Top 10 of 2011


The annual ritual of choosing the movies that thrilled, chilled, affected and otherwise dug into the critical consciousness with hooks of steel during 2011 is upon Cinema365 and while our list is posted a bit later than most others, think of it as being a labor of love rather than a necessary evil, a particularly unliked chore.

This is the part where I mention that like any other list, this one is completely arbitrary. There’s no scientific basis, nothing quantitative that I can point to and say “this movie deserved to be on this list because of this.” No, it’s completely from the gut my friends and like any gut this big change is constant. The list you see here today is not the list I would make tomorrow. That’s why it always takes me so long; I hem, I haw, I prevaricate. At last, I assign.

Generally speaking, this list reflects my tastes as I saw the movie. I take all the movies I gave an 8 or greater score to, put the 10s at the top, the 9s below and so on. The half points I generally don’t take into consideration. Therefore you might see an 8 ranked above an 8.5. See what I mean about arbitrary?

So this is all about whether I liked the movie or not. 2011 didn’t see any real game changers in terms of movies that will rank as all-time bests. It is somewhat telling that perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie of the year was a silent movie whose style harkened back to the films of that era. Still, even if none of them may end up as classics that withstand the test of time (and I think a few of them will), all ten of these and the honorable mentions as well, should provide at least a good starting point if you want to take a cinematic  year in review viewing party and stock it up with really good movies instead of just really popular ones.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late. There are two films on this list that you may find difficult to find either in home video or theaters. Check your local film festival to see if they will be around, or the websites that I have included with the original reviews – you can access those by clicking on the movie title and you can read what I wrote about them way back when.

This is meant to invite discussion or perhaps a heated argument or two. Feel free to submit your own top ten, or harangue me about mine. My skin is thick and I don’t bruise easily. I welcome hearing why my list is full of crap and yours is so much better. That’s why lists are fun.  

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

In a Better World, Hugo, War Horse, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Company Men, The Descendants, Margin Call, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I Saw the Devil, Thor, J. Edgar, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Holy Wars, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Double Hour, Win Win, Bridesmaids, Young Goethe in Love, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin, The Happy Poet, The Whistleblower, In Time, Apollo 18, Submarine, Drive.

And with no further ado, let us get on with the countdown:

10.  HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

(Warner Brothers) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Everyone in England. Directed by David Yates

Released July 15, 2011 The end of an era finally came to pass as nearly a decade of Pottermania had its final moments and the series went out with a glorious bang. Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron would take on the forces of evil in an epic battle that would shake the very foundations of magic itself as Harry and Lord Voldemort finally had the face-off that everyone had been waiting for.

WHY IT IS HERE: There are those who proclaimed it the best film in the series and in many ways they weren’t wrong. This was an emotional rollercoaster that had heroism, villainy, pathos and even a hint of comedy here and there. After the first part of the last book seemed to be all exposition and no action, this movie made for a wonderful payoff. Not everyone would survive but this was a more than satisfactory ending to a series many people grew up with. There were a lot of misty eyes in the theater when the final credits rolled, not the least of which were the Warner Brothers accountants who would see their biggest moneymaking series ever fade into history.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Harry prepares for certain death as he goes into the black forest to compose himself. There he meets the shades of his parents as well as those in the series who had passed on. It was remarkably moving and I for one had tears literally streaming down my face when I saw it. In fact, I’m a bit misty right now just writing about it.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $381 million domestic (as of 1/17/12), $1.3 billion total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on HBO/Cinemax. Download/stream from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Blockbuster.

9. INCENDIES

(Sony Classics) Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulim, Maxim Gaudette, Remy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Allan Altman, Mohamed Majd, Nabil Sawalha, Baya Belal, Yousef Shweihat. Directed by Denis Villanueve

Released April 22, 2011 This was nominated for a Foreign Language Film Oscar, representing Canada but very little of it was set in the Great White North. It didn’t win but many thought it should have. A woman follows the path of her mother as she makes a search for the man who is her father, starting in the small village her mother came from in the Middle East. The more she looks the deeper the mystery becomes as she discovers her mother was caught in a vicious civil war between Christian and Muslim factions in that country, leading to a shocking revelation that turns her daughter’s life upside down.

WHY IT IS HERE: There is no movie on this list that will grab your guts quite as much as this one does. While many explore the depths of man’s cruelty to man, here is a movie that takes that cruelty head-on and exposes the ugliness for all to see. Yet even with all this ugliness, there is still lingering hope that tinges the entire film and makes it ultimately an uplifting experience, despite the horror. Forgiveness trumps hatred every time.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A scene in which a busload of Muslim women meet a horrible end is one that will stay with you for a very long time.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2.1 million domestic (as of 1/17/12), $3.6M total.

BUDGET: $6.8 million.

STATUS:Currently available on home video. Available on Starz. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Streaming unavailable.

8. BUCK

(Sundance Selects) Buck Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Reata Brannaman, Betsy Shirley, Robert Redford, Bibb Frazier, Betty Staley, Ali Cornish, Shayne Jackson, Smokie Brannaman, Ray Hunt. Directed by Cindy Meehl

Released June 17, 2011 Buck Brannaman is an archetype, a modern day cowboy who is equal parts Roy Rogers and Dr. Phil. His journey from being a trick roper for an abusive father to one of the top consultants to ranchers about horse behavior and horse training (the character of The Horse Whisperer is largely based on him) is a moving one. One look at the trailer which preceded it convinced me that this was going to be a special film and when I got to see it in San Francisco with Da Queen, I found it to exceed those expectations and Da Queen agreed – if you were to ask her, this would undoubtedly be one of her favorite movies of the year as well.

WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival last January and it’s easy to see why. Few films – and even fewer documentaries – have as much heart and compassion as this movie does and the reason for it is Brannaman. He is self-effacing, quiet and has a connection to horses that is rare as it is beautiful. He has challenged traditional methods of training for one that is more effective and less traumatic for the horse. These days it can be difficult to be proud to be an American but this movie will allow you to do so, at least for a few hours.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Buck comforts a rancher who realizes that her inexperience and poor decisions regarding her horse have led to the injury of one of her hands and the eventual termination of the horse.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4 million domestic (as of 1/18/12), $4M total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS:Currently available on home video. Available on Showtime. Download from Amazon/iTunes. Stream on Netflix. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

7. FANNY, ANNIE AND DANNY

(Self-Released) Jill Pixley, Carlye Pollack, Jonathan Leveck, Colette Keen, George Killingsworth, Nick Frangione, Anne Darragh, Suzanna Aguayo, Nancy Carlin, Don Schwantz. Directed by Chris Brown

Released April 16, 2010 There are some movies that you will not see outside of a film festival. They are labors of love, made on shoestring budget by filmmakers who are often just learning their craft. Sometimes those movies are learning experiences for the filmmakers; they will go on to bigger and better things eventually but sometimes, you run into quality that stands on its own merit and doesn’t need any sort of qualifier, be it low-budget or inexperience. These films stand proudly with movies that have studio backing and/or indie distribution to be among the year’s best.  

WHY IT IS HERE: Brown’s third feature is an often poignant, generally funny and entirely too human portrayal of a dysfunctional family imploding over the course of a Christmas dinner. On paper it sounds awkward and uncomfortable and there are a few moments where those emotions are present but for the most part you just saw the damage done by years of digging, disappointment and disability. Well-acted (particularly Pixley, Keen and Killingsworth) and droll when it needs to be, this movie should be sent to every studio mogul and director as a primer in how great films can be done on microscopic budgets.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene near the end of the film when Danny’s departure brings down the facade from his mother and shows her to be what she truly is. It’s a marvelous piece of acting by Keen.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS:The movie worked the film festival circuit last year, culminating in a brief run at New York’s ReRun Gastropub Theater in December. The film’s website doesn’t mention any plans for the movie to be released on DVD; hopefully someday it will be available in that formula or for digital download somewhere. Check the movie’s website for updates.

6. THE HELP

(DreamWorks/Disney) Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mike Vogel, Anna Camp, Brian Kerwin, Mary Steenburgen, David Oyelowo, Aunjanue Ellis, Nelsan Ellis. Directed by Tate Taylor

Released August 10, 2011 Based on a bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, this movie shot to big box office after its release. The amount of success was a bit of a surprise given the subject matter but the quality wasn’t, given the excellent cast. Spencer has already won a Golden Globe for her performance and has received an Oscar nomination, along with Davis. The movie is also up for Best Picture.

WHY IT IS HERE: Some of the strongest ensemble work of any casts this year, for one thing. The writers and director Taylor could have taken the route in which Emma Stone’s Skeeter character was the brave white girl standing up for the oppressed minority (which has been done in other films) but that isn’t the case here; Stone is portrayed as much a cog in the wheel as the axel turning it. This is clearly Davis’ and Spencer’s movie. It’s funny, heartbreaking in places and insightful throughout.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Hilly discovers the truth about the “terrible awful.”

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $169.6 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $205.3 million total.

BUDGET: $25 million

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

5. BARNEY’S VERSION

(Sony Classics) Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Scott Speedman, Minnie Driver, Bruce Greenwood, Rachelle Lefevre, Saul Rubinek, Mark Addy, Macha Grenon, Paul Gross, Anna Hopkins, Jake Hoffman, Thomas Trabacchi, Cle Bennett. Directed by Richard J. Lewis

Released January 14, 2011 While it’s true Giamatti would win a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the title character, it was at last year’s Golden Globes. This Canadian film was based on a Mordechai Richler, author of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. For whatever reason it was released in early January instead of late December, effectively ending any shot it had at Oscar contention.

WHY IT IS HERE: Amazing performances from an amazing cast, to be blunt. Giamatti as I mentioned won a Golden Globe and the rest of the cast, from the irrepressible Dustin Hoffman to the breezy Speedman to the gruff Addy to the lustrous Pike all did bang-up jobs. Barney’s journey isn’t an easy one and at times the movie is so heartbreaking you want to run out of the theater – or as the case may be your living room – but staying until the final credits roll is so very worth your while.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Basically, the last 20 minutes of the movie is something special. I was very, very moved.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $8.5 million worldwide.

BUDGET: $30 million

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on Starz. Download from Amazon/Blockbuster/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

4. TROLL HUNTER (TROLLJEGEREN)

(Magnet) Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Morck, Knut Naerum, Robert Stoltenberg, Glenn Erland Tosterud. Directed by Andre Ovredal

Released June 10, 2011 We saw this at the Florida Film Festival and have been a huge fan ever since. While this is one of the “found footage” films subgenre that has been getting overused over the past couple years, it may very well be the best of them, better even than the one that started it – The Blair Witch Project.  

WHY IT IS HERE: Irreverent and fun, this is a theme park ride disguised as a movie. The trolls themselves are obviously CGI but they look exactly how you’d expect them to. Definitely the humor is low-key which some might have trouble with. This is one of those hidden treasures that nobody knows about, but when you get a friend to see it they become instant fans.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Hans filling out paperwork after his latest successful troll hunt.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $253,444 domestic (as of 1/25/11), $4.2 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on Showtime starting February 23rd. Download from Amazon/Blockbuster/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix. Stream on Amazon/Netflix.

3. THE ARTIST

(Weinstein) Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Bitsie Tulloch, Joel Murray, Ken Davitian, Basil Hoffman. Directed by Michael Hazanavicius

Released November 25, 2011 After a good showing at the Golden Globes, The Artist is an odds-on favorite at the Oscars, with ten nominations including Best Picture (which it won at the Globes) and Best Actor for Dujardin (which he also won). This is probably the most critically acclaimed film of the year.

WHY IT IS HERE: This isn’t just an homage to silent cinema but an excellent example of the style of silent films. The humor is a bit broad and the pathos a bit maudlin but the movie works on every level. Even though there is almost no dialogue (there is music on the soundtrack and some sound effects) the acting gets across every nuance of the screenplay without fail. Dujardin, a French comic actor and Bejo, an Argentine actress, make a great team. This is the kind of movie that those who ordinarily wouldn’t choose to go see it are made believers after they’ve given it a shot.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: George’s suicide attempt is a heartbreaker.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $12.4 million domestic (as of 1/25/11), $33.4 million total.

BUDGET: $15 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release.

2.  THE WAY

(ARC Entertainment) Martin Sheen, Yorick von Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Emilio Estevez, Tcheky Karyo, Spencer Garrett, Angelina Molina, Carlos Leal, Antonio Gil, Simon Andreu, David Alexanian, Eusebio Lazaro. Directed by Emilio Estevez

Released October 7, 2011 Walking the Camino de Santiago has always held a fascination to me. I’m way too out of shape to do it myself; this is as close as I’m going to come to doing it myself. I wasn’t impressed by the trailer or the concept originally but was blown away when I saw the film. It is insightful, emotionally authentic and yes it will make you laugh and cry.

WHY IT IS HERE: I am not the most Catholic of Catholics, but this movie gave me a nostalgic twinge in my ecumenical muscle. I also must admit that James Michener’s travelogue Iberia is a book that I’ve read and re-read a dozen times in my life; the chapter about the Camino always sung to me. No movie released this year afforded the opportunity for self-discovery as this one did and much of the responsibility for that goes to Martin Sheen’s dignified but realistic performance, making me realize how much I miss President Josiah Bartlett. Movies this powerfully moving should get as much praise as can be heaped on them.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene where Sara confesses to Tom about her abusive background.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.4 million domestic (as of 1/26/12), $4.4 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on February 21.

1. KINYARWANDA

(AFFRM) Edouard Bamporiki, Cassandra Freeman, Marc Gwamaka, Zaninka Hadidja, Mursari Jean, Cleophas Kabasita, Hassan Kabera, Mazimpaka Kennedy, Assumpta Micho, Kena Onyenjekwe, Edouard B. Uwayo. Directed by Alrick Brown

Released December 2, 2011 Some movies aren’t seen so much as experienced. This film tells several stories about the Rwandan genocide, from a teenager girl who comes home after sneaking out to attend a party to find her parents murdered, to a courageous priest who tries to save as many of his Tutsi flock as he can, to a pair of soldiers who have varying reasons to want to put themselves at risk in Rwanda. Each story has an enormous emotional resonance and is based on a survivor’s actual experiences.

WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that doesn’t seem like a first feature. Indeed, I have not seen a better film this year. Few films will affect you as deeply as this one; but while it is set during one of the darkest moments in human history, it is not a story of darkness. Rather it is a film about reconciliation and hope, of the extraordinary ability of the human spirit to give the divine gift of forgiveness no matter how heinous the crime, how egregious the transgression. If the Tutsi can forgive the Hutu and move to becoming a single nation after what happened in Rwanda, there is hope for us as a species if we can, as the Rwandans are doing, appeal to our own higher natures. When a movie can provide that for its audience, it is an extraordinary film indeed.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A scene where one of the soldiers who committed murder in the genocide realizes what he has participated in and what it has cost his soul – with tragic results.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $21,097 domestic (as of 12/4/11), $21,097 total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Kinyarwanda has had a limited release mostly in large cities. It is listed on the Netflix site with an as-yet unscheduled DVD release date, indicating that there are plans to release it in that format.

New Releases for the Week of July 8, 2011


July 8, 2011

HORRIBLE BOSSES

(New Line) Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Anniston, Colin Ferrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Ioan Gruffud, Jamie Foxx, Julie Bowen, Bob Newhart, Isaiah Mustafa, Ron White. Directed by Seth Gordon

A trio of cubicle cowboys suffers from their own particular form of Purgatory; one has a psychotic boss who delights in making him squirm. Another has a female boss who thinks sexually harassing her employee is a form of foreplay. A third has a boss who might well be insane, giving orders to fire people on the flimsiest of pretenses. All three agree their lives would be much better without them. But how can three guys who are about as violent as a Smurf hope to put together a murder scenario for three people? With the help of a professional, that’s how.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material)

Buck

(Sundance Selects) Buck Brannaman, Robert Redford, Reata Brannaman, Betsy Shirley. Here is an amazing documentary on the life of Buck Brannaman, the man who was the model for The Horse Whisperer and served as an advisor on that film. These days he travels the country, giving clinics on humane ways for horse owners to train their horses rather than the barbaric practice of “breaking” them. His own childhood of abuse gives him insight into the plight of the horses. For those who want to know what I thought of it, here is my review.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, mild language and an injury)

Page One: Inside the New York Times

(Magnolia) Brian Stelter, Tim Arango, David Carr. A rare but fascinating glimpse inside the inner workings of America’s most prestigious newspaper. Particular attention is paid to the Media Desk and to columnists covering our changing world. This is the story of a year in the life of an institution struggling to survive as the news gathering industry changes around it.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Zookeeper

(Columbia) Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Joe Rogen. When a kindly zookeeper’s chosen profession gets in the way of his love life, he resolves to get a new career. This doesn’t sit well with the animals under his care who don’t want to lose the best keeper they’d ever had. They resolve to help him get the woman of his dreams but to do so they have to let him in on a huge secret – they can talk like humans. Paging Doctor Doolittle, Doctor Doolittle your lawyers are calling.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family Comedy

Rating: PG (for some rude and suggestive humor, and language)

Buck


Buck

Buck Brannaman surrounded by his friends.

(2011) Documentary (Sundance Selects) Buck Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Reata Brannaman, Betsy Shirley, Robert Redford, Bibb Frazier, Betty Staley, Ali Cornish, Shayne Jackson, Smokie Brannaman, Ray Hunt. Directed by Cindy Meehl

We as Americans tend to think of ourselves as the strong silent types. We admire the archetype of the lone cowboy, masculine and kind, prone to doing the right thing and saying little to blow his own horn; he just gets on with things.

Buck Brannaman fits the ideal to a “T”. This documentary follows Brannaman while he goes on the road, which he does nine months of the year. He runs clinics in which he teaches horse owners to gently train their horses without abusing or breaking them. He is the inspiration for the character of Tom Booker in the Nicholas Evans novel “The Horse Whisperer” which later became a Robert Redford movie.

Brannaman has a droll sense of humor; he quips early on “I get called out for people with horse problems, but usually find horses with people problems.” He is self-deprecating but firm in his passions; from time to time he calls out his clients when their behavior is detrimental to the horse. His daughter Reata accompanies him for two months out of the year; she is described by her mother Mary as “her father’s daughter,” which Buck tends to agree with; “Fortunately she got her mother’s looks, but inside she’s more like me.”

There’s something about Buck that you just respond to, whether you’re a human being or a horse. It is his innate humanity, his gentle sense of humor and his empathy for both man and beast. He is a decent human being and that decency radiates from him like an aura.

Horse lovers will find many reasons to love this film; the animals have personalities and are treated with dignity and respect. So too are the people who love horses. Some are those who work with horses on ranches; others are those who use horses in other ways, as show horses and in dressage. Then there are just who just love horses and want to learn to ride.

The most remarkable thing about Buck is that he came from a background of extreme abuse as a child; his father was something of a drunken monster who’s own insecurities led him to beat his children (Buck and his brother Smokie) unmercifully. Buck and Smokie, who were trick ropers as children (Buck and Smokie remain in the Guinness Book of World Records to this day for achievements as children), had their injuries found out by a football coach who immediately reported it to the authorities, and the two boys were remanded to the care of Betsy Shirley, a foster mom who together with her husband raised the two as their own (some of the best moments in the movie come when Betsy comes to visit Buck).

Not all documentaries need to be about an issue. Some of the best ones are about people who are worth knowing more about. People who make the world a better place in their own way. You will be better for even a brief encounter with Buck than you were going in. If there’s a better reason to go see a movie, I can’t think of it.

REASONS TO GO: A wonderful portrayal of a real American archetype. Truly inspiring in places, Brannaman’s humanity and compassion shines.

REASONS TO STAY: Much of the movie revolves around Brannaman’s clinics and might be a bit repetitive for some.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some discussions of child abuse and one scene of an injury that might be too much for impressionable sorts.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Buck Brannaman was not only the inspiration for the lead character in the novel The Horse Whisperer; he also was a technical advisor on the film of the novel.

HOME OR THEATER: Beautifully photographed, this should be seen on a big screen.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

TOMORROW: Premonition

Four-Warned: June 2011


Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. GREEN LANTERN (1.0)
2. SUPER 8 (1.3)
3. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (1.5)
4. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2.3)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. TROLL HUNTER (1.0)
2. BUCK (1.2)
3. IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (1.6)
4. BEAUTIFUL BOY (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JUNE 3, 2011

BEAUTIFUL BOY (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. A family comes to grips with the tragedy of their son shooting up his school before killing himself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Stars the great Michael Sheen and the trailer is really compelling, by the way.
BEGINNERS (Focus) Genre: Dramedy. A young man comes to grips with the passing of his father through a relationship with a woman whose joie de vivre brings to mind his late dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 This is based on the director’s own relationship with his dad.
THE LAST MOUNTAIN (DADA) Genre: Documentary. Activists try to save a West Virginia mountain from being destroyed by a coal mining corporation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The trailer looked both intriguing and inspiring.
LOVE, WEDDING, MARRIAGE (IFC) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A high-strung marriage counselor attempts to save her parents’ marriage at the expense of her own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A decent cast but Mandy Moore playing high-strung could be too much for my nerves.
MR. NICE (MPI Media Group) Genre: Espionage Comedy – Maybe. The remarkable story of Howard Marks, a man of many hats. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Don’t know very much about this movie but the cast (including Rhys Ifans and David Thewlis) is strong.
REJOICE AND SHOUT (Magnolia) Genre: Musical Documentary. A glimpse at the more than 200 year history of gospel music from its beginnings as slave songs into the influential celebratory sounds that it has become. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles June 17). RATING: 3.8 Not really my cup of tea.
SUBMARINE (Weinstein) Genre: Dramedy. A young British adolescent tries to rekindle the romance between his feuding parents while trying to get laid himself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 One of the more acclaimed movies to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The origin story of Professor X, Magneto and the Xavier School for Gifted Children – the X-Men with an all-new cast. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Kind of flew under the fanboy radar the past year but only now beginning to generate a positive buzz.

JUNE 8, 2011

ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. An elephant, unhappy performing in a circus, is taken by an understanding owner by various steps back into the wild. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles June 24). RATING: 3.2 After seeing Water for Elephants, this might be a balance for circus life.

JUNE 10, 2011

BRIDE FLIGHT (Music Box) Genre: Drama. Three women fly to New Zealand from the Netherlands to meet as mail order brides and remain there for 50 years, the lives of all three entwined. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.6 A terrific looking trailer although it sounds a little on the soap opera side.
THE CHAMELEON (LLeju) Genre: Thriller. The return of a kidnapped boy to his home brings more questions than answers and opens up a deeper mystery. Release Strategy: Limited.RATING: 2.9 A great cast (including Ellen Barkin) and the extra added attraction of a true story.
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (Relativity) Genre: Family. A young girl wants to turn her drab and dreary summer into the best ever – with the help of her eccentric aunt. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 Even though it has one of my favorite actresses in it (Heather Graham) the trailer looks just hopelessly awful.
JUST LIKE US (Cross Cultural) Genre: Comedy. A documentary about Arabic stand-up comedians from around the world. Release Strategy: New York City, Los Angeles and Washington DC (Expands June 17). RATING: 2.9 It’s always a good time for cross cultural understanding.
ROAD TO NOWHERE (Monterey Media) Genre: Thriller. A filmmaker making a movie about an actual murder casts an actress with a disturbing resemblance to the victim and in doing so opens the door for intrigue and connection to the original crime. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles June 17). RATING: 3.0 Sounds a bit like the all-time classic thriller Laura.
SUPER 8 (Paramount) Genre: Horror Action. A group of young amateur filmmakers in 1979 capture a train derailment on film and discover there’s more to it than met the eye. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Spielberg and J.J. Abrams; need I say more?
THE TRIP (IFC) Genre: Comedy. Two British comedians go on a road trip to review restaurants and try to make each other laugh. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A hilarious trailer makes me want to see this much more than I would have ordinarily.
TROLLHUNTER (Magnet) Genre: Found Footage Horror. A group of young Norwegian student filmmakers find and follow a government-sanctioned troll hunter as he hunts down the dangerous creatures. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Saw this at the Florida Film Festival and was completely blown away.
VIVA RIVA! (Music Box) Genre: Crime Drama. A small time African criminal scores a big cache of black market gasoline and unwittingly opens up a big can of worms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Sounds fascinating…I’m always interested in African cinema.

JUNE 15, 2011

KIDNAPPED (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A dysfunctional family living in an exclusive gated community in Madrid find themselves fighting for their lives when their home is invaded by brutal masked men. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 The movie is said to have been filmed in only a few shots, giving it a very real time feel – which seems kind of gimmicky to me.

JUNE 17, 2011

THE ART OF GETTING BY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A high school senior who has managed to avoid doing any real work his entire life meets a girl who sees more inside him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 An interesting trailer but not enough to really pique my interest much.
BUCK (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A real-life “horse whisperer” and authentic cowboy is called upon to fix people with horse problems which turn out to be mostly horses with people problems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 The trailer was incredibly moving and makes me hope against all odds that this will play in Orlando.
GREEN LANTERN (Warner Brothers) Genre: Superhero. A brash test pilot is given a powerful ring that he is meant to defend the universe with – assuming he can get his own act together first. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.0 I’ve been chomping at the bit to see this movie ever since it was first announced.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family Comedy. A house painter with dreams of arctic exploration receives a penguin who multiplies into many whom he trains to performRelease Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Based on an award-winning children’s classic.
. MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE (Cohen) Genre: Comedy. An illiterate handyman is taught how to read by a little old lady, opening his mind to the possibility that he might be an intellectual after all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Gerard Depardieu is one of the most charming actors in history.
PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. As print journalism begins to be supplanted by the internet, the most venerated newspaper in America struggles to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Raises some very valid questions about the media in the 21st century and beyond.

JUNE 22, 2011

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (Oscilloscope) Genre: Documentary. An unprecedented look at the radical ecological terrorist group and one member in particular. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 When do the ends justify the means?

JUNE 24, 2011

A BETTER LIFE (Summit) Genre: Drama. A Hispanic father tries to protect his son from the harsh realities of living in an American barrio, all the while fighting to obtain a future better than his own. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 A compelling look at the American Dream from the director of About a Boy.
A LITTLE HELP  (Freestyle) Genre: Drama. A woman whose husband dies suddenly is comforted and aided by her mother and sister – and finds herself being drawn to her sister’s husband. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Sounds a bit soap opera-esque on the surface but the trailer looked pretty interesting.
BAD TEACHER (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A teacher who hates her job and is just killing time until she can marry a rich substitute teacher discovers an incentive program that will pay her enough for the boob job she needs to snare her prey. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 Looks Apatow-esque but not as effortlessly funny.
THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST (Big Indie) Genre: Comedy. A couple moves to New York City to get their five year old daughter into an exclusive private school and uses sexual blackmail and plagiarism to do it. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.6 Neil Patrick Harris is one of my favorite comic actors.
CARS 2 (Disney*Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. Mater gets mistaken for a superspy while he accompanies Lightning McQueen on an International Grand Prix. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.9 Cars was never one of my favorite Pixar releases and this one looks to be one of their weakest movies in a long time.
CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP (Abramorama) Genre: Documentary. During the late night talk show host’s contractually enforced TV/Internet/Radio performance ban following his “Tonight Show” exit, he toured the country with a sometimes angry stand-up act, captured here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A very revealing look at a performer not only filling a void in his life but exorcising a few demons in the process.
LEAP YEAR (ANO BISIESTO) (Strand) Genre: Drama. A young journalist in Mexico City embarks in a sado-masochistic affair and in the process leads her down a very dark path. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles July 1). RATING: 2.4 The prurient interest is appealing but looks to be a film pushing the envelope of Mexican cinema.
NAMES OF THE LOVE (Music Box) Genre: Comedy. A beautiful liberal tries to literally seduce right wing men into seeing things her way. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 The kind of political lobbying Bill Clinton would have loved.

JUNE 29, 2011

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (DreamWorks) Genre: Science Fiction. Sam Witwicky discover the Space Race of the ‘60s held a dark secret in regards to the Transformers and their hated Decepticon rivals. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 2.3 Really didn’t like the last installment in the series but must admit the trailers for this one have looked much better.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Beginners, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Green Lantern, A Better Life, Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon