I once summarized the “Top Five Best” of 2008 under various categories. Right now I’m going a little simpler, and am going to give you a list of some of the films from 2011 I watched and think you will enjoy (disclaimer: some of these have not yet reached DVD).
1) Courageous This year’s offering from Sherwood Pictures has, in character, exceeded all of it’s predecessors on every front. Achieving the goals of well-roundedness in storytelling and clarity that so easily evade Christian films, Courageous is not only enjoyable but uniquely challenging. While you can’t possibly divorce this film from a clear presentation of the Gospel, it does present us with the need for courageous fatherhood as an indispensable adornment to sound doctrine.
2) Hugo It is an extremely rare thing to leave a film with a breath of satisfaction, realizing that the that with which you are entertaining yourself is a genuine art work. Hugo was just that. While the 3D photography was so gorgeous as to make men like James Cameron turn head, and the acting of especially the young stars is compelling, it’s the cultural setting and depth of character that gives this picture it’s unique charm. (A minor role of Christopher Lee’s portrays a bookkeeper that rather reminded me of Richard Owen Roberts, on a side note). Though it has acclaimed director Martin Scorsese at the helm and has the advantage of an abnormally large budget for a family film, this movie is free of most of the flack that fills the mindless action films that often turn the eyes of us, the numbed audience. Film has always been a sophisticated way to portray art and story, and only becomes bad when people misused it: and we’ve reached a time now when our multiplexes reflect our lack of depth by feeding us almost nothing but shoot-em-up sequels and scores of R-rated “comedies”. In the midst of that, however, the story of an orphan boy living in a Paris train station in the 1930s, trying to eek out an existence, escape from the station inspector, and uncover a message from his father shines out with a rare beauty. I can’t over-recommend it.
3) Thor While seeming pretty lackluster after the first two offerings, Thor is an easygoing summer action film that chooses to stay away from the cliff of inappropriate content and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Probably the best super-hero flick I’ve seen (with the ever-present exception of Pixar’s The Incredibles) you can read my more comprehensive review here.
4) The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn
Again, almost unapologetic in it’s lack of depth, to anyone who might have wished that Speilberg’s Indiana Jones films were more appropriate for all audiences, Tintin, by the same director, really delivers. Motion capture technology, the computer technique that captures the movements of real-actors and converts them to CGI, found great early expression in characters such as Jar-Jar Binks and Gollum, and was highly acclaimed in movies like Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Speilberg takes that even further in using this as the photography choice for a full-length feature. The only other films I know of like this are The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol; but neither one touches the life-like clarity of this movie. Beyond that, this film can’t be called ground breaking: story and character development and pleasingly sacrificed to the altar of almost non-stop action and humorous dialogue that would make Indy jealous. It avoids the non-stop swearing of the Harrison Ford counterparts, and the lack of explicit content is a given with the total lack of female characters. At all.
5) Kung Fu Panda 2 it is an unheard of thing: Pixar and DreamWorks release competing sequels, and I like the DreamWorks better. Kung Fu Panda 2 did the impossible. Funny. Action-packed, in it’s own way. And yes, even touching. This film manages to outpace it predecessor on every front, and does so while presenting a thought-provoking picture of what it means to be adopted. That, as well as the presence of Eastern mysticism throughout, give something to be seriously spoken of–after the laughing has ended with the credits.