While this hasn’t been an overly exciting movie year so far, it’s shaping up to be a better one than last year. At the midyear point of 2011, I was already calling it one of the worst movie years imaginable, a fact that stuck when the year changed over.
Here’s this year’s midyear report card. I was able to find 10 films I liked, so that’s an improvement. The “found footage” phenomenon continues, though, so that’s a blight on any year.
The Best So Far
1. Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson returns to live action after Fantastic Mr. Fox with a very Wes Anderson movie. Great cast, awesome cinematography, and shot-for-shot genius. Any year where Anderson makes a movie is a happier movie year for me.
2. The Grey: Liam Neeson should be an Oscar contender for his work as a man battling harsh snowy wilderness and wolves after a plane crash. Joe Carnahan’s movie is a great survival flick, and an excellent monster movie to boot. There are a lot of people out there whining about the ending. To these people I say: “AAAAHHHH SHUDDUPPP!!!
3. The Avengers: A rousing, funny, overall exciting meeting of the Marvel superheroes that has made a huge impact on the box office but, most importantly, depicts the Incredible Hulk in a way that most everybody seems to be happy with. Well, perhaps Edward Norton isn’t a fan. And maybe Eric Bana, but everybody else is stoked.
4. Prometheus: Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe is a mind bending and somewhat perplexing movie that qualifies as one of the year’s most beautifully shot films. Scott has used 3-D technology much to his advantage. Oh, sure, the film’s logic is all over the place, but I don’t really care. Bring on more Prometheus movies, please.
5. Bernie: Jack Black gives one of the year’s best performances thus far as Bernie, the real life murderer of an elderly widow (played by Shirley MacLaine) in Carthage, Texas. Richard Linklater, reteaming with his The School of Rock star, knows how to handle Black better than anybody.
6. The Pirates! Band of Misfits: There’s an oddball sense of humor at the heart of this stop-motion gem from the creators of Wallace & Gromit. It’s extremely entertaining, and should stand as one of the year’s best animated efforts.
7. Last Days Here: This documentary catches up with Bobby Liebling, lead singer of heavy metal group Pentagram, living in his mom’s house and whacked out on drugs. A fan finds him, and works hard to get his frazzled ass back on stage. It’s highly absorbing stuff.
8. 21 Jump Street: Channing Tatum is, surprisingly, a laugh riot in this R-rated comedy very loosely based on the Johnny Depp TV show. Features what will surely stand as the year’s best cameos and Ice Cube doing what may be his best screen work to date. Jonah Hill helped come up with the idea for this reboot, and he fashioned quite the funny vehicle for himself and Tatum.
9. The Cabin In the Woods: This one sat on the shelf for quite some time. So glad somebody picked it up, blew the dust off, and released it. One of the more innovative horror films of the last 10 years, and co-written by Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers, which starred Chris Hemsworth, who also stars in this movie. Can you see the connections? This means something!
10. Delicacy: I’m a sucker for Audrey Tautou romances, because there’s always something a little different going on under the surface. This time out, she stars as a widow who falls for an average Joe (Francois Damiens), and it’s just so darned cute!
The Worst So Far
1. The Devil Insid`e: The year’s worst movie so far is a found footage movie. Can you believe it? I’m seriously hoping that crap like this has rung the death bell for found-footage films. If I have to sit through another found footage exorcism, I’m going to enter a convenience store, gather up all of the flu medicine, and put it in the ice cream freezer where people won’t find it. I know that this particular act isn’t all that awful or impactful, but it’s all I can come up with right now.
2. Battleship: Oh yeah … let’s make a boring movie based on a boring board game. Let us tap that untapped mine of gorgeous cinematic ideas that is the American board game. I want a Chutes & Ladders movie now!
3. Act of Valor: Please, members of the military, don’t beat my ass for hating this movie. While it was cool to cast real soldiers in this thing, it wasn’t cool to give them a script that makes the Chuck Norris film Missing in Action look like Rambo: First Blood Part II (Let me make this perfectly clear … Rambo ruled!)
4. Contraband: Mark Wahlberg action films have a tendency to suck, as does this one. I still love him, and can’t wait for the talking teddy bear movie. As for this, he should be ashamed of himself.
5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: I’m so lame that I actually went into this hoping it would be good. I usually like when Nicolas Cage gets all weird. Not this time. While the skull looks better in this movie, everything else looks like it was produced by 10-year-olds during a massive papier-mâché arts and crafts session.
6. One For the Money: Katherine Heigl’s film career continues its downward spiral. She’s on her way to movie Hell waving at others as they plummet with her. Look Katherine … there’s Keanu Reeves! Wave to him Katherine … wave! There goes Adam Sandler … tip your fine hat to his sorry ass. Hey … there it’s Nicolas Cage, and he’s pulling Amanda Seyfried along with him! Wave!
Oh … wait … what is Cage doing to Seyfried on the way to Hell? Oh … that’s disgusting … look away Katherine … look away.
7. Darling Companion: This is actually a movie about Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline looking for a lost dog. It’s them walking around on paths calling out the damned dog’s name and getting lost and shit. Curse ye who put Annie Hall in a lost dog movie! May thee go to cinematic Hell with Katherine Heigl!
8. Chernobyl Diaries: Some kids go to the Chernobyl site and get attacked by mutants. This movie actually got produced.
9. That’s My Boy: Dammit Adam Sandler, you used to be so cool! Adam Samberg…get your ass back to Saturday Night Live fast!
10. Project X: Todd Phillips and friends make a party movie for a roll of quarters and some Kool Aid. Looks and plays like cinematic dookie.