Thursday, 29 December 2011

My Top Ten Films of 2011

Well the year is done and whilst I have seen many movies this year, I would still love to have seen more.  There may well have been movies that I didn't see that should be in this list.

Please don't berate me for this, it's my favourites of the year.  It doesn't mean they're yours and it doesn't necessarily mean they're the most technically well made films.  These are the ones that I enjoyed the most.

Number 10
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
When I saw this I had no idea what the premise was, outside of it being a horror comedy.  Some of the acting isn't great, some of the dialogue (especially the leader of the college kids) is a touch weak but this film delivered laughs in its droves.  On repeat viewing I found it just as funny.  A neat twist on the hillbilly killer films.

Number 9
Source Code
Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap as we revisit the same 8 minute period to track down a bomber on a train.  Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as Colter Stevens in this high concept thriller.  He is able to be sent back in time to find a bomber of a train who is suspected of planting another device.  If they can find his identity they can find the bomb.

The only slight problem is they can only go back to the last 8 minutes of a person's life.  So Colter Stevens "leaps" into the last 8 minutes of a stranger's life to try and track down the man who has already killed the train full of people.  This is a well crafted, well acted, tense affair and ultimately thoroughly enjoyable.  The love story never becomes schmatlzy and it doesn't detract from the action.  The less you know about the film the better.  It's one of those, you know there's going to be a twist somewhere types.  But my view is why look for it, let the twist come to you.

Number 8
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Gary Oldman heads up this all star cast of the big screen version of the BBCs drama.  This film is all about the performances.  There are times when it's difficult to know exactly what's going on and who's involved in what but at the end it all kinda makes sense but even if it didn't you wouldn't care as you just seen an act off by some of Britain's best talent.  With the likes of Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and John Hurt you really are spoiled for choice.  Whilst Oldman et al were all superb, it was Hardy for me who stole the show as he seems to be doing everywhere these days and also does in another of my top 10.

Number 7
We Need To Talk About Kevin
If you think you've had a crappy day then Tilda Swinton's character in this bleak and sometime harrowing drama will make you rethink.  The story of a child who never seemed happy and the incredibly portrayed love hate relationship he endured with his mother, this film was infuriating (John C Reilly's Franklin never managed to see the issues), distressing and moving.  Swinton has never been better as we see two periods of her life simultaneously, a before and after, play out.

Kevin (newcomer Ezra Miller) brings to life Teenage Angst as never seen before.  There is no motive to the way he feels and acts, he just is the way he is.  There's no understanding him and therefore little sympathy for him which I felt was intentional.  David Cameron's "Hug a hoodie" theory would be seriously put to the test here.  Sometimes kids are just mean.  And mean kids do mean things no matter how much attention you shower them with.

Number 6
Super 8
I thoroughly enjoyed JJ Abrahm's monster movie which took me right back to my childhood films of the 80's.  I came away with their sense of adventure as I did with such films like The Goonies and ET.  It's very rare you find a teenage ensemble that all put in a good shift with their performances.  Usually kids seem like their acting.  Every now and then, real talent emerges (Dakota Fanning, Chloe Moretz) and normally you find it's Spielberg unearthing it.  Whilst he did have a hand in the production of this movie, you have to admire how Abrahm's has managed to "do a Berg" and pull believable and likeable performances out of his young cast.

Number 5
A charming and funny tale about a guy with cancer.  Yep you read that right.  Based on the writer's own experience fighting the disease we follow the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) dealing with the knowledge he has a 50/50 chance of survival.  Some of the better characters could have been given more to do and a weaker one a little less but this was all about Levitt and co-star Seth Rogan who played off each other with precision.  Rogan plays the friend who had as hard a time dealing with it as Adam does and this is explored brilliantly as outwardly we see Rogan using Adam's situation to his own advantage.  If you fancy a comedy with more intelligence in the wit rather than sight gags or jokes as well as a real emotional bang and genuine heart in the film making then look no further than here.

Number 4
Brad Pitt stars as Billy Bean, real life GM of Oakland A's baseball team and how he took on the big boys with endless bank accounts.  Normally baseball films don't travel too well to the UK as it's just not a sport that garners much interest here but as this one focuses on the behind the scenes rather than the game itself it stood itself a much better chance.  The subject matter, highly relevant in today's football scene with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City able to blow their opponents out of the water financially, will be far more appealing than your usual sports movie.

It is based on the chance encounter with an economics major, played brilliantly by Jonah Hill, that changed the architecture of baseball forever and brought sports science into the frame across the world.  The use of things such as Optica having benefited significantly from these two men.  Pitt is on top form, possibly his best performance since The Assassination Of Jesse James if not is career.  It's not showy a la Twelve Monkeys or artistic a la The Tree of Life but centered in reality and he brings so much to a very down to earth character.  In lesser hands the central performance could easily have been dull and unsympathetic.  A sports film

Number 3

Tom Hardy steals the show in the second film in my top ten that he appears.  Last year's The Fighter brought an attempt at gritty realism to the boxing world which hadn't really been done since Raging Bull.  The Wrestler before that.  Warrior, a story of cage fighting, tries to do nothing more than entertain you.  This is not about realism, the fight scenes are more Rocky than Raging Bull, but this is not a flaw in the movie.  You know exactly where it's heading and just enjoy the ride.

Hardy and Joel Edgerton spark off each other fantastically as warring brothers both determined to win a special world cage fighting championship.  You know which brother you're supposed to pick and root for but the sheer screen presence and sympathy Hardy brings to his role, you find yourself siding with his angrier and meaner one of them.  A great watch which proves you can mix pure Hollywood entertainment with intelligence, great writing, brilliant characterisation and performances to match.  Michael Bay please take note that it doesn't need to be all about close ups, super slow mo running and explosions every other minute.

Number 2

A measured, evenly paced, beautiful and exceptionally violent film with one of the most enigmatic lead characters of the decade that manages to put others to shame with barely a word uttered.  From the silent getaway at the beginning to the soon to be infamous lift scene, Ryan Gosling oozes with cool which practically drips off the screen.  Laden with 80's style and sound this is no easy feat.  The soundtrack provides an electronic audio backdrop of beauty, perfectly partnering the charm and feel of the visuals it accompanies.

The direction is precise and original.  Back to the opening getaway we see it entirely from the inside of the car.  I don't recall ever having seen this take on an escape before.  Yet it was captivating and brilliant.  As was everything about this film,  Including the evil turn from Albert Brooks who provides one of the most brutal killings I've seen yet it contains barely any blood or graphic violence.  This was done with words and genius framing of the moment.  It needs to be watched to fully appreciate.  This is a film that will sadly be overlooked by the Oscars but will be remembered long after most of what Hollywood chooses to acknowledge.

Number 1
Kill List

The full review for this film is on my site and I wholly recommend you read it.  This is a film that is best served going into without knowing too much detail, which I have tried to do whilst conveying how brilliant this film was.

Kill List swings from kitchen sink drama to violent gangster to out and out horror without ever becoming confused.  Like a fine dining dish the flavours are perfectly balanced.  The film delivered on all counts for me.  Character, acting, story, laughs, drama, violence.  I can honestly say I've not seen an overall film experience like this one  I was left open mouthed and stunned.  Not everyone is going to like it in the same why I have, I accept that, but if you are a fan of cinema then this is a must to see.

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