Devil’s Playground: 2011 Top 10

Welcome to my first weekly column. You may know me from being the goofy one on many of the fine Devil’s Advocates podcasts featured on this very site. Here I will talk about movies; you like ’em, I like ’em, they sometimes like us? (I don’t know where I was going with that.) Basically, this column is a way for us to get outside the normal site format of just reviewing movies. We’ll talk about what makes ’em tick, weird trends and habits, all kinds of fun stuff. 

So for this first post, I thought I’d give my 2011 top 10 movies (we will soon be doing a podcast along a similar vein, as well); these aren’t necessarily the best movies that came out, but they’re my favorite of what I saw. What better way to get to know my ins and outs? Right, ladies?

10. Tree of Life
Here’s the thing with Tree of Life, Terrance Malick’s latest film: I have no idea what it was supposed to mean. Theoretically the story of a boy growing up and the effect his father and mother had on him, it ventures into some weird and seemingly unconnected sidebars about life and nature and the universe. However, it’s a visually beautiful film, and some of Brad Pitt’s best acting in recent years.

9.  The Thing
The inexplicably same-named prequel of John Carpenter’s The Thing did a good job of paying homage to the original while being it’s own story. It was well-acted, well-paced, and a fun ride. The only weakness–and something of a crippling one, giving the subject matter–was the weak CHI used for the creature.

8. Super
This indie film starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Paige,and Kevin Bacon is fun, funny, and emotionally impactful. Essentially, it does what Kick-Ass tried to do, but actually works.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
The final(?)  installment of the Potter franchise delivers in almost every way it should. We get the end of our heroes’ journey through their school years, the resolution (perhaps somewhat unsatisfactorily, but that’s J.K. Rowling’s fault) of the overarching Voldemort plotline, some extremely emotional and well-acted moments, and, most importantly, it was entertaining as all get-out.

6. X-Men: First Class
A great film with a few crippling weaknesses, namely, the first class themselves (comprised almost entirely–excepting Beast–of mutants that almost no one cares about). However, Xavier and Magneto steal the show, with Michael Fassbender  finally getting some well-deserved popular acclaim outside of his native land. I did not think they could possibly make this film work, and they succeeded far beyond my–and possibly everyone else’s–expectations, probably saving the X-Men franchise for Fox.

5. The Ides of March
The Ides of March isn’t a thrill-a-minute joyride; it is a very slow, deliberate slow-burn of a political thriller, which I appreciated. It’s also George Clooney’s best directing to date, and alerted me to Ryan Gosling being more than a pretty face for the ladies.

4. The Muppets
Who doesn’t love the Muppets? Finally coming back in force, The Muppets delivers as hard as a bunch of felt puppets can. Slightly hampered by the Jason Segel/Amy Adams/Gary plotline, as well as really sad Kermit, it’s saved by the unavoidable joy that the Muppets themselves must always return to, and Chris Cooper’s hilariously over-the-top villain. Maniacal laugh! MANIACAL LAUGH!

3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Mission Impossible has been a franchise of lows and lowish highs. Brad Bird manages to elevate it into the most thrilling action flick of the year, though, even overcoming my natural distaste for Tom Cruise’s whacky self. The Burj Khalifa sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I did not see the Swedish first attempt at this story, due to my burning hatred of the Swedes and subtitles, and I was unable to get into the novel upon which both are based. Like the novel upon which it’s based, the film has some structural problems, namely Daniel Craig’s character’s plot line being kinda boring until Lisbeth joins him. That being said, once it actually kicks into gear, about an hour in (!), it presents a rich mystery. Also, Mara Rooney’s Lisbeth Salander is one of the most interesting and compelling characters to come along in quite a while.

1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
While I am a fan of John Le’Carre’s spy novels, I have not read this one, so I went in not knowing what to expect. It is a fantastic spy thriller, the likes of which is rarely seen these days. Gary Oldman truly inhabits his role of tired, old spymaster, and the cast surrounding him is equally great.

Some films that, based on hearsay, might have made the list if I’d been able to see them include Take Shelter, Midnight in Paris, The Guard, and Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene.

Come back next week for more rambling nonsense! Who knows what might happen!


About Jonathan MacFarlane

Jonathan is a professional curmudgeon and amateur layabout. He makes art at; follow him on Twitter at

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Devil's Playground, General, Just For The Hell Of It, Lonely Devil Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “Midnight in Paris”, perhaps? “One Night in Paris” is…something else. (And it came out ages ago.)

  2. Jonathan MacFarlane

    Oops. Must’ve had something else on my mind at the time.

  3. Night vision engaged.

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