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Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
It's the 10 best titles of 2011, a collection of creative gems that beamed brighter than any other this year.

It was the year of good movies. Not many GREAT ones, but a lot of above average offerings worthy of year-end consideration. It happens. Unlike past seasons when awards mark the icing on an already creamed cake, it took to the very end of 2011 to get to the good stuff (again, GOOD…not GREAT…). As a result, making this year’s list became a process of amiable elimination. Any number of titles could be substituted for the ten listed, though it would be hard to find something as special as our chosen number one. Indeed, for as much as we enjoyed David Fincher’s take on the sinister Swedish thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it just couldn’t match the manic menace of the film we found the best. It just couldn’t


Among the other also-rans are such splendid entertainments as JJ Abrams’ Super 8 and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (which he produced and Pixar’s Brad Bird directed - brilliantly, one might add), the superb silent nostalgia of The Artist and the motion capture magic of The Adventures of Tintin. Rise of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: First Class proved that there was still something vital and viable in the popcorn pic, while Rango and The Rum Diary argued that there’s no such thing as too much Johnny Depp (well - except for the dull fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). Off the beaten path, Take Shelter showed that a potential apocalypse could be a very personal and probing issue while Trollhunter proved that, when handled with a bit of panache, the found footage film could actually work - as long as you have giant monsters trudging through the backdrop.  Heck, even Kevin Smith’s anti-religious diatribe, Red State, won us over with its chutzpah and approach.


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Saturday, Dec 31, 2011
Ten reasons why being a professional film critic is not all artistry and auteurs. Mostly, it's derivative dung.

This is no longer a fair fight. Ever since Hollywood discovered that it could make an incredibly quick and very fast buck off the backs of gullible parents, their brainwashed offspring, and the various legions of fright fans and horror buffs, crafting a year-end worsts list has become a bit like shooting film fish in a barrel. Every week, another possible entry comes to the fore, something a studio is pawning off as family fun (Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked) or the latest in unbridled fear (The Rite). Of course, other callous categories come into play as well. The comedy is no longer a guaranteed ribtickler - just ask The Dilemma, The Change-Up, or The Sitter while the thriller has to put up with stupidity like Trespass and Abduction to get some minor box office love. Indeed, while the year’s best often traverse many cinematic categories, the abominations tend to come from a certain set of styles.


Looking over our list for 2011, four are aimed at children, while another three appeal to the macabre maven in all of us. One is perhaps the most misguided comedy in a very long time, while two appear born from the same sour literary hit. Of course, if we pulled out the lists from Spring and Summer, we could have added the terrible Big Momma trequel, the callous Country Strong, the pathetic penguins of Mr. Popper, or the deadly dramatics of One Day (a truly awful experience). Sure, if you skirt the fringes, you can find any number of nauseating and miserable indie efforts, movies made for the people participating - and no one else. Still, we will stick to the mainstream and let Hollywood prove its hackdom over and over again. After all, no one does terrible better than Tinseltown, as these ten exasperating examples prove, beginning with a talking animal film that should just shut the Hell up:


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Friday, Dec 30, 2011
They may not be the titles you are expecting, but we guarantee these are 10 of the best digital releases in 2011.

Every year, we here at Short Ends and Leader get into an argument over the way in which we “determine” this category. While many stand around and scream about the titles we don’t include (insert name of famous film - say Citizen Kane - released on Blu-ray with a bountiful selection of added content) while staring, stunned, at what we chose to champion. The debate always comes down to something akin to commerciality vs….well, weird. It seems like everything we love about the format gets shuttered aside when the major studios decide to unleash their big cinematic guns. Instead of digging beneath the surface and seeing what lies below, we are supposed to kowtow to the companies that control the format and give them even more publicity.


Well, that’s never been the case and won’t be this year. As a matter of fact, aside from a Manufactured on Demand offering from one of the major multinational, the rest of 2011’s list comes from fringe distributors. It’s not like we go out of our way to cheer for the underdog, but when the choices are the latest mediocre movie from the supposed hit factory of Hollywood, or some long lost entry from a true cinematic auteur, we’ll take the newly discovered treasure any day. Again, many of the entries here are older titles brought up to date thanks to the digital medium. Only a couple come from the last few years. What this indicates is that our list for the Best DVDs of 2011 is all about artistic archeology. We’ve dug through the drek and discovered a collection of gems that any film fan would be foolish not to own. So keep your Collector’s Edition of The Lion King. We’ll stick with these:


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Thursday, Dec 29, 2011
They say Blu-ray and Internet streaming services are killing DVD. Sadly, the format's death didn't arrive soon enough for these ten excuses for 'entertainment'.

Actually, an alternative title for this particular list could be “the worst homemade hack horror films of all time.” It seems that every year, like calculated clockwork, fans from all over the hemis-fear log into their own particular brand of macabre and make movies, thinking they are the next Wes Craven—or more likely, Sam Raimi. They believe so much in their muse that they leave things out such as talent, creativity, acting ability, characterization, storytelling and technical competence. Of the ten DVDs discussed here, five are part of this particular category. A few come from decades back, when proficiency was countered by available outlets, but others come right from today, when digital determines capability - or at least, should.


As for the rest, the determination is a bit different. In fact, every year, it’s the same argument - is this a worst FILM list or a worst DVD list… and better yet, what the Hell is the difference! If you added up the number of comments and emails, questions and complaints, you’d have a stack of suggestions higher than a college slacker. The truth is, this category comes a close second to the “unknown film” compilation. Instead of focusing on the obvious choices we move slightly beyond the mainstream to seek out those titles which, in all honesty, didn’t need to be on DVD in the first place.


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Wednesday, Dec 28, 2011
A list of 10 alternative titles that you may not have heard of, but definitely deserve consideration as some of 2011's very best.

Outsider films are, dare it be said, a dying breed. Thanks to updates in technology, new and novel means of distribution, and the bandwagon like call to arms that is the Internet, even the most reclusive cinematic “genius” is bound to be discovered (and if the biz has anything to say about it, exploited). This doesn’t mean that every movie made sees the light of an everyday release, but it does make it harder and harder to stay in the background. Websites strive on uncovering the unique and unsung, and as such, banking on the uniqueness to raise their always struggling profiles. After 12 months of sifting through the celluloid remnants, offering up a compendium of ten heretofore unknown treats is difficult, if not impossible. Still, in the annual spirit of such a discussion, we will give it a well-considered whirl.


Of course, the notion of titles “you never heard of” has to be taken with a grain of cinematic salt. We could have easily included the brilliant British alien invasion film Attack the Block, and equally genius UK road comedy, The Trip, or the killer clowns from Franco’s Spain, The Last Circus, on this list. They easily demand inclusion among 2011’s Best. But the minute we include them here, someone will come out to claim that, as mainstream hits around the world, we are being too US-ccentric in our premise’s frame of reference. With this in mind we dug a little deeper, looked a little harder, and came up with a list that hopefully has more “huh’s” that “aha’s.” Sure, some will still be known, but most will be untapped treasures.


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