Friday, December 23, 2011

Exciting eleven: 11 films that entertained us in ‘11

(From the December 16-31 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

   What a good year for movies and movie fans. It’s a tough and tricky yearend list to make, since there are dozens of films that made us laugh, cry, think, and yes, actually shell out some hard-earned dough. Whether you agree or disagree (or agree to disagree), here are eleven entertaining movies that you should’ve seen in 2011. In no particular order:

The Adventures of Tintin
   Excellently capturing the spirit of the beloved comic book series by Belgian storyteller Herge, “The Adventures of Tintin” is an exciting, fast-paced translation by Steven Spielberg. Vividly animated, it conjures up classic tales while still very accessible to those unfamiliar with the exploits of intrepid boy reporter Tintin.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
   This fine prequel also serves as a reboot, making sense of the simians’ dominance in its various prior incarnations. Expounding on the science fiction films’ mythology, the film is made even more effective by its heartbreaking family drama.

X-Men: First Class
   The year’s best superhero movie isn’t “Thor” or “Captain America.” Marvel’s mutants return in bombastic fashion; they’re not quite the unsung superheroes that we’re familiar with yet, but this film depicts the momentous formation of the X-Men during the Cold War. Michael Fassbender memorably plays Magneto, giving him necessary grit and dimension.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
   Harry Potter’s former school becomes a war zone! The young mage and his loyal allies fight the forces of Voldemort for the last time, and not everybody survives the conflict. The most action-packed installment of the series, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” spectacularly and bittersweetly concludes Harry’s saga.

Real Steel
   Forget the iffy trailer, “Real Steel” is actually a fun scifi-sports flick. Yes, it’s predictable, but this particular meshing of dazzling effects with relatable drama works well. It depicts a world where everything is familiar, except for the fact that robots have replaced human boxers in the ring. The automaton duels are impressive, and the underdog-redemption drama pleases.

127 Hours
   Based on actual events, “127 Hours” centers on athletic Aron Ralston’s agonizing ordeal in a Utah canyon. The Danny Boyle-directed film boldly illustrates the harrowing details of Ralston’s struggle against the unmoving boulder that pinned his hand during a nature trek. James Franco’s performance mesmerizes.

   A father’s worst nightmare is realized when his daughter is victimized by a cyber-predator. It’s depressing and discomfiting, and rightly so. Consistently compelling portrayals by Clive Owen and Liana Liberato make this relevant drama poignant and affecting.
Arthur Christmas
   Not your run of the mill Yuletide stocking-stuffer, “Arthur Christmas” imaginatively reinvents the Santa Claus myth, resulting in an exciting and brilliant caper. Aglow with colors and entrancing imagery, it amusingly introduces the wacky Claus family, a nice mix of lovable and intriguing characters.

   A deadly teen is unleashed on her deceased mother’s tormentors, discovering truths about her past and her family along the way. “Atonement’s” Saoirse Ronan perfectly embodies the balance of focus and vulnerability, figuring in gripping action scenes with Cate Blanchett, who plays a merciless CIA operative.

Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington
   Gay topics are rarely tackled insightfully, but this local hit indie does just that, and riotously, too. The campy comedy utilizes hilarious scifi and fantasy elements, but the most enjoyable thing about it is Martin Escudero, whose gender identity transformations are gut-busting and endearing.

The Tree of Life
   Audaciously told, “The Tree of Life” ponders existential questions repeatedly through an American family. Perplexing but often enlightening, Terrence Malick’s film challenges with its pace and effects-enhanced images, but his unconventional, unbridled storytelling is admirable.

Oliver M. Pulumbarit reviewed movies for the Philippine Daily Inquirer from 2002-2008, and continues to write entertainment reviews and reports for PDI, his blog “Alternatural Thoughts,” and The Fortnightly.