Saturday, 24 December 2011

You MUST Know What I Think! Best of 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again when a man no one knows gives an opinion no one cares about, but for better or for worse, here is my top 20 films of 2011.

I have noticed a theme for the year seems to be films not delivering good endings based on their setups. I wonder if you’ll agree?

I should put a little disclaimer here stating there are still some films I haven’t seen that could make their way on to this list otherwise, and even though I try stick to genre films, this list is very genre-non-specific. 2012 will be a nice horror year, I promise, but for now, enjoy my opinion on cinema 2011.

21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The former child actors of these films have never actually delivered good performances, but the source material is engaging and the longevity and event-like nature of each film has made Harry Potter this generations Star Wars. By no means an amazing film, but great closure to wrap up the ongoing story that began in my childhood. A word has to be said for the awful effects on the coda. I didn’t notice it too much, but those I saw the film with laughed their asses off at it.

20. The Adjustment Bureau
I have a soft spot for Matt Damon, I have to say, and this idea of angels tugging at the strings of everyday life, affecting something in a minor way so it has a major knock on effect (butterfly effect?) makes for a great film. Damon plays a potentially major player in politicks, but strays off the path set for him to follow a girl. A bit slow and clich├ęd in places, but altogether intriguing and thoughtful, though I stand by my assertion that the ending is a hell of a let down.

19. Battle: Los Angeles
Aliens attack LA. Soldiers fight aliens. Simple but effective. I always see this as the superior companion piece to the turd known as Skyline. There are definite influences from video games like Modern Warfare on show. Though flawed, the film delivers on most grounds.

18. The Thing 
This premake (prequel/remake, ain’t I clever?) is enjoyable on many levels, though suffers far too much from a ‘been there, done that’ feeling throughout. What it lacks in suspense and tension that the original delivered, this new cinematic outing of The Thing makes up for with action and sympathetic characters. Little bit of trivia: The CG is awful, but it appears it is hiding even worse practical work!

17. Insidious
Starting out very chilling and with some greats jumps, James Wans’ latest horror devolves into some cheesy territory, but with some nicely placed nods to classic supernatural flicks like Poltergeist, the film has an awful lot of charm.

16. Captain America
Another slick entry in the Marvel cannon, the film is colourful and polished and features a brilliant performance by Hugo Weaving. We have come a long way with superhero films in the past decade or so, and though not a big stand out, Captain America delivers the action-packed fun you could hope for.

15. Hobo with a Shotgun
Made to be like a low budget 70s exploitation flick, Hobo with a Shotgun goes balls-to-the-wall in how over the top it is. I haven’t seen Drive, which everyone seems to describe in a very similar manner, but here we have Rutger Hauer in all his over the top glory. Grindhouse made fun references to these kinds of films, but Hobo may be the closest to the genuine artefact that I have seen.

14. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I can hear the groans now, but screw you. You watch a film like this for action and giant robots, and by God you get it. Though very long, the film never feels like it overstays its welcome. No, it has three very distinct acts to it, and all of them deliver their own punches. The final act with the skyscraper eating robot is not to be missed.

13. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Ah, my Katie Holmes obsession continues… I knew going in that this film probably wouldn’t deliver the goods it seemed to promise in the well executed trailer. I watched the original film, which was quite poor, and knew that a film that gets put on the shelf for as long as this one was normally is going to have some problems. That said, it is actually a good fun horror flick that, despite its downfalls (ridiculous mini-monsters, some outstandingly major plot holes) is an enjoyable romp. I’d recommend this for the young adult audience.

12. The Green Hornet
This is a shocker for me, because I was never a fan of the Green Hornet, nor was I expecting to enjoy this film, but by golly, I was wrong. The film plays like a good version of Rush Hour, and leading man Seth Rogen is in fighting form. I wasn’t expecting to find myself laughing at the film as much as I did. It seems this film will probably be quickly forgotten, which is a shame, because it is actually very worthwhile.

11. Super 8
This one had over a year of anticipation behind it, and though it didn’t quite live up to it (a rather poor final few minutes, I have to say), I did enjoy the film, especially the kids making their own super 8 movie. There was talk of this being like a successor to Cloverfield, or being the new ET, but no, unfortunately it isn’t that kind of film at all. It’s just a well executed middle of the road monster flick.

10. Source Code
Arriving in the wake of Inception, this reality-confused film was always going to have an uphill battle, but it remains, even after several viewings, a well done and much less full of itself counterpart to Christopher Nolan’s instant classic. Though it began to almost have a Twilight Zone-feel towards the end, the performances are great, and it asks some thought but not too much of the viewer.

9. X-Men First Class
I’m a sucker for an X-Men film, though the previous 2 instalments have been major letdowns. I am glad to say First Class is a great return to the standard Bryan Singer set. When I saw the film in the cinema, I thought it was a bit too long and slow moving in places, though upon a recent viewing, I think I must recant these complaints. Michael Fassbender is easily the best part of the film, but the whole show is respectful to the mutant universe (and of course, features a badass Kevin Bacon). This one is for X-Men fans and non-fans alike.

8. Scream 4
Wes Craven returns to the well with another Scream sequel that, after such an extended hiatus, was very much on the line of being either great or poor. Thankfully, it edged more to the great side. As with all the Scream films, it is very referential and self-referential, with its tongue firmly in cheek all the way through. On occasion, it gets bloated under its own pretensions of analysing the horror genre, but for better or for worse, maintains a great whodunit plot all the way throughout. Behind the first film in the series, this is a very easy second.

7. Thor
Thor is another Marvel character I am not too familiar with, and the trailers for the film didn’t exactly blow me away, but I took a chance, and did this deliver! Though it is colourful and action-packed in all the ways you expect a Marvel film to be, there is some element of class to it, by having all the action occur in middle-of-nowhere, USA. Humour plays a big factor in this ones appeal, as does some very well developed character flaws and arcs. This is one to enjoy around the holidays, as it has a universal appeal and is a great take on stories we have already seen before.

6. Paranormal Activity 3
Though it doesn’t hold a candle to the first film in the series, PA3 marks a massive increase in quality from the awful Paranormal Activity 2. Set in the 80s (which is probably the worst conceit of the film), the film doesn’t exactly do subtle, but has some great jumps and a lot of tension. When I saw it in the cinema, it was easily the most vocal response I have ever seen a crowd give. The best part? The loudest were all guys, screaming ‘WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT THE FUCK!?’. I have my reservations about the very end of the film, but this one stands as a great one for a scary night in.

5. Burke and Hare
I have already ranted and raved about John Landis’ latest effort, featuring sterling performances from Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. I am cheating here, because the film actually came out last year, but it has had little to no attention until this year. Huzzah for Burke and Hare!

4. Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
This is another one I have gone on about at length. Though I am not too fond of the ending, the film is otherwise a gem. It was initially produced and did the festival circuit in 2010, but it has only received its wide release this past year. If you haven’t seen it yet, get a hold of it right away, and it IS best viewed in a group. Oh, but beware, don’t watch the trailer. It’ll spoil all the best bits for you.

3. I Saw the Devil
An amazing South Korean revenge film that pulls no punches. A man kidnaps and murders a woman, but is then hunted down by her husband who, instead of exacting immediate revenge, makes the killer suffer through a series of unfortunate events. Fans of films like Kill Bill, Oldboy or Audition will love this film. It is stunningly shot and resonates in so many ways. Well directed, well written, well acted. An amazing film.

2. Red State
Kevin Smith’s first foray out of comedy and it is very fine. As I have said here, the film is an enigma in itself and is unrelenting with its twists and turns. I had known about this film for years and was always curious about it, expecting something completely different than what I got, but by all means, I enjoyed the hell out of it. On a small side note, people attacked Smith for thinking of asking fans for donations to make this film, which I personally would have loved to do (imagine having your name in the credits of a Kevin Smith film!). However, people seem to have no problem with a little film called Iron Sky being fully funded by people like you and me. Nothing against Iron Sky, it looks like it’ll be a hoot, but I think the fact fans couldn’t contribute to Red State has taken away from the almost personal approach Smith has with the entire film otherwise.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
An unexpected number 1, perhaps? People were ready to write off this prequel as fodder similar to Tim Burton’s ill-conceived 2001 effort, but as the trailers held a lot of promise, the film itself delivered in bucket loads. I am quite an Ape fan, fondly remembering Channel 4 running an Ape marathon, but knew that it could be a poor cash-in in this reboot-crazed age. Nope, this film is everything you could want from a film. There are great characters, engaging story and it is well shot. I was just waiting for the moment for the ape to say ‘No’, and I was not disappointed. Part sci-fi monster flick, part jailhouse exploitation, part revenge film, the film is beautiful in its characterisations (John Lithgow brought a tear to my eye), with even the CG characters delivering like no ones business. A surprisingly good film and one I know I will enjoy for a long time to come.

Worst Film of 2011:
Hellraiser: Revelations
Seriously, fuck this film.

Now, bring on 2012!