WE BOUGHT A ZOO (Cameron Crowe, 2011)

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A sweet little movie that didn’t offer much to its audience, making it a big disappointment for Crowe fans (myself included). I expected the screenplay to be meatier and smarter and yet the title was mentioned about three times in its duration. Although based on another unbelievable true story, a lot of the emotions felt fake and corny.

Matt Damon was moving as the father in grief, Thomas Haden Church stole most of his scenes, and Elle Fanning showcased more than what’s required of her character.

Overall, it was a harmless, lightweight dramedy for all ages.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 19, 2012.)

WARRIOR (Gavin O’Connor, 2011)

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It’s that rare triumph of the spirit sports movie that’s completely predictable yet remarkably engaging. Although you know where the movie’s headed, you still remain glued on this story of two brothers duking it out physically and emotionally inside and outside of the ring. Imagine Rocky with two protagonists set in the mixed martial arts scene. Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) gives another fearless performance opposite the menacing Tom Hardy (Inception). Nick Nolte provides excellent support as their self-destructive father (where’s the love awards bodies?). This is a thrilling action movie that wears its fragile heart on its sleeve.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 17, 2012.)

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Guy Ritchie, 2011)

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Before Zack Snyder, the master of style-over-substance was Guy Ritchie and he didn’t disappoint in this far superior sequel.

Robert Downey, Jr. (one of the most consistent actors of this generation) could play a bookshelf or a chair and still manage to shine in any scene. Jude Law helped create much-needed sexual tension/chemistry making the movie an enjoyable ride.

The only disappointment was Noomi Rapace who looked lost among the boys.

Still, this was one of those good popcorn movies better suited in the summer.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published January 11, 2012.)

A SEPARATION (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

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With all the religious themes seamlessly embedded in this domestic drama, this should be considered required viewing for Theology courses (and any Film 101 class, naturally). It’s a powerful morality tale with flawless direction, excellent screenplay, and brilliant performances. The final scene resonated so much that this will surely end up on my list of the best movies of 2011.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 12, 2012.)

MONEYBALL (Bennett Miller, 2011)

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Although I enjoy a good sports movie every once in a while, I feel that these feel-good underdog flicks follow the same formula up to its heartwarming finale.

This film had the exact same elements and yet still ended up throwing a curveball. With Brad Pitt giving the performance of his life (and an amazing supporting turn from the usually comic Jonah Hill), this one was definitely a homerun.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 5, 2012.)

JACK AND JILL (Dennis Dugan, 2011)

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I enjoy the occasional Adam Sandler comedy simply because it keeps me from being a total film snob. His movies may have the same formula but you can expect a few good laughs here and there.

That cannot be said about this completely repulsive movie. It’s Sandler acting Tootsie and not in a funny way.

You know one has run out of good material when a diarrhea joke serves as the scene’s punchline. Even more painful is the inclusion of the Al Pacino whose Oscar should be revoked for being involved in this bottom of the barrel crapfest.

Rating: 1/5

THE IRON LADY (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011)

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The movie didn’t seem to be anything more than a performance piece for the always brilliant Meryl Streep. There was really nothing bad about it, except that it barely touched on its subject matter.

Streep could have been playing an insane Julia Child and it wouldn’t have made any difference. All I remembered was a strong-willed (read: bitchy) woman in her prime leading to an old lady losing her sanity.

Here’s hoping for a better future tribute to this icon.

Rating: 3/5

HUGO (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

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Sometimes it’s hard to explain why one loves the movies. Personally, it’s the magic of filmmaking that I adore. And nothing is more appropriate than the word “magical” to describe Hugo.

Here’s a film that proudly shows its love for cinema while disguised as a story about a young boy finding his place in this world. There are so many moments that you just sit and stare at the screen enthralled by what you’re seeing. Some scenes are not even designed to make you cry but the mere power of the images engulf you and you find yourself tearing up.

With excellent performances by Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, and Sacha Baron Cohen under the brilliant direction of the Martin Scorsese, this is truly one of the best films of 2011.

Rating: 5/5