The Best Movies Of 2011, So Far
2011 will be, like any year, jam packed with more movies than anyone outside of complete obsessives could ever see. To help you make sense of whatís out there, the Cinema Blend team is getting together to update this page, regularly, throughout the year with the movies we think you should see as theyíre released. Itís not a comprehensive list of everything weíve seen in 2011, but a list of the things weíve seen and loved most, ranked from amazing must see to just really good.
Movies qualify for the Cinema Blend Best Movies of 2011 list based on whether or not they received a theatrical release somewhere in the United States of America during the past year. Thatís the same qualification used by the Oscars, so we think weíre on pretty sure footing there. To get full, in-depth reviews of each film just visit our full review page by clicking the ďReviewĒ menu tab above. For now, these are the best movies of 2011, so far, according to the CB team.
American: The Bill Hicks Story
Prophet, dreamer, patriot, funnyman. American makes a pretty good case for the notion that Bill Hicks was the greatest comedian who ever lived. And yet, almost no one knows who he is. Told in a completely unique, utterly engaging style this documentary tells the story of one of the greatest, most unsung comedians ever to walk the Earth. He stood on stage and refused to give in, refuse to water himself down to earn bigger fame, and went kicking and screaming off the face of this Earth in a ball of fire and stand-up brilliance, cut down at an early age. Seek this one out. Donít miss it. Have your perceptions about not only Hicks, but life itself changed by American: The Bill Hicks Story.
In this funny, heartfelt film Ed Helms stars as a small town insurance salesman on his first trip to an industry convention. There he makes an unlikely group of new friends, meets a girl, and stumbles into a strange, funny, and occasionally drunken world of people escaping from their real lives in a run-down hotel. Stalwarts John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, and Stephen Root co-star with Helms but itís really Isiah Whitlock Jr. who delivers the filmís best supporting performance as a seemingly uptight roommate who ends up being down for just about anything.
Director Kenneth Branagh's superhero film is consistently fun and engaging. Whether wandering around the outerspacey world of Asgard or just hanging out in a coffee shop on planet Earth the film delivers on every level. It's the best movie produced by the superhero gurus at Marvel Studios so far. Maybe even better than Iron Man, for all its Robert Downey Jr. driven charms.
Here is the first comedy in recent memory in which women take the lead in being funny. It's not a rom-com, but a straight up smart, comedy which throws away female shopping stereotypes and instead bases itself around real, human relationships. Kristen Wiig is stellar as the movie's leading lad, as is the rest of the film's comedically talented, insanely funny female ensemble in the story of a woman whose friend's marriage leaves her questioning the state of her own life.
Seemingly inspired by the films of Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze, writer/director Max Winklerís feature film debut, Ceremony, is a delightful independent comedy thatís quirky without being obnoxious. Star Michael Angarano, who plays a young man trying to win back the woman of his dreams on the weekend of her wedding to someone else, manages to both alienate the audience by being so unlikable while also getting them to be interested in the story and see him as a protagonist. Surrounded by an incredible supporting cast including Uma Thurman, Jake M. Johnson, Lee Pace and Reece Thompson, everyone shines brilliantly.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
As much a comedy as it is documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a hilarious, and incredibly meta, film about the effect of product placement and advertising in our society. Director Morgan Spurlock expertly balances multiple story lines, from the funding of the movie heís making entirely through product placement to how advertisements affect our daily life. While some segments are a bit more drawn out then they should be, the film is engaging and informative while also being entertaining.
The Green Hornet
This superhero movie is a lot more fun than it ought to be, starring Seth Rogen as a spoiled rich kid who hates his father, and takes his anger at his father to the streets in an effort to fight crime with a newfound friend named Kato. Kato is like a human Swiss Army knife. He always has the right gadget, the right move, the right ability for any situation. The filmís a marked departure from just about any superhero movie youíve seen before, the styleís completely different and the characters are too. What really sells it is the deft way it mixes comedy and action and never falls into the trap of taking itself too seriously.
A violent and aggressive fairy tale that's also shaded with great tenderness and attention to detail, Hanna allows director Joe Wright to make up for his misstep of a last film, The Soloist, and draw yet another terrific performance out of his former Atonement star Saoirse Ronan. The movie contains thrilling action sequences and pounding, dramatic score from The Chemical Brothers, but also is finely attuned to the emotions of Ronan's Hanna, a young girl raised as a feral fighter in remote wilderness and thrust into the modern world on her own. And though it uses the structure of the spy action movie, Wright's camera work and the oddities of the Grimm Brothers-inspired script make Hanna an utterly unique movie experience.
Though deliberately paced to the point that it may alienate mainstream audiences, Meekís Cutoff is a beautiful story told after a wagon train gets lost on the Oregon Trail. The filmís two leads Ė Michelle Williams and Bruce Greenwood Ė are both stellar while playing the protagonist and antagonist, respectively. A story of trust and prejudice, writer Jonathan Raymond keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, unknowing if they have put all of their faith in the wrong character.
How do you know when a person you love and care for is pulling away? How can you be sure that it isnít them thatís pulling away, but you? In Monogamy, writer/director Dana Adam Shapiro Ė a former journalist and documentary filmmaker Ė explores the deterioration of a couple (Rashida Jones and Chris Messina). A modern take on Michelangelo Antonioniís Blow-Up in some respects, the audience watches Messina as he begins spying on a woman known only as Subgirl, and question if what he is doing can be considered infidelity.
Paul is a funny, consistently engaging, maybe even a little bit daring road trip movie in which two nerds stumble across a real live alien, and end up on the run. Itís brave, in that itís at times more than about aliens, tackling hot button issues like religion with a middle finger raised to the audience. Itís funny, because Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star, and few are funnier when theyíre paired together. Jason Bateman is great here, as an FBI agent pursuing the Seth Rogen voiced Paul, and Kristen Wiig turns in another unsung performance as a religious zealot forced to start questioning her convictions when the alien, Paul, starts showing her the secrets of the universe.
Though itís only the first venture into animation for both director Gore Verbinski and Industrial Light and Magic, the team has created one of the most beautiful animated films seen in years. Johnny Deppís portrayal of Rango, a chameleon dealing with a crisis of identity, is endless fun and full of charm, while the story is a beautiful tribute to one of filmís greatest genres: the western. Funny and engaging for both children and adults, the movie, though released early in the year, has the potential to be considered the best family film of 2011.
Take Me Home Tonight
Set in the 80s but not really about the 80s, Take Me Home Tonight stars the perennially underrated Topher Grace as a twenty-something struggling to grow up. It approaches the time period itís in realistically and itís buoyed by great performances in the cast. More than that, itís beautifully directed by Michael Dowse, who turns what could have been a forgettable rom-com into what is at times, a stunning work of editing and visual art. Itís so earnest and well-intentioned that though far too many may overlook it, thereís a lot here to love.