Holiday Recommendations 2011: Movies

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We here at Lytherus are working hard to bring you the best in scifi, fantasy and horror entertainment this holiday season. Here’s a list our writers have compiled of our favorite films from 2011 that are available for purchase just in time for the holidays! We hope this saves you time surfing the web to sort through all the various options out there. All of these have been enjoyed and given a thumbs up by us!

Captain America: The First Avenger

2011 saw the releases of many superhero films, but Captain America: The First Avenger proves to be the best of the bunch. Action-packed, character driven, and brimming with humor, fun, and suspense, this movie is the perfect gift for that superhero fan in your family.

Set during World War II, The First Avengers tells the remarkable origin story of Steve Rogers, a small, frail man with a strong desire to serve his country. His opportunity comes when the brilliant German scientist, Dr. Erskine, approaches him and asks him to be the test subject for his Super Serum, which, if successful, will make him much stronger and faster than any normal human. The test succeeds, and Steve Rogers is transformed into Captain America. Meanwhile, the evil scientist, Johann Schmidt, obtains a powerful weapon that, if not stopped, could put an end to the world as we know it.

The Blu-Ray boasts plenty of special features, including deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes access, so it might be worth paying an extra $5-10 bucks for it to please that Captain America super-fan or that person who saw the movie several times in the theater.

Click here for the Lytherus review. 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This summer’s movie season can best be described as a mixed batch of extremely successful and critically acclaimed blockbusters(Harry Potter, Captain America) and box office bombs(Green Lantern). The question is, what category does Rise of the Planet of the Apes fall into? Not only is this latest installment highly entertaining, but it also serves as a worthy reboot of a popular franchise that offers something new and exciting for fans and casual moviegoers alike.

Brilliant scientist Will Rodman has made a breakthrough in science that will supposedly cure Alzheimer’s disease. So far, he has only tested it on chimpanzees, and the results are remarkable. One of the animals, a female chimpanzee named Bright Eyes, shows remarkable intelligence after being tested on. However, a lab accident causes the entire program to shut down, and Will’s boss, Steven Jacobs, orders all of the animals to be killed. One of the lab assistants finds a baby chimp hidden in Bright Eyes’s quarters, and asks if Will could take him home and raise him. Will reluctantly agrees, and the chimp is named Caesar. Caesar grows up in Will’s home, until a terrifying incident causes him to be transferred to a facility for primates, where he is severely mistreated. Together with the apes from the facility, Caesar launches an attack on San Fransisco, one that endangers the lives of millions of people.

On December 6, this fun sci-fi flick will hit store shelves. If you have a Planet of the Apes fan or a sci-fi lover in your family, this movie is the perfect gift.

Harry Potter: The Complete Eight Film Collection

After years of waiting,  fans can finally hold the entire Harry Potter film series in their hands, all in one beautiful box set. At long last, we can spend a weekend sitting on the couch watching the complete story of the Boy Who Lived unfold right before us. Not only does this signal the end of a phenomenal series, it signals the end of an era. But while the Harry Potter series is over, the millions of people who fell in love with it will keep it alive for generations to come.

If you don’t know at least the basic premise of this series, a question many will ask is “Have you been living under a rock for ten years?” While not everyone is a fan, most people today are familiar with the Harry Potter phenomenon at least a little bit. It is a series discussed in casual conversation on a daily basis, and it’s hard to go a day without hearing someone mention Harry Potter at some point. The impact this series has made on society cannot be ignored, even by the self-proclaimed Potter haters.

Now’s your chance to own the most lucrative franchise in film history, because on December 29th, 2011, the Harry Potter films will be removed from store shelves. If that’s not a good reason to put this collection at the top of your wish list, I don’t know what is.

Thor

Perhaps this movie falls in line with the obvious sort of recommendations. Thor grossed a respectable $182 million at the box office domestically and almost $450 million worldwide. DVD sales thus far are around $18 million (the-numbers.com). Know someone getting a blu-ray player for Christmas? Thor is the perfect movie to accompany it with its beautiful visual effects and high-action sequences.

Thor is based on the comic book about the Norse god who is the arrogant son of the monarch-god Odin. The movie provides a well-balanced origin story explaining the blend of science and magic and how they blend, easily fitting with the rest of the Marvel movie pieces into what will culminate in the upcoming Avengers movie. Thor is played by Chris Hemsworth and his power-hungry enemy and brother, Loki, is played by Tom HIddleston.

Thor nicely balances dry comedy with a serious undertone as we come to understand more about the god who finds himself displaced into the realm of man. Here on earth he learns to check his arrogance as he forms a romantic attachment with brilliant and spirited Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

See the full Lytherus review here!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Avast! Weigh anchor! It is time to set sail on another grand pirate adventure! Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth movie of the Pirates series, is guaranteed to entertain as you join Captain Jack Sparrow on his endless seafaring voyage in his search for immortality. Our elusive, witty Captain has literally been to the ends of the Earth and back to no avail, until now… Armed with the Mao Kun map and his compass of avarice, the legendary pirate will stop at nothing to locate the fabled Fountain of Youth.

Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) fails, yet again, to rescue his first mate, Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in London. As a result, he is brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths), who wants him to guide an expedition to the Fountain of Youth before the Spanish locate it. Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack’s old, mutinous first mate, is now a privateer in service to the Royal Navy after losing his leg and ship, the Black Pearl, and is heading the King’s expedition. Jack manages another ridiculous escape, but his father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards), finds him and warns Jack about the Fountain’s tests and reveals someone is impersonating him. Jack’s former lover and daughter of the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), is Angelica (Penélope Cruz), the voodoo-practicing imposter who possesses supernatural powers.

Jack is taken aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship, and forced to lead the way to the Fountain and to find Juan Ponce de León’s two silver chalices, which are required by the Fountain to grant everlasting life. The Fountain’s water must be drunk simultaneously from the two chalices. The person drinking from the chalice containing a mermaid’s tear steals the remaining years of the sacrificed. Meanwhile, Gibbs, having memorized and destroyed Jack’s map, barters with Barbossa to guide him to the fountain.

On Stranger Tides is definitely a movie worth owning. Jack’s comical nature will leave you laughing as you join him yet again on the high seas.

The Adjustment Bureau

What if everything we did, everyone we met, all our important decisions were controlled by someone else? What if our lives were just a part of some grand plan which decided what and when we do? The Adjustment Bureau explores this unsettling concept in a mix of fast-paced story, action, and great acting.

Politician David Norris (Matt Damon) accidentally meets Elise (Emily Blunt) on the night of his big speech. They develop a connection instantly and seem to be made for each other. There are greater forces at work however, as the mysterious Adjustment Bureau and its agents will stop at nothing to keep David and Elise apart, so that the “plan” of their lives plays out in the way it is supposed to.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have a remarkable on-screen chemistry, and with a great supporting cast and an interesting concept at the center of the story, The Adjustment Bureau is a must-see.

Click here for the Lytherus review. 

Source Code

A mind-twisting idea, the same scene repeating over and over again, but always slightly different, and 8 minutes to find a bomb on a train – Source Code has it all. As a part of the “Source Code” experiment, Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is able to slip into another man’s consciousness 8 minutes prior to that man’s death. That’s the amount of time Colter has to try and figure out which one of the passengers on a train going to Chicago planted a bomb. Colter has to relive the explosion again and again, while he is desperately searching for the clues. At the same time, bit by bit, he discovers some unsettling truths about the nature of the “Source Code”.

Jake Gyllenhaal makes for a great lead, complemented by equally great supporting cast, including Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan. As the story picks up its pace, it will have you on the edge of your seat, and make you sympathize with Colter’s unusual situation.

Click here for the Lytherus review. 

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is a must-watch, with its great action sequences and interesting performances. It’s action with a heart – the special effects are impressive and plenty, but there is also a great focus on the emotions of the characters. Michael Fassbender definitely stands out with his incredible acting as Erik Lehnsherr, and later, Magneto. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles and Erik are very believable together, and have some of the best scenes in the movie.

The story takes us to the very different beginnings of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, before they became Professor X and Magneto. As Charles and Erik develop a friendship, they bring together a group of mutants in a battle against Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who is determined to start a nuclear war.

There’s loads of great things in this movie, and fans of the previous movies are sure to enjoy this one. Hard-core fans of the comics might not be as happy, but if they can separate the story they know from the story told on the screen, they should be able to enjoy themselves too!

Click here for the Lytherus review. 

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a stylistic movie that takes the viewer into an epic adventure world that is an escape from reality for a young girl. The girl’s song releases her and her friends into a world where the team combat the wickedness in the world around them. While she has been locked away and held prisoner, she has never lost her will to live and fights back at every moment.

One thing to note about this film: not all things are as they seem. The movie definitely does have some surprising turns to it, and it also seems to be different levels of fantasy verse reality. There is also a steampunk type of vibe in some of the action scenes and with some of the props themselves.

This movie was written and directed by Zack Snyder, who brought us such films as 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, and 300. The fight scenes and choreography are amazing. With help from veteran actor Scott Glenn, the cast is rounded out by Emily Brown as our lead, Babydoll, Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea,  Jena Malone as Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie, and Jamie Chung as Amber. The girls band together to fight their captors and escape a terrible fate. If you like action/fantasy movies like Sukiyaki Western Django or 300, you will definitely enjoy this film.

Trollhunter (Trolljegeren)

A group of journalist students investigate a serious of bear killings, but instead discover that there is a whole world of danger out there that they didn’t know about. Trolls are real, and they can present a threat to humans if they leave their home ranges. The students meet up with a professional troll hunter who takes them with him on his investigation as to why the trolls are on a killing rampage.

The students in this film provide an excellent mix of disbelief, disdain, and fear to make their characters more realistic. How would you act when you are confronted by the monsters that were told to you in childhood fairy tales?

Trollhunter explores some of the less known troll legends, like the trollish ability to smell Christians, and their desire to eat them. It is also really interesting to see the variety of trolls that are present in Norwegian folklore such as the Raglefant, the Jotne, the Mountain Kings, the Tusseladd, etc.  The trollhunter, a Norwegian version of Quint (Robert Shaw), hunts down all of different types of trolls and deals with each of them in a manner that is quite in keeping with the lore of the trolls.

Trollhunter uses handheld cameras to add to the realism of the journalistic enterprise. The film is a fun mix of the realities of big game hunting, high tech equipment, and Norwegian troll myths.  If you want to watch a film that’s a little different from the norm, and if you enjoy the gritty realism of handheld footage, check this one out.

Stake Land

A vampire epidemic has spread across the United States and survivors are either banding together to fortify towns or are trying to escape to Canada, the new Garden of Eden. The film revolves around Mister, a rogue bounty hunter who is training a young boy to survive in the devastated world. During their travelers, they gather other survivors and form a traveling band of lost souls including a pregnant girl, played by Danielle Harris. They band works together to survive, fight, and overcome the various challenges and horrors they encounter. This movie combines horror, vampires, and religious fanatics with a strange blend of hope and strength.

The film does push moral boundaries and isn’t afraid to push them just that little bit further. No one is safe from atrocities in this film: be they nuns, babies, or children. They are all fair game, which lends to the credibility of the plot and the film as a whole.

And it has a vampire Santa Claus. That’s worth the cost of the movie itself. An undead, bloodthirty Saint Nick is what all the boys and girls want for the holiday!

This movie makes the perfect gift for those horror fans who are disillusioned with the mainstream horror movies that come out of Hollywood today. If you’re over typical vampire movies and want something a little different, this one’s for you. This movie is similiar to many zombie films like Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Diaries, where the main focus of the film is the survivors with a reduced emphasis on the vampires. Stake Land pulls you in and won’t let you go.

Resident Evil Complete Collection

(Resident Evil, RE: Apocalypse, RE: Extinction, RE: Afterlife)

Box set of action films based on the popular computer game. In Resident Evil, a virus has been sealed in an underground research center called the Hive, and Alice and Rain are sent in with a team of commandos to destroy it. However, they have not counted on the fact that all the employees who were trapped in the Hive with the virus and thought to be dead have been turned into the living dead.

Then, in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Alice finds herself stuck in the contaminated Raccoon City after the deadly re-opening of the Hive. Along with other survivors Alice must fight for her survival – and do all she can to escape the nightmare necropolis.

In the third film, Resident Evil: Extinction, Alice, alone now years after the Raccoon City disaster, is aware that she has become a liability and likely to endanger those around her. She is struggling to survive and bring down the Umbrella Corporation. Meanwhile other familiar faces from the first two films are travelling through the Nevada Desert and the ruins of Las Vegas and fighting to survive against hordes of zombies, killer crows and other terrible creatures spawned by the deadly T-Virus.

Finally, in Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alice continues her fight against the Umbrella Corporation. Following new information, she heads to Los Angeles where she seeks out any survivors of the T-virus epidemic. Characters Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield, who appeared previously in the series, are back to help defeat the Undead. The group of survivors attempt to strengthen their numbers and find refuge, but can they escape the city which is invested with zombies?

All four Resident Evil movies are available in a convenient box, perfect for that mega fan or someone you really like creeping out. The box includes a bonus material CD which includes cool behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, commentary play-by-play from cast members and the director, and zombie designs straight from the pen of the artists! Because whodoesn’t like hoards of flesh-eating infected civilians and zombie waterfalls?

Underworld Trilogy Boxed Set

(Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans)

This wonderfus new box set features all three of the Underworld movies. In Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. No one knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior named Selene and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past named Michael fall in love…especially when the young Lycan is injected with Vampire blood and survives.

In Underworld: Evolution the story returns as Selene and Michael – the only known Vampire-Lycan hybrid alive – are on the run, both targeted by the three sides of the war- lycans, vampires, and humans. The vampires want Selene dead for murdering the High Vampire, the Lycans want Michael dead for being a half-breed, and the humans want them both dead for the danger each brings to the world. As the two of them race against those who are trying to kill them, they discover the secrets behind each of their lives and the reason why the war began.

Finally in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans you get to go back in time as the story explores the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. See what brought on the rebellion of the Lycans, and why the High Council Vampires seem so stern in keeping the past hidden.

A bonus disk holds special features like deleted scenes, commentary, scene art, and an animated short featuring the characters from the films in an all new story. The first movie is also the extended cut not released in theaters! But as a warning to our sensitive readers- these movies are rated R for a reason. And no, it’s not because of the violence (though I’m sure that takes a heavy hand in it).

Priest

For centuries, a war has existed between the humans and the vampires. This conflict has devastated the planet’s surface, making it unable to support life. The whole world became a theocracy under the mandate of a fictional organization known only as “The Church”, which constructed walled cities to protect mankind and an elite group of warriors to turn the tide against the vampires. They were dubbed “Priests”—humans blessed by God who were capable of slaying vampires. The majority of the vampires were killed, while the remainder were placed in reservations. With the war over, the Clergy, fearing what they had created, disbanded the Priests. Outside the cities, humans live free from the totalitarian control of the Church. After the last Vampire War, the veteran Warrior Priest lives in obscurity with other humans inside one of the Church’s walled cities. When the Priest’s niece is kidnapped by vampires, the Priest breaks his vows to hunt them down. He is accompanied by the niece’s boyfriend, who is a wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess

If you never read the comic that this film is based off of, don’t worry- the story telling lends you a prefect insight on the world, the people, and what events bring you to the current events. It’s action packed from beginning to end, with only a few scenes that ‘rest’ enough for you to take a breather from all of the heart pounding moments (which works, rather than being too action filled). The end leads to an incredible discovery, and the story weaves a warning to all whom think living behind walls is a way to live.

Click here for the Lytherus review. 

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