Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - January 6, 2012

Conflict of interests: The heroes and villains of 2011

by Tyler Hanley

In 2011, Hollywood served up another tantalizing mix of valiant and vile characters to cheer or jeer. Two of Marvel Comics' most famous do-gooders, Thor and Captain America, finally hit the big screen (though only one made this list). Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes' classic nemesis Professor James Moriarty also found his way to the cineplex.

Here are 10 of the most memorable cinematic heroes and villains of 2011 as chosen by Weekly film critic Tyler Hanley.

Heroes

Captain America (Chris Evans), "Captain America: The First Avenger" Courage and sacrifice were standard procedure for selfless soldier Steve Rogers, who transformed from scrawny to brawny in becoming Marvel's shield-wielding patriot. Cap's heroics included rescuing a band of American POWs and foiling a megalomaniac's plot for world domination.

Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), "Super 8" This admirable youngster demonstrated boundless bravery in helping send a stranded (and dangerous) alien back to its home planet. Joe also proved to be a steadfast friend, often placing the wellbeing of others above his own.

Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" The inked-up anti-hero of "Dragon Tattoo" helped take down a sadistic serial killer. Lisbeth also made her mark on a despicable, potbellied rapist thanks to some good old-fashioned vigilante justice.

Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" Unassuming Neville Longbottom — an afterthought character low on the wizarding totem poll — shines brighter than a Patronus Charm when the odds seem insurmountable. Neville was stout despite threats of death, and beheaded Voldemort's slithering sidekick with one masterful stroke.

Rango (voice of Johnny Depp), "Rango" This quirky chameleon sauntered into the arid western town of Dirt and helped energize the downtrodden populace by playing sheriff during difficult times. Rango's faux confidence eventually gave way to true leadership as he helped end a mysterious water crisis.

Villains

Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), "Drive" Albert Brooks steered clear of his comedic roots to portray this callous mobster whose close-quarters weapons of choice included a fork and a razor. Brooks' cold-blooded performance will also likely earn him an Oscar nod.

Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), "Horrible Bosses" The bane of the "Horrible Bosses" bunch treated one of his most valuable employees like a dirty doormat. Murder, deceit and greed were also part of Harken's repertoire.

Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), "The Help" A manicured facade couldn't mask this spoiled brat's racist core. Dishonesty, prejudice and verbal abuse were part of Hilly's daily routine as she lorded over the hard-working women around her.

Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), "The Lincoln Lawyer" Vile may be the perfect descriptor for this wealthy wretch who was a playboy on the outside but a killer at heart. Roulet's deviant behavior veered from simple deception to sexual assault.

Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" Moriarty exuded a creepy confidence while plotting numerous killings for the sake of financial windfall. Being a celebrated professor in the position of power and influence made him that much more unsettling.

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