Several dramas on Kevin’s list of top 10 movies of 2011


Another year has almost gone. I almost cannot believe I started writing for the paper seven years ago. I have reviewed comedies, action movies, and oh so many animated films, most of which were very good. I have never made a top 10 films of the year list. I know that critics like Roger Ebert and Claudia Puig make them, but I never thought I would have to make one myself. The movies I have picked were different to me in some way. They were not the same as other movies in their genre or they simply just told a great story.

“X-Men: First Class” is my first pick. I have always liked the “X-Men” movies because they are different from Marvel’s other projects. It is my sincere belief that the first two films in the franchise, “X-Men” and “X2”, used the humans hatred of mutants to compare to modern day racism, not something you’d expect in a comic book movie. However, when Brian Singer left the directors chair to Brett Ratner (“Tower Heist”) for the third installment, the X-Men started to go downwards in quality, not necessarily bad, but not as good as the first installment. This year, Matthew Vaughn, the director of the controversial superhero comedy “Kick-Ass,” revived the series in “X-Men: First Class.” It explained how Professor Xavier, played by James McAvoy (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Magneto met each other. In most prequels, the story exists purely to fill in unexplained gaps the other movies didn’t explain. “X-Men: First Class” was its own movie, it just so happened to explain the questions you never knew you had about the franchise. I give this movie four stars out of five.

My next film is another prequel, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” I watched the original “Planet of the Apes” from 1968 and was honestly quite bored. I couldn’t believe people enjoyed it. When I found out that a prequel to that was being made, I initially planned not to see it. However, when the film received good reviews, I decided to see it and was very happy about that. James Franco (“127 Hours”) really shows some acting chops as the main human character, Will, and Andy Serkis, the man who did the facial expressions for Caesar, was amazing. Serkis may even be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I think it’s a candidate for Best Picture as well. A sequel is being made (expectedly,) and I personally hope it doesn’t do what, in my opinion, “Sherlock Holmes” did and make an amazing first film, but an awful sequel. I give this movie four out of five stars as well.

“Source Code” is next. I did not hear a lot about this film, I just read one review in a paper. I saw this on a movie marathon day I was having with my friend, and I enjoyed it very much. Jake Gylenhaal was the perfect pick for the main character, Colter, and the other actors also do very well. “Source Code” is a movie that could have been really really really bad, but it wasn’t. This film showed me that the sci-fi action genre can still be saved. Note: My copy of this review is lost, so my star rating can not be given.

Now I’m not all about the action films. I enjoy dramedies as well, so that’s why “50/50” makes it on my list. It’s a truly touching story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Inception”) a man who is diagnosed with the big C at 29 and his best friend Kyle (Seth “Rude n Crude” Rogen, “Funny People”, “The Green Hornet”). The story is based on the events in screenwriter Will Reiser’s life. Rogen makes this film funny by inserting comic relief in all of his scenes. However, we also get to see that Rogen has a calm and caring side to him. I would not have liked this movie if I didn’t like dramas. It is definitely more of a drama then a comedy, but it’s about cancer so it needs to be. This movie is not a classic, but it definitely makes you think how important and fragile life is long after you exit the theater. I give this movie three and a half out of five stars.

My next pick is a fantastic drama called “Water for Elephants.” I initially thought this movie looked liked something I’d see only when it came on Netflix streaming, not at the theater. That’s how I saw it. For $3.99, me and my mother watched this moving drama on Amazon. It tells the story of Jacob (Robert Pattinison, “Twilight” movies,) a man who, after losing his parents, abandons his test to become a doctor and runs away with a circus train run by the awful August (Christoph Waltz, “The Green Hornet”). Jacob falls in love with August’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), not a very good idea since “Hurricane August” is very touchy about how close his wife gets to others. This is a fantastic drama that I wish I had had the pleasure of reviewing in theaters. Pattinison fans be warned: This is a very intense movie, especially near the end when it gets necessarily violent. I give “Water for Elephants” movie four stars out of five.

Pattinison ends up twice in a row on my list with “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.” Since about 95 percent of the world has seen it and know what happens, I’ll just get to why I liked it so much. I assumed this would be the most boring “Twilight” of them all. I enjoyed theses films for the violence, the angst was something that came extra. However, director Bill Condon keeps the viewer engaged throughout the entire thing, and even gets Jacob to keep his shirt on (Gasp!). This is definitely the most sexual film in the series: a montage shows our heroes indulging in their over-hormonal passions for one another, and that’s really fun to watch with your mother and sister sitting right next to you. The ending is where the film gets its violence, a very good action scene that isn’t just put in there for the heck of it, but so boys who were forced by their girlfriends to see this with them would have something to be entertained by. The birth scene at the end of the film is the bloodiest scene in the entire franchise, and I’ve seen the other films enough times to know that. I give “Breaking Dawn Part 1” four out of five stars.

“The Muppets” is my next pick. Who would have thought that after 12 years of being absent from the screen, the adorable Muppets would make a comeback? I, like most Americans, saw the Muppet movies when I was little. I remember my favorite being “Muppets from Space”, where Gonzo thinks he’s an alien. That was the last movie before this new one, and I was surprised that I could look at it like an adult and find joy in it. “The Muppets” tells the story of Walter, his human brother Gary (Jason Segal), and Gary’s fiancée Mary (Amy Adams) as they go to LA for the humans’ 10 year dating anniversary, and so Gary can propose. The trio’s mission changes when Walter discovers that oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to demolish the Muppet’s old studio to drill for oil there. The three must find the furry gang to help raise $10 million to save the place. I gave “The Muppets” three stars out of five (the lowest on this list,) but it makes the list for its cuteness and humor that young and old can enjoy together.

I now return to the drama genre with “Soul Surfer”, a film based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark. She is portrayed by AnnaSophia Robb; an actress who I think could transition to more adult movies very easily. This is not necessarily a movie for children, the shark attack scene comes very suddenly, without creepy “Jaws” music or weird camera shots. Dennis Quaid, an actor who has been around since the age of the 70’s, does fine work here as Bethany’s father. I saw this movie on streaming as well, and I again wish I had been lucky enough to review this one. I would have given this one three and a half out of five stars.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” makes my list next. I never really knew if I liked Matthew McConaughey. I had heard his movies got bad reviews most of the time so I generally did not pay attention to him. “The Lincoln Lawyer” caught my attention. I just happened to be looking at the new releases one week on and it had received 78 out of 100. I wanted to see it, and apparently God thought that was a good idea because a few days later, one of my friends called and asked if I wanted to have a movie marathon. “Source Code”, mentioned above, and this were two of the films in that marathon. “The Lincoln Lawyer” tells the story of Mick Haller, a lawyer who bends the law for criminals. His newest case involves a playboy who swears he did not rape a girl. Mick believes him at first, but as he does more digging, he starts to think his client may be lying to him. This is a great drama for those who want a good McConaughey movie. I have heard he does best in movies where he plays a lawyer, and though I have not seen any other movies where he is playing a lawyer, I sincerely believe that to be true. I give this movie three stars. It makes it on the list for its good story and interesting plot.

We are down to our final film for this year. The 10th best movie of the year, in my opinion at least, is “The Ides Of March”, a political drama/thriller starring George Clooney (“Up in the Air”) and Ryan Gosling (“Crazy, Stupid Love”,) and I must say it’s surprisingly easy to understand even though it’s about politics. Gosling plays Stephen, a staffer for presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). Stephen discovers dirty politics on the road to the presidency. Sex, scandal, and cheating are all found in this nonviolent thriller that, in my opinion is one of the best in its genre because it is not violent. Other famous names include Paul Giamatti (“Win Win”,) Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”). This movie got me interested in George Clooney. He has a type of presence on screen that not many actors have, and he uses it to the best of his ability. In my personal opinion, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character needs to take a chill pill and wash his mouth out with soap for using a certain four letter word repeatedly.

Whew. I guess making a top ten for the year list was not that hard. Now that I know I’ll probably have to do it again, I will start thinking about if the movies I see are good enough to make this list or not. Happy New Year to everyone in Fayette County.