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: August 1, 2011

Limitless (Review)

Director: Neil Burger

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish Continue reading “DVD Releases: August 1, 2011”

DVD Releases: July 18, 2011

Unknown

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and January Jones

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Director: John Whitesell

Starring: Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson and Jessica Lucas

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventure

Director: Ben Stassen

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Isabelle Fuhrman and Yuri Lowenthal

Faster

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Maggie Grace

Country Strong

Director: Shana Feste

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester

The Round Up

Director: Rose Bosch

Starring: Jean Reno, Mélanie Laurent and Gad Elmaleh

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.

Review: Faster (2010)

Faster is a new action-thriller from director George Tillman, Jr.

The film centers on an ex-con, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who sets out to avenge his brother’s death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he’s tracked by a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and an egocentric hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

While the premise has several notable elements of intrigue, the treatment, by writing duo Tony and Joe Gayton, is every bit as bleak and lackluster as expected; weighed down by exposition, formulaic direction and clichéd plot points.

It’s not at all helped by the screenwriters’ tendency to shift emphasis onto pointless, misleading subplots, like Killer’s backstory: a character that simply lacks the urgency needed to occupy such a large part that bears little importance to the main plot’s overall direction.

Tillman Jr’s unwillingness to take advantage of the narrative’s innately fun, B-movie potential guarantees that Faster – aside from the odd car chase and shoot-out – is every bit as intolerable as audiences have come to expect with such a conventional genre, the complete opposite of what Drive Angry, a film similar in ideas, achieved.

Johnson is – somewhat surprisingly – Faster’s greatest assest, in a role that proves he possesses the charm and presence needed to excel in the action genre. Here he’s the tough guy he needs to be, delivering a truly menacing performance: reticent, destructive and unrelenting.

It’s easily one of Johnson’s most compelling performances – certainly enough to redeem him of his recent fare of deplorable “family-comedy” roles.

Thornton looks annoyed and every bit reluctant to be in such frivolous fluff, but in a decidedly head-scratching way this informs his on screen persona, Cop, in an interesting, alluring and slick fashion.

Aside from Thornton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Carla Gugino – as one of the men on Driver’s hit list and a detective after his head respectively – are the only two supporting cast members who distinguish themselves and carve out plausible characters you can empathise with – and that’s miraculous considering their shamefully limited screen time and laughable dialogue.

The rest of the supporting troupe – including the barely seen Jennifer Carpenter, Maggie Grace and Jackson-Cohen – are trivial and wholly disposable.

Faster is a passable yet mediocre and highly forgettable action-thriller, salvaged only by Johnson’s surprisingly rousing performance.

Cinema Releases: March 25, 2011

Faster

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Maggie Grace

Country Strong

Director: Shana Feste

Starring – Garrett Hedlund, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

Director: Werner Herzog

Starring: Werner Herzog, Dominique Baffier and Jean Clottes

Wake Wood

Director: David Keating

Starring: Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly and Amelia Crowley

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures

Director: Ben Stassen

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Isabelle Fuhrman and Yuri Lowenthal