anyone to tackle the subject of cancer through vulgar, raunchy comedy which is why the script for 50/50 is something special. It makes you laugh while maintaining a strong emotional core as you follow Levitt’s character through his difficult battle while fairly exploring the lives around him. If I was making Oscar picks, this would rank higher.

I really only had a top six this year and pretty much the next few films are a collective number 1, constantly jockeying for my favorite film of the year.

6. Super 8

Remember back in the 80’s when aliens weren’t trying to kill us in every movie featuring aliens? Well, that’s only thing Super 8 doesn’t pay homage to. Despite that, it rekindles the magic of an era of science-fiction that has fallen by the wayside. It exhibits that sensation of wonder that made me love movies in the first place.

5. The Artist

Film is a visual medium and unfortunately the general conception is that audiences only see movies with sound and color. So a film that defies this and creates an experience you can understand without those components is an achievement to me. This cute and clever homage to a bygone era is a beautiful treasure that deserves an audience.

4. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

This is some of the most fun I’ve had watching a blockbuster in a long time. Equal parts creativity and tension, this film is relentless. The villain is pretty weak, but you don’t really notice as the plot unfolds because you’re too busy keeping up with each extravagant action set-piece. And that’s really impressive for the fourth film in any franchise.

3. Drive

Intense. Almost like The Artist, this is a film that shows instead of tells. The quiet protagonist let’s you ride shotgun to this simple tale made all the more interesting with compelling characters and shocking violence. And the 80’s synth and titles were icing on the cake.

2. Super

I enjoy Super because of how disturbing it is. It’s funny because it’s full of realism and failure. It’s an even better portrayal of comic-book heroes in the real world than Kick-Ass.

1. Hobo With A Shotgun

The title alone grabbed my attention and I loved all the resulting schlock that came with it. I adore how it embraces its Grindhouse genre and exploits everything it can. From cheesy dialogue, to hyper-violence, to exaggerated characters, Hobo With A Shotgun emulates the terrible film with laser precision.

About the Author:

His earliest memory of nerdiness is discovering the Star Trek motion pictures when his parents (presumably) accidentally rented the first one on laser disc. He attended his first convention at the age of 12 and has been to many Star Trek conventions since, as well as SDCC, NYCC, and E3 twice. He’s also an avid TMNT fan who has each of the first four issues of the original comic book signed by Eastman AND Laird. Brad also favors Batman and loves Nintendo so much he still plays his Virtual Boy from time-to-time. When he’s not immersed in nerd media, he’s out competing at bar trivia or working on several creative projects like podcasting, producing short films, publishing books, and drawing cartoons.

His favorite film of all-time is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie and with over 600 DVD’s and blu-rays in his collection, Brad is surely a Reel Nerd.

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