2011 is Dead and Gone
Well, it’s all over. 2011 was a bumper year for cinema, full of yummy treats and yucky flops. But which films rose to the top of the pile like Mickey Rourke in a Playboy Mansion game of bundle, and which oneswere just air-filled bumcakes? Here – in no particular order – is howI felt about the films that made us sit up and pay attention this last year.
Where do we start? Well how about at the end? The Harry Potter franchise came to a close this year with HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2; wizards duelled, long held secrets came to light and a huuuge amount of money was made. I loved it, found it to be a fitting end to the ten year series but I have already reviewed it at length elsewhere on the site (as did my little cousin Connor) so I won’t take up any more of your time with it here.
The same goes for TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. Tomas Alfredson’s remake of the John leCarre novel and BBC TV series was classy, intelligent and had a cast to die for so when you’re finished here, use our search facilities to find the original review.
BLACK SWAN, Darren Aronofsky’s psycho ballet drama, set the world alight (and won Natalie Portman an Oscar for creepiest wank) but, at least initially, left me a tad underwhelmed. Expecting a thoughtful, disturbing tale of psychosis and torment, I was given instead a nervous breakdown in a hall of mirrors; entertaining but schlockier at heart than the prestige picture it was being advertised as. I enjoyed it more on my second viewing; I guess knowing what to expect meant I was spared the mild feeling of deflation that I got the first time round.
A similar feeling came with the Coen Brothers critically lauded take on TRUE GRIT. Good performances but so what? I just didn’t really see the point, I think, couldn’t find the spark in it that made the Coen’s stop in their tracks and go “Wow. We HAVE to make this film…” No real passion, nofire. After a Serious Man, I just wanted a bit more of that “Coen Bros
Feeling” and that was largely missing here. Something was also absent from Soderberg’s CONTAGION in which a starry cast (Winslet! Damon!Paltrow! Law! Fishburne! Cotillard! The Chinese criminal accountant from Dark Knight!) look on as an epidemic ravages the earth.
Despite fine acting and writing, the film (which at times feels like its being told entirely in one long montage sequence) ultimately provokes neither feelings of fear or disgust but mostly just a mildly disinterested ok, so? But at least a couple of big names buy the farm before the end, so there’s that.
Danny Boyle’s 127 HOURS featured a never better James Franco in a performance that was maybe more than the film deserved. Same goes for Mel Gibson in THE BEAVER. A jaw-dropping performance at times from the troubled star in a film that only rarely managed to rise above its indie-lite formula trappings. THE GREEN HORNET was destroyed in the press but you know what? I’m gonna flip-reverse it on ya. I loved it.
I’m not normally a fan of Seth Rogen’s and as aware of its critical mauling as I was, I expected very little. I only watched it at allbecause you can normally trust director Michel Gondry to do something a little odd. And then… Wow. I found it really funny, enjoyed Gondry’s visual attack and loved Christophe Waltz’s insecure villain (“You said I am boring. My gun has two barrels. That’s not boring.”) Someone somewhere got The Green Hornet all wrong and it weren’t me. It’s re-appraisal time.
ATTACK THE BLOCK had a no-name cast and a teensy budget (at least compared to most of these films) but made up for it with style, wit and some awesome creature design. MOON director Duncan Jones followed his low budget debut with the decidedly higher budget SOURCE CODE, to less accolades and fanfare but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless; it has some good ideas and set pieces even if you can’t help but get the feeling that, by the time the credits roll, you (and logic itself) might have been a little cheated.
David O. Russell’s THE FIGHTER managed to rise above what – on the surface at least – looked like a run of the mill boxing tale by investing it with a real feeling of scuzz and a handful of knockout (sorry) performances, most notably from the film’s two Oscar winners Melissa Leo and Christian Bale.
BRIDESMAIDS was funny but overlong, INSIDIOUS had some scary moments but was utter bollocks (in a good way) and X-MEN FIRST CLASS was enjoyable but suffered from some pretty hefty problems (again, feel free to look up our original review. By repeating my views in public you will appear thoughtful, intelligent and unwilling to go along with the crowd just to appear cool, I promise. I’m really very good at this…)
So… Many of those films sucked but- what didn’t? Well… KUNG FU PANDA 2 and – su
rprisingly – RANGO get my nod for animated films of the year, the former for the sheer beauty of it’s rendering and the latter for populating an entire film with critters so ugly that most kids would probably run screaming (nothing here is cute).It also featured more jokes designed to go over the kids heads in an animated film since South Park The Movie. Ok, so it’s not foul or anything but you ain’t telling me that the Hunter S. Thompson cameo was aimed at the kids in the audience… CAPTAIN AMERICA’s wartime setting was lovingly rendered but even better wasMarvels other big film of the year, THOR.
Surprise pick Kenneth Branagh turned in a film that Shakespearean overtones, a classy cast and a lightness of touchunsurpassed by any of the other Marvel films since the original Iron Man, waaay back. Unfortunately, he’s turned down the chance to direct the sequel, but hats off to the man. He did good.
Jason Statham’s THE MECHANIC actually turned out to be a notch or two better than expected, largely down to a far better supporting cast than his films normally feature. It was still of the hitman-as-supercool-Zen-hero school but felt a little classier than some of his previous endeavours and was certainly better than the also well cast but still disappointing BLITZ. The cop-killer drama tried too hard to bit gritty and compelling but plot holes and some supersucky gob stopper acting (yes, you. Police woman turned junkie.You’re crap. Go away) left it feeling a bit empty.
Unlike Nic Cage’s DRIVE ANGRY, that was so demented it was like eating a five course meal of nonsense that somehow still left you wanting something mental for pudding. Making virtues of things that ruin most films (overacting, ripe dialogue) it has to be seen to be believed. It also gets bonus points for having an extra feature that races through the film looking for Cage’s scenes of violence and then scoring them points for kill shots, limb damage, etc. Lovely.
As was Takashi Miike’s 13 ASSASSINS, a film in which the final big battle (that pits the titular 13 Assassins against an entire army) takes up the entire last half of the movie. At turns beautiful, shocking, elegant and breathtaking, it’s right up there with the year’s best.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES also did not suck. In fact, it was almost my Film of The Year mostly by virtue of having gone from being something I was only mildly interested in to being OH MY GOD I’VE JUST SHIT MY PANTS awesome. Better scripted and acted than it really needed to be, with cutting edge motion capture and one eye – always – on what would just be damn cool, it surprised the hell out of me and many others. I won’t give anything away but when I tell you that one ofapes rides a horse (picture it! An ape! On a horse!), you will know whether or not this film is for you. Needless to say that next time Ineed to see monkeys smashing shit up (a fairly regular need on my part, to be frank) my girlfriend won’t have to sit through theentirety of Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
J.J. Abrams Spielbergian lovefest SUPER 8 was…
Well, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet.
PART TWO WILL BE BACK WHEN I HAVE WATCHED SUPER 8…