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.


Viewed – 04 March 2010  Blu-ray

Crime thrillers are one of the oldest sub-genres in the history of cinema.  That template reached its pinnacle in the late nineties with the seminal classic Heat, a movie that this bares more than a few similarities to.  Matt Dillon is a seasoned detective who stumbles upon a crack team of professional criminals following a daring bank robbery.  Although being investigated for his own questionable police work methods, he vows to apprehend the criminals, headed by Idris Elba’s swarve, experienced thief whilst also consiting of Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen, Fast & The Furious’ Paul Walker and rapper Chris Brown.  Yet when a newly released former member of the gang proposes a final job, suddenly everything the gang have worked for is put to the test.

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Have we met before?

Something occurred to me the other night.  I was surfing the TV channels, and stumbled upon one of my favourite movies of the 90s – Point Break.  Directed by the once talented (but where has she gone?) Kathryn Bigelow, this starred a pre-Speed Keanu Reeves, and a buffed out Patrick Swayze.  Now the reason I am writing this post, is to point out that this great action thriller bares an uncanny similarity to another more recent thriller from a few years back, The Fast & The Furious.

Now I know…how can a tale of surf dudes bare any comparison to a tale of illegal street racers?  Bare with me and I will explain.


The plot of Point Break:  Keanu Reeves is a rookie F.B.I. agent who infiltrates a gang of surfers in an attempt to crack a mystery gang of bank robbers, who may or may not be from the surf-community.  He befriends the leader of the surf-dudes, Patrick Swayze, and also ends up falling for Swayze’s ex-girlfriend along the way.  At first he doesn’t suspect these clean-cut surfers, and therefore thinks the bank robbers must be the other surf gang from the bad part of town who are always causing trouble.  Then when he realises that Swayze et-al are the ones he’s after, he is suddenly forced to turn against a friend in order to do his job.


The plot of The Fast & The Furious:  Paul Walker is a rookie F.B.I agent who infiltrates a gang of illegal street racers in an attempt to find a gang of hijackers who may or may not be linked to the street racing community.  He befriends the leader of the gang, Vin Diesel and also falls for Diesel’s sister along the way.  He soon grows fond of the new friends he’s made and therefore thinks the dangerous Chinese gang of street racers are the ones he’s after, until he eventually discovers its really Diesel’s gang all along, and he has to turn against his friend to get the job done. 

In both films, Keanu & Paul Walker report back to an F.B.I. mentor who they have secret meetings with behind the gangs backs.  Also, Keanu is treading dangerous ground to be going with Swayze’s ex-girlfriend in the same way Paul Walker creates tension falling for Diesel’s sister.  The more I think of it, The Fast & The Furious is an unofficial remake of Point Break, with surfing swapped for street racing, to bring things up to date with what is cool and trendy.

In almost every way the two films are alarmingly similar.  I’m probably not alone in noticing this.