Review Of The Half-Year 2011
The King’s Speech
The Film: Oscar-clutching history lesson starring Colin Firth as stuttering monarch King George VI.
TF Says: “The dialogue’s lightness of touch pervades the whole film, turning what could easily have been a stuffy slog of a period piece into well-oiled entertainment. Neither does it feel like a TV movie, thanks in no small part to high-class production values, from Danny Cohen’s lush cinematography to the suitably precise sound design.”
The Film: Demented ballet horror movie following Natalie Portman’s increasingly hysterical dancer.
TF Says: “Set in a cloistered world full of pitter-patter feet and stomping egos, Darren Aronofsky’s fifth feature starts off hysterical and raises the barre from there, fusing genres (psychodrama, horror, backstage musical) and masterpieces ( The Red Shoes, All About Eve, Suspiria , pretty much all of Polanski’s early work) with spirited, nay, reckless aplomb.”
The Film: Emotionally-draining drama about the dissolution of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s on-screen marriage.
TF Says: “Gosling may get to be the devoted romantic while Williams can appear distant and cold. But Blue Valentine doesn’t play the blame game: love and its loss are never rational. You might feel like averting your gaze at times, but don’t – performances this penetrating are a sight to see.”
The Film: Crafty and cool Australian crime thriller.
TF Says: “With his anthropological eye recalling early Scorsese, Michôd synchs the simmer of dread to character and setting, a suburban jungle of parched interiors and colourdrained exteriors where the strong prey in packs on the weak.”
The Film: Coen Brothers remake introducing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as a young girl searching for the man who killed her father.
TF Says: “In the plum role of Rooster Cogburn, Jeff Bridges can’t totally resist the temptation to ham it up a bit (though a lot less than Wayne did). But given such a richly larger-than-life character, who could blame him? Bridges lends the Marshal a deep, throaty, mellowed-in-whiskey voice that gives full weight to his hard-bitten pronouncements.”
The Film: Comic book adaptation with Ryan Reynolds as a super-powered galaxy protector.
TF Says: “ Thor , you’ll recall, was also a swaggering upstart brought low by hubris. Over the course of Branagh’s film, however, he learned enough maturity to re-acquire his powers. Jordan, alas, is a bit of a tool who – bar an unlikely third-act conversion to noble warrior – stays a bit of a tool. He is, in short, a hard guy to root for.”
The Film: Clint Eastwood-directed ethereal mystery.
TF Says: “Scripted by an unusually solemn Peter Morgan ( The Queen ), Hereafter ’s fatal flaw isn’t bad filmmaking, it’s po-faced pomposity. What might have been a heavy thriller is too stodgy to entertain and too silly to take seriously.”
The Film: Stars Paul Bettany as a futuristic warrior priest who takes on vampires.
TF Says: “Like so many of his class of filmmakers, Stewart thrives on the spectacle he borrows from the likes of Blade Runner , Star Wars and Indiana Jones . But he never bothers to understand that depth of story is a necessary foundation for his surface spark. Any prayers for character development beyond Priest ’s basic outline – bad-ass kicks ass – go sadly unheeded.”
The Film: Comedy (supposedly) with Cameron Diaz as the titular educator.
TF Says: “Twenty minutes in, you’ll begin to feel like you’re in detention. Lines that work both on paper and in the trailer are surrounded by too much space, allowing tumbleweeds to roll, and Diaz’s creation emerges as a cruel, shallow, charisma-free, detestable person – or, put bluntly, a bitch.”
The Green Hornet
The Film: Michel Gondry’s attempt at a comic book adap (in 3D) starring Seth Rogen.
TF Says : “Committed to kook for a good chunk of its two-hour run-time, it’s only when Gondry starts kow-towing to genre conventions that ennui sets in. A frenetic third act full of explosions and car chases feels almost as redundant as a barely present Cameron Diaz (Reid’s secretary).”
Movies You Might Have Missed
The Film: Dreamy, well-shot road movie following Michelle Williams and a band of travellers.
TF Says: “The style is austere, minimalist even – for long passages there’s no dialogue, Jeff Grace’s score falls silent, and we’re left with the sigh of the wind and the squeak of a wagon wheel. But the slow build-up of tension is inexorable. And in the end, there are no easy answers.”
The Film: Devastating drama about a pair of twins and their quest to find their biological father.
TF Says: “A striking adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s stage play, this intimate epic interweaves the personal, the political and the mythical to gripping effect. Expertly shifting between present and past , writer-director Denis Villeneuve displays an impressive command of his material, patiently building up to an emotionally explosive climax.”
The Film: Frothy, earnest drama starring Martin Sheen as a man who walks the Camino de Santiago.
TF Says: “First The Way Back , now The Way : since when did walking become a spectator sport? Give Mr Sheen his due though – he invests a long journey with heart and sole.”
The Film: Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a couple grieving the death of their young son.
TF Says: “Kidman is on blistering form, making Becca bravely unlikeable as she conceals her suffering behind a rigid façade. In shining a light into people’s different coping mechanisms, this sob-fest delivers uplift and catharsis to go with its woe and waterworks.”
The Film: Outrageous, stylish, genre-defying oddity from Queer Cinema icon Gregg Araki.
TF Says: “It’s all deliriously nonsensical, with lots of sex, nudity and dialogue that suggests Araki’s characters have graduated with honours from the Diablo Cody school of sassy teenspeak.”
Best Action Scenes
X-Men: First Class
The mutants vs humans battle comes to a fiery head as the confrontation between US and Russian forces is interrupted by a fierce mutant tussle – and Erik finally gets his revenge on Sebastian Shaw.
Kung Fu Panda 2
Panda Po comes through and saves the day, channelling his inner peace to sabotage villainous Shen’s cannons. The two then battle, until Shen makes a fatal mistake…
Confrontations pile on top of one another at the climax of the Coen brothers’ stellar remake, as Chaney tries to kill Mattie, only to be knocked out by LaBoeuf. After that, Rooster Cogburn takes on the remaining gang members on horseback…
Numerous battle scenes to choose from in this historical blade-clasher, but the scene in which King John’s Viking army finally penetrate Rochester Castle’s defences leads to one hell of a bloody brawl.
It’s a tiny moment in a film more interested in family dynamics and political corruption, but director Doug Liman gives one Baghdad bombing scene startling immediacy by filming it entirely from the inside of a civilian’s car.
Kevin Bacon – X:Men: First Class
The Hollywood ledge makes for a stylish, preening, sinister villain in the comic-book prequel, playing the charismatic Sebastian Shaw.
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
She won an Oscar for her role in Darren Aronofksy’s nutso drama, and rightly so – we were pirouetting with joy when she nabbed it.
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Another Oscar contender, Kidman’s fearless in her approach to the brittle, sensitive subject of Rabbit Hole . She emerges triumphant.
James Franco – 127 Hours
Not many actors could hold their audience’s attention on their own for nearly an entire movie, but Franco proved he wasn’t just any actor with 127 Hours .
Javier Bardem - Biutiful
More introspective musing, but Bardem hit a home run with his portrayal of a father on the brink of death who just wants to do right by his family. Tear-jerking stuff.
Rooster Cogburn: “It astonishes me that Mr LaBoeuf has been shot, trampled, and nearly bitten his tongue off, and yet not only does he continue to talk but he spills the banks of English.”
Paul: “Are you gonna draw me like your French girls, Jack?”
Megan: “I'm glad he's single because I'm going to climb that like a tree.”
Albany: “What a tedious little man.”
Rango: “I couldn't help but notice you noticing me noticing you.”
Just 13 years old when she filmed True Grit , Steinfeld was denied a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, instead landing a Best Supporting Actress nod instead. In our book, that’s a blatant snub. But we love Steinfeld, and have a feeling she’s going places - especially as she's just landed the lead in a new adap of Romeo And Juliet .
Aussie Edgerton lit up Animal Kingdom with his focussed, gruff, alpha male presence. He’s been around a while, making blink-miss appearances in the second and third Star Wars prequels, as well as Ned Kelly and Kinky Boots . But lead roles in Warrior , The Thing , The Great Gatsby and Kill Bin Laden mean he’s about to be a star, and definitely here to stay.
Good thing JJ Abrams cast Hemsworth in a seemingly thankless role (as Captain Kirk’s dad) at the start of his Star Trek regeneration. After impressing with minimal screen time, Hemsworth went on to blow all our minds as Asgardian god Thor this year. And he’s just landed the lead role in Snow White And The Huntsman . Thor blimey indeed.
Thus far denied an Emmy for her work on TV’s Damages , Byrne hasn’t let it hold her back, making her presence on the big screen well and truly felt in 2011. After proving she could do funny with Get Him To The Greek , she’s mixed it up with horror Insidious , comic adap X-Men: First Class and laugh riot Bridesmaids . This lady can do anything.
Graduating from TV, Roberts made his movie debut this year with Submarine , and impressed as a 15-year-old outcast who’s sure he’s the most popular kid in school. Next up he’s heading over to corsetville for Cary Fukunaga’s new Jane Eyre adap, and he’s also appearing in Rodrigo Cortés’ sophomore feature Red Lights . Nice one.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
Gratifyingly old school. The odd dimensions of this chilling one sheet half make it look like a really old VHS cover, and half a brilliantly terrible, schlocky novel dustjacket. Wholly awesome.
Final Destination 5
It’s a skull! And skull means death! And that’s quite alright, because this is another Final Destination movie! The number ‘5’ threaded through the eyes is just cool, even though we can’t quite figure out why…
Green With Envy
Awesome mostly because it’s for a film that doesn’t even exist, and also because it gets the romcom imagery down pat. (Note: it is of course for The Muppets , not some hideous new romcom.)
More old school, and shiver-inducingly simplistic. It both tells us nothing and everything about the film’s plot, and there’s more than a faint whiff of Hitchcock about it.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Tree Of Life
The Muppets â€˜Green With Envyâ€™ Teaser
X-Men: First Class
13 January 2011
The first image of Andrew Garfield in the Spider-Man suit appears online… (opens in new tab)
31 January 2011
Henry Cavill is cast as Superman… (opens in new tab)
8 February 2011
The King’s Speech sweeps the Oscars clean… (opens in new tab)
21 March 2011
The Hobbit finally begins filming after numerous delays…
1 May 2011
Quentin Tarantino’s next film gets titled Django Unchained …
7 May 2011
Keanu Reeves thinks about playing Kaneda in the live-action Akira. .. (opens in new tab)
17 May 2011
The first Tintin teaser trailer shows us what the hero’s made of… (opens in new tab)
20 May 2011
We get our first glimpse at Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises …
6 June 2011
Human Centipede 2 is rejected by the BBFC…
23 June 2011
Official The Hobbit images show us Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen in costume… (opens in new tab)
Jane Russell – Died 28 February 2011
Elizabeth Taylor – Died 23 March 2011
Sidney Lumet – Died 9 April 2011
Laura Ziskin – Died 12 June 2011
Ryan Dunn – Died 20 June 2011
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Second Half Highlights To Look Forward To
While the beginning of 2011 played host to the usual glut of Oscar-baiting heavyweights, the first six months come to a close just as things are hotting up for the silly season. Yes, summer blockbusters are on their way! But in a year that has so far already given us a healthy dose of drama, comedy and mammoth action, what else can 2011 possibly have to offer?
Well, let’s break it down. First there are the Cannes babies, with Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life , Lars von Triers’ Melancholia (above), The Skin I Lived In and We Need To Talk About Kevin receiving decent reviews over on the Croisette.
Then there’s fantasy in the form of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Immortals , both of which look to offer some truly stunning treats for the eyes as well as mystical battles wrapped in flighty whimsy. The former should have us crying buckets.
In the realm of horror there are also old school and new cool treats in store, with Rutger Hauer getting mean in Hobo With A Shotgun , Guillermo del Toro promising chills aplenty in the delayed Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark , Colin Farrell getting bitey in remake Fright Night , and Ryan Gosling playing a devilishly awesome stuntman in Drive .
On the comic book front we have Captain America: The First Avenger and Cowboys & Aliens , while British films are well and truly present in the forms of Irish black comedy The Guard , The Inbetweeners movie, and Paddy Considine’s Tyranosaur .
And that’s just barely scraping the beginning of what looks set to be a thrilling six months of movies. The back end of 2011 has Sherlock Holmes 2 , The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo reboot, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Rum Diary on offer. And we haven’t even gotten started on Super 8 . Hold on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…