I already posted a massive list of 23 films
last year. However, I've seen a few more films from 2011 since then. Also, my opinion has somewhat changed. Perhaps the bigger thing this time around, however, is that I'm now trying to narrow the list down to a much more manageable figure. So here goes....
Of course, I promised to provide this list and more when I came up with my top 10 of 2012
(which will no doubt need revising next year too).10. Source Code (2011)
UK release: 1st April 2011
Duncan Jones' follow-up to the excellent "Moon" was another sci-fi movie. Apparently Duncan Jones turned up late on for this project, but what he came out with was very special indeed.My review hereDuncan Jones is currently working on a biopic about Ian Fleming (the writer of the James Bond novels).9. The Woman (2011)
UK release: 30th September 2011
This is an adaptation of a book by Jack Ketchum, an author known for his pretty twisted imagination. However, as twisted as things get and as horrific as the subject matter may be, Lucky McKee somehow manages to produce a darkly sweet film.
The central father figure comes off a bit like the mayor in series three of Buffy. (Sorry for the somewhat random reference here.) He's a conservative yet cheerful figure who, underneath the surface, is a bit of a monster.
"The Woman" is unlike anything else you may have seen and, for me, it's Lucky McKee's best film so far.My review hereLucky McKee is currently working on a remake of his straight-to-DVD debut movie "All Cheerleaders Die".8. Sarah's Key (2010)
UK release: 5th August 2011
Kristin Scott-Thomas seems to be at the top of her game right now and here she stars in a film almost as brilliant as "I've Loved You So Long". With the rather tired and shallow "In Darkness" having come out in 2012, I'm all the more impressed with the remarkably fresh and shocking "Sarah's Key" about 'the roundup' in France. Convinced that I must be overrating this, I sat down to watch this the other day and was spellbound once again by the incredible story.My review here7. True Grit (2010)
UK release: 11th February 2011
The Coen Brothers' remake of the old classic starring John Wayne takes many lines directly from the original, but takes full advantage of its bigger budget and higher production values. The film is beautiful, the actors are all on top form, and the Coen Brothers' trademark darkly comic style works wonderfully with the story.
Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld all provide excellent performances in this quirky take on the Western genre.My review hereThe Coens are currently in post-production on "Inside Llewyn Davis" starring Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan.6. The Fighter (2010)
UK release: 2nd February 2011
The prospect of a boxing film did not really appeal. I was all set to hate this film. Even in 2011 Mark Wahlberg was still mainly known to me as the bland and lifeless lead in Tim Burton's "Planet Of The Apes" remake. However, as it turned out, both Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg did a great job of winning me over. I also liked that the film was more about the family dynamics outside of the ring, not about who might win inside the ring.My review hereDavid O. Russell released "Silver Linings Playbook" in 2012
.5. Troll Hunter (2010)
UK release: 9th September 2011
A norwegian film about a group of young documentary filmmakers who discover a man whose job is to hunt trolls for the norwegian government.
There's a lot of comedy and some brilliant special effects and the film is just so much fun as a result.My review here4. The Guard (2011)
UK release: 19th August 2011
Brendan Gleeson is absolutely fantastic as the unprincipled Irish policeman who is teamed up with an FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) when it turns out that a large shipment of drugs will be docking near Galway.My review hereJohn Michael McDonagh is currently in post-production on "Calvary", a comedy once again starring Brendan Gleeson.3. Take Shelter (2011)
UK release: 25th November 2011
Personally, I'd call this a horror movie. Michael Shannon is having nightmares about a storm which not only devastates the area, but also sends people caught in the storm psychotic. The protagonist is caught between believing these dreams to be portents of future or attributing them to some kind of early stages of schizophrenia such as his mother suffers from.
The atmosphere is very powerful and the performances are brilliant. This is definitely a classic.My review hereDirector Jeff Nichols has already released his follow-up "Mud" starring Matthew McConaughey at film festivals and it seems to have extremely high praise so far.2. Drive (2011)
UK release: 23rd September 2011
This film caught my imagination at the time, with the slow build-up leading to some very violent scenes in the second half. Certainly not an action film, but rather an intense thriller with a few awesome car chase scenes thrown in. Some moments in "Drive" are absolutely gorgeous.
What is most interesting about Drive is the way that it plays with the audience's expectations. We get one impression of the character towards the beginning and that impression is slowly broken down as the film goes on. The lyrics of a song that is repeated at the end of the film say "you have proved to be a real human being and a real hero". Towards the beginning of the film that seemed like a rather cheesy way to talk about the protagonist, yet by the end I wasn't sure if he deserved to be known by either of those titles.My review hereNicolas Winding Refn is in post-production on "Only God Forgives" with Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas
.1. Black Swan (2010)
UK release: 21st January 2011
The combination of a strict and repressive upbringing, sexual harassment and extreme stress, leads to a gradual descent into madness for Natalie Portman as a ballet dancer trying to master the central role of "Swan Lake".
I was uncertain when I first heard Black Swan referred to as a horror movie because its oppressive atmosphere is found in all Darren Aronofsky's movies. However I can see how this, moreso than Aronofsky's other movies, would count as horror and think it's a mistake for horror fans not to embrace it as such.
Darren Aronofsky's films just get better and better and remain consistently traumatic to watch. I never thought I'd ever be heaping this much praise on a movie about ballet.My review hereDarren Aronofsky is currently in post-production on "Noah", which is due for release in 2014.Honourable mention:X-Men: First Class (2011)
UK release: 1st June 2011
In spite of all my misgivings, this turned out to be even better on a second watch. Sure, I'd rather be watching a whole film about "Erik: Nazi Hunter", but the second half was pretty cool too. Matthew Vaughn just keeps on releasing fantastic films.My review hereMatthew Vaughn was strongly suspected to be working on the new Star Wars movie before J.J. Abrams was announced as the director hired for the job. There are some suggestions that Vaughn may now be working on another joint project with Mark Millar.Another 9 good movies from 2011:
The films above were the strongest recommendations, but there were a lot of other films which I feel at least deserve a mention.The King's Speech (2010)
UK release: 7th January 2011
I perhaps got pulled in by the hype when this was released, but there's no doubting the fantastic central performances from Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth.My review hereSubmarine (2010)
UK release: 18th March 2011
Slightly annoyed to discover that the random indie tunes aren't from the dad's mix tape, but are actually 'trendy' songs from Artic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. Still, "Submarine" remains an absolutely hilarious black comedy with Paddy Considine's role in particular being comic genius.My review hereOranges and Sunshine (2010)
UK release: 1st April 2011
Emily Watson's central performance is brilliant and the central true story is heartbreaking. I still do not understand why this wasn't more widely talked about.My review hereTucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
UK release: 23rd September 2011
The release for this movie was ridiculously limited, which is a pity because this was an absolutely great horror comedy.My review hereTinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
UK release: 16th September 2011
Tomas Alfredson (director of "Let The Right One In") really makes us feel the cold bitter life of old spies and there are pretty fantastic performances all round.My review hereArrietty (2010)
UK release: 29th July 2011
Studio Ghibli manage to breathe new life into the old 50s children's story "The Borrowers" by truly capturing the magic in their depiction of life for tiny people who live inside the walls of a house. One of the best Studio Ghibli films I have seen without Miyazaki in the director's chair.My review hereKung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
UK release: 10th June 2011
The sequel to Kung Fu Panda is pretty much the perfect sequel, building on elements that came before and introducing new creative ideas. However, this film knows that the true way to an audience's heart is baby panda sequences. ZOMG CUTE!!!! *ahem*My review hereWe Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
UK release: 21st October 2011
My misgivings about this movie were part of its strength. The film is relentless in its sadism, using a mixed up timeline to depict how Tilda Swinton's character has her entire life destroyed by her inhuman child, Kevin. At the heart of this film is 'fear of children' and it milks that theme for all it's worth with expert precision. The "Horror Etc" podcasters recently decided that this wasn't a horror film. If so, how did it get under my skin so thoroughly? *shudders*My review hereRise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
UK release: 11th August 2011
Okay admittedly I'm mainly mentioning this because I'm a big fan of the original Planet Of The Apes series. As much as I hate Burton's "Planet Of The Apes"remake, it was actually the catalyst for me watching the entire series. Looking back though, Burton's installment is by far the weakest entry, in spite of having a higher budget than the five original entries. "Rise", however, succeeded in ways few would have dreamed possible. The film is far from perfect, but from the moment it becomes a jail break movie focussing almost exclusively on the CGI ape characters, it becomes quite incredible. It's a real pity that Rupert Wyatt has pulled out of directing the follow-up sequel.My review here