The best movies of 2011? Already? How can we possibly know?
This weekend, our friends at Moviefone are looking back at this year's most entertaining films -- so far. After all, we've reached the exact halfway point of 2011. We know plenty of critics predicted 'The Beaver' would be a turkey, so you might be surprised to see it kick off the Top Ten. Did your faves make our countdown?
10. 'The Beaver' Sure, we giggled like children at the title. We also scoffed at the notion that scandal-plagued Mel Gibson was the star (with a brown furry puppet on his hand, no less) of Jodie Foster's latest directorial effort. But we were pleasantly surprised to see this film was unlike anything either Oscar winner had done before. With an intense performance by Gibson and strong supporting acting from Anton Yelchin ('Star Trek'), the movie is both dark and humorous, and left us near tears by the end.
9. 'Rango' Johnny Depp -- by way of Hunter S. Thompson -- provides the titular voice of an animated chameleon in an identity crisis, who stumbles into a wry Wild West adventure filled with all the gnarly cowboy quirks you'd see in a classic Sergio Leone film.
8. 'Beginners' Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor play father and son in this movie about accepting who you really are. Plummer's character drops two late-in-life bombshells: He comes out of the closet and announces he has terminal cancer, revealing both facts to his shell-shocked son at once. Heartfelt and genuine, this is the year's sleeper hit, so far.
7. 'Cedar Rapids' This indie, starring Ed Helms and Anne Heche, came and went in theaters, overshadowed by the disappointing likes of 'The Hangover Part II.' But few films this year made us laugh as hard, or charmed us more, than this flick. A great premise delivered by a stellar cast, the Midwest-set comedy also gave John C. Reilly his due as one of the flat-out funniest people alive.
6. 'Win Win' This movie, about real people with real problems, celebrates the great things that come from helping others. From star Paul Giamatti, to Alex Shaffer's knockout debut performance as a troubled teen, to a script both poignant and hilarious, 'Win Win' is a simple film done extraordinarily well. And that's about as much as we can ask for when going to the movies.
5. 'X-Men: First Class' After the disaster that was 'Wolverine,' we were praying 'First Class' would turn out okay. Thankfully, it exceeded our expectations. 'First Class' traces the origins of some of our favorite mutants, including Charles Xavier, Mystique, Magneto, Havok and Beast. As for the villain, you knew Sebastian Shaw (played brilliantly by Kevin Bacon) was a perfect pick after the awful things he did during the opening sequence.
4. 'Tree of Life' Terrence Malick's ambitious meditation on childhood, spirituality and evolution isn't for everybody -- the Brad Pitt drama earned both boos and the Palme d'Or at Cannes. But for those who believe that film is also an art form, 'Tree of Life' is a welcome respite from summer's onslaught of angry robots and juiced-up superheroes (though, be warned, there are dinosaurs).
3. 'Bridesmaids' Featuring a bevy of talented actresses, 'Bridesmaids' married raunchy humor with real relationship dilemmas. As a result, every new comedy released between now and Dec. 31 will compete with 'Bridesmaids' to be pronounced "Funniest Film of 2011." Applying a classic Judd Apatow slacker-who-must-grow-up formula to 'SNL' star Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the screenplay), 'Bridesmaids' is a nonstop escalation of bickering, reconciliations and breakdowns. While everyone else debated what the hit meant for women in comedy, 'Bridesmaids' simply did one thing: deliver great comedy.
2. 'Midnight in Paris' It's not easy to convey how much we loved this Woody Allen movie, because if we gave away details, we'd spoil the magic for everyone who hasn't seen it yet. That said, 'Midnight' is the one movie we've seen this year that had us grinning ear-to-ear from beginning to end. Owen Wilson has never been better, and of the 40-some-odd films in Allen's repertoire, it's pretty amazing that he's still makin' 'em this full of surprises.
1. 'Super 8' Director J.J. Abrams lays out a tale so clearly inspired by '70s/'80s Steven Spielberg, the legend himself agreed to produce it. A mysterious monster attacks a sleepy Ohio town, and against all odds, some middle-school movie geeks uncover the truth and save their neighbors, and their planet. But the heart of 'Super 8' isn't its spectacular effects. It's the kids in the cast (including exceptional newcomer Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb) who truly bring the film to life. We haven't seen an ensemble of child actors this good since 'Stand by Me,' and that's some serious praise.