1. God Bless America - Well-written, witty, dark, twisted and surprisingly touching. The film is commentary on the current obsession with celebrities, reality television and other trash that has resulted in people regurgitating information instead of having their own thoughts. It's not subtle either. After being told that he has a terminal brain tumor, Frank (played by Joel Murray) decides to release some of his frustration by killing a very popular reality TV star. This leads him on a spree, killing all the "rude" people in his path, which in all honesty, is very satisfying. American Idol doesn't make me want to kill, but it does make me hate pretty much everyone around me. Bobcat Goldthwait delivers a strong script that really just goes for it, with no apologies or remorse. My biggest (and only) problem with the movie is the character of Roxy. I think the actress over-played her part a bit, but the actual character isn't very cohesive either. *spoilers* Roxy would have made a more resonating impact if her "story" was true. The revelation (that was clear from the beginning) that she lied is offensive and a disservice to females that have actually lived the life that she described. The fact that she is just another spoiled girl, who is desperately seeking excitement in her life, is terribly disappointing. I know that this is the point; that she is just another product of her environment and now we can feel Franks disappointment in, yet, another person. But then, he easily forgives her and, even more frustrating, he reassures her that she is "pretty". Like I said, it was my only problem with the film and I can easily look past it. It will most likely land in my top 10 of the year.
2. The Dictator - Some comedies are provocative, outrageous and offensive all for the sake of a laugh. The Dictator tries too hard to accomplish this and it fails. I sat staring at the screen, thinking "wow....this really isn't funny" and the odd thing is that I really didn't think it was offensive either. As an American, as a woman, as a New Yorker and as a human being, I should be offended, so in that way it failed as well. I can appreciate Sacha Baron Cohen's humor and his "characters". Borat made me laugh and I just now realized that I've never seen Bruno. I assumed that I did. Weird. Also, why, Anna Faris, why??? Dumb comedies are totally her thing, but even this was beneath her. Her dumb blond thing works when she is playing a dumb blond. It doesn't work when she is supposed to be a smart, independent business owner. There wasn't even a cohesive plot to follow, just one ridiculously unfunny scene after the next. A very pathetic attempt at comedy.
3. Abduction - I'm sorry, I don't get Taylor Lautner. Why is he famous again? Because he has nice abs? And? Aside from said abs, he isn't hot (at all) and he has absolutely no acting ability. He lacks charisma and facial expressions. He looks like he struggles to even walk naturally. Abduction easily belongs on the worst films of 2011 list, which is a shame because it actually has a somewhat original idea. This idea, however, becomes so contrived and unbelievable that it negates any positives. The catalyst in the film is that Nathon (Lautner) discovers his own picture on missing children's website, leading him on a quest to discover who he is. Even when I saw the trailer, I thought "ooooh, that is interesting", but I wish someone could take this idea and do it well. This film was empty and boring and forgettable. Although, my absolute favorite part was the BMW commercial in the middle.
4. A Separation - Incredible film. Powerful but still subtle and intimate. It's interesting to see the justice system in Iran, but the domestic story made the film easy to relate to. There were political and religious undertones throughout, but it was never really the focus. I didn't really know what the film was about before watching it, other than a couple getting divorced. It's so much more than that and becomes a very complex tale of human conflict. It is unclear on who the audience should root for (if anyone?). I loved the way it was shot and the narrative felt like a thriller instead of a drama. The ending will leave some frustrated, but I thought it was perfect. The acting was superb, especially Peyman Moadi. I was shocked to learn that this is only his second film. I can clearly see why the film won the Oscar for Foreign Language film (although, my pick, The Skin I Live In, was not nominated).
5. Girl in Progress - So much potential, but hardly amounts to anything. In the beginning, the daughter states that she is inspired by her mother, meaning she is "inspired to be nothing like her". This is something that I can relate to, but I was disappointed that the daughter then spends the entire film becoming exactly like her mother. She becomes selfish, irresponsible and spends her time rebelling and trying to get attention - setting a goal of losing her virginity, which will suddenly make her an adult and therefore independent (and no one seemed concerned about that flawed logic?). I seriously hope that young girls aren't that stupid. The movie becomes a contradiction of itself and it hits all the cliches of mother/daughter relationships (and of course, a happy ending). Eva Mendes did a decent job; much better than the rest of the cast, but still nothing spectacular.