In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite films of 2011, my 5 least favorite, my 5 favorite TV shows, and 5 movies I wouldn’t miss for the apocalypse in 2012. Enjoy and Happy New Year!
TOP TEN BEST OF 2011
1) Captain America
There was no other movie coming out this year that I wanted to NOT suck more than this. I had a LOT of doubts and concerns. I’ve been reading Cap comics since I started reading comics in the 4th grade and there was a lot riding on this to do the source material justice. Thanks to the guidance of director Joe Johnston and the humble, heroic performance by Chris Evans who simply “got” the part, Cap soared and crushed all of my doubts. It was fun, nostalgic, and, yep, patriotic. Although I would’ve liked a little more suspense built into the pic, it’s small potatoes compared to everything else that was delivered. Stellar superhero entertainment.
I had a lot less to lose with the first entry of this year’s superhero launch, but Thor was exceptional. Once again proving that Marvel has its pulse on its own characters and hiring the right guy for the job (Kenneth Branagh), Thor brought all things Asgard to life in a big, bold, and magical way. Chris Hemsworth played Thor to a “T” and, like Evans in Cap and Downey Jr. in Iron Man, took ownership of the role. The human interactions are weaker than the Asgardian ones, but nonetheless involving. Some truly great superhero moments really push Thor to the top. Coupled with Cap, Thor is part of a massively successful punch that has sold everyone on next years epic “Avengers.”
3) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The last film I’ve seen in 2011 also happens to be one of the best. Taut, witty, exciting, and playful, the fourth entry in the MI franchise is also the strongest, featuring the most mature and evolved performance by Cruise in the role as superagent Ethan Hunt. A terrific supporting cast, great score, and breath-taking action and stunts make MI4 my number one action film of the year. This is a can’t miss and one that should be seen on the big screen. A great welcome back for Cruise and stellar entertainment to boot.
A dark horse choice for me, I’m sure, as many probably wouldn’t put this in the “best of” category. However, we all have movies we see each year that stick with us for whatever reason and Immortals was good enough for me to see it twice in theaters. Director Tarsem Singh’s style coupled with a bravura performance by future Superman Henry Cavill make this a total win for me. Cavill is perfectly cast as a half man/half God who takes on a world destroying general (Mickey Rourke). It’s like a mythical action fable and I loved every frame.
The most surprisingly good film of the year. Knockout performances by the three leads, Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte, the story of two brothers competing in an MMA tournament has all the elements of a rousing crowd pleaser and heart to spare as it explores the tortured relationships of father and sons. I took a lot of the film personally as I have struggled with my own relationships in similar ways and losing my father this year really adds another dimension to the emotional aspect of the film to me. Great acting, rousing fights, and emotional depth overcome any formulaic elements.
6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Every bit as satisfying as the final novel, the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise tied up all lose ends and did it in a big way. Mysteries were unraveled, relationships reformed, heroes made, evils quashed, and a long-running series put to bed with grace, action, and harmony. If you’re a fan of either the books, the films, or both, it would be hard not to be emotionally wrapped up in seeing the frame close on Hogwarts. It was a tremendous journey and the final send off delivered on the investment.
7) Fast Five
If Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was the best and smartest action film of the year then Fast Five is the best and dumbest. And that’s not such a bad thing. Reuniting EVERYONE from the franchise and even throwing in The Rock, the fifth entry in the series brings the thunder when it comes to action and stunts. The dynamics of all involved is spot on for a mindless action yarn and Fast Five has action to spare. High wire car stunts, gunfights, explosions, and a massive police chase in downtown Rio make this one of the most fun, adrenaline-fueled, and silly action films of all time. Can’t wait to see more.
This chicks reigned as the queens of comedy this year as Kristin Wiig and her compatriots for this not-like-Hangover-at-all comedy a hilarious and heartfelt comedy. There’s tons of Wiig’s signature subtle humor that will leave you laughing long after you think about it. It’s great to see one of the great female comics of our generation really shine here. Wiig has always been on the radar and she is finally allowed a venue to show what she’s got. Let’s hope she rides this wave of success and delivers some more of her comedic goods.
9) Battle: Los Angeles
Another unlikely choice, as I’m sure many didn’t really care for this. However, as a combat veteran, I felt that this is the first time an alien invasion movie treated the military aspect with respect and paid attention to the details, never venturing too far into the ridiculous, but grounding the actions of the Marines in the film with enough reality and gravitas to make them believable and real. Ultimately, I think Aaron Eckart delivered an outstanding performance, once again proving that he is a star to contend with. He is an underdog who simply brings the heat in whatever he’s in and I truly appreciate what he did for Battle LA.
Director Gore Verbinski delves into the animation racket along with his Pirates cohort Johnny Depp and the result is simply amazing. The best animated film of the year by far, Rango is an imaginative anthropomorphic western that is every bit as entertaining to the adult audience as the kids. Filled with adventure, mystery, and enigmatic characters, Rango is a marvel to look at and a joy to experience. Future animated films need to take a cue from Rango and remember that it doesn’t have to be a bunch of bathroom humor and dance numbers to make a great film. Even though Rango still has those…
TOP 5 WORST OF 2011
1) Green Lantern
A train wreck from frame one. Green Lantern is the perfect example of how DC has no true understanding of its characters like their main competition, Marvel, does. Defend Batman all you want, but we all know the success of that has to do with Chris Nolan, not DC. Green Lantern is misguided, afraid of risk, plays it safe at every turn, and progresses in no way. It’s boring, plodding, ridiculous, and completely asinine in action and suspense. You can’t really blame Ryan Reynolds as he did what he could with what he had, but one can’t help but feel that Green Lantern deserved a more mature, level-headed, and bold venture than the cookie cutter mess we got.
Not so much a “bad” movie as a major disappointment. At least with Snyder you can count on some cool action scenes, but the problem is that those scenes are completely hollow when the “real” story is so absolutely lame. The voice over narration sounds like ramblings from Stephanie Meyer’s junior high poem book and the weird, awkward dance numbers that we never see is a completely stupid plot device. I wanted to love this movie and really felt that I would, but no, even after a second viewing it can’t be saved. This is one for the teenage boys to tug their junk to and that’s about it.
3) Cowboys and Aliens
Harrison Ford! Daniel Craig! Olivia Wilde! Jon Favreau! Box Office Gold? Uh, no. Box Office crud. How they fucked this up so bad I’ll never know. It’s such a misguided mess. It’s way too PG-13 for my taste, which is a major problem in money-hungry Hollywood. So afraid of that R, ‘cause in the end us fanboys and fangirls don’t mean shit to millions of dollars. So, we get this middle-of-the-road snoozefest, chock full of boredom, shit you’ve seen a hundred times before, and aliens that aren’t scary or compelling. Great score by Harry Gregson-Williams that should be repurposed for a better movie. This is the very definition of box office disappointment.
4) Red State
How so many idiots love this movie is beyond me. I think it’s residual loyalty to Kevin Smith, the original fanboy who has lost his way. Smith has veered sharply from his “Clerks” roots and delivered a loosely plotted movie where nothing really happens and everyone lives and breathes as a stereotype. In a movie that is meant to tackle the Westboro Baptist Church protestors, Smith provides no depth or true sense of terror in this so-called “horror” film that merely plods along, making an asshole of everyone in it. This is what happens when independent filmmakers lose their way. God Bless ‘em for trying, but this is just a complete mess of unbelievable schlock. Let’s hope Smith can get back on the yellow brick road someday and get back to what made him great in the first place.
5) Cars 2
Fuck Disney in its greedy asshole for even making this. The first one is mildly entertaining, but the sequel is nothing but a money grab. I had succumbed to buying the stupid toys for my son and watching my living room pile up with all things Cars. After WALKING OUT of Cars 2 I vowed NO MORE! All Cars merchandise has been cleared of my home and Disney will no longer take another CENT from me if they can’t at least make a good movie out of the merchandise they’re spinning then they get the Boycott from the Shirey household. Repetitive, Obnoxious, Childish (moreso then is necessary…I get it’s a kids movie), and a complete snooze.
TOP 5 BEST TV SHOWS OF 2011
1) Game of Thrones
Simply an amazing mix of sword and sorcery fantasy and real-world brutality, Game of Thrones is essentially a political thriller set in the fantasy world of Westeros, where men and women fight for the throne of the realm, doing every unspeakable act you could imagine to one another, simply to sit atop the “iron throne.” Based on the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, the show features fantastic settings, diverse characters, and relatable themes making it the best series on television. I have since read all of the books in the series to date and am anxiously awaiting its return. There is such an awesome cycle of events to come that you can’t help to be excited. Risky, bold, brutal, and creative, this is epic entertainment at its finest. Season 2 starts in April
2) Sons of Anarchy
Season 4 of the FX series saw the motorcycle club return to California after getting out of prison and dealing with a DA bent on catching them on RICO charges, while an alliance with the Mexican Mafia went WAY South of the border. Some truly shocking moments were abound, as is the series’ staple and a major turning point for the overall story projection this season, paving the way to a whole new set of conflicts in season 5. Great acting from leads Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Katie Segal, and a particularly moving one from Maggie Siff, once again proves that SOA is one of most finely tuned shows on TV, consistently bringing the edge. I am in it to the end.
3) American Horror Story
Talk about a show coming out of left field and shocking the hell out of everyone. AHS has to be THE most controversial and awesome show to come along in a long while. While the first season never eluded to it being the ONLY one featuring the characters in it (the show is an anthology, it seems), the characters, themes, and events were epic in scope, jumping from the past to present and never letting you know who was truly alive or dead, the show is amazingly spooky, funny, and intricately woven with simply outstanding performances by the entire cast, including a great return for veteran actress Jessica Lange, who handles her role like an old pro. Can’t wait for season 2!
There’s just no denying that Timothy Olyphant was born to play the role of Raylon Givens. The smooth-talking bad ass federal marshall is every bit the unpredictable hero as we’ve had in a long while, coupled with a great supporting cast, especially Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Givens arch-nemesis and sometimes best friend. Ballsy, fun, action-packed, and jam-packed with character and atmosphere, Justified is the best “cop” show on the airwaves.
5) The Walking Dead
This is a tough call. On one hand I hate “The Walking Dead” and on the other I love it. Having read all the comics to date, I am well-versed in the series created by Robert Kirkman and the hardcore themes it’s dived into. Having that knowledge is a bit of a hindrance while watching the show as it creates expectations that are rarely met as the show’s producers seem to really want to deviate from the source material as much as possible. With that said, the show still excels at creating some genuinely creepy (and gory) moments and is still able to capture the character dynamics of the comic, which are the most important aspects. I am hoping for a speedier season 3, as season 2 lagged for me, although the final episode really brought me back. One of the best zombie tales ever made, the comic deserves a proper adaptation. The show doesn’t always get it right, but the heart and theme are there, which keeps me from not missing it.
TOP 5 I WON’T MISS EVEN IF MY HOUSE BURNS DOWN IN 2012
1) The Avengers
Obvious reasons. Come on, now.
2) The Dark Knight
3) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Again, self explanatory
Ridley Scott back doing an Alien film? Say no more.
5) Django Unchained
Tarantino. DiCaprio. Jamie Fox. Yeah.