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2011 Year End Movie Review: David Medsker

A funny thing happened at the movies this year: absolutely nothing blew me away.

There were things I really liked, but my list of favorite movies is kind of a joke, really. They’re not bad movies (not in my mind, anyway), but there are few, if any, Best Picture candidates in the bunch. Compare that to last year, where six of my top 10 movies were nominated for Best Picture. This time around, that’s just not happening. Just want to lay that out up front.

Worse, there isn’t one movie that stands above the others. I liked my favorite movies equally, more or less. That might sound like a copout, but it’s true. Of the movies I’ve seen so far, this was the year where movies were just sort of…there. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

My Favorite Movies of 2011


Margin Call
Selling one’s soul is a popular subject in movies, since no two people are willing to settle for the same amount. “Margin Call” explores the subject on a massive scale, since the ripple effect of the actions of a few will be felt around the world. It’s not a thriller in the traditional sense, but it’s absolutely gripping. Kevin Spacey shines here, as does the ever-reliable Stanley Tucci.


Super 8
It probably helped that I grew up in a small Ohio town not terribly unlike the one in “Super 8″ (though no one used the word ‘mint’ the way Riley Griffiths’ character does here), but “Super 8″ wasn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia; the movie delivered top-notch thrills, well-drawn characters, and the most spectacular sequence of the year with that jaw-dropping train crash. Elle Fanning, meanwhile, put on an acting clinic, and she’s only 13. Wow.


Read the rest after the jump...

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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More mobile movies

It’s amazing how fast the movie business is changing with the evolution of HD, gadgets and technology. Just several years ago it was all about DVDs. The Blu-ray won the war on higher def movies, so now that affects the TVs people buy and the video players. Now that’s all changing with streaming as Netflix and all sorts of online options further disrupt the business. Now there are tons of ways to watch new movies like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

With all the gadgets being sold this holiday season, these new ways to watch movies and TV shows will just keep growing. One huge trend is the emergence of Amazon with the Kindle Fire. It didn’t get the best reviews for functionality, but at $199 it was an incredibly popular gift this year. This was a huge boost to Amazon which now lets it market movie downloads from their ecosystem to buyers who got used to buying eBooks from them. This makes Amazon a legitimate competitor to Apple and the iTunes store.

Of course this will also have an impact beyond movie and TV downloads to stuff like games as well. Older women who liked reading romance novels on their own Kindle can now use Amazon to download romantic comedies and also to play online bingo games or other games they like. They can also communicate through social media with their kids and grandkids.

Everything is changing, and the movie business is bracing itself for more changes.

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Final Destination 5

After a terribly disappointing fourth installment in the popular teen death series, New Line does the unthinkable by not only making a fifth “Final Destination” but, horrors (see what we did there?), casting old people as the leads. You know, people who are, like, 30, and even some born in the ’70s, ewww. Who wants to see old people die?

As it turns out, it was a very savvy move. “The Final Destination” was in a tough position in that its predecessor ramped up the death scenes’ difficulty factor (Rube Goldberg would have been proud, then probably ashamed) while maintaining self-awareness. “FD4″ tried to maintain the planned chaos, but it was undone by bad dialogue, poor acting, and too much foreshadowing. From the very beginning, “Final Destination 5″ does two things to separate itself from the previous movie: it casts grown-ups in the lead roles (David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance, holler) and gets serious in a hurry after a premonition on a suspension bridge leads a group of white collar drones to hop off the bus, Gus. Also, there are no bad last lines like “I’ve got my eye on you” (poor, poor Krista Allen), and while a death may be triggered by a chain reaction, the cause of death itself is often something normal (fall, fire). Don’t think they didn’t get creative, though; one of the women suffers a particularly gruesome accident that is impossible not to react to.

This, as you might imagine, does not end well.

They’ve also changed the rules – which is ironic, but for reasons we cannot divulge – when coroner William Blodworth (Tony “Candyman” Todd, returning for a third tour of duty, fourth if you include his voice work in “FD3″) suggests that the survivors can cheat death by killing someone else, a la “The Ring.” It adds an interesting wrinkle, since you get a glimpse of what people are willing to do in order to stay alive. Do not under any circumstances watch the bonus features if you haven’t yet seen the movie, otherwise the big surprise, which is a good one, will be spoiled. Definitely check them out afterwards, though, as you’ll get a glimpse of Koechner adding some of his natural comic flair. A welcome return to form for what was presumed to be a, um, dead franchise.

Click to buy Final Destination 5 from Amazon

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David Fincher’s obsession with detail

There’s plenty of buss around The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the new film from director David Fincher. Wired has a great profile of Fincher, with some interesting stories about his obsession with detail.

For much of the past year, Fincher has been filming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, his roughly $100 million adaptation of the macabre Swedish mystery that centers on a punk-hacker heroine with distinctive skin art. On one of the first nights of shooting, Fincher and his crew were in Sweden, filming a murder scene that takes place alongside a gloomy dock. But after a night’s work, Fincher didn’t have the shot he wanted, and the film’s ultratight schedule meant he wouldn’t be able to return for months.

When Fincher began planning the reshoot, he learned that the property had been sold to one of the guys in ABBA. Apparently, the new owner—either Benny or Björn, it’s not really clear—wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having his evening stroll interrupted by a simulated drowning, and he refused to let the crew come back. Rather than find a new location or make do with the footage he had, Fincher decided to build his own Swedish dock.

Which is why, on a late-summer afternoon, we’re standing on a Los Angeles soundstage, examining a replica of a rural-Scandinavia mise-en-scène: mossy rocks, foliage-fat trees, and—perched high above the docks, turtlenecking out of the woods—a squat, deceptively cozy faux cottage. Like most sets, it looks a bit weird naked. But once the lights hit and the smoke drifts in, we are suddenly in the land of stunted summers and moderately high suicide rates.

I guess his approach is a bit different than that taken by Clint Eastwood, who loves going with the first take when he feels it’s good enough.

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“Hugo” and Scorsese nab some nominations

Martin Scorsese is profiled in a recent feature in Fast Company. The in-depth article offers some insight into the way he makes movies and his respect for past filmmakers.

His latest film “Hugo” is not quite what you would expect from this great director. But it’s beautifully shot as you can see from the trailer above. Scorsese and the film were nominated for Hollywood’s Critics’ Choice Awards and the film received a Golden Globe nomination for best drama. We’ll see if he gets acknowledged this year at The Oscars.

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Award season kicking into high gear

The end of the year is upon us, and at this time everyone in Hollywood starts gearing up for the award shows. Who will be nominated and who will win? Everything culminates with the Oscars, but there are tons of other important awards as well. We just heard from the Golden Globes who announced their nominations. So far “The Artist” has been the huge hit that is generating the most buzz.

As these initial award shows release their nominations, we start to get a better idea of who might be nominated and then ultimately win the Academy Awards. But, of course there are always surprises. Predicting this stuff can be tricky.

Because of that, fans have a field day with office pools and other ways to guess who will be nominated and who will win. There are tons of websites now devoted simply to information and gossip of which film, which starlet and which director might get the final nod.

Stuff the the award shows fuel entertainment betting which has become more and more popular. Everything in entertainment is fair game, from box office winners, Blu-ray sales to which song Madonna will lead with at the Super Bowl.

I think “The Artist” is going to clean up. You?

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Fun app from Axe

With the holidays around the corner it’s always fun to find new and unique ways to send holiday messages.

Axe has a new message app on Facebook called AXE CELEBRATIONS that let’s you send some fun messages to friends for all sorts of events. Get any ideas from the image above? Axe always comes up with fun stuff so this one is worth a try.

The gist is that this app offers up a new way of celebrating the special dates of the year like holidays, birthdays etc. You can set it up to have messages sent at any time using all the tools in the app. Install the application on your Facebook profile and then start playing around with it.

Try it out and see how your friends react.

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Howard Stern joins “America’s Got Talent”

Howard Stern makes the official announcement that he will be a judge next year on “America’s Got Talent.” Stern’s return to NBC should be epic and will bring him back as a front-line celeb. His satellite show is excellent, but he doesn’t have the reach he used to have. Joining this show will make him a huge star again.

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Favorite actresses can inspire your party outfit

“Charlie’s Angels” may not have been a hit in 2011, but the classic “Charlie’s Angels” look can be a great inspiration if you’re looking for a costume for your theme party. All of us remember the hotties from the original 70s show: Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd (pictured here), Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts. The first four in particular were icons back in the 70s, and their look is still admired by women and men everywhere.

So if you’re buying a 70’s outfit, you can’t go wrong looking at old photos of these beauties for inspiration. Now, if you’re looking for cool 80′s costumes you need a completely different perspective. Maybe you can rent old episodes of Dallas for the shoulder pads and big hair.

Both eras are very fun, but the 70s offered a sexier look. The clothes and dresses really showed off a woman’s figure, unlike some of the baggy looks of the 80s. That said, if you’re going with the 80s, you can always go with the Madonna look and wear some lingerie over your clothes. It’s tacky, but it’s also hot!

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“The Dictator” trailer

This looks like another classic from Sacha Baron Cohen.

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