I watched a lot of movies this year in the theaters. I saw around 50+ movies this year, up sharply when I just watched 8 movies last year. I used to wait for movies on DVD (or some other means ;) and I just cherrypick what movies to watch in the cinemas. Not the case this year. I guess when I got the gig of writing movie reviews for Pinoyexchange this year, it renewed my love for watching movies in the theaters. It really is different watching movies on the big screen especially if there's a good crowd watching with you. Communal experience at its finest. And also I went through a tough time at work early this year and I wanted to have an escape before going home so I went to watch movies until it became a habit. It's a bit costly but I don't care because I had a good time. I love stories. To be specific, I love well-told stories regardless of genre. I admit my taste in movies is more mainstream and commercial but I'm slowly expanding my horizons. I even watched Cinemalaya and Spanish Film Festivals this year which is a great experience. My interest with box office also escalated to the point that it was already on par with my fondness for music charts and TV programming! I love analyzing what movies the audience like or rejected. It fascinates me. Anyway, because of my stronger passion for movies this year I decided to make a top 20 list of movies that I loved this year. There is an entry in my top 20 that is actually a 2010 title but it was only released here this year so I counted it as a 2011 title for me. It was tough narrowing the list to 10 especially that it's an overall list including both foreign and local titles so I decided to screw the convention and expand my list to 20. There are some movies that was shown here that I really wanted to watch but wasn't able to (Arthur Christmas) and some 2011 movies that I was looking forward to see but their release dates was moved to next year (Moneyball, The Ides of March, Footloose remake) and a lot of movies I'm interested with will not be shown here until next year (The Muppets, We Bought a Zoo, War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) so my list will be just limited to movies I saw in theaters or 2011 titles I saw through other mediums. Anyway, the following 20 movies made the cut because these are the ones that I enjoyed one way or another, some admittedly have flaws but the good stuff outweighed whatever weak points it had.
20. The Beaver
- A flawed but fascinating and disturbing look inside the mind of a depressed man. Mel Gibson's personal troubles might be a factor for his performance but it was fantastic turn for the disgraced actor.
- The music score is one of the best this year and Saoirse Ronan continues to deliver roles beyond her age and she totally kicked ass in this movie. Cate Blanchett was an effective villain as well.
18. Won't Last a Day Without You
- The best local commercial movie this year thanks to solid direction, a sensible script and great cast chemistry. It's the movie that earn its "kilig" moments.
17. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
- One of the most enjoyable flicks this year. The Burj Khalifa action sequence is worth the ticket price alone. I like the fact that it proves that you don't need to resort to 3D gimmick to deliver "wow" scenes.
- I watched this recently via DVD a couple of days ago and it lived up to the hype. An R-rated comedy that unlike other similarly rated comedies this year did not abuse the freedom of the rating to just deliver raunchy jokes without substance at all. Great character development and terrific performances from the ensemble makes this one of the best comedies this year.
15. Super 8
- The coming of age story part of the story was very effective and features standout performances from Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney. I love the old school vibe this movie had.
14. Kung Fu Panda 2
- Of the three animated sequels that came out this year, this is by far the strongest and the one who didn't lose the charm of the original and even delivered a story that's funny, focused and heartwarming at the same time.
- An underrated Cinemalaya movie this year and while the story is thin, the excellent direction makes up for it as it features one well-executed rampage scene that features a lot of crowd but the direction was flawless.
- Another underrated Cinemalaya gem this year. The film started a little slow but picked up as it progresses. It was family drama that didn't resort to theatrics and focused on developing rich characters with broken souls. Towards the end of the movie it delivers a "musical sequence" that gave me goosebumps.
11. Real Steel
- This movie was criticized for being cheesy but you know what for me its sentimental story done right. It's one of the best father-son stories because they carefully fleshed out the characters to make you understand them more and you will actually witness as the bond is starting to grow. And oh the robot boxing matches were well executed and exciting to watch. People were cheering in the theaters during the climactic final boxing match. That's how effective the movie was for making the people care for the characters.
A star studded movie that didn't let the fact that it has many big stars in the ensemble overwhelm the film. It painted a subtle but very frightening picture of a world in jeopardy.
- A western-inspired animated movie about a lizard with an existential crisis. Sounds crazy right? But Rango was able to pull off this one of a kind movie with intertwining themes. It's not really child-friendly per se but definitely one of the standout and unique animated movies released commercially.
8. X-Men: First Class
- A prequel/reboot that successful takes the franchise to a compelling fresh start. This movie proves that superhero blockbusters don't have to be all about special effect as this movie's strong point is the character development and interaction. You would actually care for the heroes and anti-heroes because they are not one dimensional.
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- Another prequel/reboot that told a well-crafted origin story that pays honor to the original while making a mark on its own. Features a mesmerizing performance from Andy Serkis in performance capture where you could feel the emotion the character who can not speak at all.
- An American movie set in the Philippines that was released for a week here in July which unfortunately people barely noticed at all. It dealt with the little known Philippine-American war and handled the story with such poignancy that you can't help but think about it after the credits start to roll in.
- This is a 2010 movie that was only released here last February. This movie successfully balanced the old school Disney vibe and the new generation CGI animated films. Simply magical that features well-rounded characters, Tangled is a welcome addition to the Disney classics.
4. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank
- Perhaps the most successful Cinemalaya film of all time as it was able to crossover to the mainstream audience. A very good satire of misguided Philippine independent filmmaking in the industry, while it tends to be self indulgent at time you just can't help but be impressed with the audacity of the filmmakers to point out their peers' pitfalls in such a funny yet effective approach.
3. Crazy, Stupid, Love
- One of the best romantic comedies I've seen in a long time. It has a mature love story at the center and surrounded by subplots that work at the same time. Powered by a strong ensemble led by the terrific Steve Carell, this movie proves that romantic comedies can be more than just about the characters getting together in the end and living happily ever after.
- I failed to see this movie when it was shown briefly in the theaters and I was glad I was able to see this movie via DVD because it is one of the most powerful movies I've seen of all time. At first glance, you might think this is your typical guy movie because the story is set in the world of Mixed Martial Arts but this is more than just a sports or action movie. While the MMA fight scenes are expertly directed and executed, the movie is more about people who are broken inside who tries their best to make fix themselves but it's not as easy as it seems. Thanks to excellent performances from Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton the film's message was effectively relayed to the audience.
1. Winnie the Pooh
- The thing is as a child I was never really fond of Pooh and his friends. Sure I watched it every Saturday morning back in the day but Pooh stories are always too simple for my taste but when I saw this movie in the theaters last October I suddenly find myself appreciating the legacy of Pooh and his friends. The story of this movie, as expected, is simple and perhaps older kids won't really enjoy it (and moreso adults) but I just like what the movie represents. It's about the joy of childhood innocence and creativity. As I've written in my review of this movie " One can’t help but feel nostalgic watching this movie as you remember the days when you were a young child playing with your toys and assigning them characters and concocting up stories. In our minds the world our toys live in is vibrant, colorful and the movie perfectly captured that feeling. Winnie the Pooh is ultimately a children’s movie but it’s nice reminder to us adults of how the simple things in life are magical" .