January releases like The Dilemma starring Kevin James and Vince Vaughn and No Strings Attached starring Natalie Portman and Aston Kutcher set the year 2011 off to a less than exciting start. It is no secret that the standard of quality cinema being produced by the movie giants at Hollywood has been declining for quite a while now and that the true movie fanatics out there have lost respect for mainstream cinema. Despite the terrible movies releases this year, most of which starred Ryan Reynolds, there were a few films that made the trip to the cinema worth the expense.
Tomas Alfredson’s British espionage film Tinker Tailor Solider Spy based on the John le Carré novel starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley was released in September of this year to favourable reviews and is in my opinion a must see of 2011. Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said; “I found it more gripping and involving than any crash-bang action picture, and it is anchored by Gary Oldman’s tragic mandarin…What a treat this film is, and what an unexpected thrill.”
Woody Allen’s supernatural comedy Midnight in Paris starring the ever charming blonde haired and blue eyed Owen Wilson as a successful but unfocused screenwriter and wannabe novelist who falls in love with Paris and discovers himself in the beautiful city is arguably Allen’s best work in well over a decade. Allen who is famous for being the film maker who lost his mojo can now claim it back with Midnight in Paris which is now Allen’s most successful commercial film to date. The Huffington Post’s Rob Kirkpatrick called the feature “a surprising film that casts a spell over us and reminds us of the magical properties of cinema, and especially of Woody Allen’s cinema.”
Lars von Trier’s end-of-world drama Melancholia starring the magnificent Kirsten Dunst and the wonderfully simple Charlotte Gainsbourg as two sisters trying to cope with their impending doom is like most of von Trier’s work (with the exception Antichrist), it is art. The film explores the sci-fi genre but it is not a science-fiction movie. It is a drama perhaps even a psychological drama about life and existences. Visually, the film is exquisite and it is this particular device that fools you into watching the pain and the sorrow of the characters as they live out their last moments on earth. Not everyone is going to get the true message behind the film but it worth a watch, at least once in a lifetime. The Telegraph’s Sukhdev Sandhu said; “Melancholia, like everything von Trier does, is an event. More than that, it’s his finest film for nearly a decade. A crazily bold, visually enthralling, and emotionally seismic drama about the meaning of existence.”
Science fantasy/drama Another Earth directed by Mike Cahill who co-wrote the script with the film’s star Brit Marling is Cahill’s debut into feature film making. The respected and reputable documentary filmmaker does a commendable job in directing this film. May it not have been for Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, this film may probably have had greater success but it is difficult to compete with the mind and vision of Von Trier. Despite this, this low-budget indie flick is still a good piece of cinema. The film follows Rhoda Williams (Marling) and her quest to journey to Earth 2, the newly discovered mirrored planet of our earth in the hopes that her mirrored self has made different, less destructive life choices. The film has received mixed reviews. Chris Tookey of Mail Online wrote, “This is the kind of miserabilist film that routinely wins respectful reviews because it’s so un-Hollywood.” Little White Lies’ Matt Bochenski wrote, “Another Earth is original, intelligent and eccentric – a true American indie that deserves to be admired and supported. But part of that support is respectful criticism of its shortcomings.”
Lastly, who can forget wild, gritty and electrifying Drive directed by Danish film maker, Nicolas Winding Refn based on the novel by James Sallis. The sexy talented Ryan Gosling portrays our unnamed protagonist, the driver, who lives in a low rent apartment and is a mechanic and a stunt car driver by day and a getaway driver by night. The driver is a loner by nature who lives a complexly simple life that takes a gruesome violent twist after he befriends his neighbour and love interest Irene (Carey Mulligan). Yes there are some plot holes in the striking L.A noir flick but Gosling’s facial expressions and small nuances are what carry the movie right to the very brutal end. Refn successfully uses the Japanese movie device of minimalist and artistic shots to portray every thought in the protagonist’s head. The other thing that makes this film just bloody amazing was the soothing electro-pop soundtrack which was composed by Cliff Martinez. Director Refn had been a fan of Martinez since his work on the Sex, Lies and Videotape soundtrack. The opening song Nightcall by French electric musician Kavinsky set the tone of this noir piece of cinema. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “Damn, it’s good. You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing.”
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