I've put it off too long. I was trying to get a lot of the critically acclaimed movies released late in 2011 watched before making up my list. But, it's already February and I need to go with what I have. I have to admit that I did not see as many movies in 2011 as I normally do. 2011 seemed like a bad combination of a not great year for movies and a rather pathetic attempt by myself to see the movies there were. So, to get 10, I might have dug a bit deeper than normal:
(10) The Muppets - This does a really good job of being both nostalgic and modern at the same time without being cynical or sarcastic (thanks to Jason Segel). My son had never seen the Muppet Show and loved the movie. I grew up on the show and loved it as well.
(9) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - I think this movie works, and most critic agreed, because of the combination of director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) translating cartoon action to live action, and some levity by Simon Pegg. I think this movie doesn't take itself too seriously like too much Tom Cruise stuff usually does. For a different take, I highly recommend Wunelle's review: "Recombinist ..."
(8) Hanna - I think this was an underrated movie and it was quite awhile ago that I saw it. The cinematography, sparse dialogue and nice performance by Saoirse Ronan all work to great effect. Click the title to see a nice review by Wunelle.
(7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - Pt. 2 very nicely ties up both Deathly Hallows and the series as a whole. An especially good performance by the always great Alan Rickman as Snape.
(6) Rise of the Planet of the Apes - I was expecting just a decent popcorn movie and was pleasantly surprised to get a bit more. It should be no surprise that the unexpected bonus is the remarkable performance by motion capture actor Andy Serkis (of LOTR fame) in the role of the chimp Caesar. This performance was deserving of an Oscar nomination.
(5) The Ides of March - Great cast - Paul Giamati, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Clooney and Gosling. Timely subject matter - political intrigue and influence.
(4) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - I guess I'm one of the people that likes both versions of this film equally well. While I believe that Noomi Rapace's performance in the Swedish version of the movie is the defining one, I think Rooney Mara does a good job of not mimicking her and makes this her own. The pacing of the American movie is better and does not rely on having read the book as much.
(3) Haywire - Very distinctly Soderbergh in a dialogue and visual sense.
(2) Meek's Cutoff - Subtle, quiet, yet still powerful. Nice performance by Michelle Williams.
(1) Moneyball - If you think this movie is about baseball, you are largely missing the point. it is more about how we value things and how important it is to believe in what you are doing, even when nobody else does. This is probably Brad Pitt's defining performance of his career and one that a younger and more naive Brad Pitt could not have pulled off. It's a naturalistic, nuanced performance. Jonah Hill also does a great job in an understated performance.
Honorable Mention: X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Contagion, Rango, Limitless, Pearl Jam Twenty, Bobby Fischer Against the World
I would like to have seen the following (and surely will this year):
A Dangerous Method
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Iron Lady
The Tree of Life
Adventures of Tintin
I have a feeling that if I'd seen any of these, they would have made my top 10.
16 minutes ago