Counting down to 2012 – Ted’s Top Five Movies of 2011

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.

1. Drive

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.

Guest Post: Five Favorite Movies with a Twist Ending

With the recent release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to Planet of the Apes, it got me thinking of films with twist/surprise/shocking ending. Since the original 1968’s ‘Apes’ movie was the godfather of twist ending, I figure I should list my favorite films that has a surprise ending. Don’t worry, there won’t be any mentions of M. Night’s films, I think that’s too obvious to name one of his films here. Although I still think Unbreakable’s ending was pretty cool and shocking (well it was shocking to me when I first saw it anyway).

— Spoiler alert! —
If you haven’t seen some or any of the films listed below, I’d recommend you don’t read any further. Unless you don’t intend to see any of these films (or don’t mind the spoiler), then by all means read on.

So here are the films with ending I didn’t see it coming:

1. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Why not start with the godfather of shocking ending right? The original Planet of the Apes ending’s wasn’t as true to the novel but it’s way better than the Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Throughout the film, Charlton Heston’s character believed he was on a different planet that‘s ruled by apes, well the last shot of the film showed the floating head of the Statue of Liberty on the beach and he realized he’s already home. Classic!

2. No Way Out
This underrated and little-seen suspense thriller from 1987 was truly nail-biting and had a nice twist ending. Kevin Costner starred as a Navy Officer who was working under a powerful Secretary of Defense, played by Gene Hackman. Costner’s character had an affair with Hackman’s mistress, played by Sean Young. About 30 minutes into the film, Hackman’s character accidentally killed his mistress. So in order to cover up the murder, Hackman’s right hand man, played brilliantly by Will Patton, cooked up a story of how she was having an affair with a Russian spy named Yuri and Yuri was the one who killed her. They’ve decided to bring in Costner’s character to lead the investigation, the two of them doesn’t know that Costner was having an affair with Young‘s character. So upon finding out Young’s character was killed, not only did Costner have to find this so-called spy Yuri, he must also try to keep his boss from knowing that he was the one who’s been sleeping with his mistress!

Before I give away the twist ending, I really hope those who’ve never seen this film to check this out. It’s really a great suspense thriller and all the performances were quite great, especially Costner, Hackman and Patton.

So after everything happened in the film, we found out at the end that Costner’s character was actually a Russian spy named Yuri and his mission was to have an affair with his boss’ mistress. I know it might not make much sense for those who’ve never seen the film, but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

3. Sleepaway Camp
This film came out in the early 80s, the time when slasher horror flicks were everywhere. What sets this one apart was the shocking ending. I mean seriously the first time I saw it, the ending freaked me out. The story is about a young shy girl who was sent to a camp and suddenly people in the camp were being killed one by one. Well, we find out the killer was actually the shy girl and she is actually a he. Trust me, when you see the film, you’ll understand why it freaked me out. Do check it out if you’ve never seen it.

4. Memento
Chris Nolan’s second film was probably one of the best films of 2000s in my opinion. I won’t go into the plot since I believe most people have seen this film already. I do want to know though, if you’re a fan of this film, what do you think of the ending? Personally I think it was great, here’s a guy who believed that he has this “disease” and will do whatever it takes to make people believe that he has this short term memory. Truly a classic suspense thriller that will have people talking for years to come.

5. Don’t Look Now
This 1973 thriller was probably one of the best of the genre I’ve ever seen. Again if you’ve never seen it, please check it out before reading my spoiler. The film is about a couple who are living in Venice, Italy and grieving the death of their daughter. The husband, played by Donald Sutherland, starts seeing a series of disturbing and fragmented premonitions which coincides with a series of murders in the city. He also sees a little figure who wears the same red-hooded cloak that his daughter wore when she died of drowning. He decides to follow this person who’s wearing the red cloak, a decision he’d surely regret.

When Sutherland’s character finally caught up with the little hooded figure, he turns out to be the little person who was responsible for the murders in the city. And of course Sutherland was killed by this little murderer. I know it doesn’t sound as shocking when you read about it now, but when you see the entire thing, you’ll know why I put this film on this list.


Well those are some of my favorite twist ending films. Name yours in the comments below.

FlixChatter Review: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

As I said in my weekend roundup post, this film was such a pleasant surprise as I really wasn’t that interested in seeing it. In fact, when the trailer came out a few months ago, I quickly dismissed it, saying that it looked ridiculous and so darn obvious that the apes will go y’know, ape-sh*t if they were made to be intelligent, I mean, we’re talking about wild animals here.

But I’m glad my husband persuaded me to see this film as I ended up really enjoying it!

You’re probably already familiar with the story when man’s experiments with genetic engineering gone wrong as the intelligent apes end up embarking in a war to gain dominance in society. This latest version is an origin story of how the apes got to be ultra smart to begin with, thus a prequel to the 1968 version with Charlton Heston where humans in the Planet of the Apes have become inferior beings.

The star of the film is no doubt the Ape itself, Caesar, played by the motion-capture virtuoso, Andy Serkis. This is not the first time he played one on film, having portrayed the king of all cinematic primate, King Kong, in 2005. Caesar is raised from the time he was an infant by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), who is working on a cure for Alzheimer at Gene Sys Corporation. By taking home baby Caesar, he defies orders from his boss to shut down the drug project after one of the apes injected with the drug wreak havoc inside the company’s headquarter.

Will’s dad Charles, who’s suffering from Alzheimer (John Lithgow) welcomes Caesar wholeheartedly and he soon became part of their family. The first act of the film shows the bond between the ultra intelligent chimpanzee growing up in the attic, treated more like a child instead of a pet, but sheltered from the outside world. The movie moves along at a proper pace, allowing us to sympathize with Caesar but there is always this unsettling atmosphere that things will eventually go awry. As you perhaps have seen in the trailer/clips, things did go wrong… and we’re treated to one of the most disturbing yet emotional scenes in the film.

The film’s mood grows more sinister as Caesar is moved to a primate shelter owned by the Landon family. Right away we’re shown that the place is no haven for these apes, and Caesar is definitely having a hard time from both his fellow apes and the mistreatment of the caretaker (Tom Felton, taking on another ‘villainous’ role after playing Draco in Harry Potter series).

From this moment on, the apes pretty much dominate the screen, led by the ever so expressive and capable Caesar. To say he steals scenes is putting it mildly, Caesar was mesmerizing and there are moments where he literally took my breath away. Those who’ve seen this film know which part I’m talking about. The apes’ eventual escape is predictable of course, but Caesar’s brilliantly calculated plan was great to watch.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an impressive movie that it kept me engaged from start to finish, there’s no slow or ho-hum second act, or unnecessary ‘fillers’… I feel that every single scene in this film is worthy to be included. The special effects are as impressive as Serkis’ affecting motion-captured performance, I’d love to see both the SFX wizards and the English actor get some nods come award season. The movie also has nice balance between fast-paced action and emotional moments throughout, even the bombastic third act still offers plenty of heart. Now, I don’t know what that say about me when I felt like rooting for the apes, but really, you can’t help it 😀

As for the um, human performances, well I have a few nitpicks, but let’s start with the positive. James Franco‘s melancholy demeanor is perfect for this role, I feel like he genuinely cares for this apes and especially Caesar, but he’s of course torn by all that’s happening. John Lithgow is wonderful as well, and his scenes with Caesar is one of the highlights of the film for me.

Now, the not-so-good. I’ve read some reviews that said Freida Pinto wasn’t given much to do than looking pretty, well I think it’s the other British actors in this movie that really wasn’t given much to do. It’s a pity to see great character actor Brian Cox being so criminally underutilized, his character lacks any real motive and he barely has any screen time. Felton also got the shorter end of the stick as the ‘bully’ with no character nuance whatsoever, the same with David Oyelowo as a one-dimensional corporate exec who’s all about the bottom line.

In any case, I still don’t think those minor quibbles derail the film in any way. I commend UK director Rupert Wyatt—a relative newcomer with only two previous feature films under his belt—for creating such a satisfying film with a ‘whoa’ kind of ending. I think that last quote by Caesar is one for the ages… man, that was a good one!

It’s inevitable there’s sequel talks already given its box office success, and the ending definitely leaves plenty of opportunities for a follow up. Well, I’m game if Wyatt is at the helm. Borrowing a term from a reviewer Jim Napier who I follow on Twitter, this movie is ‘chimptastic!’ 😀

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, have you seen the movie? Please share your thoughts about the movie below.

Weekend Viewing Roundup & My Top Fave Summer Movies

So the weekend just flew by… poof, that was fast! It’s actually been pretty hectic, back to the usual after a super mellow one last weekend as we recovered from our holiday. We saw Rango Friday night and yesterday, after a hot and humid day visiting a local art fair, we cooled off in a movie theater to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I’ll have the reviews later this week but first I just want to share my thoughts of the Summer movies I’ve seen so far. It’s interesting that the movies which trailers didn’t impress me initially end up being the ones I enjoy more, ok with the exception of X-Men: First Class as I like both the trailer and the movie itself. The one that surprises me the most is the ‘Ape’ movie as I never had much interest in the ‘franchise’ if you will, never having seen the original with Charlton Heston. But after seeing this, I’m now curious to see it and I’ve added it to my Netflix queue. My husband said we actually rented the Tim Burton version a while go, but I completely forgot about it (maybe I fell asleep watching that? ahah).

Turns out that the Apes prequel to the 1968 film definitely um, rises to the occasion with $54 million, making it the box office winner this weekend. Per box office mojo, despite narrowly beating The Smurfs last weekend with $36 mil, Cowboys & Aliens fell to third place this time, losing out to the little blue people by about $5 mil (Ouch, that’s got to hurt Jon Favreau!)

Well, if I had to rank the Summer big-budget movies I managed to see this year (those released from May until now), it’d look like this:

  1. X-Men: First Class
  2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  3. THOR
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
  5. Captain America

I’m kind of going back on forth between #4 and #5, I think I like both of them equally so both Captain America and HP 7.2 could easily be a tie. The only other movie I want to see in August is The Debt, which is scheduled to open on 8/31 but hopefully that is a wide release instead of a limited one.


Well, what did you end up seeing this weekend, folks? And how would you rank the Summer films you’ve seen this year?