Friday, December 9, 2011

Year-End Roundup 2011

It's time for 2011 to get out of our collective faces and for 2012 to bring it on. We all have parties and Santacon and end-of-year business to get to. But you gotta clear out the old stuff before you bring in something new, so this is my review of the year in movies. I'm going to stick to the 8 categories I used last year, although there are some variations. Enjoy.

Best New Release (that I actually saw) - um... I actually have no memory of any film I saw in the theater this year besides Friends with Benefits. I don't know why... but at least I'm man enough to admit it. Let's move on, shall we?

Best Out-of-the-Blue Release - Friends with Benefits.

An odd way of moving on, right? My favorite reviewers didn't like this at all, and I don't get it. This was not a JLO or Kate Hudson film, where two attractive people smile and face "zany" plots but fail to elicit chemistry. I don't complain about romantic comedies because I need them to be like The Princess Bride, Splash, or When Harry Met Sally. I complain because they're not convincingly funny or romantic.

To that end, Kunis and Timberlake were good in their roles, the sex/romance material was well done, and there were many jokes that made me laugh. Recent "rom-coms" really bomb that last part, so maybe I'm glossing over some flaws - like Timbo not knowing what a "flash mob" is. I still think the cast did a good job of supporting an entertaining movie... Maybe it was my low expectations?

Most Internal-Conflict-Causing Release - Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock's in Azkaban?
I waited until it was on Netflix Instant and,  as seen in the review linked above, felt a bit torn after. The movie looked beautiful, and there were many nice character beats and scenes. Regardless, it felt like Robert Downey Jr. was just doing his Iron Man bit, and so this did not feel like a story about the most famous literary detective ever. I know the Holmes' character pretty well, and he was not it.

SH should've just been a "new property" period-piece mystery, really. BBC's Sherlock is more authentic, and that's a modernized version.

Worst Movie - Scream 2/ The Island/ Kiss of the Dragon/ Reign of Fire/ TRON 2.0.

A five-way tie for awfulness! Each of these abandoned all the promise they offered. Scream 2 was a lame, talky, flimsy, repetitious, over-analytical, un-scary slasher film. The Island was a sequence of pretty pictures and explosions lacking characterization, developed ideas, and real entertainment value. Kiss of the Dragon's fight sequences were undone by lots of female abuse and a really weak story. Reign of Fire showed us the boring, un-engaging aftermath of a dragon-apocalypse.

I haven't reviewed Tron 2.0 (aka Tron Legacy) yet (no, wait, I have now),  but it's amazing that it do so many things so poorly. The sweet soundtrack and general design aesthetic, were exceptions, yet the film-makers can't take credit for either. Everything was a cliche, or a misjudged attempt to engage the audience. None of the exposition (and there is exposition) is interesting, or makes sense. No character is interesting.

T2.0 failed to live up to the first film - and, actually, Tron was always more "surprising" or "different" than "good." What kind of computer programs go to bars and gladiator contests?! Why the weird effects for Jeff Bridges' creepy "young face?" I knew what I was in for, since this won my "biggest vicarious disappointment" award in 2010.

Best Theatrical Re-release - It's a confused category this year.

I saw Aliens as a midnite movie the friday before Halloween this year. I obviously love that film, yet I barely enjoyed it. My date received bad news when we were 10 minutes away from the theater. I'd originally made these plans with a friend who'd just meet us in front of the theater.

Given that I was someone dealing with some heavy stuff, I said we should get to the theater so I could find my friend and tell him we were bailing. He didn't respond to my texts, so I bought us tickets and we walked in. I looked for my pal from our seats for 15 minutes, couldn't see him, told my date that he wasn't there and that we could just go. No reply.

Eventually, the incredible awesomeness that is Aliens managed to take over. It's always fun to watch along with an excited crowd, tho it was sometimes a mixed blessing. But this unique awkwardness was worse than the Dragon Tattoo moment, and having lost the mood, I felt relatively little joy at finally watching one of my favorites on a big screen. That's just not the time to be watching a movie.

My date was in tears 20 minutes after it was over, so I guess it's pretty impressive that we were distracted from our problems at all. It's got 100% on RT for a reason. The sound was generally fine, but the print would suddenly become incredibly grainy and scratched-up (it's from 1986 after all) for a few seconds, then revert back to looking completely-restored.

Best Re-watch - Lifeforce.

It was odd watching this after so many years. My teenage self was stunned by the wildly-escalating threat: aliens who are vampires who can jump into people's bodies and make zombies that make more zombies! Also, the amazing nudity of the villain, played by Mathilda May. My adult self was stunned by Patrick Stewart acting "really kinda badly," the weird semi-sexual imagery of the alien spaceship, and a confusing/impenetrable story.

Best I-Should've-Seen-This-Before - Trick r Treat.

Dude, DO NOT carve a pumpkin like that!
It wasn't the best or most effective horror movie I've seen in the last few years. It was, however, a really good sign of how close to good horror mainstream Hollywood can get, while also shamelessly trying to appeal to its audience in a way that's a little sucky. The secret is great actors, I guess. It was either a little too demented, or not demented enough; it's hard to decide which.

Best Anticipated Rental - Hunter Prey.

I haven't reviewed this yet (no wait, I have now), but I have written about the director, Sandy Collora, before. This futuristic space film has marooned aliens hunting an escaped criminal, so it's like The Fugitive meets Predator. It's got elements of Aliens, too, but nothing is borrowed in a bad way.

I don't understand the 5.9 score on imdb. Yes, the story feels out of a video game, yet the movie's tense and interesting. It as a good sense of humor, too. I had solid expectations which were easily exceeded. The fx are good, and it looks beautiful. The actors and script are just fine. The characters are better served here than in lots of big studio releases. Damn it, Michael Bay! Mr. Collora's work puts you to shame.

Biggest Vicarious Disappointment - Your Highness.

Wow. A sword-and-sorcery comedy from David Gordon Green with Danny McBride playing a screwup named Thadeous and a bad-ass Natalie Portman helps him rescue princess Zooey Deschanel. What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently. I thought this would be a must-see, then the consensus made everyone run away. It's so bad, I took screenshots of the "top critics'" reviews page from RT, then made them into a photo mural, in case you didn't follow the last link.

is probably
the right

The trailer's use of my name alone had me wondering what jokes I'd be in for. I needn't've worried. "Painfully bad jokes, painfully bad dialogue, painfully bad story" pretty much sums up the buzz.

Most Embarrassing Moment - my "Netflix dvd idiocy" debacle.

I held onto one disc for so long (3+ months) that it got funny, then sad, then sorta funny again; I sent it in having watched the first 10 minutes. Yes, this is a new category, and yes, I couldn't think of any more new categories...

And that was 2011. I've spent the last spell on a blogging break. I made a few exceptions, for interesting news and Halloween recommendations. October and November saw me spending a lot of time with my friends and family, and a whole lot of time on work. Other writing and photo projects need my time, too.

I have some posts written up, but proofing and adding pix or vid takes more time than I can spare. I may add one entry this week, yet my break's not over.

I hope you all have had an excellent 2011, as I hope you all have a great New Year! I'll get back to this soon enough. Thanks for reading, everybody!

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