BEST OF 2011! (Part 2)
So we return with the rest of our thoughts and judgements on the year past. If you missed the movie and television part of the feature you can catch up on it here!
First – Appa the Gypsy drops in her favourite movies and television shows for the year!
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
I am going to have to watch this movie several more times before I can decide if I really like it or not. But, truthfully, I really disliked the seventh Harry Potter book, so the fact that the Deathly Hallows movies seemed just so good to me tells me that they must have done something right. It may be worth watching this movie just to see Neville Longbottom kickass. Finally. That said, if you haven’t seen it, I’d be wondering why not…
2. X-Men First Class
Before seeing this, I’d actually never seen any of the X-Men movies all the way through. I knew the basic storylines, I guess, but I’d never actually managed to catch the entirety of any one of them. But because this movie was so freaking amazing, I went and had a marathon and watched all of them (including Wolverine) in one day. I got marathon skillz. You aint seen nothing yet. The great thing about this film, is that although the plan is that this is going to be the beginning of another X-men trilogy, it doesn’t have to be. Recently, too many movies are set up for the sequel that never comes, but this one doesn’t do it. There could be another movie, but there doesn’t have to be. I want there to be another movie, however. I appreciated the efforts of the writers to make this film work on its own, instead of trying to make it link in with the previous films. There are discrepancies, but they had to be there, and they were minor. Consider me pumped for the next movie, assuming it arrives.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Yeah, yeah. I know. It wasn’t exactly the most cohesive of films. But sometimes wanting to see a movie really badly makes it seem more amazing than it actually is. I think I may I’ve suffered from this throughout the whole Pirates franchise. People criticise these films, and I get all shocked despite knowing that they have their faults. I am willing to admit, however, that they’re beginning to grasp at straws with Pirates. What might have worked better for them was releases some other pirate movies, to hype up the idea of pirates as a mythology some more. The Curse of the Black Pearl got the ball rolling, but they kind of just let it roll to a stop. Johnny Depp, Jeffery Rush and Orlando Bloom were perfectly capable of making pirates cool again, but they needed lesser specimens to make them seem even cooler. Harsh, maybe, but true. Anyway, this sequel has been long awaited, but lacking the drawing cards of Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom for the younger generations, they may have lucked out. And I still can’t really figure out what Penelope Cruz’s role was actually meant to be. It really felt like she was just there because they needed a female character who wasn’t a mermaid. But, when all is said and done, if they make another Pirates movie, I’ll still go see it at the movies, because, let’s face it, I’m not cured yet. Jack Sparrow? Still funny.
1. Doctor Who
I think a lot of Doctor Who fans are still having trouble saying goodbye to David Tennant as the Doctor, despite his having left us early in 2010. That said, Matt Smith is certainly growing on all Doctor Who viewers. He had a really strong start in season five, and his co-stars Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston have been real assets to the show. It’s been a good season, with some really iconic episodes. “The Girl Who Waited” is most probably my favourite episode, showing us what Amy Pond’s character is truly capable of achieving. I do think the season finale was a bit of a let down, with very few really surprising twists when you think about it. But the mid-season final, “A Good Man Goes To War” made up for it in my opinion, finally confirming the identity of River Song, whom we’ve been speculating about ever since she first man an appearance on the show in 2008. The Christmas Special for this year was memorable, if a little trite in the end (although, the Christmas Specials generally lean towards the corny side, simply because they’re Christmas Specials), but anyone can appreciate a guest appearance by Bill Bailey. I’m so excited for the next season, although from what I hear, it’s going to be a bit of a wait…
I only discovered this gem of a television show this year, and I am so glad I did discover it, even if I was a little late. Who wouldn’t love a show with that much paintball? I’ve already indulged and gotten myself copies of the first and second season on dvd and it is worth it. Community is one of those shows that you can watch and watch again, and still love. I particularly appreciated the appearance of Lost’s Josh Holloway in the season 2 final episodes. He was a great addition. This year’s christmassy look at the Glee club was hilarious, even amongst fears that that show might actually be cancelled. News is that is hasn’t been, however, so we all may rejoice.
If you have not had the pleasure of discovering this show, then you need to find it. Now. It’s a British sitcom starring Claire Skinner (you may remember her from this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special) and Hugh Dennis. It’s basically about two parents struggling to raise their three eccentric children. It wouldn’t be funny if these kids weren’t just so hilarious. The show relies heavily on improvisation for the two younger children, and you can really tell. Some of the stuff these kids say just cannot be scripted. Definitely worth checking this show out, if you haven’t already.
Next up – VIDEOGAMES!
1. Portal 2
The sequel to the mighty succesful Portal came out meaner, badder, funnier. With a lot more story that felt refreshingly organic for what is called a “FPS Action Puzzler”. A very clever game that challenges you to use your very own cleverness to beat it and going that extra mile by adding some nifty shocking twists and some very laugh out loud moments.
2. Uncharted 3
I’m gonna be honest here, I’ve barely started the game and yet I know it’s one of my favorites. Besides the fact that I didn’t partake in too many of 2011’s releases if it’s any indication by my experience with the previous entries and the positive word of mouth it has received, the franchise keeps getting better and the mere adventure element, “the indiana jones element” is enough to warrant my entertainment.
3. Skyward Sword
I’m a HUGE Legend of Zelda fan and while I was bit wary of what using motion controls would entail it’s a thousand times better than what I expected, once you start slicing and dicing it helps you get fully immersed in the world of Link and company. Sure it’s full of the usual Zelda conventions (go into dungeon, grab item, defeat boss with said item) it has done so with innovation and heck, I’m a huge fan because said conventions have always worked for me. They just take me through an epic story, with wacky side characters and missions and ends up with a fantastic and engaging final battle. That is what The Legend of Zelda is for me and Skyward Sword was no different.
1. Uncharted 3
As a recent owner of Playstation 3 (after my third or fourth red ring of death on X360), the games I was most looking forward to was the Uncharted series. True, their fight and shooting mechanics are pretty rudimentary, but their ability to tell a story is incomparable to most games.
2. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman has been infamous for a lot of things, most of all was for never making a good video game even though the character is tailor made to excel in the medium. Thankfully, the new generation video gaming is capable of living up to the character’s ability to fight and his expansive cache of weaponry.
3. L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire incorporates the kind of gameplay you might get out of the old word adventures (specifically the interrogating of suspects) with the sandbox style of Grand Theft Auto. This version of LA is not as free roaming as any of the GTA games, but this bygone LA is still highly detailed and awesome landscape for a classic detective story.
1. Arkham Asylum
It’s as close to a Batman simulating we’ve come, with a rich story written by Paul Dini, fantastic art design, clever stealth sequences and intense combat sequences. Being trapped in a prison city surrounded by the best villains Batman has to face. Pure awesome.
2. Portal 2
Whilst it lost some of its each being a sequel to one of the most original and brilliant games ever devised, it’s still one of the most satisfying gaming experiences available. The comedy is sharp, the puzzles are clever and the voice work brilliant.
3. L.A. Noire
Although it became needlessly bogged down storywise, it was a remarkable advancement in interactive entertainment. The setting is a fresh one for gamers to explore and the historical details are well realized. Getting involved in the cases was plenty of fun, with some good noggin scratches to keep you wandering.
And now the best performances rated by Slam Adams!
Top 3 Best Actor Performances
1. Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
Michael Shannon is one of the most underrated actors. There is a lot of activity going on behind his eyes as if you can read his mind. He has excelled at incredibly disturbed and/or violent characters. Take Shelter plays to this strength while still giving him the opportunity to play a blue collar family man that is easy to relate to. His descent into madness is both terrifying and heartwrenching
2. Michael Fassbender in Shame
Michael Fassbender plays a yuppie-ish New Yorker who suffers from a sexual addiction. Fassbender has almost no dialog over the course of the movie. Luckily, his ability to react to things without speaking is barnone some of the best in the business. His subtle facial expressions and body language express very clear emotions. His chemistry with Carey Mulligan, who plays his sister, bridges a gap in the character development that the narrative does not want to face head on. It is the definition of minimalist performance.
3. Nick Nolte – Warrior
When we meet Nick Nolte’s character, Paddy, at the beginning of the movie, he is a religious, sober, and emotionally distraught individual. He is easy to like and we want him to succeed. In the context of the movie though, he is a former drunk who was abusive to his family. Most of the cast see him this way, so the poor treatment of this character is made even though much more heart -breaking given how instantly we fall for Nolte’s charm and sadness.
Top 3 Best Actress Performances
1. Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Olsen plays Martha at two different (but chronologically close) parts of her life. She is both a naive, impressionable childlike woman and a psychologically scarred and sociably broken individual. These two points of her life bridge the gap between the character types as they progress. The success of which can be mostly attributed to Sean Durkin’s direction, but he would be nowhere without Olsen. She inhabits both characters completely, getting lost in her performance, and at times, making it feel as if there are two different actresses.
2. Jessica Chastain – Take Shelter
Jessica Chastain is the breakout star of 2011. She was in 7 movies that were given some sort of official debut this year in North America. While most organizations seem to be lauding her goofball performance in The Help, she is much better elsewhere. In Take Shelter, she plays a strong-willed mother and wife. As opposed to most of the other archetypes, she isn’t running from her possibly crazy husband. She is staying with him being supportive and helping him get the help he needs. She delivers a tenderness and passion where most storytellers would want to make a bitch or coward.
3. Jessica Chastain – Tree of Life
One of her other incredible roles was in Tree of Life, a dizzying existential dream, where she played the embodiment of grace. She was an angelic figure who light up the screen with her presence. As an old-fashioned homemaker, she needed to show some restraint, but instead of seeming like some kind of property or silent partner to Brad Pitt’s father character, she carried with her a silent frustration and passion for the well-being of her children and family as a whole.