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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: November 2012

Color me shocked that I almost tied last month’s movie tally this month. October felt very movie-heavy. November, by comparison, just kind of drifted by, but I apparently watched a lot of stuff regardless. Not that I’m complaining. I got some good watching done, knocking off a couple more from my 2011 Must-See list, as well as some classics that I should have watched a long time ago. Yeah, November was a good month indeed.

Neds (Peter Mullan, 2010)
Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, Neds follows a boy during his growing-up phase, from promising smart kid to trouble-making delinquent. The transition is presented in an engaging fashion and, for the most part, shows a believable trajectory. Some well-timed humor makes for a welcome addition in the early goings as well. The problem is that it all gets a repetitive, with the second half of the film treading water rather than breaking new ground. Some more time could have been spent fine-tuning it in the cutting room. It’s a slightly better film than Mullan’s previous effort The Magdalene Sisters, though.
3/5

Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
Hard-hitting character study of one rotten L.A. cop, expertly portrayed by a rarely-better Woody Harrelson. He and Oren Moverman make for one hell of a team, judging by this and their previous collaboration The Messenger. Moverman does great work here, utilizing colors and camera angles in striking ways that really make the film come alive. And this is only his second film. I’m eagerly anticipating what he’ll come up with next.
4/5

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Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
I’m a major fan of Jason Reitman. That Young Adult is probably his weakest film to date has more to do with the awesomeness of Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, than with any supposed lack of quality in this latest effort. Because Young Adult is really good. It’s a brisk and fun look at an interesting woman – Charlize Theron‘s Mavis – who’s possibly be the best-written character Diablo Cody has provided cinema with. The film might not tell a story we haven’t heard before, and it could have done with a bit more narrative muscle, but, in the end, this is Jason Reitman. And Jason Reitman makes damn fine films.
4/5

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Posted by on 1 December, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Eye-candy from the movie poster year of 2011

What makes a great movie poster? It can be many different things. Some work by being eye-catching and drawing your attention to it. Others are cleverly designed, making allusions to the themes and premise of the film. Then there are those that are just beautiful to look at, and the kind of thing you wouldn’t mind hanging on your wall. And then there are the funny ones, and the creepy ones, etcetera etcetera. Terrible films can have amazing posters, and the movies we love can be saddled with eye-rollingly uninspired ones.

Whatever category they fall into, 2011 had its fair share of awesome posters. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

All images are taken from IMP Awards, always a great source for anyhting movie poster related.

WARNING: This post has plenty of large size images that might take some time to load.

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Posted by on 2 February, 2012 in Posters

 

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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?

 
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Posted by on 14 January, 2012 in Lists

 

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The dangers of watching trailers and why I try not to

A week ago or so, the trailer for Jason Reitman‘s latest film Young Adult hit the internet. Everyone on my Twitter feed and all the movie blogs I follow had something to say about it, most of it positive. Me? I didn’t watch it. Not because I don’t care about the film. Au contraire, I’m absolutely psyched for it as I’ve loved the director’s first three films. No, the reason why I’m not watching it is because there’s absolutely no reason for me to do so. I already know I want to see the film badly, so it doesn’t need to hook me. I don’t know what the film is really about, but I don’t have to. The people involved have a good track record with me, so why not let the plot be a surprise? And having some funny moments from the film spoiled for me in advance is not anything I desire either.

That’s not to say I have a complete hatred for trailers. I understand that they serve an important purpose in getting people interested in seeing the films they represent. Not everyone keeps up on movie news to the degree that I (and most other movie bloggers I assume) do, so they can be a handy form of publicity. And when I sit down to watch a DVD, I don’t instantly skip past the trailers shown before the film. Sometimes I’ll get alerted to films I hadn’t heard of before, or am made to change my mind on a film I hadn’t been planning on watching. I’ve discovered a fair share of films I ended up loving by watching these random trailers (the great documentary Murderball being but one example that springs to mind). Likewise, if I see a blog post about a film I haven’t heard of where the trailer is posted, I might well give it a look. But it doesn’t happen too often.

So why not watch trailers? There are two main reasons that make me wary of them. The first is the spoiler factor I already alluded to. I abhor spoilers of all kinds. It’s bad enough when it’s just a comedy trailer that gives away all the good jokes, but then there are really scary examples where the plot of an entire movie is given away. Sometimes including the ending! The Cast Away trailer is a perfect example of this.

WARNING! This trailer gives away the ending of Cast Away!

Cast Away is an extreme example, but even in cases where the ending is left unspoilt, knowing too much about what’s going to happen in a film can have a detrimental effect on how we enjoy it. There is great joy to be had by going into a movie not knowing anything but the very base premise.

The second danger of trailers is that they can be misleading. They might show a tone or atmosphere that is not in line with what the film itself has to offer. For a taught and tense thriller, the trailer might emphasize action even if there’s only one or two such scenes in the film (hello, The American). For an intelligent drama, it might make a romance the centerpiece even if that’s just a small portion of the movie. For a musical, they might try to hide the genre completely, such as with the trailer for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. And if you see a trailer for a film you haven’t heard of where oddly enough there’s no spoken dialogue, odds are it’s actually a foreign film.

Sadly, this practice makes perfect sense from a business point of view. Making a movie isn’t cheap, so the production company will want to make sure that they get as much money back as they can. As such, the movie needs to appeal to as many people as possible publicity-wise. But in trying to go for the lowest common denominator, the film might be made to look bland and cookie-cutter. People who want something different and would enjoy the film for what it is can be turned off from it. Here’s a shining example: the Bridge to Terabithia trailer.

WARNING! This trailer completely misrepresents Bridge to Terabithia!

Based on this trailer, you’d think Bridge to Terabithia would be your standard CGI-filled Narnia-esque fantasy about kids who discover a magical world filled with wonders. However, the key word here is “fantasy”. Parts of the movie does contain what the trailer shows, but in the film, it’s made clear that this is just the children playing and imagining. It’s make-believe. And it’s just a fraction of what the movie is really about. Most of Bridge to Terabithia takes place in the real world and deals with all manners of things childhood-related: friendship, bullying, family troubles, crushes on school teachers and so on. It’s not just a great children’s film; it’s a great film period, because it refuses to dumb itself down for its audience. Heartfelt and true, with plenty of recognizable situations. The trailer might well have scared off plenty of people who might have loved the movie. And that’s terrible.

Ironically enough, the crappiness of the Bridge to Terabithia trailer is actually what led me to the film. The movie itself isn’t one I see talked about a whole lot, but it kept popping up in forum discussions on misleading trailers. People kept saying how lame the trailer was compared to the wonderful movie. So I became curious and decided to add the film to my rental queue since everyone who had seen it seemed to love it so. I’m glad I did. So the trailer served its purpose I suppose, even if it was in the most backwards way possible.

Seeing an underwhelming film is nowhere near as bad as letting a great one slip you by. So never let a trailer convince you to not see a movie. They are not to be trusted.

For further reading on “bad” trailers, I recommend TV Tropes. Specifically, the pages for Trailers Always Spoil and Never Trust A Trailer. Both obviously contain various degrees of spoilers, so read at your own peril.

Have you had any particularly bad trailer experiences? Please leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on 17 October, 2011 in Misc.

 

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