I blame my old co-worker Jeff for April and I not seeing many theatrical movies in 2011. He was the one who turned us on to the long-form TV shows that have started popping up in recent years. (That he also persuaded us to switch to a plant-based diet — the subject of his blog — is a story for another article.)
Why go to the trouble of driving out to a theatre — or even walking the 10 minutes down the block for us — and paying money for a two hour film when we had three discs’ worth of top shelf, entertainment crack like The Wire or Battlestar Galactica or Dexter right at home? A plot starting and wrapping up in 2 hours was boring. We were hooked on narratives that took multiple seasons to develop characters and plot arcs.
And once we got a new Blu Ray player with Netflix streaming built in, it was even worse: over a hundred commercial-free episodes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad available on command. Meanwhile, the unwatched episodes of HBO shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire just kept piling up on the DVR.
So of the top 30-grossing films of the year, April and I only made it out to see six of them in theatres — Harry Potter Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Help, X-Men: First Class, and Horrible Bosses. Now check the Tomato Meter critics average of any of those movies and personally I’d say each is about right. The one we liked least — Horrible Bosses – is a 69% which I’d equate to a C, the grade the film would earn if I was still a film critic. (It just wasn’t that laugh-out-loud funny or memorable. In the Age of Apatow it falls short but still maintains a handful of redeeming features.) The Help is one that my wife April adored but I found merely pleasant and watchable. Rotten Tomatoes says it’s a 76% — about a low B or B- perhaps which also makes sense. Harry Potter was both the year’s highest grossing film and one of it’s highest critical successes — a 96% fresh rating, and definitely an A in my estimation. (April would probably argue for an A+.)
The past few weeks via Netflix we’ve started catching up on some of the “big” movies from 2011 which did not inspire us to abandon the couch. We watched two more of the top 30 box office hits from this year. The big surprise is that so far they’re breaking the pattern and decisively not meeting the critical and cultural consensus. A film we anticipated would be a disaster actually wasn’t that bad and a movie we eagerly wanted to see was a let down.
We’ll start with the good news first. My pick for most underrated film of 2011.