At the beginning of the year, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see as many movies in 2011 as I would like, so when I was considering my yearly quest to see as many movies as possible which I hadn’t seen before, I set my goal low for the Drive for 66.

I blew that away before August was over.

So I set a new goal of 85 movies, which was at least 11 films too low based on my rate of seeing movies, but I did it anyway…

…and I’ve already passed that.

I’m not going to set a new goal, but it would be cool to surpass the number I set last year.

September

70. Precious

Maybe I’ll take flack from some of my readers for this review, but I wasn’t really all that impressed with this movie. It was a sad story about a very tough life, and it was well executed, but was it worthy of a Best Picture nomination? Not by my standards. I don’t even think Monique was deserving of a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, when in reality she had one scene that displayed decent talent, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a decent actress in Hollywood who wouldn’t have done as good a job as Monique in that scene were they given the chance… and that’s basically the only scene in the entire movie which impressed me from that character’s standpoint, and it wasn’t a hugely impressive scene nor was it a very lengthy scene. I don’t recommend paying money to see this film, but it’s probably worth watching.

71. Hall Pass

This certainly wasn’t the best comedy I’ve seen all year, but it was entertaining. It was interesting how the concept of the Hall Pass came about during the plot, and the side-plot that it created with the wives was unexpected but valuable to the plot as a whole… though it didn’t add any comedic elements to it. One thing that can be said for this film is that you’ll appreciate Nicky Whalen after watching it, and you’re likely to know who Jason Sudeikis is, if you don’t already. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate Jenna Fischer about as much as you ever did, and you’ll not gain much more respect for Christina Applegate… though admittedly I’m probably in the minority regarding Applegate, as I’ve never been a fan of hers. Do yourself a favor… when it comes time in the movie where Owen Wilson falls asleep in the hot tub, just close your eyes for a few minutes, there’s no need to see the wangfest which shows up in the minutes which follow.

72. Winter’s Bone

This was a very gritty film which does a great job of helping you get sympathetic for the protagonists. None of the antagonists “feel” like Hollywood performers, which is not to say they weren’t talented. On the contrary, they do such a good job with this film in distancing you from the production that it feels that much more real. Jennifer Lawrence did a great job with this role, and because of it she’s someone I’m keeping an eye out for with her future projects.

73. True Grit (2011)

I can’t decide which is more over-rated, the older version of this movie with an uninspired John Wayne or this slightly-above-average remake. Hailee Steinfeld certainly did a great job with her character, and Jeff Bridges was fairly good, but neither Matt Damon nor Josh Brolin did much of note with their characters. And the plot as a whole is just above average as well. Typically I recommend that people watch both the new version and the old version in cases such as this, and while I wouldn’t recommend skipping True Grit, I wouldn’t say too much is to be gained by watching both, so it really comes down to whether or not you love John Wayne. If you do, you likely already saw the original. If you also love Jeff Bridges, you may as well see both, but you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for on-screen entertainment.

74. Peacock

I was surprised when I stumbled across this film on a cable movie channel. With performers like Cillian Murphy, Susan Sarandon and Ellen Page, I was surprised it didn’t get enough mention to show up on my radar, especially with the unique plot and the well-executed performances involved. I don’t want to give too much away about this film, but I would recommend against spending too much time looking into the film. If you like dark, weird movies which aren’t the least bit comedic and you enjoy watching actors perform, you might enjoy this flick. Not nearly a favorite, and the ending could’ve used another couple minutes thrown in or an alternate outcome, but all in all it was a valiant effort by those involved, and I’m happy to have seen it.

75. Harry Potter 7 part 2

Though I was cutting it close, I managed to have seen all eight of the Harry Potter films in the theater, and I’m certainly glad this wasn’t an exception. I won’t be surprised if it gets nominated for an Academy Award, though I’d be surprised if it won. They went darker with this film than I thought they would, even though the third film and portions of the last three were fairly dark as well. It was a fitting end to the saga which stuck fairly close to the novel and executed nicely on all of the elements which I can remember from reading it two years ago. It was certainly more enjoyable than the first part, though I’m looking forward to someday watching at least the last two films back to back.

76. The Beaver

When I heard that Mel Gibson had made another independent movie, my ears perked up, especially when I found out that it was a dark comedy which involved him wearing a Beaver puppet on one of his arms for nearly the entire film. It was brilliantly executed and had very strong performances by Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin. As an added bonus, the aforementioned Jennifer Lawrence (from Winter’s Bone) had a somewhat small role in the movie, giving me another opportunity to expand on my opinion of her ability. If you don’t mind dark comedies with a decent amount of heavily dramatic content in it with a slightly odd aspect to it, you should definitely see this film. Unless, of course, you can’t set aside your opinion of Mel Gibson and what he has said and done over the past few years… and if that’s the case, you should count your blessings that you don’t have a greater insight into the lives of more Hollywood performers.

77. Bridesmaids

Forget about the hype. This wasn’t the greatest comedy of all time. It’s definitely not a classic. It was a highly enjoyable flick that guys can see, assured of the fact that it’s enjoyable for both genders despite the large percentage of female characters involved. Is there some potty humor? Sure. Is it crude at times? No doubt. Do they deal with issues which are primarily female-oriented? At times, but it’s not the focus of the film. Definitely a safe bet for an entertaining Saturday night, especially if you’re watching it in mixed company. Kristen Wiig is more entertaining and less over-the-top than she is on Saturday Night Live. Maya Rudolph doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of comedy to it, but the rest of the group including Wendi McLendon-Covey, Megan McCarthy and Elli Kemper more than hold their own. It’s tough to say whether Rose Byrne was funny in the movie, as she was playing a “straight” character, but I definitely laughed at a few gags she was involved in, and she’s more than “nice” to look at. Mad Men fans will appreciate Jon Hamm’s character in the film, which is interesting to compare to his Don Draper role.

78. No Strings Attached

I was never really very interested in watching the Ashton Kutcher / Natalie Portman flick about friends whose relationship is primarily built around having meaningless sex, but when I saw it on a cable movie channel I set my DVR, as it seemed decent enough to waste a weekend afternoon on. I don’t regret having spent that time watching it, but it wasn’t overly entertaining. It was far better than Kutcher’s SPREAD flick, but neither Kutcher nor Portman seem to take this movie very seriously, and at times it just seemed like they were going through the motions, not even necessarily having fun with their performances. I’ve never found Portman particularly attractive, so it’s tough for me to say whether her “fans” will even enjoy this movie from that aspect. I don’t remember any scenes which were particularly “sexy”, so to speak, nor very revealing in terms of skin content. I’d like to say you should skip this movie and just watch Friends With Benefits with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, but to be fair, I haven’t seen that film yet so I can’t say it’s necessarily any better.

October

79. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Did you ever wonder what Conan O’Brien did between the time his stint on The Tonight Show ended and his new CONAN show on TBS started? Did you maybe even hear about his traveling comedy show and fail to buy a ticket and wonder what it was all about? CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP was an interesting documentary which gave you a glimpse into what he was feeling and how he coped with that entire situation. True Conan fans have already seen this documentary, but if you’re at all interested in the situation you should really check it out. Nothing groundbreaking here, and it’s not necessarily even very funny, but I was intrigued and enjoyed my time.

80. Walking Tall

I wouldn’t say I ever got my hopes up for this movie, but out of any of the movies made by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, this one looked to be the best, and for some unknown reason it was the one which took me the longest to watch. Had I seen it while my expectations were at their highest, I would’ve been slightly disappointed, but as it had been a couple years since I had given any thought to the movie at all, I was able to enjoy the film for what it was. The plot was decent, the action was average, the performances were average, but all together it was better than the other movies from the former WWE Champion.

81. How Do You Know?

This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed with a Reese Witherspoon movie. I didn’t have huge expectations for this film, but I was hoping that it would be above average. Paul Rudd did about as good a job as you can expect from him, aside from the scene in the restaurant where he and Witherspoon share a meal. Owen Wilson plays pretty much the same character in this movie as he does elsewhere, and Jack Nicholson plays his somewhat-slimy-but-not-a-crime-boss role that you’ve seen him portray before. Reese Witherspoon, though not my favorite actress in the world, has done some good work in the past, and this was far from it. It’s hard to explain that position further without painfully trying to force myself to remember her painfully poorly acted scenes. Avoid this movie, though if you get roped into watching it, you probably won’t need to pretend like you’re sick. It’s not THAT long, nor is it THAT painful to get through. It’s just frustrating in how sub-par it is.

82. CARS

I’m not a huge NASCAR fan, so the idea of an animated film about cars didn’t excite me, even though I had enjoyed almost all the other Pixar productions I’ve seen thus far. When someone said it was like an animated Doc Hollywood, my interest level went up, and when I saw it was showing on Disney Channel, I set the DVR. It made for an entertaining Saturday afternoon, as there were certainly parts of the movie which got me to laugh a little bit. Certainly not the best Pixar movie I’ve ever seen, but there are far less entertaining animated films out there. I am interested to see what they did with the sequel, though I didn’t enjoy CARS enough to put CARS 2 very high on my list.

83. Robin Hood (2011)

I don’t know what it is about the Robin Hood story, but I always find myself interested when a project arises. I was disappointed when I heard the negativity about this Russell Crowe flick, but I didn’t let it keep me from watching it. I’m actually surprised more people didn’t enjoy it. Sure, there were a few more characters in it and a few more subplots than I maybe would’ve preferred, but it was still an entertaining flick. Russell Crowe was a better Robin Hood than Kevin Costner, and at least as good as Cary Elwes (and I can’t compare him to Errol Flynn). Cate Blanchett did a good job as a new take on Maid Marion. Mark Strong was a bad ass in the role of the primary villain. The only main problem I have with this film is that it definitely felt like a prequel to something bigger, and they tried to establish WAY too much. If you’re interested at all in the mythology of Robin Hood, you won’t regret checking out this movie. In fact, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a fan of the Robin Hood character, this movie will still likely provide a couple hours of entertainment and some decent action.

84. Restraint

When someone recommended that I check out RESTRAINT, I almost skipped it. Sure, I remember Teresa Palmer from TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, and while I was curious to see what her acting range was like in something with a little more depth than a throwback to 80’s comedies, nothing about the description of RESTRAINT drew me to it. I don’t watch True Blood, so Stephen Moyer’s involvement wasn’t a draw to RESTRAINT either. I’m glad I decided to watch it because what I found was a very intriguing story with the type of ending I haven’t stumbled across in years. There’s a reason it’s not a mainstream movie, but if you’re alright with indy flicks, you should definitely check this one out.

85. Thor

I kept hearing that THOR was nearly as good as IRON MAN, but they were wrong. Was it as good as IRON MAN 2? Probably. Better than either of The Hulk movies? Definitely. It was a good introduction into what the character is all about, which I personally needed because I didn’t know anything about his history in the comic books. I had heard some things about his background, but just like with Captain America, the 2011 movie certainly gave me enough information that I feel ready for THE AVENGERS. If you’re going to see that movie, you’d be foolish NOT to see THOR, and you’re probably not going to be disappointed with it.

86. Group Sex

No, I didn’t watch a porno as one of the movies in the Drive For 66. GROUP SEX was a comedy I found out about when looking to see what other projects Greg Grunberg (ALIAS, HEROES) and Odette Annabale (October Road, House) had been in. Not a great movie, but it was way more entertaining than you might think, and there were not really any scenes where I found myself wishing they’d move on to the next scene like has been the case with movies that are far more high profile than this one (STEP BROTHERS, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, TROPIC THUNDER). If you don’t mind a little crude humor here and there, give this one a look, especially if you have Netflix Instant.

Potential Award Nominees

At the end of each year, I give out awards for the movies on my lists. As I write up these articles, I like to keep track of the nominees and let you, the reader, know what I’m thinking along the way. Feel free to comment and show support – or lack thereof – for my nominees (or let me know what I erroneously omitted).

Best Actress Nominee – Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)

Best Actress Nominee – Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood)

Best Actress Nominee – Teresa Palmer (Restraint)

Best Actor Nominee – Cillian Murphy (Peacock)

Best Actor Nominee – Mel Gibson (The Beaver)

Best Actor Nominee – Stephen Moyer (Restraint)

Best Picture Nominee – Winter’s Bone

Best Picture Nominee – The Beaver

Best Picture Nominee – Harry Potter 7 part 2

Best Supporting Actress Nominee – Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Best Supporting Actor Nominee – Anton Yelchin (The Beaver)

Best Supporting Actor Nominee – Jon Hamm (Bridesmaids)


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