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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

Remember when I made a list of 22 movies I needed to see before making my Top 10 of 2011 list?

Remember when, in December of 2011, I said that it would be half a year or so until I got around to making said Top 10?

Well, as it turns out, that was what we in Sweden call “being a time optimist.” Better late than never though, right?

The funny thing is that there are still movies from 2011 that look really good which I haven’t gotten around to yet. Into the Abyss, This Must Be the Place, Damsels in Distress, Weekend, Warrior, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Another Earth, and A Separation are all unseen by me still, to name but a handful. I could have held off on making this list longer to get even more stuff in, but I feel like I’ve waited enough already. These lists are never set in stone, so it’s not like I’m committed to these being the year’s best for ever and ever.

For those wondering how I’m doing on my 2012 backlog, well… Let’s just say that my Top 10 for that year is probably still a good 12 months or so away.

But this is 2011. On with the show!

Honorable mentions: 50/50, Attack the Block, Carnage, Headhunters, Young Adult, Your Sister’s Sister

 

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10 – HANNA (Joe Wright)

“Adapt or die.”

Equal parts stylish action flick and off-beat coming-of-age story, mixed in with plentiful fairy tale elements, Hanna is a unique beats of a movie. Saoirse Ronan is great in the lead, playing a girl who knows all about survival, little about human interaction, and who has to rely on both to escape the bad people who are chasing her.

 

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9 – THE INNKEEPERS (Ti West)

“Let’s go to the basement and find out what that fucking ghost’s problem is.”

The Innkeepers is kind of like what Clerks could have been if 1: it had been a horror film, and 2: if the lead characters had been interesting, entertaining, and brought to life by gifted actors. The work by the lead duo Pat Healy and (especially) Sara Paxton really helps to make you invested in protagonists, so that when the frights start piling up, you actually care about what’s going to happen, rather than just jump because something said “boo!”. This is a quality horror film.

 

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8 – THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Steven Spielberg)

“Give me those oars! I’ll show you some real seamanship, laddie! I’ll not be doubted by some pipsqueak tuft of ginger and his irritating dog. I am master and commander of the seas!”

Speaking of creating investment in characters, that’s an area where The Adventures of Tintin had it easy, since I’ve been invested in Tintin, Captain Haddock and the others since childhood. But Spielberg’s film doesn’t prey on nostalgia. It feels very much like a modern thing, especially in the clever shots and action sequences where it really takes advantage of its animated form by pulling off stuff that would be hard to do with live action. Pure entertainment, this one.

 

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7 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Brad Bird)

“A crude drawing, but by your description, that could be Kurt Hendricks. 190 IQ. Served in Swedish Special Forces. Professor of physics, Stockholm University. Specialist in nuclear endgame theory. Asked to resign… well, because he’s crazy.”

It has been about 10 months since I saw this film, and I still haven’t recovered from that tower climbing scene.

 

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6 – TAKE SHELTER (Jeff Nichols)

“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not one of you is prepared for it.”

An affecting drama with some real power acting on display, particularly from the always commanding Michael Shannon. I love the story in Take Shelter, about a man whose chief want is to keep his family safe, but who can’t be sure whether he’s justified, paranoid or delusional. And it looks great too.

 

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5 – THE RAID (SERBUAN MAUT, Gareth Evans)

“Pulling a trigger is like ordering takeout.”

It’s amazing how much variety you can have with your badass action when it all takes place within an apartment building. Evans here mixes gunplay with martial arts to craft an action film that keeps you on your toes from start to finish, and where every scene could be the stand-out scene in most other movies of its kind.

 

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4 – DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn)

“From now on, every word out of your mouth is the truth. Or I’m going to hurt you.”

At the end of 2011, I called this the best movie of 2011 that I had seen so far. Almost two years later, only three have managed to top it, and even then, it’s a close call. Drive remains an excellent and tense experience, like a spring that just keeps getting pressed and pressed and pressed until it explodes into scenes of horrific violence. Ryan Gosling in the lead is superb.

 

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3 – BRIDESMAIDS (Paul Feig)

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you look ugly, and that makes me kind of happy.”

The only real comedy to make the cut this year, Bridesmaids is everything that’s good about Judd Apatow comedies; it’s absolutely hilarious, but there’s also a lot of heart and emotional resonance with the characters, here focusing on the nature of friendship. Kristen Wiig deserves the lion’s share of praise for this one, both putting in a pitch-perfect performance and having co-written the script.

 

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2 – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Lynne Ramsay)

“Just because you’re used to something doesn’t mean you like it. You’re used to me.”

In a long line of great performances, the one as distraught mother Eva in this movie might be the best work Tilda Swinton has ever done. This is a character stuck in awful circumstances, and just how Swinton mined the necessary emotions for the part, I have no idea. Remarkably, the story and directing is every bit as good as Swinton’s performance. As I’ve written (though not yet posted) in my Monthly Report for November, this is a film that would have blown my mind had I seen it when I was first getting into movies. And even now, it still does.

 

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1 – SHAME (Steve McQueen)

“We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”

While we’re still on the subjects of awesome performances and blowing my mind, there’s Shame, the best movie of 2011. This is a truly spellbinding film with a number of utterly convincing role portrayals, none sharper than Michael Fassbender‘s powerful performance as sex addict Brandon. McQueen peppers the movie with impressive long takes that, unlike many usages of them, feel like a part of the complete package rather than a cool gimmick. What’s not to like about this movie? Nothing.

What are you favorite films of 2011? What do you think of the movies on this list?

 
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Posted by on 14 November, 2013 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Monthly Report: February 2013

As expected due to work, February was a drastic step back in terms of movie quantity to me. 13 new films seen, compared to January’s 42. Such is life. This month offered an even mix of the good and the bad.

Videocracy (Erik Gandini, 2009)
What happens to a country when its president owns 90% of its TV channels? Videocracy takes a look at Italy during media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as its leader, where TV is – seemingly – all lurid junk and everyone’s obsessed with celebrity. The depiction of Italian television prompts quite a few eyebrow-raising “Is this for real?” reactions in the early goings, but beyond the surface level, there really isn’t much to this documentary. Why not explain how Berlusconi could rise to power? Is there really no alternative to what he’s offering? The film grows less and less focused as it goes on, and there’s no real attempt at analyzing anything. This subject deserves a better film.
2/5

The Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
I love musicals, but this was some pretty dull stuff. Some of the tunes are good, but there’s little emotion in the singing – or in the acting, for that matter. Gerard Butler in particular is an ill fit to play the Phantom, not managing to inject him with either danger or magnetism. The plot just goes on and on and on, and by the end of it, I had completely stopped caring. Nice sets, though.
2/5

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Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Sometimes I hate writing these mini-reviews for comedies, because it feels like there’s not that much to say other than “it was funny” or “it was not that funny”. Well, this one was funny. Really damn funny. There’s also the much mentioned novelty factor of having a raunchy comedy like this centering around women, so that’s cool too. What really helps to push this one up to greatness levels is the emotional resonance it has regarding friendship, envy, adulthood, relationships and more. Tremendous. Kristen Wiig rules.
5/5

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
Certain movies you just keep hearing so much about that you start drawing incorrect conclusions about them. I actually expected to dislike this film. I had gotten the idea in my head that this was some dreadfully slow incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. Which it isn’t. It’s a fascinating story, a true showcase of special effects and audio magic, and an experience quite of its own nature. I won’t pretend to entirely understand the meaning of the ending, but I believe it was Ingmar Bergman who said of his films that he didn’t care if you understood them, as long as they made you feel something. That definitely goes for this one. I wish I can see it on the big screen someday. That must be a trip.
4/5

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Another good Hitchcock thriller. I’ve come to expect no less from him. I enjoyed the humor in this one, as well as the overt chemistry between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. That finale is quite masterful, too.
4/5

Ip Man 2 (Wilson Yip, 2010)
A worthy follow-up to the first Ip Man film. The fight scenes are as cool and crisp as ever, Donnie Yen in the lead is still immensely likeable, and the story is solid indeed. The climactic fight is pretty great, thanks to a novel premise and a bad guy who you just long to see get his comeupance. This one’s an easy thumbs up.
4/5

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Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)
There’s some interesting notions going on in this film about the deterioration of civilized manners when man is under duress. The humor works for the most part too, but the story is ultimately a bit thin, and the pacing is uneven. I’d say all things considered, this is a good movie, but my least favorite Hitchcock so far.
3/5

Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)
It would be so very easy to dismiss the actions of the characters in this film as unbelievable, if not for the fact that this really did happen. Multiple times. With the film being, from what I’ve gathered, a very faithful recreation of one case of it. Mind-blowing, and crucial for the whole film to not buckle and collapse under the weight of the whole thing. There’s little wrong with the execution, and it’s a very compelling watch.
4/5

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)
“It could have been better” sounds like a negative thing to say about a film. I don’t think it necessarily is. Some mediocre movies are just as good as they could have ever hoped to be. There’s nothing there to make you think they could have been great. Time travel movie Safety Not Guaranteed, however, could definitely have been better. This is, in a way, a good thing, because it means there are great ideas and talent present here. If it had just been tighter and more focused thematically. If the sub-plot with Jake Johnson‘s asshole character had felt more relevant to the main story. If the tone of comedy had been more consistent throughout. If all these things had been, this could have been great. As it is, it’ll have to settle for good. It did make me want to learn to play the zither, though.
3/5

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Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2012)
A clever script and some thoughtfulness go a long way. An interesting and funny take on the idea of the perfect mate. Between this one and Little Miss Sunshine, it seems like Dayton and Faris are the ones who truly know how to get the best out of Paul Dano. He was great in LMS, and he’s great here too.
4/5

The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Cool little slow-burn horror film that emulates the look and feel of the genre of the 70s and 80s. The atmosphere and scares are mostly effective, but the climax can only be described as a letdown.
3/5

Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter (Fredrik Boklund, 2008)
A film about an incompetent reporter (Anders Jansson) who finds himself in the thick of a revolution in a north African country. This movie is a prime example of everything that’s wrong with Swedish comedy. Predictable jokes, one-dimensional characters, moronic plot, and not the tiniest hint of energy or an edge anywhere. Terrible.
1/5

Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)
Not my pick for Best Picture of the year, but a fine movie it was nonetheless. It’s a fascinating story, and the tension is ramped up very effectively as it builds to its climax. While I prefer Gone Baby Gone and The Town, this is yet another impressive directorial effort by Ben Affleck, who seemingly can do no wrong these days.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 13
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the month: Bridesmaids
Worst film of the month: Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter

 
9 Comments

Posted by on 28 February, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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I’m making a list, to check twenty-twice…

As you may know, I haven’t made a Top 10 of 2011 list yet, for two reasons. 1: There have been so many of them published in the blogging world lately that mine wouldn’t add anything new to the discussions. 2: I just haven’t seen enough films for the list to really mean much. Such a list made now would nigh-assuredly look vastly different to the same list made a year from now. While it’s true that all ranked opinionated lists are fleeting by nature, this would probably be a particularly big shift.

So when will I have seen enough to make my list? I didn’t make my 2010 list until just this past September. It was right after catching up with Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which I then haphazardly decided was the last 2010 film I had really high hopes for. In hindsight, I could have waited a bit longer. I have since seen some movies that could might well have made it onto the Top 10, such as Easy A and Cyrus. While the latter wasn’t really on my radar at that point, I had been wanting to see Easy A for quite some time. I really should have held out for that one. It slipped my mind.

So for 2011, I’m getting organized. I have compiled a list of films I must see before making my Top 10 for the year. These are films I figure there’s a good chance I might really like, and thus would have a good shot at making my 2011 list. After some reminding research, I ended up with a collection of 22 movies. For some, it’s because they’re by a director whose prio work I admire. For others it’s because of the actors involved, an intriguing premise, strong word of mouth, or just a gut-feeling. Many are among the current slew of Oscar hopefuls.

By no means are these all the 2011 films I want to see, or the ones I’ll see before any others. Some haven’t been released here in Sweden yet. Many I’ll catch up with through rentals, so the randomness of Lovefilm will also play a part (unlike Netflix’s neatly ordered rental queues, Lovefilm only offers a tiered system of organizing). Also, this list was put together on the spur in 10 minutes or so. There might be films that have slipped by my attention, so there could be later additions.

Here is the current list in alphabetical order.

The Artist – because crowd-pleasers can be pleasing.

The Beaver – because as polarizing as the response has been, the premise fascinates me.

Bridesmaids – because it’s Judd Apatow.

Carnage – because it’s Roman Polanski.

A Dangerous Method – because why wouldn’t I want to see Keira Knightley get a beating?

The Descendants – because it’s Alexander Payne.

The Future – because I have never been able to forget Me and You and Everyone We Know.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – because while I think it’s an unnecessary idea, it’s still David Fincher doing a thriller.

Hanna – because it sounds fresh and people I trust have recommended it to me.

Horrible Bosses – because I’m a big fan of comedies and Kevin Spacey.

Hugo – because of a gut-feeling and Martin Scorsese.

The Ides of March – because of Ryan Gosling.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – because too many people have talked about it for too long for it not to be worth seeing.

Melancholia – because it’s Lars von Trier.

Rampart – because The Messenger showed great potential in the Oren Moverman, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster trinity.

The Skin I Live In – because I can’t look at that poster without being thoroughly intrigued, plus I haven’t seen many Pedro Almodóvar films.

Sleeping Beauty – because I need more Emily Browning to wash the taste of Sucker Punch out of my mouth.

Submarine – because I like the main character’s coat.

Take Shelter – because I want to be prepared for the end of the world.

We Need to Talk About Kevin – because of Tilda Swinton.

Win Win – because the trailer made it seem so by-the-numbers, yet everyone has so much love for it.

Young Adult – because Jason Reitman seems incapable of making films that aren’t great.

What 2011 films do you still really want to see?

 
13 Comments

Posted by on 14 January, 2012 in Lists

 

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