Worst Ten Films Of 2011

Looking down at my worst of 2011 list it seems I managed to avoid many of this year’s cinematic duds, but let me tell you that having to sit through the animation atrocity that was Mars Needs Moms, the ice cold Chalet Girl and Dream House, the horror-thriller no-one wanted to be associated with, was more than enough to see me through.

The films I’ve chosen – and believe me when I say it was a very easy process – are what I believe to represent the most reprobate films I saw Continue reading “Worst Ten Films Of 2011”

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DVD Releases: October 3, 2011

Chalet Girl

Director: Phil Traill

Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick and Bill Nighy Continue reading “DVD Releases: October 3, 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.

UK Box Office: March 25 – 27, 2011

1. Limitless – £2,087,363

2. A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventure – £1,122,067

3. The Eagle – £1,038,954

4. Rango – £670,992

5. Unknown – £477,531

6. Battle: Los Angeles – £425,952

7. Anuvahood – £392,212

8. Chalet Girl – £339,947

9. The Lincoln Lawyer – £324,146

10. Hall Pass – £304,571

Review: Chalet Girl (2011)

Chalet Girl, a new Brit rom-com from director Phil Traill, centers on Kim (Felicty Jones), a former champion skateboarder stuck in a dead end job trying to support her Dad.

When the opportunity of a catering job in the one of the most exclusive chalets in the Alp comes knocking Kim takes the chance to discover snowboarding, and uses the big end-of-season competition to win some much-needed prize money. But before she can become a champion again, Kim has to dig deep to overcome her fears, and deal with the complicating factor of Jonny (Ed Westwick), her handsome – though spoken for – boss.

Phil Traill creates a reasonably believable world, and even makes up for the atrocious All About Steve. But his choice of bland cinematography and overbearing lighting do nothing for the beautiful scenery, or giddy action of the snowboarding scenes. The snow-blanketed Alps make for a very impressive backdrop, but Traill simply doesn’t have the experience to know how to use this to the films advantage, which in turn makes the endless montages and obvious stunt doubles more obvious and unbearable.

The script, written by Tom Williams, tries incredibly hard to please, stuffing every scene with every sort of gag possible, broadly caricatured characters and tongue-in-cheek dialogue, but it never hits the giddy highs of other teenage comedies, often succumbing to overuses of montage and falling over gags.

The core of the film, though, is Felicity Jones, in her first leading role. She’s a buoyantly likable lead, who mixes sarcasm and dead pan irony to superb avail, to the point where you even forgive her for choosing such a pointless film. It’s a light-hearted and fun performance, and a pleasant surprise to see such a talented British actress cast as a strong and forceful female.

The supporting cast, on the other hand, are hit and miss. Bill Nighy and Tamsin Egerton are forces of nature as Richard and Georgie respectively, each maintaining something of a comic composure while delivering quirky, comical and stand-out performances. Westwick, however, simply doesn’t have the credentials and screen presence needed to turn Jonny into a likeable, honest and interesting character. He’s pure and simple eye candy for Kim.

Chalet Girl is – aside from providing a few laughs – frustratingly dull and nothing more than a showcase for two talented British actresses: Felicity Jones and Tamsin Egerton.