2011 Movie Bucket List



Movie Review

Directed by: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Ellie Kemper

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is having a tough time in life.  She’s a single woman whose biological clock is ticking.  Her bakery failed, which cost her all of her savings and her boyfriend, and she now works in a jewelry shop.  For the time being, she has a purely sexual relationship with the egocentric Ted (Jon Hamm) and lives with Gil (Matt Lucas) and his sister Brynn (Rebel Wilson) despite the fact that her mom (Jill Clayburgh) recommends that she move back into her home.  In spite of all this, Annie has a strong friendship with Lillian (Maya Rudolph) that helps to keep her balanced.  When Lillian gets engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honor, Annie foolishly accepts the costly burden.  After meeting the other bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Ellie Kemper), Annie goes all out to prove that she’s the right person for the job.

Bridesmaids is the funniest film I’ve seen since Wedding Crashers.  It’s the breakout hit of 2011 that will keep you laughing for days.  Kristen Wiig shows that she has both the writing and comedic chops to be a major player in big screen comedies for years to come.  Melissa McCarthy’s on screen performance demonstrates that she deserves her own film.  Altogether, the all-female ensemble cast proves that ladies can do wild, crude affairs just as well as their male counterparts.  You don’t need a single drop of alcohol to enjoy Bridesmaids.  You’ll laugh until it hurts to do so, and then you’ll laugh some more in this fun flick.


The Tree of Life 


Directed By: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain

Never before have I seen a film that captures life.  That's a huge concept with a range of implications.  It's a nearly impossible endeavor for any filmmaker.  However, Terrence Malick has proven me wrong.  Malick's The Tree of Life does the impossible in a grand way.  From grappling with the meaning and scope of life to questioning the purpose of faith, Malick covers a broad array of topics.  The Tree of Life is an ambitious, groundbreaking film that may be paving the way for the next generation of bold filmmakers. Continue reading...


Midnight in Paris


Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Batea, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, and Michael Sheen

Once in a while, a film comes along that makes you lose all sense of reality.  You lose track of time and how long you've been in the theater.  You forget what else is going on in your life. You become fully immersed in an engaging fictional tale that takes you to another world.  That's the magic of a truly great film.  Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris has that magic.  You'll lose yourself in this fun romantic comedy as you fall in love with the beauty of Paris.  Continue reading...

Super 8

Directed By: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, and Riley Griffiths

If Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 had not come out this year, Super 8 would undoubtedly reign supreme as the best movie of the summer.  When a group of friends witnesses a train crash, they decide to investigate what caused this accident.  While these kids try to figure out what actually took place the night of the crash, strange things begin taking place in their small town, and they begin to uncover something they never expected.  In Super 8, J.J. Abrams creates an old school sci-fi flick with a heart.  If there is such a thing as movie magic, Abrams' latest film is proof enough.  Super 8 aces the Sobriety Test and gets a sober rating.  If you haven't seen this one, you're missing something really special.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, and Maggie Smith

We have patiently waited a decade for this moment in film history.  We have been on a long, long journey with our three young stars and some of the greatest British actors of our time.  We have enjoyed this storied franchise and unflinchingly supported it throughout seven films.  At last, I can finally say that the Boy Who Lived confronts He Who Must Not Be Named in a glorious final battle!

Unlike its predecessors, this film moves at a rapid pace and does not spend any time reviewing important plot details from the previous seven films.  In many ways, this reflects the frantic scramble by both Harry and Voldemort in this epic clash of good versus evil.  If you have never seen a single Harry Potter film, don't waste your time reading this review or going to the theaters.  This film is not meant for you.  You are a decade behind.  Potter aficionados, please continue reading though there may be some spoilers ahead.  Continue reading... 


Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman

Every once in a while, a movie comes along, and you don't quite know what to make of it.  You know you enjoyed it, but you feel that something is missing that's keeping you from running to the mountaintops shouting how great the movie is.  You wonder if it could have been just a little better.  Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive is one of those films.  Don't get me wrong.  Drive is a great film, but the screenplay by Hossein Amini could have been stronger.  Continue reading... 


Directed By: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, and Casey Bond

Most sports movies capture the thrill of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.  They delve into the joys of winning and the sorrows of losing.  They do nothing more than depict competition and what drives it.  That's your basic sports movie.  Anything beyond that is a bonus.  Given this, I went into Bennett Miller's Moneyball expecting a decent baseball flick and the need for a few brewskies afterward.  Having seen the film, I stand corrected.  Moneyball is one of those rare sports films that's about more than the game being played on the field.  Instead of competition, Miller takes on innovation and the impact it can have on a system or society.  In addition, the movie is pretty damn funny.  Continue reading...

Like Crazy

Directed By: Drake Doremus

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence

Love is a truly unpredictable thing that can challenge, inspire, and torment you at the same time.  When you find it, you should hold onto it.   It undoubtedly will present many challenges and a taste for a few strong drinks along the way.  No challenge is more difficult or painful than distance.  Specifically, long distance relationships can hurt like hell and can kill the spark between two lovers.  In Like Crazy, Drake Doremus explores the challenges presented by love.  He strips the film of all fantastical notions of love and shows the world how truly painful it can be.  Continue reading...

The Descendants

Directed By: Alexander Payne

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer, and Beau Bridges

George Clooney has been a busy man this year. He's directed and starred in The Ides of March.  Now he's starring in Alexander Payne's The Descendants.  In both films, he's been at his absolute best.  On the other hand, Alexander Payne, who's known for his films About Schmidt and Sideways, has been just the opposite.  We haven't seen him behind the camera in seven years.  In The Descendants, he doesn't let moviegoers down.  His latest movie is a moving juxtaposition of Hawaii's beauty and grace with the pains and stresses of everyday life.  Continue reading...

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Directed By: David Fincher

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, , Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, and Joely Richardson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is spellbinding.  There are multiple storylines, and the characters are layered and compelling.  Craig does an outstanding job as a smart investigative journalist.  However, this film belongs to Mara, who is absolutely a revelation as Lisbeth.  She captures the complexity of this atypical heroine.  Lisbeth is strong, raw, funny, intelligent, vulnerable, and unpredictable all at the same time. You ache with her pain, you laugh at her wit, and you pump a fist at her badass style.  Every minute that she is on the screen, I was captivated.  Continue reading...

Honorable Mentions:


Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Movie Review

Directed By: Rupert Wyatt

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, and Tom Felton

I can't lie.  I never was a big fan of the Planet of the Apes series.  We didn't have the technology to make it enjoyable in the past.  The apes always looked fake, and I was pretty critical of that.  Even in the 2001 flick Planet of the Apes, the monkeys were just humans in ape costumes.  In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the reboot to the well-known series, we finally have the technology to do what a film like this deserves.  We used apes to portray the apes.  Granted, they are digital apes created using motion-capture technology.  That being said, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fun, thrilling sci-fi film that is a great way to reboot this series. Continue reading...




Directed By: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston

Generally, dealing with the subject of cancer is a touchy subject, even on the big screen.  When the powers that be decided to tackle the life of screenwriter Will Reiser and the nearly insurmountable challenges posed by his cancer and the notion of dying young, they knew that they needed a few jokes to cut the tension of such depressing subjects.  In the dramedy 50/50, director Jonathan Levine skillfully tackles Reiser's story.  Though I expected The Big C on the big screen, Levine gives us something much more realistic.  Continue reading... 


Martha Marcy May Marlene


Directed By: Sean Durkin

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, and Hugh Dancy

Martha Marcy May Marlene.  That's definitely a tongue twister for a title.  It's actually a pretty good name for a film. When I first heard it, I instantly thought I was in for a good psycho thriller, and I always enjoy watching films about crazy people.  A peek inside the mind of a neurotic can never let you down on the big screen.  Sean Durkin's first feature film in the director's chair certainly didn't let me down.  It did far more than give us a peek into the title character's head; it gave us front row seats to the unraveling of an abused young woman's mind.  Continue reading...




Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, and Jude Law

We don't often think of filmmakers as fans, but that's all they really are.  They're the cinephiles who took the torch from a previous generation.   Whether actor or director, cast or crew, all filmmakers started somewhere as movie aficionados.  Even the great Martin Scorsese has a love of film that predates his career as a director.  In his latest work Hugo, Marty takes the time to show moviegoers just how big a fan he is of movies.  Continue reading...


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol


Directed By: Brad Bird

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Anil Kapoor

It's hard to believe that it's been five years since our last outing with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Impossible Mission Force (IMF).  Having seen the latest installment in this famed action series, I have only one thing to say.  Tom Cruise has still got it! 

Given that it's been a while since Tom Cruise has reprised his role as Ethan Hunt, director Brad Bird decides to up the ante and make the impossible even more impossible.  The explosions are bigger, the stunts are more dangerous, and the risks of failure are more apocalyptic than ever in the storyline.  Most of the bumps and bruises that Hunt takes would kill a man in real life.  This man just gets up and brushes the dirt off his shoulders before going to kick some more ass.  Continue reading...

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