Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 1. Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams. I am a child of the 80s, and I was raised on Amblin movies such as E.T., Goonies, and Gremlins. As an adult, one of my favorite types of stories are about boyhood and growing up, especially stories that combine those themes with elements from the science fiction and horror genres (such as Robert McCammon’s excellent book Boy’s Life). So, I followed the development of this Speilberg-produced, Abrams-written and directed Amblin throwback with a fervor. When a trailer was finally released, it gave me goosebumps (and maybe a tear in the corner of my eye). I felt like Abrams was making this movie just for me. I was at the theater for the first showing on opening day, and I was mesmerized. People often say a movie makes them feel like a kid again. They usually mean it made them feel happy and carefree or reminded them of movies they liked as a kid. This movie made me feel like a kid again. It made me feel the rawness of every emotion, when losing a loved one and not getting to finish your movie both felt like the end of the world, and the ever present (at least in my youth) feeling of not quite belonging. It made me feel like a kid when summer vacation held so much promise and your bike meant freedom. It also made feel like a kid obsessing over movies with issues of Starlog (I still do this as an adult just on the internet now). And then the movie also had explosions and an alien! There is a scene of the group of boys running through their small-town as army tanks are firing all around them. That scene makes me ridiculously happy! Then, the opening shot is heartbreaking as Abrams communicates so much with that single moment in the factory. It’s scary too! The bus scene (reminiscent of Jurassic Park) is gripping. Joel Courtney, in his first movie, delivers an outstanding performance that carries the whole movie. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, notably Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning. Michael Giacchino gives us another amazing score. If John Williams wasn’t still alive and working, I’d call Giacchino the new Williams. Super 8 has received a lot of criticism that I think is largely silly and unjustified. One of the biggest being that we didn’t see enough of the alien and that he doesn’t show it soon enough. Didn’t people learn anything from Jaws? That makes it scarier. Besides, the argument is wrong. On the Blu-Ray, I first noticed that Abrams shows the alien right away. During the first attack at the gas station, one can clearly see the alien’s reflection in the puddle of gas just before he grabs the clerk. I saw this movie five times in the theater, and I’ve seen it about that many times on Blu-Ray. I love it. I was sad this movie didn’t take off more with kids. When I was 8, this would have easily been a favorite movie. Heck, it’s my favorite movie of the year at 28.
I promise at some point this week, you will see the number one entry in Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011. If you’ve paid attention over the last year, you can probably guess what it’s going to be…
Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 2. The Muppets, directed by James Bobin. I loved this movie! Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. This was my most anticipated movie of 2011, and I am so glad it didn’t disappoint. Jason Segel’s script captured the magic of the Muppets in a way that made me feel warm and fuzzy (pun intended). The movie is dripping with nostalgia and reverence for Jim Henson and his characters, but it also brings them into the modern day and introduces some great new characters (Segel didn’t forget the robot). This movie just made me feel so good to watch. If you are a life-long Muppet fan like me, I dare you not to have a tear in your eye by the time all the Muppets join Kermit and Miss Piggy on stage singing Rainbow Connection or the scene a few minutes later when they leave the theater. Some fun cameos and great original songs (including Oscar winner Man or Muppet and my favorite Life’s a Happy Song) add to this vastly enjoyable film.
Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 3. Attack the Block, directed by Joe Cornish. Aliens attack a British apartment complex. That’s all you really need to know about this movie. It’s great. The practical effects and badass story make for a fun ride. I’ve always thought British apartment blocks looked almost otherwordly, like something out of some dystopian sci-fi movie, so using it as the setting of an alien attack was inspired. The aliens are nasty little things too. I loved this movie.
Remember when I was counting down my favorite movies of 2011? If you do, good, because I barely do. What was originally meant to last a few days has now stretched on for nearly a month. I was going to finish it, but then yesterday as part of my #FurloughFriday celebrations I finally got to see Young Adult and it kind of messed up my whole countdown. Maybe I’ll finish it. I mean I’m down to the top three, and I just know you are all dying to know what made the cut. Right?
Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 4. 50/50, directed by Jonathan Levine.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick are some of my favorite young actors, and they all give great performances in this movie, particularly Gordon-Levitt. The movie is very funny despite dealing with such a dark topic, but it’s not afraid to go to those heavier places. I challenge you not to be moved by the scene between Gordon-Levitt and his parents before he goes into surgery. Also, between this and The Help, Bryce Dallas Howard was probably the most hated actress of 2011.
Where were we? Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 5. Hugo,directed by Martin Scorsese. When this movie was announced, I was excited. I wanted to see what a master like Scorsese could do with a family film. Then I saw the trailer, and I wasn’t so excited. I fear that happened with a lot of people. I think the marketing of this movie did it a great disservice. It wasn’t until it had been out for about six weeks and I kept hearing people rave about it before I finally decided I should check it out. I’m so glad I did, and in a way, I’m glad the trailers didn’t portray the movie accurately because it meant it was full of surprises for me. I even saw this in 3-D which I usually hatebecause I had heard how good it was. New rule: if you are a genius, you are allowed to use 3-D. This movie is a love letter to movies. It will expose audiences to a master of silent cinema that, sadly, most people would never experience otherwise (I wish more people watched any silent movies, there are so many great ones and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface). The way Scorsese uses 3-D to allow the audience to feel the way early moviegoers felt is really amazing. I can’t say enough good things about this movie. If you haven’t seen it, don’t wait for Netflix. Go see it in a theater, 3-D if possible. This is a movie where the big screen will make such a big difference. Plus, Christopher Lee is in it.
Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 6. Captain America, directed by Joe Johnston. I’m not going to say much about Captain America (I refuse to acknowledge that cumbersome subtitle) because I wrote a lengthy reaction to it last summer. I’ll just say that this movie surprised me, and I love it for that. I’m a comics and superhero guy, but I’m a DC guy through and through. The only Marvel movies I had enjoyed featured mutants or Peter Parker and were not part of the “Marvel movie-verse,” that series of movies with overlong Samuel L. Jackson scenes setting up The Avengers (and Joss Whedon is the big draw for me there). This movie was different. It’s a rousing, fun war-time adventure that embraces the inherent cheesiness of any superhero and doesn’t go out of its way to be dark and gritty or realistic (I’m looking at you Chris Nolan). I like those types of movies, but I loved this movie. It was reminiscent of Donner’s Superman movies in that regard, and that puts Captain America in the best company.
Counting Down Brandon’s Favorite Movies of 2011! 7. Bridesmaids, directed by Paul Feig. I called it. When the trailer for this movie first hit about this time last year, I said Melissa McCarthy was going to steal the movie. She did, and she now has the Oscar nomination to show for it (and an Emmy too because there’s no way she won that thing based on the dreck that is Mike and Molly alone). McCarthy has had a great year with many people hailing her as a newcomer. The thing is she’s not. She was excellent as Sookie for 7 years on Gilmore Girls and those brilliant sketches she did on SNL (Hidden Valley Ranch and the balloons), I saw her do those at The Groundlings four years ago. McCarthy deserves all the recognition she’s been getting, but she’s deserved it for the past decade not just this year. And she’s not the only hilarious woman in this hilarious movie-Wendi McClendon-Covey (my favorite Reno 911 alum), Ellie Kemper, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the movie with Annie Mumulo, also earning an Oscar nod for their screenplay) all deliver their fair share of laughs as well. The movie features some talented men as well in Jon Hamm and Chris O’Dowd. It’s also directed by Paul Feig, creator of my all-time favorite TV show, Freaks and Geeks, so the talent was deep here, and it shows. The movie is both extremely funny and extremely relatable as these women feel like actual people instead of just types like in so many comedies. I didn’t laugh harder at a movie all year than I did at Melissa McCarthy driving a minivan full of puppies or just about any scene in Bridesmaids.