The beginning of the new year brings with an opportunity to take stock of the previous year’s strengths and weaknesses. With that in mind, Schlockmania presents the first installment in a two-part look at the Year In Schlock Cinema, 2011. This part is devoted primarily to theatrical releases, give or take the odd film festival choice or direct-to-video release.
The best and worst lists are upfront, along with a few lines of commentary to illustrate the reasoning behind a particular decision. These are followed by second-tier lists of films worth seeing and some notable disappointments to flesh out the Schlockmania view of the moviegoing year as a whole.
As is this site’s custom, ranking and star systems are avoided – instead, everything is presented alphabetically and you are encouraged to read the reviews linked to each title for more detailed information. Have a happy read and feel free to submit your own best/worst lists in the comments section.
Captain America – the best of 2011’s comic book adaptations has a heartfelt, winningly old-fashioned “gee whiz” approach to its derring-do and an unexpectedly resonant message about what makes a hero
Drive – not a schlock film but a brilliantly-crafted genre deconstruction that takes schlock crime-movie elements and synthesizes them into cinematic art of the first order (plus a few GREAT stunt-driving scenes) – Your Humble Reviewer’s favorite of 2011
Drive Angry – underrated entry into the nuevo-grindhouse sweepstakes has imagination, style and genuine depth of appreciation/understanding for its inspirations – this is the kind of exploitation-flick throwback that Machete wanted to be
Fast Five – an example of Hollywood’s popcorn-movie machine doing its job correctly and producing an actions flick that is colorful, likeably light in tone and packed with some spectacular action scenes (including Vin Diesel duking it out with the Rock)
Kill The Irishman – this gangster mini-epic is derivative and hurt by a limited budget… but it also full of action, boasts a great cast and has the kind of macho swagger you rarely see in movies today
The Man From Nowhere – hard-hitting Korean blend of action and melodrama offers a fun throwback to the days of “Heroic Bloodshed” while taking a distinctly modern and ferocious approach to its material – it’s a must for Asian action buffs
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes – the only reboot worth watching this year takes a beloved franchise and gives it a nuanced, meaningful and surprisingly heartfelt reinterpretation that fans of the original series should love
The Scarlet Worm – an uncompromising, impressive take on the western genre that blends 1970’s style revisionism with an edgy yet cool style that is very modern – and it was made on a pocket change budget by guys who truly love the genre
The Skin I Live In – Pedro Almodovar takes on the mad scientist genre in his dinstinctly artsy and sexy style
Some Guy Who Kills People – truly inspired blend of the “losers makes good” indie flick and the serial killer movie that is darkly funny, oddly sweet around the edges & packed with killer performances – the surprise of the year for Your Humble Reviewer
Tabloid – Errol Morris takes on a legendary story from England’s tabloid-paper glory days that says a lot about the dangers of easy celebrity and the dark side of American eccentricity
The Warrior’s Way – unsung blend of spaghetti western and samurai fare that delivers a ton of action in a quirky, oddly romantic style – more people need to see this movie
X-Men: First Class – the other truly great comic book flick of 2011 gives one of the most psychologically complex comic titles the depth and breadth it deserves
Dead Cert – with a subject like vampire strippers, you’d expect this to be an energetic, gleefully trashy romp but this British effort is weakly written, way too lethargic and lacking in the visceral punch such material needs
Final Destination 5 – one of the most successful cash-grab series of modern horror goes through the motions yet again instead of exploiting the potential of its cool premise – even with good 3-D effects, this one wears out its welcome after the obligatory killer opener
Hobo With A Shotgun – the most wildly overrated (and underachieving) genre pic of 2011 is too busy trying to impressive its audience with contrived hipster outrageousness instead of telling a worthwhile story or utilizing the great Rutger Hauer properly
I Spit On Your Grave (remake) – a terrible remake made for mercenary reasons by people who didn’t really understand the original film and manages to be overtly gory and thematically gutless all at once
Straw Dogs (remake) – same basic problems as the I Spit On Your Grave remake but this misguided opus is also steeped in pretension and possessed of a weird sense of fascistic hatred towards small town people – Schlockmania’s pick for THE worst film of 2011
Super – a promising, potentially mind-blowing premise falls apart due to unfocused writing, limp characterizations and an unearned sense of self-regard
Thor – inexplicably popular comic book movie dud overindulges in corporate franchise-building at the expense of a coherent story, has too much crap CGI and a disturbing fondness for awful comic relief
Human Centipede – this was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the sequel at the end of the year but the not-for-all-tastes original remains worth seeing thanks to its crafty mix of arthouse visual design, body horror and dark humor
The A-Team – this t.v.-goes-movie venture worked out surprisingly well thanks to smart scripting from director Joe Carnahan and a well-chosen cast anchored by a good-natured turn from Liam Neeson
The Mechanic (remake) – despite a fumbled ending, this remake remains interesting thanks to some effective new characterization, a couple of swell setpieces and smart casting for its leads
Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work – a year in the life of the patron saint of female comedians is more interesting than you might thing (and emotionally affecting, too)
Scream 4 – yeah, it’s a programmer and a shameless cash-grab from a studio looking for a quick profit… but it was also gleefully nasty and playful, with inspired direction from Wes Craven and the most surprising opening sequence of 2011
South Of Heaven – a true “festival movie,” this blend of noir tropes and deadpan avant-humor is one-of-a-kind arthouse experience tailored to the interests of genre film buffs – it won’t hit everyone the same way but it’s worth a look
Buried – wildly overpraised indie falls flat due to poor storytelling choices despite a great high-concept premise and a stunning one-man-show performance from Ryan Reynolds
Colombiana – the eagerly anticipated action flick from the people who gave us Taken is a sloppily written, underwhelming exercise despite a few great action scenes and a committed performance from Zoe Saldana
Sucker Punch – a tragic case: a film that is packed with spectacle and visual imagination but falls short of the cult-movie grandeur it reaches for due to weak scripting… a brave, ambitious misfire but still a misfire
If you enjoyed this rundown, please return at the end of the week (01/06) for Part 2 of The Year In Schlock Cinema, 2011 – Home Video.