DVD Releases: January 9, 2011

Colombiana (Review)

Director: Olivier Megaton

Starring: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan and Callum Blue Continue reading “DVD Releases: January 9, 2011”

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2011: A Film Bloggers Retrospective

In the middle of last year, I – a budding cinephile – made the decision to become a film writer. A month or two after this rather out-of-the-blue decision, I successfully applied to write for (according to up-to-date Wikio stats) the UK’s top film website HeyUGuys. Subsequently, I created my own blog, Centrefolds & Empty Screens: a sanctum for me to convey my love of cinema through reviews and other, more personal posts. However, it wasn’t until this year that I grew more confident in myself (though that’s not saying much as I still often doubt my abilities) and started to gain recognition from Continue reading “2011: A Film Bloggers Retrospective”

Best Ten Films Of 2011

While 2011 hasn’t exactly been a year of record-breaking box office success, it has been a fantastic one for British cinema, emerging talent and unique independent features which found themselves surpassing the popularity of many much bigger movies.

The films I’ve chosen – and believe me when I say it wasn’t an easy process – are what I think represent the pinnacle of the cinema I Continue reading “Best Ten Films Of 2011”

Review: Arrietty (2010)

Synopsis: 14-year-old Arrietty and the rest of the Clock family live in peaceful anonymity as they make their own home from items “borrowed” from the house’s human inhabitants. However, life changes for the Clocks when a human boy discovers Arrietty.

Marking the directorial debut of animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Arrietty – Studio Ghibli’s latest output – is a magical adaptation of Mary Norton’s much-loved British classic The Borrowers, and a personal project for esteemed Ghilbi co-founder and animator extraordinaire Hayao Miyazaki.

The screenplay, co-written between Miyazaki and Isao Takahata some forty years ago, is distinctly respectful of Norton’s source material: so much so that it often personally references the books in a noticeably conscientious yet appropriately nuanced manner. Everything from Arrietty’s encounter with an aggressive feline, to her very first Borrowing mission with her father, and even her burgeoning relationship with Sho is played out at a charming pace. It almost feels eternal, which is sure to help in making Arrietty a well-remembered and adored Ghibli feature.

The abundant animation is – as is expected from a Ghibli film – absolutely sensational. Yonebayashi directs with such passion, delicacy and attention to detail that it’s hard not to feel enthralled by the magical world that created. What’s truly striking, however, is how lush and rustic the animation feels. During daylight hours, the delectable landscape is utterly lustrous yet by night it has a luminous and wondrously enchanting quality: a contrast that works tremendously, supplying excellent scope and lineage to the already dazzling canvas.

French musician – and regular Ghibli counterpart – Cecile Corbel’s score blends seamlessly with the action and animation, speaking volumes to the personal touch that all involved have painstakingly applied, ensuring that Arrietty is bestowed in a special old-fashioned finery. Its wistfully idyllic folk-vibe accentuates the animation style further, as though the two were destined to be played alongside one another. At times, the score is in danger of domineering the action, but it’s always pulled back before getting out of hand.

The only problem with Arrietty, and something that might deter older viewers, is that it’s very much a kids film. Aside from a few witty touches, it doesn’t stretch to accommodate adults in the way that Pixar and a number of past Ghibli productions have nailed. That said, it’s hardly something that can be condemned, and on many levels it benefits the film, keeping it grounded and simplistic, rather than trying to appeal to too many demographics and packing it silly with adult-appropriate references.

Arrietty may not hits the heights of Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, or a number of other well-respected Ghibli classics, but it has exuberant charm, illustrious animation and a high level of intimacy – basically everything you’ve come to expect from a Ghibli film, but on a smaller, more child-focused scale.

Cinema Releases: July 29, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell Continue reading “Cinema Releases: July 29, 2011”

Feature: Top Ten Films Of 2011: January – June

So far, 2011 has been a fantastic year for film. Below, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favourites from the last six months, with a few honourable mentions that just missed out on a place. Finally, I’ve listed some somewhat less honourable mentions that you should probably avoid at all costs.

10. Never Let Me Go (February 2011)

Mark Romanek’s shamefully overlooked adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s momentous novel Never Let Me Go wasn’t exactly the hit Fox Searchlight were banking on, but that didn’t stop it being a beautifully explorative, acted and directed piece of cinema.

9. Animal Kingdom (February 2011)

This Australian crime-thriller rose from the underbelly, picking up momentum thick and fact for its astoundingly honest portrayal of a fully functional crime family. Striking direction, raw performances and compelling source material have made well worth seeking out.

8. Archipelago (March 2011)

Joanna Hogg’s stark look at family turmoil is beautifully captured and carefully paced to provide a deeply resonant and affecting glimpse into the highs and lows of family life and what makes people tick.

7. Heartbeats (May 2011)

Multi-faceted Xavier Dolan follows in the footsteps of acclaimed filmmakers Gus Van Sant, Pedro Almodóvar and Wong Kar Wai to write and direct Heartbeats, a film of true beauty, wisdom and depth beyond its years.

6. Arrietty (June 2011 – EIFF)

Studio Ghibli’s sprightly interpretation of Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book The Borrowers is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, under the watchful eye of filmmaker extraordinaire Hayao Miyazaki. Arrietty boasts some truly illustrious animation and a score by French musician Cecile Corbel that made me go weak at the knees.

5. Bridesmaids (June 2011)

Kristen Wiig, well known for her long-standing stint on Saturday Night Live, was launched to stardom with hit comedy Bridesmaids. Directed by Paul Feig, the film features an array of flawless comedic performances, unforgettable gags and the goddess-like figure Rose Bryne.

4. Albatross (June 2011 – EIFF)

Niall McCormick’s British coming-of-age film premiered at the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival to rave reviews. Written by burgeoning writer Tamzin Refn, Albatross is a fully realised and thought-provoking piece of cinema, chock full of heart, depth and humour to boot. If Jessica Findlay-Brown doesn’t become a star, then there’s something seriously wrong with the world.

3. Black Swan (January 2011)

Granted, this film opened last year in America, but due to different release schedules it was early January before I had a chance to see Natalie Portman give an Academy Award winning performance in Darren Aronofsky’s daringly dark psychological ballet thriller. Hauntingly brilliant.

2. Submarine (March 2011)

Former IT Crowd actor Richard Ayoade made his directorial debut with the mesmerising, outlandish and warm-hearted indie comedy Submarine. The entire cast, not least relative newcomer Craig Roberts, delivered remarkable performances.

1. Blue Valentine (January 2011)

This emotionally crippling insight into one couple’s turbulent relationship shot Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams back into the limelight, and earned them a few dozen award nominations in the process. After years of suffering various unfortunate setbacks, Derek Cianfrance’s passion project came to fruition with such intensity that it was hard to ignore. From the offset I was hooked, so it’d be impossible for Blue Valentine not to be my top film of the year so far.

Films of notable interest: Hobo With A Shotgun, Trust, Project Nim, Attack The Block, Rango, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Rubber, Pina 3D, Scream 4, Winnie The Pooh, Meek’s Cutoff, X-Men: First Class, The Silent House, 13 Assassins, Perfect Sense, Thor and Cave Of Forgotten Dreams.

Films to think no more of: Mars Needs Moms, Larry Crowne, Ghosted, I Am Number Four, The Rite, Faster, Chalet Girl, Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angeles.