At the end of the year, I like to list my favorite movies of the year. I go through the list of movies that I saw in theaters (new ones only, not counting the Cult Classics that I managed to see on the big screen, like Ghostbusters), and then I just list the ones that really struck a chord with me. I’ll admit, my number one moviegoing experience for the year wasn’t necessarily an entire movie. In fact, it’s going to be my favorite movie of 2012, and the film’s second half will be my favorite movie of 2013. That doesn’t mean that other movies shouldn’t be considered up there with it, just that they’ll always be my second choice to these. This list is going to be sorted into categories such as favorite overall, because to list them in any particular order is dangerous. I like different movies for different reasons, so that’s how I thought to sort the movies out this year.
Overall best moviegoing experience of 2011
The Announcement Trailer for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
Yes, it was just a trailer for the first part of the upcoming Hobbit movie. But it had enough to bring me back into Middle-earth and prepare me for the return to that world in a little less than one year’s time. It included everything from an introduction to new characters, to the theme of the dwarves, with new music by composer Howard Shore. I can’t wait to get my hands on the soundtrack, and look forward to this movie more than any other. Watch the trailer, and enjoy it, then watch it again, and close your eyes, and listen to the music in the background. Some of it was from the Lord of the Rings, sure, because it’s in Hobbiton and has to remind you of that music. But then the Misty Mountain song starts, and it doesn’t end with their singing. It keeps going, the melodies from the singing are played throughout the rest of it, and it is majestic.
Overall top five films for 2011
1. The Muppets
They’re back and this movie was the most fun I’ve had from beginning to end, in a long time. It recaptured the old Henson magic and managed to bring great characters back to the fore. Family friendly and fun for all, this movie captured my heart and I want more. I want the return of The Muppet Show and I want more great Muppet movies.
2. Super 8
J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have created a love story for film and filmmaking. I love this movie! Read my Super 8 review
3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
My list, my choices. Transformers was awesome, and this one was my favorite of the three Michael Bay films. Now there’s rumor that he’ll be back at the helm for Transformers 4… I was hoping for someone that cared as much about the franchise as Jason Segal does for the Muppets, but with the success of these films it looks like we’ll be waiting a long time for that. That said, this is a personal favorite of mine.
4. War Horse
Steven Spielberg has done it again. He’s captured magic in the lense of the camera, with incredible cinematography and composition, the film is a testament to the human spirit. Sure, it’s about a horse, but it’s about more than that. Courage, bravery, companionship, honor, loyalty, friendship and family. It’s a very deliberate movie, but it is meant to be so. It’s everything it needs to be, and doesn’t claim to be any more than that.
5. The Way
Probably the one movie on this list that few readers will know about. Starring Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez, this is a journey and sometimes difficult to watch, but a very good film that is worth your time. By the end, you’ll want to make the same journey that Martin Sheen did.
Best Action Adventure Films of 2011
Not counting any that are in the overall, this is a list of my favorite action adventure films of 2011. In alphabetic order.
Adventures of Tintin, The – Young Indiana Jones? Very much so. Spielberg has managed to recapture that spirit again, and I loved every minute
Captain America: The First Avenger – The Avengers can’t come soon enough. This movie captured Captain America perfectly. The character was spot on.
Cowboys & Aliens – Epic fun, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in a western with aliens. Yes, Indiana Jones and James Bond. Fun movie.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Non-stop from beginning to end. Tense action sequences with some laughs to break things up. My favorite Mission: Impossible movie so far. (And this from someone that hated the first two.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Excellent Pirates film, and no Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley (not that they aren’t good in the pirates movies, but their characters’ stories were done). This allowed Jack Sparrow to play in this world without yet another side story to take away from his adventures (though there were a couple). It was fun and I hope the fifth is even better.
Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows – Almost didn’t make this list, thanks to Stephen Fry. I don’t like his character in the film, and look forward to a restrained and unrecognizable Stephen Fry in The Hobbit. I am not a fan of the man, because he mocks my religion openly. That said, this was a better movie than the first, with Moriarty played in the right manner, not over the top, and a good nemesis for Holmes.
Thor – Solid introduction to the character and his world. Looking forward to the Avengers. Did I say that before?
Best Unexpected Surprise of 2011
Hugo – Based on a 2007 book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this film seemingly came out of nowhere. It’s a very good film, though not for everybody.
Best Animated Films of 2011
These I put in order, because there aren’t very many. This doesn’t include Tintin, which was also animated, for two reasons: it is listed above and it was motion captured and not animated by hand.
1. Winnie the Pooh – Recaptured the original spirit of Winnie the Pooh. It was a fun movie that was entertaining and witty. If you can overcome the mental block that Winnie the Pooh is ‘just for the youngest in the family’ then you’ll find you enjoy the deeper nuances of the characters in ways that you never thought you would. As evidence of that, a very good and deeply spiritual man that I know reads the books by A.A. Milne practically every year. Well done, Disney.
2. Kung Fu Panda 2 – Dreamworks has done it again. They’ve proven that they’ve found the Pixar method of putting the characters and story first. While they’re still pumping out films like Madagascar and Ice Age, they’ve now got a couple of series that they can really be proud of: How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. (Shrek, Madagascar and Ice Age all have their ups and downs, but Dreamworks seems to be taking extra care with these two franchises, which is also evidenced with Ice Age 3 actually being good.)
3. Arthur Christmas – Aardman has created some of my favorite movies with Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit and Flushed Away. With Arthur Christmas, they’ve made a film that could become a Christmas classic. It’s very similar to Disney’s Prep and Landing Christmas specials, but has its’ own take on the characters, showing the various generations of Santa Claus. Very well done.
4. Cars 2 – Not Pixar’s best effort. It was good, but not great. Somehow a merely good Pixar movie feels like it’s worse than it actually is. It’s a fun movie, has fun sequences in it, but overall it’s just good. Looking forward to Pixar’s next film Brave a whole lot more. Though I’m fairly certain they’ll be accused of going into the world of How to Train Your Dragon for that one, though it’s an entirely different film with a different story in a different world and country, with a little bit of the Robin Hood story mixed in. On the part of Cars 2, however, I just thought it was a bit too much of Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater, and not enough of Lightning McQueen and the others from Radiator Springs.