Sci-fi and fantasy on Mike’s top 10 movies of 2011


I used to go to more movies when I wasn’t a married man with kids. It didn’t matter if a “good” movie was only playing at Tara or Phipps, I’d make the trek and settle in to an Oscar contender at any time of year. That doesn’t happen now. I can’t even get out of the office as much anymore to take in a film. This is all just a way of defending the fact that my list doesn’t have films like “The Descendants,” “Young Adult” or “War Horse” on it. I will see those before the Oscars and use my full knowledge to hopefully make accurate predictions come Oscar time.

That being said, here is my list of the 10 best movies of 2011.

10. “Limitless” – Bradley Cooper stars in this film about a writer who is able to harness all the ability of his brain after taking a wonder drug. There are problems though – bad health, dependency on the drug and shadowy people following him and trying to get their hands on the pills. This was just a very unique movie with good performances, particularly from Robert DeNiro. Booby D. has been a little spotty lately in my opinion. He was understated in this film and it was a very welcome change.

9. “Real Steel” – Yes, the robot boxing movie. Got a problem with that? Hugh Jackman plays a former boxer who now operates robot boxers by remote control. He is a bit of a dirtbag, but he redeems himself as a person, a fighter and a father when he and his son help a sparring bot rise through the professional ranks. Good effects, great story and enormous heart – you’re a cold, cold person if this one doesn’t warm you at least a little. My kids loved it.

8. “Super 8” – JJ Abrams goes all Spielberg with this movie about teens making a zombie movie and capturing footage of something alien causing a train wreck. The performances from the kids were excellent, as was Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights”) as the Sheriff/Dad. I’m a bit tired of the Abrams lens flare (and there are a ton of them in this movie) but the story was compelling. More things from Bad Robot, please.

7. “The Muppets” – The hype leading up to the release of this movie had me thinking this might be my number one movie of the year. It missed a bit, but it was still an excellent movie and a heck of a lot of fun. Jason Segel helped ressurect the Muppet franchise with the screenplay and his performance, but the stars are obviously the Muppets. Seeing them again after such a long time was like visiting with old friends. Hopefully, this is just the first of many more films. If “Man or Muppet” doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Song, the whole thing is rigged.

6. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” – The series came to an end and this film stands tall as one of the best out of all of them. The pacing was extraordinary and the performances from the kids who grew up in front of our eyes were their best yet. I’m looking forward to going through the whole series, both in book and movie form, as my kids get older.

5. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – There was no way this was supposed to be good right? Certainly not this good. They did it though, thanks to a top notch story and script and outstanding performances, particulary from Andy Serkis, who did the motion capture for Caesar, the chimpanzee who starts a revolution. It was through the amazing technology that the audience understands how important a performance is to a film and just how stellar Serkis is at what he does. He also played Gollum in “Lord of the Rings,” and King Kong in “King Kong.” His Caesar is the best out of all of them. Good work from James Franco and John Lithgow too.

4. “Drive” – This feels like a timeless movie. It wouldn’t have been out of place in theaters in the last 40 years. Ryan Gosling plays Driver, a no-named mechanic that moonlights as a getaway driver for unsavory types. He falls for a neighbor and gets involved in a very sticky situation when he helps out her husband on a job. The tension builds and builds in this one and when it breaks, it gets violent. Gosling was awesome in this one, as was Albert Brooks as a gangster.

3. “Bridesmaids” – The funniest movie of the year – hands down. In fact, it is one of the funniest movies of any year in recent memory. I am a big fan of Kristen Wiig anyway, but everyone gets big laughs in this one. Melissa McCarthy was the breakout star of this one, like Zach Galifanakis in “The Hangover,” but the entire ensemble made this one rib-achingly funny from start to finish.

2. “Midnight in Paris” – Woody Allen hits another home run, this time with a fantasy/comedy about a writer who time travels each night to Paris in the 1920s during a trip with his wife and in-laws. Owen Wilson plays the writer, a character that Allen would have played years ago, and does a great job capturing the neuroses and cadence of the great Allen characters in the past. I love the idea of going back to Paris and hanging out with Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald during their heyday in the city of lights. This one was a lot of fun.

1. “Hugo” – A brilliant and beautiful movie from Martin Scorcese and sure to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Ben Kingsley). Scorcese sank his teeth into filming a movie in 3D and audiences haven’t had a 3D experience like this since “Avatar.” The depth of the images that Scorcese presents us with are astonishing and make a great movie even greater. There is not one performance to quibble over. I loved everything about this movie that was a celebration of cinema but also a celebration of family and friendship. This one is going to be hard to top.