20. The Lincoln Lawyer
I was in the mood for a legal drama and this is a straight thriller, but it’s a very good one (a couple of plot holes notwithstanding). Matthew McConaughey is awesome in this kind of thing.
19. The Thing
I don’t understand why people are confused about whether this is a remake or a prequel. It’s clearly a prequel; it just hits a lot of the same beats that the John Carpenter version did. It doesn’t do some things as well as Carpenter did (the monster test comes to mind), but it’s still effective and the CGI monsters look better than most of Carpenter’s practical effects. Also, the nerd in me loves how seamlessly the two films connect. They’re really two halves of one movie.
The more I think about Drive, the more I like it. Even going into it knowing that it was an artsy thriller, it still took some time for the film to sink in and work on me. It’s touching, horrific, tragic, and unconventionally heroic.
17. Horrible Bosses
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudekis are all charming and likable in this, but they’re upstaged by Colin Farrell and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Jennifer Aniston who are hilarious. Kevin Spacey is also good, but I’ve seen him play this kind of prick before, so it wasn’t as surprising. The real show-stealer was Jamie Foxx. From his character’s name to the way he sips his soda, he was the funniest character I’ve seen in a movie all year.
16. Bad Teacher
At last, a reason to like Cameron Diaz again. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s surrounded by some of my favorite comedic actors: Jason Segel, Phyllis Smith, Eric Stonestreet, Thomas Lennon, and (after this film) Lucy Punch and Justin Timberlake. Building a story around an unlikable character is a tricky proposition for me, but they made it work.
15. Super 8
I was a little let down by the ending, but otherwise this movie had a touching story, humor, some stereotype-breaking characters, and great performances by the kids and The World’s Most Handsome Actor. It also took me back to the ’80s and that’s a place I always enjoy visiting.
14. Puss in Boots
I’m a little afraid to watch this again for fear it won’t be as funny the second time, but I had a blast with this movie. Lots of swashbuckling and it’s hilarious, especially for people who’ve spent much time around cats.
13. X-Men: First Class
I was very nervous about this one after they began announcing the cast and the massive number of mutant characters that are in it. I had X-Men 3 flashbacks. Surprisingly, it’s a focused story with a specific point that it makes well. Awesome performances by James McAvoy and (especially) Michael Fassbender too.
12. The Three Musketeers
Not the weightiest adaptation of The Three Musketeers ever, but why should it be? Hits most of the main story beats while adding lots of steampunk and butt-kicking Milady. My only gripe (though it’s a significant one) is that the Miladay/Athos relationship is changed enough to rob their story of its power. That’s one of the best, most heartbreaking parts of the novel and I’m sorry it got left out. But I’m happy about the war-dirigibles.
11. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
From a story standpoint: the best Mission: Impossible movie yet. I miss Maggie Q though.
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
Lots of pulpy awesomeness and great performances by everyone. I’m not into the costume and I’m disappointed that the script doesn’t give Chris Evans time to develop convincingly into the inspirational leader that I associate with Cap, but even if he doesn’t feel exactly like Captain America to me, I still like this character.
This, on the other hand, felt exactly like Thor to me. Chris Hemsworth was perfect and the script wonderfully balanced the Earth and Asgard settings in an impressive way. The Thor comics I’ve read have rarely made that work as well. Certainly Green Lantern didn’t with Earth and Oa. Thor had character development that reflected the comics and Natalie Portman made me believe why Earth might compete for his allegiance. Also: Kat Dennings stole every scene she was in.