Sunday, January 1, 2012

The worst movie of 2011 - Mars Needs Moms

The worst movie of 2011, and one of the worst I've ever seen, Mars Needs Moms is just as good as its title would lead you to believe. Shot in the same motion capture style the works for The Adventures of Tintin, this movie is dark, dull, depressing, and terrible in every conceivable way. I don't wish to inflict this movie on anyone, nor do I wish to write any more about than I need to, suffice to say that this even is up there with Southland Tales, Moulin Rouge!, Law Abiding Citizen, and xXx as the worst movies of the 2000's.

#5 - The Muppets

5. The Muppets
One I'm already wondering if I placed too low on the list, this newest Muppets adventure gets everything right that you could want, the songs, the humor, the just plain lovableness of the whole crew, there's not really a lot to complain about here. Jason Segel, after the success of the wonderful Forgetting Sarah Marshall, got the chance to write and star in his dream project, another Muppets movie. He created one in the old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney tradition of "let's put on a show to save the ________" and the lack of trying to "update" the Muppets is exactly what works so well here. People love the Muppets, have a childhood connection to them (if you're of my-ish generation) and don't want them to be "rebooted" or "reimagined", we just want more. That's exactly what we get. Nothing revolutionary, just sensational Muppet-y wonderfulness. With assured direction from James Bobin, and great music from Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, The Muppets is a great kids movie and one that I hope we'll be getting a sequel to soon. I could use some more Swedish Chef in my life, that's for sure.

#4 - The Adventures of Tintin

4. The Adventures of Tintin

I remember Tintin from the animated show that I used to watch on HBO when I was a kid. I loved the stories, but didn't remember much about them other than what Tintin looked like, and his little dog Snowy always at his side. I didn't understand why none of my friends ever understood what I was talking about, until a few years ago when I heard Steven Spielberg was looking to make a Tintin movie, and I started researching. Finding out that the Tintin stories (comic books from Belgian creator Herge, who gave Spielberg his blessing to make a Tintin movie before his death in 1983) were a worldwide phenomenon everywhere but here in the US, it finely made sense why none of my friends knew what I was talking about. Teaming with Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson, Spielberg gives us our first big screen Tintin adventure. Sadly, I read that Spielberg was intent on doing the movie in motion capture animation the way that Robert Zemeckis had done The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. I'm not a fan of the style, so I was understandably disappointed when I found that out.

Thankfully, Spielberg handles is perfectly! The animation is astoundingly gorgeous, and the movie runs through its 107 minutes wonderfully. There's a bit too many action scenes, one involving cranes should've been cut if you ask me, everything is fun and adventurous and really comes off like an animated Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's a tremendous thrill ride, it's funny, it's exciting, and I want more. It's already doubled its budget at the worldwide box office, so I hope that since Peter Jackson is supposed to do the next installment that he'll get right to it after he finishes The Hobbit. I can't wait for more Tintin-y goodness.

#3 - Moneyball

3. Moneyball

Director Bennett Miller's previous movie, Capote, was one of the best movies of its year, so it's not too surprising to find that Moneyball is one of the best of 2011. Built around a phenomenal performance by Brad Pitt, Moneyball tells the story of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, and his quest to put together a team that will compete with the New York Yankees every year, on about a quarter of the budget. Beane realizes that he can't do that by approaching the same way the Yankees do, he's gotta find a new way of thinking. He stumbles upon Peter Brand (wonderfully played by Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who has startling fresh ways of evaluating players. Almost no one but Billy and Peter believe in their approach, as baseball is an old game and its thinking highly ingrained in those involved. A's manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman, terrific, but sadly wasted in a small role) is the personification of that old baseball thinking that Billy has to fight against, he doesn't understand (or care) how wildly inventive what Billy is trying to do is, and takes the players Billy gives him and plays them according to his own approach to the game.

One need not know about baseball to follow the movie, it may add some depth, but the movie isn't really a sports movie so much as it is about this guy trying to change the way people think, while having his livelihood on the line if it doesn't work out. Wonderfully handled by Miller as the director, and carried by the performances of Hill and especially Pitt, who is right up there with George Clooney and Matt Damon when it comes to getting consistently great performances from our biggest stars. A really terrific movie.

#2 - Midnight in Paris

2. Midnight in Paris

I've written about this one before (back in June), so I'll just say that it hasn't diminished in my mind, and I was happily surprised to see that it became Woody Allen's most financially successful movie of his career. It's a wonderful little romance movie, and my #2 of 2011.

The best movie of 2011 - 50/50

So, 2011 was not a great year for me writing wise. I only had 31 entries on this blog, less than half of previous years, but it was because life happens and I didn't always have the time to write. Now that I have the time, I'm trying to get back into it, and I might as well offer up my summation of 2011.

Now, I only saw 19 movies in the theater this year. I'm trying to catch up with as many 2011 movies as possible through Netflix, but it'll take awhile before all of the movies I want to see come out on DVD. So with that in mind, I'm only going to present a top 5, and a bottom 1 for 2011 until I can better judge the year (whenever that may be, there are still 2010 movies I wanna see but haven't caught up with yet):

1. 50/50

The only movie this past year that I'd classify as a masterpiece, 50/50 kinda came outta nowhere at me. I love all of the actors that are in it, but had never heard of the writer Will Reiser, nor the director Jonathan Levine. So I was taken aback while sitting in my theater seat, watching the directorial command of tone and storytelling, and the wonderful evocation of a multitude of emotions from the writing.

It tells the story of Adam, a 27-year-old radio journalist who finds out he has a rare cancerous tumor on his spine. He's told his chances of survival are only 50/50, and his best friend Kyle's remark that "50/50? If you were a casino game you'd have the best odds. You're gonna be fine." doesn't help. He's sent to a therapist, Katherine, to help him cope with his life changes, but he's only her third patient, and ends up helping her grow as much as she helps him. Adam also has to deal with his overbearing mother, and his inconsistent girlfriend, while his whole life is turned upside down with cancer.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves again that he's our finest young actor (not that we needed reminding after movies like Mysterious Skin, 500 Days of Summer, Brick, and The Lookout), and this is among his best work. His journey as he goes through the few highs and many lows of cancer treatment is rendered with such honesty and heart from Gordon-Levitt that I hope he's not forgotten when Oscar time comes around, it's the best performance I saw this year. Not to be out done, the supporting cast is flawless, especially Angelica Huston as the mother. Her love for her son, while also caring for her Alzheimer stricken husband, is palpable and Huston's subtlety in the performance is heart wrenching in some scenes, it's another award worthy piece of work from her. While Anna Kendrick is very good as the therapist, it's not all that different from her work in Up in the Air as George Clooney's young tag along. The real surprise for me was in Seth Rogen as best friend Kyle. He brings a ton of humor, and a real dramatic weight to his character.

But the best thing about this movie is that it's a movie about a young man getting cancer, it's very heavy in some moments, but it is extremely funny. While I would categorize Rogen as the "comic relief" the movie really doesn't need it as writer Will Reiser finds the humor in most situations without cheapening them. One of the best examples is that of Adam chemotherapy friends, who convince him (after he initially declines) that eating their weed-infused brownies is about the only way to get through something like chemo.

It ends quite perfectly, and there wasn't a single second of this movie that rang false for me, easily the best movie I've seen of 2011.