Metal-manipulating mutants; a ragtag band of cowboys and Indians fighting outerspace alien invaders; impossibly buff guys defeating giant frost monsters; and super-powered Nazis trying to take over the world.
2011 was quite a year in Hollywood, with some great successes (“X-Men: First Class” and “Super 8” being some of my favorites) and some misses (“The Green Lantern” and “Abduction” come to mind). And I’m not even going to go into the phenomenon that is the “Twilight” saga (trust me, I’m not a fan). 😉
The biggest box office hit was, unsurprisingly, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2,” which took in $381 million and helped the Harry Potter saga to become the most profitable film franchise of all time (it has earned an impressive $2.4 billion domestically). 2011 also was a good year for superhero flicks, with “Captain America,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Thor” pulling in about $504 million combined (all three also made Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 15 top-grossing movies of the year).
Other major entertainment news headlines included Charlie Sheen’s dismissal from the hit show “Two and a Half Men” and his very public crash and burn (though he’s probably still convinced he’s “winning”); the tragic loss of singer Amy Winehouse and film icon Elizabeth Taylor; and the rise of one of the best new pop musical acts in years, Adele.
It’s difficult to pick my favorite films, TV shows and songs from 2011, because there was a lot of good material to choose from, so what follows is just a quick list of a few things that stood out to me this year (in no particular order).
1. Adele. It seems like everyone is talking about Adele these days, and for good reason. Her very distinctive vocal tone instantly grabs your attention, and her style is both modern and classic. Yet I think what really draws people to Adele is the power and honesty she brings to every performance. She doesn’t just sing the lyrics — she feels them. You can tell her heart is breaking as she sings her hit “Someone Like You,” and that breaks her audience’s hearts, as well.
2. “Super 8.” This movie reminded me once again why Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite film makers. The film is about a group of young friends who witness a horrific, fiery train crash while they are filming a zombie movie, and they discover a government cover-up of an extraterrestrial visitor. The film pays homage to Spielberg classics such as “E.T.” and communicates a sense of childlike wonder about the world, creating a film that was both exciting and emotionally moving. The effect was downright magical — one of my favorite movies of the year.
3. “Downton Abbey.” I love period dramas, particularly British period dramas, and this miniseries has become one of my all-time favorites. The show follows the scandals and struggles of an upper-class British family in the early 1900s, yet what makes the show truly interesting is how it also follows the lives of the servants in that family’s household. With well-drawn characters, excellent costumes and set design, and a strong story, it’s easy to see why this show won an Emmy for “Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.”
4. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” I was big fan of Guy Ritchie’s 2009 “Sherlock Holmes” film, and he didn’t disappoint me with the sequel. I could talk about the great cinematography (love Ritchie’s use of slow motion), the witty dialogue (“It’s so overt it’s covert!”) and the excellent score (one of Hans Zimmer’s best), but what I liked best about this film was watching Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, a surprising but ultimately brilliant casting choice.
5. “X-Men: First Class.” Although there’s still a few movies coming out this year that I’d like to see, I’m going to go ahead and call it now, and list “X-Men: First Class” as my favorite movie of the year. I could probably write a whole blog about how much I loved this movie, but I’ll try to keep it brief. 😉 I’d like to thank whoever decided to cast James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, because they couldn’t have chosen better (Fassbender recently made Entertainment Weekly magazine’s list of “2011 breakout stars,” and for good reason). McAvoy and Fassbender were perfect for their individual roles, and they play well off each other, and their characters’ friendship is what makes the film so powerful.