Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top Films of 2011

Well, if you've been paying attention to the blog then you may actually care what I rank as the top films of the year. Granted this is limited to what I have actually seen this year, which rules out most anything that's in theaters right now. But, I still managed to put together a list of 10 films that I think you should see from 2011.

I broke down and watched "Thor" in support of "The Avengers" movie that's coming out (not soon enough). I've never been what I consider a Thor fan, but I really like Branagh's films to include his take on "Frankenstein" and some of his other films that I've covered in the blog like "OTHELLO", "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING" and "DEAD AGAIN". The only thing I had really seen Hemsworth in was the new "Star Trek" film and I've always been a fan of Portman (grr). I was very surprised by how much I loved the film. I think I enjoyed it more than any of the other Avengers installments and that's saying something! It's big, it's fun and Hemsworth's take on the God of Thunder is refreshing and fun. Nods as well to Hopkins, Skarsgard, Hiddleston, and Clark Gregg! Gregg has become one of my favorite things about the Avengers films!!!

I have always loved Gibson and I respect the fact that he is an emotionally troubled man who has made some serious mistakes in judgement. The sad thing is that if his infractions would have just included overdosing on perscription meds we would be arguing over whether it was right to make a film about his life right now instead of lining up to crucify him. Come on people! He's an actor! He's supposed to be an emotional basketcase. Now, what I liked about this movie is that it could have easily just been Gibson playing himself a la Van Damme in "JCVD". He plays it with such a raw intensity that it's almost like a confession. Jody Foster as director and actress in the film doesn't hurt at all either and Anton Yeltchin is a GENIUS in front of the camera. I think he may be one of the greatest actors out ther working today. So if you're in the mood to forgive Gibson, this is a definite must see form 2011.

When I saw "Faster" in 2010 I was blown away. I think it was one of Johnson's best characters and one of the best vengeance films I have ever seen (and I LOVE vengeance films). I was intrigued that the same production folks at CBS films were following it with a Bronson remake in the form of "The Mechanic". Thanks to the folks at, I got to see an early release of the film and was incredibly impressed. The film stars Jason Statham as one of the world's greatest hitmen or "Mechanics" as they are called. When things go south, he is forced to take on his boss's (Donald Sutherland) somewhat shiftless son as a protege. Ben Foster does an OUTSTANDING job (as usual) as Statham's star pupil. Tony Goldwyn ("Ghost") does an amazing job playing a company goon. Some of the best action sequences I've seen on camera. Very gritty and Statham at his finest. This is what the "Transporter" films should have been. Statham needs more films like this.

Rutger Hauer has been hit or miss over the years. But with brilliant performances in films like "Blade Runner", "Ladyhawke", "The Hitcher", "SPLIT SECOND", "Surviving the Game" and so many others, he's so easy to love. "Hobo" makes it easy in this case. If you'll remember, we talked about "Hobo" awhile back HERE and I had the pleasure of meeting director Jason Eisner at Texas Frightmare Weekend this year. Originally conceived as a fake trailer for the Grindhouse films by Rodriguez and Tarantino, "Hobo actually achieves what both of the other films fell somewhat short of. It is a ruthless gore fest and a celebration of exploitation films while still being fun and exciting to watch. One of my favorite films period, though not for the feint of heart. This is a great one for 2011.

Here is an exceprt from the blog I posted awhile back on "I SAW THE DEVIL":
Korean cinema has a fantastic way of using incredibly graphic violence in conjunction with a powerful story. Directed by Jee-woon Kim (who we'll be talking about in future posts) this is the ultimate tale of vengeance in a way that American cinema can't seem to tap in recent years (with few exceptions).

The film stars Byung-hun Lee (who my film geeks will recognize as Storm Shadow from the recent GI Joe film...that I was also in) as a special agent who's fiancee is brutally murdered by psychopath Kyung-chul (played by Min-sik Choi of "Oldboy" fame). In response he sets out on a dangerous game to torture the man responsible that leads him down a road to damnation.

The compelling parts of the film are the mix of graphic violence (I physically cringed three times) and very human characters to produce a wonderful film that deals with the psychological side of vengeance. I kept thinking of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" as the lead puts off what needs to be done until it's too late to make it out in tact. I would also compare it with Fincher's "Seven".

Min-sik Choi's performance rivals Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" as a truly twisted villain. Granted his character in "I Saw the Devil" is a bit more insane, but the portrayal of the madness was flawless. One of the best performances I've seen in years. Reminded me of Tucci in "The Lovely Bones" as well. Hats off to Choi.

Here is an excerpt from my blog on "KILL THE IRISHMAN":
Jonathan Hensleigh, the man that gave us the 2004 Punisher flick, which aside from being set (for some damned reason unbeknownst to me) was a great film with a very cool Punisher in Thomas Jane. Ray Stevenson is a wonderfully underrated actor who is best known for his work on the TV series "Rome", but also knocked out some wonderful performances in "King Arthur", "Book of Eli" and previously mentioned "OUTPOST". He does wonders as Danny Greene, "The Irishman" in this flick (an coincidentally replaced Jane in "Punisher: War Zone" which was abysmal despite Ray being a cool Frank Castle). So, why the heck did this film sneak by the theaters with barely a whisper? It deserved a lot more.

"Kill the Irishman" is a fabulous mob biopic of the charismatic, real life Danny Greene. It covers his rise and fall in a compelling story and the mix of news reel footage in with the film is a great touch. Hensleigh is proving he belongs listed among names like Walter Hill. The cast he pulled together for this one is fantastic.

For starters, Christopher Walken, who's filmography needs no telling here (though he was in previously mentioned "THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD" back on day 6!). Walken covers all his typical bases as a dangerous yet friendly mobster who tells great stories in typical Walken fashion. Vincent D'Onofrio gives one of his best performances in years as a mob smartguy and best friend to Greene, though he also proves to have a killer's hands. Val Kilmer is underused as Detective Joe Manditski, but not nearly as much as Vinnie Jones (the Juggernaut bitch!), who appears in a very small cameo role as one of Greene's toughs. Mobster staples like Robert Davi (best known for his role in "Goonies"), Paul Sorvino ("THE ROCKETEER" and Mike Starr ("BLACK DYNAMITE" make appearances as well.

If you like true mob stories or seeing a grown man slap the crap out of someone, or if you just want to hear some of the hilariously witty things that come out of Stevenson's mouth during the film, or if you just want to watch Hensleigh pull off a star-filled period mob piece with only a $4million budget, you definitely need to check this out on DVD. Maybe then you can be equally stunned at it's tiny theatrical release.

This one was surprisingly brilliant. Jake Gyllenhall gives a wonderfully impressive performance and is joined by acting talents such as Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air", "The Departed", "Orphan" and "RUNNING SCARED"), Michelle Monaghan ("Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang", "Gone Baby Gone") and Jeffery Wright (Bond's latest Felix Leiter). A wonderful film about time, dimensional travel, government experimentation and hope, this is one of the bright shining stars of 2011. Directed by Duncan Jones, the genius that gave us "Moon"

Here is an excerpt from my blog on "WRECKED":
Adrien Brody ("The Brothers Bloom")stars in this "BURIED"-like film called "Wrecked". This first feature from Canadian director Michael Greenspan is a pretty solid twister. Basically, Brody plays our "hero". He wakes up trapped in a car that has crashed in the middle of the forest with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. I say it's like "Buried" because nearly all of the film takes place right around the car and there are only 1-2 other characters in the film with any real screen time. It's primarily about one guy stuck in one location and trying to puzzle out what's happening. Also, like "Buried", it's driven by an incredibly talented actor who will keep you glued to the screen.

As you can tell from the blog, I am always excited by films who can use limited cast, locations and effects to produce a compelling story. Hats off to Greenspan for pulling it off with "Wrecked". Also a shout out to Brody's co-stars Caroline Dhavernas ("DEVIL" and who worked with Brody prior to this film on "Hollywoodland") and Ryan Robbins (Raiden from the new "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" webseries and Charlie Connor from "Battlestar Galactica")

I love films with badass chicks. This has become one of my favorites. Here is an excerpt from my blog about "HANNA":
Director Joe Wright did so much right with this it's unreal. Honestly I felt his "The Soloist" was trying too hard to shoot for an Oscar nod. THIS is the kind of film I expect from the director of "Atonement".

Basically, the plot is a young girl, raised in the wilds of Finland to be a perfect killing machine by her former CIA father finally comes into the real world to seek vengeance for the murder of her mother. Saoirse Ronan plays the title character. She also worked for Wright on "Atonement" but this is sure to be a breakout role for her. She is spectacular. Similar to the chops he showed in "CHOPPER" (pun intended), Eric Bana is phenomenal as Hanna's father, while Cate Blanchett (probably the greatest living actress and the female Gary Oldman) kicks serious ass as the film's villain.

Kudos to anyone who recognizes Blanchett's sadistic Aryan henchman Issacs as Cutler Beckett from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. Tom Hollander plays a decidedly less refined role in this flick. It also had a hard time placing Olivia Williams, though I knew her from something. She was the female lead in "The Postman" (one of my favorite Costner flicks) and "The Sixth Sense". Jason Flemyng plays her husband in the movie and has been in so many of my favorite flicks. He is a Ritchie staple from "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch" and he was Azazel in "X-Men: First Class" (WHAT?!). You might also recognize him as Calibos from the newer "Clash of the Titans" film.

Besides the badass fight sequences (knife work is beautiful), this film also sports a wonderful immersion into culture. A globe-hopping adventure, Wright does a great job of dragging you into the culture and helping you lose yourself in the film. You feel like you are wherever Hanna is. Also, the soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers is seemlessly integrated into the experience. The haunting, throbbing, industrial tones definitely are a strong contributor to the film's badassery.

Probably the best assassin film I've seen since "The Professional".

I've been wanting Kevin Smith to direct something serious ever since I read his run on Daredevil several years ago. "Red State" delivers in spades. A great film about a Westboro-like religious group that becomes violent and the Waco-esque way in which the government attempts to cover it up are masterfully handled by Smith and his cast. Stand-out cast include Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") and Michael Parks ("Kill Bill", "Smokin Aces 2", "Death Proof") as the core of the religious nuts and John Goodman ("MOTHER NIGHT" and so many others).


  1. Meh, I thought HANNAH and THE MECHANIC were sorta lame. They both had great stories and parts of the movies were too, but too much was bad. IMO

  2. I loved both, though I think a lot of people share your view of "The Mechanic". I liked the idea in both films that the characters seemed larger than life without being ripped from reality. Statham in "The Transporter" comes across as some government experiment rather than a badass because his exploits are just too large.

    Foster was BRILLIANT in "The Mechanic" (he usually is). Not sure what your issues were with "Hanna" though. You're the first person I've heard of that was disappointed with it.