The best genre movies of 2011, part 2


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Continuing our list from yesterday here are five more of the best genre movies of 2011. Click over for our picks for the best romance, Western, horror film, legal thriller, and comic book movie. Today it’s time for the best spy movie, cop movie, sports movie, mystery, and science-fiction. Let’s do it.

The Best Spy Movie of the Year
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (In IMAX)
Directed by Brad Bird

Even fans of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” would admit the film is more of a character study about spies than a true spy movie. For real genre thrills, I’m going with something bigger: much bigger. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” delivered everything we’ve come to expect from this series — high-tech gadgets, ferocious fights, Tom Cruise running — on a grander scale than ever before. Director Brad Bird’s IMAX action scenes, especially one dazzling, dangling sequence atop the tallest building in the world, were absolutely stunning. Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci makes some excellent observations about the gaping holes in the film’s story. So why isn’t anyone talking about them? Because people get so caught up in “Ghost Protocol”‘s enormous imagery they don’t have time to think.

The Best Sports Movie of the Year

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

This might be the most inexplicable flop of the year. “Warrior” was a shameless crowd-pleaser, with twice the underdogs of your typical underdog sports movie, but for some reason the crowds never showed up to be pleased. Maybe the lack of a bankable star kept people away, but the lack of a bankable star meant two very good young actors, Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, got to play the lead roles of Brendan and Tommy Conlon, estranged brothers who both enter the same mixed martial arts tournament in search of a big cash prize. The final fight felt seriously anticlimactic and Nick Nolte goes a bit overboard in his alcoholic suffering at times, but the rest of this movie is just about perfect. Any sports movie would be blessed to have a lead character as good as Hardy’s or Edgerton’s. This one has both. If I had to bank on one 2011 movie slowly becoming a massive word-of-mouth hit on DVD and Blu-ray, I’d pick “Warrior.” It could easily become this decade’s “Shawshank Redemption.” Read my full review here.


The Best Cop Movie of the Year
“The Guard”
Directed by John Michael McDonagh

The buddy cop movie has had its up and downs in recent years but it rose from the ashes like a phoenix who was getting too old for this shit with the comedy “The Guard.” Brendan Gleeson delivers a brilliant performance as Sgt. Gerry Boyle, a small town Irish cop who stumbles, accidentally and disinterestedly, onto a drug smuggling ring. He teams with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle, whose Southern accent is the one weak spot in the film) and together they make a classic pair of mismatched partners. “The Guard” was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of “In Bruges” filmmaker Martin McDonagh. I suspect if you liked the latter, you’ll dig the former, which has a similarly picaresque setting and dark sense of humor. Listen to my full review here.

The Best Mystery of the Year
“Cold Weather”
Directed by Aaron Katz

Mysteries are all about finding things in unlikely places and the DIY, improvisational genre of mumblecore is probably the last place in moviedom you’d expect to find a good whodunit. Yet here is Aaron Katz’s “Cold Weather,” a very successful experiment in marrying the off-the-cuff mumblecore aesthetic with the rigid structure of a drawing room mystery. A college dropout with an interest in forensic science and Sherlock Holmes novels moves back home to Portland and gets a job in an ice factory. An old flame comes to visit then seemingly disappears. Was she kidnapped? Or even murdered? While Hollywood turned Sherlock Holmes into a six packed, speed ramping action hero, Katz proved you don’t need any of that to tell a compelling story. All you need are a few interesting characters, one good brainteaser, and a pipe. Read my full review here.

The Best Sci-Fi Movie of the Year
“Attack the Block”
Directed by Joe Cornish

There was plenty of callbacks to old movies in “Attack the Block,” including 80s gang flicks like “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire,” but the film was far more creative than your typical nostalgia pastiche. Even the design of the “gorilla-wolf” aliens that crash into a giant South London housing complex was refreshing (if something with glowing, razor-sharp teeth and a hunger for human flesh can be termed “refreshing”). Director Joe Cornish’s dazzling debut film was light on science but heavy on scares and humor, and it featured a cast of charismatic misfit kids who made the Goonies look like the Muppet Babies. Buried beneath the laughs and scares, there are even some powerful themes about personal responsibility and the dehumanizing nature of life in the projects. Believe, bruv: this movie deserved better than its $1.0 million domestic gross. Read my full review here.

Back to PART 1 of The Best Genre Movies of 2011.

What was your favorite spy movie, cop movie, sports movie, mystery, and sci-fi movie of the year? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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