To be perfectly honest, these lists are kind of arbitrary. Actually, they are most definitely arbitrary and yet, people always get butt-hurt over other people’s choices or rules. I like to do them because they are just a good bit of fun and it’s also nice to take a few moments to reflect on films I found very special each year. Since this is my top ten of 2011, we’ll be playing by my rules. They are simple. Any film released theatrically (or on VOD) in 2011 is fair game. Pretty standard and straightforward yeah?
There are most definitely many great films I missed that may have made this list as well as many more that easily could have taken a spot from one of the ten below – 50/50, Take Shelter, Young Adult, MI:4 Ghotocol, Warrior, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Adventures of Tintin, Captain America, Senna and Rango. However, I can’t see everything and not every great film can make the final ten. I don’t know about you but I think this year offered a pretty solid slate of flicker shows. And on that note, here are the films I’m calling the top ten of 2011…
Let’s be honest here, Montiel’s New York centered police-drama has two draws: (1) Ray Liotta and (2) Al Pacino. The mere mention of their names in relation to police-drama causes we, the people, to long for a simple glimpse of Liotta’s understated Gary Figgis in Copland and just a little of the magic that Pacino brought to Heat‘s Vincent Hanna. Personally, and I pray others still think like me, each time I hear Liotta linked to a new project I yearn to see Henry Hill strut across the street and beat a man short of death with the butt end of a pistol; similarly, I so want to see Pacino channel Sonny from Dog Day Afternoon, “Attica, Attica!” Although I knew going into Son of No One that my prayers wouldn’t be answered, I guess I’m still a dreamer (or incredibly stubborn), thus I walk away from a very average film still disappointed. In truth, it’s my own fault. Continue reading
First of all I must clear the air: I’m a Clint Eastwood fan. No. I’m sorry. I worship the ground the man walks on. No, no, again, sorry. Hmm? Okay. I’ve seen Changeling twice. I know, I know. Crazy right? Well, with that out of the way, I can get to my main question after having the pleasure of seeing J. Edgar: What up with all the negative criticism Inter-Web? “Eastwood’s portrayal of Hoover is too sentimental.” “The make-up ruins the movie.” “The time shifts are too frequent and cause me to lose interest.” “My seat at the theater was too hard.” Bah-Humbug to the works of ya! Is it a masterpiece alongside Letters From Iwo Jima? No. Is it a great film with a few nagging issues? I believe so. So, without further ado, let’s get into ‘er. Continue reading
Despite the critical reception, it’s not all bad when it comes to 2011’s The Thing; yet, it so happens to be one of the most heartbreaking disappointments of the year. Am I a walkin’, talkin’ contradiction? Perhaps. However, it’s for all the technical and narrative elements that The Thing does right that my heart breaks and not for its shortcomings.
For every handful of reviews I’ve skimmed, the word “minimalist” is predominately displayed. Minimalist dialogue, visuals, narrative, etc. I’m afraid that I’ll need a definition for “minimalist” (straight from the Oxford English Dictionary no less) before I assign such a label to Meek’s maximal beauty. The narrative is simple, granted: “Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions” (IMDB) and, honestly, that’s about the gist of it. Yet, it’s a historical event. There was a Stephen Meek; he lead emigrants through Oregon by way of a trail that would be named after him; and he was not the most well-liked, trusted, or friendly of folk. Disregarding the whole history of Meek’s trail, the film begins in ’45 when emerging settlers already came to suspect Meek’s abilities, or lack thereof. The trail is rough, water is near non-existent, fear of Natives run high, and the piety of the settlers clashes against Meek’s survivalist strategies. Continue reading
There’s an ever common phrase in cultural discourse that goes something like ‘such-and-such is a work of art that defies description.’ Or classification. Or definition. Or any number of vague excuses that tell you more about the critic’s lack of understanding (or engagement) with the material than it does about the actual piece of work. That being said, Kill List is a film that defies description. It is not only extremely difficult to pin down or label but it also it nearly impossible to go into any detail as to not spoil the, uh, fun. Therefore, I don’t fault others for relying on the safety of cliche crutches and/or ambiguous classifications. Let’s just start with this, you should definitely go see it but only if you’ve got a few days after to think about it [by think, read: obsess].
When I first heard that Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was getting a makeover, I believe there were spasms of expletive fury (as I now feel of the upcoming The Wild Bunch remake at the hands of… Tony Scott?). Yet, after a weekend of contemplating whether to see the film – and then deciding to – I’m surprised how faithful Rod Lurie’s version is to the original. Overall, the slow-burn to chaotic violence found in the original is ever present in the remake, yet too much violence is used to replace the uncomfortable topic of sexuality. On a side note, it’s also a fascinating study of the modern theater audience as well. Continue reading
Sports movies are treated like any other genre fare. It’s as though by definition they are automatically of a lower quality. Not art. Not worthy. You know, they often get the suffix ‘just a’ thrown in from of them. It’s just a sport movie. And you know what, most of the time they’d be right. There must be a thousand sports flicks out there, the question is, how many transcend the genre?
How do you make a film that feels vintage yet completely fresh at the same time? And not only that but make it one of the year’s most interesting films from what will be a major new presence on the Hollywood film scene. Yes, an exciting new artist who is interested in making mainstream movies… but with a catch, Nicolas Winding Refn will be delivering ‘Hollywood’ in a whole new package. Drive is bravura filmmaking is ever there was cause for that word and I knew it the moment the hot-pink letters hit the screen after the insanely gripping opening sequence. The hot-pink not only announced the film had arrived but also the filmmaker.
The apocalypse starts in Vietnam where super suave John Saxon is bitten by a P.O.W. that he is sent to rescue who, apparently, is infected with some sort of cannibal virus. Skip ahead a little, back in the ole USA, and J-Sax wakes up from a nightmare of whathappened back in the jungle. Next thing we know, the P.O.W. (Morghen) that bit Johnny has turned cannibal and barricades himself in a department store, picking off street-punks with a shotgun. The cannibal virus continues to spread, but will Saxon’s handsomeness be able to stop it?!? Continue reading