Worst Films of the Year 2011

It’s also been a bad year, with the lack of certain directors contributions making it all the more painful. Aside from more bland remakes and unimaginative sequels we’ve also had lots of good ideas poorly executed and terrible ideas executed at all. Although we have continued the trend of simply avoiding bad looking movies such as Alvin and the fucking chipmunks 3 we have tried to check out the more infamous titles this year and will hopefully be able to provide a more complete list…in the same way a used toilet is complete, not to get scatty too soon. We’ll save that for number one!
 

10. Sucker Punch

st A lesson: if you put chicks in charge of a battle robot they will paint a pink bunny on it.

Zack Snyder is a controversial little figure. Having a unique directorial style can have that effect on the audience. Starting a career off with a remake of one of the most popular horror films of all time can also have that effect. Here Snyder reaffirms that he is a very talented visual director…but a writer he ain’t! And here we are treated to Zack Snyder’s writing. Perhaps what this is trying to be is a high concept action thriller, but the concept isn’t necessarily sophisticated as much as it is needlessly convoluted. We have a heroine who escapes from her shit life by imagining another equally shit life in which she imagines garish action scenes which provide no tension as we know they’re entirely in the main characters head! There’s no emotional investment here. It becomes hard to know what actually happened in the narrative as we are forced to interpret the exaggerated levels. It’s like a liars Inception. If we are told she killed a guy, then on the next level up perhaps she just punched him which means on the surface level she may have just gave him a look or something. It’s confusing and doesn’t actually add anything to the film. The acting isn’t great. Hiring people from High School Musical can do that. It’s also difficult to claim this is a feminist film when the actresses wear incredibly short skirts…in their own imaginations. Empowering hotness perhaps. The film seems to just want to provide a plethora of action clichés. Anime swordfight, WW1 with zombies, Lord of the Rings, the great train robbery, the action may look pretty but it doesn’t excite as much as it would if we cared about what was happening. Style over substance but the style isn’t enough to win it.

9. Hobo with a Shotgun

Bluray helps you see the misery!

Here’s how not to do nostalgia. Imagine super 8 with capital punishment for pedos. The grindhouse beast created by Rodriguez and Tarantino has hardly inspired modern masterpieces. In fact Planet Terror is the only good thing to come out of those two hours of infamy. Directors seem to think that something which was funny as a two minute trailer would work just as well as a two hour movie. I loved the machete trailer, that doesn’t mean I would actually like to sit through the damn thing! The story concerns a hobo who arrives in a ridiculously OTT town in which no one has subtle emotions and violence runs wild on the streets. Not the realistic muggings, rape, general delinquency kind of violence. No, it’s more the kind of violence that would happen if you took all the guys on Xbox Live and put them in a town together. The hobo then decides to strike back with his own brand of Vigilante justice…and a shotgun. Everyone is killed indiscriminately. Whether they be a murderer, paedophile, exploitative film maker, all are equally deserving of violent death. The big bad in town then hunts down the hobo with many zanily unpleasant antics along the way. The film has major problems with tone. We see a silly wacky performance followed by a bus full of school kids getting torched with flame throwers. The visuals are really nasty to look at. Everything is a shade of green or yellow, in some subliminal attempt to get us to throw up. This is an ugly film, in every sense.

8. Priest

"Have you drawn on my face again?"

This film kicks off with a pretty kick ass animation. An animation which provided such a strong example of “diamond in the rough” that it was almost sufficient to keep this off the list. Just like the final fight did for the Immortals. But you can see the animation on Youtube and the rest of this is bullshit, so here it is at number 8. The film is an adaptation of a quirky Japanese anime, and just like all western adaptations of things that are Japanese and or quirky, it entirely misses the point and instead decides to remake the searchers with CG vampires. Some promise does make it through. The walled cities are somewhat like the Mega cities in Judge Dredd but without Rob Scnieder (which immediately improves any dystopian future). The slightly retro eighties feel to the future and especially the confession booth scene is quite pleasing. The problems really start once they leave the city and arrive in an undeveloped steam punk wild west. The characters are just bland if not annoying in some instances, most of the action occurs in identical caves relying on tedious jump scares or terrible looking CGI for impact and the overall plot doesn’t make too much sense. It establishes a terrible dystopian society established to protect people from the terrible vampire beast. It’s hard to root people mindlessly killing for for religious reasons, even when the enemy is literally demonised. We do have a good villain in the form of Karl Urban who tends to be pretty good in anything he’s in (perhaps not the Doom movie) and who plays the role quite maniacally and is definitely channelling older villains like Gary Oldman’s intense performance in Leon. Our hero, however, who is trying to get across grizzled and world weary, but just seems…tired. This director seriously needs to stop trying to make Bettany an action star. He’s not suited for it! The film was also edited down from an R-rating to a PG-13 rating, which meant reducing the blood and re-editing the sound effects to be less graphic. This is extremely obvious as cuts end quickly and actions seem to have no sound effects to accompany them. This severely dampens the effect the film was trying to go for with its dark and gritty style. Seeing an arm break with only a dull thud sound or a man being drained of his blood with no sound at all is incredibly jarring. Ultimately this is a film with a lot wasted potential. The design is good, the idea is good, the dichotomy at the centre is interesting, but the direction, acting, and composition of the action leaves it hollow. Like a corpse soundlessly drained of discoloured blood.

So that’s priest. It’s lame (in a very accurate sense of the word). But do check out the animation on Youtube. It’s better than the rest of the entire movie.  

7. Stakeland

"Is this right?"

Show don’t tell is the old adage. This film is a fantastic example of how not to write a script. The exposition in the narration offered by our hero explains all the things they couldn’t be bothered to write. “Over time we became close” is not something you can have a character actually say in a film. We must see the closeness developing. The hero and love interest actually say very little to each other in the film and aside from the student-mentor relationship, no characters are developed! We will see a character die and then the group pick up someone who fulfils the exact same purpose. Not that we see much of this group dynamic as there are very few scenes of our group travelling and talking and bonding. It’s like zombieland with none of the funny endearing dialogue. In fact it’s essentially like zombieland told from the perspective of the zombies. They just arrive at a place, bad stuff happens, they move on. An old point must be picked up here, at what point did we lose track of vampires? We’ll get to this in another item on this list, but it seems like we’ve forgotten about what the blood sucking freaks are meant to be all about. Here they are portrayed as mindless zombies who run at their victims and immediately bite them to death with little to no reasoning ability. Personally I blame 30 days of night. We also have a plot about some kind of religious cult who are claiming this world after the vampire apocalypse. Religious cults in post-apocalyptic worlds are a fairly tired concept at this point and a unique spin is really required to make it interesting. Here it seems to just serve to give our heroes some more human villains to fight. It’s just thoroughly bland and pointless…ironically.

6. Battle: Los Angeles

The CGI machine exploded!

Speaking of bland. Have you ever watched a friend play Resistance? You realise just how dull the visuals are and unexciting the action scenes are when you’re not actually required to orchestrate them. Well this is like that, if you were also jumping up and down on a trampoline. There is no plot. None, it’s soldiers fighting robots that might contain Aliens or water melons, whatever. They run around the streets occasionally shooting their guns but with few squibs placed on the enemy, making it hard to tell if they’re hitting anything. Shaky cam is used very poorly here. Remember in Saving Private Ryan when it was really effective at bringing a sense of chaos to proceedings? Well now it just makes everything blurry and confusing and slightly nauseating it has to be said. Characterisation is performed only in the first ten minutes, after that you might be able to spot Aaron Eckert’s chin, the only chick in there and the main black guy who has a problem with Eckert, but that’s pretty much it. The problem with this film is that it’s one very VERY long action scene, but the action isn’t very good! It’s blurry and confusing. The really aggravating point of this movie is that the trailer was good. It seemed to suggest this would be a serious approach to Alien invasion. Unfortunately it just didn’t make any kind of emotional connection, not even on an adrenaline fuelled basis. The closest you can get to watching paint dry on film…grey paint…brown wall. It’s modern FPS games: the movie!

5. Conan the Barbarian

Just kill the guy with the laptop.

The original isn’t really a classic piece of cinema. It’s fun. A good excuse to see Arnie punch a camel (as if an excuse were needed). It also has an amazing soundtrack by Basil Pouledrois, some good practical effects and James Earl Jones is always a great villain. The remake has none of these things. The villain is bland and his goal isn’t all that clear other than a good old fashioned “hunt the macguffin”. The soundtrack is extremely unimpressive; the visual effects mostly a dull CG affair, though a certain amount of imagination has been put towards some of the gore. Our hero isn’t that bad. Jason Mamoa may be familiar to fans of Game of Thrones and Baywatch and he doesn’t do a terrible job here. He’s certainly muscly enough and brings a certain charm to his misogyny. The script is just poor. It makes very little use of Howard’s world, perhaps more use than the original film, but still doesn’t use any of the interesting plots he came up with. At some point someone will read The People of the Black Circle and perhaps a good film will get made. Until then we get Conan chasing an old man around some matte paintings (models would have been better? At least it’s something real), trying to defeat CG tentacles and guys made of sand. This is not going to energise a franchise and really it has considerably less going for it than Conan the Destroyer, the film that killed off the franchise last time. It’s really not a hard formula to perfect. Have some kind of plot, some affable characters, and a lot of battles between Conan and real opponents with some decent physical effects and gore. All we really want from this is a more mature Lord of the Rings. It’s tough to get studios to agree to mature fantasy which excludes the family market, we can’t afford to waste these opportunities! At least we have HBO and they’re Game of Thrones series. God bless HBO!

4. Twilight

"Just pretend it's Jacob! Just pretend it's Jacob!" I'll leave it up to you who's thinking that.

Twilight, in my opinion, represents everything that is wrong with today’s youth. By some horrible twist of fate I have managed to see all the Twilight movies and the latest has to be the most ridiculous so far. Be warned that I’m about to ruin the incredibly involved and controversial plot for BreDawg as I’m calling it. Bella (K-Stew) and Edward (R-Pats) get married (in the sunshine, because in SPARKLY SHINEY TWILIGHT WORLD vamps don’t burn; never mind about Vampire folklore Meyer, just make it up as you go along, yeah?). Then they shag, and of course she gets preggo- because Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon and therefore fully accepts that sex immediately leads to pregnancy (not mention extreme pain). So Bella and Edward’s baby is a demon (of course) and is trying to kill Bella from the inside, just like all sinful relations should! Now in the book this problem is solved by Edward throwing the whole ‘I’ll never turn you into a vampire’ thing out the window and saves her by Siring her (because in SPARKLY SHINEY TWILIGHT WORLD Bella can’t just die.) However, the first film ends before it gets there. Robbing us of the only payoff the film could possibly have. This really did not need to be two movies! A forty minute wedding? Fuck that! This is just a cynical attempt to sell two tickets to one movie.

This seems as good a place as any to really get into what’s wrong with vampires these days. The old classic monsters were all moral fables. Frankenstein was about not using that dreadful science thing (luckily it worked and the practice pretty much died out), The Mummy was about not digging around in the past (luckily Cameron is furthering the cause of no one being able to study history), The Wolfman was about being careful about the wild side of one’s psyche, Jekyll and Hyde same deal and Dracula about beware eroticism! A fancy man from the east comes over, steals all the chicks, and then gets killed by the Victorian gentlemen “protecting” the ladies. Depicting the vampires as the good guys who are unreasonably killed due to old fashioned values about women and their place is certainly an interesting perspective…not one a Mormon is too likely to get right. The vampires don’t represent lust here, no….they sparkle! And the main vampire only gets laid once. The moral of the story seems to be that men are entirely unable to control themselves in bed, so if you agree to have sex with one, tear your shit up and potentially kill you and probably get you pregnant too. BEWARE THE PENIS! LOOK OUT! THERE’S ONE BEHIND YOU! The main vampire family are so utterly neutered that they are fucking vegetarians! Perhaps now that Edward actually has a taste for blood, he might just loose his nut and eat Bella…then the kid.  

Oh and there’s some Wolfey shit too, but no one really cares about that, they only put Jacob in for some alternative man-candy for those who aren’t into the pale look. Tragic, really. Let’s not talk down to tweenage girls, shall we?

3. Green Lantern

The mask disguises everything except all his features.

There is a problem with all the DC superheroes that aren’t Batman, and ironically enough it is the very opposite of this problem that makes Batman one of the best superheroes ever. Quite simply they are all way too overpowered! Once you have established that your hero can spin around the earth backwards to reverse time and can survive being shot in the eye, then really there is no threat that can’t be overpowered. The Green Lantern shares this problem with Superman, and is therefore not a superhero that we’ve given any attention to in his book form.

Having said all that, this movie is a terrible waste of any superhero. The powers Hal Jordon are given are essentially the ability to become a cartoon character. He is able to summon anything he can imagine which includes big comical fists, fake harrier jets, and in one particularly amusing scene a race car built around the frame of a falling helicopter. The powers are not used imaginatively here; more often than not it’s just incredibly silly. Which would be fine, we’ve all enjoyed silly superhero movies in the past, but the tone is not silly! It’s quite serious, with foreboding music, serious performances from the antagonists, and some fairly dark death scenes.

The main problem with this film is visceral. The effects are terrible. Ryan Reynolds clearly got into shape for the role and looks great in the few scenes we actually see his real body but almost immediately he is put into a CG costume. I’ve complained about terrible CGI a lot, but god damn does this film find new levels. They put Ryan Reynolds face onto a CG body with a CG mask across his face. They couldn’t even find a length of fabric to put across his face! It’s all fake and the juxtaposition of real flesh and fake suit highlights how terrible it looks. The aliens look cartoonish and pose little threat, the alien world looks silly and fails to impress as the flight sequence was clearly meant to do and overall the film just didn’t have any presence or impact. Ryan Renolds is good. He’s very charming and looks the part of an unlikely hero. Shame he wasn’t in this more often because the cartoon of him they use isn’t as good.

2. Scre4m

Eventually they found the body.

So rarely do I leave a cinema these days, or indeed any days, and someone asks me what I think and I have to reply “It’s just so fucking postmodern!” The film has become so very self-referential in such an overly familiar way. The gag of starting the movie and it turns out to be a movie within a movie is done three or four times, which is utterly exhausting. It feels like a comedy sketch rather than an actual film. The whole film seemed to have more in common with Scary Movie than Scream. However all Scream movies are guilty of being examples of the thing they are supposedly exposing. They will highlight flaws in the genre and then fully indulge in them. This includes one instance of completely hitting the nail on the head in terms of criticism.

In one of the four fake openings a character observes that in the Saw movies it’s entertaining to see all the different ways a character might die. This actually extends to the Friday the 13th movies and the sleepaway camp series, both of which would put effort into making the deaths quite inventive to help keep the interest. The fact that every character in the Scream movies is just stabbed to death (and not graphically enough to earn an eighteen rating in this instance and often in quite a jokey way to remove all impact) makes them incredibly dull. The other character in the scene counters that you don’t care about those characters and therefore the imaginative deaths have no impact. This is supremely fucking arrogant as the film is insisting that we will care about these characters and that this care will make us upset that the deaths are happening. Firstly, these deaths are played for laughs, we haven’t had a tragic death scene in these movies since Scream 2 and Dewey’s supposed killing. Secondly, the scream series may well be single handedly responsible for making the protagonists of horror movies unlikeable. Scream seems to be the first movie to replace the sweet, good natured kids of the eighties slasher flicks with obnoxious high school stereotypes who we are supposed to be happy to see die. Thirdly the scream movies have been repeating these characters since the first film, and it is easy to point out the “randy” or the “Billy” or the “Tatum” in the new characters.

The film is entirely unimaginative, with nothing new to say on a very tired point. The movie makes some attempt to address the matter of remakes, but fails to actually make any judgement of them. The referencing serves as a gimmick, and detracts from any sense of tension as we see people about to be stabbed to death and pleading “I can’t die! I’m the comic relief!” in a way that no real person ever would. The film isn’t paying homage to horror movies anymore, it’s observing their flaws whilst flaunting them. No subtlety, no ingenuity, and really the film is quite typical of writer Ehren Kruger, who also gave us…

1. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Hopefully a metaphor for the beef''s career

T3 is a truly numbing experience. As an exercise in mindless tedium, unashamed repetitiveness and unimaginative cynicism it is truly without equal and fully deserving of the bottom spot on this list. On every level we find something to annoy. The premise of the moon landings being a cover-up for an investigation of alien activity is fairly interesting but dropped quickly in favour of an absurd plot to move the Transformer home world next to earth, an act that would doubtless fuck up local gravity, tides, and god knows what else, rendering the planet worthless to the villains. The writing is atrocious with McGuffins and old clichés passing for storyline. The acting varies between the aggravating annoyances of Shia LaBitch’s incessant whining and screaming to the utter blandness of Not-Megan Fox’s plastic love interest. Supporting performances from Coen Brothers regulars John Tutturo, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich are supremely hurtful, as is Leonard Nimoy’s lifeless portrayal as the villain of the piece, in which he evens perverts his old catchphrase as a mantra for evil as opposed to good (“The needs of the many, outweighs the needs of the few” now apparently evokes communism and other such evils, rather than the merit of selflessness). This is fractionally less offensive than having the real Buzz Aldrin salute the massive pile of CGI and announce that it is an “honour” to be green screened near him. All get to spout the inane surfer dialogue whilst “acting” out “comedy” sections including a secret agent named “Deep Wang”. Despite these zany comedy antics the film is determined to be more serious this time. In the same film we have innocent civilians vaporised to death and an effeminate martial arts butler.

Deep Wang: He’s not funny…but in 3D!

Moving into the second half of the needlessly long ordeal we find incomprehensible action scenes featuring most of the action occurring just above, below or to the side of the frame. They also completely lack in drama as all the characters that count have already been established in the last film to be immortal (not to mention that the scene used in every one of the trailers doesn’t appear until the last fifteen minutes of the film), killing any tension that a movie featuring massive poorly animated CG robots could have had. It’s also completely impossible to tell which robots are on which side. If they’re painted a bright colour then they are probably on the “good” side, though they throw in a massive red evil robot and a good silver robot just to mix things up a little. I enjoyed two scenes in this movie. In one a group of soldiers pointlessly skydive into an area most have just driven into without problem. The scenes of them soaring through the skyline didn’t look as fake as the rest of the movie and were fairly well directed (no frustrating camera actions, and for the most part the action centred on screen). The second came when a building collapsed and the heroes were forced to try and escape. This involved real actors moving around real sets and therefore had a feeling of tension to them. Soon enough though Bay’s giant mechanical shaft attacks and we’re back to not caring.

Promotional art? Toy? Still from the film? Who’s to tell.

The music underscoring these scenes is also completely unimpressive, opting for either trite patriotic horns performing exasperated sighs to generic drums or impressively bland American soft rock which tends to accompany the scenes of our heroes at rest. What happened to the sexy bombastic electronica from the trailer? Speaking of the heroes whilst not being whipped around by robots, every scene at the start of the film is garishly lit in the typical Michael Bay style making it look like all the action is taking place on the surface of the sun. The film also makes use of national pride or tragedy to cynically invoke response from the audience. You can imagine idiots booing as the villain destroys the Lincoln memorial just so he has somewhere to sit or the autobot’s ship being destroyed in a scene creepily reminiscent of the challenger explosion. Less said about huge falling towers the better.

The film represents the nadir of action cinema. Other efforts this year have reminded us of how much fun the genre can be when you maintain some elements of reality, such as actual people performing daring stunts or a fight involving two real people demonstrating careful choreography. This utterly worthless piece of trash is the highest grossing movie of the year and has already started talks of a sequel, possibly without Bay or LaBitch (so already it’s more promising than the last three). If they are looking for someone to replace Shia, may I suggest the action legends Paul Dano or David Schwimmer both of whom would look just as comfortable in the role as LaBitch did. Bay will go on now and maybe without having to use giant robots all the time he will be able to make something else using lame jokes, bad pacing and terrible action. So with the Transformers trilogy finally behind us, what did it all mean? What was the point he was trying to make with these movies? Each one ends with a judgemental monologue from Optimus. Is there any political agenda or social commentary going on here? Unfortunately we’ll never know. Because the only people who care about this movie would never think to look. 

P for Phuck it and K for Krap!

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Top Ten Films of the Year 2011

2011 was a year in which we had no Nolan. We had no Cohen’s. We almost had no Fincher. To make matters worse we did have Bay, which we’ll get to on another list altogether. For now we have to maintain the happy thoughts and despite those omissions we have had some great films this year! Political thriller the Ides of March demonstrated Americans can be left wing sometimes. Spielberg reminded us of how he could thrill us like when we were kids in the light hearted adventure Tin Tin. David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo faithfully (for the most part) adapted a Swedish Crime Story whilst Swedish Director Thomas Alfredson did the same to British spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, both with terrific results. Breath-taking real stunts and action came from Brad Bird’s live action debut Mission Impossible 4, whilst Sherlock Holmes 2 demonstrated an intellectual hint to the genre. Terence Malik’s Tree of Life led the way with breath-taking visuals and My Week with Marilyn offered further chances for great actors to shine. Throughout all of this Jessica Chastain was lovely on several occasions. But of all the great moments of the year, which ten stood out for these particular bored nerds? Well let’s find out!

10. X-Men First Class

If this film has a problem it is that it has so much to do. It has to establish two very strong characters, then have them meet, develop the villains, have the heroes put the first class together, train them, develop a dynamic between them, demonstrate the rift between the two main characters, have them resolve the villain problem and then come apart from each other. It’s enough material for several films, including a Magneto the Nazi Hunter film, a section that clearly stands out as a highlight. But we do get the best of every section. We get the best of a the revenge plot, the best of the training underdogs, the best of the cold war espionage with mutants (the mission in Russia was pretty fun!) and the best of a character study, examining two men with different opinions on the same problem. The acting is excellent as James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are excellent in their parts and it doesn’t take much to establish a good chemistry between them. The period detail and tone of the film is perfect and consistent. The only fault is that it would have been nice to see some of these plot points spread over a few films. For now, let’s just hope they don’t fuck up wolverine again next year.

9. The Guard

In premise the film resembles Hot Fuzz and yet the style is entirely unique as it plays the material considerably darker, with a deadpan tone highlighting the quirky comedy. The story concerns a drug dealer played by Mark Strong, being hunted by FBI agent Don Cheadle who is forced to join forces with the local Irish police force “the guards” and specifically his new partner gloriously portrayed by Brandon Gleason. Gleason’s character indulges in every vice available and yet maintains an attitude of quaint country calm. The contrast of a rural Irish community cop starting the movie by taking an Ecstasy tablet found in a car crash and announcing that it’s “a fuckin’ beautiful day” is amongst the funniest things put to film this year. The movie keeps interest well through the staples of the buddy cop movie, including the big shoot out at the end. It also manages to include a great deal of emotional interest, as with Gleason’s sick mother. Really the highlight of the film is Brandon Gleason, who is effortlessly charming despite exhibiting every vice you wouldn’t want your local policeman to have, let alone one investigating a major drug deal. The film is part of a tradition of comedy drama films featuring predominantly Irish talent (usually with an English villain) including In Bruges and Perrier’s bounty and easily matches them.   

8. Tyrannosaur

It’s tough to maintain such a menacing atmosphere when you’re sharing a cinema with someone who laughs during the big rape scene. But it did! Paddy Constantine’s directorial debut is amazingly accomplished, though it may make us very concerned about Constantine’s private life. The film features Peter Mullun living in a village somewhere in the North of England who cannot help encountering violence wherever he goes, like a psychopathic Victor Meldrew. One day he encounters the sweet natured charity shop worker, played by Olivia Coleman, who is being abused by her deranged husband Eddie Marson. Coleman, who comes from a comedy background, is astonishing as the weary housewife driven closer to the violent stranger by her cold, malicious husband. All roles are played edgy and are complimented by the moody direction of the fledgling director. Hopefully this won’t be a one off like Gary Oldman’s Nil by mouth and we’ll be treated to further grim treats from Constantine. But for now we can appreciate this dark and disturbing view of life in the north (the only view one can possibly take of life up there in the mountains, with the trolls and dragons I believe they have there).

7. Hugo

Scorsese turns his hand to yet another film genre and once again is able to demonstrate a unique perspective. The film is a family movie and unlike most family movies of the year (The Smurfs, Alvin and the fucking Chipmunks (full title)) it is actually intended to entertain the entire family. It must be stressed first that we saw the 2D version, as we hate 3D. 3D killed my father. He thought the truck was much closer than it was and fell into a lawn mower. So we don’t see things in 3D and will be unable to affirm or rebuke the claim that this movie represents the future of cinema by using a tired old gimmick from the sixties. What we can confirm is that unlike Ronnie Corbett this movie is very extremely strong without the stupid glasses. The acting is great all round (except for Ray Winston who seems to be failing to impersonate himself), with particular skill from our two young leads. Chloe Grace Moretz works well with the accent and manages to be very interesting and sweet. The direction is fantastic as Scorsese once again demonstrates his flair for the visual bringing a French railway station of the 1910s to life with impressive sets and camerawork. What makes the film special though is the purpose it sets out to fulfil. The film is a love letter to cinema and the film making process in the film is portrayed as the idealised creative process, invoking feelings of joy, wonder and accomplishment. Hopefully this will become a classic as the years pass and thought of just as fondly as Cinema Paradiso.

6. Super 8

Speaking of homages to older films (though not quite as old here); super 8 recalls the early Spielberg films of the seventies and eighties and manages to be every bit as entertaining as the early summer blockbusters. The film follows a group of young friends as they attempt to make a low budget B-movie, only for their town to become involved in some sort of government conspiracy involving an implausible train crash, an insanely intense Biology teacher and a mischievous alien. The feel of the movie is very appropriate for the period of its setting with minute details placed to provoke the strongest nostalgia possible, even in people who weren’t alive in the seventies. The young actors are very genuine in their performances and successfully create the atmosphere of youthful curiosity these films thrive on. The scenes that need to be endearing are endearing, the scenes that need to be tense, are very tense! The film succeeds in reminding us of what it feels like to see young characters we care about put into considerable peril.

5. Drive

It seems that this year we had a lot of films looking backwards. Hugo took influence (and delight) from the early silent films, My Week with Marilyn revelled in its 50s setting and the next entry after this one found its stylistic and spiritual influence in the past too. Drive demonstrates a slightly sleazier flavour to nostalgia as it revisits the sleek, sexy veneer of the nineteen eighties. As bright, neon stained visuals are complimented by a pounding techno soundtrack, the atmosphere of neon noir hangs heavily over a story of crime, revenge and love! Carey Mulligan provides a great deal of heart in her performance as the love interest, just as she did in last year’s Never Let Me Go and as she’ll probably do in this year’s Shame (not to typecast). Ryan Gosling succeeded in being likeable and menacing as needed, but the real achievement is Albert Brooks as the terrifying villain. Having busty redhead Christina Hendricks on board didn’t hurt either. The action is great and often quite understated whilst lovingly prepared with physical effects. The resulting moments of extreme violence are effective at shocking the audience, paying off the masterfully built tension. If film makers can continue to find the best of the past and bring up to date with this kind of quality then we have many good years ahead.

4. The Artist

Speaking of being referential to yesteryear, the Artist is a modern silent, black and white film which takes rewarding risks with its presentation. The style works beautifully as the setting for this story of an artist finding himself at odds with the times. The film plays with its unique style making humorous or emotional references to its own limitations and strengths. It offers rare opportunities to see old fashioned slapstick comedy, dance numbers and genuine talent, uninterrupted by the overly technological habits of today. By removing dialogue we are forced to focus on the tiny details being offered by the direction and the superb actors who fill the picture, from Malcolm MacDowell to John Goodman. The leading man and lady are infinitely charming, immediately arresting the audience so that we are totally gripped by their struggles with an evolving Hollywood. With the tiniest expressions they can entirely change the mood of the piece. The main message of the film is that the past still has a lot to offer, even as times change and the film doesn’t just advocate the notion but champions it.

3. 50/50

This is often a surprising choice to anyone who hasn’t actually seen the film. The comedy elements may lead many to assume this is a very light movie with little to say beyond a few crude gags. What is being overlooked there is the amazing amount of heart this movie has. Apparently based on the true story of the films writer coming to terms with cancer with the help of his friend, Seth Rogan (who recreates this period of his life in the film) the story concerns Joseph Gordon Levitt being diagnosed with spinal cancer. We then see the impact this has on his life, often with humour but just as often with a crushing realism that made this quite a hard watch. How many comedies can actually generate a tear in its finale? This succeeds, and in no small part because of the great chemistry between Levitt (giving his best performance so far here) and his co-stars, particularly Seth Rogan who takes the concept of Bromance to a truly wonderful place. The film is ultimately about how important other people can be in our lives and how good fellowship can help us overcome huge amounts of adversity and suffering.

2. Take Shelter

Take Shelter was perhaps a little personal for me, but even out of context I really think this is one of the most emotional films released all year. Rising star Michael Shannon is the lead who increasingly believes a terrible storm is coming which he and his loved ones must prepare for. As he builds the shelter in his home a terrible strain is put on his home life and work, and as he begins to lose all the things he hoped to protect he is forced to ask some very difficult questions about his mental health. The film is about what happens when the head of a family is compromised. It demonstrates the impact this has on his loving wife, Jessica Chastain, and deaf daughter who desperately needs the money he is spending on his shelter for an ear operation that could save her hearing. A lot is at stake in this movie and if I have one complaint it is the ending which I feel goes against the moral of the story as an exercise in recognising our own weakness and trusting the ones we love. However the penultimate scene in which the family finally enter the shelter is one of the tensest and most upsetting that I have seen all year. The performances alone make this film one of the best. The atmospheric direction merely provides space for Chastain and Shannon to shine, as they will both hopefully continue to do in years to come.

1. Melancholia

One day a full length article about this film will go up on this site, probably comparing it to Tree of Life and explaining why this movie is on the list whilst Tree of Life isn’t. I am a huge fan of Lars Von Trier and consider Antichrist to be one of the most misunderstood movies of recent years. This film is a lot clearer on its message and it’s one that anyone who has spent some time thinking seriously about death will be all too familiar with. After an epically beautiful introduction showcasing the keen eye for striking shots Von Trier and his team have, the story is split into two parts. The first is a family drama in the same tradition as Festen. There is a wedding taking place but things are far from perfect as tensions between guests and hosts are played out and the veneer of control that Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg try to exert over proceedings is slipping. Meanwhile the bride, Kirstin Dunst, who initially takes a great deal of joy from the problems they have getting to the venue, becomes increasingly depressed and disillusioned with the forced ritual of the wedding and soon seeks to disrupt and spoil it in any way she can. This segment is dramatic and often amusing; sporting its ensemble cast which includes such greats as John Hurt and Udo Kier. In the second half of the movie the plot concerns a travelling planet called Melancholia (due to its deep blue colour) passing close to the Earth, only to start concerning people that it will actually collide. This worldwide panic is portrayed only through the four characters inhabiting the manor house, and the contrasting attitudes to the potential disaster range from denial to acceptance. The symbolism is worn on the films sleeve as the film is an excuse to examine attitudes towards death and ultimately the prevailing view is quite pessimistic. Our hero is totally unwilling to buy into the traditions and rituals put in place to make us more comfortable with our own mortality and instead accepts the inevitability of death with a cold sense of calm which can be very unsettling to watch. The film is a beautiful and well executed study of a very important issue and I feel is Von Triers best work and the best film of the year.

That’s our list of the best films of the year! Soon will be the considerable harder list, the worst films of the year, in which we take an opportunity to vent a year’s worth of bile and anger. Look out for it!

P for probably not going to be revised in two months…

Top ten movies that were released in 2011 but are really 2010

Top Ten Films of 2011 that were actually 2010.

Happy New Year nerds! We have three sexy new lists to round off the last year and welcome in the new. But first, we have some complicatedness. Here in the UK we have a delay in release dates. A lot of people (Empire and Total film) have been including 2010 films in the best of 2011! Well I think you’ll find we here at NGB are little more particular and accurate! The year of a film is the year in brackets after its name on IMDB. Unfortunately the delay in release dates does mean we won’t get the following on the best of this year list:

Shame: 10th Jan

Warhorse: 13th Jan

Coriolanus: 20th Jan

J.Edgar: 20th Jan

Carnage: 3rd Feb

A Dangerous Method: 10th Feb

None of those will appear on our list of best films of the year. We can make up for that during awards season, I’m sure. But before we get to the best of this year, there’s a little more housework to be done: here are, briefly, the top five films we didn’t get in time to see for last year’s list.

5. Rabbit hole

A beautifully optimistic look at a couple overcoming the death of their child. The direction and pace make this a sweet yet sincere look at some very tough and painful issues. The performances from Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are very warm and real, making their turmoil and eventual recovery all the more emotional to watch. One day there will be an article explaining how much I loved this film, probably in relation to revolutionary road which was similar in certain themes, but dire.

4. The Fighter

It seems the boxing movie has always had a certain power and draw that other sports movies lack. From Rocky to Warrior the boxing movie has been a good opportunity to expose the lives and troubles of the fighters, and the fighter counts as one of the best. The actual boxing is placed into the background as the film becomes a tense family drama, an expose of drug abuse and even a crime drama. All elements are perfectly balanced and the performances deserve their Oscars.

3. 127 hours

Danny Boyle is a man of great diversity in his work. He has given us everything from a genre renewing zombie film to an Oscar hoarding drama innovatively using an old quiz show format to relate an intriguing coming of age drama. And the latest from the great man was another exciting idea. The premise is simple. A man is trapped in a valley with his arm stuck under a rock. Unable to move the rock, the man reflects upon his life before deciding his only available action is to sever the arm with his blunt pocket knife. The film is grisly, intense, tragic, hopeful and a great insight into the strength of the human mind and body.

2. True Grit

We love the Coen Brothers here, and whilst the adaptation of the manly Charles Portis novel is a little unusual for directors known for their diminutive and flawed male characters, the film is a great adventure, and it is the strength of a young girl that gives the film it’s impact. The young girl in question is Mattie Ross and she recruits haggard old sheriff Rooster Cogburn to head into the wilds to find her father’s killers. Aside from the masterful direction which makes full use of the American archetypes of dramatic yet barren landscapes, bold action scenes and the warm companionship of a true road movie, it’s the performances that really stand out. Hayley Steinfeld was so enjoyable that when the film abruptly cut to her grown up self her performance was sorely missed for the rest of the film. Jeff Bridges finds new depths in the loveable grumpy old sheriff and Josh Brolin makes great use of limited screen time to present a truly broken man.  A Coen brothers film that is typical only in terms of its quality.

1. Black Swan

The most emotional experience to be had in a cinema this year. Natalie Portman’s haunting performance as a ballet dancer coming to terms with herself is made all the more tragic by Aaronofski’s harsh and overbearing direction which shocks the audience into submission. The story is ostensibly about a young ballet dancer trying to overcome the pressures of a big performance as the lead in Swan Lake. However the film is about obsession. Obsession with Ballet, obsession with sex, obsession with being perfect, which paradoxically means being perfectly imperfect. Everything from supporting cast to music from cinematography to editing is perfect in this film and had it been released in the uk in time for last years best list, it may have taken top spot.

Coming up soon, our top and bottom ten films of the 2011, and the films we look forward to most in the new year!

Revelations in a Cinema and an Ill-Positioned Sofa.

I saw the trailer for Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy sometime before it came out on DVD in 2003. Something I had already seen encouraged me to buy it. I remember clearly thinking “ooh, that looks like…” blank! Cannot remember what I thought this would be like. I remember one scene in particular from the trailer and it was Min-Sik Choik being thrown effortlessly across the room by intense body-guard Byeong-ok Kim. He soars and spins through the air before hitting an invisible barrier of glass which he bounces off and lands in a pile on the floor. This was the scene from the trailer which invoked some stylistic link in my head which encouraged me to buy it. It couldn’t have been a bittersweet life which would come a year later, nor Shiri which I was unaware of at the time, hell maybe it was just the matrix! Christ knows I was heavily influenced in my viewing by the matrix. The matrix incidentally could have been my revelation moment, except for how confused my little nine-year old mind was by just about everything that happened up until the lobby shoot out. True those last forty minutes rocked my little world, but it had nothing on Oldboy.

So I pick it up one Thursday afternoon and that evening I watched it. Two hours later I decide to take Friday off. I’m far too emotionally stimulated to do any kind of homework and being a gutless little worm I was unable to show up without any.

The movie had wrecked me, and was the first movie to ever do so. Trying to deconstruct why this film had such a profound effect on me is tricky. Perhaps it was the style, the subtle melancholy, the wide open spaces of Woo-Jin’s penthouse suggesting a terrible isolation unknown to Oh Dae Su as he travels from claustrophobic prison, to hot, sticky apartments suggesting such a huge emotional gap between these two men. Perhaps it was the enthralling direction of Park Chan Wook who used incredible camera work and combined practical and digital effects to make the work so incredibly visceral. Perhaps the brilliantly accomplished score, including the breath-taking “last waltz” which captures the emotional turmoil of the lead characters. How the hell do you pull off a triumphant trumpet theme and still get across how tragic our hero is at the same time. This score does it! The action set piece of the film is just as stylistically interesting as anything I had seen in the matrix, and yet grittier and more real than anything in the whole movie! Our hero is human, fragile, disturbed. He might not survive this. Maybe the honest and often brutal performances that everyone in this film gives (to be repeated by Min Sik Choik in the relentless “I saw the devil”. Maybe the arresting plot which conceals a great mystery, revealed methodically with the ever-present threat of danger to our protagonists. Perhaps it was just the tragic ambiguity of that final scene in the snow… ah yes, I had my exorcist moment. The movie watching experience which defined me a little, and set in stone my love of film.

But it didn’t happen in a cinema! It happened on a small screen in my living room, on a sofa positioned in a very uncomplimentary position in relation to the screen. So perhaps that’s the big difference between my generation and Kermode’s. Most of our movie watching is performed at home now, alone or with friends or family, usually from a torrenting site, you dicks. The first film I watched at home, which predated Aladdin by a year or two was the little mermaid and unlike Aladdin’s single scene of a tower falling over, I remember every moment of the little mermaid, and it probably affected my taste in movies and possibly women ever since (which may be a bad thing if you consider Ariel’s willingness to sacrifice her home, family and voice just for a man she barely knows is in some way sexist! If so you’re probably the kind of lefty guardian reading toss pot who thinks we shouldn’t keep women on leads anymore! What if they get lost, commie?!). Films I’ve watched at home have had a bigger impact on me and as a society we seem to be choosing the comfort of our own homes over the excitement of the giant silver screen. Are we missing out?

Perhaps not. One experience of emotional breakdown in a cinema I do remember was whilst watching the Curious Case of Benjamin Button which dealt with mortality in a rather sweet and sentimental way which really moved me. After about five minutes of holding in tears, I decided that there was little point as the strangers shouldn’t care if I cried or not. So I wept a little, the film reached its crescendo and then we all got up and filed out silently… Obviously the experience is different if you take friends, but then you’re constantly worried about other possibly disruptive audience members, including the asshole at the back who seems to find this rape scene hilarious, and the twat two rows ahead who won’t turn off his phone! Tin Tin is riding a tank through a town up on that screen. How fucking interesting could your friends possibly be?! Those two things didn’t happen in the same screening by the way. …there is no rape in Tin Tin….it’s all very much implied. Anyway, maybe all we’re really missing is a bigger screen, a better sound system and the chance to buy hotdogs.

But perhaps we are missing out! Well as a pretentious cinema attendee who likes to go three times a week, and desperately tries to encourage people to attend lest our films start to suffer. There is definitely something to be said for the cinema experience. The IMAX is sufficient to prove this point. A few weeks ago I saw the fourth Mission Impossible film at the IMAX, and the use of this massive screen to showcase the ridiculously scaled action sequences was truly breathtaking in a way that could never be accomplished on a PSP on the way to work. Only when a viewer has to physically move his head to take the whole thing is the experience truly complete. This particular experience including a six-minute prologue to the Dark Knight Rises, which spelled out for me just how difficult my orgasms are going to be until June. So I plan to balance my experiences at the cinema and at home, where the potential exists for the viewing to be significantly more personalised and enjoyable. But I do intend to raise my hypothetical future kids the right way about all this, starting with the Excorcist. When my son, and I will probably have a son as I imagine Gatacca will have happened by then, when my young Ethan Hawke is around fifteen (don’t want to wait too long or risk him half seeing it round a friend’s house whilst desperately trying to instil the virtues of Dungeons and Dragons, which will have been beaten into him some years earlier) I will take him to a screening of the Exorcist, and there are still many around. I shall sit him in the middle of the centre row, wait for it to start and then I am going to fucking leave! That should certainly move him. Not too far though, he will be tethered.

P for Parent