2011 – the motion picture(s)
Following the recent post on the books I read in 2011, here’s a roundup of all the movies that I saw this year. I’ll highlight the ones wot I saw in the cinema, somehow. As mentioned previously, this is sort of inspired by Billy’s post of a similar nature last year.
And because it’s not just going to be a dry list, you’ll have to endure my commentary along with it. Who wants to just read a damn list, anyway?
Films I saw in 2011
(* means watched on a plane, ** means in a cinema)
- The Tourist – Fairly tedious outing starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Not sure what about this film was worse: the utterly implausible premise, or the wooden acting.
- Salt – In a brilliant coup of self-control, having that afternoon vowed never to watch another film with Angelina Jolie in it, we wound up watching Salt. Starring Angelina Jolie. One of those utterly bullshit spy action drama things where you know the entire plot hinges on some unexpected plot twist, but once again it’s the sort of bullshit thing where even if you were watching like a hawk there’s no way you could have spotted it, cos it’s so frigging contrived. And after having already watched an Angelina film that day I was starting to get concerned every time she walked near a pane of glass that she might inadvertantly turn 90 degrees too quickly and stick to it.
- Robin Hood – following up Kevin Costner’s excellent work forever connecting the legend of Robin Hood with implausibly accented actors, Rusty Crowe dusted off his sandals for a stab at the Rich Robbin’ Poor Givin’ archery nut from Nottingham. I really liked it. It was dumb, epic, and fun.
- Once – I have no idea how we stumbled on this film about an Irish busker who falls in love with a girl who works in a vacuum cleaner shop. It was a little bit whimsical, a bit “awww”, and with one of those open-endings that leaves you thinking “Okay then!”.
- Black Swan – disturbed psychological piece about ballerina(Natalie Portman)’s triumphant rise to playing the White Swan in a production of Swan Lake. Massive conversation piece because of tortured sequences and disjoined visuals giving you the impression that the action was part hallucinated. Disturbing. Got loads of hype. I’m sure I liked it more than this description would indicate. It’s worth mentioning that the guys in my office gave it a damning review: “Really weird. Only one lesbian scene in it, and it’s not very good”.
- Submarine** – Nearly every bit of promotional material proclaimed that this was directorial debut by Richard Ayoade, who plays “Moss” in “The IT Crowd”. No idea why, as that information’s almost utterly peripheral. Submarine however was a fantastic film following the life & dramas of a teenage boy in Wales, the girl he has a crush on, his family life and school life. Excellent film, enjoyed it immensely.
- The King’s Speech – Another film that was hard to enjoy objectively due to the humungous hype bubble surrounding it from the word go, however excellently executed story about… why the hell am I summarising this film? I think everyone on the planet saw this one. Rarely, I really enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Queen Mother. It’s very unlike me to be able to watch her and think, “Oh look, there’s Helena Bonham Carter dressed as a witch/pie chef/ape/etc.”. Excellent character work by Geoffrey Rush as well – second only to his portrayal of Casanova Frankenstein in Mystery Men.
- Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt 1* – If there’s a way to understate the majesty of a rich visual effects extravaganza, it’s to watch it on an in-flight seatback TV screen like I did with HPATDHP1. Seemed to follow what I remember of the book, probably. Jolly good. Once they’re all out on DVD I expect I’ll have to marathon them and relive the highlights.
- True Grit* – Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne character piece about a grizzled frontiersman fighting against the odds, etc. etc. All very good, naturally, but I get a bit pissed off with remakes when the original’s already perfectly good enough.
- Requiem for Detroit* – Documentary about the rise and fall of one of the USA’s largest manufacturing centres, and an explanation of the social and political drivers behind why consumerism was directed the way it was, and the resultant effects of that when market conditions changed. Utterly fascinating!
- Paul* – Simon Pegg & Nick Frost providing vehicle for Seth Rogen who is by now so ubiquitous on screen that the only way to get him work without nauseating audiences is as the voice of a wise crackin’ alien. And the hijinks that ensue. The trouble with putting Frost & Pegg as leads in anything now is that it immediately invites comparison with The Cornetto Trilogy. But you can tell that Edgar Wright’s nowhere to be seen.
- Rango* – This was a pretty torturous flight. Rango was about, like, a chameleon. Or something. Animated thing with lots of celebrity voices and promotional gear hyping up the involvement of Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski. And any merits it had were rendered utterly pointless on the inflight screen.
- Killing Bono* – Cute piece about an Irish band who were contemporaries of U2. Sort of an element of the hopelessness of Anvil about it. Lovely.
- Tron: Legacy* – Would have been good to get this one on a proper screen. Future-past visualisation of going inside the computer, directed with a fairly 2-dimensional view to turning swathes of the film into a console game for 30+ man-childs to play on their massive TVs in the suburbs. It had Jeff Bridges though, so it had to be good. I think I liked it.
- Hitch* – Will Smith plays an absolute master pickup artist. Formulaic and stupid, but I really like Big Will, so I’m giving this one a free pass. Even though it’s a stupid film.
- Source Code – Struggled to remember what this was. It falls into the fairly narrow but nonetheless distinct category of films that feature a person waking up over & over again. Not sure why that particular device irritates me. I can say with conviction, of all the films I saw in 2011 – this was definitely one of them.
- Pirates of the Caribbean IV – On Stranger Tides – On stranger tablets, more like. This debacle is what happens when you take a colour character and try to spin off around it. There’s enough discussion online examining where Lucas went wrong with the Star Wars franchise by overcomplicating the story – why the hell did the PotC franchise blunder into this mess?
- Bridesmaids – The most moving and raw emotional spectacle I’ve ever witnessed. Touched me in ways I can’t describe.
- Four Lions – Wanted to see this because it’s got Chris Morris, and also because at an early stage of development they were looking at crowdsourcing the funding – so I was nearly a backer! Of sorts. Fairly amusing, and maintains a “truth is stranger than fiction” presence. Liked it. Wouldn’t rush to watch again.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy** – Every now and again you get a film which is more about a performance than a story, and Le Carré’s tale of intrigue set itself up as the sort of thing I perceived I’d have trouble gripping the nuance of, however you couldn’t ignore the sheer presence of Oldman’s Smiley. EVERY time he was on screen you couldn’t take your eyes off him. Bizarrely intriguing for a film which could be summarised as “man with glasses walks from one room to another, and sits down occasionally”.
- Michael Clayton – Can’t remember how we got to watching this – I seem to remember cooking partway through it. It was something about a senior lawyer going crazy, but I’ve watched way too much Boston Legal since seeing this to remember which had what. Not that Michael Clayton was a comedy.
- Red State** – FAVOURITE FILM OF 2011! Kevin Smith returns to cinema with a 3 act piece that leaves you stranded just when you think you’ve got it figured out. GREAT performances, and well written. Kevin Pollak’s performance was unforgettable. Not a film to take granny to. But just excellent.
- Horrible Bosses – Fairly middle of the road caper about disempowered suburban idiots. Supposed to be made funnier by the incongruity of the actors playing the boss figures. Just noticed on IMDB that one of the actors in this film was Steve Wiebe – the guy from the excellent King of Kong documentary who should have registered the world’s highest Donkey Kong score, but… well, I won’t ruin a great film for you.
- The Untouchables – Finally got around to watching the 1987 classic which has spawned so many scene-parodies that it’s now hard to just watch this film without getting put off by the memories of other versions. Solid film.
- Zombieland – Watched this twice. Excellent fun. Amusingly, when I was describing the cast to Liz I said “Not sure who the main actor is – some kind of Michael Cera wannabe, but I don’t think he’s really done anything else”, and then once we started watching it she said “Hey, wasn’t he the guy from The Social Network?”. As in, the guy playing Mark Zuckerberg. Yes, yes he was. I’m a tool. Anyway, great fun film, and has Woody Harrelson AND Bill Murray. Epic & awesome just for that.
- Super 8 – I wasn’t entirely sure where this one was going, and possibly made some wrong assumptions about the style of film it would be, but ended up being a fun sorta Spielbergy kid film, not entirely dissimilar in tone to Stand By Me. Sort of 80’s Adventure, I guess.
So, not that many, I guess.
There were a couple we started and didn’t make it all the way through – main one to mention is Frozen: we felt we’d been virtualy strongarmed into this by our French snow holiday companions, who asked at every opportunity “HAVE YOU SEEN FROZEN?!”, irrespective of knowing full well that we hadn’t. It’s an utterly woeful thriller about 3 kids who get stuck for the weekend on a ski lift. My only hope is that the producers made a pact immediately after this film’s release to NEVER MAKE ANOTHER FILM, EVER.