Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

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AEOS Review: Mission Impossible 4–An Impossible Feat Made Possible?

I was obviously going to play off the word impossible or possible as much as possible, because I have to hand it to director Brad Bird–if there were a mission to edge as close to the idea of being “impossible,” Ghost Protocol was it. In fact, Ghost Protocol was so good, that it holds the reigning title of best movie I have seen this month. And that is a high achievement, given that it is the month of December and some of the best movies are coming out right now.

A failed mission has just transpired. Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) shoots an IMF agent who has just attained the sought after launch codes for Russian nuclear missiles in order to deliver them to the primary villain of the story, Cobalt, who just so happens to be a nuclear extremist. Cut to Ethan Hunt sitting in a Russian prison, bouncing a rock off the opposite wall from himself. We don’t see his face or even realize it’s Hunt at first. We’re focused on the two agents trying to break him out of prison: Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and a familiar face, now field Agent Benjamin Dunn (Simon Pegg).

There’s a prison break, and an all too familiar tune starts to ring in the background . . . oh yeah, we’re watching a Mission Impossible film. Throughout the remainder of the film, we hear it on occasion, and when we do, we welcome it because it isn’t overplayed and it adds just the needed rhythm for the accompanying scenes.

And so begins the fourth installment of Mission Impossible. Hunt concludes that it must have been necessary to break him out, because otherwise he’d still be in prison. The mission is to gather files located in the Moscow Kremlin in order to find and identify Cobalt. Several missteps take place. Security is somehow alerted of their presence in the Kremlin, and the team is forced to run when the Kremlin blows up. A ghost protocol is sanctioned by the Secretary, who is no sooner killed, leaving Hunt and the secretary’s analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to join up with the rest of the team and work without any outside help, having to accept blame and being deemed terrorists for the bombing of the Kremlin.

I won’t summarize the rest for you, given that the plot is fairly complicated. But there are several things to highlight, such as the intense scene where Tom Cruise is scaling the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai. There are a few mishaps along that way that force him to get creative in getting in and out of the building, not leaving much time to consider his own survival. Roger Ebert posted the videos of Tom Cruise actually climbing up the building, and running around and down it, and jumping across the outside of the Burj Khalifa in his journal. Here’s one of those videos:

This movie pushes the envelope more than any of the previous three have dared. Every stake is high and gets higher, the tension closes in past the last possible second, and at some points, it’s almost painful to look to see if Ethan Hunt has survived the next problem to come his way. There’s a great supporting cast, with a stand-out performance for Jeremy Renner playing secretary analyst Brandt, who happens to have a few tricks up his sleeves, meanwhile harboring a secret or two of his own. Simon Pegg’s return as Benji reminds me of the friendship / partnership that Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian shared on the 24 series. Pegg’s humor is the only thing offering any amount of breaking point from the high action, ultra-intense, adrenaline rush of the entire movie. Paula Patton also gives a nice performance as an agent we get to meet for the first time, who’s equally beautiful as she is physically talented.

This movie holds you until the very end and leaves you with a sense of awe. The IMAX surround sound really brings you into the middle of the craziest parts of the movie, from a car/foot chase in a sandstorm to Cruise holding his breath as his technologically-failing gloves slowly give out on him while he hangs on for dear life on the Burj Khalifa. Another crazy scene occurs when Agent Brandt is wearing a special suit that allows him to hang in the air. But first, he has to jump down a shaft with a giant fan at the bottom of it. I won’t say how that scene ends, but I will admit that I wondered a few times if he was going to make it out of there alive or not.

The best surprises are revealed in the end in a most satisfying way. I have to credit Bird for tying this movie to the previous one by including a cameo of MI3 character Luther Stickell, played by Ving Rhames. There’s a great surprise ending that makes you want to praise screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne. They did a spectacular job with moving the story along as well as placing surprises at every turn.

MI4 is one of the best action movies of the year, no arguments made. It is, by far, as close to impossible as a mission could get, especially in this franchise. Tom Freaking Cruise has finally outdone himself in the Mission Impossible franchise. He’s made some beautiful gems year after year, showing off his range of drama to action, and MI4 does not fall short of his stunning film resume in any way. He pulled out all the stops and continued to bring the drama and action to this series, by doing his own stunts and adding new layers to the character, Ethan Hunt. Anyone looking for a good great movie this month should leave in the middle of Sherlock Holmes 2 and get an IMAX seat to this unplugged thriller.