The Top 11 Movies of '11:
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This one counts as the definitive guilty pleasure pick on my list. I'm a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (Tim Burton's version not withstanding), but my expectations were admittedly quite low when I caught wind that Rise, a remake of 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, would replace the traditional men-in-makeup apes with the CGI kind. Then, Andy Serkis was cast as the lead ape Caesar, employing the same motion-capture techniques pioneered in Avatar, and I switched to cautiously optimistic mode. I was pleasantly surprised to find that director Rupert Wyatt's film hit all the right notes, with clever nods to the 1968 original (such as Caesar toying with a mini Statue of Liberty). Most importantly -- and unexpectedly -- Rise has heart, from scientist James Franco's tender relationship with his Alzheimer's-afflicted father (John Lithgow) to Caesar's growing realization that he is not perceived as an individual, but a pet that belongs in a cage. The film boasts yet another awe-inspiring performance by Serkis, who honed his ape skills as King Kong in Peter Jackson's '05 remake and was sorely overlooked by Oscar for his bravura performance as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Give this man an Academy Award nomination, for Pete's sake.