Perhaps this should be titled “Monster Popcorn’s 15 Favorite Films of 2011” as that really is what this list is. Keep in mind that this is purely my own opinion and your list may differ (but feel free to share yours in the comments section!). I’ve included, not only films that I’ve liked that may be universally deemed as great films, but films that left me thinking about them or had me walking out of the theater very satisfied. I did not get around to seeing all the films that could possibly be on this list, like Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, I Saw The Devil, Moneyball, etc., so I can only go off of what I’ve seen (which is still the majority of the releases this year).
15. Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids was a simple movie that excelled at character driven comedy. It is just a nice story about a genuine but naive guy that gets exposed to the realities of life and comes out the other side with his integrity intact and better for it. While the movie is definitely a comedy, it won me over with its attention to character. Perhaps they aren’t the most deeply written characters of the year but they do have a sense of authenticity to them. I’d love to see Lippe, Ziegler, Joan and Ronald hang out some more as I not only had fun with them but really enjoyed the camaraderie they shared. Sometimes simple things bring great pleasures.
14. Paranormal Activity 3
I know, some of you may be wondering why this is on here, but honestly, I had a really good time with this movie. I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity movies thus far and going into this film I was feeling pretty skeptical. I wasn’t sure how much longer they could carry this concept and have it be effective and entertaining without having it feel redundant. The fact that this one feels more like a legitimate movie as opposed to simply found footage goes a long way for me. Each movie in the series keeps upping the ante in terms of things that happen on the screen and overall pacing. I also really enjoyed the twist on the Poltergeist table scene in the film. I walked out of this movie feeling creeped out and very entertained and wanting to know more about the mythology behind the movies. I’d happily see Paranormal Activity 4 and am glad that we actually have a scary franchise for what could be a Halloween tradition. I was starting to worry that the Saw movies, which I don’t even consider to be horror really (they’re gory thrillers), was going to be the dominant Halloween cinema tradition and we just can’t have that.
Melancholia is a very divisive film. I’ve no doubt it captivated just as many people as it bored others. I was on the captivated side. It’s a movie that asks the audience to actively participate instead of simply watching things unfold. For the first half of the film, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening exactly if I’m being honest. Character’s actions seemed conflicting and possibly unwarranted but as the last half of the movie played out, everything I had seen before started clicking and by the end of the film I was entirely fascinated by the movie. The ending of the movie left me sitting in my seat stunned even though I knew what was coming. It just had a much larger resonance with everything that had come before it. I’ve no doubt that going back and watching it again for a second time will help fill in some of the things I was confused by in the first half and will enrich the film further.
12. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
This film is an instant cult classic. I laughed a hell of a lot during this movie. The film essentially plays with one joke the whole movie but expands upon it so well that it is incredibly entertaining throughout the whole running time. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play clueless rednecks to hilarious perfection. I cannot recommend watching this enough, it’s just a really fun time to be had. If they found a way to not suffer in quality, I’d love to see Tucker and Dale find themselves in another mishappen adventure.
Dark, funny, violent, touching, perverse, these are all things that Super is and it’s the better for it. James Gunn has outdone himself with this film after giving us such things as Slither, PG Porn and the excellent script for the Dawn of the Dead remake. I’ve no doubt that the script for Super was something dear to Gunn and it shows in the film. While I’m sure he doesn’t go around beating criminals with a pipe wrench, I feel like we are seeing aspects of Gunn’s personality and humor in this film and it’s a great example of personal filmmaking. It’s highly entertaining, moving and Rainn Wilson does a great job with his role as an unstable man standing up for what he believes is right. Also, Ellen Page is insanely awesome in this movie. I’m really looking forward to what Gunn has in store for us next.
10. Jane Eyre
There have been many iterations of Jane Eyre throughout film history. Cary Fukunaga’s film is my definitive version. Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska provide exceptional performances and the film has a spooky atmosphere to it that I think really enhances the story. If you have not seen this yet, seek it out.
09. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I really enjoy the Planet of the Apes franchise, and after Tim Burton’s remake misfire, I wasn’t sure if a reboot using all CG apes would work. Luckily, Weta did the work on this film and they didn’t let me down one bit and did a phenomenal job. Visual effects aside, I think the movie really works. Sure there are a few things about the script that could have been improved but the main focus of the movie is on Caesar and that is where the film excels 100%. Andy Serkis’ performance as the future leader of the apes is astonishing and I’m going to be upset if the Academy doesn’t recognize him for his work. This is a fantastic way to reboot the franchise and I’m very excited to see them continue the story.
08. The Muppets
The Muppets make it into this list because no film this year has made me walk out of the film feeling so incredibly happy. I didn’t grow up on The Muppets so I can’t claim myself to be a die-hard fan but this movie made a believer out of me. It’s funny and, at times, pretty insightful. Even if you are not a musical fan, I’d have trouble thinking this movie wouldn’t put a smile on your face. It’s The Muppets‘ optimism and hope that will win over any cynic. I can’t wait to revisit this on blu-ray.
Drive is an incredibly interesting film that takes hold of you and draws you in. It’s main character, played by Ryan Gosling, is a man of few words but Gosling keeps you interested in him the whole time adding tons of nuance to his performance. A lot of the film’s best moments are the quiet and awkward ones and Nicolas Winding Refn uses that to great effect. There was a robbery scene in the film that I was so caught up in the quiet of the film that when a gunshot went off, it scared the crap out of me so much I jumped in my seat. The electronic based music in the film also gives the film a unique flavor. Well acted and crafted, this should be seen by any self-respecting fan of cinema.
I really dug Joe Wright’s Hanna. One part Jason Bourne, one part fairy tale, this movie had some great action and even better performances. Saoirse Ronan is probably my favorite young actor right now. She embodies her character and is utterly convincing as an adolescent girl who could take down an adult man before he knew what hit him. What I like about the film, besides the fun action, is the fairy tale nature of the story which is perfectly accentuated by The Chemical Brothers fantastic score. This isn’t as much an action thriller as it is about a girl discovering the world for the first time and I found it it to be one of the best alternative action films of the year.
Martin Scorsese’s first foray into family films and the third dimension is a triumph on both accounts. Its also just a wonderful story about the magic of the movies. The 3D here is used artistically and to great effect allowing the viewer to look through a window into another world. Its a prime example of what 3D should be used for instead of simply being a means to bigger box office returns. Scorsese’s love for film is all over this picture and it should be seen where movies are intended to be seen.. on the big screen.
04. Young Adult
I was really impressed with Diablo Cody’s script here. I thought she did a good job with Juno and wrote a very fun script with Jennifer’s Body but her work here in Young Adult is far more interesting and dynamic. Jason Reitman does right by Cody’s writing by letting the script breath on its own and being there to help shepherd the actors into delivering some really great performances. Charlize Theron definitely brings a lot to her character as well as Patton Oswalt, who delivers one of the best performances of his career. This one had me thinking about it long after I left the theater.
03. Attack the Block
The best genre film of the year by far! Joe Cornish’s alien invasion film oozes so much badassery that once you’ve watched it, you’ll want to watch it again. I really loved the look of the aliens. They were so black that they could easily be unseen by someone until they open their mouth full of glowing teeth. The setting of what is basically the British ghetto definitely gave it a different vibe and the music is utterly standout as one of the best scores this year. It’s exciting, funny and just cool as hell. I’ve heard talk about expanding the story further and I’d totally be down for seeing more sci-fi fun from Cornish.
I absolutely love this film. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t cried in a movie like I have here. I remember trying to hide the fact that tears were coming down my face at first and then just giving in and realizing that most everyone in the theater was crying. It’s not even that it’s a terribly sad film, just that it is incredibly moving. I dare someone not to fall in love with Mélanie Laurent while watching this film. She’s astonishingly beautiful and captivating here. Ewan McGregor gives one of his best performances here as well. The film is funny and incredibly touching and I think Mike Mills did an astonishing job of creating moments that feel incredibly authentic and relatable. This film could easily be switched out with my number one pick as they are both equally great films. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I highly recommend looking through Netflix or Redbox or whatever service you use to find a copy. Hell, just go blind buy it, it’s worth it.
01. Midnight in Paris
I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen and he does not disappoint here with Midnight in Paris. The movie is magical and completely involving. This time travel story literally took me along for the ride as I felt like I was transported to the place these characters exist and watching things unfold firsthand. There’s a lot that Allen is discussing with this film, one of them being the nature of nostalgia. Is it a good or a bad thing? Are we wishing we could live in an idealized past simply to escape the realities of the present? As a person that often delves into nostalgic things, I found it to be really interesting and, in part, an exercise in self-examination. Apparently 2011 is the year of the french actress, as with Mélanie Laurent in Beginners, I found Marion Cotillard in this movie to be equally captivating. You fall in love with her character just as Owen Wilson’s character does. The film is simply romantic in every sense. And it simply must be seen.