More of the top films of 2011
This is the second part of a two-part story on the top films of 2011.
Writer-director Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," asks the question: Would you be happier living in a long-ago, mythically remembered past? A frustrated Hollywood screenwriter and would-be novelist (Owen Wilson) gets to find out when he gains mysterious entree to the French capital of the 1920s (Adults, PG-13).
"Of Gods and Men" is a brilliant dramatization of real events, recounting the fate of a small community of French Trappist monks (led by Lambert Wilson and including Michael Lonsdale) living in Algeria during that nation's civil war in the 1990s. Using the tools of the monastic life itself, director Xavier Beauvois finds a path to the heart of the Gospel through simplicity, a compassionate sense of brotherhood and an atmosphere of prayer enriched by sacred music and potent silence (Adults, PG-13).
In "The Way," after his semi-estranged son (Emilio Estevez) dies while hiking the ancient pilgrimage route to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, a California doctor (Martin Sheen) resolves to complete the journey as a means of honoring the lad's memory. Estevez, who also wrote and directed, takes viewers on a reflective, and ultimately rewarding, exploration of elemental themes that challenges materialistic values (Adults, PG-13).
Here are the 10 best films for families.
In "The Adventures of Tintin," director Steven Spielberg's visually sumptuous animated adaptation of Belgian cartoonist Herge's famed comic books, the curiously coiffed young reporter (voiced by Jamie Bell) finds himself drawn into a centuries-old mystery. Themes congruent with Judeo-Christian values are advanced through sympathetic main characters, a screenplay faithful to its classic source material and envelope-pushing 3-D technology (General patronage, PG).
Actor Samuel L. Jackson narrates "African Cats," an impressive nature documentary charting the varied fortunes of a pride of lions and a clan of cheetahs. Directors Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill provide the whole family with a top-quality cinematic safari (General patronage, G).
Director Joe Johnston's comic book adaptation "Captain America: The First Avenger" relates the origins story of the superhero (Chris Evans) with a complete absence of cynicism and a crackling undercurrent of dry wit (Adults and adolescents, PG-13).
"Cars 2," director John Lasseter's winsome sequel, sees a veteran racecar (voice of Owen Wilson) competing against a cocky Italian speedster (voice of John Turturro) in the first-ever World Grand Prix. Amid the sight gags and belly laughs are good lessons about family, friendship, self-esteem and acceptance of others (General patronage, G).
In "Gnomeo & Juliet," it's love at first ceramic clink for two garden gnomes -- voiced by Emily Blunt and James McAvoy. Director Kelly Asbury's clever animated comedy offers wholesome fun for the entire family (General patronage, G).
Vivid animation and a ringing endorsement of the traditional family combine to make director and co-writer Simon Wells' endearing adventure "Mars Needs Moms" a film kids can enjoy and parents will appreciate. Seth Green plays a 9-year-old boy who comes to recognize the deep love his mother (Joan Cusack) has for him after she's kidnapped by Martians (General patronage, PG).
Kermit the Frog (voice of Steve Whitmire) and Jim Henson's other singing, dancing, wisecracking puppets return to the big screen in "The Muppets," an old-fashioned and genuinely funny comic outing directed by newcomer James Bobin. (General patornage, PG)
"Rio" is a buoyant animated adventure with music about a Brazilian-born macaw (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) who returns to his homeland after being raised as a cosseted pet in Minnesota. Lessons about environmental stewardship and love-inspired loyalty are decked out in kaleidoscopic colors in director Carlos Saldanha's 3-D flight of fancy (General patronage, G).
Director Sean McNamara's fact-based drama "Soul Surfer" recounts the story of a devoutly Christian competitive surfer (AnnaSophia Robb) whose life is changed forever by a shark attack. It's an uplifting tale bolstered by stunning cinematography and an unapologetic treatment of religious faith (Adults and adolescents, PG).
In "Winnie the Pooh," directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall's delightfully innocent, predominantly animated adaptation of A.A. Milne's classic children's books, the immortal bear (voice of Jim Cummings) finds his characteristic quest for honey interrupted by his friend Eeyore's (voice of Bud Luckey) latest crisis -- and by other complications (General patronage, G).
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