I’ve gone on record saying that for the longest time, I was never really a big fan of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise but now, since Justin Lin took over the franchise starting with ‘Tokyo Drift’, I’ve now sort of become a fan. I think 2009’s ‘Fast and Furious’ was really good because it was the first to bring back the cast of the first film under Lin’s direction, but then comes ‘Fast Five’. It’s a film that basically takes the main premise of these movies, street car racing, and switches it out for a heist story. In the case of this film, it works out pretty darn well. Also, this film benefits from the cast’s terrific camaraderie. It’s hard to believe that a franchise would release its best entry to date five films in, but ‘Fast Five’ does just that. This film made me excited for ‘Fast and Furious 6’, a film that dare I say was even better than ‘Fast Five’.
(And yes, on a side note, R.I.P. star Paul Walker, who sadly passed away just a few weeks ago as a result of a car crash. To be honest, I know that they’re currently working on ‘Fast and Furious 7’, but I think they should just cancel the project now out of respect for Walker. I mean, I really don’t know how they could possibly continue the movie now because it wasn’t even finished at the time of his death.)
You can pretty much refer to this as the film that revitalized ‘The Muppets’ film franchise. For a new generation, it’s a great introduction to the franchise and for those longtime fans or those who have grown up with The Muppets like me; this is a much welcome return for these iconic characters. The marketing for the film was really clever, spoofing all of the big films that were coming out at the time and as for the film itself, it’s a nice heartfelt tribute to the franchise. You can clearly see that writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller really care about the property as proved in their writing. It has a bunch of memorable songs (including the Oscar-winning ‘Man or Muppet?’), an entertaining bad guy played by Chris Cooper (“Maniacal Laugh… Maniacal Laugh…”), and overall it does the franchise justice. I am interested to see what they are going to do with the next film, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’, which comes out next March.
Starting things off at Number 10 is a dramedy that manages to blend the two genres together while also doing a great job at handling a difficult subject.
This film is based off the real-life experience that writer Will Reiser had in 2005 when he was diagnosed with spinal cancer. The subject of cancer is obviously a difficult one to work with but when watching this movie, you really get a sense that everyone involved is taking the subject seriously and that’s part of what makes this movie work. Another thing that makes it work so well is the camaraderie between main stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. Together, they produce the comedy of the movie and it works very well. You root for Levitt’s character Adam all the way and sympathize with him when he’s at his lowest of lows. Rogen’s character Kyle may not always seem like he’s helping Adam cope with his cancer (at first, he suggests that he should use it to pick up women) but by the end you see that he really does care a lot. If this movie wasn’t as serious about the topic of cancer as it was, then I don’t think it would have worked out as well.
Number 9 makes this the second year in a row where a film by David Fincher made it in my Top 10. This one doesn’t take the Number 1 spot like ‘The Social Network’ did in 2010 but in the end it’s another fine effort from the director.
9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The American version)
At the time I am writing this, I just recently watched the original Swedish adaptation of the story directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. While I do think the original is a very good movie, I think Fincher’s version is the superior adaptation and no, I do not want this to look like I’m biased either because I’m American or I saw the American version first. I think the newer version is better for one main reason; its execution in regards to tone. I have not read the original novel, but it’s clear that this is a very dark story that is full of murder, rape, and revenge. The Swedish film certainly had that, but with this film, Fincher takes it one step further. As a director, he has been known for creating some unpleasant environments in his films (like in ‘Se7en’ or even ‘Alien 3’) and that is evident in this film. It’s brutal and unrelenting, and yet that’s part of what makes it so compelling. What’s even more compelling is the performance from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Noomi Rapace did an excellent job in the original, but like with this version’s emphasis of its atmosphere and tone, Mara takes the role one step further in her portrayal of this incredibly fascinating character that you just can’t get a beat on. Daniel Craig does an equally terrific job as Mikael Blomkvist and in the end the new version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ manages to outshine its Swedish counterpart mainly because it took the bigger risk.
Remember how I said that the films of 2011 didn’t really get great until May of that year? Well, at Number 8 is the first great film I remember seeing that year.
Since I’ve talked about this one recently, I won’t go into too much detail. Bottom line; Marvel was playing a risk with this one, but Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Chris Hemsworth’s performance are both excellent so in the end, it worked out in Marvel’s favor.
From one superhero film to another, Number 7 is probably my personal favorite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger
Again, I won’t go into this much either because I already did. Chris Evans is fantastic as Steve Rogers/Captain America, it has a great ensemble cast, and an ending that was actually quite emotional.
It’s the fourth film in a series helmed by a director mainly known for animated films; for the record, some of the best animated films ever and as such, he ends up making the best entry in this franchise to date.
6. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The first two films in the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise were unfortunately plagued by one major problem; for a series that put emphasis on the idea of teamwork, these first two films were just ‘the Tom Cruise show’, meaning that his teammates weren’t given as enough character development as they should have. Thankfully, J.J. Abrams’ ‘Mission Impossible 3’ was the first entry in the series that really gave more for the other members of the team to do. Then we have ‘Ghost Protocol’, the first true entry in the series to have a great team. Cruise is still the star, but Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg’s characters are each given proper character development. As for the film itself, Brad Bird’s experience in animation transitions well to live-action; this film has some of the best action scenes in recent memory (this film’s also a must-see in IMAX for that reason). The only complaint; rather weak villains because there are multiple in this film but yet each of them only have generally minor roles in the film. Despite that, this is easily the best film in the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise. Hopefully the next film, despite not being directed by Brad Bird, will continue the idea that there’s no ‘I’ in team.
Marvel had a really good year in 2011, with three excellent entries in the superhero genre. At Number 5, here’s the best Marvel film of the year and arguably one of their best to date.
5. X-Men: First Class
Once again, I’ll keep this short. I’m not really a big ‘X-Men’ fan, but this is my personal favorite. It has great direction from Matthew Vaughn, a cool Bond-like atmosphere, great acting, a great villain; overall, this is a great rebound for the franchise after ‘The Last Stand’ and ‘Origins: Wolverine’.
Biopic films can either be hit or miss, and it usually depends on the performance of its lead actor/actress. With the case of this film, we have one of the best performances ever from a female lead in a film centered on the most famous woman in the world.
4. My Week with Marilyn
The main reason why this film succeeds is that while it’s focused on Marilyn Monroe, the most famous woman in the world even years after her death, it doesn’t try to glorify her. Instead, we get to see a softer and more vulnerable side to the actress that we never really see. The story about Monroe’s experiences while working on the Laurence Oliver film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, where she befriended the third assistant director Colin Clark (played here by Eddie Redmayne) is somewhat debatable over whether or not it’s really true, but it’s a sweet and touching tale that’s pretty much a real-life fantasy. But in the end, this film belongs to Michelle Williams, who is outstanding in the role of Monroe. In all serious, she should have won the Oscar for Best Actress that year (if not her, Rooney Mara, but as a whole, I think Williams has the edge as far as performances go); a major snub by the Academy.
It’s always nice to see an original story in today’s Hollywood, which is full of remakes, reboots, and adaptations of numerous franchises. In the case of this film, we have a loving homage to both the 1970’s and the films of one of the most famous directors in all of Hollywood. It’s a film that slowly becoming one of my personal favorites in the sci-fi genre.
3. Super 8
With ‘Super 8’, director J.J. Abrams pays loving homage to the films of Steven Spielberg; this film has many callbacks to classic Spielberg films, although the Jaws homage (where you don’t see the monster until the end of the film)… was sort of unnecessary. But that’s part of the beauty of this film; when I first saw it, I honestly forgot I was watching an Abrams film. This movie feels so much like a Spielberg film and yet that’s not even a problem. I may not have grown up in the 70’s, but for anyone who did, this movie is pure nostalgia at its finest. Another one of the highlights of the film are the performances, particularly from the kid actors, most of whom were making their big-screen debuts with this film. Lead Joel Courtney in particular shines as Joe Lamb. He’s a very sympathetic and engaging lead character and I hope Courtney gets more work in the future because this is one of the best performances from a child actor that I have ever seen. Like I said, ‘Super 8’ has become one of my personal favorites and it’s both one of my all-time favorite original films and sci-fi films. Kudos to J.J. Abrams for making this excellent film.
Number 2 holds the honor of being the most underrated film of 2011; a film that serves as the modern-day parallel to a classic sports film that’s just as emotionally-gripping.
In a sense, ‘Warrior’ is the modern-day version of ‘Rocky’ but it manages something that you wouldn’t expect. For a film that is focused around two characters who end up fighting each other at the end of the film, you end up liking both of them in the end (neither is played out to be the bad guy), although at first Joel Edgerton’s character was more likable while Tom Hardy’s character initially comes off as a jerk. The writing is excellent, with a gripping tale of a family that has been torn apart and I guarantee that this is a movie that will have guys shedding man-tears. It’s phenomenally acted from all involved, including Hardy, Edgerton, and Nick Nolte (who earned himself a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). So why did this film underperform at the box office? Well, I’m guessing that’s either because MMA is not really the most popular sport out there or, at the time this came out, it didn’t really have a notable cast (sure, Hardy and Edgerton are big now, but that wasn’t really the case when this film came out). Still, this is one of the best films of the year and as such, this is one I highly recommend. You don’t have to be a fan of MMA to like this film.
Finally, taking the Number 1 spot on this list is the epic finale to one of the best film franchises ever, and boy did it go out with a bang (figuratively and literally)
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
As I said in the last list, the decision to split ‘Deathly Hallows’ into two films ultimately worked out in its favor because not only did the filmmakers have enough to work with, but they successfully ended ‘Part 1’ at the right time in order to set up what’s to come for ‘Part 2’. ‘Part 2’ ends on a high-note with the terrific final battle between Harry and his allies and Voldemort’s army at Hogwarts; the movie may be one of the shorter entries in the series but it’s entertaining from beginning to end. My only real complaint with this film is that some of the major deaths are sort of glanced over. Like I said, this is one of the shorter films so it would be nice if they gave us more time to mourn the dead. Still, this movie serves as the proper finale to the ‘Harry Potter’ series, the only series I can think of where every movie in the series, one that has gone on for eight films, is terrific.
And those are my picks for the Top 10 Best Films for both 2010 and 2011. Check back soon for my lists for the Top 10 best and worst films of 2013.