My Year In Movies: The Best
It’s that time of year again. No, not the Academy Awards, but my own shout-out to the best films I’ve seen this year. Again, a lot of text, so not so much in the way of pictures. I saw 172 movies in 2011. Here’s the ones I would unreservedly (or at least with teeny, tiny reservations) recommend to all you cheese heads out there.
Happy viewing in 2012, despite what the Mayans say.
*viewed for the first time this year
10+ Animal House: Hadn’t seen this one in about twenty-five years, and I’m glad to say that it holds up well. All-time great comedy. Great script, great cast.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2*: Wisely they mostly just filmed the book, though some parts had to be cut. Nice end to an epic series.
Police Story 3: Super Cop: The best of Jackie Chan’s first three POLICE STORY movies, with the best script and even more mind-boggling stunts. Probably his best contemporary-set films, one of his best over all.
Venture Brothers: Season 4*: I don’t know how they keep making this so fresh and interesting, but if they keep making it I’ll keep watching it. I don’t understand why this isn’t much more popular. The best American television animated series, ever. Watch it, but watch it in order.
10 Captain America*: Great WW II setting for this superior super-hero movie. It has a lot of heart, and Elron does a great job as the Red Skull whom even Hitler thought was deranged.
Hard Day’s Night, A : Superb modern musical, superbly directed by Richard Lester with a minimalist yet entertaining plot to string the songs on.
Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon: Excellent UK effort with Dana Andrews as the snooty American scientist who doesn’t believe in demons. Well, he quickly gets put right! The British version is slightly better, because (among other things) it has Stonehenge (though not exactly accurately portrayed). Great acting, superior script. Vary cool demon. Based on the classic M.R. James “Casting of the Runes.”
Police Story 1: Mind-boggling stunts and fight choreography, held back from totally elite status by a somewhat weak script. First Jackie Chan movie I ever saw. When I showed it to Scott Phillips, it made him the man he is today. Sorry about that, Scott.
Puss In Boots*: Excellent animated adventure with great voices, character design, and screenplay.
Project A 2: Rare case where the sequel (to Project A) is better than the original, based on a more coherent script with funny parts that are actually funny and stunts/fight scenes that actually surpass the high standards of the original.
Rango*: Really excellent animated effort. Great voicing, particularly Johnny Depp as the thespian chameleon. Superb character design. Great script and story with several good (without preaching) messages. Watch for multiple tips o’ the hat to multiple movies.
R.E.D.*: Excellent cast headed by Bruce Willis, excellent screenplay from the Warren Ellis GN, excellent plot.
Son of the Black Mass: Mask of the Princess*: Number seven of the SotBM series. The Princess from movie 4 is back, but not the nudity. No supernatural elements, but a superior plot..
Streets of Fire: One of the all-time great musicals with duels fought with sledge-hammers, set in a never-never world of 1950s style, rain, and urban blight, with great characters, excellent music, and wonderful direction by Walter Hill. The suits were non-plussed and it never had a chance.
Them!: The CITIZEN KANE of Big-Bug Movies. The first (I think) and probably the best, it set the template for all the rest. Superior script, superior acting by James Whitmore and James Arness (and keep your eyes out for a very young Leonard Nimoy)
9+ Cowboys and Aliens*: Superior alien invasion flick set in the Old West with excellent characters and pretty cool effects.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame*: Nice historical/martial arts/fantasy film helmed by Tsui Hark. There’s a little confusion as to how exactly the Phantom Flame works, but it’s remarkably coherent for a HK fantasy epic. Beautifully filmed.
Eagle, The*: Superior historical set in Romano-British times.
Howl’s Moving Castle: Typically beautiful and lyrical Miyaki effort; good story though apparently it veers fairly far from the source material
Legend of Hell-House, The: The CITIZEN KANE of haunted house movies, with a terrific performance by Roddy McDowell.
Son of the Black Mass: Sword of Fire*: The series continues in fine form. No discernible supernatural element in this one. The antagonists are high clan officials and a rice merchant involved in a plot to grab loot they recover from pirates.
Son of the Black Mass: Sword of Satan*: More high-grade historical hijinks. I’m sorry they seem to have lost track of the supernatural element.
Thor*: Great comic book movie. Takes the absurdities and runs with them. Fun and marvelous-looking.
Whisperer in the Darkness*: You probably haven’t seen this one which was made by Lovecraft fabs. If you’re a H. P. Lovecraft fan you must seek it out on line. I saw it at Worldcon. Can’t say that I loved the ending, but it was Lovecraftian, so you have to give it to them.
9 13 Assassins (Miike version)*: The Miike version of the 1960’s classic chambara film of the same name. It follows the original pretty closely, but is a tad more coherent and obviously had a bigger budget. Awesome fight sequences and moderately minor fantasy element that you have to look closely to spot.
AvN*: Three words: Aliens vs Ninjas. The best SyFy movie ever made — though obviously too good to have been made by the SyFy channel.
Balls of Fury: The best martial arts parody film ever made. Christopher Walken in Fu Manchu drag alone is worth the price of admission.
Battlefield: Los Angeles*: Superior sf based on a video game. A bunch of bad-ass aliens invade and the Marines take them on. Some battlefield cliches, but, really, if you make a war movie at this relatively late stage of the game, where are you going to go? Stupid reason for the invasion (they want our water) costs in rating, but a driving plot makes up for the film’s weaknesses.
Creature From The Black Lagoon: First and by far the best of the Creature movies, with Florida once again standing in for the Amazon. The underwater scenes shot at Silver Springs are great.
Drive (director’s cut)*: Each and every Cheese Magneteer out there owes it to themselves to see this great buddy/action flick, written by our own Scott P. Seek it out! But only the director’s cut. It’s been ripped off by many bigger name movies — I’m looking at you, RUSH HOUR.
Drive Angry*: Entertaining Nicholas Cage vehicle, though the accountant from Hell steals the movie. Great drive-in fair, if there were still drive-ins.
Godzilla vs. Megiusaurus: One of big G’s better foes.
Megamind*: Another excellent animated effort, told from the villains POV. Funny script, nice characters. Good job all around.
Mysterians, The : One of the great alien invasion flicks of the 1950s; fast-moving fun.
Paul (extended cut)*: Comedy adventure love letter to sf geeks, wherein the titular Paul, a small grey alien of the E.T. mode, breaks out of Area 51 and heads for home, aided by two Brit geeks fresh from Comic Con, who find adventure, success, and true love along the way.
Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides*: The franchise is rebooted, somewhat, with a number of different characters, and although still a special-effects bonanza, it’s a bit more under control than the previous two entries. Though we do get gratuitous Spaniards and an unnecessary priest, the supporting cast is pretty good, Ian McShane is great as Blackbeard, and Johnny Depp is marvelous, as usual.
Priest*: Great visuals, good script, solid acting with believable characters where the vampires are alien creatures on a world that probably isn’t Earth. Hopefully first in series, but might not have made enough money. Not enough respect given to this one.
Prince of Persia*: Pretty good for a movie based on a video game that is set in ancient Persia but has an all white-guy cast. First parkor movie?
Sherlock: Season 1 (BBC TV)*: Three episodes, 90 minutes each. Intriguing 21st century update where Holmes is a self-proclaimed “high functioning sociopath.” Excellent Holmes and Watson (and Moriarity); wonderful use of London. The mysteries themselves are a tad over-convoluted.
Ship of Monsters*: Just your average SF-Horror-Singing Vaquero movie that must be seen to be believed. Vastly entertaining.
Son of the Black Mass: Sword of Villianry, The*: An original group of antagonists, but the plot is somewhat convoluted.
Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman: Action series collide in this Hong Kong/ Japan mash-up. High quality entry in the Zatoichi series, guest starring Jimmy Wang.
That’s a fair number of words. The Bad will just have to wait for next time.
Remember, five free Roger Zelazny novels (the first five Amber novels) are just sitting here ready to be given away to one lucky reader. Get your name in the hat by the end of Saturday.