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.


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Superbowl movie ads

If you happen to be one of those weirdos like me who missed the Superbowl but want to see some of the new glimpses of upcoming big time movies being offered during the big broadcast, you’ve come to the right place. (Admittedly one of many right places all over the ‘net.)

We’ll start with the one that maybe has aroused the most curiosity, if only because the least has been known up to now. J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8.” True to its press, what little there’s been, it appears to be kind of “Close Encounters of the Extra-Terrestrial Kind.”

Now here’s more of “Captain America” than we’ve seen before. We even get a split second of the Red Skull (for some reason my favorite super villain as a kid).

A moment with everyone’s favorite Asgard resident.

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Another trailer: Close encounters of the cowboy kind

Considering the title and the involvement of director Jon Favreau, whose pre-“Iron Man” background was mostly in comedy, I had assumed it was going to be a science-fiction comedy along the lines of “Men in Black.” I was apparently wrong. Anyhow, watch as Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and a bunch of mysterious whatsits face off in the first trailer for the long-awaited, and apparently quite tense, “Cowboys and Aliens.”

Speaking of tension and Harrison Ford, I’m a little bit afraid to watch what might become Mr. Ford’s rather legendary “Conan” appearance last night, in which most viewers agreed Ford was in some way altered — perhaps by booze, perhaps something prescribed as medicinal.

All I can say is that, if true, it wouldn’t be the first time. L.A. science fiction geeks of a certain age remember a radio interview given by a young Ford and Mark Hamill before the release of the very first “Star Wars” in which the twosome, who apparently were convinced they were the stars of a movie that might, at best, become an obscure cult item, were fairly obviously under the giggly influence of some pretty good cannabis. The late host of Pacifica station KPFK’s  “Hour 25” radio show, Mike Hodel, often said it was a low-point of the program.

  

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Post Comic-Con movie news

I’m still recuperating a bit from last weekend’s insanity at Comic-Con and a busy week looms ahead, but the recent film news is just a little too interesting to ignore/gloss over.

* Mike Fleming broke the news this afternoon that Daniel Craig has signed on the line which is dotted to play the male lead in the upcoming American film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” In case you never set foot in your local Barnes and Noble outlet, that’s the first novel in so-called Millennium Trilogy of mystery thrillers by the late Swedish author/political activist Steig Larsson. The series is becoming a sort of adult/non-geek HarryPotter for the Trader Joe’s set and the first U.S. film of it has attracted the powerhouse twosome of writer Steve Zallian and director David Fincher.

Judging from having seen the solid, but not excessively over-awesome, Swedish film version of the novel (which I’m really going to have to try and read at some point), Craig is probably a much better choice than the earlier floated Brad Pitt for the part. 007 or not, it’s just easier to see Craig as a down on his luck journo. Also, as Fleming points out, this puts Craig in the unique position of having at least two and, if you count a potentially huge “Cowboys and Aliens,” possibly three franchises to keep busy and well-compensated. Craig is not only an extremely good actor, he’s apparently got some very good agents.

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It’s time for another end of week movie news dump. Yay.

Yup, with Cannes going on and the early-early summer movie season happening, things are hopping.

* Nikkie Finke broke the news this morning of the latest chapter in the never-ending tale of the battle over the rights to the character of “Superman.” It seems DC is countersuing lawyer Marc Toberoff on the grounds of conflict of interest. Sure does sound like “hardball” but that’s what happens when millions of dollars are at stake.

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* It never ends. It just never, ever ends. A new alleged victim has come forward claiming that Roman Polanski raped her during the eighties when she was sixteen. (The terms used in the article are “sexually abused” in “the worst possible way” — I have no clue how that could not be rape, at the very least, if true). The woman is being represented by, naturally, Gloria Allred.

At this time, there’s no corroborating evidence beyond the charges. If there is, I think it’s curtains for Polanski and he’ll find himself suddenly and justifiably all-but friendless in Hollywood. It’s one thing to have one extremely nasty episode in your past, it’s quite another to be a serial sexual predator.

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