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July 1, 2011
Top 10 best and worst films of 2011  (so far)  
By Roland Hansen
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Everybody loves top ten lists and come December there will be a slew of top ten movies of
the year lists. The movie year is now just half over so I thought I'd get a jump on the
competition and give my take on the ten best and worst of 2011. These may or may not end
up in my overall ten best and worst for the year as the film industry tends to save their
"Oscar bait" till November and December. Also we judges often have short memories and
tend to have the latest releases on our minds. Choosing the best and the worst proved
more difficult this time. This year I found it difficult to limit my selection to only 5 of each
best/worst so I went with 10.  Last year I selected only films I saw in the theater but I
chose to include movies I saw on DVD as well (mostly for the worst selections). So here
they are in alphabetical order my choices for the best and worst.

The Best Movies for the first half of 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Gnomeo & Juliet


The Kings Speech

Midnight in Paris

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Never Let Me Go


Source Code


The Worst Movies for the first half of 2011

Fish Tank

Hall Pass

Held Up

Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil

Mean Girls 2


The Romantics


Sucker Punch

Take Me Home Tonight
Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate
us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau
as a man who glimpses the future 'Fate' has planned for him
and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must
pursue the only woman he's ever loved across, under and
through the streets of modern-day New York. With the strong
on scene chemistry provided between Damon and Blunt;
both male and female moviegoers will leave the theater
knowing that the heart wants what it wants and no seen and
unseen forces can destroy that need. The Adjustment
Bureau is a well-paced, well-balanced, and artful sci-fi thriller
that doesn't feel the need to lob fistfights or car chases at
you in order to entertain. It was by far the best movie I
watched this weekend, possibly even this year.
The King’s Speech tells the story of the rise to power of King
George VI (Colin Firth) against the backdrop of his effort to
rid himself of a debilitating stammer. Opening with a
devastating speech attempt at the British Empire Exhibition
at Wembley in October of 1925, the film follows then Duke
Albert as he begins speech therapy with eccentric Australian
speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) through his
father King George V’s (Michael Gambon) death, his brother
Edward’s (Guy Pearce) ascension to and abdication of the
throne to his own coronation and early reign. The King’s
Speech is just an excellent movie all around. There is
nothing it does poorly and even if the story isn’t the most
earth shattering, it doesn’t matter. It is elegant and expertly
made and is a joy to watch. The performances are stellar
and the writing is superb. There are a lot of things that could
of gone wrong but as it turns out, none of them did. Excellent.
Because the gnomes in this film are garden gnomes (think of
that roaming travel gnome from the TV commercials) -
warring clans of red- and blue-hatted statues in
well-manicured yards behind houses owned by the
Montagues and the Capulets (get it?). They are tiny statues
that spring to life when no humans are near. There's plenty
of action, and it's all wrapped up in a retro soundtrack of
Elton John's greatest hits including "Crocodile Rock,"
"Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Rocket Man." It
turns out that I had a lot of fun watching "Gnomeo and Juliet."
As Shakespeare himself might say, all's well that ends well.
The secret at the heart of Never Let Me Go is genuinely
distressing, and yet when it finally comes to light, the film
remains steadfastly understated. A beautifully crafted
meditation on what it means to be human. The disturbing
power of the story speaks for itself here thanks to the
luscious cinematography, stirring score and wonderful
performances. Never Let Me Go is a motion picture that
keeps you guessing, shocks you with the awful truth and then
tears your emotions apart. However, as sad and bleak as this
movie is, its exceptional story is even more spellbinding -
especially given the level talent involved. Never Let Me Go is
also oddly compelling. A fascinating sense of mystery paired
with a character-driven story that is intensified by truly terrific
performances by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly and Andrew
Garfield make for a rewarding cinematic experience - even if
it does cause you to feel utterly hopeless.
Like Spielberg’s ET, Paul needs help going home.  Like
Starman, he’s on the run.  There are shadowy government
forces out to get him, in the form of Jason Bateman’s super-
competent Agent Zoil, Bill Hader & Joe LoTruglio’s super-
incompetent Haggard & O’Reilly, and the one behind the
scenes pulling all the strings, the Big Guy, who is only heard
and not seen until the end of the movie. The tone of Paul is
light and breezy, and uncommonly generous in spirit.  Even
the “bad guys” are played by beloved and/or lovable actors
who get great lines.   There are a lot of great lines to go
around.  This is one seriously quotable movie.  That’s Pegg
& Frost’s forte, and on that front, this is their best work yet.
You have to love a movie that so relentlessly goes after
creationists, fundamentalists, anti-evolutionists,
demagogues, and close minds.
A helicopter pilot recruited for a top-secret military operation
finds himself on a startlingly different kind of mission in
Source Code, a smart, fast-paced action thriller that
challenges our assumptions about time and space. Filled
with mind-boggling twists and heart-pounding suspense.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a
speeding commuter train with no idea how he got there.
Seated across from him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a
woman he doesn’t know, but who clearly believes she knows
him. This little thriller is packed with a nice balance of
laughter, poignancy and tenseness…and even romance
to break up the somber tone. I simply enjoyed every minute
of it, and I think these types of movies could help revitalize
the science fiction world greatly. Source Code is definitely
worth while and a must see.
A teenage girl, who is raised by her father to be a cold-
hearted assassin, finds herself at sea when she goes out
into the world after a life lived in isolation. Hanna is trained
from birth in the woods by her spy father to exact revenge on
a high level CIA operative. In her early teens Hanna deems
herself ready and sets the plan in motion. Hanna is a serious
film and it keeps a quick pace. Although the film does not
have the large explosions and huge FX action scenes, it’s
hand to hand combat is far more intense than its large
budget competition. Hanna uses great performances and
strong characters instead of expensive effects and it works
great. It’s an expertly crafted movie that is interesting and
captivating right to the last shot and definitely worth your time.
The story is fairly basic  Thor is cast out of Asgard by Odin  
for breaking the peace between Asgard and Jotunheim. On
Earth, he meets and befriends astrophysicists Jane Foster
and Erik Selvig. While he struggles with what it means to be
a hero of Asgard, his brother Loki ascends to the throne
through treachery, eventually threatening all three worlds.
Some of Loki’s early antics were done because he could get
away with them, but for the main plot-arc Loki has some
complex motivation going on. He struggles with his identity
and tries to prove himself a worthy son to Odin - and he
believes that latter part, even if his actions speak otherwise.
He’s a sympathetic villain, and his characterization raises the
bar even further. Thor is one of the best comic book screen
adaptations to date. It’s worth seeing, and it makes me all
the more eager for The Avengers.
This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that
goes there because of business, and two young people who
are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there
that change their lives. It's about a young man's great love
for a city, Paris and the illusion people have that a life
different from theirs would be much better. Midnight
effortlessly captures the charm of Paris, of the 1920s jazz
age, of the modern day obsession with wealth and status,
and of the exasperating nature of the overachieving prep
stud  – whose scenes earned some of the film’s biggest
laughs. Most of all Woody Allen creates a classic-style
romance with just the right balance of fantasy and realism
that you can’t help but dive into as you barrack for Gil’s
success. One of the most delightful films you’ll see this year!
Ethan is a struggling writer who meets divorced waitress
Jesse that inspires him. The two instantly connect.
Unfortunately, right after Ethan leaves, Jesse meets Troy, an
ad executive who is the typical “Mr. Right”. Jesse lets both
relationships develop until ultimately both men ask her to
make a big leap in their respective relationships. What’s a girl
to do? There’s a twist ending. Of course, I won’t give it away,
but it’s important to know, because the film is so frustrating
until that point. Characters don’t always make decisions that
make sense, you don’t know who the protagonist really is,
and you fall in and out of love with Milano constantly.
However, the ending makes it all worth it. Another movie that
starts slow and builds to an unbelievable ending.  You will
have to pay attention at the end…very carefully, then you will
go “AH…”.
Fish Tank is the story of Mia, a volatile 15-year-old, who is
always in trouble and who has become excluded from school
and ostracised by her friends. One hot summer’s day her
mother brings home a mysterious stranger called Connor
who promises to change everything and bring love into all
their lives. Watching a movie like Fish Tank presents a
challenge because as a critic you have to separate your
feelings from a well-made film. Often times they are one in
the same, but in this case it was well-made, but one I didn’t
particular enjoy. More British miserabilism which no sane
moviegoer would pay to watch. overall it's a disjointed,
inconsequential script which meanders along without any
attempt at social or psychological analysis. Events happen
that don't reveal much about anyone or anything. Dreary and
unoriginal, like hundreds of its sub-Ken Loach predecessors,
this is how Billy Elliott might have turned out had it been
made by a collective of depressive Essex girls.
Rick and Fred are seemingly happy, married suburban BFFs.
When their wives get tired of their foolish man-boy antics,
they grant their men a one-week, no-strings-attached, hall
pass from marriage. Because this is somehow supposed to
strengthen their relationship. Sound stupid? It is. "Hall Pass"
is perfectly acceptable. Sudeikis plays a routine zany, but
Wilson gets to let out his latent sweetness; Fischer is
thoroughly appealing, and Applegate is a first-rate comedian
too often found in third-rate movies, so second-rate is an
improvement. Let's hope this isn't the Farrellys' statement
about the institution of marriage, because if marriage were
really this pathetic, why should anyone bother? 2 stars for
they early hilarity but the rest of Hall Pass just gets a pass.
Ray is a bored bank teller who hates everything about his life.
Everything changes when not 1 but 2 groups of bank robbers
bust through the door. Suddenly, Ray's worst day has
become his best day ever. A few funny lines are this movie's
only saving grace. This was poorly filmed, poorly scripted,
and definately not suited for the big screen. Looks like an old
"made for tv" movie that wouldn't even get a re-run on
comedy central. I usually like the corny stuff. This isn't corny,
it's just BAD. And not bad in a good way. I don't ever know if
I've ever seen anything so utterly stupid. Makes the worst
movie you've ever seen look like Shakespeare. literally an
hour and a half of corny sarcastic jokes with lots of foul
language and sexual inuendo. not appropriate to watch with
children in the house. no action.
In Hoodwinked Too, Hood Vs. Evil, an unfunny and
unnecessary sequel, girls in the Hood try to recover a recipe
for a magical truffle. This trite trifle is like a bad cake—flat
and way past its "best by" date. Red saves Hansel and
Gretel from the clutches of Verushka the Witch. But the two
tubby tots are actually in cahoots with Verushka. Together
they kidnap Granny and force her to bake a top-secret
dessert that empowers the consumer with superhuman
abilities. Red teams up with the Big Bad Wolf to thwart this
diabolical culinary plan before the villains can obtain the
recipe's mystery ingredient.This new Hoodwinked feels much
like so many other unmemorable movies that pass through
theaters. And that is truly disappointing considering their
previous outing was so original and enjoyable.
Like Gretchen Weiners and her attempts at making British
slang popular stateside, we should all just stop trying to
replicate the genius of "Mean Girls," because let’s face it: it's
never going to happen. Unlike the naturally pretty, cool, funny
girl at school, "Mean Girls 2" is the slightly pathetic social
climber who is wearing the flashiest new accessory in hopes
of being seen by the popular clique and pulled out from the
dregs of the cafeteria. Maybe it’s unfair to compare this to the
original, which set the bar for satirical takes on teenage life,
as well as genuine comedy, but if you're bold enough to
market yourself as "Mean Girls," you best come prepared.
And unlike Regina George, we’ll tell it to you straight: that was
one of the ugliest effing sequels we’ve ever seen.
A weary photojournalist is charged with transporting his
boss's daughter across "the infected zone" - a vast chunk of
the US/Mexico border that inhabits extraterrestrial creatures
brought back from a destroyed space probe six year ago.
During their journey, they'll learn more about the aliens,
Mexico, Mexicans... and of course, each other. Monsters
reportedly cost around $5,000 (give or take) to produce and
certainly impresses in a major way on that level. The trouble
is, that's practically the only level it impresses on. For all the
hype comparing it to District 9, is really more about these
tiresome indie troupes we've come to know and - in my case
- detest. Now, it indeed has the advantage of being set
against an unusual backdrop for this kind of movie, and the
threat of otherworldly violence makes things slightly more
involving, but for the most part, it's just another low-budget
romance. The dialogue is bland and familiar, and the
approach so down-to-Earth/slice-of-life that Monsters is
frequently tedious.
Over the course of one raucous night at a seaside wedding
seven close friends, all members of a tight, eclectic college
clique, reconvene to watch two of their own tie the knot.
Laura is maid of honor to Lila, her golden girl best friend.
The two have long rivaled over the groom, Tom. Friendships
and alliances are tested and the love triangle comes to a
head the night before the wedding, when the drunken friends
frolic in the nearby surf and return to shore... without the
groom. The young, attractive actors in The Romantics acquit
themselves in spite of the fact that they’re playing variably
repellent characters. The movie is basically just extremely
boring.  All the drama seems forced, situations are
predictable, and they are clearly trying too hard to make any
of this meaningful. Also just to top it all off the movie basically
has a non-ending. Overall this is a film that tries way too hard
and fails at accomplishing anything.  I’d avoid it. The
questionable conclusion might not satisfy your need for a
definitive finale, but the film doesn't give you much to be
satisfied with in the first place.
Stone, a grey, quiet, drab movie about the parole officer’s
darkness and the arsonist’s cunning. The results prove
disappointing, simultaneously over the top and
underwhelming. That’s too bad because until that detour
“Stone” keeps you watching, engaged and guessing. You
can understand why the filmmakers didn’t want to make just
another genre movie in which everything falls neatly into
place. They want to mess with our heads, but intelligently.
The paradox is that what they try to subvert in “Stone” —
namely, your viewing habits — are intrinsic to your
enjoyment of the movie. They summon up past pulp delights
with a couple of baddies and a dame with snake hips and
eyes, only to toss them out in exchange for an ending that is
unpredictable yet also flat. They end up subverting
expectations by denying pleasure.
Baby Doll is sent to this gothic hilltop asylum, where she
shares a ward with inmates named Sweet Pea, Rocket,
Blondie and Amber. Oscar Isaac is Blue, Lennox House's
sinister overseer. Sucker Punch toggles back and forth, to
and fro, between alternating mindscapes, as Baby Doll and
her team embark on an epic scavenger hunt. They need to
find a map, then fire, then a knife and then a key. "The fifth
thing is a mystery" intones Scott Glenn, playing a kind of Zen
master who seems to have boned up on his riddle-me-this
delivery by watching episodes of David Carradine's 'Kung
Fu'. "Begin your journey" he tells Baby Doll. "It will set you
free."  Exit the theater. It will set you freer. Or better yet -
don't go in in the first place.
A nostalgic homage to the romantic-comedy romps of the
1980s, "Take Me Home Tonight" cycles through all the
conventions of the genre without breathing any new life into
them, or offering characters who are developed well enough
to make us care about them. There's the wild, all-night party
that brings together people from varying social strata, the
nerdy guy who finally gets the girl of his dreams, the pretty,
popular girl who's tired of being pretty and popular. It wallows
in the period kitsch, complete with one-hit wonders like
"Safety Dance" and "Come On Eileen".  With the standard
'nerd gets the gorgeous girl who never noticed him through
one manic wild crazy night', Take Me Home is really just a
so-so movie in the vain of "Can't Hardly Wait" and "I Love You
Beth Cooper". It isn't a terrible movie just a waste of your time.