2011 a look back – part one


Thought I would take a look back at the last twelve months on this blog and offer up a definitive review of the year.  It is going to be split into the four quarters of the year, and will conclude with my final Top Ten.  Hope you enjoy reading the following highlights and disappointments…

January – March

January kicked off somewhat underwhelming with Sci-fi horror Splice, which although entertaining, didn’t make for a particularly memorable movie overall.   That couldn’t be said of the gore & tits fest that was Piranha 3D, certainly one of the most immediately entertaining movies this year, even if it’s b-movie styling means some may pass it off as rubbish.  Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was another highlight, with its clever camera-work and comic book meets video game style, and as ever Michael Cera was a joy.   Disappointing was the Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stathan, Dolph Lundrgren testosterone orgy The Expendables, case of a great idea badly realized … Perhaps Stallone should have left directing honours to someone else?

Once we hit February however, one of the best movies was Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours; a stunning achievement in taking a true-life tale of survival and making it both powerful, gut-wrenching and funny, with a startling central performance from James Franco.  Then as if something was in the water as far as movie releases were concerned, we also got Black Swan, a heart breaking, chilling exploration of madness with a brilliant turn from Natalie Portman and top-class directing honours from Darren Aronofsky.   It was no surprise that Portman would then scoop Best Actress at the Oscars the same month.  Of course such a run of top-class movies couldn’t last long, and the enjoyable Paul starring the usually excellent Simon Pegg and Nick Frost crumbled slightly under its reliance on one gag … a funny smart-mouthed alien.  Thankfully February concluded nicely with the surprising The House Of The Devil, a great throw-back to 70’s occult horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and despite a low-budget, really delivered.

March seemed to be the month I (albeit briefly) got my kung-fu movie loving mojo back, and offered up two impressive examples namely Donny Yen starrers Ip Man & Ip Man 2, expertly and stylishly directed by Yen himself and both offering fascinating tales of a true-life martial arts master.   Animated comedy Despicable Me was a gem, and in my opinion outclassed Toy Story 3 for pure entertainment, and with a heart-warming story, really impressed.  Takers, a heist movie starring Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba and Paul Walker was a satisfying if unimaginative take on movies like Heat.  The Disappearance Of Alice Creed offered up a gritty brit-thriller with a brave, revealing turn from Gemma Arterton, and concluding March was Ozzy toungue-in-cheek horror The Loved Ones, offering up stalkers, unrequited love and cannibalistic ex-boyfriends!

…Stay tuned for my run down of the following three months soon.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World


Viewed – 15 January 2011  Blu-ray

Movies about dating, famously known as rom-coms are a dime a dozen and to be honest, do little to grab my attention.  Now movies about dating with a plethora of video game references and over-the-top surreal special effects, kung fu and sword fights – that’s a different matter entirely! 

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Juno


Viewed – 06 December 2009  DVD

Seriously, how interesting can a teen movie about pregnancy really be?  Well I rented this as it had garnered great reviews and built a steady cult following … and well I’ve always had a soft spot for teen movies, at least back when they were really good (Clueless, anyone?).  So I thought, what the hell.

Ellen Page plays tom-boy schoolgirl Juno, a smart-talking, street-wise girl who one night gets a little too friendly with her favourite ‘boy’ friend and falls pregnant.  With no interest in raising a child, she seeks out the perfect couple, that will give the child the future she feels she can’t.  Thankfully this isn’t too navel gazing and ‘message’ filled, as written by Jennifer’s Body writer Diablo Cody it is full of sharp, quotable dialogue, some genuinely funny moments and plenty of interesting, cookie characters – all wrapped up with a soundtrack so hippie brilliant you’ll have the songs stuck in your head for weeks.  Ellen Page is excellent as Juno, building on her audience grabbing turn in low-budget shocker ‘Hard Candy’, and making for one of the more interesting young female actors in the biz.  Michael Cera, hot off Superbad is also perfectly cast as her on/off boyfriend, as is pretty much everyone else – including an always dependable J K Simmons as Juno’s protective but un-smothering father.

So to conclude, this is one of the more effective and heart-warming teen movies for some time, and is mature enough not to thrust its more deeper themes down your throat – and you still get the point.  Class stuff.

Verdict:  5 /5

Superbad


Viewed – 10 February 2008  DVD

So here we have a concept that is as old as cinema itself – or at least as old as the eighties teen movie-boom.  Two nerdy guys due to graduate high school (newcomers Michael Cera & Jonah Hill), pull out all the stops to score with those hot babes they’ve been eyeing up all year.

No this isn’t American Pie: The Divorce, but actually a rather well constructed and genuinely funny movie with two  likable leads who after promising said hot chicks to get beer for upcoming party, become embroiled in countless adventures in their quest to get laid. 

What helps this not just disappear under the weight of similar films, is its infectious energy and sheer fun factor, even if the often graphic language may put off some.  This boarders on South Park sometimes for its (admittedly imaginative) swear-quota.  Thankfully though it never spoils the film, and all the way through you are there, routing for these guys, right up to the rather slushy but also heart-warming ending.

Verdict:  3 /5