Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

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)

Film Review: The Tree of Life (2011)

Genre: Drama/Spiritual

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken

Director: Terrence Malick

The Tree Of Life is one of the most challenging films I would ever have the pleasure to review, a cinematic poem of incredible visual beauty that dares to examine our place in the Universe through the eyes of a boy growing up in Texas during the 1950s.

Only the fifth feature-length film of Terrence Malick’s long career, The Tree Of Life is as ambitious as it is personal, feeling like the director’s quest to find God in the memory of a fading childhood.

Malick’s exploration is a quiet one, using his impressive cast as vessels of emotion that speak through their eyes and through their touch, more than by the content of their words. For most of its running time, The Tree Of Life centers on Jack, the oldest son of an American southern family. He is shown as an older man reminiscing about his childhood and the loss of a brother, played by a nearly silent Sean Penn; and as a young kid, played by the very capable child actor Hunter McCracken, who seems to grow up in front of our eyes, balancing two very different parents and two younger siblings.

Continue reading Film Review: The Tree of Life (2011)

IMDB Top 250: Snatch (2000)

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Farina, Alan Ford, Benicio Del Toro

Year: 2000

Current rank on IMDT Top 250 list: # 118

Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever

After his first venture into film-making with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie continued his run of success when he directed Snatch, an over-the-top British gangster comedy with a rather impressive cast that included the likes of Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro and Brad Pitt.

Continue reading IMDB Top 250: Snatch (2000)

2011 in film, a preview to the Oscars

Seeing that the Academy Awards are just around the corner, I would like to cave to the award craze and present a list that is representative of my take on the last year in film, which is intended to be a substitute of the top 10 of 2011, which I still can’t publish because I’m missing some promising films. I hope you all enjoy it.

The Year of Brad: arguably the best year in Brad Pitt’s career as he was involved in the awe-inspiring Tree of Life and the touching Moneyball.

Continue reading 2011 in film, a preview to the Oscars

A few words about the Academy Awards nominations

As I managed to finally close a project at the firm I work in just this past weekend, the Academy Awards announced their nominations for the best in another year of film.

As always, the Academy surprises all of us, in positive and negative ways, unless you are at the ends of the spectrum of taste that is. For those who enjoy blockbusters or mainstream cinema, the Academy gave several nominations to “Bridesmaids”, “The Help” and “Puss in Boots”. If, on the other hand, you love smaller, modest films, the Academy gave space to “Albert Nobbs” or “A Better Life”. Even for those who enjoy the oddballs, art-house type films, the Academy managed to shine a light, even if it was a very dim one at that, to films like “The Tree of Life” and “Drive” (it was only nominated for technical awards).

Having said this, lets dig in deeper and talk about each category while I throw in my predictions:

Continue reading A few words about the Academy Awards nominations

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…

The Best moments in film history: John Doe in “Se7en”

May contain some SPOILERS !!

For most of its running time, Se7en is a non-remarkable crime drama starring a young Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

It is only when a great actor by the name of Kevin Spacey comes into the picture, quite dramatically I might add, that Se7en is taken to a level of thrill and excitement that did not seem possible for most of the film.

Spacey plays a psychopath named John Doe who believes he is to set an example about the evils of society by making his severely flawed victims suffer their worst nightmare before they finally die at his hands. He chooses his victims carefully, based on the seven deadly sins, each one being guilty for committing one of them.

What is remarkable about Spacey’s John Doe is not what he has done, but the convincing way in which he portrays a man that is void of any moral compass, of feeling any sort of remorse, who is not able to feel bad for any of his victims because he feels they are not worthy of clemency. At first, John Doe surrenders while covered in blood in the police station. The detectives don’t understand why he would, knowing by then that his plan was not yet complete. John had killed only 5 of his victims, 2 were still missing. Somerset, who is the more inquisitive of the two detectives in charge, challenges this notion, always suspicious that there is certainly more to come. As the audience, we relate to Somerset as we automatically think that a serial killer as grotesque and merciless as John Doe would never give up when he is so close to completing his so-called “masterpiece”.

By the end of the movie we know that his plan was indeed complete and that he left it to the inexperienced and anger-prone detective Mills (Brad Pitt) to have the power in his hands to make it possible. The cleverness of his plan is shocking and we, as the audience, are probably as surprised as the characters in the movie.

At the end, we are secretly in awe of Spacey’s Doe for the precision of his plan. His serial killer is the incarnation of psychopathic behavior. He welcomes death, in fact, he looks forward to it, knowing that once he passes he will probably be immortalized by the media. What is unsettling about Spacey’ performance is that we believe in what he believes. He is so convincing in what he says that we cannot argue against it. We are lost in Spacey’s eyes, devoid of emotion or fear. His voice is malignant yet thrilling, revealing in hints and pieces that we are speaking to someone who cannot be persuaded or coerced.

Spacey’s performance is all the more thrilling and relevant because the film desperately needed it. What the picture lacked for most of its running time, Spacey’s Doe brought it to the fore and exceeded our expectations, delivering a surprising knockout punch to the story.

Spacey’s brief performance in Se7en elevated the film and he was the deserving recipient of several awards for his extremely electrifying portrayal (surprisingly overlooked by the Oscars). His John Doe, in my opinion, rivals even that of Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Lecter anyday.

Niels

IMDB Top 250: 12 Monkeys (1995)

My mission to watch all of the TOP 250 films in the IMDB site (as of March 22nd) continues….

Among all of the top rated films of the site, there are few that received as little recognition by the public as 12 Monkeys.

The movie, directed by the underrated Terry Gilliam, touches upon a subject that is much too common in contemporary cinema: the extermination, or near extermination of the human race due to a virus that either kills humans completely or partially (zombies!).

In 12 Monkeys, we are presented with a grim future of civilization. 99% of the human race has been completely wiped out and the remaining few now reside in a subterranean world, far away from the virus that has contaminated the air. A good part of the merit of this film can be attributed to the artistry behind the design of this futuristic world, one in which animals roam the surface freely unaffected by the virus, while humans live away from the sun, no longer populating cities and crowding the planet’s resources, but in cages and laboratories. It is a dark world, where civilization is only a shadow of its former glory, trapped indoors, defeated by the circumstances and alienated by its horrible fate.

In this context, we are introduced to James Cole (Bruce Willis), a man secluded in a cage, punished to live like a rat due to his history of aggressive behavior. On a day like any other, James is randomly selected to explore the surface and collect evidence that could continue to lead scientists to find a cure and piece together the events that led to the extermination of the human race. Despite his supposedly delinquent past, James strikes me as one of the more “normal” humans of this virus-ridden world, since even those who sit at the top of this world seem to be caricatures of humans, strange obsessive scientists that have clearly been mentally affected by their inability to find a cure. In James they find yet another rat lab in which to deposit their hope of finding a way out.

After a few successful trips to the surface, the scientists present James with a unique opportunity. He is to travel to the past, using a time machine, right before the first case of the virus was detected. He is told this is an opportunity to find answers and be the hero. Without many options, James starts a journey that takes him to the early 1990s, in the midst of a society that feels foreign to him. His inability to understand his surroundings and adapt to this world quickly put him in a mental institution where he faithfully meets Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), who is to play a major role in the destruction of the human race.

It is at this moment that James starts shaping not only his future, but the events that would follow, finding himself, sometimes accidentally, in the middle of the situation that led to the spreading of the deadly virus.

From here on, the movie presents us with a dual reality, one rooted in the future, and the other in the past. These worlds are obviously very different, but it is in their similarities that the film makes a strong statement. To James, the future clearly sucks, but the past does not feel all that great either as he witnesses a chaotic society full of vice, corruption, crime and poverty. He is, despite his tendency towards aggression and violence, the only one that seems interested in saving civilization, always struggling to find his voice in a world that does not believe in his doomsday theories. Eventually, James finds a confidant, his psychiatrist Kathryn (Madeleine Stowe). She, unlike the rest starts to listen as he proves, time and time again, that he is too rational and strong-willed in the pursuit of his goal to be crazy. As she starts to trust and support him in his quest, James finds a small escape from the huge burden of responsibility and, in doing so, he begins to make us doubt about the real purpose of his quest, making us question if he already feels he is destined to fail, or even more tragically, whether his mission is real at all.

In this sense, the film finds its force in the uncertainty of the plot. The way it works itself out is not only richly complex, but it also makes us doubt, giving the audience a reason to think about the very nature of the conflict, and whether or not the struggle to save humanity is real or simply the wild imagination of a man consumed by paranoia.

With enough twists and turns to make you dizzy; with a familiar yet original way of approaching a familiar movie genre; with a very convincing and entertaining cast; and a great amount of artistry in its portrayal of the past and the future; 12 Monkeys is one of the greatest and most accomplished sci-fi films of all time. I recommend anyone to watch it before a virus kills us all !

Rating: 4 out of 5 (great)

Note: Initially I had 125 films left to watch of the TOP 250 of IMDB. I have now seen 5 of the films and I have reviewed three. Expect a couple of reviews in the coming days exploring “Gran Torino” and the classic “Casablanca”.

Niels