1. Margin Call - This is what Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps should have been - intense and intellectual. Films about economics usually go right over my head, as parts of this one did. Yet, I understood the complexity of the situation - set in an investment firm during the early stages of the financial crisis, I understood how the decisions that were made effected the entire country and I understood the attitude of "being first" and that was enough for me to enjoy the film. It is led by a fantastic group of actors: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto (I thought I would argue that Penn Badgley was horribly miscast and a weak link - but he was actually pretty decent). There was heavy dialogue, but it moved rather quickly. I wouldn't call it fantastic, but it held my attention much more than films like this usually do.
2. One Day - Not nearly as bad as I was expecting but I still see it as a disappointing film because the idea has a lot of potential. The film is set to show the different stages in the relationship between a couple on the same day over many years. The concept is genius (I will have to read the book soon), but the film lacked appeal - mostly due to the lack of chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Their "epic" romance just didn't work for me from the very first encounter, so I never invested in them as a couple. It was a bit ambitious in portraying 20 years worth of living in under 2 hours - showing how they change individually as well as a couple. I would love to see a film that does this well.
3. Warrior - Probably the most surprising film of 2011. I never intended on seeing it, having no interest in Mixed Martial Arts - I automatically assumed I would be bored to death. Then, I read several amazing things about the film and it kept moving up on my Netflix queue. Sure, it followed some of the cliche's of these types of movies but I was surprised that a film like this could have such emotion and heart, while also leaving me feeling completely conflicted on the outcome. I think the less you know about the film, the more enjoyable it will be so I won't even go into the plot, but I will say that it is one of the best films I have seen all year and that shocked the hell out of me. I am surprised it is being ignored for awards - both Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were nomination worthy, as was Nick Nolte.
4. Your Highness - Hands down the dumbest film I have seen from 2011 (no, I didn't see Bucky Larson). I am surprised that someone thought this would be a good idea - I assume they were going for a Princess Bride type comedy but it failed miserably. I really don't think I am a fan of Danny McBride - he plays the same pathetic loser type character in every film and it is really not funny. James Franco has been amazing (Freaks and Geeks, 127 Hours), but sometimes he overacts (Spider-man), other times he looks like he is unaware of his surroundings and just reading off of cue cards (like this film). Overall, the film was just plain stupid and even if that is what you are in the mood for (as I was) it is still unsatisfying.
5. The Help - I am in complete confusion as to why this film is getting so much praise. Sure, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were awesome (but that was to be expected...right?) but that doesn't save the whole film from being boring, having a predictable plot and an awful preachy tone. I hate when films reduce the complexity of situations by making one person the "pure evil" one - in this film this was portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard (and nope..I still don't like her...she is such a BLAH actress). She literally had no redeeming qualities which was ultimately the biggest problem of the film. Also, there was a lot of pointless subplots (like Skeeters boyfriend issues) and Celia's entire story arc. I never thought I would hate Emma Stone in anything, but her character was annoyingly idealistic. The movie was literally painful to sit through.
6. The Art of Getting By - Teen angst can be somewhat interesting and entertaining sometimes, but no so much in this film. Freddie Highmore plays sort of the outcast teenager but he doesn’t seem to have any reason for being an outcast - he just chooses to be this way. I sort of get his "depression" about the pointlessness of existence ("we all end up dying alone" as he claims in the beginning) but he does have passion for art – and really that is the point of existence (to find what you are passionate about). Why the film reduces the meaning of life to finding love (especially amongst teenagers) instead of passion is beyond me. Emma Roberts is adorable and I enjoy her in anything (I pretend that Valentines Day doesn't exist) I know people freaked out at seeing child actor Freddie Highmore as a teenager but watching Michael Angarano as an adult is more disturbing for me (he was Jack’s adorable son on Will & Grace). I think the film relied heavily on Freddie's shoulders, but I think he was a bit of a disappointment - absolutely zero on screen charisma. I think I would have enjoyed the film more with someone else in the part. Although the whole "anything is possible" ending would have still irked me nonetheless, so I guess it doesn't matter. Also, I find it nearly impossible to take Alicia Silverstone seriously.