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Great and Bad Movies of 2011

  • Jan 1, 2012
2011 is over, and 2012 is now here. I suppose it is once again time for me to make a "best list". Granted that I haven't exactly seen that many movies in theaters this year compared to 2010, and I was a little late for several films. I have to admit, this year, I have seen a little more "bad-mediocre" movies than I'd like; but considering the bad movies out there, I think I did a good job sorting past the bad ones. Most of the movies this year wasn't that impressive but some did stand out. So I suppose I should just make this a mere "Great and Bad" list. (too late to make this a naughty or nice list)

Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to change this list once I sort through some of the movies still on my shelf and catch up on the limited screenings. Please take note that foreign movies from 2010 may be included since their release in the States is delayed by almost a year (in the case of "Leaving", the U.S. theater limited release was late 2010, dvd was released even later) . I also try not to include movies in this list that I haven't reviewed; in case, I didn't include some movies this would be the reason why.

This list is not in the order of how much I liked or disliked the film, but rather how a film made an impact, how entertaining and just how much I was disappointed by certain ones....movies are all based on one's personal tastes.
The Man from Nowhere
Great: The film that shattered all box-office receipts in its native Korea in late 2010 (including Hollywood films). Part "Man on Fire", Part "The Professional", the film has a lot of emotion adnd depth to its characters. "The Man from Nowhere" showcases one of the best knife-fights ever filmed (surpasses the one in the Korean hit "Open City"). But it is not all about action and cool attitude, the film gives the hero a reason worth fighting for; A young child and his own soul.
See the full review, "An Awesome Action Film That Almost Came From "Nowhere"!!".
Killer Elite
Bad: Not really sure, the supposed true story appears to have been merely misrepresented and the action while cool, was very untidy. It all seems like another one of those clichéd Hollywood offerings that didn't make my trip to the theater worthwhile. The film is definitely misdirected and underwritten; and the film feels like an opposite of what the source material could've been. The trailers did as advertise, and "Killer Elite" is one messy action trailer.
See the full review, "Based On The Book That Sparked Controversy?".
13 Assassins
Great: A remake of the classic Jidai Geki film, Japanese director Takashi Miike brings an update that surpasses the samurai classic and may be one of his finest films. A classic tale of honor, duty and courage. This film is hard to beat. When I heard Takashi Miike was doing a samurai film (jidai geki) called "13 Assassins", I was both ecstatic and at the same time quite curious how he would pull off a remake of a 1963 classic by Eiichi Kudo. Ok, admittedly, I was also a bit concerned since I wasn't too impressed with his fantasy "Izo"; Miike just takes supreme delight in depicting on-screen suffering. But surprisingly, Miike keeps to the style that has made him one of Japan's most acclaimed directors while channeling the works of classic chambara films Kobayashi, Okamoto and Imai. Like the Coen brothers' "True Grit" he may have improved and surpassed the original.
See the full review, "Takashi Miike's Remake of The 1963 Samurai Classic Film is Spectacular!!".
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Bad: "Dark of the Moon" does have some robotic apocalyptic drama going for it; it had a more inspired plot than the first sequel, but I have said it before and I will say it again. Michael Bay is a decent action director but his skill in storytelling and this time editing is just so ham-fisted and callous. The film is just too long to get around with its bad scripting. It does have its share of grittiness, it only does it right 50 % of the time. The other half is all about things you wouldn't care at all. It spends too much time with the bad parts just to get to the good parts, and when it does, you just become uninterested and barely even care anymore.
See the full review, "Too Much Excessive, Inane Issues Hamper The Potential Gritty Appeal of The Robot Fights...".
I Saw the Devil
Great: Kim Jee-Won had once again won me over with one of his films. Ultra-violent, but filled with narrative emotion, this is what Korean action-horror is all about. Amazing film about revenge, its consequences and what exactly defines a monster. Imagine Jason Bourne hunting down Hannibal Lecter and you will have an idea what the movie is all about.
See the full review, "Send A Monster To Catch A Monster..."Jason Bourne Hunts Down Hannibal Lecter"!!".
The Warring State
Bad: A beautiful film. However, the script is too incoherent and relies on the viewer's ability to put things together by their knowledge of Chinese history. It can be quite a chore to follow the screenplay as it does feel very episodic but it isn't the worst historical film I've seen. It just feels to be overreaching at times in making a grand epic that it lived around the assumption that only Chinese moviegoers would go see it. The film feels very superficial as it seemed to have forgotten to develop the story and characters.
See the full review, "An Episodic and Incoherent Attempt On A Grand Historical Epic...".
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicor
Great: The Best animated film this year. Spielberg shows his stuff when it comes to animation and he doesn't disappoint. The film is endearingly funny, action-packed and clever; thanks to its sharp dialogue and script, I am all in for a sequel.
See the full review, "Great Snakes!! Tintin is A Rip-Roaring, Globe-Trekking CGI-Animated High Adventure!".
Season of the Witch
Bad: A bad script, lousy dialogue and pretentious story, nothing but an action film masked as a horror-medieval-thriller. Cramps too much in one thing and ends up caving in on itself. The film does hit some areas of suspense and the film had its moments when it comes to action, but its over-reliance to visual effects hamper whatever emotions the film manages to instill in me.
See the full review, "A Medieval Horror- Action-Fantasy That is Not A "Season" After All!".
Great: Director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser's "50/50" has done something different since it goes into its bleak and heartbreaking premise with a serious-minded comedic approach that just works. The film is perfectly balanced and feels very sincere and real as it goes into the story with a profound honesty that feels very fresh. The film is loosely based on Reiser's own life. "50/50's" success comes from the fact that it sidesteps the expectations that it would leave people sad and depressed. In doing so, it becomes a tight, well-executed dramedy that covers all the different possibilities that may stem from a situation like Adam's.
See the full review, "The Odds Are Good That You Would Love This Film!".
Green Lantern (2011)
Bad: "In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, I wish this movie had escaped my sight....let those who worship Reynold's might, beware the critics...Blake Lively's Light!!"
See the full review, "The Emerald Warrior In His First Full-Length Feature A Poozer* !!".
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Great: The kind of movie that requires absolute attention and patience. This film has dialogue that says a lot, with expressions and gestures that tend to question the motivations behind it. It gets the right execution with the simple script of 'who is a spy?" as the viewer is taken to the depths of the investigation step by step. A film for the esoteric few.
See the full review, "A Rare, Methodical, Tense, Mind-Numbing Spy Drama For The Experienced Film Fan".
Priest (2011 film)
Bad: Another manga adaptation that they botched. Maggie Q. deserved a better film. "Priest" is hollow and while it wasn't the worst movie I've seen, but there just wasn't much that happens in it; I do feel that there is a sequel planned but we shall see. There is some coolness about it, it just didn't know how to capitalize on them. At its best, it was a simple ‘kidnap and rescue' story with predictable twists, wild slow-motion sequences and cool attitude. Which is too bad, given its potentials
See the full review, "Forgive Me, Father, For I Have Slain...".
The Conspirator
Great: The story of the trial of Mary Surrat, the first woman who had been executed for a crime. "The Conspirator" is a very good wartime courtroom drama that made me wonder and ponder how the needs of a majority can define justice or the supposed goal for justice. There is a line in the film that made me cringe; that during wartime, the laws will have to be ignored. I've read somewhere that laws don't apply when a nation is at war, so I guess what Redford is trying to ask the audience is; "should laws be sacrificed during war or the threat of war?".
See the full review, "During Wartime, Is It Right To Be Found Guilty Until Proven Innocent?".
Bad: A predictable film that relies on formula and stays within those weaknesses. It is a crowd-pleaser, and yet, once you stop and think about what you have seen, you lose interest and admittedly it was just filled with canned romance that I found it hard to care about the characters. It felt a little lazy, and it stooped to the formulas of a commercial film, when the potential was just there and the direction just chose to ignore them. Too bad, it could've been a lot better.
See the full review, "A Tale As Old As Time...Beauty and The "Beastly" For a Modern Age....".
The Debt
Great: Drama, spy thriller and human weaknesses and power done right. I was very impressed how the film made its characters deep, strong and real; it also helped that it made the two time periods an expression of how the past can define someone, and yet, one's choices are the truly the things that can define a person.
See the full review, "A Debt Of Honor and Every Secret Needs To Be Paid....".
The Darkest Hour (2011)
Bad: Ok, so I was nursing a hangover when I saw this film. Not absolutely terrible, but the overused premise just stuck to formula. It never took the time to take advantage of its backdrop, and what you get is a mediocre film built on another alien invasion with boring characters and routine screenplay.
See the full review, "An Alien Horror Together In "Electric Dreams".....".
Dragon: Day of Reckoning (U.S. Title, aka. WuXia)
Great:  Maybe the Hong Kong martial arts film to best in 2011. Extremely entertaining to watch with "A History of Violence" and "Sherlock Holmes" inspiration. I have to admit "Wuxia" may be more on the side of style than intricate plotting but damned if I said that the film isn't immensely entertaining. It may be one of the best Hong Kong produced movies aimed for Mainland China….
See the full review, "Peter Chan and Donnie Yen Re-invigorate The Wuxia Genre With This Latest Film!".
I Am Number Four
Bad: Teresa Palmer makes for a great female butt-kicker, but the rest of the film tries to incorporate angst-ridden elements that it misses all the good things in the script made by its fast-paced premise. It would only be a matter of time before the influences of "Twilight" would branch out to an action-fantasy about aliens from another planet...
See the full review, ""Four" is The Number For a Teen Movie Masquerading As A Fantasy-Action Film!".
Great: Gore Verbinski scores with this fairy-tale-western animated film. I have to say that the film feels like it has been written by someone who has seen one dumbed-down animated film too many. He tries to do something new and original as in depth, tone and mood. What happens is a film that can cater mostly to adults with a fondness for animated films. "Rango" is more clever than most animated films I've seen; and definitely a step in the right direction.
See the full review, "Clever, Fun and Entertaining....Johnny Depp Rides On As "Rango"!".
The Rite
Missed Opportunity-Bad: Strong first half and loses hold of its narrative in the second half, my disappointment with this film stems from its supposed strength and it does nothing with it. It has a strong lead, and a decent secondary, but it just didn't do anything with the concept. In the end, it merely touches upon, but never fully brings its Catholic and religious themes home; I felt like I waited around for something evocative, but it never came. It isn't a total loss, since it has its strong points; it is just a shame that it could've been a terrific spiritual and emotional drama, that goes for a struggle of reason, science and faith but it ends up being your usual horror film.
See the full review, "This Horror Movie Almost Had The "Rite" Stuff....".
Mission: Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol
Great: Tom Cruise may be the lead star, but this is Brad Bird's shining moment as a new action director. The plot's simple nature may be typical and offers no surprises, but the way the action drove the film never felt pretentious and it allowed the viewer to like the characters through those same action scenes as we see them bicker, argue, be afraid or angry. The film is just so much fun to watch despite the advertising plugs by automobile giant BMW. What Cruise does on-screen is the same thing we've seen before, it just feels fresher because of Bird's careful hand as director. If Cruise is on "cruise control", director Brad Bird just became a star in the action genre.
See the full review, "On "Cruise Control" But This Sequel Rules As Director Brad Bird's Breakout Action Film!".
Cold Fish
Great: Not a movie for everyone and certainly not for the squemish. There is a reason why I like Japanese horror films and this is a reminder why. The film is based on a true story and the manner that Sono executes the screenplay is pretty unsettling and allows the characters to define the story. He has made a character-driven movie while containing all the themes that made him different from other filmmakers. Sion Sono's intentions in the film are not to display the raw brutality the Muratas are capable of, but rather through this brutality we get to witness the psyche of an ordinary man. It is almost as if it is a sort of a rebirth, as the viewer is taken to depths of an experience and a viewer has to understand the fears, the concerns of such a man.
See the full review, "A Strong, Powerful and Punishing Work By Sion Sono".
The Green Hornet (2011 movie)
Bad:  Ok, the film has good moments and it did have good production values. It does have all the stuff that would make a popcorn film good and is never dull. But, once you get pass those, it all ends up to be boring. Jay Chou almost saves the film, but the slapstick humor became unwelcome. It is based on the TV series, and it feels awful that this was a supposed 'homage' to it.
See the full review, "A MASKED Slapstick Buddy Comedy!".
Great: I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this film. I mean, it looked to be your usual 'unfaithful wife' premise but the way the direction and the script overcomes it was just very ambitious and arguably bold. "Leaving" serves as a cautionary tale for those who are considering having an affair. Are you sure you have everything planned out? It also serves as a tale of individuality. A man and a woman has to maintain a manner of individualism, despite a marriage. Remember the old saying "married, but not dead"? "Leaving" is a film about human reactions, desires and inner struggle. It has the right blend of drama, eroticism and tragedy that proved very compelling, engaging and has surpassed my expectations on films with similar themes.
See the full review, "When Infidelity Becomes An Inner Struggle For Individuality....".

What did you think of this list?

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March 30, 2012
Now, that's a cool way to do a list -- back and forth like that. Interesting. There are some on here I haven't even gotten around to seeing yet, I'm so fickle. If something doesn't strike a bell with me (like TINTIN), then I just have so much apathy about seeing it. Oh, well.
January 08, 2012
I actually liked killer elite and Beastly seemed like it was obviously gonna suck but i didn't know tinker,tailor,soldier,spy was out yet
January 08, 2012
I caught an advance limited screening of "Tinker" lucky. :)
January 05, 2012
I haven't seen most of these but your list comprised of the Good vs the Bad & it feels to me that's the theme of most of these movies as well! It's kinda like venturing into the dark side of humanity and in search of light! ;-)
January 05, 2012
Those are some nice observations. I am impressed, I was kinda shooting for that and I am glad you got it.
January 05, 2012
It wasn't that hard to get :) Just took a look and that's what my instinct tells me and I trust my intuition quite a bit!
January 03, 2012
Amazing list WP, you had me cracking up with some of the stuff you said about your bad picks.
January 03, 2012
oh, you mean the one with "green lantern"? Blake Lively was the only thing that saved that one for me...LOL!
January 02, 2012
Very nice. I finally saw "Tintin" and was a little disappointed that the focus was more on action than on story or character, but I did enjoy it a lot. Definitely at least a 3.5 from me.
January 03, 2012
Yeah, I understand. As much as I loved the film, and I would add it to my collection, I feel that it comes short of its 4.5 being rounded up to a 5. Still expectations can either make or break one's liking of a film.
January 05, 2012
I agree with Sean. Although I haven't seen "Tintin", a movie that focuses on action at the expense of story &/or character loses its sparkle one way or another. We need a deep sense of meaning, I think.
January 05, 2012
well, Sharrie, just remember it is an animated film and adapted from 3 books. I bet if it did focus on characters then they should have made the first book the first film. There's nothing wrong with action. I am not a huge Tintin fan, but I was glad that I was able to appreciate the film.

Remember "look for what the filmmakers are trying to express rather than what you want to see in a film..." as I always say when watching/reviewing a film.  After all, it is Spielberg's Tintin not woopak or Orlok's Tintin. :)
January 02, 2012
I like this neat independent and alternative list. I only saw 'Priest' and 'Rango,' and I couldn't agree more.
January 02, 2012
Thanks, JP! I hope you do give the 'great' ones here a try.
January 01, 2012
Great list Will - The Rite was OK for me, it was tolerable but not as good as I expected it would be, Season Of The Witch was horrible, Rango was fabulous for me and I loved it, and there are a few on the list I really want to see. I never bothered with Transformers; I liked the first one but that's as far as that went - and of course Mission Impossible is a definite no-see for me LOL I have made a resolution that I will see many movies this new year, and I use you as a guide for this..LOL -- you did a fab job explaining in few words why you did or did not like the movies--wonderful review/list!!!!
January 01, 2012
I knew you would dig Rango....sorry his other two movies this year didn't make this list.
January 02, 2012
As much as I adore Depp, I don't always love the movies he plays in. I always like his performance no matter what, but if the rest of the movie sucks then it's forgettable for me. I tried to watch Sweeney Todd; he was one great creepy though hot character, but I could only do 15 minutes of the movie cuz I hate musicals LOL -- I really would have loved Rango even if he didn't play in it, but yes, he brought a certain style to his character that made it even more enjoyable for me. Thanks Will!
January 02, 2012
I liked Sweeney Todd....and I am not fond of musicals. I guess its horror aspects appealed to me. I kinda hoped that The Rum Diaries could've been better.
January 02, 2012
The horror aspects reeled me in as well - how one man can look downright creepy and still look hot is beyond me, but I just couldn't take all the singing. I'll rent the Rum Diaries at some point, but I'm not expecting to like it much. I did break down (despite Jolie) and saw The Tourist but never finished it cuz it bored the hell out of me - unbelievable.
January 01, 2012
Interesting list. There are many here that I haven't seen, in part because of my own disinterest (I admit to not being the biggest fan of Asian cinema) but also because of time and other personal factors. I'm especially mad at myself for missing 50/50, as I've heard nothing but good things.
January 01, 2012
I do have to encourage you in seeing the first three "Great" Asian movies in this list. Have you seen "Oldboy"? 50/50 is pretty awesome!
January 01, 2012
No, I haven't.
January 02, 2012
Oldboy is one of my absolute faves in Korean cinema. Also, I am eagerly awaiting your thoughts on 50/50...I am sure you are at least renting it.
January 02, 2012
For the time being, I'm just going to let go of the films I missed and just focus on the new releases. Given time, I'll revisit it.
January 01, 2012
I can only think of one u missed william...that awful battle los angeles movie...blah otherwise quite well rounded...btw happy new yr!
January 01, 2012
I actually enjoyed Battle where is that review for THE RING at? LOL!
January 01, 2012
Its safely hidden away in its factory sealed plastic...i lived through last nights chemical assult on my brain i dont really want to die of fear now!
January 01, 2012
LMAO! you always seem to have interesting comments when it comes to that film.... :)
January 02, 2012
Im not easy to scare so something that can actually accomplish it earns my respect lol
January 02, 2012
you mean you are terrified of this?

or this?

January 02, 2012
Oh thats just low...if i die of a heart attack i know exactly who im haunting for all eterrnity haha
January 02, 2012
hee-hee....haunt away, and we can watch THE RING together LOL!
January 02, 2012
Haha o yeah i could just see how that would go...even as a dead being id still be scared and would open up a whole new line of sh#t talking for you. No thanx ill just haunt u secretly by doing irritating things that only the dead get away with like taking the remote batteries and opening random cabnets lol
January 02, 2012
LOL! But then I will always be having the dvds of the RING in the house...that'll be interesting. :)
March 30, 2012
Meghan, guess what I bought on bluray?
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Holy Moly, if it didn't have a super hero in it, I probably didn't see it. Not much really grabbed me this year. Let me take a look again at the movies …
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