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Top Five Films of 2011 (so far)

July 6, 2011

In case you had no clue, we are now at the half way mark of 2011! That’s right, six months have passed and it is now time to look at the best films released thus far. We did this last year, and had a good time, so we’re gonna do our best to make it a tradition.
Joining us once again is film critic, Josh Larsen, of and Think . Follow along and share your own thoughts in the comment section below. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the lists…. 
Josh – Super 8 
A pitch-perfect throwback to the Spielbergian science-fiction of the 1970s, “Super 8” pulses with a sense of wonder – at the excitement of adolescence, at the possibility of the otherworldly, at the power of cinema itself.
Paul – Hobo with a Shotgun
This over-the-top throwback follows a justice-seeking hobo as he tries to clean up a depraved and lawless town. Hobo manages to take a handful of individually repugnant elements and squeezes some great entertainment out of them.
David – Hanna
Director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) reteams with Saoirse Ronan, for a kinetic, whirlwind action film that dazzles with its engaging sound (thanks to The Chemical Brothers) and vision. Ronan plays a girl who raised in isolation by her widowed father (Eric Bana) and trained to be an assassin, who  inevitably must confront a mysterious CIA Agent (Cater Blanchett). It’s the Bourne films, “Run Lola Run”, and “Dogtooth”, tossed together in a blender and poured out as a adrenalized (yet sweet) energy drink.

 Rutger Hauer is a “Hobo with a Shotgun”

Cinematic adventurer Werner Herzog goes spelunking for this 3-D documentary about 32,000 year-old paintings recently found in a series of French caves. What he captures amounts to geologic yearning.
Paul – Source Code
A soldier on a mission solving a crime in the body of another person….very cool plot, and great piece of work from director Duncan Jones (Moon). Jones is definitely a director to keep your eye on in the future.
David – Jane Eyre
My very first introduction to Jane Eyre is a captivating and beautiful tale of an independent young woman and the tumultuous experiences she endures in 19th century England. Boldly filmed with vivid earth tones by Carey Fujikawa (“Sin Nombre”), invoking a gothic feel, while showcasing two fantastic lead performances (by Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender). Bronte’s classic is given a courageous update that appropriately displays an array of emotions, never once feeling like the smothering melodrama I expected to find.

Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska in “Jane Eyre”

Josh – Meek’s Cutoff
Set in 1845 Oregon and hailed as a feminist Western, “Meek’s Cutoff” is beyond – and better – than that. The view of the world here is a holistic one, in that it encompasses this specific time and place as it was experienced by everyone who was there.
Paul – Midnight in Paris
I had a great time watching this silly, whimsical film from auteur Woody Allen. Seems like a standard romantic comedy on the surface, but quickly turns into something way more interesting and enjoyable.
David – Beginners
Writer/director Mike Mills (“Tumbsucker”) gives us a sweet, funny, and imaginative semi-autobiographical film that turned out to be a truly heartwarming experience for me. A thirtysomething son (Ewan McGregor), still dealing with the coming out of his septuagenarian father (a wonderful Christopher Plummer), must come to terms with who he is, as he pursues a relationship with a spontaneous (Melanie Laurent) actress. Creative, wonderfully filmed, with a hopeful and melancholy tone….and a talking dog to boot!

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in “Midnight in Paris” 

Josh – Cedar Rapids
An underappreciated, overachieving comic gem, “Cedar Rapids” hilariously traces a mild insurace salesman’s morally perilous journey toward honesty and truth.
Paul – Super 8
After bring a child in the 80s and enjoying such movies as The Goonies, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I had pure, childlike enjoyment watching this fantastic film. Go. Now. Watch it.
David –  Super 8
Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, “Super 8” is far more than just a knowing nod to those early Amblin films of producer Steven Spielberg, it’s a tender throwback to those Wonder Years of adolescence, on the cusp of innocence lost. Abrams has a gifted group of youngsters to work with that radiate raw purity. The best gift Abrams gives us though is how he takes us back to 1979, that pre-internet time when boys and girls rode around on their bikes and carried flashlights (and fireworks) in their backpacks. Go for the creature, stay for the kids. 

Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning & Ron Eldard in “Super 8”


The first Terrence Malick film to truly live up to the cineaste hype, this is an astonishing personal consideration of the implications of original sin. A stunner.
Wow. This South Korean thriller about a crazed widower tracking down his wife’s murderer is insane. Back when I reviewed this, the only reason I gave it 3.5 stars and not 4 is because I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it to everyone (it’s a tad violent). However, this movie is really a fantastic piece of work. If you have a stomach for the über-violent and the macabre, or have seen and enjoyed other recent Korean cinema, then you should absolutely see it.
David – Cedar Rapids
The first genuine surprise of the year for me came in the form of the Alexander Payne-produced, Miguel Artega-directed “Cedar Rapids”, starring Ed Helms, Sigourney Weaver, John C. Reilly, and Ann Heche. Helms stars as Tim Lippe, a by-the-book insurance salesman who’s never left his small Wisconsin town, until he’s sent to Cedar Rapids for the annual insurance convention. Befriended by three unexpected peers, Lippe is forced to wear big boy pants, yet maintains his endearing integrity. The characterization here is the big surprise. Just when you think they’re going to veer toward silliness (and there is comedy), they turn out to be just like people you know. When it was over, I felt like I was leaving newly-made friends.


Ed Helms is bound for “Cedar Rapids”
So, there ya have it! Of course, there are still films we have yet to catch up with, but these are our top five films…as of right now. Some Honorable Mentions exist though, such as “Insidious” and “13 Assassins” (for Paul) and “Thor” , “Source Code” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” (for David). Reviews have yet to surface for other films we’ve watched. We’ll see where are these film will fall when we compile out Top Ten Films of 2011 early next year.
Special Thanks to Josh Larsen for playing along with us once again. You can find him at LarsenonFilm and Think Christian and you can also “Like” those sites on Facebook.
So, how about you? What do you feel are the best films of 2011 (so far)?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 11:57 pm

    I am rarely seeing new movies. I have a long enough list of old movies I’m often getting through, but I just saw Meek’s Cutoff tonight and I would be surprised if I’d be able to find a movie coming out this year that I would like more. This one had all of my favorite elements. Quirky dialogue with appropriate repetition. Vast landscapes and plenty of those great Kelly Reichardt campfire scenes. One hilariously outspoken character. And a plot that ends where it begins.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      July 8, 2011 12:00 am

      Yeah, I really really wanna check that one out. Comes out on DVD/Bluray in mid-Sept.


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