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Hot films for 2011

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Hot films for 2011 - Page 6 Empty Re: Hot films for 2011

Post by Admin on Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:43 am

Mel Valentin September 2, 2011 0

As the days shorten and summer fades into distant, hazy memories of mega-budgeted, unremarkable or otherwise non-notable, blockbusters, film fans everywhere, including yours truly, are looking forward to the fall, a mix of award hopefuls for the serious-minded, high-end genre entertainment, and as 2011 winds down, one last blockbuster surge. We’ll save January and February, traditionally months where bad films go to die short, usually peaceful deaths at the box office, for another time, months hence. For now, let’s concentrate on the positive. Herewith, my “Ten Most Anticipated Films of the Fall” for your entertainment, education, and, quite possibly, enlightenment.

NOTE: List appears in alpha order, not order of preference (for easier reading, of course).

Disclaimer: Release dates are subject to change. These dates are based on what was listed in the Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones

Absent from the big screen for too long, Steven Spielberg returns in December with not one, but two films, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, the computer animated adaptation of Hergé’s (a.k.a. Georges Prosper Remi) titular character and WAR HORSE, a WWI-set adaptation of the Tony Award-winning stage play. Each promises to give audiences richly textured worlds, exhilarating set pieces, and Spielberg’s trademark sentimentality, but WAR HORSE seems to promise Spielberg at his most overtly sentimental (if not overly sentimental). Hopefully, Spielberg will keep his tendency to indulge his inner sentimentalist in check for THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN. The source material and approach (CG and motion-capture) suggests moviegoers might, just might, be in for an INDIANA JONES-style treat (or so some of us hope).

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell

A Cannes Film Festival award winner, THE ARTIST, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Hazanavicius’ wife, actress Bérénice Bejo, as an ingénue in late 1920s LA who becomes a movie star while the acting career of her lover (Jean Dujardin) slips into semi-justifiable oblivion, as so many silent actors experienced during the advent of the sound area, has, or seems to have, what every movie lover could want, period sets and costumes, high-end production values, soapy melodrama, and loving homage to a long-lost, but fondly remembered era in our collective movie-going, movie-watching history.

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne

Any film directed by one-time wunderkind Steven Soderbergh (he wrote and directed Sundance Film Festival fave SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE before he turned 30) is, by definition, a must-see film with maybe one or. Add Soderbergh’s name (and direction) to a global pandemic/disaster film that mixes our worst germaphobic fears and anxieties, an A-list (or almost A-list cast), with ‘70s-era disaster tropes and intersecting storylines and characters, and the result can’t be anything except compelling (unless, of course, the final product proves to be a disappointment, but let’s stay positive for now, at least until I see CONTAGION).

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel

Filmmaker David Cronenberg might have left the “body-horror” sub-genre he helped to create in the 1970s, but he’s continued to make disquieting, disturbing, if, at times flawed, films since his “last word” on the sub-genre, CRASH more than fifteen years ago. Opting for “mind-horror” this time out, A DANGEROUS METHOD charts the fraught, soon-to-be fractured relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the younger Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) over their differing approaches to psychology, psychoanalysis, and the treatment of a troubled patient played by Keira Knightly.

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer

Writer-director Alexander Payne has been MIA for almost eight years, at least on the big screen. Payne’s last big-screen effort, SIDEWAYS, was well-received by critics and moviegoers, but Payne’s forays into other media, including television, have kept him away from what he does best: capturing middle-aged or soon-to-be-middle-aged men in extremis, in crisis over a variety of personal failures, real or imagined, and opportunities lost or never gained. A family drama starring George Clooney, THE DESCENDANTS suggests Payne has returned to mine familiar ground, but as with other filmmakers on this list, his previous track record, while no guarantee of future success, suggests we should give him the benefit of the doubt. I know I will.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac

An obvious throwback to late ‘70s, early ‘80s neo-noirs, DRIVE teams up Ryan Gosling, considered one of the best actors of his generation (with only Joseph Gordon-Levitt his near-equal), and Danish filmmaker Nicholas Winding Refn in an existential noir that, if early festival accounts are to be believed, combines visual and aural lyricism with bone-crushing ultra-violence, perfect, apparently for neo-noir fans (including, unsurprisingly, this writer).

Starring: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

George Clooney makes the most-anticipated releases of the fall list twice with THE IDES OF MARCH, an adaptation of FARRAGUT NORTH directed by and starring (or more accurately, co-starring) Clooney as a presidential contender. Ryan Gosling takes the lead role as an idealistic political consultant turned campaign manager whose personal (and political) beliefs are challenged and possibly subverted by the real- and reel-world pressures of a presidential campaign. Given the cast and subject matter, verbal pyrotechnics are virtually guaranteed, but whether THE IDES OF MARCH is more than predictable, middlebrow entertainment remains to be seen (and it will be seen).

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet

A Sundance Film Festival favorite this past January, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, a psychological thriller about an ex-cult member, arrives in movie theaters courtesy of distributor Fox Searchlight. Notable, at least initially, for Elizabeth Olsen’s feature-film debut (she’s the Olsen Twins’ younger sister), MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE also marks the feature-length debut for writer-director Sean Durkin. Early accolades have centered on Olsen’s performance as a traumatized ex-cult member and Durkin’s insightful, thought-provoking writing and sensitive, nuanced direction.

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgard, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt

The perpetually controversial Lars von Trier courted (what else?) controversy earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival when he made an ill-advised comment (or joke) involving Nazism. The furor surrounding von Trier’s comments made him and not his latest film, MELANCHOLIA, a literal end-of-the-world existential drama, the centerpiece of coverage at the time. With the controversy months in the past, attention can finally turn to MELANCHOLIA and whether it meets the high aesthetic, thematic, and narrative standards of von Trier’s more successful films (e.g., ANTICHRIST, DOGVILLE, DANCER IN THE DARK, BREAKING THE WAVES).

Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Yet another Cannes Film Festival favorite (there’s a theme here, as in I need to go to Cannes in the next year or two), Lynn Ramsey’s (MORVERN CALLAR, RATCATCHER) latest film, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize-winning 2003 novel, explores the aftermath (and before-math) of a fictional high-school shooting from the perspective of the shooter’s parents (played by Academy Award-winner Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly in the film).

Space doesn’t allow for a full write-up, but here’s the list of my next ten most anticipated films (not in alpha order):

1. The Skin I Live In
2. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
3. Moneyball
4. Hugo (Cabret)
5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
6. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
7. The Rum Diary
8. The Thing
9. In Time
10. Coriolanus

By this time next week, I’ll be able to strike CONTAGION and DRIVE from my must-see list. I’ve already seen a third film on my Top Ten, but I’m embargoed from mentioning the film’s name, but I can tell you that (a) it far exceeded my expectations, thus meriting placement on this list, (b) it’s superlative, as in award-worthy superlative for its writing, directing, acting, and quite possibly, its cinematography, and (c) it’s currently sitting at No. 2 on my still-evolving year-end “best of” list (TREE OF LIFE currently holds the No. 1 spot).

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Post by Admin on Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:52 am

The 7 Best Films of the Summer

By Dustin Rowles

7. Friends with Benefits: I know, I know. If you haven’t seen the film, you think I’m an idiot. You’ve dismissed the rest of this list. Everything I say from here on out is null and void. Blah. Blah. Blah. But if you have seen the movie, and you’ve also see the lion’s share of the rest of this summer’s flicks, you’ll probably readily agree. Friends with Benefits is what most of us want in a comedy. It’s funny; it’s clever; the banter is fast-paced, R-rated, and witty; it’s rife with pop culture allusions that never feel forced; there are great cameos (Emma Stone, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones); it has fantastic supporting characters (Woody Harrelson as a gay sports editor, Patricia Clarkson as a variation of her Easy A character, and the always brilliant Richard Jenkins); it has a great soundtrack full of both the new and nostalgic; and it has several actual authentic emotional moments, a rarity for romantic comedies these days. It even contains copious amounts sex between the sixth most bangable celebrity of the year and a talented musician turned comedy actor who — at this point — is basically irresistible. If Justin Timberlake hasn’t won you over yet, then you’re just being stubbornly contrarian. Kunis, moreover, is everything you loved about her in Forgetting Sarah Marshall times three and minus a shirt. — Dustin Rowles

6. X-Men: First Class: There’s a smolderingly good film about adults seeking revenge for personal atrocities, weighing what it means to be a mutant, how that level of evolution fits into greater society and the ramifications of forced immersion into that world. That film is anchored by grown-ups, talented actors like Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, and Kevin Bacon, who know how to bring the cultural metaphors underlying a comic-book story to the surface, and who can add a layer of sophistication and complexity to a tale of superheroes and villains. Ultimately, Vaughn’s film does exactly what a prequel should be capable of: It stands on its own as an outstanding entry into the franchise, but it also adds context that enriches subsequent films. — DR

5. Attack the Block: It is to put quite simply, a hell of a lot of fun. The interplay between the kids is note-perfect, as they portray a realistic blend of too-old, too-soon coarseness peppered with excessive and creative vulgarity, harsh cynicism, but also childlike earnestness and fearfulness. While their interactions with each other are full of false bravado, there’s a genuine camaraderie at play that compliments their characters and makes them far livelier than the average movie kids. Meanwhile, Sam creates an interesting foil for them, an innocent, doe-eyed woman who is furious at being taken advantage of, is virulently distrustful of them, but when forced to choose a side, discovers that there’s far more to them than their hardened, blustery exteriors. Along the way, they have to simultaneously evade cops as well as the psychotic Hi-Hatz. — TK

4. The Guard: Don Cheadle is (as always) excellent, and Fionnula Flanagan is similarly great in her few scenes as Boyle’s equally vulgar mother. But this is Gleeson’s film, and he’s excellent, from the moments of quiet reaction and reflection to the serious but bitingly undercuting comedic barbs. Writer and director John Michael McDonagh is the older brother of Martin McDonagh, the writer and director of In Bruges, which also starred Gleeson. Unsurprisingly, the two films share a similar tone, aesthetic and sense of humor. I’m loathe to further compare the two films, as The Guard comes out the the loser, lacking the depth and story of McDonagh the Junior’s film. But that’s not to take anything away from The Guard — the plot may not be anything new, but the dialogue is consistently sharp and amusing (as long as you don’t mind the accents and excessive vulgarities) and Cheadle and Gleeson are excellent. It’s simply an enjoyable 90 minutes, a fine directorial premiere for McDonagh the Senior. — Seth Freilich

3. Fright Night: It’s pretty perfect that the closing credits to Fright Night are set to Hugo’s version of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” Hugo, a half-Thai banjo-playing singer-songwriter from England, is admittedly as far as you can get from Jay-Z’s Brooklyn-spawned hip-hop, but he brings something to the song that wasn’t there the first time. It’s not about being better: It’s about doing something good with the tune, making a new recipe from the same basic ingredients. I say it’s perfectly used because Fright Night is a remake of a 1985 film, and the best remakes are like cover songs. They’re not out to displace the original, or even make you forget about it. They’re out to tell a very similar story and find the same kind of resonance around a theme achieved by the first film. In that way, Fright Night’s a success. Most of the characters are the same, but the beats have moved around, and the story’s received enough tweaking that it feels like its own entity. But the film also scores on its own merits. Director Craig Gillespie — whose erratic c.v. includes Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock — does a fine job with some strong action and suspense sequences, and the script from Marti Noxon, though slow to start, eventually finds its footing. I don’t want to oversell the finished product, nor simply say it’s a good film simply for being confidently different from its predecessor. But it does have its moments, and it finds a decent balance between mayhem and humor without overstaying its welcome. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, even if it’s less than inspired. — Daniel Carlson

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: It didn’t come until the tail end, but in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the summer finally got its first taste of Nolan. For all the lip service that’s paid to the idea of “darker, edgier” action films in Hollywood, few movies have had the courage to follow through on those promises. Rise is the darkest, most heavily thematic action film of the summer. It’s also the rare origins movie that’s actually worth a damn. The themes don’t resonate as loudly as those in the original Planet of the Apes, and the moral is muddled and unclear. Yet, Wyatt manages to salvage the franchise wreckage that Tim Burton left behind with his earlier remake and give new life to a series of films for which this generation has never had much affection. Indeeed, for all the faults with Rick Jaffa’s screenplay, the awkward title, and some of the uninspired acting on display, it’s the Apes that truly do rise above in the prequel, elevating the film to easily the best — and darkest — blockbuster action flick of the summer. — DR

1. Bridesmaids: Enough good cannot be said about Bridesmaids, not just because it’s one of the first completely successful female ensemble studio comedies, but because it’s one of the few successful studio comedies at all. This is the film that saved Summer 2011 from the glut of comic-book movies, that made you forget about The Hangover sequel in two weeksand will demonstrate just how funny women can be if they aren’t reduced to one-note characters. It’s inevitable success (and it really was inevitable) could very well start a trend in Hollywood away from casting women just because they’re pretty and are capable of reading a few lines and laughing at the guy’s jokes. This could be a statement film: Women don’t have to be only the romantic half of the rom-com equation — they can supply the humor, as well. And if Bridesmaids is any indication, they have the numbers to do it better. — DR

Kid’s Choice: Winnie the Pooh: A.A. Milne would be proud, and illustrator EH Shepard would have absolutely nothing to complain about either. In Winnie the Pooh, the former’s characters remain true to themselves as they are brought back to life and illustrated with slightly more polish but unmistakably akin to the latter’s classic hand-drawn animation, all derived from a pleasingly pastel palette. For this latest addition to the Pooh franchise, the filmmakers have clearly gone old school and largely abandoned the jazzed-up look of the more recent movies; and for this new film, the screenplay draws upon the first Winnie the Pooh book while some of it takes inspiration from the literary followup, The House at Pooh Corner. In the end, a handful of Milne’s tales are woven into a relatively seamless narrative that’s not quite as remarkable as 1977’s Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (which included three shorts: Blustery Day, Honey Tree, and Tigger Too), but it’s a close second and will not only charm its theater audience but also find endless replays on home video. — Agent Bedhead

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Post by Admin on Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:53 am

Summer movies were a mixed bag
September 1, 2011 8:00 am Sarah

Rude, crude and fiercely funny, "Bridesmaids" was one of the summer's biggest hits.
“Bridesmaids,” “Harry Potter” stand out as summer’s biggest successes

Summer comes to an unofficial close this weekend with Labor Day.

As we look forward to the fall, here’s a rundown of the best and worst movies to hit the multiplexes this summer. This is not a complete list, but it does touch on many of the biggest blockbusters released in May, June, July and August.


“Bridesmaids”: “Saturday Night Live” star Kristin Wiig cemented her reputation as one of the funniest women in show business with this raunchy, rowdy and utterly hilarious comedy. The sleeper hit of the summer, bar none.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II”: A satisfying conclusion to the popular fantasy franchise, this action-packed epic featured soaring special effects, thrilling fight sequences, emotional depth and splendid performances from actors young and old. Well done.
“Midnight in Paris”: Not your typical Hollywood blockbuster, Woody Allen’s lush love letter to Paris proved one of the summer’s most surprising success stories. His unabashedly romantic comedy — starring Owen Wilson as a struggling novelist who travels back in time — left me with a satisfied smile on my face.
“Super 8″: I saw elements of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and yes, even “The Goonies,” in J.J. Abram’s heartfelt tribute to the modern master of science fiction, Steven Spielberg. This superbly crafted thriller had it all: terrific special effects, a compelling story and powerhouse performances by the likes of young Elle Fanning, who may turn out to be a stronger actress than big sis Dakota.
“X-Men: First Class”: It’s a stylish, sexy spy thriller, a superhero origin story and a retro bromance. It features a sprightly storyline and swingin’ 1960s fashion. Plus, it stars two of the biggest hunks currently gracing the silver screen — James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender — as well as “Winter’s Bone” babe Jennifer Lawrence and “Mad Men” ice queen Jennifer Jones. Seriously, what’s not to love?


“Cars 2″: Just how poor was this sequel to Pixar’s weakest animated feature? My brain has literally erased most of my memories of watching it. Very small children may find the adventures of race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and redneck truck Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) entertaining, but the rest of us crave the clever writing, compelling characters and stunning animation that made Pixar great.
“Green Lantern”: Colorful, creative special effects couldn’t compensate for a relentlessly silly story, loads of leaden plot exposition, and lackluster performances by Ryan “Washboard Abs” Reynolds and Blake “Pouty Face” Lively. In a summer of strong superhero flicks, “Green Lantern” unfortunately fell flat.
“The Hangover Part II”: Despite following the same formula that made “The Hangover” a hit — crass physical comedy, crude dialogue and outrageous situations played for outlandish laughs — this darker, grittier sequel lacked the fun and freshness of the original. Instead, it came across as shockingly mean-spirited.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is terrific as a scene-stealing supporting character, but he’s too odd and enigmatic to carry an entire movie on his shoulders. That fact, combined with a confusing, convoluted plot and underwritten performances by franchise newcomers Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, helped sink this “Pirates.”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”: Having suffered through “Transformers” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” I decided to boycott the third film in director Michael Bay’s stupefyingly series about giant robots from outer spaces. I’m glad I did. Only a true connoisseur could appreciate Bay’s patented blend of eye candy, explosions and truly awful acting.


“30 Minutes or Less”: This fun, fast-paced and foul-mouthed caper flick had a great cast — Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, etc. — but suffered from uneven pacing and sporadic laughs.
“Captain America: The First Avenger”: Packed with thrilling action sequences, gee-whiz special effects and a patriotic message, “Captain America” had an undeniably old-fashioned appeal. However, it could have used some more character development.
“Cowboys and Aliens”: Part sagebrush saga, part science fiction-flavored action flick, this serious-minded mash-up failed to fully realize its crossover potential.
“Fast Five”: After watching the entire series in a matter of days, I’ve developed a certain appreciation for “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. The fifth film in the series — which features over-the-top action sequences, tin-eared dialogue and gorgeous cars driven by impossibly attractive leads — definitely falls into the same “guilty pleasures” category.
“Horrible Bosses”: I found this black comedy about three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) who conspire to kill their awful employers surprisingly entertaining — thanks to spot-on performances by Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Colin Ferrell and Kevin Spacey.
“Kung Fu Panda 2″: Just like its predecessor, this family-friendly animated film featured gorgeous imagery, fine voice acting and a fun, fast-paced plot. A true treat for kids and parents alike.
“Thor” — A hard-hitting action epic that blends monumental fight scenes, fantastic vistas and stunning special effects, “Thor” balances a Shakespearean plot with a wonderfully down-to-earth sense of humor.


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Post by Admin on Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:56 am

Sep 2011
2011 Fall/Winter's Most Anticipated

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Taut thrillers have been left by the wayside in recent years - action films and rom-coms are more sure investments - but here, a prize one, has been placed right into our laps. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) has been tasked with finding a mole in his agency. When men start dying the stakes cannot be higher. But who can you trust?

Stuntman by day, criminal by night. Everything comes easy to (Gosling), whether it be flipping a car at exactly the right moment, or escaping hordes of police cars, nothing really frightens him. So when a score goes horribly awry, the adrenaline kicks in and the man paid to run goes on the prowl.

The Ides of March
The cast alone should convince you to purchase a matinee ticket. Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman, Giamatti. Running for President is treacherous. The only thing more treacherous is ambition. When idealistic aide (Gosling) is convinced he can become a Kingmaker to charismatic (Clooney) a sure thing quickly unravels and everyone becomes a liability.

A Dangerous Method
Michael Fassbender has been a very industrious man. If you look closely enough you will notice he has been in every film this summer. So it should come as no surprise that he leapt at the chance to work with Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg on a project that explores the dark recesses of the human mind.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I was not a fan of the original, but along came a very tantalizing teaser trailer and know I'm curious. Rooney Mara nailed every one of her scenes in The Social Network, so the prospect of giving her much more screentime and a juicier role is hard to resist. And the tagline: The Feel-bad movie of Christmas. Perfect.

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Post by Admin on Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:52 pm

Fall film top 10: Predicting the best, from Spielberg’s 'Tintin’ to Depp in 'The Rum Diary’


Special to the Daily News

Updated: 7:39 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011

Posted: 5:18 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011

The Adventures 
of Tintin (Dec. 23)/ 
War Horse (Dec. 28)

It’s been three years since the maligned Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but director Steven Spielberg is back with a vengeance. His two films are scheduled for release less than a week apart. Hergé’s Tintin comic books may not be essential reading in the United States, but the intrepid reporter is an iconic character in Europe. Produced by Peter Jackson, Tintin is a 3D performance capture affair that stars Billy Elliot’s Jamie Bell as the hero, Andy Serkis as his loyal comrade Capt. Haddock, and Daniel Craig as the dastardly Red Rackham. If anyone can add a little soul to such computer-generated characters, it’s Spielberg.

Spielberg follows Tintin with a sweeping World War I epic with Oscar aspirations. Based on the book and play, War Horse chronicles one soldier’s attempt to reunite with his horse Joey after it is sold to the cavalry. The potential for War Horse to be overly sentimental is there, but Spielberg rarely disappoints when he takes a serious look at the horrors of war.

A Dangerous Method (TBA)

After experiencing commercial failure in the 1990s with surreal explorations of sex and technology’s relationship with body and mind, director David Cronenberg reconnected with audiences with two brutal thrillers boasting conflicted protagonists powerfully played by Viggo Mortensen. Unlike A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, though, their third collaboration is a fact-based historical drama.

A Dangerous Method examines the personal and professional tensions that existed between Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and his disciple, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), during the early days of psychoanalysis. Cronenberg also speculates on the rumors that the married Jung had an affair with patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). The director’s preoccupation with sex is legendary, but so is his interest in human behavior. So who better than to psychoanalyze the great minds responsible for advancing psychoanalysis than Cronenberg?

The Girl with the 
Dragon Tattoo 
(Dec. 21)

David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larrson’s best-selling novel — about a magazine editor and an emotionally disturbed computer hacker joining forces to solve a decades-old mystery — arrives less than two years after the Swedish version wowed art-house audiences and turned Noomi Rapace into a sought-after actress.

With so little time passing between the films, it’s possible that Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo will seem too familiar to those who saw the original. Relocating the action to the United States, rather than keep it in Sweden, may have helped.

Casting an unknown, Rooney Mara, as the wounded but tough-as-nails Lisbeth Salander is a smart move — it allows viewers to focus on the character, not the actress who is transformed into the troubled cyber-goth. And Daniel Craig possesses the doggedness that’s essential to the role of Millennium’s Mikael Blomkvist. Fincher isn’t a director known for compromising, so he will likely retain the novel’s violent streak. And if Fincher can make an account of the creation of Facebook (The Social Network) a riveting experience, then there’s no reason to believe his Dragon Tattoo won’t succeed on its own terms.

The Ides of March (Nov. 5)
/The Descendants (TBA)

Should it come as a surprise that a political animal like George Clooney would direct a film about a presidential candidate with a dark past? Or that Clooney, one of Hollywood’s most notable liberals, would turn the tables on his detractors and make his governor a Democrat?

That’s the case with The Ides of March, an adaptation of the play Farragut North. Ryan Gosling is the media strategist whose loyalty to Clooney is tested. Will he be Brutus to Clooney’s Caesar?

Directing his fourth film didn’t leave Clooney too busy to pursue other acting jobs.

In The Descendants, Clooney stars as a Hawaiian developer who flips out when he discovers his wife’s unfaithfulness after a boat accident leaves her in a coma. Director Alexander Payne of About Schmidt and Sideways fame has a gift for making affecting films about men struggling through existential crisis, and Clooney always rises to the occasion when working under directors with a strong point of view. So don’t be surprised if The Descendants generates Oscar chatter for Clooney.

The Iron Lady 
(Nov. 16)

Having lived under Margaret Thatcher rule, both in her capacity as the British prime minister and a member of Parliament, I’m not concerned that an American portrays Britain’s most famous post-war politician in this biography. It’s Meryl Streep, for goodness sake. She not only bears a passing resemble to Thatcher, but with her gift for accents, she’s bound to nail Thatcher’s headmistress-like authoritative voice. The real concern is whether Streep’s Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd can deliver a work of substance. Thatcher represented the best and worst of British politics — her stand on health care, privatization and workers cost her a lot of goodwill after she scored her Falklands War victory — and The Iron Lady must reflect this if it is to be taken more seriously than Oliver Stone’s W. As for Streep, The Iron Lady could have her landing her first Best Actress Oscar in three decades if she delivers as memorable a performance as the one Helen Mirren gave in The Queen.

J. Edgar (Nov. 11)

Almost 40 years after his death, J. Edgar Hoover remains as much a figure of mystery and intrigue as he did during his half-century reign as the director of the FBI.

Clint Eastwood’s highly anticipated bio scrutinizes Hoover’s rise to power, the unsavory methods he employed to remain one of the country’s most feared men, and the smear campaigns he conducted against his political foes.

Of most interest will be how, if at all, Eastwood and Milk Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black will address rumors that Hoover not only cross-dressed but was a closeted homosexual who enjoyed a long relationship with his protégé, FBI Assistant Director Clyde Tolson.

Ignoring the rumors may result in J. Edgar feeling like it’s taking a timid approach to its subject, but going too far could lead to accusations against Eastwood and Black taking gossipy liberties with the truth. So they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Many actors have portrayed Hoover, most notably Broderick Crawford, Bob Hoskins and Billy Crudup.

Eastwood’s interesting choice: Leonardo 
DiCaprio, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator. The rest of the cast includes Armie Hammer as Tolson, Jeffrey Donovan as Robert F. Kennedy, Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh, and Noami Watts as Helen Grandy, Hoover’s secretary of 54 years.

Moneyball (Sept. 23)

You can argue whether baseball is still America’s pastime, but it remains our most stat-driven sport. Nothing reflects this more than sabermetrics, a method used by baseball general managers to determine which players contribute the most to their team irrespective of talent, popularity and salary.

The most high-profile proponent of sabermetrics is Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, whose cost-effective measures resulted in a competitive team going to the playoffs four consecutive seasons with a low payroll consisting of undervalued talent.

Based on the book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball casts Brad Pitt as the budget-conscious Bean and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the A’s manager Art Howe. Hoffman’s Capote director Bennett Miller came to Moneyball’s rescue after Sony pulled the plug on Steven Soderbergh’s version, which would have included interview footage with real baseball players.

Even with Miller examining Beane’s life outside the ballpark, the emphasis still remains on baseball economics. Bennett must take a page from The Social Network if he intends to keep us around until the last bat.

The Rum Diary 
(Oct. 28)

Before Pirates of the Caribbean transformed Johnny Depp from a risk-taking critics’ darling to the world’s biggest star, he portrayed gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s fictional surrogate Raoul Duke in Terry Gilliam’s suitably warped take on Thompson’s drug-fueled novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Thirteen years later, Depp takes on another Thompson-created journalist, Paul Kemp.

The Rum Diary follows Kemp’s exploits in Puerto Rico working for the San Juan Star and his interactions with the likes of Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins and The Playboy Club’s Amber Heard. Depp’s roles in adult-oriented films are few and far between these days, so this passion project should be a welcome alternative to Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist.

Equally telling is Depp’s decision to hire Bruce Robinson to direct. Surely the director responsible for the British cult classic Withnail will have an understanding of the eccentricities to be found in Thompson’s work.

The Skin I Live In (Oct. 28)

There’s always anticipation surrounding the arrival of a new melodrama from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar.

What sets apart The Skin I Live In from Almodóvar’s recent offerings is that it marks his first collaboration with his former favorite leading man, Antonio Banderas, in 21 years. Banderas’ last worked with Almodóvar on 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! before he went Hollywood.

Both have done just fine without each other these two decades, but Almodóvar directing Banderas again is as tantalizing a prospect as Martin Scorsese reuniting for the ninth time with Robert De Niro.

In what appears to be another of Almodóvar’s mindbenders, Banderas plays a surgeon who performs secret skin experiments on a woman (Elena Anaya) he holds captive at his research facility.

When it comes to Almodóvar, nothing is what it seems, so brace for the obligatory twists and turns that he loves to throw at the viewer.

Hopefully, Almodóvar and Banderas won’t wait as long to collaborate again if The Skin I Live In exceeds expectation.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (TBA)

If you saw the 1979 BBC miniseries adapted from John le Carré’s Cold War-era classic novel, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Alec Guinness portraying MI6 intelligence officer George Smiley.

But Gary Oldman is an inspired choice for the role of the world-weary retired British spy in this film version directed by Let the Right One In’s Tomas Alfredson.

Set during the 1970s, Smiley’s charged with the task of identifying a Russian mole that’s infiltrated British intelligence.

The supporting cast includes Colin Firth, fresh off his King’s Speech Oscar win; John Hurt; Inception’s Tom Hardy, and Kick-Ass’ Mark Strong.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy represents the first of le Carré’s Karla Trilogy. (The BBC skipped over the second in the trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy, for budgetary reasons and brought back Guinness for the third, Smiley’s People.)

If Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy can satisfy audiences unable to wait for next year’s installments of the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchise, maybe we’ll finally see an adaptation of The Honourable Schoolboy and Oldman completing the trilogy with Smiley’s People.

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Post by Admin on Fri Sep 23, 2011 4:23 pm

Summer Cinema Review

Written by Rhian Evans on September 23, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Just as is the case every summer, the general population was faced with a myriad of different cinematic worlds to hide away from the sun (read: rain) in. The summer months provide us with the longest blockbuster period of the year, with something new, glitzy and star-spangled to see every week. 2011 has been no different.

As could have been predicted- probably several years in advance- the biggest film release of this summer was HarryHarry Potter Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the final instalment in the septology turned cinematic octology. It was a big deal for some, saying final goodbyes to their childhood with robe-draped midnight openings across the country, which led to record-breaking opening takings. Throwing audiences right in where Part 1 left off, Part 2 tugged them along at a relentless pace allowing them to gorge their eyes on some of the best of British CGI as the last great wizarding battle took place and many long-awaited moments made their way onto the silver screen, from the inevitable getting together of Ron and Hermione to the fierce words of Molly Weasley. Yes, some of the performances were still shakey (bless him, but Daniel Radcliffe does try) and, as is the case with many book to film adaptations, the book will always triumph, but it was felt by many fans and critics that this concluding film was a cut above its predecessors. Even if it did close with that unforgettable, unintentional nugget of comedy gold that was the epilogue; those that had read the book were cringingly expecting that anyway.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated films after Harry Potter was the sci-fi thriller, Super 8. It was written and directed by J. J. Abrams. It was produced by Steve Spielberg. Film nerds everywhere could barely contain themselves long enough to witness such an exquisite silver screen partnership. Bearing some similar touchstones to Spielberg’s beloved E.T., Super 8 tells the story of a group of adolescents caught up in the aftermath of a suspicious train accident and the consequences of their helping a far flung alien, a victim of hostile bureaucracy.

This summer also saw the usual slew of classic comic-book characters being made Hollywood flesh on the big screen. James McAvoy portrayed a young Charles Xavier opposite Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in X-Men: First Class. This prequel and fifth instalment in the X-Men film franchise set against the backdrop of the 1960’s Cuban missile crisis went back in the established timeline in order to show audiences the beginnings of the X-Men, where Magneto first found his fetching anti-Xavier helmet and, most importantly, how did Xavier end up in a wheelchair anyway?

Captain America also made some use of genuine historical events, this time the ever-popular World War Two period. Chris Evans (also known as the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four films) was miraculously diminished through the powers of CGI to portray weedy but resilient nice guy Steve Rogers, only to see him emerge well-oiled and muscled from a machine half an hour into the film. In this way, audiences witnessed the creation of Captain America and his early losses in his mission against rebel Nazi weapon development branch, Hydra. As the full title of the film is Captain America: The First Avenger audiences were also privy to the final bricks being laid in the build up to the foundations of The Avengers.

Other comic releases included Green Lantern which, although applauded for its exemplary use of special effects, was not a favourite among critics, whereas Kenneth Brannagh’s adaptation of the lesser-known Thor was better preferred.

This year’s surprise comedy hit was the female funny vehicle, Bridesmaids. Written by and starring Kristen Wiig, this gross-out comedy, with its clever combination of script-work and improvisation was much lauded by critics who appear to have been pleasantly caught out by a film that, although at first appeared to be a chick flick, went on to include uproarious scenes of explosive diarrhoea in the gleaming white of a top class bridal shop. Of course, the film was produced by Judd Apatow of Anchorman and Superbad fame, so if you were paying attention during the opening credits you may have had some idea of what to expect. This film was not loved by all but appears to have been thoroughly enjoyed by middle-aged woman up and down the country. Other comedies released this summer included Horrible Bosses, with funny guys Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day teaming up in a procession of hilarious screw-ups that told the tale of three friends failed attempts to murder each other’s detestable bosses as portrayed by a dark Kevin Spacey, a loathsome Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston in her first decent comedic role since Friends.

Following the usual summer blockbuster trend, audiences had plenty of sequels and threequels to choose from. Pixar’s Cars 2 was a pulsingly colourful hit with the younger generation (or for those young at heart). Michael Bay’s third Transformers movie explored the dark side of the moon, transferring raucous robot action to an unexplored territory and transforming popular Megan Fox into the more blonde and British Rosie Huntington-Whitley. The award for most numerically advanced sequel this summer goes to Final Destination 5, the last and most exaggeratedly gruesome in the increasingly groanworthy series; although, that’s what they said about Final Destination 4.

August closed and September drew in with a dose of British cinema. The Inbetweeners Movie was even more of a success than could have been predicted based upon the popularity of the E4 TV show. The film now boasts the shiny box office badge of most successful weekend opening for a British comedy, with takings of £13.2 million from Friday to Sunday. Depicting a wild lads’ holiday in Malia gone wrong in so many ways, The Inbetweeners Movie was just as crude as anyone could have hoped for.

A more tasteful British outing was found in One Day, the filmic adaptation of David Nicholl’s bestselling novel. The unique year-by-year narrative device as used in the book felt jarring as in the first few scenes, but as the film progressed and the length of the scenes grew and expanded alongside Dexter and Emma’s quasi-romantic friendship, audiences were able to settle in and enjoy the hauntingly witty unravelling of a contemporary relationship, one already dubbed a ‘modern classic’.

And that’s just a quick look back at the major players in this summer in cinema- there was plenty not to miss (and yet also, some to avoid, some which should go straight to video because no one owns a video player anymore).

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Post by Admin on Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:10 pm,,20483133_20544775,00.html?stitched#21078851

35 Movies We Can't Wait to See

From this week's ''Breaking Dawn -- Part 1'' to ''One for the Money'' at the end of January, what we'll be lining up for in this winter (all dates subject to change)
By EW Staff | Nov 16, 2011

A Dangerous Method (Nov. 23)
Someone get these shrinks a shrink! Famed psychiatrists Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) have a falling-out when Jung gets involved with a disturbed Russian patient, Sabina (Keira Knightley).

Shame (Dec. 2)
Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict forced to confront his past when his younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in with him. Or, that movie in which Michael Fassbender gets naked a lot.

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Post by Admin on Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:15 pm

Holiday 2011 Forecast
by Ray Subers
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

November 16, 2011

While the Holiday movie season technically begins the first weekend of November, things really kick off the weekend before Thanksgiving. It's no different this year, with two sure-fire hits reaching theaters on Friday (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One and Happy Feet Two). From now until the end of the year, nearly every weekend is packed with potential blockbusters, ranging from family movies (Arthur Christmas, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked) to dark adult fare (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and everything in between. To mark the start of this onslaught of major releases, here's a look at the potential biggest movies, as well as a prediction as to what they may gross.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part One)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse earned $300.5 million last Summer, and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the last November opener, grossed $296.6 million in 2009. It's unlikely the audience will grow much for Breaking Dawn, though with a much-anticipated wedding and pregnancy the movie should at least hold about even. Forecast: $290 million

2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Dec. 16)
Aside from Breaking Dawn, the biggest slamdunk this season is the Sherlock Holmes sequel. That movie grossed $209 million around the same time in 2009, and that was up against Avatar. Star Robert Downey, Jr. remains incredibly popular, and the sequel ups the ante with the introduction of legendary Holmes nemesis Professor Moriarty. Still, sequels have had a tough go lately, so a huge improvement on the first movie's gross will probably be difficult to achieve. Forecast: $240 million

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Chipwrecked is coming out at the same time of year as its two predecessors which made $217.3 million and $219.6 million, respectively. It also clearly differentiates itself with the shipwreck angle. As annoying as the Chipmunks may be to many moviegoers, Chipwrecked is guaranteed to be a go-to choice for tons of families throughout the holidays. Forecast: $200 million

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably the most popular adult book to receive the big screen treatment since The Da Vinci Code, which grossed $217.5 million in 2006. Dragon Tattoo is way too dark to come close to that figure, but it's knockout campaign, which counterprograms it as "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas," should make it a top choice throughout the Holiday season and well in to January. Forecast: $165 million

5. Happy Feet Two (Nov. 18)
Happy Feet Two is the final major animated sequel this year following Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2, which declined around 22 percent on average from their predecessors. Besides the addition of two krill, voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, the movie doesn't appear to build much on the first Happy Feet, which earned $198 million in 2006, so a similar drop is probably in order. Forecast: $155 million

6. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Dec. 16 IMAX/select theaters, Dec. 21 everywhere)
The Mission: Impossible series took a bit of a hit in 2006 when Mission: Impossible III earned just $134 million domestically. Tom Cruise's star has also faded a bit in recent years, with last Summer's Knight & Day qualifying as his least-attended action movie in decades. Producers attempted to counteract these factors by bringing in legendary Pixar director Brad Bird and shooting roughly 30 minutes of footage with IMAX cameras. What could provide the biggest boost, though, is the inclusion of The Dark Knight Rises prologue on all IMAX prints, which should translate in to huge business in that format. Still, fourth entries rarely top their predecessors, and nothing stands out in the trailers or commercials to indicate that this will easily buck that trend. Forecast: $125 million

7. Arthur Christmas (Nov. 23)
Family-oriented Christmas-themed movies are one of the safest box office bets in recent memory, especially when they involve Santa in some way (The Polar Express, Elf, The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2 all made between $139 and $182 million). Arthur Christmas probably won't have a blockbuster opening, but it is receiving solid reviews (currently 93% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and it should play well throughout the entire Christmas season. Forecast: $120 million

8. The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21)
Tintin marks Steven Spielberg's first foray in to animation, as well as his first of two movies to be released at the end of December 2011. The movie has already made over $160 million overseas, most of which came in Europe where the title character is extremely popular. He's less known to U.S. audiences, though, and motion-capture animation has been hit-or-miss. The highest-grossing example is The Polar Express ($182 million), while A Christmas Carol was notably lower in 2009 ($137.8 million). Those movies were based off well-known source material and were timed nicely with the holidays, whereas Tintin could have come out at any time of year. Regardless, the Spielbergian adventure elements should help the movie get past $100 million. Forecast: $115 million

9. We Bought a Zoo (Dec. 23)
Christmas brings not one, but two animal-oriented book adaptations targeting family audiences. We Bought a Zoo's heart-warming tale will be more immediately appealing that War Horse's darker material, so the Cameron Crowe-directed movie has a slight edge over Spielberg's war drama. Also, distributor 20th Century Fox is so enthusiastic about the movie that they are screening it on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a full month in advance of its actual opening. This kind of confidence is rare, and indicates the movie's potential broad appeal. Forecast: $105 million

10. New Year's Eve (Dec. 9)
With its star-studded ensemble cast, holiday-centric romances, and the same director (Gary Marshall), New Year's Eve essentially functions as a sequel to 2010 hit Valentine's Day ($110.5 million). That movie was propped up by a monster opening weekend ($56.3 million) that corresponded with its titular holiday, a luxury that New Year's Eve won't have. It will hold up much better throughout the month and in to the beginning of January, though matching Valentine's Day's total will be tough. Forecast: $90 million

Other Wide Releases:

The Muppets (Nov. 23): While the movie is highly-anticipated within a select group, The Muppets haven't really been all that popular on the big screen since their very first outing back in 1979. Adjusted for inflation, the Muppets movies from the 90s earned between $26 and $62 million, and with Disney's strong campaign this movie should wind up at the high-end of that range.

Hugo (Nov. 23): Martin Scorsese's first children's movie is a tough sell—it has too much competition to stand out to the younger audience, and it could look too childish for older audiences. Scorsese's avid fan-base should help spread solid word-of-mouth, but this still looks poised to be one of the lower-grossing movies of the season.

The Sitter (Dec. 9): R-rated comedies hit a peak during the Summer, when four straight entries made over $100 million. Since then, though, the movies have been on a brutal downward slope, and even with its Adventures in Babysitting-like story, The Sitter doesn't look like it will easily reverse the trend.

Young Adult (Dec. 9 limited, Dec. 16 expansion): Jason Reitman's Up in the Air earned $83.8 million at the same time in 2009, though it had George Clooney and slightly better reviews and awards buzz than Young Adult. This should be a minor hit, but cracking the Top 10 is unlikely.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Dec. 21 limited, January 20 wide expansion): This is the biggest question mark for the holiday season, and considering its January 20 wide expansion, it barely qualifies anyway. With Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, it has a strong chance of topping Stephen Daldry's The Hours ($41.7 million), and could go higher if it ends up with major awards buzz.

War Horse (Dec. 25): As Steven Spielberg's first traditional war movie since 1998's Saving Private Ryan, War Horse would seem to be in very good shape. However, its protagonist appears to be a horse that doesn't talk, and it's going up against tons of lighter, more broadly-appealing fare. If it reaches heartland audiences the way Disney is hoping, it could be a breakout hit, but it's not a slamdunk by any means.

The Darkest Hour (Dec. 25): There are just too many movies coming out on or around Christmas for this alien invasion movie from Summit to be a hit. The best case scenario is matching Alien Vs. Predator - Requiem's $41.8 million, though that would be a major accomplishment.

Noteworthy Limited Releases:

The Descendants (Nov. 16 in NY/LA, Nov. 18 limited): Alexander Payne's last two movies were Sideways and About Schmidt, which made $71.5 million and $65 million, respectively. The Descendants is receiving similar buzz, and also features George Clooney in a potential award-nominated performance. It should wind up at a similar level.

The Artist (Nov. 23): This could go a number of ways: it's definitely a crowd-pleaser, at least among film buffs (I caught it at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles where it received a very warm reception). Also, The Weinstein Company seems to be throwing major support behind it, and it will absolutely earn a handful of Oscar nominations. Unfortunately, it is black-and-white and (mostly) silent, and that's going to keep tons of viewers away regardless of how good it is.

Shame (Dec. 2): The controversial Michael Fassbender sex addiction drama has received all kinds of free press thanks to its NC-17 rating. However, the rating will keep the movie from a traditional marketing push, and it will also limit the number of theaters it can be showed at. The all-time highest-grossing NC-17 movie is Showgirls at $20.3 million, and Shame could at least pass Henry & June's $11.6 million to claim second place.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Dec. 9): After earning over $22 million in the United Kingdom, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will attempt to at least match that figure in the U.S. It's being touted as a near-perfect Cold War thriller, and it has an impressive 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 39 reviews. Stir in some awards chatter, and this could be a standout choice for adults through the season.

The Iron Lady (Dec. 30): The recently-released trailer for The Iron Lady makes it look like a more modern-day version of The King's Speech, which is surely intentional given that movie's $138.8 million gross. Early word is that The Iron Lady isn't quite as good, though it should be considered a success at a fraction of King's Speech numbers.

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Post by Admin on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:21 pm

Five Overlooked Films of 2011
By Thelma Adams | The Reel Breakdown – Mon, Jan 9, 2012 7:46 PM EST

By the time the Golden Globes arrive on Sunday, we pretty much know the awards season field from high to low: "The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Help," "Moneyball," and "Bridesmaids" and a few more -- a Spielberg, a Scorsese. But what happened to all the great films, most available on DVD, that were tossed under the bus? Here's our list of five must-see movies that deserved awards but were lost along the way: "The Debt," "Warrior," "Jane Eyre," "The Devil's Double," and "Like Crazy."

1. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close": Sandra Bullock acts her heart out as a 9/11 widow -- a supporting role -- in this tearjerker. It explores the tragic terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the impact it had on a young boy. While the film was hailed as a possible awards-season monster, it's quietly faded away, along with the hopes for Bullock, Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow, child actor Thomas Horn, and director Stephen Daldry.

2. "The Debt": While Jessica Chastain is up for best supporting actress for "The Help," she was relatively unknown only a year ago. This terrific young actress had a major role in "The Debt," playing the younger version of Oscar winner Helen Mirren's Mossad operative. The ensemble spy thriller, which also features a buff Sam Worthington, opened on Labor Day weekend and was quickly forgotten. In one of the most harrowing scenes, Chastain, as a young Mossad agent, knee-clamps a Nazi war-criminal gynecologist and stabs him in the neck with a hypodermic needle. It's every bit as horrific as the famous dental chair scene with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier in "Marathon Man."

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3. "Jane Eyre": In this nearly forgotten Michael Fassbender ("X-Men: First Class") film, the studly Irish actor who generated so much commentary for his full-frontal nudity in "Shame" creates more heat while fully clothed. He plays the tortured Victorian gentleman, Rochester, opposite Mia Wasikowska's plain-Jane governess. Based on the Charlotte Bronte classic, with lush cinematography and gorgeous sets and costumes, this is the ultimate smart girl's romance. Just don't call it a chick flick.

4. "The Devil's Double": I still can't get over the fact that Dominic Cooper, best known for playing Amanda Seyfried's love interest in "Mamma Mia!", didn't get any award love for his astounding dual role. He plays both Saddam Hussein's maniacally evil son Uday and the appealing look-alike Latif Yahia forced to become his body double. Directed by Lee Tamahori, "The Devil's Double" unfolds like an action thriller, but this odd and sometimes darkly funny take on the evil-twin trope reveals as much about the nature of true villainy on earth as any Sunday sermon.

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5. "Like Crazy": Out of Sundance last year, this smart indie romance generated big buzz for newcomer Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, who play star-crossed, college-educated lovers. Their characters fall crazy in love, and then try to maintain that passion in a Los Angeles-to-London long-distance romance that stretches to the breaking point. Add points for Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone") as a very plausible other woman, performed just as the actress shifted from supporting roles to stardom.

Catch all the Yahoo! coverage of the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, January 15, starting at 4 p.m. PT. Discover the stars and films that made the final cut of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

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Post by Admin on Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:51 pm

Shaun’s Top 20 Films of 2011

January 25, 2012 3:09 pm
Shaun Munro

There’s the distinct feeling as 2011 has now come and gone that it will not be remembered among the stronger years of recent cinema; countless prestige pics (The Iron Lady, J. Edgar, The Lady) proved disappointing, more so than is regularly anticipated, while blockbuster fare, though solid, didn’t deliver any Inception or Toy Story 3-caliber outings. There were, however, some wonderful genre films populating the later months of the year, including peculiarly tantalising sci-fi and sports films, as well as the British horror scene’s most diverting entry in years. Add to that some profound meditations on parenting, the film industry, memory, addiction, animal cruelty and domestic abuse, and you have what is nevertheless as diverse a year as any, even if it possibly lacked that one affirmative zeitgeist film that is going to be talked about not only in art house circles but in pub discussions for years to come.

Special Achievement Award:

(Asif Kapadia / Tomatometer: 92%)

I have to preface my list by singling out one film which does not technically speaking qualify as a 2011 film, but just had to be mentioned. Having been released in Japan and Brazil in 2010, the wonderful racing doc Senna is listed on IMDB, Wikipedia and other such sites as 2010, though it did not find major distribution in the likes of the U.S. and the U.K. until after the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Frustrating it is, then, that this remains the only new release that I saw in 2011 and awarded five stars, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to drop an honourable mention and give it an asterisked place ahead of my list. For boring and complicated reasons, yes, it is not a 2011 film, but very few people in the world had access to it prior to 2011, so it deserves recognition nevertheless.

If we define a classic documentary by its ability to transcend niche subject matter and engage all audiences, then the exhilarating and unbelievable Senna is one of cinema’s recent best. I am not and have never been interested in F1 racing, that is, until the afterglow of Asif Kapadia‘s impeccable documentary began to pulse through my mind in the moments following its conclusion. Chronicling the life and untimely death of Brazilian motor-racing star Ayrton Senna, the eponymously-titled doc briskly depicts Senna’s rise to prominence in the sport, in a manner free of the typical talking heads and locked-off cameras. Rather, Kapadia focuses on a streamlined, visually dynamic experience, keen to get your heart pumping and palms sweating, with diverting, break-neck footage of some of Senna’s more accomplished feats on the track.

Even more compelling, though, is the insight into the political plays and rivalries that he became embroiled in; outspoken and an advocate of driver safety, Senna was the frequent foil of FISA Jean-Marie Balestre – who comes off terribly here – and yet this only helped enhance Senna’s stature as a consummate sportsman and “driver’s driver”. His feud with teammate Alain Prost is depicted here with the enthusiastic grip of a tightly-wound narrative feature, as the two jostle to become the title driver for McLaren. Finally, after it thrills as a slick sort of thriller-actioner, it ends with a heartbreaking climax; the accident which cost Senna his life, which is not shied away from here nor exploited for false sentiment. Devastatingly, we learn much of what Senna meant to the Brazilian people; a triumphant symbol of hope, now extinguished and leaving many in agony. In a broader context, Senna is a monument to the power of sport, but most prominently a testament to the worth of a passionate human being and amazing sportsman. It doesn’t get much better than this.
20. Super 8

(J.J. Abrams / Tomatometer: 82%)

J.J. Abrams demonstrates a real love for cinema – primarily Steven Spielberg’s classic sci-fi pics – with this doting homage, which puts a frantic alien invasion plot secondary to an involving, emotionally resonant family narrative. Many filmmakers over the years have tried to ape Spielberg’s unmistakable style, but few – if any – have succeeded as well as Abrams here; even produced by Spielberg and his company Amblin Entertainment (which famously features a scene from E.T. in its logo), the film bleeds the legendary filmmaker’s DNA at every turn, from its spectacularly-filmed chase sequences to its overarching sense of wonder, and indeed, its focus on strained family dynamics amid a world crisis.

What really distinguishes this film from countless other similar films is not only Abrams’ skill as a director – coming off the outstanding Star Trek reboot was no doubt a savvy move – but the hugely impressive performances from the three young leads, especially Elle Fanning as a troubled girl who finds solace in helping her new friends make a charming little Super 8 movie outside their home. With all of the clear reverence for the filmmaking process and the joy of youth discovering it, the science fiction elements often take a back seat, but Abrams knows when to crank the set-piecery into full gear, delivering thrilling scenes of destruction which also turn out to be surprisingly pungent on an emotional, visceral level.

19. Kill List

(Ben Wheatley / Tomatometer: 82%)

Down Terrace director Ben Wheatley returns with what is a hugely impressive sophomore feature and also the scariest, most unsettling British horror film in years. Kill List begins with a family in crisis, as unemployed ex-soldier Jay (Neil Maskell) realises his funds are running dry and he has a wife (MyAnna Buring) and young son to feed. His army friend, Gal (Michael Smiley), mentions a rich job prospect; to perform a series of three contract assassinations which will be doled out one after another.

Wheatley sets a profoundly weird and subtly disquieting atmosphere from the outset, one which slowly but surely grows more and more disturbing; one victim thanks Jay prior to killing him, and seconds later, in a mind-boggling technical feat, the man’s head is hammered to pieces in a seamless take without cutting away. The film explores the immensely dark capacity of man’s nature, to enjoy murder, and also leaps off to make comment about a recession-riddled Britain, in which people will literally kill to put dinner on the table. Its grisly third reel, though, is best of all; it employs a huge tonal shift which won’t please all viewers, but in its stead delivers the most consistently tense 20-minutes of the year, with a kicker of a final shot to boot. I can’t wait to see what Wheatley does next.
Read my full review here –
18. The Ides of March

(George Clooney / Tomatometer: 86%)

One of the more underrated films on this list, following its cold reception at the Venice Film Festival, The Ides of March is nevertheless a stirring, superbly acted political thriller with George Clooney pulling astounding quadruple-duty as actor, co-writer, director and producer. While ostensibly less of a legitimate Best Picture play than his hugely acclaimed Good Night and Good Luck, this proves his success as a director was no fluke, for it is another fiercy political vehicle which, while hardly shocking in its statement that, yes, politicians frequently lie to further their careers, nevertheless reminds us of this fact in a uniquely arresting, dramatically satisfying manner.

Ryan Gosling is astonishing once again, this time as Stephen Meyers, the Junior Campaign Manager for the Presidential campaign of Mike Morris (Clooney), who has his cloud of optimism pierced once he finds some unsavoury truths out about his seemingly unflappable leader. Pointed quite clearly as an allegory of the disappointment of Obama’s presidency thus far, the film is nevertheless enjoyable whatever your political allegiance, for it is a more general statement about how much we invest in politicos and how they are always going to invariably disappoint personally if not professionally. Gosling puts a human, boyish face on this disappointment, and Clooney is stellar – though fleetingly used – as the slick but troubled president. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are also wonderfully vicious as the Democratic and Republican campaign managers respectively.

Read my full review here –

17. The Interrupters

(Steve James / Tomatometer: 99%)

Just about any director would find it difficult to top the immensity of 1994′s Hoop Dreams, unquestionably one of the greatest and most involving documentaries ever made. Steve James, however, rises to the challenge with a worthy doc about a trio of so-called “violence interrupters” operating out of Chicago. The three, all former felons, have learned from their mistakes and turned their lives into something productive, courageously breaking up gang violence whenever they chance upon it. In fact, it’s fascinating that it has taken so long for a film to be made about the group, now quite large in number, because their bravery and the ripple-effect of their actions has a grand social consequence.

More so than a police officer or social worker telling gangs to stop the violence, it is people on the same level as the gangs, of their race, class, and social status. This raises some taxing moral questions, such as where the interrupters’ place stands between the offenders and the police, and of course whether when pushed, the interrupters themselves could turn violent. Much like the director’s seminal doc, this is a richly-drawn slice of real life that’s weaved with the finesse of a fine Hollywood drama; we care for these characters – people, even – and as is true in real life, little is ever solved overnight, such that plenty remains up in the air as the film comes to a close.

16. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

(Tomas Alfredson / Tomatometer: 85%)

The first film of 2011 to hit the ground running with a certifiable shot at awards season (sorry, Tree of Life), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a workmanlike spy thriller crafted with sublime skill by Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson. Adapting John le Carré’s acclaimed novel (which was previously made as an Alec Guinness-starring TV mini-series), this is a dense, layered, complex film that’s occasionally difficult to follow, but refreshingly demanding of the viewer as such; one must pay attention or risk missing vital information which is not repeated again. Gary Oldman is marvellous as the protagonist, ex-MI6 agent George Smiley, who is tasked with locating a mole within the Circus before he can compromise the entire sector. Dripping in anxiety and paranoia, this is a film that makes the best of long hallways and dark rooms, mining a certain banal sense of dread for all it’s worth, slowly but surely building towards a satisfying climax which nevertheless might leave the unsuspecting viewer’s head spinning. It’s a thinking man’s thriller that doesn’t talk down to you, and in this day and age, that must be commended.

Read my full review here –

15. The Muppets

(James Bobin / Tomatometer: 96%)

Six months ago, I would never have anticipated that a new Muppet film would end up among the best films of the year. Brushing aside decades of nostalgia, this is a whip-smart postmodern romp with a warm heart to boot, and as such, it should please both life-long fans and new initiates to the Muppet universe. What it does right is clear almost immediately; it acknowledges that the Muppets are outdated and even irrelevant in today’s age of more articulate pleasures. Children are more content with portable video game consoles than moving puppets, yet by working this into the plot, whereby the Muppets’ theatre is facing foreclosure and will be sold to greedy oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) along with their legacy, it manages to feel fresh and modern.

Jason Segel, who co-stars and co-wrote the film, is clearly a lifelong Muppets fan, and pours both his heart and soul into everything here, even if the human drama with his longtime love Mary (Amy Adams) feels very much secondary to the fabric-based characters, as it should. The song-and-dance numbers are wonderfully old-fashioned, yet the humour is updated with a wicked wit that better reflects modern, more developed sensibilities, keenly poking fun at some of our more inane indulgences, such as banal tween stars, it appears, without them even realising it (or being precociously self-aware enough to participate in the film). The Muppets have always been about love and joy – that was Jim Henson’s mission – and this film demonstrates there’s still plenty of life in the old dog yet.

14. The Descendants

(Alexander Payne / Tomatometer: 89%)

Alexander Payne’s much-anticipated follow-up to his fantastic Sideways is, I must say, no Sideways, but that’s a pretty high expectation as it stands. Payne’s latest is a riveting drama about Matt King (George Clooney), a man who must come to terms with the prospect that his comatose wife probably isn’t going to wake up, while having a parental role thrust upon him for the first time in his life. There are plenty more twists and turns early on in Payne’s film, but to ruin them would be to rob the film of its savage moral ambiguity, of how Matt’s predicament becomes inexorably more complicated than one would expect; he is forced to martyr himself for the good of others, to preserve reputations, and to make the greatest number of people happy.

It goes without saying that this film could finally steer George Clooney towards an Academy Award for Best Actor; it is a witty, extremely likable, emotionally complicated character with which he has been blessed, and as his daughter, Shailene Woodley is a major find and should herself considered in the Best Supporting Actress category. It lacks the airy wherewithal of Payne’s previous feature, but it is still a wonderful work from a master writer-director, and should do well in the upcoming Oscar platform.

Read my full review here –

13. Tyrannosaur

(Paddy Considine / Tomatometer: 80%)

Tyrannosaur is not the sort of film you go to see on a date or for a fun night out at the cinema. It is an actor’s film that you go to see for the acting. The debut feature from primarily comic actor Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur traces patterns of abuse in a trio of people; an angry, violent old alcoholic, Joseph (Peter Mullan), a battered wife, Hannah (Olivia Colman), and her frustrated, abusive husband, James (Eddie Marsan).

Easily one of the grimmest films in recent years, Tyrannosaur is not for the squeamish; it is framed by savage acts of violence which represent choices for the protagonist, Joseph. In between, we merely observe how he tries in subtle ways not only to better Hannah’s situation, but perhaps unconsciously, his own. That the film offers only morsels of redemption will be no surprise; this is proudly unsentimental, incredibly harrowing viewing, most notably for Olivia Colman’s career-making performance as a maltreated wife who is looking for a way out of her predicament. Poor state-side distribution will likely hamper her Oscar campaign, but this is one of the most alluring breakout performances in years, while Considine is an unexpectedly perfect conduit through which to channel this raw, unfettered emotion.

Read my full review here –
12. Margaret

(Kenneth Lonergan / Tomatometer: 66%)

Easily the most ambitious and perplexing film on this list, Margaret has languished in post-production Hell for at least the better part of five years, as director Kenny Lonergan agonised over creating a cut he was satisfied with. Thanks to Martin Scorsese and his perennial editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who delivered the final cut themselves, Margaret hit our screens – albeit in an immensely limited capacity – this year. While a 150-minute run time is a demanding ask for a blockbuster epic let alone a small, quiet tale about redemption and the grey edges of morality, Margaret is involving at almost all times, due to a cracking script, keen to mock the pretentious, poetic nature of these sorts of films even if it does ultimately concede to it itself a little.

On a simpler level, though, it is a fascinating insight into the mind of a 17-year-old girl, Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), as she deals with love, sex, an overbearing mother, and most importantly, deciding for herself what to do about a fatal bus accident that she had a hand in causing. Paquin, while barely in her twenties at the time of filming, delivers what is unashamedly a career-best performance, demonstrating vulnerability and precociousness in plausible tandem, while nailing the grand emotional highs and lows of her predicament. Lonergan pulls no punches and his film is all the better for it; if you can get through the initial, protracted death sequence without wincing, you’re made of steel. Ambitious, stunningly-acted, smart, and astoundingly not outstaying its welcome despite a beefy run time, Margaret is destined to become a cult classic.

11. Martha Marcy May Marlene

(Sean Durkin / Tomatometer: 88%)

Most people probably weren’t even aware that there is a third Olsen sister, let alone that she is the most talented of the bunch. In a stunning debut, Elizabeth Olsen delivers what is easily the year’s most startling debut performance – earning comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence’s Winter’s Bone acclaim – and also one of the best female performances of the year full-stop, fighting off fierce competition from acting lionesses such as Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. Olsen is outstanding as Martha, a young woman who at the film’s opening flees from a cult of which she has been a part for some time. Returning to her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), she awkwardly tries to re-assimilate into her former life, which places a strain on Lucy’s relationship with her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), while an increasing paranoia grows in her mind that she is being followed by abusive cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes).

Pitch-perfect editing renders this an economic and ever-engaging drama about the battle between what is a memory and what is artifice; while Patrick nary appears in Martha’ life once she arrives home, the dread-filled sense of anxiety is ever-present, revealed through increasingly harrowing flashbacks which explain why Martha decided to flee. Olsen, with her fresh, young face, encompasses the vulnerability and naivete of her character perfectly, while also dabbing it with her more uncouth behaviours learned from living with the cult. The ending may frustrate some hoping for succinct closure, but it is a more haunting and peculiar departure point at which to leave us. The film’s already gut-wrenching sense of paranoia and dread is wholly accentuated by Elizabeth Olsen’s searing, nuanced breakthrough performance.

10. Shame

(Steve McQueen / Tomatometer: 78%)

One of several films on this list that is destined to be snubbed by the Academy in probably all categories but one, Shame is an unforgettable, mesmerising second feature from Steve McQueen, whose first feature, Hunger, turned many heads as one of the more audacious debuts of any director in recent years. Again teaming with Michael Fassbender, McQueen explores sexual addiction through Fassbender’s Brandon, a high-flying business-type who spends his nights with call girls, random women he picks up at bars, and browsing Internet porn. When his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up on his doorstep, however, his insular, singular existence is challenged, and he finds himself trying to juggle a seemingly unstoppable compulsion with the emotional needs of his tortured sister.

There is no doubt a film here which would have gone too far and turned Shame into a tacky drama that goes incestual, but McQueen’s measured hand provides a glimpse into Brandon’s life that is at once riveting, disturbing, and occasionally quite hilarious. Fassbender rises to the considerable task of bettering his work on McQueen’s last film, delivering an astounding, year-best turn which would be a fine fit in the Oscar pantheon this year, though the NC-17 rating it received in the U.S. is no doubt detrimental to its prospects. Beautifully photographed, with an unforgettable score from Harry Escott, McQueen masterfully transforms scenes we would instantly assume to be erotic into the furthest thing from it; Fassbender’s anguished, angry, empty expression during these scenes is highly troubling, and absolutely gripping.

Read my full review here –

9. Warrior

(Gavin O’Connor / Tomatometer: 82%)

Easily the most pleasant surprise of the year, nothing in Warrior’s advertising prepared me for how sublimely it would manage to transcend a conventional story and provide one of the most affecting and engrossing cinematic outings all year. Proof that mesmerising performances and subtle narrative inflexions can go a long way, Warrior provides us with a traditional sports film setup; various fighters with personal woes enter a tournament for a cash prize which can better their lives. The difference here foremost is that, while the majority of these combat-sport films are centred around boxing, Warrior instead tackles the burgeoning mixed martial-arts field, brought to colourful, gritty, brutal life by Gavin O’Connor’s probing direction, delivering tense, visceral fight scenes unlike any you’ve seen in a film of this sort.

Add to this a less-typical drama narrative in which two brothers, cash-strapped family man Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) and angry former Marine Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy), are competing in the same tournament, and ultimately face off against one another, and you have a story with its own unique twist on the genre, most impressively creating a scenario that makes you root for both men without seeming overly contrived. Tom Hardy is a knockout as the smouldering younger brother trying to make sense of a difficult upbringing at the hands of alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte). However, the film film very much belongs to Nolte; scraggly-voiced and weathered beyond belief, it’s easy to see a Micky Rourke-esque self-reflexiveness in his performance, what with his own personal troubles with substance abuse. It’s a moving and fiercely committed performance which should hopefully provide Nolte with plenty of love in the impending awards season. Trumping even genre classic Rocky, Warrior packs a grand emotional wallop thanks to top-tier performances and the fact that you don’t want either fighter to lose.

8. Contagion

(Steven Soderbergh / Tomatometer: 84%)

Steven Soderbergh’s customary directorial flair combined with another meticulously composed screenplay from Scott Z. Burns makes more of Contagion than a simple, down-the-line genre film. Following the rapid growth of an aggressive virus which kills a large number of the infected within days, we observe the efforts of senior medical officials and ordinary people to respectively find a vaccine and survive the ravaging social and economic effects of its spread. As much a commentary on our own paranoia – no doubt exacerbated in an age of immediate information – as it is a frighteningly grounded depiction of the human race having its numbers sharply whittled, the fiercely intelligent Contagion outdoes its genre competition precisely because it doesn’t dumb itself down for our sake.

Featuring one of the best casts in any recent film, the performances here are outstanding almost universally; Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslett and Jennifer Ehle are stellar as scientists frantically chasing a cure, while the standout is Matt Damon, playing an impossibly hard-done-by man who loses most of his family to the virus and finds out some unsavoury secrets about his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the process. Soderbergh’s film is ruthlessly fair, killing off children as ably as it does adults, but its real success is in generating palpable human drama alongside a scarily plausible scenario which has drawn firm praise from the scientific community as well as film critics. Cliff Martinez’s wonderful score evokes classics of the genre such as The Andromeda Strain, while Soderbergh’s confident direction keeps things pacy and ever-compelling alongside the stupendously good performances which rank among the best of any blockbuster this year.
7. Hugo

(Martin Scorsese / Tomatometer: 94%)

Martin Scorsese and 3D aren’t exactly two things one would immediately put together, but if anyone can validate something dismissed by many as a crass gimmick, it is probably the veteran filmmaker. While Hugo would have been just as entertaining in 2D, Scorsese acquits himself and 3D technology ably with a sweetly nostalgic, affecting tale of a young boy (Asa Butterfield) growing up in France, as he finds himself slowly making acquaintance with a disgruntled older man (Ben Kingsley), and his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Moretz). Nostalgia seems to be the year’s cultural touchstone as far as plaudits go, yet Scorsese’s unlikely 3D family film takes an agreeably pragmatic stance, that we must embrace the past yet never deny progress.

Some might see Scorsese as hypocritical for wrapping a grandiose propaganda piece for film preservation within a big-budget, 3D Hollywood spectacle, yet it is a lesson taught without a pretension to the lectern. Children will probably not immediately identify with some of its more rose-tinted moments later on, but within Hugo is a warm-hearted, visually dazzling adventure, the kind of which typically is not made for kids. This feels like a great sort of Tim Burton film that Tim Burton lacks the ingenuity to make these days; to ruin its grand conceit would be a disservice, yet it is no spoiler to say that Ben Kingsley’s wonderful performance as an unforgettable figure of cultural history should be commanding more awards attention than it is.

6. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

(Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky / Tomatometer: 100%)

The first two entries to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost documentary series painted a convincing picture that three young men – dubbed the West Memphis Three – had been incorrectly convicted of the murder of three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993. This third film, an inarguably powerful knockout punch, reminds us of the documentary film’s power to change people’s lives. It would feel incomplete if Berlinger and Sinofsky examined the West Memphis Three case without drawing attention to the towering impact of their own work, which has drawn considerable attention to the apparent injustice at hand, driven by desperate, grieving families, and a mob-fuelled quest for vengeance against teens whose black attire and affinity for listening to Heavy Metal music apparently made them killers, despite no scrap of DNA evidence linking them to the scene.

Paradise Lost 3 is not a pleasant or uplifting documentary, opening with actual crime scene footage as the police discover the bodies of the murdered boys, and moving forward to consider other possible suspects, as well as examining how the situation has destroyed countless lives, and pointlessly, it seems, the youth of three men – now in their thirties – who were rendered scapegoats. What it does best is depict how public opinion has changed – in large part thanks to these films – such that, while the film was in post-production, prepping for a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the three men were finally freed. While it still screened in stilted form at the fest, HBO premiered the definitive cut on U.S. TV just this month, providing sure closure to an unfortunate but fascinating tale of human nature.

5. Project Nim

(James Marsh / Tomatometer: 98%)

Following up his Oscar-winning marvel Man on Wire with an even more impassioned and startling documentary, James Marsh has crafted a massively affecting, thought-provoking film about animal rights which is very much stranger than fiction. In the 1970s, a group of scientists attempted to raise a baby chimp, Nim, as one would a human baby, endeavouring to teach him sign language and observe how an animal can appropriate human means of communication. While this in of itself comprises an interesting enough doc, the real meat of the film’s drama comes from what happens in the wake of the experiment; when it didn’t yield the expected results, Nim was returned to a cage with fellow chimps, and of course, having lived as a human for so long, this transition was anything but smooth. Though firmly rooted as a heartbreaking chronicle of how an innocent animal was tragically failed by most of his human carers, much of the real insight comes from its observations of humanity, as we strive to find out more about our world and are in effect driven by ambition to selfish, cruel acts, ones which most of the subjects demonstrate devastating levels of guilt over in retrospect. Crafting a narrative that would in its own way operate as a wonderful feature, James Marsh manages to snappily contrast our similarities and differences to animals, and provides enough ambiguity that we’re never locked into one overtly polemical stance.

Read my full review here –

4. The Skin I Live In

(Pedro Almodovar / Tomatometer: 79%)

While unscrupulous critics have given away many of the secrets of Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, the best advice is simply to watch it without reading too much. Firing on his finest form in years, the Spanish auteur has crafted a uniquely disturbing film about revenge, sex, identity, and much more, absurd with an expectantly self-aware sensibility, milking the more maddeningly melodramatic aspects of its loopy story for genuine shocks, and a fair share of laughs too. Antonio Banderas is fantastic as a demented genius of a plastic surgeon who is driven to creative insanity by a tragic accident which robbed him of his wife.

Elena Anaya is a major find as the unwitting subject of his experiments, and also represents the surprising emotional core of the film: unlikely it is that a film so off-kilter actually manages to be affecting and warmly human, especially in its final moments. Beautifully shot, masterfully directed, and superbly acted, this feels like Almodovar at his least restrained and most enthusiastic; utterly haunting, often hilarious, always compelling, and deeply unsettling. This is a film that sticks with you.

Read my full review here –

3. The Artist

(Michel Hazanavicius / Tomatometer: 97%)

An out-of-nowhere surprise and a wonderful rebuke to pretty much anything else in Oscar contention this year, Michel Hazanavicius‘ warm, nostalgic and near-silent film about the onset of sound in the film industry may lack outrageous effects and even much dialogue, but its endless charm and reminder of a simpler time carries it to unexpected heights. Jean Dujardin is magnificent as George Valentin, a silent film star who feels threatened by the beginnings of the sound era, envisioned by gorgeous ingenue Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Quite obviously meant to imitate cinema’s most ardent resistor to sound, Charlie Chaplin, Valentin is extremely compelling as a monument to the bygone era, with Dujardin’s performance harnessing an affecting look at downfall and resurrection, rather unexpectedly for a film so often playful and joyous.

In a time in which 3D and lavish special effects dominate, the minimalism – if you can call it that – of this film is a potent tonic, reminding us of what talented people can do with little – charm and entertain with wit that no matter of visual grandeur can truly compensate for. Thoroughly romantic, and keen to have you skipping out of the cinema, this is a film lover’s film and indeed one which would be a snug fit for the Best Picture Academy Award which it is inevitably sailing towards.

Read my full review here –

2. 50/50

(Will Reiser / Tomatometer: 94%)

Proof that writing what you know is the best way, Will Reiser’s screenplay for this ambitious and daring cancer comedy draws from his own experiences with cancer, and feels achingly, beautifully authentic as a result. Oscar-baiting cancer dramas perennially talk down to audiences or indulge in trite sentiment which comes off as disingenuous; 50/50 is a wonderful antidote to this. Suffused with bravely dark humour, this film confronts the real mortality of its protagonist, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) head-on, making us feel that his life is very much in danger, while those around him, a lying girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), a worried mother (Anjelica Huston), a trainee therapist (Anna Kendrick) and a caring best friend (Seth Rogen) try to deal with the news.

Capturing what I can only imagine is the very real, crushing loneliness of dealing with a disease like this, 50/50′s immensely likable protagonist goes through the stages of denial, anger, and acceptance with outstanding authenticity thanks to a knockout performance from Gordon-Levitt, which should have earned him a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. Most unexpected is the wonderfully understated supporting turn from Seth Rogen, quietly affecting and deriving grand power from a fleeting shot of a book sitting on top of a toilet later on (pay attention and you’ll see).

Read my full review here –

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin

(Lynne Ramsay / Tomatometer: 85%)

Lynne Ramsay admirably and singularly adapts Lionel Shriver’s acclaimed and controversial novel to the screen with astounding impact, thanks to two incredible performances alongside her own pitch-perfect direction. We Need to Talk About Kevin asks questions of nature vs. nurture as a mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton) tries to come to terms with the massacre her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller) has perpetrated. As she ponders over memories of important moments in Kevin’s childhood, she confronts herself and whether she is to blame for how he turned out.

What makes We Need to Talk About Kevin so important and indeed, so brilliant, is that it challenges the much-cherished Hollywood notion of causation and reason; while most all psychological thrillers are keen to ascribe a very definite A-to-Z meaning to a psychopathic character’s actions, Kevin instead ardently rejects this, instead opting for an altogether more ambiguous conclusion as is true of life. Life does not box us into easily defined roles, and neither does this story; the moral panics of the media might be quick to blame video games or violent films, but here there is no sign of that, and in the end, it appears that even Kevin himself does not know. Ramsay’s brooding, visceral visuals create a discomfiting, Kubrickian tone from the outset, and Swinton’s mesmerising performance in the lead role should have – yet infuriatingly did not – earn her an Academy Award. Ezra Miller, meanwhile, will surely do well off the back of it, delivering the creepiest performance of the year without a doubt.

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