Last year, I embarked on a quest to watch 75 movies over the course of the year which I had previously never seen.  Though I far surpassed that goal, I lowered my expectations for 2011 to seeing 66 films of the sort, given life’s other responsibilities which have come my way.  After two months, I dare say that my new goal I had set for myself looks quite accurate.

Another change for this quest is that I’m not going to do an article for each film I see, but rather publish articles periodically with a short review of each film I saw during the span.

It just so happens that two months into 2011, I’ve seen 11 films, putting me right on track to hit 66.  Here’s my take on each:

1.  Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The delay in seeing this stemmed from all the negativity surrounding the third installment in the Terminator series, but because I enjoyed Terminator: Salvation (you read that right), I decided to give this one a shot.  While it wasn’t awesome, I think people let their expectations cloud their view when seeing it.  There was some decent action, albeit very contrived at points, but the performances weren’t terrible.  The John Conner portrayal by Nick Stahl was far better than Edward Furlong (in T2: Judgment Day), and lead you to believe that he could actually continue to mature into the version we saw in SALVATION.
Bottom Line: If you enjoy the Terminator series on any level and you’ve seen the first two, I recommend lowering your expectations and watching T3 and Terminator: Salvation.

2.  Lions for Lambs

Though I knew this film was slightly political in nature, I found it a bit too preachy.  It certainly had an agenda regarding the nature of politics, foreign relations, war and public service, and regardless of my views on those various topics, to some extent I felt like I was watching a recruiting video.  The performances by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise were good (although not superlative-worthy), but the younger actors (Michael Pena, Derek Luke and Andrew Garfield) held their own.
Bottom Line: If you don’t mind a film which gets a little preachy, there are some performances here to enjoy.

3.  Zodiac

Movies about serial killers aren’t my typical genre of choice, but from time to time one comes along that makes me interested in working through the creepiness factor (that typically sticks with me for about 30 hours after the viewing) to enjoy watching the story unfold.  As it turns out, David Fincher now has two of those films to his credit which I put into my Top 100 Films Of All Time.  It started with Se7en and continues with Zodiac.  This film has slightly less action than No Country For Old Men, an ending which will be equally as satisfying for most, but one could make the case that Zodiac is the better movie.  With his cartoonist-turned-detective character in Zodiac, Jake Gyllenhaal reminded me quite fondly of his Donnie Darko portrayal.  It’s no surprise to me that following his role in Zodiac, Robert Downey Jr found his way back onto the Hollywood A-List (getting roles as Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, The Soloist, Due Date and Tropic Thunder).
Bottom Line: Unless you HATE creepy movies which will have you on the edge of your seat, watch it.

4.  The Other Guys

I don’t always enjoy Will Ferrell movies, as he has the potential to seem too absurd, but in The Other Guys that wasn’t the case.  Mark Wahlberg did a great job balancing him out, and although at times this movie did cause me to shake my head at some slight ridiculousness, it’s overall quite enjoyable.
Bottom Line: Not a classic, but enjoyable

5.  Platoon

Want a gritty look at the Vietnam War?  This gives it to you.  Although it was well produced and the performances were believable, I wouldn’t say I liked this movie.  I do recognize that it’s one of those films that most people should see to understand that conflict from a more human perspective
Bottom Line: See it eventually

6.  Cocoon

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie.  I had heard about it a few times, and I found it to be a decent movie which was more of a drama than I had expected.  Decent special effects for its time.
Bottom Line: If you haven’t seen it and you find it on DVD when you have no other options in mind, it’s a decent watch.  Nothing special, though.

7.  Dinner for Schmucks

Far better than expected.  I like the folks involved (Steve Carrel, Paul Rudd, Ron Livingston, Zach Galafanakis), but I thought it would probably end up having a stupid plot which would lead to absurd performances.  What I found was a movie with plenty of heart.
Bottom Line: Give it a try if you’re a Steve Carrel fan

8.  The Bone Collector

This had a very interesting premise to it, and while there was nothing specifically superlative-worthy, all involved did a believable job.  I wouldn’t say I uncovered a gem, but I think most people would be pleasantly surprised with the quality of this quasi-thriller.
Bottom Line: If you like Law & Order or the ilk, this would likely be enjoyable for you

9.  Flawless

How could a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert DeNiro be anything but spectacular?  Hoffman was good in his role, but it was hard to understand half of DeNiro’s dialogue (which speaks highly to his acting ability, given the paralysis his character suffered).  For some reason the plot seems to drag on, making it feel a lot longer than it actually was.
Bottom Line: Find something else to watch unless the pairing of PSH and DeNiro really interests you, but keep your expectations low.

10.  Anatomy of a Murder

Wow, talk about a movie which was longer than it needed to be, this one clocked in close to three hours.  You could’ve easily cut it back by 30-40 minutes and they would’ve had a gem.  Still, it’s a classic for a reason, and it’s got an interesting plot and good performances.
Bottom Line: Very enjoyable, but don’t even attempt it if you’ve had a long day (or a long week) prior to the viewing.  Start it in the early afternoon, break it up with dinner, if needed.

11.  How To Train Your Dragon

This was surprisingly not a cheesey movie like I was expecting.  It wasn’t as attuned for adults as some other animated films are, but it still works on multiple levels.  Some of the animation in this movie were visually stunning.  Nice voice work by Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson and Gerard Butler.  Still, there weren’t too many jokes in this film which were built for kids.
Bottom Line: In the mood for an animated film with some action that doesn’t come across TOO childishly?  This works.

Potential 2011 Nominees from these 11 films:

Zodiac – (Best Picture)

Jimmy Stewart (from Anatomy Of A Murder) – (Best Actor)

Jake Gyllenhaal (from Zodiac) – (Best Actor)

Robert Downey Jr (from Zodiac) – (Best Supporting Actor)

George C Scott (from Anatomy Of A Murder) – (Best Supporting Actor)

Tom Berenger (from Platoon) – (Best Supporting Actor)

Chloe Sevigny  (from Zodiac) – (Best Supporting Actress)

Lee Remick (from Anatomy Of A Murder) – (Best Supporting Actress)

On deck for March and April:

True Grit (old version)
Hang ‘Em High
Middle Men
Mystery Team

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