Not everyone can be a big shot film critic like the writing staff of BeyondHollywood.com, so naturally most of you out there will have missed the majority of films released in 2011. Even if you were a major movie buff, the chances that you will have seen every movie, especially ones that didn’t blaze a gigantic PR trail on its way to its theatrical release, is next to nil. Hey, life happens, so you might have missed a movie here or there (or all of them, if you’ve been living in a cave), we don’t blame you. Perhaps the advertising sucked. Maybe it starred that guy or gal you never cared much for. Maybe you’ve never even heard of it? Or it comes with those bothersome subtitles?
Which is what this latest feature is for: here are 10 movies from 2011 that you might have missed for whatever reason, but are definitely worth your time to seek out. We promise you’ll like them. (And if you don’t, it’s entirely your fault for having bad taste in movies.)
In no particular order…
Two estranged brothers, an Iraq war hero (Tom Hardy) and a family man (Joel Edgerton) are on a crash course for pain and redemption and all that good stuff in this mixed martial arts fighting film co-written and directed by Gavin O’Connor. Nick Nolte plays their father, a former boozehound trying to make amends to both boys, but finding it tough slogging. An excellent combination of family drama and gritty action, “Warrior” also features some of the best MMA fighting scenes I’ve ever seen on film. O’Connor goes for balls-to-the-wall grit, never settling for the cheap “Hollywood fighting” you see, say, in a Van Damme movie. Gripping, realistic, and yes, perhaps a tad too emotionally manipulative at times, “Warrior” also features great performances from its three male leads, in particular a crushing turn by Nick Nolte as the father.
Wu Xia (aka Dragon)
I don’t blame you if you saw the promos for “Wu Xia” (since retitled to the generic sounding “Dragon” for International consumption, presumably because “Wu Xia” might make non-Chinese audiences’ heads explode) and thought, “Oh, man, not another Donnie Yen period martial arts movie!” Ol Donnie sure has been making up for his earlier Hong Kong film career in the last few years. But Peter Chan’s “Wu Xia” manages to give you Donnie Yen at his most badass self, but at the same time does it from a completely different angle. And if nothing else, the film features quite possibly the most absurd Third Act out-of-left-field scene of the year that should leave audiences flabbergasted, though anyone who has seen any amount of Chinese martial arts movie will be mostly just amused. Great, outrageous martial arts action (choreographed by Yen) doesn’t hurt, either.
Batman: Year One
Early in “Batman: Year One”, Bruce Wayne attempts to fight crime — and promptly gets his ass handed to him by some hookers. Hey, it’s the guy’s first time out, this stuff will happen. A great primer on the beginnings of a legendary vigilante career, the animated “Batman: Year One” is a fantastically faithful adaptation of the Frank Miller comic book storyline that tracks the beginnings of the Caped Crusader’s career. At the same time, the storyline traces the path of Commissioner Gordon (then just a Lieutenant) as he arrives in the cesspool that is Gotham City, and his own war against a corrupt Gotham City police department. Watching “Batman: Year One” is like reading the comic book story arc page by page, but you won’t have to explain to your girlfriend why you’re reading an old comic book from the ’80s.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Eli Craig’s genre-busting “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is the type of horror/slasher movie you don’t see very often. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen this take on the old standard slasher movie about pretty teens in the woods before, so if nothing else, the film has that novelty factor going for it. Fortunately, it has other things, too, like the fact that it’s riotously funny and turns the genre on its head. It also features some spectacularly goofy kill sequences, Katrina Bowden in her underwear, and heart-warming (if outrageously bloody) hero turns by “Firefly’s” Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the not-so dumb Tucker and Dale rednecks of the title. Watching “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is like watching your usual, generic teen slasher movie … from the point of view of the inbred hillbillies who, as it turns out, really aren’t all that inbreed, hillbilly-ish, or murderous.
What if Butch Cassidy survived his run-in with the Bolivian army and retired to a secluded mountain cabin and broke horses for rich gringos? Director Mateo Gil was apparently wondering the same thing, and the result is “Blackthorn”, an excellent Western that pits an appropriately gruff, but still very capable Butch Cassidy (now going by Blackthorn and played by the gruff, but still very capable Sam Shepard) against another relentless posse, back-stabbing villains, and old enemies from his past. Mateo Gil and screenwriter Miguel Barros have obviously seen George Roy Hill’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” plenty of times, and take a lot of visual cues from that movie. But never you mind that; for fans of the Western, “Blackthorn” is an outstanding entry, featuring an anti-hero who is not quite in his prime, but can still kick plenty of ass.
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