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The Unapologetic Geek


The Movies of 2011 - Page 2

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Release Date: May 20
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $90.2
To-date: $241.1

Rarely have I ever disagreed with critics in general as much as I disagree with them about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. After the tiresome and unnecessarily complicated At World's End, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure is a lean and enjoyable ride that is neither convoluted nor bland. As a matter of fact, it's probably my favorite film in the entire series. Doing away with any pretense that he is not the reason you're going to see the movies, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow is put front and center as the movie's main character, though Penelope Cruz does a good job being his sidekick-slash-antagonist-slash-love interest. Granted, Ian McShane's Blackbeard isn't as memorable as Bill Nighy's Davy Jones or Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa, but he is a serviceable villain. In short, On Stranger Tides is a fun flick that doesn't try to be anything other than what it is, and if the critics are unable to see that, they shouldn't be reviewing it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: Aug 5
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $54.8
To-date: $176.7

My hopes were high but my expectations were low going into Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but the movie simply blew me away with its awesomeness. It's a clever reimagining of the franchise that pulls off the impressive magic trick of honoring its source material while showing audiences something fresh and new. It could have easily turned into a tired parable about the evils of messing with science--and indeed, the science is pretty weak and the scientists are responsible for everything bad that happens--or it could have easily turned into a mindless orgy of apes-running-amok violence, but the story manages to be heartfelt and deep. Many characters are overly simple and some of the plot points are a little too convenient, but at the end of the day, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an exciting breath of life for an intellectual property that seemed all but dead a few months ago. (Read the full review!)

Source Code
Release Date: Apr 1
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $14.8
To-date: $54.7

Source Code is a complex and intelligent sci-fi thriller filled with big ideas and mind-bending plot twists. It attempts to do the impossible by turning relatively cutting edge theoretical physics involving parallel universes into a cohesive and emotionally satisfying narrative, and for the most part, it succeeds. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan are brilliant as always, but Jeffrey Wright phones in an unnecessarily schlocky and uneven performance as the idiosyncratic scientist behind everything. Sophomore director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie and director of Moon, a film I cannot recommend highly enough) weaves a lot of seemingly unrelated threads with ease, mixing philosophical sci-fi with actiony motifs of terrorism and an unlikely, star-crossed romance. It never falls victim to any of the potential stumbling blocks--it doesn't turn into a Hollywood love story or a series of explosions that would make Michael Bay proud, for example--but it also manages to be completely relatable and easy to follow, even when it tries to explain the heady science or spy movie twists. On the whole, this Groundhog Day-meets-a post-9/11 12 Monkeys existential acid trip is well worth your time, if you're into that sort of thing.

Release Date: May 6
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $65.7
To-date: $181.0

Though a fun comic book adaptation and more successful than Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor is a little bit more on the silly side of the comic book adaptation spectrum than, say, Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk. Director Kenneth Branagh and his suite of serious acting talent, including Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleson, and Anthony Hopkins, do a good job selling an incredibly fantastical story, and the ride is fun for anybody with reasonably tempered expectations. Still, the movie can't help but be a little awkward when the two competing worlds of fantasy and reality mix, and the film's major turning point isn't as compelling as it wants to be. I'd recommend it to comic book movie fans and anyone interested in The Avengers, but not to many others. (Read the full review!)

X-Men: First Class
Release Date: Jun 3
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $55.1
To-date: $146.4

After two underwhelming installments (X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), X-Men: First Class is a reinvigorating shot in the arm for Marvel's biggest franchise. I wouldn't call it the best entry--that honor goes to X-2 in my humble opinion--but it proves that there is still plenty of life and potential in the X-Men. Headlined by a bunch of up-and-comers, including James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, along with veteran actor Kevin Bacon, who dances effortlessly on the line between hammy and serious as the film's antagonist, the movie sells itself as fresh and new, even as it treads over extremely familiar themes and plots. The action scenes are good, the effects are passable, the story feels true to its comic origins, and the characters are incredibly strong. For these reasons, it is sure to please fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.

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-e. magill 1/3/2012


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