Best Films of 2011: My Picks

| January 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Surprise was the feeling I left the movie theater with most often in 2011. Filmmakers are getting smarter: they know what critics look for, and they know that audiences just aren’t impressed by throwing the hottest actors together in a movie with a few one liners or explosions. Here are the films that shut up my inner movie critic (for the most part) in 2011.
1. Drive
The Pros: Ryan Gosling, awesome stunts and action sequences, quiet moments full of intense, mixed emotions, great soundtrack.
The Cons: Those tense, quiet moments were sometimes dragged on a little too long; Ron Pearlman’s potty-mouthed and somewhat annoying character.
Drive was one of those movies that made you forget about your world for a few hours. Most of the audience members left like I did: quiet. In shock. Reflecting on Ryan Gosling’s epic ability to be an action hero, but remain so suave and not to become a cliché, annoying tool at all. The movie was so well-done that I would argue nothing has ever been made like it, and the future of action films will change because of Nicolas Winding Refn’s revolutionary execution.
2. The Adjustment Bureau
The Pros: Sweet love story that wasn’t too sweet, nice chemistry between the characters, cool plot and execution, suspense, great ending.
The Cons: Corny lines.
I’m not a chick flick kind of girl, and this movie is definitely a chick flick in disguise. However, the mental bends, twists, and turns make the viewer put aside his or her previous judgments about the genre and to pay attention. The Adjustment Bureau is really a film all its own. Though cheesy and overdone in some instances, it’s sure to delight audiences at least once.
3. Limitless
The Pros: Bradley Cooper finally coming to the front as a talented actor, the script that actually makes Cooper sound like an author, the ability to capture the incredulous effects of the mysterious drug in subtle ways.
The Cons: Dizzying cinematography.
The bright colors and spinning cameras used in this movie probably had the filmmakers wondering if they should issue an epilepsy warning at the beginning. That being said, this psychological twister was really wonderful. Though it was nothing like I expected, I found myself getting more and more interested in what happened to Bradley Cooper’s character, Eddie Morra, as the fantastic drug became a part of his life and made him into something he wasn’t. Definitely worth many watches.
4. Source Code
The Pros: Entertaining, great shots of the city of Chicago, unpredictable, intriguing plot.
The Cons: Reminds viewers of other sci-fi movies with some aspects; ending feels a little incomplete.
2011 was nothing if not the year of Chicago films, and after the announcement that The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was abandoning its former setting for the streets of Pittsburgh, it was the least the film industry could do for an apology. Though it’s not completely original, Source Code did a good job of using a somewhat tired storyline, giving it some new twists, and exciting audiences in the process. It’s not like we’ll never see another movie like it again, but it was not a waste of time.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Pros: Andy Serkis as Caesar, James Franco, great development of the apes as they grow increasingly intelligent.
The Cons: Doesn’t really have an ending.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the film that surprised me the most in 2011. I originaly had no plans to see it, but after hearing such rave reviews I succumbed to the madness. Wonderful madness it was. James Franco gives an understated performance as the scientist who has a rocky home life and is a little too-deeply involved in his work, and Andy Serkis shines as Caesar. I couldn’t help but cheer for the ape as I followed his tough story, and though I was disappointed in the ending, at least it guaranteed a sequel.
6. Crazy, Stupid Love
The Pros: Hilarious, great unexpected twists and turns, unpredictability, Ryan Gosling.
The Cons: It’s a chick flick; it has its moments.
Ryan Gosling shines once again in Crazy, Stupid Love, a film by Glenn Ficara. Though some of the occurrences in this film are downright silly, the film deals with relevant relationship issues that occur so often in the world today, and audiences are sure to relate with at least one of the rocky romances. The intertwining of the characters and the coincidences are very close (maybe too close), but viewers are sure to enjoy the film just the same. This is coming from a chick-flick hater: Watch Crazy, Stupid Love.
7. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The Pros: Dazzling and realistic action sequences and a cool storyline.
The Cons: Cheesy lines and action movie clichés (especially involving the “pretty but tough-as-nails agent,” played by Paula Patton).
I never saw any of the Mission Impossible movies before this one, and I enjoyed it enough to see this film twice. The action in the fourth installment of the films that made Tom Cruise an American action star is so wild and intense that I missed most of it the first time I went to see the movie. I couldn’t take it. The second time I allowed myself to peek through my fingers at the crazy stunts (most of which Tom Cruise did himself). The fight scenes are believable, and the getaways are smooth and clever. Tom Cruise proves that he’s still got it, and another movie in the franchise might be overkill, but it’s completely possible.
Here’s hoping we are even more impressed by 2012!

About the Author:

Caress is a grad student from Chicago who has a deep fascination with film. Her love for movies began as an undergraduate at Roosevelt University, where her teacher suggested she write a movie review. Caress' favorite genres include indie dramas, foreign films, experimental films, and psychological thrillers. When she's not watching movies, Caress enjoys writing, photography, travel, fashion and music.
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