10 Cinematic Battles of The Films of 2011

6 Jan

2011 has drawn to a close, and instead of doing a typical year-end review of movies, I thought I would do one with a Flickchart twist. I will take pairs of movies that I have seen throughout the year, link them thematically together, and square them off against each other. So without any further ado, let the battles begin with a match-up between the two worst superhero movies of the year.

Green Used to be My Favorite Color

To put it straight, neither is really worth your time. The Green Lantern is a mess of random CG trying to shove too much into too little time. The awful love story between Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively will make you want to swear off relationships forever and become a celibate monk.

The Green Hornet isn’t much better, as the re-imagined story is worse than the original in nearly every way. The main character is a spoiled brat who is unlikable throughout the movie. The villain’s main character traits are using a stupid double barrel pistol and having a thick accent. Hornet’s best moment involves the making of a cappuccino, and the Lantern’s best moment involves Ryan Reynolds saying something witty early in the film before it’s exposed for how terrible it truly is. That alone should tell you all you need to know about these duds.

The Winner: The Green Lantern - because I didn’t leave the theater angry.

Say It Two Times

I didn’t love 50/50 as much as everyone else seemed to. I thought it was a good movie that would have benefited from a darker ending and without the forced romantic subplot. It was also released in theaters too closely to Funny People - especially considering Seth Rogan was once again playing the goofball friend who means well but doesn’t really know how to help.

Win Win was one of those early-year indie movies that helped cinephiles make it through the doldrums of January to March. You probably remember Paul Giamatti getting early buzz as a potential player in the awards scene, but you may not have noticed that prediction has been completely shut down thus far. The Academy might remember how good the performance was, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The Winner: Win Win - because I like sports movies a lot, and this is one of the better ones.

Puppets vs. Muppets

The Beaver came and went with more people making fun of it without actually having seen it than giving it a fair shake. I guess that’s what Mel Gibson’s acting career has devolved into. As a movie, it did have a lot of problems, but I thought Gibson’s performance was pretty good. It’s too bad that it was such a serious movie that ridiculous implausibilities left little of the film to be appreciated.

At least The Muppets ridiculously implausible script was there to fuel the silliness that made me so happy that I left the theater grinning from ear to ear. There have been some naysayers, but it seems the majority of their complaints have been that the humans play too big a role, that’s it’s too meta, and it didn’t capture the Muppets of old quite right.

The Winner: The Muppets - because it made me feel like a kid again.

Quadrilogy Just Sounds So Much Cooler Than Trilogy

It’s actually pretty rare when a movie comes out in the IMAX that actually takes full advantage of the technology. Having nearly all of its multiple action set pieces filmed with a special IMAX camera, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is one of the best films Hollywood has released onto the super-screen. It’s also one of those rare movie series where it actually gets better with each new entry.

On the other hand, I’m not really sure what Scream 4 was trying to do. It revived a dead series to churn out another boring, rehashed copy. Everyone in that fictional world knows everything about every horror movie and between their unrealistic and pedantic dialogue they continue to get killed in incredibly cliched, and quite frankly boring, ways. The only scary thing  in this film was the big reveal of Courteney Cox’s plastic surgery.

The Winner: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol - because it elevated my heartbeat without me having to do anything awful. Like working out.

Jessica Chastain: Housewife Extraordinaire

It feels as if Jessica Chastain has been in 25 movies in 2011, and in at least 3 of those she has been a housewife. I hope she doesn’t get typecast, because I think she is one of the best actresses we have. My only question is: where has she been all these years? The Tree of Life is one of those movies that gives me an internal struggle. Most critics and true cinema lovers seemed to have eaten every minute of this movie up, but I really disliked it. It’s incredibly artsy and the story isn’t told in a linear fashion. It’s not that I need it to go from point a-to-b-to-c, but I don’t need 30 minutes in the beginning and end that are only symbolically linked to the actual plot – which is pretty convoluted itself. I didn’t like when it happens in 2001: A Space Odysseyand I didn’t like it here. I’m also not a fan of the whispering melodramatic voice-over that dominated the movie.

Take Shelter on the other hand, is a truly wonderful film that takes the audience on an incredible trip of discovery exploring whether someone is going crazy or if something potentially horrible is truly on the horizon. It’s methodically paced, subtly acted, and one of the under-appreciated gems of 2011.

The Winner: Take Shelter - although Jessica Chastain was great in both.

Are Any Exploitation Movies Truly Great?

I’m ill-qualified dogging on a genre that I’m sure many people like, but I just can’t get into exploitation. Exploitation movies are such a niche today that the best new entries in the genre can hope for is a cult following – unless Quentin Tarantino directs one, and then everyone will love it. I felt about the exact same way about Drive Angry and Hobo with a Shotgun. They both have ridiculous plots highlighting excessive violence and feature relatively poor acting. It’s a pick-your-poison decision when it comes to which movie you should watch. Would you rather see a guy escape hell to seek vengeance and rescue his family? Or would you rather see a guy stumble upon a city rife with crime and horrible acts and seek vigilante justice?

The Winner: I’ll give it to Drive Angry, because I love Nicolas Cage and it’s better than the other movies he graced us with in 2011.

Tom Felton in 2011: Two Titles, Fifteen Words

I went into Rise of the Planet of the Apes with little hope that it would be worth the price of admission. The trailers didn’t convince me with its CG, and I anticipated I would be too busy saying to myself, “That’s the fakest looking monkey I’ve seen since Congo.” Little did I expect to be blown away by the motion capture of Andy Serkis, the incredible action sequences, and the awesome story. Some of the effects still indeed looked fake, but I was so wrapped up in the story I could easily overlook it.

As only a moderate fan of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was about what I expected. It was a satisfying conclusion, but I firmly believe they could have just combined the final two into one 3 hour movie. I get that it makes financial sense for them to make two separate movies, because it reached the “too big to fail” category. The only way they were going to be received poorly was if they changed the plot from the books even more dramatically; a fact that became apparent after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince really dropped the ball in 2009, and yet only a few people seemed bothered by its literary deviations.

The Winner: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - because it was my favorite blockbuster of the summer.

A Great Year For Prequels

People may say 2011 was a weak year for movies overall, but no one can say it was a weak year for prequels. To go along with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, both The Thing and X-Men: First Class did a fantastic job in both honoring and adding to their source material in fresh ways. The Thing was tragically under-seen largely because everyone seemed to think it was a remake and wrote it off. As it so happens, it’s a prequel that shows us what happened to the destroyed camp that Kurt Russell visits in the first film. If you have recently seen Carpenter’s 1982 version, it’s very fulfilling to see how all the things they took notice of at the camp came to be.

X-Men: First Class was definitely seen by more people – and with good reason. It’s probably the best of the X-Men series, and that’s partly because we already have a feel for who Professor Xavier and Magneto are as characters. We already like them – not to mention the fact that they had great actors to play the parts: Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as the leads. and Jennifer Lawrence playing the young Mystique.

The Winner: X-Men: First Class - because Fassbender and McAvoy really knocked it out of the park, and I love the X-Men.

 Furry Fighters

Both Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots had some big shoes to fill considering their series’ predecessors. I went into Kung Fu Panda 2 thinking it was going to be impossible to completely capture the magic of the first film because of one simple fact: Po now already knows kung fu. His oafishness is not nearly as believable now that we know he is supposed to be the baddest dude in the land. However, they focused on the Furious 5 more, which I liked, but had them fight a villain who has some ultimate weapon that can oddly destroy all martial arts, which I wasn’t crazy about. Even though it doesn’t match the first, it’s still an enjoyable film that brings some lighthearted fun to the series.

It’s really too bad Puss and Boots couldn’t do the same. Even when the Shrek series started to get stale after the second entry, I always liked the character of Puss. Unfortunately, his movie would have been better served as a short, because even at a scant 90 minutes, I found my mind often wandering. I was hoping for better, but I guess he was destined to be a side-character.

The Winner:
Kung Fu Panda 2 - for giving me a movie I could enjoy even though I had a little girl screaming and squealing three feet from my ear for the vast majority of it.

 Jack Russell Terriers, The Al Pacino of Dog Breeds

What can I say about The Artist that won’t be said from now until Oscar season? It’s a wonderful movie that caters very well to the Academy and will probably be rewarded for it in some way late February. I really enjoyed it, and think it’s deserving of all the praise it is getting. I also realize that it won’t be for everyone, and some casual moviegoers won’t be too interested in seeing a silent movie, even if it is modernized, entertaining, beautiful, and pretty funny – mostly thanks to “Uggie”, the Jack Russell.

All that being said, Beginners spoke to me in a way few other movies do. I felt a deeper connection with Ewan McGregor’s character than I have with any other character in any other medium. Not so much in what was happening to him, but in how he responded to everything emotionally in the film. It was as beautiful a movie as The Artist, but in a completely different way. It was also pretty funny, in no small part to “Cosmo” – its Jack Russell star.

The Winner: Beginners - because it’s my favorite movie of the year.

This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Ryan as sirstuckey on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.

  • http://www.the-frame.com/blog Jandy

    Great approach to year end lists, Ryan! Gets some films mentioned that might not be otherwise, too.

    I think I would’ve put Tree of Life vs. Melancholia, but Take Shelter is a great choice as well. Although I would’ve picked Tree of Life, my #1 of the year. ;)

    Love the mention of the terrier in The Artist. I loved the movie in general, but he was probably the best part.

  • http://www.the-frame.com/blog Jandy

    Great approach to year end lists, Ryan! Gets some films mentioned that might not be otherwise, too.

    I think I would’ve put Tree of Life vs. Melancholia, but Take Shelter is a great choice as well. Although I would’ve picked Tree of Life, my #1 of the year. ;)

    Love the mention of the terrier in The Artist. I loved the movie in general, but he was probably the best part.

  • Nigel Druitt

    This is a great post. Everybody and their dog has a year-end best-of list; this is a more entertaining way to approach it. Well done.

  • http://nevermindpopfilm.blogspot.com Colin “Fitz” Biggs

    Finally, a contest The Artist didn’t win.

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