Saturday, 31 December 2011

Favourite Movies Of 2011

Below are ten favourites that I got to see during occasional visits to the mainland, and to put these into context, a wish list of movies I missed.

Country Strong (12A)
Commanding central performance by Gwyneth Paltrow as an iconic country singer fallen from grace. Charming romance from Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund, supported by a strong Country and Western soundtrack performed by the cast. This year's Walk The Line.

Drive (18)
A getaway driver gets mixed up with the wrong crowd in this year's most stylish and atmospheric thriller. Had me hooked from the start; one of those movies with instant appeal. The director keeps tight control of the pace, alternately flooring the throttle then stamping on the brake to deliver a tempestuous ride. Compelling dialogue, nasty characters capable of horrific brutality, all backed by a hypnotic soundtrack.

The Ides Of March (15)
Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman fight for control of George Clooney's political campaign in a standout drama. The politics are purely a backdrop; this story could be about control of a company or a sports team. What underpins this movie is the sparring between the two characters and their aides, as morals are tested, agendas and allegiances change, and stories are spun to a baying press corps. A career-defining role for Hoffman.

Source Code (12A)
High concept action thriller as a man searches for a bomb on a commuter train. An awkward setup and steep learning curve are compensated by a touching conclusion that suggests a sequel. This movie demands that the audience keeps up, and raises questions of how you would respond to a similar challenge under intense pressure.

The King's Speech (12A)
Colin Firth plays the reluctant King George, seeking therapy for a speech impediment, in preparation for addressing the nation on imminent war with Germany. What begins as a man's trial to control a stutter becomes a suspense thriller as the ominous task of making a seemingly-impossible speech looms ahead. Gentle pacing gives rise to climactic tension. Colin Firth delivers an outstanding performance as the king, with Geoffrey Rush in a compelling role as his unconventional therapist.

The Way Back (12A)
A group of convicts escapes into the Siberian wilderness and fights the elements, and each other, for survival. Painfully real scenes of suffering and hardship make this an uneasy watch. Despite a simple plot and shallow character definition, this true story of survival remains absorbing as the group encounter great obstacles under impossible odds. Breathtaking scenery and temperature extremes abound; watch this with a roaring fire.

TT3D: Closer To The Edge (15)
A glimpse into the world of motorbike racing on the Isle of Man's public roads, seen from the perspective of several riders. Candid and insightful, down-to-earth characters, edge-of-the-seat action sequences and a profound sense of loss at the fatalities make this a well-rounded documentary of a thrilling event.

Hanna (12A)
A young girl, raised in the arctic by her father and trained in combat and survival, goes on the run from US authorities in an international game of hide and seek. Sensitive portrayal of a girl torn between childhood and having to fight for her life against sinister government agents and experienced killers. Warm and touching, with an instantly-hummable soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers.

Limitless (15)
A secret new drug gives a man super-human intelligence, but the drug falls into the wrong hands and he must fight to protect his life and his girl. A classic moral tale of the pitfalls of not being yourself, raising questions of "what would I do", but very watchable as the man becomes more deeply embroiled in a job and lifestyle made possible only by a fast-reducing bag of pills.

The Mechanic (15)
Jason Statham is the Englishman who has quietly carved a niche for his own brand of action movies. Delivering exactly what the action movie genre demands, and little else, this is a satisfying and indulgent blast, with fights, chases, stunts and Jason's unique charm. This year's "The Transporter".

Notable others..

Super 8 (12A): A Steven Spielberg tale of a group of kids making a home movie in the 1970's, against the backdrop of a train crash and mysterious disappearances in the town. Doesn't approach the highs of ET, but a solid drama with likeable characters. Stay until the end credits to see the kid's final production.

Friends With Benefits (15): Probably this year's best romantic comedy, with a strong chemistry between the leads and some great one-liners.

Senna (12A): the fatal crash seems all the more poignant and devastating, coming at the end of 106 minutes of gripping storytelling. Equally good for fans and non-fans of motor racing.

The movies I missed

Midnight in Paris, The Guard, Rise of the planet of the apes, The Help, One Day, Contagion, The Skin I Live In, In Time, Melancholia, Hugo, The Muppets, The Artist, My Week With Marylin, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sherlock Holmes: a game of shadows, Mission Impossible - ghost protocol, The Iron Lady, The deep blue sea, A Separation, We need to talk about Kevin

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