Now That’s What I Call Films – 2011!

Some of you will know that whilst I’m a keen film watcher, I’m also a quite lazy film reviewer i.e. I don’t often actually do it.

This is down to a number of reasons – time, inclination, and the aforementioned laziness, as I enjoy doing it when I can be bothered, but given the choice of watching another one or writing about the one I’ve just watched, the watching will always win. 

Anyway, with that in mind, I’ve been making a note of the films I’ve seen in 2011 that have, at the time of watching, seemed notable i.e. better than most of the crap that is spewed out for the worn down entertainment sensors of the average human being. 

Based on the “hilarious” YouTube clips people post of their dog barking at a television screen, even our canine friends know when they’re being force fed visual faeces. When little Billy the terrier yaps his furry face off at the latest High School Musical film, he’s not “getting into it”, he’s wishing you’d turn off the video camera so that he can rip your slack-jawed gawking face off without fear of getting the needle. 

But I digress. 

So, in no particular order, here is a list of some of the films that I’ve seen in 2011 that I consider worthy of writing something positive (not always universally, mind) about. I’m not going to go into plot details, and am bound to have missed some that I really liked, but I can live with that. 

 

Tucker and Dale vs Evil 

I have no idea what country this is from, but it is a fine poster

This was a real breath of fresh air, and one of the most fun times I’ve had with a horror film in years. Having received its premiere at CowFest 2011 (the spoiler-heavy drunken video review can be seen here: http://bit.ly/s9ziVz), this is a film that I have highly recommended to friends and been delighted to see that they agree – even those not really into horror. 

If you have the right kind of sense of humour, the comedy in the film is probably more prevalent than any real “horror” anyway – yes there’s humourous over the top gore and deaths, but at no point will you feel horrified in the true sense of the word. I mean this entirely positively by the way.

Anyway, this isn’t the time for a horror / comedy debate, just watch the damn film! The performances, particularly from the titular lead characters, are spot on, and help raise this above the standard (relatively) low-budget fare of which we all see too much. I’m a bit of a sucker for half-decent production values (unless the film turns out to be a massive turd within the first 20 minutes) but no amount of gloss and sheen can make up for vapid, empty-headed characters played by someone who really should have saved their first time being rogered on the casting couch for something a little more special. 

 

Red, White and Blue 

Insert inappropriately comical caption here

You want contrast? Hell, I’ve got contrast. Simon Rumley’s “Red, White and Blue” is not an easy watch at all. It’s a bit of a genre buster, and not in the fun way of the previous entry on this list! Essentially a (fairly harrowing) drama, it has scenes that would make some refer to it as a horror film, but personally I feel that is incorrect. Would you call Goodfellas a horror because it has (at times strong) violence?

It’s a fairly bleak film, but not without feeling – in fact, quite the opposite for some of the characters, who are driven to their actions based on the strength of their emotions. It’s quite rare for a film to really get to me and make me feel something beyond easy shock or enjoyment, but this one stayed with me for a while. 

Probably not one to watch if you’re feeling a little empty and fragile, but if you want to be challenged and made to feel uncomfortable, then this is definitely worth a watch. More powerful than anything made this year that cost over $100 million, no question about it. 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

Give me a banana or I’ll throw my shit at you!

I don’t get to the cinema much these days, mostly because we don’t really have a “proper” one where I live, or anything that can show much beyond the bog-standard seat fillers. However, I am a bit of a sucker for going to see the big summer blockbusters. Sometimes, this is a painful, life-questioning experience (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) but other times, it is completely and utterly worth it. 

The new Apes movie was, without a doubt, one of these times. Rarely does a film make me want to cheer in parts, especially in a room filled with people who I don’t know, but hell I was close with this one! It’s one of those films that, rightly or wrongly, could stand or fall on the quality of its special effects, as they are so key to the audience’s empathy and enjoyment. Now we all know that expensive shiny effects do not a good movie make (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) but the motion capture from Andy Serkis as Caesar on display here is the best I’ve seen to date. At no point do any of the apes look like last minute CGI additions to fill the screen, so in this case the effects budget was money well spent.

Not all the performances are that great to be honest – I still feel Tom Felton has a way to go before he could even consider being able to carry a film – but this is a minor quibble and didn’t really impact on my enjoyment. I mean, it’s not as if he’s a total charisma vacuum like Rosie Huntington-Whitely in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. 

One of my most enjoyable movie watching experiences of the year, without a doubt.

 

Masks 

Not to be confused with the Jim Carrey movie

From a film seen by millions, to one seen by probably hundreds. Chances are you will be unfamiliar with Masks, as was I before it appeared on the schedule at the Abertoir horror festival in November. This could easily have been 2011’s “Amer”, as it was billed as an Argento / giallo homage in many ways, so I was ready for my eyes to be happy but not necessarily my brain. 

Instead, what we got was a well made, intelligent and not overly “flashy for the sake of being flashy” horror film, that wasn’t simply the makers saying “Look! We’ve watched Suspiria! Love us!” 

I should point out that isn’t a dig at Amer, which I generally liked, but more my idea of what I think a lot of people expected from this film, Masks.

Of course, there are unquestionable parallels to Suspiria – the setting, the colour palette – but it would be a lazy reviewer who would call it a rip-off in today’s world. That is, unless you expect every film you see to be 100% original in all its ways, and for a director to be not in any way influenced by the films and artists who he or she admires. 

If you are strongly averse to the likes of (older) Argento movies, you will probably watch this and think I’m talking out of my arse. Which is fine. But I’m not. 

For me, this was the most pleasant surprise of the excellent Abertoir festival this year. Even more so than realising that the chip shop was only 10 minutes walk from our cottage. 

 

The Troll Hunter  

Did you spill my pint?

Another film that received its premiere at CowFest 2011, The Troll Hunter is an absolute joy to experience. However, if you have a strong, poorly judged adversity to “found footage” films, your prejudices will probably lessen your enjoyment (see slightly but not really drunken enough video review here: http://bit.ly/pjQKkO). 

This one had been on my radar for a while, so I was delighted when it lived up to the hopes that I had. I like films and stories about the less common mythical beasts i.e. not just vampires and werewolves (yes vampires are mythical, no you’re not one just because you dress like a nob-end and go to goth clubs) so this was a treat for me. 

Pivotal to my enjoyment was not only the excellent troll effects, but also the main Troll Hunter character and his world weariness at something that to most would be truly fantastical. His sardonic humour was well pitched in contrast to the eager young film-makers trailing in his wake. 

For me, this is a film for both adults and clued-up children over the age of around 9 or 10 i.e. ones that don’t cry at the occasional use of swearing, don’t mind subtitles, and haven’t been / won’t be wrapped in cotton wool until their 16th birthday. Y’know, ones with sensible parents. 

As the man in the video review says – watch it now, before Hollywood remakes and ruins it as the Arkansas Goat Hunter. 

 

Kill List 

Key words above are "One Of" and "British"...

I only saw this the other day, after weeks of teasing reviews and critical praise, only tempered recently by some real people I know having seen it and not being quite so gushing. 

I very nearly didn’t include it in this list. 

But, it deserves a mention as much because it was, for me, one of the most anticipated films of the last few months, and also, ultimately…..well, a little disappointing. Emphasis on the “little” though. I think. Damn, this is hard! 

I knew pretty much where it was heading genre-wise, so that wasn’t a big surprise (and shouldn’t really have been for anyone watching from the beginning) but by the end, I genuinely wondered if I was missing something obvious. 

I have no problem with a certain amount of ambiguity in a film, and neither want nor need to be spoon-fed the plot or have it thrown at me, but I found this to be ultimately unsatisfying and resolution-free. 

Don’t get me wrong – it’s in no way a bad film at all and I do recommend you see it to make up your own mind. I will watch it again, and a light bulb may go off in my brain on a second viewing, but for now I’m left a little puzzled.

But hey, at least I’m willing to admit it, and don’t pretend to have completely got it as I’m sure some reviewers have done.

And the “shocking” ending? Only really shocking if you didn’t see it done much more unpleasantly in a certain film last year… 

 

The Guard 

Feck! Drink! Arse! Girls!

 

Say what you like about political correctness, political incorrectness will always be much, much funnier. Brendan Gleeson is on excellent form in this small, but not so small as to be insignificant comedy, which was one of my favourite films of the year without a doubt.

If you liked Bad Lieutenant but wished someone would make a film like that but without the hand-wringing earnestness and Harvey Keitel’s penis, then you should enjoy this. What could have been a bog-standard fish out of water cop buddy comedy is so much more than that, driven by a cracking script and fine performances all round. 

It’s difficult to find a reason to not recommend watching this, unless you’re very easily offended and only like nice, safe films. In which case this is probably the wrong blog for you anyway. A film that proves you don’t need to try upping the ante to be funny (hello, The Hangover II) but instead all you need is a sweary, racist Irishman with a (sort of) heart of gold, and an ending that will put a big grin on your face. In fact, you probably will have been wearing that grin for the best part of 90 minutes already.

 

Hobo With a Shotgun

 

Look out for the sequel - Tramp with a Trumpet

 

Look at the title, and tell me you didn’t fear just a little for this film. Yes it has pedigree (Rutger Hauer, for one) but how many times have we got excited by an eye-catching title, only to be left bitterly disappointed by an end-product that feels like such a waste? 

Well, not this time. Hobo With a Shotgun is pretty much everything you could want it to be. Very funny, very dark at times (still funny), and gory as hell. Again, still funny. There’s something to potentially offend everyone here, be it a throwaway background moment or something much more front and centre, and I for one applaud this. 

It looks and sounds fantastic as well, with eye-searing colours washing the screen and a soundtrack that could have come from the heady days of 1970s exploitation. There is a lot of craft in this film, which I think is what makes it stand above many others from this year. Admittedly it has a target audience who tend to shout loudly when they approve of something, but they shout just as loudly when they hate something too, so had this misfired it would have done so at full volume through the fanboy and fangirl loudspeaker that is the internet. 

Rutger Hauer didn’t need to make this film, but he chose to. Director Jason Eisner has done himself no harm at all, and I hope his career can flourish from here. Top stuff.

 …and that’s that. Honourable mentions go to Thor, Submarine, Red Hill, Source Code, X-Men: First Class, The Dead, and Captain America, which all nearly made the cut. But as I mentioned at the start – lazy blogger. 

Feel free to comment and let me know what you think – whether you agree, think I’m a dick, or a bit of both. 

Here’s to 2012.

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4 Responses to “Now That’s What I Call Films – 2011!”

  1. William McFanny Says:

    I would so molest you if you had some kind of taste in movies. That bald chick with the sideways hat in the videos is quite hot. Get me a ticket for CowFest next year and I’ll totally molest her.

  2. hellboundheart Says:

    Good list sir, with a bit of difference from what I’d choose, not least because I sodding missed the Planet of the Apes prequel. Quite surprised you put Kill List on your, umm, list though, as you seem to criticise it quite heavily?

    • dpm74 Says:

      As I said, I ummd and aahd about putting it on, but felt it deserved comment as it was a late entry and was one of my most anticipated of the year. So in that sense it was one of “my” films of 2011, whether I liked it or not. Which I think I actually did. But not in the way I wanted or expected too.

      I sense a long, drunken Abertoir 2012 conversation ahead 🙂

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