By Lisa Anderson
In late 2010, I made a list of the 2011 films that I was most interested in. With many year-end retrospectives going on, I thought I’d go back over the list and report on how these movies compared to my expectations.
1. Red Riding Hood
Of all the movies on my list, this one probably disappointed me the most. The story was muddled and didn’t make use of folklore and symbolism in the way it could have. The love triangle was not as interesting as it could have been, and there were disappointing performances all around from otherwise amazing people. Last but not least, the script missed the perfect opportunity to have the wolf throw back its head and howl at the moon. Red Riding Hood had its good moments and there were things I liked about it, but overall, you’re better off watching Hanna (reviewed here) for an innovative, feminist take on fairy tales.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
My one beef with the last few Harry Potter movies has been that they’re almost too pretty. The aesthetic of the films seems airless, and this was no exception. Nevertheless, the final film delivers all the triumph and tragedy that fans expected from the last chapter, striking just the right note. The whole cast is up to the the task, too—although the stand-out may be Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. All in all, it’s a fitting close to a saga that’s taken its leads—and many of its fans—from childhood to adulthood.
3. The Cabin in the Woods
This is the one film on my list that didn’t actually get released this year. It’s premier has been pushed to April 2012, so at least I know what Joss Whedon is getting me for my birthday. The trailer is out now, and makes Cabin look like a hybrid of horror and action thriller . . . perhaps a healthy dose of Dollhouse in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula. At any rate, if you can’t wait that long for hillside homicide with a Whedon veteran, check out Tucker and Dale vs Evil, with Alan Tudyk (Serenity, Dollhouse). That comedy of errors, by turns heartwarming and hysterical, will be a tough act to follow, even for the more seemingly straightforward Cabin.
4. Water for Elephants
I didn’t enjoy this movie nearly as much as the book. I wasn’t emotionally invested, in spite of the joy of seeing Hal Holbrook on screen. The biggest problem was the violence, which is depicted in an unsettling way that feels unredeemed and different from the book. More importantly, the story’s pro-animal message feels like hypocrisy, when one learns that Tai, the elephant who plays Rosie, was trained using inhumane methods.
5. Cowboys and Aliens
This was another big disappointment. While the premise is innovative—aliens in the Old West—I’m unclear as to why aliens would need to experiment on humans to learn our weaknesses when they can just blow us to splinters. What’s worse, these aliens were the slavering, tentacled cave-troll variety which also appeared in Super 8 and have replaced little grey men as the default aliens. (Props to my friend Cait for the “cave troll” description.) If I’d gotten a nickel for every time the action stopped for some macho pissing contest, I could have seen the movie for free. Worst of all, I could have lived my entire life without seeing Harrison Ford torture anyone and I would have been much happier.
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