I have to confess that I haven’t seen many of the more prestige films this year, only the big-budget tent pole type. So I don’t know how credible I am by naming the top film best films of 2011 even though I haven’t seen a lot of the films that came out this year. So I guess you could say these are my five favorite films that I saw in 2011:
5. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
I’ve seen this film twice now and I thought it was a lot of fun. To me the film feels like an old James Bond flick from the 60s but with 21st century action sequences and gadgets. Brad Bird did a great job of staging some of the most exciting action sequences ever put on film, my favorite has to be the car chase in the sandstorm. By filming all of the action scenes with IMAX cameras, audiences felt like they’re part of the action once those scenes unfolds on the tall giant screen. It’s hard to make an action film without lots of explosions and shootouts, but believe it or not, this latest Mission film only has one explosion in the entire film and hardly had any gun play. In fact, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character never even fires a gun the film, while in the last two films he was like a madman with machine guns and pistols. Again, a great fun action thriller and see it on a real IMAX theater if you can.
[rtm note: read my full review of MI4]
4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I thought this film was the best reboot/prequel since Batman Begins. Yes it has some plot holes and the human characters were underdeveloped but the film was about the ape Caesar and Andy Surkis did such a great job portraying that character through motion capture. The big climax sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the best action sequences I’ve seen all year. I think the reason I put this film up so high on my list is because I didn’t expect much from it when it was first announced. I thought to myself, really another Planet of the Apes film? Didn’t the Tim Burton’s remake already ruined the franchise? Well when I finally saw it, I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it. Fox did a great job of switching the release date by moving it up from November of this year to August, the film was one of the biggest hits of the summer.
[rtm note: read my full review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes]
3. 13 Assassins
Technically this film was from 2010 but it didn’t get released in the States until April of this year, so I can include it on this list. I used to watch so many Samurai films when I was younger and seeing this film reminds me of my childhood. Takashi Miike, whose films mostly were known for their weirdness and extreme violence, made one heck of an epic Samurai film. The story’s pretty simple and easy to follow and that big battle at the end rivals any $100mil action films made in Hollywood in recent years. If this film doesn’t get a nomination for best foreign film at the Oscars next year, then I think the Oscar voters has lost their minds.
2. Tree of Life
I decided not to go see this film in theater because the last time I saw a Terrance Malick’s film in theater, The New World, some of the audiences just didn’t have the decency to shut the hell up and enjoy his visual story telling style. So I waited till it hits Blu-ray and watch it on my mini home theater. It’s pretty much what I expected from Malick and since I already read the script I sort of knew what I was getting into. He didn’t disappoint and yes it’s one of the most pretentious films he’s ever made but it’s a damn good one. I’ve only seen it once, so I can’t decide if it’s one of Malick’s best films yet but I think it’s better than The New World.
Another film that some have said it’s quite pretentious and I won’t argue with that, but it’s damn good pretentious film. I was never a fan of Ryan Gosling, in fact this is only the second film I saw with him as the lead. He was totally in command as the nameless Driver and pretty good as an action hero too. But I believe the film work so well was because of director Nicolas Winding Refn. He took a pretty straight forward genre and turned it into a cool hypnotic action thriller, reminds me of the old action films from the 70s and early 80s. In fact, I wonder if Refn watched Walter Hill’s 1978’s The Driver before he made this film. They both have similar style of storytelling and the main character was never mention by name except being call the Driver. I haven’t seen The Driver in a while but I believe Drive is a much better film. The film comes out on DVD/BD late next month and I can’t wait to see it again.
Stay tuned for Ruth’s Year in Review coming up this Saturday
Thoughts on any of my picks? I’d love to hear it.