Category Archives: 2011 Reviews

The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

It comes 10 months into 2012 but, for the first time, I am confident enough to make my own list of the “best” films of 2011.

Imagine how important it was for me to wait until now to publish this list, that the film that eventually ends up at the top is one that I only managed to watch 3 weeks ago. Without it, this list would have been a crime against my own taste.

Instead of giving you a top 10 or a top 20, I simply give you a run-down of all of the films that received, at the very least, a 4/5 (very good) in my rating system. The result is that there are 17 films out of the almost 100 films from 2011 that I managed to watch, 11 of which received a 4/5, five films received a 4.5/5 and only one received the very rare 5/5.

Despite still missing some highly praised films released the previous solar year (it is impossible to cover them all), I now give you my favorite films of 2011 (and why they are) when we are already in October 2012:

Continue reading The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

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1-minute reviews: Submarine, Win Win & Final Destination 5

After a celebratory last few days welcoming the new year, I am back to continue posting after a fruitful 9 months of being a part of the so-called blogosphere.
Today, as promised, I offer the reviews of a couple of well-received 2011 films and one not so great sequel/prequel that I was forced to watch under peer pressure.

Continue reading 1-minute reviews: Submarine, Win Win & Final Destination 5

1-minute reviews: Incendies and The Help

My goal to catch up with the year’s best films has started earnestly. Today I offer you two reviews that touch upon films that are, in different measures, both successful and entertaining. Although Incendies was officially released overseas late last year, its incursion into American cinemas did not happen until this year. For that reason, the following films will be considered, in my view, as 2011 movies.

Continue reading 1-minute reviews: Incendies and The Help

1-minute reviews: Melancholia, Baaria and The Devil’s Double

In this post of “1-minute reviews” I analyze three films that I have seen over the last couple of weeks: Melancholia, Baaria and The Devil’s Double.

Melancholia (Lars Von Trier – 2011)

If judged from a purely visual standpoint, the latest film by Danish director Lars Von Trier is as stunning as anything you will see in theaters on this or any year. The large mansion, the expansive landscapes and the endless skies all serve to build a cinematography that is elegant and captivating, setting the stage for extremely detailed characters that express a plethora of emotions that range from complete and utter desperation to a quiet sense of resignation.

Continue reading 1-minute reviews: Melancholia, Baaria and The Devil’s Double

1-minute reviews: Moneyball, Horrible Bosses, Matchpoint, Immortals, Like Crazy, and more…

With much left to write to update my IMDB TOP 250 film challenge, I give you a few reviews of some of the films I have seen recently.

Moneyball (2011 – Bennett Miller): not being a fan of baseball in any way, I can say it is quite an accomplishment for a film that revolves around the sport to have captured my attention so deeply. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say it is the best performance of Brad Pitt’s career and I would go even further and say he is in my short list in the Best Actor category of 2011. I confidently state it because I could not imagine anyone else playing the part of Billy Bean, the former sporting director of the Oakland Athletics that significantly changed the philosophy on how to manage a major league baseball team.

The film’s script is smart, funny and carefully crafted. It provides a great portrait of Billy as a person, exploring not only his love and devotion for baseball, but his insecurities and deeply personal struggles. The cast around Brad Pitt is equally persuasive, with the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a standout in the role of manager of the Oakland A’s. The cinematography is equally impressive. Baseball fields are treated as temples that are to be admired, which also serve as catalysts to people’s hopes and fears.
Props go to Jonah Hill who was convincing as Brad’s geeky sidekick.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent)

Continue reading 1-minute reviews: Moneyball, Horrible Bosses, Matchpoint, Immortals, Like Crazy, and more…

1-minute reviews: Drive, Conan: The Barbarian, The Verdict, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Senna

Even though I’ve slacked a little with my IMDB TOP 250 challenge, I’ve certainly continued to watch films that range from the brand new releases to some old favorites.

Here are my brief reviews of the latest films I have had the pleasure to watch:

Drive (2011): this is one of the most interesting movies I have seen in a while. So many different aspects that are worth analyzing. French director Nicolas Refn moves to Hollywood and delivers, together with Ryan Gosling, a thrilling visual experience with a lot of heart. It is also a tribute to cinema, often feeling like an art-house experiment that evokes the pace and the feel of the great “Taxi Driver”. In many ways, it is a modern revision of the Scorsese film featuring a incredibly handsome hero that is not much of a hero, but one who we cannot resist nonetheless.

Its pace might be frustrating and the story might not be the most creative we have seen this year, but it is certainly a thrilling experience unlike most.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

The Verdict (1982): this is the story of an unremarkable-divorced-old-lawyer scrapping for work in New York City. A man that drinks and stumbles around town aimlessly who one day happens to come across a case that has the potential to change his life. The film is, above all, the stage to a very powerful performance by the unforgettable Paul Newman who, for the first time in his career, looked tired and vulnerable. The film starts out slow, presenting a man on the verge of total collapse, with an eroded moral sense and a lack of self-respect. As Paul Newman starts to regain control, although never completely, we start to understand the fragility of this man and how much he needs this case to salvage whatever is left of his broken spirit.

The film is touching at times mostly due to a finely tuned script that was made to fit a virtuoso performance by one of the ultimate greats under the watchful eye of a director’s director: Sidney Lumet.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

Senna (2011): little could have gone wrong with this documentary if enough care was given in telling the amazing story of Ayrton Senna Da Silva. The late Brazilian F1 driver was as fascinating in film as he was in life. He was handsome, outgoing, friendly and extremely talented. He was a risk-taker, an emotional and passionate person who loved life to the point of risking it often. The documentary focuses on his career, often zooming into his expressive eyes, talking about his incredible talent and love for the sport. The film is effective in that it makes us fall in love with Senna as a person even when we know little besides his F1 carreer. For fans of the sport (myself included), it was an opportunity to relive a tragic moment that most of us would rather forget. Senna is a tragic love story about a man that was capable of rallying an entire country and an entire sport around him.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

Conan: The Barbarian (2011 remake): It is time for Hollywood to understand that there are certain films that do not need a remake. Conan was made famous a few decades back because of a young and muscular rising star born in Austria who would eventually become so universal he can be referred to as simply “Arnold”. Now the year is 2011 and yet another buff attractive actor comes to the fore and accepts a role that catapulted another similar story to fame.

One must understand that its predecessor did not make Arnold more famous due to its quality. Far from it. In fact, it probably had more to do with the distasteful and continuous violence that combined with half-dressed women and men, some of whom were amazingly gorgeous, catapulted that film to fame. The remake played around with the story and took itself a bit too seriously. It was overwrought, cliche, tacky and excessively lengthy. The action sequences were entertaining at first, but the systematic staging of the battles fueled by the purest of desire for revenge quickly got tiresome.

I was inclined to walk out after seeing the manner in which Conan was born, but the film picked up just enough to make me want to finish watching.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011 remake): Unlike the previous film, no one could have convinced me a couple of years ago to have given an endorsement for the making of another remake of the famous Planet of the Apes saga. It is not the most interesting of stories out there, failing to generate anything remarkable the last time it was remade with Mark Whalberg in the lead. However, the franchise revitalized itself with a strong cast, a smart director and, above all, a very respectable script. One of the film’s most successful aspects is that it chooses to focus on the touching yet thrilling story of Cesar, the lead ape, whose fluid humanoid behavior proved to be excitingly unpredictable. The film as a whole possesses a good pace, rarely stopping to let the viewer catch a breath. For its thrills, the depth of the script and the sleekness of the story, the 2011 remake of the classic might just end up being the best remake of the year.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

Niels

Review: Tangled (2010)


I will step out of my mission to watch the top 250 films of IMDB to review Tangled, a Disney Animation Studios movie released last year to critical and commercial success.

Tangled surprised me. It was irreverent, witty, beautifully rendered and cleverly scripted. It comes as no surprise, however, that the mastermind behind the revamping of an old princess tale is no other that the founder of Pixar, perhaps the most innovative studio in Hollywood. In the deal that brought Pixar under the umbrella of Disney, both studios compromised to work together to give the legendary Disney Animation wing a breath of new life.

Tangled is an interesting fusion of the styles that have defined Pixar within the traditional and romantic storytelling of Disney. It is in the partnership of both that the movie blends an otherwise typical princess story into a modern animated film that is set to entertain people of all ages. It has the charm and the scale of old Disney but with the edginess and vibrancy of a Pixar production.

The movie follows Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), a princess stuck in a castle due to a very deceiving witch (Donna Murphy) who kidnaps her as a baby from the king and queen of this picturesque world while pretending to be her mom. The witch manipulates the princess by painting a world full of deceit, selfishness and horrible creatures that want to cut her magic hair. Now, given the formulaic set-up of Tangled, the narrative does wonders to use humor and sarcasm to start defining the unique relationship Rapunzel and “mother” have. As it is accustomed in animated movies, the secondary characters are animals with human-like personalities that are as interesting (if not more) than those of the main characters. In Tangled we find a cute little chameleon that acts as Rapunzel’s sidekick and later an incredibly persistent horse that chases after Rapunzel’s love interest, the modern prince turned thief, Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levy).

Both main characters have an authenticity to them that is sometimes at odds with the overly beautiful and unreal scenery that they share. The wittiness of Flynn blends nicely with the innocence of Rapunzel. The adventure they embark on is one of self-discovery, for Flynn it turns into a life-changing expedition that allows him to rethink his priorities and, for Rapunzel, the first and best day of the rest of her life.

For its charm, beautifully-rendered animation, wittiness and modern take on an old child’s tale, Tangled gives Disney Animation a brand new hit for a new generation of moviegoers.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

Niels