Movies Released in 2011 (in alphabetical order)

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene

This year's Winter's Bone. A slow, quietly unsettling, Sundance-sanctioned drama about the titular multi-identitied character (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman who escapes from a small cult in rural upstate New York. Retrieved by her generous though estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), Martha – rechristened "Marcy May" by the cult – seems all right at first, but she gradually starts to… read more!

Melancholia

Melancholia

Melancholia's first 8 minutes are filled with a series of astoundingly beautiful, surreal tableaux of Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and child actor Cameron Spurr, filmed in super-slow-motion. They are among the most arresting images you will see on a screen in this or any year. But the film that follows is more typical polarizing filmmaking from Danish provocateur Lars von… read more!

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen's love letter to Paris is a charming romantic comedy about a successful Hollywood screenwriter (Owen Wilson), insecure about his first novel, who is vacationing in the City of Light with his materialistic fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Strolling alone through the streets at midnight, he is hailed by an old-fashioned automobile and promptly whisked off to the… read more!

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I've never been very interested in the Mission: Impossible film franchise, as I never watched the '60s TV series on which it is based and don't think much of Tom Cruise. I did check out the John Woo-directed second installment, which was okay, but essentially forgettable. So why did I see Ghost Protocol? One reason: Brad Bird. After knocking out… read more!

Moneyball

Moneyball

I'm not into baseball, I'm barely more interested in economics, and I only enjoy looking at statistics when they're about something fun. So a movie about the business of sports and the formulas of geeky statisticians should have kept me away. Why, then, did I like Moneyball? Because it's intelligent. Because it shines a light on an industry I know… read more!

Point Blank

Point Blank

Fast-paced Gallic suspenser about a nurse's assistant (Gilles Lellouche) whose pregnant wife has been kidnapped and who has been ordered to release a wounded criminal from his hospital if he ever wants to see her alive again. The thrills that ensue are non-stop, with plenty of dark little twists and turns and just the right amount of emotional manipulation. Point… read more!

Rampart

Rampart

Oren Moverman quickly follows up his impressive 2009 directorial debut The Messenger with a gritty but inscrutable drama about a tough LAPD officer (Woody Harrelson, whose costarring role in The Messenger earned him an Oscar nod) who, in the middle of the notorious 1999 Rampart division scandal – in which several cops in the anti-gang unit were busted for misconduct… read more!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Hollywood has been feeding upon itself so much lately, I don't know quite how to categorize Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Is it a reboot of a prequel? A prequel of a remake? Perhaps it's best to say that it's just the missing chapter in pop culture's fictional history of Earth's primate rebellion, now that computer graphics have… read more!

A Separation

A Separation

In the opening scene of A Separation, a couple makes their case for a divorce to an offscreen judge: the wife wishes to move to another country; the husband wants to stay in Iran to care for his elderly father, afflicted with Alzheimer's. In the middle is the couple's emotionally mature 11-year-old daughter. But the wife's real intentions remain cloudy… read more!

Shame

Shame

Something akin to American Psycho only with murder replaced by sex, Shame is the sophomore feature from British artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen – no relation to the late movie star. The suddenly ubiquitous Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon, a wealthy Manhattan corporate nobody who has a sex addiction. (Or so the film wants us to believe – for much of its… read more!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

There seems to be new trend in studio blockbusters based on popular franchises: saving the best-known villain for the sequel. It's a risky move – and any risky move is unusual for Hollywood – because if the first movie flops, then the fans will never get to see how that series will handle their favorite bad guy. But if the… read more!

Source Code

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal is a helicopter pilot whose last memory is fighting in Afghanistan. When he suddenly wakes up on a Chicago-bound commuter train - in another man's body, no less - he is understandably disoriented, and even more so when the train explodes eight minutes later, warping him into some strange armored capsule where an Air Force officer (Vera Farmiga)… read more!

Super

Super

The latest in an array of caped crusader spoofs, the gruesome comedy-drama Super is a decidedly mixed bag. Yet I can't quite get it out of my head. The Office's Rainn Wilson stars as a certified loser who, after his indifferent wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a sleazy strip club owner (Kevin Bacon), has a religious vision that tells… read more!

Super 8

Super 8

It's the summer of 1979, and a group of aspiring filmmakers just out of middle school are shooting a zombie movie around their home of Lillian, Ohio when they witness a horrific train crash. They soon discover that the crash was intentionally caused by their old science teacher, that the incident involved an Air Force train carrying dangerous cargo, and… read more!

Tabloid

Tabloid

Documentarian Morris has always been attracted to eccentric characters, and he found a doozy in Joyce McKinney, the subject of his latest feature Tabloid. I'd say that the less you know about McKinney in advance, the more fun you'll have with this wild documentary about her life, but here's the basic summary: In 1977, this would-be model from North Carolina,… read more!

Thor

Thor

As a Norwegian American, I've always had a soft spot for the Marvel superhero Thor, even though frankly he always struck me as silly, with his long blonde hair, his winged helmet, and his hammer. With the comic publisher-turned-movie studio frantically churning out feature film adaptations of every character it can before Stan Lee kicks the bucket, Thor seemed a… read more!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

This atmospheric spy picture, set mostly in 1974, has a simple enough setup: There's allegedly a Soviet mole at the very top of the British intelligence community, and George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who once belonged to that elite half-dozen of super spies before being forced into retirement after a botched deal in Budapest, is quietly tapped to ferret out said… read more!

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Writer-director Malick's highly-anticipated fifth feature opens like an experimental film, with an abstract series of sights and sounds giving us the following information: A couple (father Brad Pitt, mother Jessica Chastain) learns that their 19-year-old son has died. Years later, one of their two surviving sons has grown up to be a successful businessman (Sean Penn), still questioning the loss… read more!

War Horse

War Horse

After several years of comparatively challenging filmmaking – the misfire of the last Indiana Jones movie notwithstanding – Steven Spielberg is back in the gee-whiz populist mode that marked his '80s output. That's not necessarily a bad thing. In his epic World War I fable War Horse, the director finds a canny balance between the golden-hued schmaltz of The Color… read more!

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Scottish filmmaker Ramsay has become something of a darling with cineastes because of her first two features, Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar. I've seen both films and found them intriguing in sort of a hazy way, though I did not share fans' enthusiasm. Ramsay's long-awaited third feature, We Need to Talk About Kevin, set in the US and starring a mostly… read more!