Well, 2011 comes to a close. And with that, we look back at some of the highlights in movies and video games. It was definitely a year of entertaining, and entertained we were.
Let’s have a look at some of the best, and worst the year had to offer us, and combine that opinion all into lists.
Let’s start this off right with the best games to play, and there were some great games this year. Now keep in mind, I didn’t play every game that came out. I have a job, and other responsibilities. But there’s always time to check out the latest and greatest the medium has to offer.
Top 7 Video Games of 2011
This was a last minute entry, because of the Steam End-of-Year sale. Playing only an hour so far made an impact on me still. There’s a charm to the game, and it brings a classic feel to a new game, and brings a Braid-style art form along for the ride. Definitely something to check out.
6. Saint’s Row: The Third
Sometimes, when music fails, all you need is to shoot something excessively to calm the savage beast. As Grand Theft Auto series gets to more mature, more social commentary enters the fray, Saints Row becomes the game to be for your off-the-cuff, unnecessarily violent, silliness. And it succeeds in being a time sink with many sub missions, and a sandbox style that gives the other games a run for the money.
It’s a simple puzzle game, but surrounded by a story arc that brings much moral questions to the forefront. Is it right to interfere in relationships you deem unfit? Are there rules in cheating on a loved one? When is it time to end a long-term relationship? Catherine becomes a game that really shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you aren’t a fan of anime, it’s still a story that some people in or out of relationships might relate to.
4. Mortal Kombat
At first, a reboot of something I played when I was a teen was approached with much hesitation. After all, many of the games after the third instalment of the Mortal Kombat series were unbelievable, unplayable messes. But the franchise came back, and came back strong. Characters get a much needed makeover, and still keeping a lot of the move sets in check. The childish antics of gore and suggestive themes polished the blood-soaked charm it has that many other franchises cannot mimic.
3. Batman: Arkham City
The sequel to one of my favourite games of the last number of years did not disappoint in any way. The amount of hours raking into Arkham Asylum also accumulated in Arkham City, as many more familiar villains came in and tried to knock over the caped crusader. The world may seem a little smaller, but the gripping story and the fast-paced fighting make it so much fun. The improvements were greatly appreciated, and still nothing beats a good old fashioned Batman-style beat down.
2. Infamous 2
The other sequel to one of my favourite games of the last number of years also did not disappoint in any way. Cole’s antics moved to a New Orleans-like setting, but the feel the game felt familiar. The newer powers to play with, and a gripping story, and interesting character development give the game a lot of depth. It’s one of the rare newer games I would be glad to play through more than once. And with the new DLC involving vampires actually extending the game play, no doubt the fun factor was there and there big time in the Big Easy.
1. Portal 2
There is no doubt in my mind that this game lands the top spot. The amount of detail, characters, story and humour were so overwhelming, that it became its own entity. Albeit short, you get brought back by the settings and the best story of the year, and the laughter and the tension of the character’s dialog. Plus Cave Johnston, well, he’s the epitome of awesome.
Now, I could call my next list the Worst games of 2011, but in all honesty, none of the games were so bad that they can be dubbed the worst. They still bring gameplay and entertainment in different ways, but there was still some untouched potential that remains unacceptable.
Top 4 Disappointing Video Games of 2011
4. Duke Nukem Forever
Let’s be serious, if you had high expectations for this game, you deserved to be disappointed. That’s why it belongs here, but doesn’t deserve the top spot. Fourteen years of waiting, and all we get is a bland First-Person shooter that looks like it came ten years ago. Feels rushed, and poorly written, there’s really no excuse for this bad turnout, unless the intention is to end the longest running joke in video game history. Have you read the story of this development? It’s more exciting than the game itself. But if they ever made a movie out of it, it would take another fourteen years.
3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Don’t get me wrong, the graphics, sound, and the gameplay was great in this game. But the story from beginning to end was unforgivable to merit any best-of list. The story was all over the place, and left too many plot holes open, and ended on such a disappointing note. The final chapter to this trilogy was hampered by it’s own ambitions, and felt like something was missing.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I really wanted to like this game, but the same reason why I traded my Wii’s Twilight Princess for the Gamecube one is the exact reason why this game became a chore to play. The Wii-motion Plus was more of a hindrance than a game-changer. The story wasn’t bad, but everything else was just lackluster.
1. Dead Island
With pretty much the best trailer of 2011, there’s no doubt that this game should have at least delivered on content. I tried really hard to like this game a lot, and put in a lot of hours to give it a try. But the fact remains that it’s just buggy, repetitive and boring. A real shame, because beating up zombies is always a fun concept. A well, back to the old SNES for Zombies Ate My Neighbours then.
Okay, let’s get on with the movies. Again, I didn’t get a chance to see every movie made in 2011, but a lot of them made an impact. Let’s start with the best movies. But first, some notables need to be mentioned.
Top 10 Honourable Mention movies of 2011
10. X-Men: First Class
Hesitation was the way to describe going into the theatre to watch a movie from a series that has disappointed me before with bad sequels, but the prequel to the famous group of superheroes was a pleasant surprise. A healthy mix of unknown mutants and ones that always get the cold shoulder anyways, and a story arc that actually was entertaining to watch, The X-men prequel was far superior to some of the bad sequels.
9. The Adjustment Bureau
Matt Damon takes a Philip K Dick story about fate and love and makes it interesting to see the end result. There’s not really a life lesson at the end, but at least you can walk away seeing a science-fiction inspired love story with a smile.
8. Real Steel
A heartwarming tale of father and son, with Hugh Jackman playing tough and sensitive in a way that very few actors can do. Summing up the film with “Rocky with Robots” is a gross injustice, and should still be checked out.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Finally, we can lay the series to a humble rest, but the epic tale of the Hogwarts hero concludes with a mighty bang. A wonderful war-like scene at the school, the last twists revealed, the final nail in certain character’s development, and no stones left unturned. The movie was exciting from beginning to end.
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
The final set piece is put in place, and the Avengers movie is finally ready to go. Taking the World War 2 setting to introduce the leader of the avengers was presented well, and left us drooling for the most anticipated result. Sure, it was more like a two hour trailer, but at least we were still entertained.
Bradley Cooper plays a lazy writer, until a drug gave him the focus he needs to be great at finances and pretty much anything he can focus on. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much else to offer, but the presentation is great to see, the wild emotional swings and the atmosphere used makes for a great tale. Cooper shows why he has a great future in acting, as long as he stays away from that awful Hangover series.
4. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise revives the series that proves he can do action movies, as if we needed reminding of that. A fine way to end the year, with great action and eye-pounding special effects. Even with all the negative publicity he constantly gets, there’s little doubt that he can still make the good movies.
When you give Liam Neeson the order to be a bad ass, he delivers. Using the amnesia angle to make a thriller, and add in some action sequences, it’s a film that has it all. Throw in the up and coming starlet January Jones, and it’s hard to get bored watching this fantastic movie.
The other set piece of the Avengers series, this one gets extra points because of the unexpected enjoyment that comes from it. Admittedly, I was never a fan of the comics of this particular protagonist, so I didn’t expect much from the film. The end result was a great superhero flick, with great casting choices.
Zoe Saldana proves she can do action with the best of them, in a revenge story that is much gripping as it is sexy. One of the first reviews I ever did, I’m glad this was one of them. It doesn’t belong to anyone’s best-of lists, but it’s my best Honourable mention.
And now, the annual honour that everyone has an opinion on, here’s my contribution to the conversation.
Top 5 Movies of 2011
Brad Pitt’s best performance in a long time, and the interesting tale of baseball going a new mathematical direction is hard to ignore. This movie also gets a lot of credit for Jonah Hill, who not only proves that he doesn’t always have to be funny on camera, but that he can drop the weight that became his albatross. Can’t wait to see more of him.
4. Kung Fu Panda 2
The rare occurrence where the sequel is better than the original, everything from the humour to the serious aspects makes it a CGI film to remember. Jack Black makes the character his own with just his voice and his passion, and the audience is pleasantly entertained. Add in a wonderful supporting cast, and a terrifying peacock villain, and it’s a recipe for awesomeness.
An animated movie that just grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. The great humour and unique characters makes this fun and exciting for everyone. Experimenting with a different way of capturing the actors paid off, and Johnny Depp proves that he can adapt to different characters like the great actors before him. It’s a western for the ages.
2. Sucker Punch
Behind what seems like shallow story involving girls with guns and swords, lies a charm to the movie that is greatly overlooked. The soundtrack with familiar tunes and a 300-style settings grips the audience. Mix in some steampunk-style moments, and it’s a sleeper hit that’s hard to ignore.
1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
After watching it a second time, there’s no doubt anymore that this movie belongs in the best of the year slot. The great acting and on-screen chemistry of Downey Jr and Law, and the inspired direction of Ritchie made it fun and exciting that a lot of other movies missed out on. Bring in the most iconic villain in literary history, and have him portrayed by a terrific character in Jared Harris, and it’s sure to land you in the top spot of 2011.
And we end this with the worst movies of 2011. No sugar-coating like the video games list, these movies need to be reamed.
Top 8 Worst Movies of 2011
8. Pirates of the Carribean: On Stanger Tides
It was good, but not good enough to merit any recognition of best or great. At least it was better than the third one, that was terrible. Even bringing in Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz couldn’t save the sinking ship that is the franchise. Depp can still play Captain Jack Sparrow with perfection, but it may be time to set sail off into the distance.
Again, it was good, but it could have been so much more than just a throw-away action movie. From the same guys that produced 300, it clearly shows, and it questions whether their one-trick ponies. It’s a movie that can be watched again, but there are so many other movies that are higher up in the queue.
6. Killer Elite
One of the few movies with Jason Statham and/or Clive Owen that failed to meet expectations of an exciting action movie. It had it’s moments, but it was few and far between. Nothing really grabbed the audience, and even though the story claims to be true, it’s too far-fetched to be portrayed as accurate.
5. The Debt
What could have been a great political war drama ended up being something incomprehensible and lackluster. It’s very rare to he Helen Mirren phone it in like this, but with the story just being a remake of an Israeli film, you might as well have just seen the original.
4. Fast Five
Seeing the Rock and Vin Diesel duke it out on screen was the best thing in the whole series. The rest of it, was mindless fluff. And that last car chase scene, felt more like a MythBusters nightmare. The Fast and Furious series usually just promises cars and women, and it even failed in those aspects.
3. Green Lantern
Just an uninspired mess from beginning to end, what had the potential to be one of the best superhero movies of the year. And it’s not Ryan Reynolds fault, he played Hal Jordan great, it’s everything else that felt flat and forced out. Green may be the colour of Will to the Lantern core, but it also represents greed and envy, and those were the portrayed emotions more than will.
A movie that looked to be a sleeper hit was just an abysmal experience. Boring fights, terrible story arc, and bad acting. It was so forgettable of a film.
1. Battle: Los Angeles
This one, was a no-brainer. Never have I been so bored in a theatre since Skyline, and that also had an alien invasion that went nowhere. This title abused shakey cam to no end, it had nonsensical army scenes, and had laughable dialogue. This even had Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, and I like those actors, but they couldn’t save the film from being a painful experience.