My Week: January 28, '12

Jennifer's Body
Karyn Kusama, 2009
Good high school movies are immortal. In the time between the insolence of "Juno" and the maturation of "Young Adult", the name "Diablo Cody" was aural poison to me, and when I heard the star writer was combining forces with the dubious star of Megan Fox, it sounded like a nightmare come true. Falling in love with "Young Adult" encouraged me to give it a go, however, and boy had I been wrong. Oh, it's Diablo "Oh My Blog" Cody and her "crazy characters" to be sure, but something about the delivery here makes it all flow considerably smoother. Phrases like "You're lime green Jell-O" actually work - on quotable levels, even. And Fox? The role plays up the fleeting sensation's ostensible "bitchy popular girl" qualities, rendering negatives shockingly admirable on a performance level while creating a humorously metaphoric portrait of high school hierarchy and insecurity that reaches and cuts through what is overall a likewise hilarious, infectious, sexy and occasionally freaky flick. Like with Kirsten Dunst after "Melancholia" (to a relatively lesser extent, mind you), I guess I can't hate on Megan Fox anymore. Screenshots after the jump.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher, 2011
Just as I felt Fincher's last middling effort never really rose above being "that Facebook movie", the director's likewise middling "Dragon Tattoo" (or, as I like to call it, "D-Tat") never really rises above being "that shameless English-language cash-in we've already seen". The question is, have we seen it better than this? That's a tricky one; I hesitate to lean one way or the other. Personally, while I feel Fincher's film is more nicely shot overall, I'd venture that - with nothing against the wholly impressive and (perhaps inappropriately) sexy turn from newcomer Rooney Mara - Noomi Rapace is the superior Lisbeth Salander and that the original Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, which I'm not even all that crazy about to begin with, carries a somewhat less slapdash pacing (the new, somewhat admirably Chris Cunningham-esque opening credits in particular feel totally shoehorned in). Maybe the better question is, should I really care? Is this story really so good it deserves such treatment, or is it just an obvious case of studio greed? I'm not so sure. Both films are entertaining enough to captivate for 2+ hours despite the repeated and incidentally all-important story, and are occasionally nice to look at (hence my inclusion of the screencap above, where typically I wouldn't provide as much for a film I was less than enthusiastic about). At one point I had hope for Fincher (that practically obligatory time in a male's youth when "Fight Club" is considered divine, though now I'd still never go as far as to deem it - or the Palahniuk source novel for that matter - anywhere near unessential), but I'm concerned after the downward (yet immensely popular) spiral charting "Panic Room" through "Benjamin Button" that his works have garnered themselves a serious case of hubris to go with a growing stigma of the money-grubbing studio circuit. All that said, just to clarify: I did enjoy this new "D-Tat", but it never quite shook the idea that I was wasting my time and money with conspicuously recycled product.

Further first-time viewings:

Underworld: Awakening - Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein, 2012
More a passable "B" movie that happens to star Kate Beckinsale's Selene as opposed to a true "Underworld" film, this relatively rude "Awakening" is not as bad a continuation of a good trilogy as last year's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", though it does make many of the same missteps. Beckinsale herself has indicated that the production was strange as Len Wiseman & Co. are hardly involved (if at all) and on top of that most worthwhile supporting characters have been killed off. What results is a less significant and instantly forgettable chapter that introduces a tedious human contingent and all but ignores the important events of its priors while awkwardly dodging the fact that Scott Speedman didn't agree to return as vampire/lycan hybrid Michael. It's unfortunate such rich characters have been allowed to fall to this level of inconsequence, particularly at this moment we've been waiting to see the results of. That's not to mention the unnecessary (yet unobtrusive) 3D. Hard-hitting action dominates over the excess exposition that has always been the series' weak spot (and here details goings-on of the greatest ridiculousness yet), but lacks the style that made Wiseman's directorial entries so memorable ("Evolution", baby). Though not bad per se, it shares more in common with a straight-forward "Ultraviolet" than a feminine "Blade". If there is to be the inevitably (and lazily) teased fifth installment, bring back Wiseman or else things are looking qualitatively grim for everyone's favorite death dealer. You may, however, keep the new side characters (played by India Eisley, Michael Ealy, Theo James and a fittingly Bill Nighy-esque Charles Dance)... by the end of the picture they were somehow managing to grow on me, despite the fact that I've basically already forgotten about them.

Total: 3

Rewatches (3): Jennifer's Body (Kusama, 2009), Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010), Æon Flux (Kusama, 2005)
- Though I was never full-on in love with "Black Swan" (and consider it lesser in the generously relative terms of Aronofsky), upon my theatrical viewing I was thoroughly impressed by its many intricately interlocking layers and cinematography, from rapid-fire alterations between extreme close-up and first-person to the flowing dance sequences in general, all of which culminates dramatically in a forceful third act. Upon this much delayed second viewing on Blu-Ray... it just kinda feels goofy. Not bad, though. Not bad.
- How do movies like "Æon Flux" happen? I'm forgiving of the flick, because a meager portion of its source show's sheer brilliance is intact (IE self-cloning and burgeoning transhumanism), but overall it's cold and uninspired. I don't know how one can look at Peter Chung's "Æon Flux" television program - which is basically one of my favorite things ever - and come up with such a sleepwalky adaptation. One of these days I'll get around to drafting an article comparing the products (while at least acknowledging the PS2 video game that acts as a connecting piece, regarding the two as separate entities in the same continuity).

Episodic Television (1 Series, 1 Episode): High School of the Dead (Democracy Under the Dead - Streets of the Dead)
- I figured things would get more serious, but I didn't predict how quickly. Already I'm seeing what will surely become an affecting relationship between the two key protagonists, while the peril of the undead apocalypse is depicted here perhaps more effectively than I've seen in motion. Nothing will compare to Robert Kirkman's comic series "The Walking Dead" in that respect, but if anything, "High School" is doing a far more effective job than the television adaptation of that series. And hey, can't argue with fun references. We've already heard a Romero name drop (mispronounced by the ditzy nurse character, naturally)... and instead of Shell, was that a Shaun gas station? Yes, yes it was.

Rewatches (1 Episode): High School of the Dead (Spring of the Dead)

Video Games (New!): Kirby & the Amazing Mirror
- I've never been a Kirby devotee, but there's no denying the irreverent fun Nintendo's pink puff can bring to the platforming genre. The entirely connected labyrinthian lands of "Amazing Mirror" can be head-spinning at times as you realize what doors go where, how far back you're sent upon death and that you really should have strived harder to keep that rock helmet around because now you have to backtrack 15 rooms, but haplessly floating around and adopting the now-staple Kirby enemy abilities (my favorites are fighter and smash, but whose wouldn't be?) while discovering secrets and integral hidden paths is an undeniably good time-killer that in this case - the case of likely the best Kirby game I've yet encountered - should not see a finite end for some time.


My Week: January 21, '12

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tomas Alfredson, 2011
I don't believe I'll ever get enough of cerebrally conflicted men wrestling their way through an urban stroll while a melancholy trumpet fades and swells in the background. Though purportedly dry and prohibitive, Alfredson's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" update took me by surprise with quietly riveting scenes highlighting pent-up tension and subtle paranoia, a mood to die for and drool-worthy cinematography all anchored by a characteristically stellar but uncharacteristically sober Gary Oldman. Regardless of story - which is intriguing and adroitly woven, to be sure - I simply want to bask in the film's definitively convicted aura. We don't see timeless classics like this very often, anymore.

Steven Soderbergh, 2012
"B"-grade action and intrigue (but mostly action) gets a pedigree with the help of Soderbergh's expert eye and pacing sense and a Soderberghian indeed all-star cast. When the director said he had crafted a film around the essence of MMA star Gina Carano, he meant it - as Carano is lethal and sexy, so goes the arbitrarily titled film with more than a share of superbly crafted sequences highlighting tense and practically minimalist chases focused on, well, focus, to tenser siege, Carano's beautifully intricate to harshly blunt physical tactics allowed to poetically inhabit the wide shot... and one fairly lame yet easily forgivable computer animated deer. Here's to one heck of a solid dose of fun, and here's to more Carano in the near future! More, I say!

Baltasar Kormákur, 2012
If Michael Mann went the route of the now all but creatively emptied Dario Argento, he might make something exactly like Baltasar Kormákur's American directorial remake of his 2008 Icelandic production, "Reykjavik: Rotterdam". That's not to imply, however, that "Contraband" is anything but pure wall-to-wall entertainment that works to worthily earn your ticket price while using a premise seemingly inspired by every 1970s Pam Grier picture. I would find it very difficult to have anything but a grand ol' time watching this hyper-grittily shot flick that thrives on unfiltered Marky Mark energy. When Mark is grilling an adversary in true Wahlberg fashion, I always want him to say, "So I'm gonna be nice... now where the fuck is Ringo?" There's even a scene when he comments on the wolfishness of a smuggled canine; if only he'd knelt down to calmly offer, "Hi there wolf, I'm Mark Wahlberg. You know you're in my movie 'Contraband' right now? Okay, say hello to your mother for me." And that's just a fraction of the fun. The cinematography's appealing grime lends a sense of realism to the proceedings no matter how preposterous they become as things go from bad to worse to totally-off-the-handle-Giovanni Ribisi-ness while always retaining a whimsical nature - you can genuinely laugh amidst the true tension and thrills. Speaking of the supporting cast, it's tough to assemble better quartets of talent and good looks, and once "A Good Day to Die Hard" hits people are sure to look back and wonder why in the world Ben Foster wasn't a bigger star sooner.

Further first-time viewings:

The Limey - Steven Soderbergh, 1999
Tough to hate on a film that opens with a sequence edited well under one of my favorites songs by one of my favorite bands, but as it trudges on there's really very little for me to get out of "The Limey", which feels like Soderbergh to be sure, but Soderbergh on a suffocating budget, and not in the boldly experimental "Bubble"/"Girlfriend Experience" kind of way. Terence Stamp's pretty nuts, though; I've always enjoyed the words "sod" and "toss".

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Stephen Daldry, 2011
Just like with "The Tree of Life", --no, no, I can't keep a straight face through such a sardonic likening. "Extremely Loud" is an ugly, overlong and frequently obnoxious exercise in the insignificance of individuality, contrary to what could have been a nice series of vignettes about various people across the five boroughs. The longer it goes on without feeling like it's going anywhere (added to its few points of actual - yet meager - substance being predictable down to the letter) the less and less it becomes possible to so much as care why any of it is going on. And why even bother with 9/11? Oh, because there is indeed nothing else to actually care about on this unfocused journey relegated to blunt and misinterpreted snapshots of unimportance. Why not exploitatively show the towers crumbling to cloy some modicum of relatable emotion? A fictional, even smaller scale disaster would have sufficed, but then it really may have been an impossibility to give the tiniest crap about the annoying, pseudo-philosophical Tom Hanks character's catalytic death (prior to which he weaves an out-of-place crack on religion along the lines of "If it can be believed, why not believe it?") while Thomas Horn - playing the gratingly awkward and suggestively named Oskar - appears to mug for box cover every time he's in frame. And people say "A Clockwork Orange" is weird. Now it kind of makes sense as to why a Hanks/Bullock awards bait movie featuring 9/11 was so hidden away by an unexpectedly limited release. Daldry's lowest moment? So far, anyway. At least he'll always have "The Reader" (wonder if Hugh Jackman's seen that yet).

Total: 5

Rewatches (2): Young Adult (Reitman, 2011), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011)
- Managed to catch the second-to-last showing of "Young Adult" at the last venue in town still screening it. I... am satisfied.

Episodic Television (New!): High School of the Dead (Spring of the Dead - Escape from the Dead)
- "High School of the Dead" carries all the panache of a fleetingly carefree seventeen year-old lip-synching to contemporary hard rock in the womb-like privacy of his shower. I mean to say, it's pretty awesome! Anime can get away with so much, and my own tastes lean unashamedly toward the more fan-servicey of the broad style (with the endearing East-meets-West of "Burst Angel" ever holding my ultimate favorite slot), so when blood is delectably splattering from decaying flesh in every direction yet the artists choose to focus on jiggling breasts and shiny up-skirt shots, that's fine, just fine. Hilariously so, at that - as of yet, though I don't doubt it may grow more serious as it progresses, this program is one to be taken with tongue firmly in cheek and is proving a comfy spot to simply escape to.


My Week: January 14, '12

Roman Polanski, 2011
Though I haven't had the distinct pleasure, "The God of Carnage" struck my fancy from the stage and the arrival of four new actors of pedigree under the direction of Roman Polanski had me more than a little thrilled. "Carnage" highlights Yasmina Reza's classic comedic playwriting loaded with little lovable character touches - work on par with the likes of "Arsenic & Old Lace" - as brought to life especially well by Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz, though that is not to discredit the other two ever-reliable talents in the least. Wariness is advised for couples - as the characters hilariously swap alliances and oppositions amongst one another through contemporarily raw human nature over the course of an hour and twenty minutes (going through the motions of politeness but constantly, also hilariously, trying to end their meeting) it will be easy for one to have and audible knee-jerk reaction of agreement or disgust with certain (particularly gender-concerned) sociological observations. Similar to the likewise purposefully inconclusive "Burn After Reading", "Carnage" is thoroughly funny and quotable (despite a dubiously harmonious, Haneke-esque bookend). At first this quality is in rather a tongue-in-cheek manner though I suspect that, just like with the Coens flick, with each repeat viewing I'll be rolling and bellowing more and more.

The Artist
Michel Hazanavicius, 2011
For nigh a century, "talkies" have been the Hollywood-generated norm, in the same sense that since the '80s, thanks to Sony's Walkman, portable music has been "normal" and analog can be widely considered "weird". What we never truly needed becomes automatically expected as our collective innocence lessens with each advance. The design of "The Artist" knows well this climate of product, tailored with a narrative more than justifying with relative subtlety what could have been a mere gimmick - its claim to fame as a new millennium silent film. The styling is eclectic, ranging from homages to popular silents themselves including American romances and adventures, epic Soviet propaganda and legendary German affairs up through more noted Orson Welles pictures, trashy bandwagon franchises and fleeting filler. Modern sensibilities regarding pacing, editing, camera angles, character development and picture quality (if that counts) have been imbued to aid the successfully enveloping nature of the experiment, though I could have done without the accessibility-broadening canine sidekick. Our sequence of events will feel explicitly familiar to any fan of "Singin' in the Rain", and perhaps that's no coincidence as star Jean Dujardin emulates Gene Kelly in a big way (to the point that protagonist George Valentin almost feels like Don Lockwood is having a bad dream), but oddly it's only once these similarities fall by the wayside in the second half that the film seems to wallow, apparently unsure how to capitalize beyond its depressive lament for a dying art form. In terms of 2011 films celebrating the silent era, "Hugo" takes the cake, but "The Artist" is an experience not to be missed on the big screen.

Jackass 3D
Jeff Tremaine, 2010
There's a lot to be said about the fact that "Jackass 3D" held its premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. One could mock up the film's summary as a poetic series of video documents celebrating camaraderie and fellowship through the dramaturgy of abandon and vulgarity. Basally, it's all about upping the persistent shock value's ante, and the storied boys have certainly triumphed on high in that regard with the highest entertainment value here quite possibly being their own intact shock and disbelief at the acts they inflict upon themselves and one another. They tickle both the funny bone and gag reflex, often simultaneously, with rapid-fire daredevilry that pays homage to the legacy of both "Jackass" itself and the general MTV mentality (pre-"Shot of Love"). Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam, Dunn, Wee-Man and the rest of the gang have... I'm debating using the term "achieved" here... yes, achieved a pinnacle in the world of stunt/prank pornography that does in many regards deserve the ostentatious location of its premiere. I never thought I'd say this, but I really do wish I'd seen it in 3D.

Total: 3

Rewatches (1): Young Adult (Reitman, 2011)
- Here's a (likely foolish) sob (slash whine) story for you. Though I figured my fourth was my final theatrical viewing of "Young Adult", during its last week at my theater I got the itch once more. I planned for Wednesday at 2:20 - the only time that would have worked within my hectic schedule - but a getting-the-girlfriend's-vehicle-professionally-cleaned obligation came up and I forced myself to be understanding of the priority. The film will be on Blu-Ray soon enough, anyway (ha, "soon enough", who am I kidding?). So at precisely 2:20 on Wednesday I showed up to the car wash... which was closed! Because it had sprinkled at 10AM!! Admittedly, I was livid (still kind of ticked, to be honest). What a tease. I finally figured, okay, I'll just have to go to the next closest theater... their showtimes are 4:20 and 9:50 (yes, I knew the other theater's times for "Young Adult" offhand). But oh, wait, they're not showing it into the new week, either! Blast!! Curses!!! I'll get you next time, Gadget!!!! So, in desperation, I did it. I... downloaded a cam. YES! I confess!! After supporting the film with a total of six admits and planning to purchase the Blu-Ray ASAP, I did the politically unthinkable and grabbed an illegal torrent! It looks terrible (tilted, off-center, flickery), it sounds terrible (echoey, audience noises)... but it's still "Young Adult"!! It'll have to do.


My Week: January 7, '12

Lynn Hershman-Leeson, 2002
Sure, not the most stellar of starts my 2012 could have seen. Hey, I'm a little burned out (even skipped an opportunity to see "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" for free in favor of just lying there... on the bed there). There will always be more and more films to traverse - upcoming gems and an endless backlog of treasures - but for now, simply for the sake of keeping this column a weekly affair, I'm reveling in the endearingly cheap softcore pornography-esque aesthetic of apparently cyber erotica-centric auteur Lynn Hershman-Leeson's second collaboration with Tilda Swinton. "Teknolust" features four very different Tildas, one of whom is named Rosetta Stone and wishes she looked like Björk and three of whom are clones surviving on sperm injections and routinely dancing for their creator as pictured above. Fun stuff? Oh, you know it. "This is the life, this is the life..."

Total: 1

Rewatches (1): Friends with Benefits (Gluck, 2011)


My Top 10 of '11

2011 is not only the first year I've kept strict track of every film I've seen and ranked new releases along the way, it's without question the year in which I've watched the most movies. And it's been quite a success in that regard! Not only do I feel I have a solid top ten for the year itself - to the point that half of them could have been #1s for many other years - I have also seen a slew of excellent films from prior years. I finally delved further in to Brosens, discovered Pasolini, fleshed out my experiences with Woody Allen and took in firsts and then some from auteurs I was blind to such as ByambasürenŻuławskiParajanovResnais, Reygadas, Merhige, Tarr, etcetera, etcetera.

I might've liked to post this year-end summary a couple days sooner - so it goes - and as I imagine is the case with anyone sans worldwide festival access there are still certain titles I'd like to have seen (listed further down) so this list of course carries potential for change, but here are the top ten films I loved most from 2011 (strictly by IMDb dates), beginning with the best of the best:

Young Adult [Initial Review]
I have fallen head over heels for Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman's latest, which is a vast improvement over my reaction to their first collaboration. Truly, I am obsessed, and practically refuse to see anything else in theaters until the 35mm finishes its run (I've attempted to see other films but always wind up switching my ticket, thinking something along the lines of "Why isn't the horse actually Charlize Theron and why isn't World War I actually Mercury, MN?"). I mean, just look, even my wardrobe (and my girlfriend's) now consists of more hot pinks and bold greens inspired by lead character Mavis Gary's bemused theatrical poster get-up. "Young Adult" is fascinatingly dense with layers upon layers of a deep sociological examination - that, despite its immediate outlandishness, makes brilliant sense on every level when dissected - while remaining absolutely hilarious on the surface. The juxtapositions of characters and evoked emotions as well as the ever-effervescing themes of varied success, the meaning of a homecoming, personal identity and self-confidence are as addicting as putting "The Concept" by Teenage Fanclub on repeat. With honors, this is my favorite film of the year and a more than welcome member amongst my favorites of all time. Keep watch for an upcoming article detailing further exactly why I am so in love with "Young Adult".

Drive [Initial Review]
Nicolas Winding Refn was primed to bowl me over again after I became so taken with his prior "Valhalla Rising", and with "Drive" he does exactly that and more. In ideal and thoroughly affecting unison with the year's best soundtrack, Refn's careful and unadulterated landscape of a slick character's quiet and willing descent through the work of hands dirtier than his own in effort to simply help a friend is the stuff seat-glue is made of. The atmosphere conjured is so palpable you can reach out and smash its face in.

Midnight in Paris [Initial Review]
We're accustomed to and gladly accepting of strikingly similar structures with slightly varying themes from outing to outing with Woody Allen, but with the purely delightful, surprising and beautiful "Midnight in Paris" the Manhattan master has given us a refreshed gateway to his oeuvre with some of the most intricately brilliant and honestly self-reflexive writing of his almost 50 features. I defy you to wipe the grin from your face.

Melancholia [Initial Review]
With this pseudo-apocalyptic portrait Lars von Trier inflicted a stigma upon me - one in which I dwelled for days, enjoying the - indeed, melancholy - feeling that had begun welling up from the picture's jaw-gaping onset and finally exploded in a wave of blue that plastered me to the wall. The Blu-Ray cannot arrive quickly enough!

The Tree of Life [Initial Review]
The identity of "The Tree of Life" within film circles as I know it is as the quintessential art/vanity picture about existentialism with something intimate for everybody. Much the same way I lambaste the trailer for "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" for being pure Oscar bait, the trailer for Terrence Malick's latest could easily be labeled the same for the Cannes crowd - with a sensationally stinging caress it pushes nearly every button I have to be pushed in its distinct realm. The film itself follows suit, more or less generating an endlessly applicable experience of life and death, the before and the after, "nature" and "grace", evolution and/or creation and - all-importantly - memory, with the sheer gorgeousness of both daringly improvisational and artfully precise cinematography and an utterly eargasmic score.

La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In) [Initial Review]
I don't kick around the term "perfect" very often, but for what it seeks to achieve Almodóvar's newest is very close to being as such. I believe all that's missing is a more overt sense of deliberation a la Kubrick, the master auteur the revered Almodóvar appears quite inspired by in this project. With one of the best "WTF" storylines of the year and some of the most masterful and purposed dialogue and visuals, "The Skin I Live In" will stick to you, unpeeling for weeks.

We Bought A Zoo [Initial Review]
With an always-growing adoration of "Elizabethtown" and "Vanilla Sky" long holding the title of my favorite film ever, I may be predisposed to liking nearly anything the so wonderfully music-oriented Cameron Crowe touches. Still, there's no denying "We Bought A Zoo" as the genuine feel-good movie of the year. I say 'genuine' because instead of politically correct schmaltz (which can work, don't get me wrong, hence my positive reaction to "New Year's Eve") this is one of if not the most emotionally heavy "PG" rated films I've seen - to watch it is to be on the verge of tears if not out-and-out sobbing for 2 straight hours. I'll be damned, though, if I didn't have one heck of a bright day after exiting my matinee showing. I believe the same goes for plenty more, as through my day job at a local theater I've seen a share of families leaving, red-eyed and embracing one another.

Hall Pass [Initial Review]
In a year full of surprises, the Farrelly brothers' "Hall Pass" may just be the biggest for yours truly, partly due to the fact that it initially appeared to merely be another post-"Hangover" attempt at cheap raunch. Going in with that mindset readied me to wildly enjoy the hapless exploits (or non-exploits, rather) of these two white, middle class suburbanites so rooted in their seemingly narrow lives that they have no clue how to handle their much-desired "week off from marriage". Beyond that, what really makes "Hall Pass" memorable and meaningful is its brutally honest approach to contemporary monogamy - I'm sure some of the observations of delusion made herein will be relatable to anyone, even one in the most loving, however-many-year-long relationship. In the end, after at least a meager handful of admittedly hit-or-miss gags, the comedy's heart is in a great place, reassuring us in our love lives by reminding us why we sought out that package to begin with.

Hugo [Initial Review]
What's old is new again with this practically gift-wrapped treat from one of the most notorious film buffs of our time, Martin Scorsese. "Hugo" not only emulates beloved silent era cinema on a frequent basis, it provides opportunity to glimpse some of the truly immortal greats of all movie-dom on a big screen while musing over the infinite power of such images and looking all-around lovely itself, its 3D a popularly derided gimmick galvanizing itself in a wider eye the same way its very medium did in the early 20th Century. What's more, Scorsese's natural adaptation to modern 3D provides not only lovely negative space (in my opinion the key area making 3D so worth it when done well) but also the first successful use of positive space.

Red State [Initial Review]
Despite the filmmaker's obvious missteps both professionally and socially, I feel no shame in being a long-time Kevin Smith fan, and am happy to have another title - this time a significant creative departure - to include among others like "Clerks". A bold statement that hits its stride regardless, the point "Red State" really catches on is when it abruptly chucks right and wrong to the incinerator and teases justification of its vile antagonist - a Branch Davidian-esque Christian cult holding hostages for the purpose of demonstrative "cleansing", if you will. Talk about your "oh, shit" moments. Outside this, the fittingly photographed production deftly builds tension throughout while featuring some of Smith's best dialogue in years.

Honorable Mentions
Puss in Boots
The Turin Horse
Take Me Home Tonight
The Muppets
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Ides of March

Bottom Ten (from "best" to worst)
The Big Bang
Fast Five
Like Crazy
X-Men: First Class
The Help
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Bloodlust Zombies
The Green Hornet
Season of the Witch

Complete 2011 list on Letterboxd (rankings subject to change).

Films of particular interest still to be seen (alphabetical)...
The Artist
Attack the Block
A Dangerous Method
Le Havre
Life in A Day