Saturday, 14 January 2012

My Top 10 Films of 2011.

It was a mixed bag in 2011 but a year which installed a lot more confidence than the rather disappointing 2010. The lows of the year were stuff like the insult that was Beastly, the time-slowing and unfunny Just Go With It, the llama faced return of topless Taylor Lautner in Abduction and Twilight as well as Nicolas Cage having his worst year in film possibly ever. It's difficult to narrow it down to just my favourite ten of the year. A challenge which I accepted and will be heavily criticised.

Note: Due to cinema restrictions I did not get to see some films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hugo 3D, Moneyball, The Thing and Senna. A crime which I will soon rectify with numerous amounts of trips to the cinema and when my Amazon order is delivered.

10. Source Code.

Source Code Poster.Source Code is Duncan Jones's follow up to his directorial debut, Moon, and is cementing himself as a great sci-fi director. Source Code follows a soldier who wakes up as someone else and has to repeat the same minutes until he finds the bomber. What seems like a straight-forward sci-fi, action thriller turns into something which is very emotional and meshes in drama and romance but not as an after-thought. A truly great film with Michelle Monaghan hopefully rising to fame.

★★★★

9. Midnight in Paris. Midnight in Paris poster.

Woody Allen is a consistent director and although this best films are from the '70s-'80s, this film may compete with them. Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy about an engaged couple who tag along to Paris. As Owen Wilson travels back in time to his golden age and meets some of the greatest authors which act as a muse to his own story leads him to discover himself and his current lifestyle. It's light-hearted and its message is clear but is a thoroughly enjoyable film that'll leave you smiling from the story and the beauty of Paris and how wonderfully it was shot and edited.

★★★★

8. The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life poster. Terrence Malick is patient with making his films and that's why this one took so long to make with its beautiful cinematography. It establishes that films are sometimes regarded as a lesser expression of art and intellect and this proves the opposite as a thought-provoking piece of magnificence. It's the Marmite of the film world completely dividing opinions on whether it's beautiful or pretentious but it is important for Malick as it is based on his past. It also features Brad Pitt doing another timeless performance, Jessica Chastain breaking through in one of her many films and three child actors that should be stars in the future. Full review here.

★★★★

7. 50/50.

50/50 poster.The words "cancer" and "comedy" don't really go hand in hand. Usually, anyway. It seems that 50/50 is the exception to the rule though by being one of the funniest films of the year but still keeps it emotional. It's written by Will Reiser and is semi-autobiographical when he was diagnosed with cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the part of Adam, the young-man diagnosed with rare form of cancer and his struggle through chemotherapy and to keep his spirits up. Seth Rogen plays the part of the best friend perfectly who tries to ignore the realisation that his buddy may not be around for much longer. Very funny yet hard to watch at times.

★★★★★

6. Warrior.

Warrior poster.This didn't get the box-office that it thoroughly deserved. Even with a 12A certificate, you wouldn't be able to tell thanks to the brutal fight scenes and great direction of Gavin O'Connor. It focuses on introvert fighting machine Tommy (Tom Hardy) and disciplined family-man Brendan (Joel Edgerton) Conlon who enter an MMA tournament called SPARTA which reunites Tommy and his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) who is in search of redemption. A film that balances action with drama (in and out of the ring) which divides your attention between the main characters. A true great. For my full review, click here. ★★★★★

5. Blue Valentine.

Blue Valentine poster. This counts as a 2011 film because it wasn't released until the 14th of January. It's a story of two different time periods of a relationship and it doesn't focus on how it got there, leaving it for you to imagine yourself what happened in between. An emotional drama that is one of Ryan Gosling's brilliant films of the year (Drive, Crazy Stupid Love, The Ides of March) cementing himself as one of the best actors of the new generation. Michelle Williams earned herself an Oscar nomination for her performance too and you can see why. Understated and under-appreciated with its perfect dialogue and hard-hitting realism.

★★★★★

4. Super 8.

Super 8 poster.A perfect nostalgic film which throws back to Spielberg in the '80s - using his producer credentials to influence probably. The year is 1979 and the story focuses on some pre-teens making a film when they witness a train crash which leads to some mysterious events that intrigue and scare a tiny town. What you have is two ideas melted into one with children growing up in a small town and a monster-mystery all-in-one. It works perfectly but it can lead to complicated feelings about how it might have been better as two films. It's entertaining and the children - if they avoid drugs and bad choices - should grow to be stars in their own right. Full review here.

★★★★★

3. Drive.

Drive poster.It's Empire's and Total Film's film of the year and it's easy to see why. Ryan Gosling plays a driver who's a stunt driver by day and a wheelman by night. There's a lot of reasons why it works and one is the performance of Gosling as well as his brilliant supporting cast members. A film whose supporters are Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brookes, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks proves how special it is. Then there's the direction of Nicholas Winding Refn that shoots this in a retro, '80s throwback, making this cityscape seen in a way never before. The soundtrack is also one of the best of the year. Unmissable.

★★★★★

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo poster. David Fincher does it again and although people may disagree with an English remake of this it works. Many expected it to be dumbed down and numbed a little by being more blasé for audiences but it was graphic and it was raw and had this amazing magnetism in this murder mystery, action, thriller come drama. It is a mish-mash of genres and that's one thing Fincher is perfect at. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by a head of a family and empire to find a woman who has been missing for forty years. In his aid, he acquires a girl who is trivial and unorthodox, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and what unravels is a mystery so intense that time'll disappear.

★★★★★

My number one film of the 2011 is...

The Fighter poster.

There are no words to describe this film other than perfect. It balances a lot of issues and a lot of problems - including its own problem of actually getting made. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is in the shadow of his crack-addicted brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) and his rise to becoming a professional boxer. It has family problems, dysfunction, romance, addiction and many other great things and it's all balanced perfectly by the direction and the perfect cast of Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. It's just overwhelming with the storyline; the underdog story is tried and tested but it feels authentic. You'll connect to the characters, feeling like a lost sibling which would be easy in that family. My full review is here.

★★★★★

Honourable mentions: Crazy Stupid Love, Tyrannosaur, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Paul, Bridesmaids, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, 127 Hours and Black Swan.