Although officially the summer doesn’t start until mid May, movie wise it has slowly crawled up to late April in order to allow a wider window for summer releases. Next week Fast Five and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night will kick off this year’s batch of summer movies. But I’d like to take a look back and see what the spring of 2011 had to offer.
Spring is always an odd time for movies. For starters it is the award season but most movies receiving awards would have premiered the previous year. So even if you saw The King’s Speech or 127 Hours this spring they don’t count as a spring movie (even if they had a spring re-release). Because of this most big studio releases during this time fall under the radar. Generally there is the handful of rom coms released for Valentine’s Day (oddly very few in number this year), a few out-of-water horror films, and one or two popcorn thrillers that are generally a bit smarter than their summer counterparts. In short spring is the time where studios dump everything they didn’t know when else to release.
But at the same time it is also a wonderful time for movies. Besides awards season, spring is also flanked by two major film festivals in the US: Sundance in January and Austin in late April/May. As a consequence spring generally offers the greatest array of Indie films and the work of up-and-coming filmmakers. Many of these films will end up getting their wide re-release the following spring if they happen to be nominated for an award. And the festivals allow for a few documentaries to be released. Always of varying qualities but this year we got the personal journeys of two filmmakers with I Am and Exporting Raymond.
This year’s spring was not an unusual spring; it had its obligatory rom com, No Strings Attached, its share of horror films, The Rite and The Roommate, a few sequels no one asked for, Big Momma 3 and Scary Movie 4, and quite a vast array of thrillers. 2011 is already a great year for thrillers; it gave us Unknown, The Adjustment Bureau, Limitless, Source Code, The Lincoln Lawyer, and a few more. Some are my favorite thrillers in years. And it even gave us two Nicholas Cage movies; Season of The Witch, and Drive Angry 3D (which I sadly missed). Some were good, a few were great, and many will be forgotten.
I haven’t seen all these films. There are many I don’t care for (mostly those sequels) and probably will never watch. But there are also few that I’ve missed but hope to catch sometime soon. Of the ones that I have seen, and reviewed these are the ones I would recommend the most. It is not a top five per se, but simply a set of five good movies to watch (and that I, at least, will be getting the DVD of):
Limitless – What if one pill could solve all your problems? This film takes a simple premise and takes it for a wild ride. This is popcorn filmmaking at its best, delivering a film that keeps moving forward without looking over its shoulder. It also gave us Robert DeNiro in the most respectful role he’s had since he decided to do Meet the Fockers.
Super – A spoof, a re-evaluation and a revelation of the superhero genre. Super asks itself; what kind of person would put on a mask and try to fight crime? And it tries to answer it with a straight face as possible. In the process it delivers one demented comedy and a bloody mess of skulls cracked open with a blot wrench.
Exporting Raymond – The personal journey of Phil Rosenthal creator of Everybody Loves Raymond as he tries to teach the Russian film industry that all great comedy has to come from the heart. And that, no matter where you where born, getting kicked in the balls hurts the same way.
Hanna – A much more patient thriller than Limitless, Hanna seems to combine the action packed pace of a Hollywood blockbuster with the craft of a European art film. It is an interesting result put together by Joe Wright, whom I never quite saw making a film like this.
Rango – This film deserves a standing ovation simply because it manages to be a legit western and an animated family film at the same time. It does not believe animation is a genre restricted to the young ones but a medium that can be used to tell any story of any genre. It knows how to use this medium to tell its story. And on top of it all it provides the best use of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries this side of Apocalypse Now.
Honestly you should not miss these movies.