Hundreds of movies are released each year in theaters or straight to DVD, and a large percentage of them suck. A much smaller group though are fantastic slices of cinema that thrill, excite, invigorate and entertain, and while some of them are recognized at the box office many more are left to die a quick and undeserved death.
And it’s essentially your fault.
Of course I don’t mean you specifically, but instead I’m referring to the average American movie-goer who chose not to see these movies in the theater. They ignored the critical acclaim, reviews and recommendations from sites like ours and instead bought multiple tickets for the latest Twilight or Transformers movie. So while it’s too late to affect their box office returns (most of them anyway), Jack Giroux and Rob Hunter have put together a list of eleven movies that deserved far better treatment in 2011.
30 Minutes or Less
Ruben Fleischer’s follow-up to Zombieland did okay, but it didn’t make the splash his feature film debut did. That’s a shame, since 30 Minutes or Less is funnier, quicker, and isn’t afraid to get a little mean at times. There’s not a lot of meat to the story, so Fleischer wisely keeps things moving fast and knows how not to overstay his welcome. The director gets comic pacing and high-volume energy, both of which that made 30 Minutes or Less a strong comedy. (Domestic BO total: $37 mil) – JG
Why people didn’t flock to this movie about a young man whose life begins to crumble when he’s diagnosed with life threatening cancer I’ll never know. Imagine an even funnier Terms of Endearment, and you’ll understand how good this movie is. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is endearing and inspiring in the lead role of Adam, and Seth Rogen even manages to entertain instead of annoy as the best friend along for the ride. Anna Kendrick shines too as Adam’s untested counselor who stumbles along the way. The film is sweet, funny and never shies away from the reality of Adam’s situation, and it has a great soundtrack! (Domestic BO total: $35 mil) – RH
The Adventures of Tintin
Steven Spielberg’s animated/motion-captured adventure has only been in theaters here for a couple weeks, but an opening of $16 million is pretty damn sad for the year’s best animated film. That would hardly even cover the cost of oil changes and tire rotations for the entire cast of Cars 2 (a movie whose tailpipe you and your kids sucked all the way to $191 mil). The film wisely eschews an origin story of any kind and instead jumps right into the intrepid young reporter’s life as he begins a new adventure involving lost treasure, ancient feuds and a unicorn. It’s a fun film for all ages, and features fantastic action scenes including a spectacular chase done in one unbroken camera shot. (Yeah, I know it’s animated. Shut up.) On the bright side the film is doing blockbuster business overseas (to the tune of $240 million), but that doesn’t excuse the lack of attention it’s received here. (Domestic BO as of 12/31/11: $40 mil) – RH
Attack the Block
I know what you’re thinking. How can this Hunter prick put Attack the Block on a list of over-hyped films one minute and a list of under-seen titles the next? Well it isn’t easy, I’ll tell you that much. Writer/director Joe Cornish’s retro romp was praised daily since SXSW as the second coming of Amblin Entertainment, but while that claim was more than a little excessive the movie is still damn entertaining. The creature design is very cool, the film is shot with style and energy, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the sequels and remakes we’re used to. But with all that incessant hype how did it do so poorly? Why didn’t you listen?!? (Domestic BO total: $1 mil) – RH
Fright Night / The Thing
Okay, neither of these come close to qualifying as “fantastic” movies, but they’re both pretty good. Yes, even The Thing remake is an okay little monster movie when you set aside your love of John Carpenter’s classic and your hatred of CGI and remakes. The point is there aren’t a lot of studio backed horror films anymore so when they put a somewhat good one out we need to support them. The flip side of this is that derivative crap should be ignored. But no, Americans chose to pass on these two and instead turn the cheap drivel of Paranormal Activity 3 into a $103 mil hit. Remember how the Saw series lasted seven goddamn installments? Your fault. And you’re doing it again. (Domestic BO total: $35 mil combined) – RH
As everyone has pointed out, John Michael McDonagh’s brother wrote and directed the recent classic In Bruges, but what they seem to have missed is that his own film, The Guard, is just as great. McDonagh’s Irish western features a perfectly structured script, with a tremendous performance by Brendan Gleeson at the center of it all. This is a film featuring a foul-mouthed hero who pretends to be racist and stupid, a philosophical batch of villains, and an American sidekick who couldn’t be less helpful — what more can one ask for? (Domestic BO total: $5 mil) – JG
Everyone keeps talking up the coolness and talent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and it seems as if only a handful of those people have seen him as Hesher, probably his best performance to date. This is one of those dark and funny summer indies that went by without any notice. Hesher came from Spencer Susher, a member of the Blue Tongue Films and the director of the zombie short, I Love Sarah Jane, and he got an incredible performance out of Levitt in a role that mixes Death and a guardian angel. (Domestic BO total: >$1 mil) – JG
While the Weinsteins are currently busy campaigning their so-so or just “pretty good” awards hungry films, none of them hold a candle up to Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. The IT Crowd star’s film is a funny, odd, and lovely coming-of-age story about a creepy and cold kid falling in love — and understanding it — for the first time. People made the obvious Wes Anderson comparisons, but Submarine is its own wonderful and whimsical kind of film. (Domestic BO total: >$1 mil) – JG
If America was a child or a hot Asian stripper I would bend you over my knee and spank your ass for the travesty that is this film’s box office failure. Here’s what you missed: 1) Three emotionally affecting performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. 2) A rare film that shows US soldiers in a positive light as the heroes they often are. 3) A sports film that perfectly balances the action with the shmaltz. 4) A suspenseful and exciting final fight that leaves you breathless and torn trying to decide which side to cheer for. 5) One of the year’s best films. (Domestic BO total: $13 mil) – RH
We Bought a Zoo
Fox was more than likely hoping for this to be another Marley and Me. The fact is, Cameron Crowe’s film isn’t that dog dying heart-warmer, it’s much more than that. I’m sure word-of-mouth will save We Bought a Zoo from being a total dud, but this should have been one of the big hits of Christmas. I understand the other films on this list not doing well, but not this one. Did uncanny-looking warmth of Damon and Scar-jo’s smiles scare you off as being gooey? Well, they are gooey, in an awesome way. There’s still plenty of time to go and support We Bought a Zoo, so go do so. (Domestic BO as of 12/31/11: $32 mil) – JG
America’s hatred of films starting with the letter ‘W’ continues with this delightfully simple but surprisingly charming, humorous and realistic little gem. It’s not surprising that it got lost in the theatrical shuffle, but it’s still unfortunate. Paul Giamatti’s turn as a husband and father who works as a lawyer while moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach is him at his most likeable and impressive. He’s the heart of Tom McCarthy’s third film, and even as the character makes dubious and morally questionable choices we can’t help but wish it works out for him. Every character is flawed in real and honest ways making them like people you know and love in your own life, but they’re a lot funnier than your own friends and family. (Domestic BO total: $10 mil) – RH
There are more good, fun-loving lists in our 2011 Year in Review