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.

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DVD Releases: June 20, 2011

I Am Number Four

Director: D.J. Caruso

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant and Dianna Agron

The Fighter

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams

The Rite

Director: Mikael Håfström

Starring: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Ciarán Hinds

How Do You Know

Director: James L. Brooks

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd

Rabbit Hole

Director: John Cameron Mitchell

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest

Howl

Director: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Starring: James Franco, Todd Rotondi and Jon Prescott

Brighton Rock

Director: Rowan Joffe

Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Helen Mirren

West Is West

Director: Andy DeEmmony

Starring: Aqib Khan, Om Puri and Linda Bassett

UK Box Office: March 4 – 6, 2011

1. Rango – £1,638,613

2. The Adjustment Bureau – £1,395,715

3. Unknown – £1,356,345

4. Paul – £1,109,766

5. The King’s Speech – £1,076,381

6. Gnomeo & Juliet – £842,278

7. I Am Number Four – £498,822

8. True Grit – £463,320

9. West Is West – £452,076

10. Yogi Bear – £435,564

US Box Office: March 4 – 6, 2011

1. Rango – $38,000,000

2. The Adjustment Bureau – $20,900,000

3. Beastly – $10,100,000

4. Hall Pass – $9,000,000

5. Gnomeo & Juliet – $6,900,000

6. Unknown – $6,600,000

7. The King’s Speech – $6,500,000

8. Just Go With It – $6,400,000

9. I Am Number Four – $5,700,000

10. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – $4,300,000

UK Box Office: February 25 – 27, 2011

1. Gnomeo & Juliet – £2,502,806

2. Paul – £2,073,462

3. I Am Number Four – £1,628,523

4. Yogi Bear – £1,465, 863

5. Tangled – £1,352,104

6. The King’s Speech – £1,207,963

7. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son – £993,485

8. No Strings Attached – £978,974

9. True Grit – £862.260

10. West Is West – £758,226

US Box Office: February 25 – 27, 2011

1. Gnomeo & Juliet – $14,200,000

2. Hall Pass – $13,400,000

3. Unknown – $12,400,000

4. Just Go With It – $11,100,000

5. I Am Number Four – $11,000,000

6. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – $9,200,000

7. The King’s Speech – $7,700,000

8. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son – $7,600,000

9. Drive Angry 3D – $5,100,000

10. True Grit – $1,900,000

Review: I Am Number Four (2011)

Directed by D.J. Caruso – and adapted by Alfred Gough, Miles Miller and Marti Noxon – I Am Number Four is new teen-based sci-fi adventure film based on the best-selling novel by Pittacus Lore.

Extraordinary teen John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past.

In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events – his first love (Dianna Agron), powerful new abilities, and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.

The first two thirds of the film are irritating, evoking scenes from any pointless high school drama series you’d care to waste your time naming. It’s a bland, and all-too smooshy opening, one that drags on for an unrelenting amount of time.

Thankfully, but ultimately much too late, the third act pushes the saccharine romance to one side and hits a higher point with the arrival of Number Six (Teresa Palmer), a deadpan snarker in black leather, who unites with Number Four to defend their species from the invading Mogadorians, wrecking a path of carnage as they release their newfound supernatural powers.

Alex Pettyfer, in his second attempt to hit the big time, makes for a satisfactory lead, but ultimately feels out of his depth, never quite encapsulating Number Four to the extend needed to hold viewers’ attention.

Dianna Agron is good enough in the role of Number Four’s eternal soulmate, but she doesn’t have the experience, or solid-enough source material, to elevate her character to a higher level.

The special effects are competent, but nothing exceptional, and fail bring the intriguing subject matter, and life-altering final battle to life.

The soundtrack, and use of songs from pop bands The xx to King of Leon, feels bizarre and enervating, never contributing or highlight anything of importance in the film.

I Am Number Four is a pedestrian, poorly executed and badly cast supernatural thriller that tries hard, but ultimately fails to connect.

Cinema Releases: February 23, 2011

I Am Number Four

Director: D.J. Caruso

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant and Dianna Agron

US Box Office: February 18 – 20, 2011

1. Unknown – $21,800,000

2. I Am Number Four – $19,500,000

3. Gnomeo & Juliet – $19,400,000

4. Just Go With It – $18,200,000

5. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son – $17,000,000

6. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – $13,600,000

7. The King’s Speech – $6,566,000

8. The Roommate – $4,100,000

9. The Eagle – $3,559,000

10. No Strings Attached – $3,120,000