Monday, January 09, 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2011

Before we go on to 2012’s jam-packed set of awesome movies (read the previews! watch the trailers!), let’s recognize first the awesome movies of 2011.   And as usual, it’s so hard for me to pick a top 10.  I have enjoyed several movies in 2011 (like every year) and really need to think and recall hard on what among them I had enjoyed the most.      

There are several 2011 movies that I haven’t watched yet that might have been part of this top 10 if I did.  Movies like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“Tinker, Tailor, Spy”, “Tin-tin”, “The Muppets”, and “Hugo” (especially this) are very likely to make my Top 10 if I was able to watch them last year.  Such is always the trouble with movies that were released at the latter part of the year. 

And from among those that I was able to watch but didn’t make the list, “Drive”, “Melancholia”, “A Lincoln Lawyer”, “Source Code”, “Hanna”, “The Ides of March”, “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, and “Thor” (the number 11) were the closest in making the top 10. 

After evaluation, these 10 stood out among the rest…


The 10th spot was a struggle between the reboot of “Planet of the Apes” (a revision of the origin on how the apes were able to take over the planet from the original origin of the continuity) and “Margin Call”.  But I have to give this spot to “Margin Call” since it could be the smartest movie I had watched in 2011. 

Graduating from a business course from college was a plus for me since it allowed me to follow most of the economic machineries involved and discussed in the movie – which was about the 2008 economic collapse in the US.  Actually, it’s not that hard to understand even if you were not familiar with the concepts.  That’s why I like it for being both intelligently technical, but nonetheless generally comprehensible by an average audience.  “Margin Call” is an excellent Wall Street movie and one would appreciate it more if one has some familiarity with the financial world.    

By the way, it was only halfway in the movie that I was able to recognize one of the main characters (the rocket scientist turned trading securities analyst who developed the model that predicted the toxicity of the company’s financial assets) as “Spock” in the “Star Trek” reboot.


Ok, the concept of robots fighting for sport isn’t an original idea at all (try Medabots).  In fact, it does happen now in real life, though not as awesome and high-tech as that of “Real Steel”.  Robot fighting is not a unique concept.  Still, the gladiator robot combat scenes in this movie were greatly entertaining.  The story isn’t special and actually quite predictable (it’s quite obvious from the start that the robot Atom’s shadow-boxing mode would be somehow utilized by Hugh Jackman’s ex-boxer character).  But still I can’t help loving it.  It has a beautiful redemption theme.  It has an “underdog” element, which is something we always love.  It has a decent story – predictable and unoriginal but never corny.  It has Hugh Jackman.  But most of all, it’s filled with badass robot fights!

The movie was about Rhoda Williams, who was when a teenager, due to her irresponsible and careless nature (and fascination of the incoming Another Earth), crashed her car (she was intoxicated) against the car of John Burroughs who had his family with him.  This sent John to a coma and killed his wife and kid.  Rhoda was sent to prison, but being a minor, her identity wasn’t revealed to John.  After getting released from prison, Rhoda desired to “redeem” herself from what she had done by desiring to make John’s life a little bit better.  Aside from this objective, Rhoda also joined an essay contest on which whoever the winner is would be given a spot on the spaceflight to visit the other Earth (SPOILER: She won). 
The mirror Earth is of another universe and because of some cosmic incident, the two Earth’s became visible to each other.  The story didn’t really concern much on the mysteries and questions surrounding this phenomenon.  This, like “Melancholia”, wasn’t a straight sci-fi movie but dealt more on the drama and development the characters are dealing with.  The mirror Earth just served as an important backdrop or plot device to the story.  But it was a very interesting backdrop for the story at that.

Plenty of questions were raised from watching the movie, not only the science involved in the meeting of the two Earths and how the mirror Earth will turn out to be, but some philosophical questions as well.  Most of the questions weren’t answered and the movie will leave you in a state of thinking and wonder.

I were only able to go watch in the theater two times in 2011 (both instances in 3-d), first was “Thor” and the second was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”.  The first instance was not decided by me, it was a treat during our mission trip during the summer.  But the latter was something I decided on watching on a theater.  This HP movie was greatly hyped to be the most epic movie of 2011 by the reviews I read and heard, so I decided to watch it on a theater that I may fully enjoy the movie in the best medium and environment it can present itself. 

My assessment?  Well, for me, just like the HP franchise itself, it was overrated.  But only a bit.  It was still an awesome movie, but the hype created a greater expectation from me than what the movie actually is.  This is actually not the fault of the movie, but of my expectations.  Again, I say that this was an awesome movie.  I actually have to point out that this movie not only is the best HP movie ever made, but the best that came out from the HP franchise… ever.  I had greatly enjoyed everything about it.  The overall story, the necessary variations from the book, the perfect culmination of character developments, and the action sequences.  My favorite Bellatrix Lestrange was, as usual, brilliant.  Voldemort looked the most sinister here compared to what he was in the previous films.  I loved how the Battle of Hogwarths turned out.  The dialogues, lines, and highlight scenes from the book were delivered wonderfully (especially the “Not my daughter, you bitch” part.  Though I kind of find it a bit anti-climatic that the rest were just standing about while Bellatrix and Mrs. Weasley dueled).   

I have to agree with the critics that it was indeed epic.  Whether you love Harry Potter or not, a scholar of the HP mythos or not, had watched the previous movies or not, read the books or not, you will find “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” enjoyable and worth appreciating by its own.     

This would have been rated higher if not for the epilogue.  I never liked the epilogue of the HP story.  Would have been better if the movie didn’t include it.  


Usually, the idea of remakes of beloved movie properties is a bit of a turn-off to movie fans.  “Is Hollywood losing new ideas that they turn to old ones?” is the general thought.

I was able to watch the original “Fright Night” (and its sequel) and I had enjoyed it.  But I have to say I find this one set in the modern age more enjoyable.  The villain (Colin Farrell was just perfect) was nasty and cunning, and is easily hated.  I love the hero’s development also from skeptic, to pathetic scaredy-cat, to badass vampire slayer.  The story was solid and clever from start to end.  The climax alone – the final battle – makes this movie worth watching. 

But most importantly, the best thing about “Fright Night” is we finally have a good vampire movie after all the bad name all this “Twilight” crap gave vampires. 


For extremely die-hard X-Men history purists, the title alone is annoying.  “Those guys aren’t the first class!!!  Cyclops, Jean Greay, Beast, Angel, and Iceman were!”  But even these purists would admit that, disregarding the roster, this X-Men movie rivals X-Men 2 as the best X-Men movie made or even maybe better than X2. 

This is the type of comic book movie that almost digressed on the “super heroey, comic bookey” feel of the comic book it is based on.  It captivates you, not on the formulas that made the comic book it is based on loveable, but by splendid acting and storytelling.  The idea was to not allow the comic book dictate the movie’s identity, but merely let the comic book serve as the property the movie was based upon , end the relationship between movie and comic book there, and let the movie succeed and stand by its own as a movie.  And it worked!

The most interesting aspect of the movie was the depiction and exploration of the early friendship of Charles Xavier (Prof. X) and Eric Lensherr (Magneto) and how their ideals set them in different paths.  There was no Stan Lee cameo here, which was the usual in Marvel Comics’ movies, but I made an audible chuckle during the Wolverine cameo (better than any Stan Lee cameo).    

To date, for me, among the installments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the continuity/universe of the movie Avengers), I think “Captain America: The First Avenger” is the best after “Iron Man”.  It had good story-telling and an entertaining premise.  The action sequences were solid.  The origin aspect of the movie didn’t have the feeling of being forced upon the movie (as what’s observed from first installments of a superhero’s movie franchise) but just flowed naturally with the movie and its overall plot.  The villain – the Red Skull – was effective and kudos to Hugo Weaving for that.  The use of the Cosmic Cube – referred to as the Tesseract – as a plot device was a thrill to the Marvel scholars out there, as well as the participation of the Howling Commandos.

As far as characters are concerned, Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man is still MCU’s freshest and best depiction of an Avenger, but Chris Evan’s Captain America is second.  I love how Evans shed the cocky, childish, non-serious, happy-go-lucky characteristics of his Johnny Storm (Human Torch) as he donned the noble, courageous, honorable characteristics of a Captain America.  Evans perfectly depicted the Cap that we perceive to be.  Now Evans will always be Captain America to us, almost making us forget that he was the Human Torch first.
Now that the member had been all introduced, I’m very very very much excited for the Avenger movie. 


I like “Moneyball” because it gave us a glimpse of the life of a sport team’s general manager.  I found it entertaining to watch the deals, meetings, and other GM duties being conducted. 

“Moneyball” is based on the book of the same name written by Michael Lewis that tells the story of the Oakland Athletics’ amazing 2002 season and their GM Billy Beane (Bradd Pitt).  Beane, with the significant help of his assistant Peter Brand, due to financial constraints, employed an unorthodox method of assembling a competitive team by the use of a complex sabermetric system in analyzing and scouting players. 

Hands down, one of the best sports-themed movies ever made.


The story of “Warrior” is about two estranged brothers (who are both estranged with their father as well) both entering a big mixed martial arts tournament.  The first was a physics teacher who has trouble with family finances and the second was an AWOL Marine Corps Iraq hero.  And as climax, the brothers would meet in the Finals. 

The MMA fights will satisfy any craving for testosterone-filled violence, but this isn’t a mere mindless action movie as it also contains a gripping story, superb acting, heavy emotion, and touching themes of humanity and reconciliation.  


There’s no other movie I have enjoyed more than the new Sherlock Holmes movie.  And it’s not because of any bias due to Sherlock Holmes being a favorite fictional character of mine.  In fact, the movie Holmes and Watson, though of the core and important similarities, are different characters from their literary counterparts.   The Holmes in the movie is more prone to tendencies of clumsiness and emotion though he also moves with grace and can be a complete cold thinking machine (which I think the original Holmes was more so), probably a little bit wittier, and do as much action with his brawns as with his brains (compared to the original Holmes).  The Dr. Watson in the movie is a more active sidekick than the original (who was more of a passive observer with a chronicler mentality first), has more initiative, more of a “swashbuckler”, and possesses the greater Holmes’ influenced mental skills. This made the tandem’s movie version more entertaining. 

“Sherlcok Holmes: A Game of Shadows” employed engaging elements of the first movie such as the action choreography that applied “bullet time” techniques, Holmes’ mental simulation of a fight before executing his moves, outrageous and engaging action sequences, well-timed humor, references to the literature,  and mindblowing twists. 

It was great from start to finish.  The events leading to the climax of the movie was nicely done and the climax itself – Holmes and Moriarty’s last face-off – was brilliant.  And the conclusion itself gave great satisfaction.   

I do hope there are more SH movies to come.    


Adrian Mendizabal said...

Nice, I want to see Another Earth too. Have you seen MELANCHOLIA (2011) by Lars Von Trier, it has the same temperament with Another Earth. :)

Michelle said...

I have a lot of movies to catch up with you... I did see Another Earth and I agree - good movie. Amazing scene with a guy playing a saw - how many movies have that?! This is the music from this scene on the composer's website
Also - loved Harry Potter. Sad the series is finished. I wish they had kept the same composer throughout all the Potter movies, though. the ones that came after John Williams didn't measure up.

bernel said...


yep. i have seen melancholia. i had mentioned it up there.