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J.D.'s Top Ten Movies of 2011

This is the time for lists. Lists of resolutions, lists of what was good and what was bad. This is one of those lists. Here are my top ten favorite movies from 2011.

10 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - This was a wonderful, amazing movie with everything that I could've wanted. Except it was also an example of why you shouldn't split movies up into two or more parts. All of the pathos and momentum gained from part one was lost in this non-stop installment. What should have been a moving and triumphant finale felt a little shallow. Still, it was amazing to watch.

9 - The Adjustment Bureau - Another Phillip K. Dick adaptation. This one is a little more fantastic than most, and it could've benefited from being a little bolder with the interpretation. But I really enjoyed the fight against fate, and the concept that cosmic design isn't set in stone.

8 - Sucker Punch - Excessive, loud, and more than a little tragic. This wasn't a film everyone would enjoy, but I did. Hidden in all the style and noise was a rather deep story of a very lost young woman. I just wish it hadn't hidden its substance so well.

7 - The Lincoln Lawyer - This was adapted from a book of the same name, and was done really well. There were great performances, and it was tightly scripted and paced so that it never got boring. The only real problem for me was that it felt a little too familiar, as if I had seen it before but wrapped in a different package.

6 - In Time - This was a fascinating attempt at a hardcore science fiction movie that had mixed results. Here is my full review.

5 - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - This felt more like Mission Impossible than the last two did. It wasn't so much an action movie; it was more of an intricate puzzle. Tom Cruise was his standard self, but the scene stealer was really Simon Pegg who gave the film its lighthearted nature. I would strongly recommend watching MI:III first since there are things in this one that are directly related. I do think this is the best attempt of the series so far.

4 - X-Men: First Class - Better than any of the previous installments, and excellent from start to finish. I wouldn't go so far as to set this film alongside The Dark Knight, but it was a solid 3 1/2 star movie for me. Set in the 1960's right around the time of the Bay of Pigs, this tells the story of how the X-Men came to be. It has fully fleshed out characters, a positive message of hope and humanity set in a time of impending doom, and carefully crafted special effects that were tools of the story instead of a story told around effects.

3 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes - This serves as a prequel to Planet of the Apes, and also as the start of a new franchise. They took the threads of the events that proceeded the original movie, deconstructed them, and then set them in modern day. The effects were awesome, if a little clumsy at times. But it was primarily a character piece, and in that it really excelled. I would have no problem setting this movie next to the original, because I feel it was that good.

2 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - I would give a more detailed impression of my thoughts about this movie, but I've already reviewed it.

1 - Source Code - Brilliant and oddly uplifting with the right touch of tragedy, this was the best kind of science fiction. Based on a single premise with extremely complex implications, it drew you into the characters and the situation, created tense drama, and still managed to say something about the nature of humanity. I loved this movie, and it was one of the few that I've seen in the theater twice this year. It was reviewed by Billie Doux.

Honorable Mentions:

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 - I liked it, but I'm a fan of the franchise. Check out my review here.

Limitless - Just short of being really excellent, this movie suffered from just a bit too much style. It has a fascinating premise, and some really
interesting ideas. I liked the performances and the concept enough that its failings didn't bother me.

The Mechanic - Wild, violent, and compelling. This Jason Statham vehicle pushed the believability line to the limit. Still it was a lot of fun, and had some rather enjoyable moments of intrigue and action.

Captain America - This was a really solid superhero movie. Although it was predictable, it gave us some good performances, especially from the lead. Unfortunately, it was mostly set up for this year's tent-pole movie, The Avengers. Mark Greig reviewed this one.

Thor - Another solid superhero movie. It was a little long, and a little hard to suspend disbelief. Yet it was endearing, and the lead was really likable. Mark Greig also reviewed this one.

One Bad Recommendation:

Every year there are some very one star movies, the worst of the worst, the dregs of year. Movies that should be avoided and ridiculed, and share the basement with horrible masterpieces like Battlefield Earth. However, sometimes one of these terrible movies is actually a bit of a diamond in the rough. These gems of bad movies have the rare honor of being cult classics. So it is with somewhat resigned bemusement that I recommend:

Drive Angry 3D - This is my guilty pleasure movie of the year. It was so bad it was good. Nic Cage was at his campy best, Amber Heard was decent as the kick ass heroine, and William Fichter was wonderfully zany as an unstoppable... something, I don't really have a good explanation for what he was. There was nothing really exceptional about this movie. It didn't have any redeeming qualities except for the fact it was absurd. At least it knew it was absurd and ran with it. If I had to recommend any one star movie from last year, it would be this one.

I hope you all have a happy New Year of movie watching! You can check out all the stuff I'm looking forward to in Mark Greig's 2012 Film Preview.
Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.


  1. This is a fun post, J.D. -- thanks. I haven't seen all that many movies this year, but I definitely agree with you about Source Code, The Adjustment Bureau, The Lincoln Lawyer and The Mechanic. (I don't know why, but I really like Jason Statham.) A few of your other recommendations are on my "to see" list.

  2. Hey J.D. You, me and my friend Mikaela are the only people I know who like Sucker Punch. I agree that the story was deceptively deep. It was like a collection of jazzy set pieces, great music, and cool one liners.

    The Adjustment Bureau I'm in two minds about. I do love PKD, and I loved Damon and Blunt's characters. But having a romance at the centre of the story felt like something of a cop out. It reminded me a little of the last season of Lost. The story they ended up telling was nowhere near as interesting of the story they could have told.

  3. Having a romance at the center of The Adjustment Bureau probably made me like it more. :)

  4. Thanks for the list, J.D. Like Billie, I saw very few movies this past year, so it is good to get a taste of what was entertaining and maybe worth checking out on DVD.

    I did manage to see a few of the flicks on your list, and I definitely agree with you on Harry Potter and X-Men. Michael Fassbender's Magneto was really something to behold.

    I liked Sucker Punch, too. I actually felt confused and rather overwhelmed through most of it, but then at the very end, I suddenly felt like maybe the movie was telling a different story than I thought for most of its run. And that different story seemed much deeper and more resonant. I'm glad to know a few other people liked this one, too.

    One film I really enjoyed this year, which didn't make your cut, was Super 8. I wasn't completely thrilled with the resolution on the sci fi front, but I thought the core story about the kids and Joe's strained relationship with his dad was incredibly compelling and emotionally resonant. And some of the special effects and action sequences were pretty awesome, too.

  5. I enjoyed Super 8, too. Just rented it a few weeks ago. It had so much going for it. I think it just missed being really good.

  6. I don't know whether I said this here, but when I went to the movies with a friend of mine (a girl, by the way) to see The Adjustment Bureau, we could barely follow the story throughout the 3rd act because Emily Blunt's cleavage was really, really distracting. I'm not complaining. And I'm not usually one to be distracted by these things. I can usually go like "yummy!" and pay attention to the movie.

  7. Source Code was exceptional: skilfully written, beautifully shot and acted. Every so often you get reminders that Jake Gyllenhaal has a huge amount of talent and he's one to watch for the future. It's a shame it didn't do better at the box office.

    Another Earth blew me away, a really powerful character piece built around a thought-provoking sci-fi idea. The shots of Earth 2, hanging in the sky, were remarkable for a film done on such a small budget

    Thor and Captain and America were great fun while Rise of the Planet of the Apes and X Men: First Class had a bit more depth.


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